A Brief History of LAUREL HILL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 1797 - 1947
By Rev. G. F. Kirkpatrick
The present site of Laurel Hill Church was used as a place of worship as long ago as 1793, and
probably before that. However, there was no organized church here until 1797, when Rev. John Gillespie
became the first pastor. The charter elders of the church were two John McNairs-"Hatter" John and "Red"
John-and John Buchanan. The first house of worship was probably a log building; but at some time it was
replaced by a weather board building which served the congregation until 1856.
After four years Mr. Gillespie was succeeded by Rev. Malcom McNair, whose pastorate was terminated by
his death in 1822. His grave is within sight of the church. For the next six years the church was supplied
by various ministers, after which rev. Archibald McQueen entered upon a very profitable ministry to the
church. Twelve years later his service was terminated when the Presbytery of Fayetteville suspended him
from the ministry for marrying his deceased wife's sister; she was Miss Mary McLeod, whose home was at
Scotch Grove siding, and a member of Laurel Hill church. At the time such a marriage was contrary to the
constitution of the Presbyterian Church. Five years later Mr. McQueen was restored to the ministry; but
it was a very unfortunate affair, as he was one of the ablest, most consecrated and most useful ministers
the church ever had. Toward the close of his pastorate there were 296 members on the roll of Laurel Hill
church-the largest enrollment of which we have any record.
Rev. Archibald Baker succeeded Mr. McQueen in 1842, serving for five years. After his resignation the
church had no installed pastor for nine years, but was served by several supply ministers; two of these
were Rev. Andrew McMillan and Rev. John R. McIntosh who were born and reared within the bounds of this
congregation. It was during this period (1852) that Montpelier church was organized on the north side
of the Lumber River beyond Wagram. This was the first of several churches that have through the years
been organized within the bounds of this church: Laurinburg (1859), Marks Creek (1862), Ida Mills-now
the Church in the Pines-(1893), Aberdeen (1894), and Milton (1912). About 1880 three churches for Negroes
were organized nearby: Chapel Hill and Silver Hill Presbyterian, and Cool Springs Methodist. The charter
members of all these churches both white and colored, were drawn in whole or in part from Laurel Hill;
moreover, this springing up of churches within the area from which Laurel Hill had long drawn much of
her membership has drastically curtailed her numerical growth.
Rev. James P. McPherson became pastor of the church in 1856; and in that same year the church building
in which we worship today was completed at a cost of $2700.00. Before the War between the States the
slaves had no churches of their own, but worshiped in the churches of their masters. The north and south
galleries in this church were placed there for their use. The west gallery was occupied by the choir for
a number of years.
On its northward march in 1865 Sherman's army camped for three days in and around the church. Considerable
damage was done to the church building. It is said that when the army was ready to move on the church
pews were taken apart and laid down as a causeway on the miry road over Jordan Creek swamp in order that
the wagons and ammunition trains might not bog down.
Following Mr. McPherson's resignation in 1867 there was a lapse of four years in which the church was
without a pastor. Among others who supplied the pulpit during this interval were Rev. Andrew McMillan
and Rev. N. T. Bowden.
The longest pastorate in the history of the church began in 1871 when Rev. A. N. Ferguson began a ministry
to the church that would end only with his death in 1906. Mr. Ferguson's home was located about two miles
south of the church. This summer (1947) the church has come into possession of the small one-room building
that stood in his yard, and that he used for a study. This building has been moved to the church grounds
where it will be used to house not only Mr. Ferguson's library, but other wholesome books that the church
may add from time to time.
Rev. J. H. Dixon was pastor from 1907 to 1916. He was followed in rapid succession by three ministers:
Rev. Messrs. F. O. Hellier, Ph. D., Dougald McIntyre, D. D., and Frank L. Johnston, D. D. The first of
these came to the church from Texas, the second from Canada, and the third from Missouri. It was during
this period that the church constructed a manse on the church grounds and Dr. Johnston was the first
minister to occupy it.
In July 1922 Rev. G. F. Kirkpatrick entered upon a pastorate of more than fourteen years. One of the
outstanding events of this period was Home Coming held on the last Sunday of August, 1931. On that
occasion the church was filled with friends. The sermon at the morning service was preached by Rev. A.
