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



Marker Text:

    Old Bluff Church in Wade was home to the first Presbyterian congregation in Cumberland County. Organized in 1758, the church was a product of Presbyterian expansion from South Carolina, spurred by both the need for churches within the Cape Fear region and the need for fellowship that catered to the Scottish community in Eastern North Carolina. Old Bluff Church is a shrine to the beginnings of the Presbyterian faith in the region and a testament to North Carolina’s immigrant population during the colonial and early national period.

    As the Presbyterian Church was thriving in places such as South Carolina and Pennsylvania, representatives were sent into areas of North Carolina to assess the feasibility of church expansion. One such representative, Hugh McAden, arrived in the Cape Fear region around 1755 and, upon finding the Scottish community needing church services in their native Gaelic language, charged Scottish immigrant and pastor James Campbell with founding the church which opened on October 18, 1758. Campbell ministered at Old Bluff and two other churches in the area until retired in 1780, dying soon thereafter.

    The architecture follows the Greek Revival style, popular at the end of the eighteenth century, with classical influences such as columned exterior and a large pediment foundation. The original building was left in disrepair until 1929, when a private donor provided funding for full restoration but a trust fund has ensured maintenance up to the present day. The restored Old Bluff Church operates on a limited schedule, hosting an annual sunrise service and reunions throughout the year. The site remains a revered landmark, as does the cemetery beside it.

Catherine W. Bishir and Michael Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (2003)
Presbyterian Churches (USA), “A Brief History: The Old Bluff Presbyterian Church”:
James Donald MacKenzie, Colorful Heritage (1969)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 314-315—sketch by James MacKenzie

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north carolina highway historical marker program

Old Bluff Church

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources