Thomas Craighead was born in Scotland about 1660, and later educated as a physician. He took the daughter of a Scotch laird as his wife, and after practicing medicine for a time, became quite depressed. When his wife inquired as to the cause, he informed her that his conscience troubled him deeply for not preaching the Gospel. She at once assured him that she would not stand in the way of what he considered his duty. Whereupon he abandoned the practice of medicine for the study of divinity, and upon ordination, served as pastor for several years in Ireland, primarily at Donegal. Due, however, to persecution of Presbyterians by both the government and the Established Church, large numbers of people decided to emigrate to America from Ireland in those years.
Among them was Thomas Craighead and his wife, as they came to New England in 1715, accompanied by Rev. William Homes, who was married to Mr. Craighead’s sister Catherine. Rev. Craighead settled first at Freetown which is about forty miles south of Boston but his efforts there were unsuccessful. This despite encouragement from Cotton Mather and the latter’s exhortation of Craighead’s congregation. Mather described Craighead as “a man of singular piety, meekness, humility, and industry in the work of God.” Finally leaving Freetown, Rev. Craighead next appears in Jersey in 1723 and on January 28, 1724 he became a member of New Castle Presbytery, which at that time included large sections of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
In 1733, Rev. Craighead relocated first to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and in September of that year he received and accepted a call to serve the Presbyterian church in Pequea, Pennsylvania. As a member now of Donegal Presbytery, history records that the people there always had a particular veneration for him, and called him “Father Craighead.” He played a key role in planting and building up a number of churches in that region.
Then on November 17, 1737, he accepted a call from the people of Hopewell, Pennsylvania, a congregation which met at “the Big Spring” (now Newville). But Craighead’s pastorate there was brief. He was now an elderly man, though still focused and intent upon the ministry of the Gospel. Preaching with great fire, those in his congregation were often brought to tears, and often, when dismissed, were unwilling to leave. Finally, on April 26, 1739, after preaching until quite exhaused, and unable to pronounce the benediction from the pulpit, Rev. Craighead waived his hand and exclaimed, “Farewell! farewell!” and sank down and died. His mortal remains, it is said, were laid to rest under the cornerstone of the church building in Newville.
Words to Live By:
It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. (Heb. 9:27)
We will, all of us, die one day, though not everyone will have time to say, “Farewell.” Keep your accounts short. Most importantly, keep your accounts short with the Lord. Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation. Don’t wait to lay hold of Christ and His righteousness. Recognizing your own desparate sin and utter inability before a holy God, look to Jesus Christ as your only Hope, for He is God’s only appointed and sufficient sacrifice. Only those who, by grace through faith, have Christ’s righteousness accounted as their own, will stand on the day of judgment.
“The Craighead Family”, by Rev. James Geddes Craighead, D.D. (1876).
Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia (1884), p. 163.