Tag Archives: Biographies

Pressly, John Taylor (1795-1870)

“Pressly, John Taylor, D. D.—Son of David Pressly, born in Abbeville Co., S. C, March 28, 1795, graduated at seventeen Transylvania University, Ky. Four years in the A. R. P. Seminary, N. Y., under the peerless Mason fitted him for license by the Second Presbytery, July 3, 1816. July 10, 1817, he was ordained and installed pastor of the large and waiting congregation of Cedar Spring, S. C, and Long Cane eleven years later, Feb. 28, 1828. Under Synod he was entrusted with the first mission West—to Tennessee. Two months in 1819 were spent, a sermon on an average, was preached each alternate day, $17.25 collected, expenses $33.40 and $7.00 per week was allowed. Synod highly approved his work and “expressed their gratitude to the head of the Church for the cheering intelligence and kind reception of the missionarv during his tour.” He was Moderator of Synod 1820, her Professor of Divinity 1825-1831, early influential and always punctual. Dr. Pressly, in connection with Dr. Isaac Grier, was a delegate to a convention of the three A. R. Presbyterian Synods in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 12, 1827, with the hope of union. In the midst of his rising popularity and extended usefulness in his congregation of 172 families and 334 members this relation was dissolved Nov. n, 1831. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod of the West established a Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pa., May 1825. To the sole charge of this responsible work he was unanimously elected Oct. 10, 1831, and entered upon his duties Jan. 5, 1832. During that year he accepted a call to the First A. R. P congregation of Allegheny, Pa., and removed the Seminary to his church. The title of D. D. was conferred by Jefferson in 1832, of which he was a trustee 1839-1865. He married Miss Jane Hearst of Cedar Spring, S. C., Sept. 22, 1846. Synod elected him President of Erskine College. This was declined. For over 15 years he was an honor to our Synod, facile princeps, very early in his ministry being called to her most responsible, difficult and delicate duties. His subsequent, useful and far reaching career belongs to another Church very near to us. He was the prince of the distinguished Pressly family. Dignified in person, systematic and laborious in study, able in debate, expository in preaching, a master in the classroom and oracular with his students. Psalm singing Presbyterianism never had an abler or more influential defender. His death occurred August 13, 1870.”

“In commemoration of the virtues and faithful services of their beloved pastor, the members of the congregation, among whom he had labored so long and acceptably, erected a mural tablet of white marble to the right of the pulpit, with the following appropriate memorial, inlaid with letters of gold inscribed upon a shield of black marble: [see above]:  This testimonial of loving and grateful hearts was unveiled on the occasion of the semi-centennial anniversary of the church, held Nov. 8, 1881.”

“The personal appearance of Dr. Pressly was strikingly impressive. Six feet in height, with clear-cut, strong, sensitive and refined features, iron gray hair and keen dark eyes, he looked at once the clergyman and patrician. He was a fine horseman, and when mounted suggested a resemblance to his cavalier ancestors. In manner he may have seemed to some somewhat austere, as he never lost the dignity of his profession or the demeanor of a cultured, Christian gentleman, but no one could be near him and not teel that he had a great, loving heart. In character, in life, and in all the work of his life, he was a good man.”

Pressly’s work on Psalmody can be found here

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Latta, James (1732-1801)

James Latta was a defender of the Imitations of Dr. Watts, and an opponent to the exclusive use of the Psalms in worship.

“James Latta was born in Ireland in 1732, the son of Rev. James Latta and his wife Mary Alison. He came to America at an early age with his parents, who settled near Elkton, Maryland. After his mother’s brother, Rev. Francis Alison, opened an Academy near New London, Delaware, young Latta became a student at his uncle’s school. He and classmate Hugh Williamson would have the distinction of being members of the first graduating class of both Rev. Alison’s Academy (which would evolve into the University of Delaware) and the College of Philadelphia.

Latta and Williamson entered the College of Philadelphia in 1754, graduating with the Class of 1757. From 1755-1759, the younger James Latta was a Latin tutor in the Academy, both as an undergraduate and while studying theology with Dr. Francis Alison.

In 1758, Latta was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, and in the following year was ordained and appointed to the destitute settlements of Virginia and Carolina. In 1761, he became pastor of a church at DeepRun, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he was stationed until 1770. In that year, Latta resigned in order to assume the charge of Chestnut Level, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which he retained until his death in 1801. Latta was the Third Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America and the author of A Discourse of Psalmody (1794) [a work in favor of the Imitations of Dr. Watts and against exclusive Psalmody] and other various published writings.

During the American Revolution Latta served as a private and a chaplain in the Pennsylvania Militia. He was married to Mary McCalla. He died at Chestnut Level, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1801. In 1940, his original diploma was presented to the University in commemoration of its bicentennial by James Latta, a direct descendant.”

