Sketches of North Carolina Chapter XXVIII - Rev.
Humphrey Hunter and Steele Creek, Goshen and Unity
HUMPHREY HUNTER was one
of those men, who, having suffered and fought bravely in the war of
American Independence, gave the strength of their manhood and the
ripened experience of their age, to proclaiming the gospel of
everlasting deliverance from sin and misery by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Drawn by the excitement of the occasion, he mingled with the crowd that
in May, 1775, listened to the Declaration of Independence in Charlotte,
and carefully preserved a copy of that memorable document, the pioneer
of Declarations of Independence, for the benefit of his children and of
posterity. Tie joined in the shout of approval when Col. Polk read the
paper from the court-house steps, and was among the foremost to redeem
the pledge so solemnly given, "of life, and fortune, and most sacred
honor," by taking arms in the defence of liberty, and suffering
'captivity and wounds in the sacred cause. All his matured years were
given to preaching the gospel of our Lord. His first services were
rendered in South Carolina. From thence he removed to Lincoln county, in
North Carolina, and took charge of the congregations of Goshen and
Unity, and some time after extended his services to Steele Creek, one of
the oldest congregations in the State, bordering on Sugar Creek (which
embraced Charlotte) on the southwest. Goshen became a preaching-place
anterior to Unity, and Steele Creek long before either.
From the fact that in 1776 a call was
brought into the Synod of New York and Philadelphia from Steele Creek
and Providence, it is probable that the church on Steele Creek was
organized by Messrs. Elihu Spencer and Alexander McWhorter, who were
sent by the Synod in 1764 to the back part of North Carolina, to aid the
people in organizing churches, settling their boundaries, and taking
proper steps to obtain regular pastoral services. In 1765, the Synod
appointed Rev. Messrs. Kerr, Duffield, Ramsay, David Caldwell, Latta,
and McWhorter, to spend each half a year in the vacant congregations of
Carolina. In the next year the call for the services of Mr. Kerr is sent
previous to that time there was occasional preaching on Steele Creek, by
missionaries and travelling preachers, as McAden, while those who were
willing to ride the distance of from six- to sixteen miles, could attend
on the preaching at Sugar Creek. In the early settlements, fifteen and
sixteen miles were often passed over to attend the sanctuary on a
Sabbath morning ; and as many more in the evening, to return to the
secluded forest homes of the scattered inhabitants that ultimately
formed Steele Creek and Providence churches, whose nearest regular
preaching was at Sugar Creek. The settlement of all these congregations
commenced about the same time, Sugar Creek and Rocky River taking the
precedence somewhat in point of time, and very particularly in obtaining
the services of a settled pastor.
In 1767, the Rev. Robert Henry, the first
settled pastor on Cub Creek, Charlotte county, Virginia, having left his
charge in Virginia, accepted a call from Steele Creek and Providence; in
the mysterious Providence of God, he closed his life that year.
The Rev. Dr. McRee, so long pastor of
Centre, spent some twenty years of his life in Steele Creek, taking his
residence there in 1778 and leaving it in 1797. A more particular
account of him will be given under the head of Centre congregation.
Between his service and the time of Mr. Henry, the congregation does not
appear to have had a settled minister, unless Mr. Reese was occupied a
few years with Steele Creek and Providence. He was preaching in
Mecklenburg about the commencement of the Revolution, and used his pen
for his country.
You may find Steele Creek church on the road from Camden, South
Carolina, through Lincoln to Tennessee, some ten miles southwest from
Charlotte, and some five or six south of Tuckasege ford. As you go up
from Camden, you will pass the spacious church on the left hand; but
whichever way you may be passing you will not mistake the low wooden
house, the second upon the same site, with the old grave-yard, a few
steps to the cast, filled with monuments, and the new yard on the west
across the great road, with a few graves, the chosen resting-place of a
Would you see the records of Steele Creek?
She has no history. None of her females conversant with events of
thrilling interest, when Steele Creek was the track of armies in the
Revolutionary struggle, has like the old lady of Poplar Tent, committed
to writing the circumstances peculiar to the congregation, whose recital
shall warm the heart of every one who traces his line of descent from
the actors in these stirring and often bloody scenes. Had some one
called their attention, like the Pastor of Poplar Tent, to the
difference between traditionary story growing more and more faint and
uncertain with passing years, and the written record that may remain to
all time, in all probability some of the ladies of the past generation
would have prevented our saying Steele Creek has no history.
