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Sketches of Virginia
Chapter VII. - Timber Ridge


Rockbridge County, Virginia, received her first white inhabitants in the year 1737. In the fall of that year, Ephraim M’Dowell and his wife, both advanced in years, with their sons James and John and daughter Mary, and her husband James Greenlee, were on their way from Pennsylvania, the landing-place of emigrants from the British dominions, to Beverly’s Manor. Whether the parents were born in Scotland, and in early life emigrated to Ulster County, Ireland, or whether Ireland was their birth-place, is left in doubt. The advantageous offers made by Beverly to obtain settlers for his grant, in the frontier wilderness, were circulated in Pennsylvania, and not unknown in Europe. Allured by these, James M’Dowell the son, had in the preceding summer, visited the Valley of the Shenandoah, and raised a crop of corn on the South River. The family of emigrants winding their way to the provision thus made ready for their winter’s support, had crossed the Blue Ridge at Wood’s Gap, and were encamped on Linvel’s Creek for the night. A man calling himself Benjamin Burden, presented himself at their encampment, and asking permission to pass the night in their company, was cheerfully made partaker of their food and fire. As the evening passed on in cheerful conversation, he informed the family that his residence was in Frederick County, where he had obtained a grant of land from the Governor, in the bounds claimed by Lord Fairfax, the Governor contending that the Blue Ridge was the western boundary, and Fairfax claiming the Alleghenies; that the Governor had promised him another grant of 100,000 acres, on the head waters of the James River, as soon as he would locate a hundred settlers; and that to induce settlers to locate on his expected grant, he would give to each of them one hundred acres of land, upon their building a cabin, with the privilege of buying as much more as he pleased up to a thousand acres, at the rate of fifty shillings the hundred acres. In the course of the conversation, he learned that John M’Dowell had surveying instruments with him and could use them. After examining them carefully, he made propositions to M’Dowell to go with him and assist in laying off his tract, offering him, for his services a thousand acres, at his choice, for himself, and two hundred acres, each, for his father and brother and brother-in-law; for which he would make them a title as soon as the Governor gave him his patent; which would be when a hundred cabins were erected. The next day John M’Dowell went with Mr. Burden to the house of Col. John Lewis, on Lewis Creek, near where Staunton now stands; and there the bargain was properly ratified. From Mr. Lewis’s they went up the valley till they came to North River, a tributary of the James, which they mistook for the main river, and at the forks commenced running a line to lay off the proposed tract. M’Dowell chose for his residence the place now called the Red House ; the members of the family were located around, and cabins were built. The neighborhood was called Timber Ridge, from a circumstance which guided the location. This part of the valley, like that near the Potomac, was mostly destitute of trees, and covered with tall grass and pea-vines. The forest trees on this Ridge guided these pioneers in their choice and in the name. Burden succeeded in procuring the erection of ninety-two cabins in two years, and received his patent from the Governor bearing date, November 8th, 1739. This speculation, not being profitable, soon passed from the hands of the company, which was composed of Burden, Governor Gooch, William Robertson and others, and became the sole property of Mr. Burden.