Douglas McArn of Camden, S.C., who attended Sunday School in this church in his boyhood. At the afternoon
service the pastor read a historical sketch of the church. About one half of the time covered by this
pastorate was marked by the most blighting financial depression in the history of the nation, and its
disastrous effects were as severely felt in the Laurel Hill community as anywhere. Mr. Kirkpatrick resigned
in January, 1937, taking up the pastorate of Centre church, near Maxton, and continuing to serve Smyrna.
Rev. Robert Smith, Professor of Bible in Presbyterian Junior College, supplied the church until the Fall
of 1939 when Rev. Frank L. Goodman entered upon a very fruitful ministry to this church. Beginning with
his pastorate Montpelier church was again grouped with Laurel Hill to the advantage and satisfaction of
both churches. It is interesting to note that these two churches were associated together under the same
minister from 1856 to 1857, and again from 1883 to 1890. During the first year of Mr. Goodman's pastorate
about 35 persons were added to the church roll, and the following men were elected and installed deacons:
Archibald McLean, Guilford M. Currie, H. F. Walters, H. C. Newton, Raymond Monroe, Jr., Duncan Currie,
and Eli F. Murray, Jr. Mr. Goodman was a tireless worker, and it was with real regret that the church
gave him up in 1945, when he accepted a call to Virginia.
After being without a pastor for nine months, Rev. W. Knight Thompson, recently discharged from the
chaplaincy in the Armed services, came to the pastorate of this church in May 1946, taking up his
residence at Wagram. During the brief time intervening he has won the hearts of the people and has
wrought most effectively in developing the various phases of the church's life. Twenty members have
been added to the church bringing the total resident membership of the church to 135. In August, 1946,
the following decons were elected to the eldership: A. B. Alford, J. A. McMillan, H. F. Walters, and
E. F. Murray, Jr. In this connection it is proper to say that until he was elected an elder J. A. McMillan
had served as the Current Expense Treasurer of the church for a period of 35 years. Invariably he has
been faithful and efficient, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed", meeting promptly and in full
all the financial obligations of the church.
The session at the present time (exclusive of the Moderator) is composed of the following men, the number
by each name indicating the year of his installation:
J. Currie (Re-elected) 1930 A. B. Alford - 1946
H. F. Monroe - 1920 J. A. McMillan - 1946
E. F. Murray, Clerk - 1924 H. F. Walters - 1946
A. H. McDonald - 1931 E. F. Murray, Jr. - 1946
Charles L. Clark - 1924
The deacons consist of the following:
Raymond Monroe, Sr. - 1920 H. C. Newton, Treasurer - 1940
Donald Stubbs - 1924 Raymond Monroe, Jr. - 1940
A. M. McLean, Chm. - 1940 Duncan Currie - 1940
G. M. Currie - 1940
The first record we have of a Sunday School at Laurel Hill shows that there was an enrollment of 35
in 1857. It evidently functioned with rather indifferent success for many years, sometime seeming to
have disappeared altogether for long periods. However, it has been in a flourishing condition for the
past 35 or 40 years. The enrollment today is 105. H. C. Newton is Superintendent.
The Young People's work dates back to 1894 when there was a "Children's Missionary Society". About 1918
a Christian Endeavor Society was formed, and at present the Young People operate under the name of
"The Presbyterian Youth Fellowship", with Thomas A. Monroe as President and Mrs. R. E. Monroe as Adult
There was a "Ladies Mission Society" as early as 1884 with its interests then, and for many years
afterwards, altogether on Foreign Missions. In 1889 this Society became a charter member of the
"Missionary Union", organized that year in Fayetteville, and corresponding in principle to "The
Fayetteville Presbyterial Auxiliary" of the present day. About 30 years ago "The Ladies' Mission
Society" changed its name to "The Woman's Auxiliary." Within the scope of its interests are included
all the benevolent activities of the church and the spiritual enrichment of its membership. The President
this year (1947) is Mrs. A. Fairley McMillan.
The Sesquicentennial of this venerable church, which we celebrate on this the 20th day of July 1947,
finds the church in a spiritual healthy condition, alert to its opportunities and mindful of its
responsibilities; and, with a consecrated, energetic, and progressive pastor, it is earnestly seeking
to measure up to the high ideals and to fulfill the sacred mission of those forefathers who flung its
banners to the breeze in 1797.
Photo made of Congregation of Laurel Hill Presbyterian
Church at the Worship Service, Sunday, May 18, 1947
Presbytery Meets at Laurel Hill 1833
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©Copyright October 21, 2003 by Myrtle N. Bridges