But she has records. Not written with pen
and ink, but graven in the enduring rock, records brief, concise,
numerous, and characteristic. With the ever to be commended practice of
gathering the remains of the dead to the sepulchres of their fathers, in
the enclosure near the place of worship, securely walled in, sacred as
the place of graces, unexposed to the plough of the stranger or the
cold-hearted descendant, this congregation has gone farther and excelled
their neighbors, in erecting those monumental stones, that shall tell
what people and families have once been active in the business of life
on the surrounding plantations, have mingled in social intercourse, and
in the worship of God, in that decaying house, have tasted of the sweets
and bitterness of life, then given place to others, soon to vanish away
before the infants of to-day. Wave after wave passes on, and those brief
records and enduring stones tell where they brake on the shore of
these that worshipped here more reverential of the dead? or more
affectionate in attachments unsevered by the grave? or more abundant in
resources to procure what gentle-hearted poverty might. sigh for in
vain, a monument, or tablet, or grave-stone; a monument of the dead? or
was it simply that their habitations were many miles of "weary hauling"
nearer the market and the workshop?
Will you walk among these tombs? Perhaps
pride and vanity shall be humbled, worldliness may get a death-blow; and
the heart go away chastened from the perusal of these monumental stones
pointing faith to the skies, and cheerful under the providence of God
that has not yet, consigned. us to the silent abodes. Let us enter by
this gate, in the west wall, near the church, and advancing a few paces
northeastwardly, read the brief and only record of one that shed his
blood in the battle of Camden:—
Sacred to the Memory of
who departed this life July 30th, 1795.
Aged 52 years.
An unexceptionable character,
in whose death
his family, his neighborhood,
the State, and the Church,
sustained a loss.
in that unfortunate battle in which Gates was defeated and De Kalb
slain, this man received three wounds, the pains of which never left
him, and went with the honorable scars to his grave. Two facts about
this man are of enduring interest, that he was a Christian, and a
soldier of the Revolution, that poured out blood and carried wounds for
his country. One is recorded here,--the record was too brief to make
mention of the other. Would that some hand that can guide the iron-pen
would fill out this record; and go on through this yard, and throughout
the whole community ,of Carolina, and tell to posterity the names, and
where lies the dust of the men who suffered in the Revolution: how it
would catch a stranger's eye! how it would throb the heart of a
descendant, travelling from time far South or West to visit the
sepulchre of his ancestor!
"It is the fortune of war," said Captain
McDowell, of the army of His Majesty George III., while plundering this
man's house, in a foraging party, during the brief sojourn of Cornwallis
in Charlotte in the year 1780. " Is it soldier-like to plunder a
helpless family so, and leave us nothing?" said the wife and mother.
"But, madam, we must have something to eat, and these rebels won't bring
it in." "And have you no women and children at home?" "What is your
name, madam?" "McDowell is our name." "McDowell! that is my name; "where
are you from?" "Our family carne from Scotland, Sir." "Aye! and very
likely then ye are kin of mine; I have some here in America." Calling in
his men, saying they had got enough from that house, he added, "An'
likely ye have some of your family amongst the rebels; but it is the
fortune of war. Goodbye! it is the fortune of war."
"Carried these scars from the battle-field
to his graze!" How that deed chiselled in this stone would move the
heart of every passenger. And if the actions of the dead were briefly
hinted at upon their tomb-stones, how coming generations would read in
the enclosure at Sugar Creek,—ABRAHAM ALEXANDER, Elder in the Church,
and President of the Convention, May 20th, 1775 ; and in Hopewell, near
the Arma Libertatis of Bradley, DAVIDSON fell at Cowan's Ford,
resisting; the Invasion of 1781; and in Bethany, HALL, Captain of a
Company, and Chaplain to the Regiment in actual service in the
Revolution; and as they read feel the unutterable emotions of a soul
stirred up to deeds of excellence by the memory of these worthies, the
like of whom the world cannot soon see again.
Men begin to trace their origin to the
emigration from Ireland with conscious exultation ; and the actors, and
the deeds, and the very places of Revolutionary events are invested with
a constantly increasing interest. Where are they? is the inquiry of the
patriotic and the young; and could this money-seeking age but anticipate
the eagerness with which the coming generations will search for the
tombs and the battle-fields, and the scenes of patriotic exploits on the
line of march from Camden to Guilford, it would blush.
