The “Moses” of the Scotch-Irish in America – James McGregor
by Rev. David T Myers
We post today on the Rev. James McGregor (sometimes with two “g’s”) of Northern Ireland, or Ulster. James was born in 1777 in Londonderry, Ireland. Along with many other Irish families, he as a lad endured the siege of Londonderry, and indeed, was rumored to be the young man who fired a signal gun that the terrible siege was over. A solid Christian, he both studied for the ministry as well as becoming a Presbyterian minister, assuming the call to the pastorate of the Presbyterian Church in Aghadowey, Ulster, after having been ordained in 1701.
Living in Ulster in those days was rough. Not only did you have the normal difficulties of being a pastor, but nationally, Presbyterian pastors and people were not allowed by the English authorities to hold office, teach, or conduct civil ceremonies such as funerals and weddings. Coupled with that was the high rents on land expected from the governing authorities, to say nothing of Roman Catholic persecution. It was obvious that something had to be done for Irish Presbyterians.
That “something” was to leave Ulster for the new world. On the Sunday before the long trip, Pastor McGregor stated, “We must say farewell to friends, relations, and our native land so that we may withdraw from the communion of idolaters and have the opportunity of worshiping God according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of His inspired book.”
Thus, in 1718, two hundred Presbyterians members of Aghadowey church left Ireland’s shores to sail aboard a ship named “Robert” for Boston, Massachusetts. There were 16 families, from babies to a couple in their nineties, on board.
After a rough passage, they sailed into Boston harbor on this day, August 4, 1718 to less than enthusiastic welcome from the Puritans in the city. They went to Maine where they suffered a long cold winter existence, during which time they might have died were it not for one hundred bushels of corn sent from the Massachusetts General Council. When spring arrived, they were allowed to go to Nutfield, a disputed portion of land both claimed by Maine and New Hampshire. It was so named due to the presence of walnuts and pecans trees. Each family unit was given 100 acres of land. Within fifteen years, the town of Nutfield had grown to 700 inhabitants. It was soon renamed Londonderry, New Hampshire, and is still in existence today.
One of the highlights of their presence were seed potatoes brought by the Presbyterians to the new frontier. Pastor John McGregor is remembered as planting the first Irish potatoes in American. But he planted more than potatoes. He planted in those early days a Biblical Presbyterian people with convictions which are grounded firmly in God’s Word, the Bible. He would go to be with the Lord on March 5, 1729.
Words to Live By: Be familiar with the beginnings of your Presbyterian churches in which you have your membership. Learn from the lives of the original members and if alive still, grant them respect for their labors in building your congregation. (You are also encouraged to send a history of your church to the PCA Archives headed by Wayne Sparkman. Its address is the same as Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.) But above all, carry on the work of testimony in the area in which God’s Spirit has called you to occupy, for His glory and the good of God’s people.