This Benjamin Burden was an enterprising man from New Jersey. The records of the court, in the famous land case, arising from the grant, speak of him as a trader visiting extensively the frontiers. His activity, and enterprise, and success, enlisted, the favor of the Governor, who was desirous of securing a line of settlements in towns or neighborhoods, west of the Blue Ridge, both to extend his province, increase the revenues, and render more secure the counties east of that Ridge; and he obtained a patent bearing date Oct. 3d, 1734, for a tract of land on Spout Run in Frederick County, called Burden’s Manor. Tradition says, that a young buffalo, caught by him in Augusta in the Gap that still bears that name, and taken to Williamsburg as a present to the Governor, had some influence by its novel appearance, in calling the attention of Governor and Council to that part of the frontiers. The speculations entered into by the Governor, Burden, Robertson and others contemplated grants to the amount of 500,000 acres. Benjamin Burden died in 1742. His will bears date the 3d of April of that year, and was admitted to record in Frederick County. His widow gave her son Benjamin, power of attorney dated March 6th, 1744, to adjust all matters concerning the grant in Rockbridge. At first from his youth and want of experience and the business habits of his father, the heir and agent was met with coldness and suspicion. But showing himself favorable to the inhabitants in not hastily demanding payments of debts; and granting some patents promised by his father, but for some reasons held back, he soon became very popular; married the widow of John M’Dowell, and lived on Timber Ridge till some time in 1T53, when he fell victim to the small-pox, then infesting the country. His will bears date March 30th, 1753. He left two daughters; one died unmarried, the other, named Martha, married Robert Hervey. His widow married John Boyer and lived to a great age. Joseph Burden, a son of Benjamin the grantee, claimed, as heir under his father’s will, part of the unsold lands in the Rockbridge grant, and commenced suit against Robert and Martha Hervey; and dying in 1803, in Iredell County, North Carolina (his will bearing date April 29th,) left the suit to be carried on by his heirs. This suit was in court many years; and ultimately involved all the titles for land held under Burden’s grant. The testimony and proceedings in the case, occupy two large thick folios preserved in the clerk’s office at Staunton. The preceding history is taken principally from the testimony of Col. James M’Dowell, the grandson, and Mary Greenlee the sister of John M’Dowell, the surveyor of Burden’s grant. '

John M’Dowell made choice of a pleasant and fertile possession; and in a few years left it to his heirs. In the latter part of December, 1743, the inhabitants of Timber Ridge were assembled at his dwelling, in mourning and alarm. To resist one of the murderous incursions of the Indians from Ohio, who could not yield the valley of the Shenandoah to the whites but with bloodshed, M’Dowell had rallied his neighbors. Not well skilled in savage warfare, the company fell into an ambush, at the junction of the North river and the James, on the place long in possession of the Paxton family, and at one fire, M’Dowell and eight of his companions fell dead. The Indians fled precipitately, in consequence probably of the unusual extent of their murderous success. The alarmed population gathered to the field of slaughter, thought more of the dead than of pursuing the savages, whom they supposed far on their way to the West, took the nine bloody corpses on horseback and laid them side by side near M’Dowell’s dwelling, while they prepared their graves in overwhelming distress. Though mourning the loss of their leading man, and unacquainted with military manoeuvres on the frontiers, no one talked of abandoning possessions for which so high a price of blood was given in times of profound peace. In their sadness, the women were brave. Burying their dead with the solemnity of Christian rites, while the murderers escaped beyond the mountains; men and women resolved to sow their fields, build their church, and lay their bodies on Timber Ridge. Strange inheritance of our race ! Every advance in civil and religious liberty is bought with human life; every step has been tracked with human blood.

The burial-place of these men, the first perhaps of the Saxon race ever committed to the dust in Rockbridge County, you may find in a brick enclosure, on the west side of the road from Staunton to Lexington, near the Red-house, or Maryland tavern, the residence of M’Dowell. Entering the iron gate, and inclining to the left, about fifteen paces you will find a low unhewn limestone, about two feet in height, on which in rude letters by an unknown and unpractised hand, is the following inscription, next in age to the schoolmaster’s memorial to his wife, in the grave-yard at Opecquon.