But look around a little, see this peculiar
fashion of these records of the dead, which mark the period immediately
following the. Revolution:—they are made with raised letters, and
contrast with those less shapely older, and these smoother new ones,
that are deeply chiselled. The very fashion of the monuments proclaims
that we are in a changing world. You may count the generations, from the
low and rudely sculptured head-stones of the old settlers, through the
more erect and stately, and the embossed letters, to the polished marble
of to-day. There is one class peculiar, and not unpleasing. On a single
head-stone, in parallel columns, are the short record of man and wife;
joined in life, joined in death, joined in the recollection of the
living, and in the hopes of eternity, they are not separated in the
grave or the monuments of the tomb. You may see one erected by a
surviving partner, in which the column for the dead, filled up, stands
waiting for the inscription that death shall put upon the other.
None of these monuments have stood a
century. Very many, whose shape and workmanship tell you they have a
claim to be numbered among the oldest in this yard, are to the memory of
little children. As in actual life, more have died in infancy than in
old age; so here, in the early times of this congregation, more
monuments were raised for the young than for the old, and most for
infants. Did these people love their parents less? or was it the tender
affection of faith, softening the hearts of emigrants and their
children, and protecting from the intrusion of careless feet, and larger
sepulchres, the little graves, where slept the sweet flowers, plucked so
soon away, not to perish, but to bloom in heaven for ever? Religion is
amiable, faith is lovely: and Christ has bound the Christian heart to
heaven more strongly by the little ones he has gathered in his arms and
blessed. And when did the departure of threescore years and ten so open
the fountain of tears, as when the little one has gone away? What
multitudes have said, in bitter tears, "I will go down into the grave to
my child, mourning."
Wherever you turn, you see the influence of
the continually moulding power of poetry and music. How deep into the
heart the sacred songs of a worshipping congregation, sung by fathers
and children and great-grandchildren, shoot their influence, and mingle
with the springs of thought, and carry along the rhythm of the poetry
and the cadence of the song, sacred from immemorial time. Read this:—
In memory of
who died March 30th, 1805.
A good economist through life.
In all respects was she
A tender mother, virtuous wife.
Deceased 3 score & 3.
And this on the tomb of a young person
Stop, careless youth, and read,
And as you read consider
How soon the worm may feed
On you and I together.
You feel at once the cadence and rhyme of
David's Psalms in metre, as sung in times past by the churches in
Scotland, and by many still in America.
Mrs. Alexander, of Poplar Tent, in her
Birthday Meditations, everywhere shows that the Bib]e gave her the
truths for a foundation, her catechism, the framework of her thoughts,
and Watts the peculiar fashion. Watts's Psalms and Hymns have been sung
these sixty years or more in Poplar Tent; and the version of Rouse is
still still part of every Sabbath in public worship in Steele Creek.
Of the four ministers laid in the yard,
three were of the Seceding Church and congregation, as they are called,
whose place of worship, called Little Steele Creek, is but a short
distance to the south. The congregations are much intermingled, and both
have retained a partiality for David's Psalms in metre.
It is more than probable that all the
congregations of the Scotch and Irish origin would, in the southern and
southwestern States, have become one body after the Revolution, having
few causes of division, and many to draw them into closer union, could
they have agreed upon their Psalmody, or used with each other the
kindness and discretion that has been, and now is, exercised in Steele
Creek. In some places the ineradicable prejudices of the old, that had
sung, as their fathers did, Psalms of sacred melody, till they had
become sweet to their ears and sweeter to their hearts, were not dealt
with as tenderly as they might have been, in what seemed their
unreasonableness in opposing all improvement as innovation. In other
cases the opposition to the use of Watts, or any more modern
versification, was carried to a degree of bitterness unbecoming the
cause. In consequence, many congregations were split, and some that had
been, and still are, reckoned Presbyterians, were found arrayed under
the name of Seceder or Associate, not in war, but in self-defence.
The sacred songs of a congregation, and the
tunes chosen for their public worship, are a type of the piety of the
people. The Presbyterian church has happily retrograded for the last few
years, and sought for old paths, and the good way, to find rest. Had not
the Assembly afforded so excellent and grave a collection of Psalms and
Hymns for public worship, the ebbing tide would not have stopped at
Watts's Version, it would have retreated further, and old Rouse would
have been sung again in many congregations. Many hymns had crept into
use, as profane to the ears of multitudes of the pious, and as
indissolubly connected with irreverent thoughts, as in the minds of many
the organ is with high church notions "and all pappistrie," and the
flute and the violin with all revelry. Congregations have been rent by
an -attempted change of their psalmody, and many more that now seem
firmly united might be rent asunder by a hymn book, or a flute, or an
Of the four
ministers that lie in this yard, two were brothers they lie side by side
under one broad tablet, Francis and James Pringle. The latter was pastor
of the Seceder church, on Steele Creek, and the former of a church in
Ohio. Francis died on a visit to his brother, on the 15th of March,
1818, in the fourth year of his ministry, and the twenty-ninth year of
his age; James on the 28th of the succeeding October, in the fifth year
of his ministry, and the thirtieth year of his age. The two bereaved
congregations united and erected one broad, white, marble slab. to cover
the graves of the two pastors, united in their infancy and youth, united
in their religion, undivided in death, and the hope of a glorious
the numerous monuments around you may read the names of the old families
that formed the band of emigrants to this now populous neighborhood;—Neely,
Hart, Porter, Bighain, Sloan, M'Dowell, Grier, Herron, Vance, Davis,
Tagart and Allen. Many of these names are found among the early
settlements in the Valley of Virginia, which were formed a short time
previously to this on Steele Creek.
Let us now turn to the monument of the
patriot Humphrey Hunter, near the Session-house on the southwestern
corner; and on. which headstone, read:
to the memory of the
Rev. HUMPHREY HUNTER,
who departed this life August 21st,
1827, in the 73d year of his age.
He was a native of Ireland, and
Emigrated to America at an early
period of his life. He was one of those
who early promoted the cause of
freedom in Mecklenburg county,
May 20th, 1775, and subsequently
bore an active part in securing
the Independence of his country.
For nearly 38 years he labored
as a faithful and assiduous
Ambassador of Christ, strenuously
enforcing the necessity of repentance,
and pointing out the terms of Salvation.
As a parent he was kind and affectionate;
as a friend warm and sincere; and as a
Minister persuasive and convincing.
Reared by the people of Steele Creek church.
Mr. Hunter undoubtedly merited all that is
said of him on the monument. Of that race of people of whom Gordon in
his History of Ireland says—"so great and wide was tie discontent, that
many thousands of the Protestants emigrated from those parts of Ulster
to the American settlements, where they soon appeared in arms against
the British government and contributed powerfully by their zeal and
valor, to the separation of the colonies from the empire of Great
Britain." Of whom also, Col. Tarleton in the history of his campaigns in
1780 and 1781, speaking of the first irruption of the British troops
under Lord Rawdon, into the Waxhavv settlement, on the borders of North
Carolina—"the sentiments of the inhabitants did not correspond with his
Lordship's expectations ; lie then learned, what experience confirmed,
that the Irish were the most averse of all the settlers to the British
government in America." He was born on the 14th of May, 1755, in the
vicinity of Londonderry, in the North of Ireland, the native place of
his father. His paternal grandmother was from Glasgow, Scotland; and his
maternal from Brest, in France. The blood of the Scotch and the Huguenot
was blended in Ireland, and the descendants emigrated to America and
flourished in the soil of Carolina.
Deprived by death of his father in his
fourth year, young Hunter embarked at Londonderry with his widowed
mother for Charleston, S. C., on the 3d of May, 1759, on board the ship
Helena. Arriving on the 27th of August, the family in a few days
proceeded to Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, where the mother
purchased land in the Poplar Tent congregation, and remained for life.
As the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty was one of the principal
causes of his mother's emigration, it is not wonderful that young Hunter
grew up with a spirit jealous of encroachment from the English crown.
From the time of his reaching Mecklenburg
till his twentieth year, little is known of him. We are left to the
conjecture that he grew up familiar with aII the labors and privations
of a frontier life, by which he became fitted to endure the fatigues and
sufferings of a military expedition.
He attended the convention in Mecklenburg,
May 20th, 1775, as one of the numerous crowd of spectators assembled on
that exciting occasion. In his account of the meeting prefixed to his
copy of the Declaration of Independence, he thus writes concerning the
battle of Lexington, which took place on the 19th of April: "That was a
wound of a deepening gangrenous nature, not to be healed without
amputation. Intelligence of the affair speedily spread abroad, yea flew,
as if on the wings of the wind collecting a storm,. No sooner had it
reached Mecklenburg than an ardent, patriotic fire glowed almost in
every breast; it was not to be confined; it burst into a flame ; it
blazed through every corner of the country. Communications from one to
another were made with great facility. Committees were held in various
neighborhoods; every man was a politician. Death rather than slavery,
was the voice comparatively of all."
Soon after the Declaration of Independence,
a regiment was raised in Mecklenburg, under Col. Thomas Polk, and Col.
Adam Alexander, to march against some tories who were embodied in the
lower part of the State. Mr. Hunter went as a private in the company of
Capt. Charles Polk, nephew of Col. Thomas Polk. The tories dispersed at
the approach of this force, and the regiment speedily returned without
bloodshed or violence.
Mr. Hunter then commenced his classical
education at Clio's Nursery, in Rowan county (now Iredell), under the
instruction of Rev. James Hall. The following certificates, preserved by
Mr. Hunter, show the order of the congregation, and the care with which
the morals of youth were watched over by church officers and instructors
in schools. The first appears to have been required for his honorable
standing at Clio's Nursery
This is to certify, that the Bearer,
Humphrey Hunter, has lived in the Bounds of this Congregation upwards of
four years, and has Behaved himself Inoffensively, Not being Guilty of
any Immoral Conduct known to us, Exposing him to Church Censure, and is
free from public Scandal. Given under our hands at Poplar Tent, this
18th day of October, 1778. Ruling Elders JAMES ALEXANDER, J ROSS, ROBERT
General Rutherford collected a brigade from Mecklenburg, Rowan, and
Guilford counties, to repel the aggressions of the Cherokee Indians, Mr.
Hunter received the commission of lieutenant under Captain Rob't Mayhen,
in one of the three companies of cavalry that formed part of the corps.
The campaign was successful ; the Indian forces were scattered, and
their chiefs taken.
After this campaign Mr. 'Hunter resumed his
classical studies at Queen's Museum, in Charlotte, under the care of Dr.
McWhorter, who had removed from New Jersey to take charge of that
situation, with flattering prospects. Of the moral and religious
character of the young inan, the following certificate in the
handwriting of his instructor is testimony, viz.
That the bearer, Humphrey I hunter, has
continued a student in Clio's Nursery from August, 1778, till last
October; that he applied to his studies with diligence; was admitted to
the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in Bethany Congregation; has during
the aforesaid Time conducted himself as it good member both of religious
and civil Society, and is hereby well recommended to the Regard of any
Christian Community where Divine Providence may order his lot,—is
"Bethany, Jan. 12, 1780.
" JAS. HALL, V.D.M.
In the summer of 1780, Liberty Hall Academy,
or Queen's Museum, as it was originally named, was broken up by the
approach of the British army under Lord Cornwallis, after the surrender
of Charleston, and the massacre of Buford's regiment on the Waxhaw, and
the course of study never resumed under the direction of Dr. McWhorter,
who returned to New Jersey. Upon the breaking up of the College, the
younger students were commended to their parents and guardians, and the
older were urged to take the field in the cause of their country. It is
not to be supposed that young Hunter required much urging to take up
arms with his fellow-citizens of Mecklenburg, who five years before had
pledged "their lives and their honor." Upon the orders of General
Rutherford to the battalions of the western counties of the State, a
brigade assembled at Salisbury. For the first three weeks, Mr. Hunter
acted as commissary, and afterwards as lieutenant in the company of
Captain Thomas Givens. Having scoured the tory settlement on the
north-east side of the Yadkin, the forces under General Rutherford
joined the army of General Gates at Cheraw.
On the morning of the 16th of August, the
unfortunate battle of Camden took place by the mutual surprise of the
marching armies ; and the forces under Gates were completely routed.
General Rutherford was wounded and taken prisoner, with many of his men.
Mr. Hunter, soon after his surrender as prisoner of war, witnessed the
death of the Baron De Kalb. He tells us, he saw the Baron, without suite
or aide, and apparently separated from his command, ride facing the
enemy. The British soldiers clapping their hands on their shoulders, in
reference to his epaulettes, shouted, "a General, a rebel General!"
Immediately a man on horseback (not Tarleton) met him, and demanded his
sword. The Baron, with apparent reluctance, presented the hilt; but
drawing back, said in French, "Are you an officer, sir?" His antagonist,
perhaps not understanding his question, with an oath, more sternly
demanded his sword. The Baron dashed from him, disdaining, as is
supposed, to surrender to any but an officer, and rode in front of the
British line, with his hand extended. The cry along the line of, "A
rebel General," was speedily followed by a volley, and after riding some
twenty or thirty rods, the Baron fell. He was immediately raised to his
feet, stripped of his hat, coat, and neckcloth, and placed with his
hands resting on the end of a wagon. His body had been pierced with
seven balls. While standing in this situation, the blood streaming
through his shirt, Cornwallis, with his suite, rode up; and being told
that the wounded man was De Kalb, he addressed him—"I am sorry, sir, to
see you; not sorry that you are vanquished, but that you are so severely
wounded." Having given orders to an officer to administer to the
necessities of the wounded man as far as possible, the British General
rode on to secure his victory; and in a little time the brave and
generous De Kalb, who had seen service in the armies of France, and had
embarked in the cause of the American States, breathed his last.
After seven days' confinement in a
prison-yard in Camden, Mr. Hunter was taken, with about fifty officers,
to Orangeburg, S. C., where he remained without hat or coat until
Friday, the 13th of November, about three months from the time of his
captivity. On that day he went to visit a friendly lady, who had
promised him a homespun coat. On his way he was met by a horseman of
Col. Fisher's command, who accused him of being beyond the lines, and
sternly ordered him back to the station; threatening him with
confinement, and trial for breach of his parole. Hunter explained, and
apologized, and promised, but all to no purpose. "To the station!" "take
the road!" Up the road went the rebel Whig, sour and reluctant, and made
indignant by the frequent goading with the point of the tory royalist's
sword. Passing a large fallen pine, from which the limbs had been
burned, he suddenly leaped the trunk. The horseman fired one of his
pistols,—missed his aim, and leaped his horse after him. Hunter adroitly
leaped the other side the trunk, and began throwing at the horseman the
pine knots that lay thick around. The second pistol was discharged, but
without effect. By a blow of a well-aimed pine knot the horseman was
brought to the ground, and disarmed by his prisoner. Hunter returned the
tory his sword, on condition that he should never, on any condition,
make known that any of the prisoners had crossed the forbidden line, or
any way transgressed, promising himself to keep the whole matter of the
late rencontre an inviolable secret.
On the following Sabbath a citation was
issued by Col. Fisher, directing all militia prisoners to appear at the
Court-House by 12 o'clock on Monday. The affair had been discovered.
During the contest, the horse galloped off to the station with the
saddle and holsters empty, and when the dismounted rider appeared a
little time after with the bruises of the pine knots too visible to be
denied, the curious inquiries that followed, baffled all his efforts at
concealment; it was soon noised abroad that one or more of the prisoners
had broken parole and attacked an officer. The report reaching the
Colonel's ears, the order was issued for their appearance at the
Court-House. On Sabbath night, Hunter and a few others, expecting close
confinement would follow their assembling on Monday noon, seized and
disarmed the guard and escaped. He was nine nights in making his way
back to Mecklenburg, lying by during the day to avoid the patroles of
the British, and sustaining himself upon the greenest of the cars of
corn lie could gather from the unharvested fields.
In a few days after his return home, he
again joined the army, and became a lieutenant of cavalry under Col.
Henry Hampton, and attached to the regiment under Col. Henry Lee,
received a wound in the battle at the Eutaw Springs, where so much
personal bravery was displayed. His military services closed with that
campaign; and he returned home with a good name, his bravery
unquestioned and his integrity unsullied.
He resumed his classical studies at the
school taught by the Rev. Robert Archibald, near Poplar Tent, as appears
by the following certificate, in the irregular hand and crooked lines of
his preceptor, which is the only evidence at hand of the classical
school in that congregation immediately after the war.
"Mecklenburg, St. N. Carolina,
"This is to certify, that the bearer,
Humphrey Hunter, has been some years at this school in the capacity of a
student; and during the term has conducted himself in a sober, genteel
and Christian manner; and we recommend him as a youth of good character,
to any public seminary where Divine Providence may cast his lot.
Certified and signed by order of the
trustees, this 3d day of Nov., 1785.
"ROBERT ARCHIBALD, V.D.M."
This. certificate of character appears to
have been given as a requisite for holding his standing at Mount Zion
College, his Alma Mater. The following from the hand of Mr. Archibald
was also given at the same time, and probably for the same purpose.
"Mecklenburg, State of North Carolina.
"This is to certify that the bearer,
Humphrey Hunter, has lived in the bounds of this congregation from his
Infancy, and behaved himself in a sober and Christian manner, is in full
cornmunion with the church, and clear of all public scandal known to us
; and we recommend him to the care of any Christian society where God in
his providence may cast his lot. Certified and signed by order of
sessions, at Poplar Tent, this 3d of November, 1785.
Robt. ARCHIBALD, V.D.M."
During the summer of 1785 he was entered as
a student of Mount Zion College, at Winnsborough, in South Carolina,
which after the war for a time supplied the place of Liberty Hall, or
Queen's Museum, at Charlotte, in completing the classical education of
young men desirous of entering upon professional life.
