March 4: Historic Hopewell Presbytery (1796-97)

Our text for today is taken from The Souvenir Book of the General Assemblies, Atlanta, Georgia, May 14-25, 1913, pp. 11ff. This was a work compiled from the occasion when three Presbyterian denominations all met in their separate General Assemblies in Atlanta in May of 1913. The entire work can be found at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/georgiabooks/pdfs/gb5189.pdf

At the close of the American Revolution, the entire area of the State of Georgia was embraced within the Presbytery of South Carolina. On November 3, 1796, the region west of the Savannah River was organized into a separatte jurisdiction known as the Presbytery of Hopewell. The first meeting of the new Presbytery was held at Liberty Church, in Wilkes County, Georgia, on March 4, 1797, and the opening sesrmon was preached by the Rev. John Springer, a noted pioneer evangelist.

Mr. Springer was the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in Georgia. He opened a school at Walnut Hill, where he taught the great Jesse Mercer, who afterwards founded Mercer University; and he also numbered among his pupils the illustrious John Forsyth, who negotiated with Ferdinand VII of Spain for the purchase of Florida. Liberty Church no longer exists as an organization by this name, but it survives in the Church at Woodstock, an organization into which it was merged. It was located nine miles west of the town of Washington, in the neighborhood of War Hill, where the Tory power in Upper Georgie was overthrown by a Presbyterian elder, Colonel Andrew Pickens, in the famous Revolutionary battle of Kettle Creek.

One of the Presbyters at this first meeting of the Hopewell Presbytery was Dr. Moses Waddell. At Mount Carmel, near Appling, Georgia, this pioneer educator opened an academy which became historic. Here he taught John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, afterwards Vice-President of the United States; and William H. Crawford, a distinguished statesman, who, while a candidate for the highest office in the nations’s gift, was stricken with paralysis, a misfortune which alone prevented him from reaching the White House. Mr. Crawford was Secretary of the Treasury in the Monroe Cabinet and Minister to France during the First Empire; and the great Napoleon once said of him that he was the only man at the French Court to whom he ever felt constrained to bow. The Emperor’s reception of Mr. Crawford constitutes one of the most dramatic incidents in our diplomatic annals. Dr. Waddell also taught Hugh Swinton Legare, a Secretary of the Navy, in the Tyler Cabinet; George McDuffie, of South Carolina, an orator second only to the great Calhoun; and George R. Gilmer, afterwards Governor of this State. On account of Dr. Waddell’s prestige as an educator he was called to preside over the University of Georgia, the oldest State University in America, founded in 1785.

Rev. John Newton, another Presbyter whose name appears on the minutes of the first meeting of Hopewell, organized near Lexington what is probably the oldest Church in the Synod of Georgia—Beth-salem. Dr James Stacy, the accredited historian of the PCUS, inclines to this opinion. Beth-salem still survives in the Presbyterian Church at Lexington.

In the course of time the Presbytery of Hopewell was subdivided into smaller units as population became more dense; and finally, at Macon, in the fall of 1845, these various Presbyteries were organized into an ecclesiastical body known as the Synod of Georgia.

Words to Live By:
The Excellency of Brotherly Unity—Psalm 133

A Song of Ascents, of David.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing— life forever.

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