HEER LYES THE BODY OF
JOHN MACK .
DOWELL
DECED DECEMBE
1743

Mary Greenlee lived to a great age, and retained her memory, and spirit, and vivacity to the last, unharmed by the hardships and changes in life, from the time of an early disappointment in love, which gave a peculiar turn to the action of her mind, through the fatigues of emigration when twenty-six years of age, the labors of a new settlement, and some peculiar difficulties arising from her native shrewdness and many peculiarities. Endowed with powers of mind beyond the ordinary measure, and possessing great independence of character, she excited suspicious apprehensions among her more simple-minded neighbors, who believed, as was the fashion of the times, most devoutly in the existence of witches, and the power of witchcraft, to which many events were, by common consent, attributed. Happening one day, during a quilting at her house, to say, in a jocular manner, to a lady who had been very industrious, and whom she was pressing to eat more freely—“ the mare that does double work should be best fed;” it was construed according to the mysterious jargon of the craft to mean—that she herself was a witch, and this woman the mare she rode in her nightly incursions. Some losses of stock occurred about the same time, as in the case of Mr. Craig, of the Triple Forks, and the slander was spread abroad with many additions. The indignation of the superstitious was aroused, and Mrs. Greenlee scarcely escaped a trial for witchcraft, according to the ancient laws of Virginia. In the famous trial between Burden’s heirs, she underwent a long examination, testing her temper and her memory, in the April of 1806. In the midst of the examination, the question was put to her—“ How old are you?” She smartly replied—“Ninety-five the 17th of this instant; — and why do you ask me my age? — do you think I am in my dotage?” Among other things in the course of the voluminous testimony taken in Burden’s case, it is stated that an Irish girl, Peggy Milhollen, built a number of cabins, and entered them upon the list for cabin rights; and managed the matter with adroitness above suspicion till long after the registry was made; thus accomplishing a double purpose, helping Mr. Burden to the requisite number of cabins for his grant, and herself to abundant landed possessions.

Ephraim M’Dowell and his wife were advanced in life when they came to America. Their son John emigrated a widower, and married a Miss Magdaline Woods. At his death he left her with three children, Samuel, James, and Martha. Samuel was Colonel of militia in the battle of Guilford, North Carolina. He married a Miss Mary McClung; his daughter Magdaline married Andrew Reid, son of Andrew and Mary Reid, of Rockfish, and father of Samuel M’Dowell Reid, the present Clerk of Rockbridge County. James married a Miss Cloyd, and died about 1770, aged thirty-five years, leaving three children, James, Sarah, and Betsy; James, the great-grand-child of Ephraim, married Sarah Preston, grand-daughter of John Preston, the emigrant, was the father of the late Governor, James M’Dowell, and is the Colonel M’Dowell whose evidence in the case of Burden afforded in part the information respecting the early history of Rockbridge. Martha was married to Colonel George Moffitt, of Augusta, a gentleman much engaged in the Revolutionary war.

The first church-building on Timber Ridge was of wood, and stood about three miles north of the present stone building, and less than a mile south of the Red house, on the west side of the road, near an old burying-ground in the woods, where there are now seen many graves, and a few monuments. In the division which took place in the Presbyterian church, in the years 1741-5, this congregation sympathised with the new side, and were supplied with missionaries from the Presbyteries of New Castle, New Brunswick, and New York. In the year 1748, they, in conjunction with the people of Borks of James, made out a call for the ministerial services of William Dean, of New Castle Presbytery, which was presented to Synod of New York, whose records say—Maidenhead, May 18th, 1748—“ A call was brought into the Synod to be presented to the Rev. Mr. Dean, from Timber Ridge and Forks .of James river; the Synod refer the consideration thereof to the Presbytery of New Castle, to which Mr. Dean doth belong, and do recommend it to said Presbytery to meet in Mr. Dean’s meeting-house, on Wednesday next upon said affair; and that Mr. Dean and his people be speedily apprized of it.” Mr. Dean was one of those referred to by Mr. Craig, that troubled parts of his congregation on some missionary visits to the valley. The race of this warm and ardent preacher was soon brought to a close. His death occurred soon after this call. In 1753, this congregation united with New Providence in presenting a call to Mr. John Brown, a graduate of Nassau Hall, Princeton, in 1749, and a licentiate of New Castle Presbytery. He had visited the frontiers and was willing to cast his lot among them. The paper presented to Presbytery has been pre-'served by the descendants of Mr. Brown in Kentucky.