The following is a copy of his degree,
granted by the trustees of that institution, which has long since passed
away, after having been for a time a shining light directing in the path
of science and literature, Alumni that have honored their Alma Mater and
the church, men in whom any institution may have gloried. The original
is in beautiful German Text.
"PRÆFECTUS ET CURATORES
COLLEGII MONTIS SIONIS,
Omnibus et singulis ad cquos haec literati
sit quod nobis placet Auctoritate publico Diplomats nobis colnmissa,
Hurnfredum Hunter, candidatum primum in Artibus Graduum competentem
examine sufficiente previo approbatuln Titulo graduque Artium liberalium
Baccalaurei adornare. In cujus Rei Tcstimonium Literis Sigillo Collegii
munitis nomina subscripsimus.
"THOMAS H. MCCAULE, Prof.-l
John Winn, James Craif, Trustees.
Datum in Aula Collegii, apud Winnsburgium,
in Carolina Meridionali, quarto Nonas Julii, Anno Arce Christi
millesinio scptuagentesinlo et octogcsilnno scptitno."
Having pursued the study of theology about
two years, under the Presbytery of South Carolina, he received license
to preach the gospel, in the following words, viz.
Bullock's Creek, Oct. 15th, 1789.
The Presbytery having
examined Mr. Humphrey Hunter on the Latin and Greek languages, the
sciences and divinity, and being well satisfied with his moral and
religious character, and his knowledge of the languages, sciences, and
divinity, do license him to preach the everlasting gospel of Jesus
Christ,—and affectionately recommend him to our vacancies.
A call, in the usual form of the Confession
of Faith, was made out for Mr. Hunter, from the congregations of
Hopewell, on Jeffrey's Creek, and Aimwell, on Pee Dee, in South
Carolina, and signed the 1st day of October, 1791, by the following
Wickham, Gavin Witherspoon, John Ervin, L. Derkins, Hugh Ervin, Thos.
Cann, Jerem. Gurley, Aaron Gasque, Wm. Stone, John Gregg, Joseph Burch,
Hance Davis, Joseph Jelly, Hugh Muldrow, Jas. Greer, John Carson, W.
Flagler, Wm. Gregg, James 'Thompson, James Hudson, Joseph Gregg, Thos.
Hudson, John Cooper, David Bigern, John Orr, James Orr, J. Baxter, Wm.
Wilson, Henry Futhey, G. Bigham, Alexr. Pettigrew, Wm. Muldrow, J.
Muldrow, jr., James Cole, John McRee, John Witherspoon, 'Thomas Canady,
Probably not a man that signed the call now lives ; but the preceding
list may direct some of their descendants to a parent's name, at the
same time it shows to us the manner of signing a call some fifty years
ago. The salary promised was £120 sterling per annum, about $533,331 cts.
Mr. Hunter's name first appears upon the
records of Synod as a member in 1793.
In the year 1795, Mr. Hunter removed to
Lincoln County, and became a member of Orange Presbytery on the first
day of its first meeting, at Bethphage, Dec. 24th. The same year, by act
of Synod, the Presbytery of Concord was set off, consisting of twelve
members, of which lie was to be one. Upon a call, made out in the usual
form, for half his time, by the inhabitants of Goshen congregation,
promising him sixty-two pounds ten shillings current money of North
Carolina, or fifty pounds in gold or silver dollars at eight shillings,
and gold in proportion, the following names appear, viz.: Robert
Johnson, Robert Johnson, Jr., Andrew Johnson, Joseph Dickson, Wm.
Rankin, Henry Davies, John McCaul, Robert Alexander, James Martin, James
Rutledge, James Gullick, Benjamin Smith, James Dickson, William Moore,
Jonathan Graves, David Baxter, John Moore, Samuel Caldwell, Robert
Curry. This call he accepted, March 30th, 1796.
It would be interesting to the present
inhabitants of Unity congregation, which was united with Goshen in the
labors of a pastor and in his support, their call having been presented
and accepted March 30th, 1796, could the signers of the call from that
congregation be given; it, however, was not found among the papers of
Mr. Hunter. These two congregations embraced the region of country lying
along the west side of the Catawba, from some distance above Beattie's
Ford, to the South Carolina line, and from the river to the large
congregation of Olney, at that time flourishing and extending over a
large section of the country southwest of the Court-House.
Goshen was a place of occasional preaching
at a very early period of the settlement of the region west of the Cata\vba.
