OLD BLUFF PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH HISTORY
By John C. Rosser, Jr.
LOCATION The Old Bluff Presbyterian Church is located about 1 1/2 miles north of Wade in Black River Township of Cumberland County on the bluff overlooking the east bank of the Cape Fear River and at the west end of Old Bluff Church Road (S.R. 1709) which intersects Sis Culbreth Road (S.R. 1802) 0.8 miles north of its intersection with U.S. Route 301.
HISTORICAL MARKER The historical marker located one mile north of Wade at the intersection of U.S. Route 301 and S.R. 1802 reads: Old Bluff Church - Presbyterian. Organized in 1758 by Rev. James Campbell. Present building erected about 1858. N.W. 1 mi.
HISTORY A short history of the church, first distributed at the 1992 Reunion, follows:
Rev. James Campbell, who was born in Campbelltown, Kintyre, Scotland about 1705, came to America about 1730. He came to North Carolina from the Presbytery of Philadelphia about 1757 and settled on a tract of two hundred acres on the west side of the Cape Fear River opposite to where the Old Bluff Presbyterian Church now stands. Rev. Campbell commenced his preaching among the Scots, in both Gaelic and English, in three locations: at the home of Roger McNeill near Tranthams Creek, at the home of Archibald McKay on the Long Street (the Yadkin Road), and at John Dobbin's Ordinary on Barbecue Creek.
The Presbyterian Church in the Upper Cape Fear Valley was organized October 18, 1758, with the signing of a contract with Rev. Campbell by "Presbyterian Gentlemen" Hector (called "Bluff" Hector) McNeill, Gilbert Clark, Thomas Gibson, Alexander McAlister, Malcom Smith, Archibald McKay, John Patterson, Dushie Shaw, Neil McNeill, Archibald Buie, Angus Culbreth and John McPherson for "the sum of 100 pounds in good & lawful money of North Carolina . . . yearly." Although the call was effective from June 22, 1758, Rev. Campbell was not (legally) allowed to preach or perform marriages until January 18, 1759 when he subscribed to the required oath that he would not oppose the doctrine, discipline, and Liturgy of the Church of England. Neill McNeill (and his wife Catharine) by deed of February 18, 1761, conveyed to Hector McNeill and Alexander McAlister, members of the original Session and both residing on the east side of the Cape Fear River, "one acre of land whereon is built and erected a Meeting House as the same now stands" on the west side of the Cape Fear River near Tranthams Creek close to the home of Roger McNeill, son of Neill McNeill. Called Roger's Meeting House, this building was probably a small log structure built about 1759 and the first church building in the Upper Cape Fear Valley. Rev. Campbell served the three churches, now represented by Bluff, Longstreet, and Barbecue Presbyterian Churches, assisted in the Barbecue area from 1770 by Rev. John MacLeod, until about 1776 when, threatened about his prayers supporting the Patriot Cause, he moved to Guilford County. In 1780, Rev. Campbell returned to his home on the west bank of the Cape Fear River, where he died and was buried in a family graveyard. Bluff church still preserves two Communion Goblets with the inscription, "For the Presbyterian Congregations in Cumberland County, under the care of the Rev'd John MacLeod, Apr. 21st 1775."
Sometime after 1780, a new meeting house, probably also a log structure, was built on the east side of the river. Apparently both meeting houses were used until about 1785 when a frame building was built on the bluff at the east side of the river. On July 23, 1791, John MacNeill conveyed to Farquard Campbell and Alexander MacAlester, as trustees of the Bluff Meeting House, two acres near the burying ground "part of 200 acres possessed by sd. MacNeill known by the name of the Bluff where said piece of land with the Meeting House now standing on the same. . . ." This frame building was repaired in 1816, the subscription list totaling $112, and used until about 1855, when the present Bluff church was built.
Rev. Dugald Crawford, who began his ministry in North Carolina in 1783, came from time to time to preach at the Bluff until he was called as pastor in 1786. He served until about 1793 when he was followed by the newly immigrated Rev. Angus McDiarmid who served until 1803. The Bluff was supplied by Rev. Murdock Murphy until November 1810 when Rev. Allan McDougald took over as regular supply. Rev. McDougald received a regular call on April 2, 1812, to serve Bluff, Barbecue, and Averasboro in the new Fayetteville Presbytery. He was followed about 1844 by Rev. Evander McNair who served until 1855 except for a short period when he was relieved by Rev. Simeon Colton. Rev. Duncan D. McBryde served from 1855 to 1890, Rev. Joseph B. Mack from 1890 to 1891, and Rev. George A. Hough from 1891 to 1892.