Worthy and Dear Sir :—We being for these many years past in very destitute circumstances, in want of the ordinances of the gospel among us, many of us under distressing spiritual languishments, and multitudes perishing in our sins for the want of the bread of life broken amongst us, our Sabbaths wasted in melancholy silence at home, or sadly broken and profaned by the more thoughtless amongst us, our hearts and hands discouraged, and our spirits broken with our mournful condition and repeated disappointments of our expectations of relief in this particular; in these afflicting circumstances that human language cannot sufficiently paint, we have had the happiness by the good providence of God of enjoying a share of your labors to our abundant satisfaction; and being universally satisfied with your ministerial abilities in general, and the peculiar agreeableness of your qualification to us in particular, as a gospel minister; we do, worthy and dear sir, from our hearts and with the most cordial affection and unanimity, agree to call, invite, and request you to take the ministerial care of us—and we do promise that we will receive the word of God from your mouth, attend on your ministry, instructions and reproofs, in public and private, and to submit to the discipline which Christ has appointed in his church administered by you, while regulated by the word of God, and agreeable to our Confession of Faith and Directory. And that you may give yourself wholly up to the important work of the ministry, we do promise that we will pay unto you annually, the sum which our Commissioners, Andrew Steel and Archibald Alexander, shall give in to the Reverend Presbytery from the time of your acceptance of this our call; and that we shall behave ourselves towards you with all that dutiful respect and affection that becomes a people towards their minister, using all means within our power to render your life comfortable and happy. We entreat you, worthy and dear sir, to have compassion upon us, and accept this our call and invitation to the pastoral charge of our immortal souls, and we shall ever hold ourselves bound to pray. We request the Reverend Presbytery to present this our call to the said Mr. Brown, and to concur in his acceptance of it—and we shall always count ourselves happy in being your obliged humble servants.


Mr. Brown became their pastor. He was united in marriage to the second daughter of John Preston, Margaret, born in Ireland, 1730, a lady of strong intellect, a cultivated mind, and much energy of character. The high esteem in which he was held by her parents, is chronicled in the saying of Mr. Preston, that “he devoutly thanked God that he had a Presbyterian minister connected with his family.” For a succession of years he served the two congregations which were adjoining, each very extensive. Mr. Brown was of the new side in the division which then existed in the Synod. We have but few memoranda of his proceedings for a few years. His residence was about a quarter of a mile from the north end of the village of Fairfield, in the direction of New Providence, a very convenient position for his extensive charge. Of the course he pursued during the distresses of the Indian incursions in the Valley in Braddock’s war, we have but one single notice, and that is in the journal of Hugh McAden, given in the Sketches of North Carolina, pp. 162, 163. Mr. Brown continued his ministrations throughout the whole Indian war. Mr. Craighead with his family and a large part of his congregation removed from their exposed position in the Cowpasture, and sought a residence in North Carolina. We have no historical data for an opinion as to his courage, but from his associations with Davies, cannot believe him less courageous than Craig.

The elders in Timber Ridge, in Mr. Brown’s time, were, Wm. McClung, Archibald Alexander, Daniel Lyle, John Lyle, John McKay, Alexander McCleur, and John Davidson. In New Providence, John Houston, Samuel Houston, James Wilson, Andrew Steel, and John Robinson.

Before the time of Mr. Brown, there was a classical school at New Providence; and Mr. Robert Alexander taught in the bounds of Timber Bridge the first classical school in the Valley. Mr. Brown kept up a nourishing “grammar school” near his residence. His dwelling was about three-fourths of a mile from the south end of the present village of Fairfield, in a westward direction ; and the Academy stood about a mile from his house, and about the same distance from the north end of the village. In 1774 the Presbytery of Hanover adopted the school, and appointed William Graham teacher, under the care of Mr. Brown. In 1777 the school was removed to Timber Ridge. From thence it was removed to the neighborhood of Lexington. For a series of years its history is inwoven with the life of William Graham. It is now Washington College. (See the first series of Sketches of Virginia, Chapter 21st.)