Its location was decided by a singular circumstance. A stranger passing
through the country, probably in search of a proper place for
emigration, took sick, and after a length of time, died. During his
sickness and the previous short sojourn among the people along the west
bank of the Catawba, his pleasing manners gained him the sympathies of
the whole settlement. He was buried on the brow of a gentle declivity.
One family after another chose to bury their dead on the declivity by
the stranger; and that spot became the place of interment for the whole
neighborhood. In choosing the place for their tent for public worship,
and afterwards for the church, their reverence for the dead led the
inhabitants to the same spot. The first church stood a few rods from the
present, at one corner of the burying-ground.
Before the erection of Goshen and Unity as
churches and congregations, the nearest places of worship were Steele
Creek, Centre, Hopewell, Charlotte, and Olney. To these places the most
contiguous neighborhoods resorted, till the increasing numbers, as well
as the distance, rendered the organization of the two congregations
necessary. Owing to the small number of clergymen and the habits
incident to a frontier settlement, the bounds of the congregations were
large, and the border families rode far for the ordinances of the
Gospel. In this unavoidable arrangement, there were, in the early
settlement of the country, many advantages that went far to
counterbalance all the difficulties that arose from the distance to the
house of God.
many years before his death, Mr. Hunter became pastor of Steele Creek
church, having received their call in 1803, and devoted to the people of
that charge part of his unremitting labors; the remainder he gave to New
hope, having been released from Goshen in 1SO4. At his death the people
of Steele Creek had the privilege of giving him a place of sepulture,
and of erecting a marble headstone to his grave.
His own taste, and the necessities of his
neighbors and parishioners led him, in the almost total want of good
physicians, to pay some attention to medicine, and to prescribe in cases
of necessity. His success became burdensome, and threatened, for a time,
to interfere with his ministerial duties and his proper attention to his
own family concerns. This laborious attention to the physical maladies
of his people was never a source of pecuniary profit ; it was the
exercise of his benevolence.
As a minister he was always distinguished
for his evangelical sentiments and orthodoxy according to the Confession
of Faith of the Presbyterian Church. In his preaching lie was earnest,
unassuming, and often eloquent. Possessing a strong mind with powers of
originality, and trained by the discipline of a classical education
under men capable of producing scholars, he consecrated all his talents
and acquirements to preaching the everlasting gospel, counting all
things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. In
his advanced years his infirmities very much contracted his active
labors, without impairing the vigor and discrimination of his mental
powers, or the fervency and faithfulness of his preaching.
He possessed in a high degree a talent for
refined sarcasm ; and his answer to triflers with his office or the
great truths of religion, and sticklers for unimportant things, was a
shaft from this quiver that pierced to the marrow. his benevolence as a
minister, and his tenderness as a neighbor, forbade its use in his
social intercourse. Honest objections, and difficulties arising from
want of knowledge or proper reflection, he would meet kindly with truth
and argument; sophistry and cavils he considered as deserving nothing
but the lash which he knew how to apply till it stung like a scorpion.
His habits of preparation for the pulpit,
like those of the laborious men of his own generation and the days
preceding, were reading, prayerful meditation, and short notes. As lie
wrote no sermons in full, he of course never read his discourses from
the pulpit. A close observer of men and things, a close reasoner, he was
classic in his style and systematic in his preaching. His congregations
were well instructed in divine truth according to the orthodoxy of the
Confession of Faith; and were sufficiently tried to test their knowledge
and their faith during the excitements and discussions that accompanied
the great revival.
He met death in a manner becoming a Christian minister, resigned and
unshaken, and expired on the 21st of August, 1827, in the 74th year of
his age. The writer of a short memoir that appeared the year succeeding,
the only one of Mr. Hunter that ever was given to the public, concludes
thus,—"The stars of the Revolutionary contest are rapidly setting. 'They
shine with additional lustre as they go down from our view. They leave
behind them a generation blessed with the light of their example, and
permitted to gather the fruit of their toils. Another mighty revolution
must take place before such a cluster of worthies will live and labor
together. When, therefore, they pass from the stage of action, let not
their posterity cease to venerate their names and record their virtues."
Mr. Hunter was above the ordinary stature,
of a robust frame, and dark complexion. His eye indicated great
intrepidity of character, and at times sternness, and sometimes the
withering sarcasm that he knew how to wield with so much power. Of great
simplicity of manners, his strong feelings and great candor made him
above all affectation; sincere in his friendship, ingenuous in his
dealings with men; while the evil feared him, good men loved him,—and as
they knew him better they only loved him the more.
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