Image of James Latta's original 1757 diploma from the CollegeA.B. Diploma Awarded to James Latta in 1757, one of the first diplomas awarded by the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) and therefore one of the first diplomas awarded by the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences

From the University of Pennsylvania archives http://www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1700s/latta_james.html

Bonner, Thomas Joel (1821-1895)

Bonner, Rev. Thomas Joel—”Was born in Monroe Co., Ala., Dec. 23. 1821. His father, William Bonner, had moved from Cedar Springs, in Abbeville Co., S. C; afterward located in Wilcox Co., Ala., and later in Freestone Co., Texas. Thomas spent his early years on the farm. He attended Miami University a while, but graduated from Erskine College in 1843. The same year he married Miss Amanda Posey, of Abbeville Co., S. C. His theological studies were prosecuted under Rev. Joseph McCreary one year, and in Erskine Theological Seminary.

He was licensed by the Alabama Presbytery in 1846. For a number of years he was S. S. for a vacancy in Lowndes Co. and occasionally visited vacancies in Georgia and Mississippi. At the solicitation of friends and kindred, he moved to Freestone Co., Texas, in 1859.

Some time before this he was ordained sine titudo by the Alabama Presbytery. He preached regularly in this new field, always loyally maintaining the principles of the church of his choice. For perhaps 15 years, he never saw the face or heard the voice of an Associate Reformed minister, yet always had a lively interest in the enterprises of Synod. About the year 1865 he organized a Psalm-singing church at County Line school house, near the line between Freestone and Navarro counties. This church was temporarily placed under the care of a presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. The congregations of Harmony, Richland and Ebenezer come out of this organization. In the organization of the Presbytery of Texas, at Harmony Church, Dec. 9, 1876, Rev. T. J. Bonner presided and preached the opening sermon. He, with Revs. J. M. Little and W. L. Patterson composed the Presbytery. Failing health compelled him to retire from the active work of the ministry about the year ’79. He died June 13, 1895, at the home of his son, W. B. Bonner in Wortham, Texas. He left a widow and six children.

Dodds, Robert James (1824-1870)

Dodds, Robert James, D.D.–“Son of Archibald and Margaret (Davison) Dodds, was born near Freeport, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, August 29, 1824. Possessed from his youth with integrity of character and amiability of disposition he was dedicated to God for the work of the ministry. At an early age he began his classical studies under the direction of his pastor, the Rev. Hugh Walkinshaw, and made such rapid progress and proficiency in all the departments of literature taught in a College, that he was recommended as sufficiently advanced to begin the study of theology in the spring of 1844. He studied theology in the Allegheny and Cincinnati Seminaries, and was licensed by the Pittsburgh Presbytery, June 21, 1848. As a preacher, his sermons were rich in Scriptural truth and illustration. He was not a popular orator owing to a hesitancy in his speech, and he was more spiritual than ornate; more thoughtful than rhetorical; more anxious about conviction than elegance of style. He was admirably adapted with every qualification for a successful Missionary. He was a good classical scholar, and made such proficiency in the study of the Arabic tongue that he was able to preach a sermon in that language in eighteen months after beginning the study of it. He was a remarkably cheerful man, uniform in his feelings and sympathetic in his disposition. His intellectual character was marked with keen and vigorous reasoning powers, a retentive memory, and the ability to concentrate his ideas. Among his earlier publications is, “A Reply to Morton on Psalmody,” 1851, pp. 140. His writings are principally letters to the Foreign Mission Board and are published in the Church magazines. He translated the Shorter Catechism into the Arabic language, and was engaged in writing and translating other works for the use of the Mission. He was honored with the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Monmouth College in 1870. He was Moderator of the Synod of 1866. During a subsequent journey to Idlib, he contracted a severe cold which adhered to him. In the beginning of December following, he suffered from a slight hemorrhage of the lungs, intensified by typhoid fever, from which he died, at his home in Aleppo, Syria, December II, 1870.” from History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of America by William Malancthon Glasgow, p484-487. Dodds’ work “A Reply to Morton on Psalmody can be found here

Hemphill, William Ramsey (1806-1876)

Hemphill, William Ramsey.—”Born in Hopewell, Chester Co., S. C, March 14, 1806; was a son of Rev. John Hemphill, D. D., a conspicuous figure in the history of the Associate Reformed Church for the first quarter of the 19th century. In June. 1837, he was ordained and installed by the Second Presbytery pastor of Cedar Springs and Long Cane, Abbeville County, S. C During the ten years of his pastorate he stulied hard, preached with all his might, spared neither body nor mind, and succeeded in laying the foundation of his ministerial fame. In 1848 he was elected by Synod to the Chair of Latin in Erskine College. This position he filled until the College was temporarily broken up by the war. In 1871 he removed to New Hope, Madison Co., Ky., where he remained three or four years, until failing health caused his return to his old home in Due West. He was somewhat of a polemic, indulging occasionally in the controversial. About the year 1843 and 1844 he was drawn into a controversy in the “Charleston Observer” with “Charlestoniensis” (Dr. Thomas Smyth) on the subject of Psalmody. The fire was kept up for some time with spirit on both sides, neither party being willing to admit that he had been beaten. This well-known and highly esteemed minister departed this life at his home in Due West, Abbeville county, S. C., on the morning of Friday, July 28, 1876, aged 70 years. 4 months, and 14 days.” from The Centennial History of the ARP, 1803-1903