north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Hugh McAden, a prominent early Presbyterian clergyman, preached to a host of congregations across North Carolina, and boosted the development of the Presbyterian Church in the colony. Between 1759 and 1769, McAden served congregations in New Hanover and Duplin Counties, settling in present-day Duplin County near Grove Church. He was the first Presbyterian clergyman to settle in North Carolina, later recruiting another minister, James Campbell.

     Born in Pennsylvania around 1720, Hugh McAden attended the College of New Jersey, present-day Princeton University, graduating in 1753. In 1755, after studying theology in Chester County, Pennsylvania, McAden was licensed by the New Castle Presbytery and sent to North Carolina as a missionary. Departing in June 1755, McAden traveled throughout the colony, speaking to congregations. In May 1756, he returned to Pennsylvania, and was ordained in 1757 before returning to Duplin County to settle near present-day Kenansville.

     McAden preached at numerous churches, including: Grove Church, which was his principal parish; Rockfish Church, in Duplin County; Hart’s Chapel, present-day Bethesda Church in Caswell County; and Old Eno Church, in Orange County. While still in Duplin County, McAden also argued against the Regulator Movement, giving support to the Royal Government.

     In 1769, with his health declining, McAden moved to Caswell County, then part of Orange County, to the area near present-day Semora. McAden began preaching at churches around the Caswell County area, with his principal parish at Red House Church, where he eventually was buried. In 1770, he helped to found the Orange Presbytery, which was developed to support the growth of the Presbyterian Church throughout the Carolinas.

     Despite his ailing health, McAden remained an ardent supporter of the Patriot cause during the Revolutionary War, eventually making himself an enemy of the British Crown. Shortly after his death on January 20, 1781, Lord Cornwallis’ troops destroyed McAden’s library and nearly all of his papers. Hugh McAden significantly contributed to the development of the Presbyterian Church in North Carolina, acting as the first Presbyterian clergy to settle in the area and, through his actions, promoted the church’s development and growth in the state.


References:
William Henry Foote, Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical (1846)
William S. Powell, When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County, North Carolina (1977)
Catherine Bishir and Michael Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 115-116—sketch by George W. Troxler
James McLachlan, ed., Princetonians: 1746-1991 (1991)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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