In 1892, a group of forty-one Bluff church members attending a mission chapel begun by Rev. McBryde organized and moved their memberships to McMillan Presbyterian Church, located about four miles to the southeast of the Bluff church site.
Rev. Andrew Morrison Hassell served as stated supply of the Bluff from October 1893 until October 1894 when he was regularly called as pastor. He served until May 1899 when Rev. James Stedman Black was called.
On August 16, 1903, the congregation met to consider moving the place of worship to a more accessible location. They voted 31 to 11 to move the church to Godwin where a Sabbath School had been begun in 1889 and where the manse was located. Objections from the church members living in the Wade area resulted in a split, the members from Wade keeping the Bluff church and one hundred members from the Godwin area organizing and moving their memberships to the Godwin Presbyterian Church in May 1904.
Under the leadership of Rev. Letcher Smith who served the Bluff from 1904 to 1906, a new frame church was begun at "Wade Station." Under the guidance of Rev. Angus R. McQueen who replaced Rev. Smith in 1907, the move was made on October 18, 1908, 150 years to the day after the call to Rev. James Campbell.
The Old Bluff church building, left in disuse to watch over the cemetery, was deteriorating when, in 1929, Mr. W.W. Fuller, a former Chief Counsel of the American Tobacco Company of New York, paid to restore the church, both inside and out, to reflect properly its prominent place in history. The Old Bluff Presbyterian Church Trust Fund continues the maintenance and improvement of the building, grounds, and cemetery.
For a more complete church history, see Rev. James Donald MacKenzie, Colorful Heritage, An Informal History of Barbecue Presbyterian Church and Bluff Presbyterian Church (Privately published, 1969), or Victor E. Clark, Jr. and Louise Davis Curry, Editors, Colorful Heritage - Documented, The Story of Barbecue, Bluff and Longstreet Presbyterian Churches (Argyll Printing Center, Dallas, Texas, 1989). The latter, by permission, includes Rev. MacKenzie's history.
The Old Bluff Presbyterian Church is also the parent church of Westminister Presbyterian Church (1914) located on the west side of the Cape Fear River but now disestablished.
A. REV. JAMES CAMPBELL MONUMENT: Rev. JAMES CAMPBELL, a native of Campbelltown, Argyleshire, Scotland, rests near this spot. He died in 1780, in the seventy-fifth year of his age and the fiftieth of his ministry. (East face)
He was a wise and pure Patriot, a faithful defender of the principles of the PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, a zealous Preacher of the Gospel, a devout and humble Christian. The Churches which he founded, and the Presbytery in the bounds of which he labored Twenty two years, have erected this MONUMENT to honor his name and perpetuate his MEMORY. (North face)
Bluff, Long-Street, and Barbecue Churches were organized by Rev. JAMES CAMPBELL, October 18th, 1758. Hector & Duncan McNeill, Farquard Campbell, and Alexander McAlister, were the earliest Elders of the Bluff Church. (West face)
Malcom Smith, Duncan Ray, and Archibald McKay, were the earliest Elders of Long-Street Church. and Gilbert Clark, Daniel Cameron, and Archibald Buie, were the earliest Elders of Barbecue Church. (South face)
B. MEMORIAL MONUMENT:
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE PASTORS OF BLUFF PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH THE REVERENDS:
IN MEMORY OF WILLIAMSON WHITEHEAD FULLER AUGUST 28, 1858 - AUGUST 23, 1934 Whose generous gift in 1929 made possible the restoration of this church edifice and assured a hallowed burying ground for generations of descendants of church members.
WILLIAM ANDERSON BROWN NOVEMBER 10, 1905 - MARCH 12, 1992 Whose pastoral leadership resulted in the adoption of a resolution by Bluff con- gregation on Sept. 1, 1963 establishing a trust fund for the maintenance of buildings, grounds, and cemetery at Old Bluff Presbyterian Church.
FIRST TRUST FUND COMMITTEE MEMBERS
C. COL. ALEXANDER McALLISTER MONUMENT: Near this spot at Old Bluff Church is buried COLONEL ALEXANDER McALLISTER; Patriot and Revolutionary Hero; Colonel of Cumberland County Militia; Representative First Assembly in Newbern, December 1773; Representative Second Assembly in Newbern, March 1774; Member of Provincial Congress Held at Hillsboro, Aug. 1775; Member of Provincial Congress Held at Halifax, April 1776; Member of Committee of Safety for Wilmington District; Member of Committee appointed by Provincial Congress August 23, 1775, to interview the Highlanders and explain to them the nature of the controversy with Great Britain; Member of North Carolina Senate 1787, 1788, and 1789. This memorial was erected by his descendants under the auspices of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
D. CAIRN OF REMEMBRANCE:
John C. Rossser, Jr.