The records of Hanover Presbytery, for October 11th, 1767, at Bird Meeting House, say, “ Mr. Brown laid before Presbytery the extent of his charge, and the difficulties of performing the duties of his functions, and also declared to the Presbytery that he verily believes that his usefulness is at an end in Timber Ridge Congregation ; and as he apprehends it would be for the good of said Congregation that the pastoral relation he sustains to them should be dissolved (the people of Timber Ridge in the mean time petitioning against his dismission, and sending commissioners to oppose it), the Presbytery having maturely considered the affair, do not pretend to oblige Mr. Brown to continue with that people contrary to his inclination, but leave it to himself to continue with them, or confine himself to Providence, at his own discretion ; but do earnestly recommend it to Mr. Brown not to give up his pastoral relation to Timber Ridge, and leave that people destitute, since there appears to be a mutual regard between them and him. But if he should leave Timber Ridge, the commissioners from Providence having represented to the Presbytery the earnest desire of that Congregation to have the whole of his labors, and the ease with which they can give him a comfortable support.” What the difficulty between Sir. Brown and Timber Ridge Congregation was does not appear, but he withdrew from the ministerial care of that people, and confined his labors to New Providence the remainder of his active life.

The amount of salary promised by the commissioners to the Pres-tery in 1753 is not known. The Congregation at New Providence in 1767 promised to give him §80 per annum. There is a paper in Mr. Brown’s handwriting purporting to be an account of money received from the congregations under his care, the only paper of its kind, relating to the salaries of ministers, of the last century, that is made public, except that giving the subscription in part for Mr. Waddell by Tinkling Spring.

New Providence, 1754.


These subscriptions were undoubtedly liberal for the circumstances of emigrants. The country was new, and their distance from market great; and few at the time wealthy, and none in possession of much money. Were the prices of grain and different kinds of stock preserved, the relative value of salaries at that and the present time could be estimated, and would show well for both periods. At the earnest entreaty of New Providence, Mr. Brown confined his labors to that congregation the latter years of his residence in Virginia.

After the Academy became established at Lexington, and that village grew in importance, and was supplied with regular preaching, Timber Ridge was greatly curtailed on that side, and by a similar increase of Fairfield it was lessened on the other side. But there has ever been, under the variety of pastors and supplies, since the time of Mr. Graham, a congregation of great worth assembling in the Stone Church now giving evident signs of ago. The associations with the house, and the very rocks around, remain vividly in the hearts of those accustomed in youth to assemble here on the Lord’s Day. Governor McDowell passed this meeting house always with reverence, often in tears, and when he came in sight of the great rock, the landing place of his father and mother, and himself when a child, on the Sabbath day, he was known often to have raised his hat with a burst of emotion. What had God wrought from the time his ancestor was murdered by the savages, till he himself became Governor of Virginia! In 1796, Mr. Brown, weighed down with the infirmities of age, resigned his charge of New Providence, and welcomed Mr. Samuel Brown as successor in influence and usefulness. He soon followed his children to Kentucky, and in a few years closed his life. The inscription over his grave in Frankfort, is:—“The tomb of the Rev. John Brown, who, after graduating at Nassau Hall, devoted himself to the ministry, and settled at New Providence, Rockbridge County, Virginia. At that place he was stated pastor forty-four years. In the decline of life he removed to this country, to spend the feeble remainder of his days with his children. He died in the 75th year of his age, A. D. 1803.” His wife preceded him to the grave, dying in 1802, in her 73d year. This worthy couple reared seven children:—1st. Elizabeth, who married Rev. Thomas B. Craighead, of Tennessee; 2d. John—a student at Princeton when that institution was broken up by the British—represented the district of Kentucky in the Virginia Legislature—and was in the old Congress of ?87 and ’88, and in the new of ’89 and ’91; married Margaretta Mason, sister of Rev. John M. Mason, of New York. 3d. William—educated at Princeton—a physician—died early, in South Carolina. 4th. Mary—married Dr. Alexander Humphreys. 5th. James—a lawyer ; first Secretary of State in Kentucky, member of the United States Senate from Louisiana, six years American Minister in France ; married Ann Hart, sister of Mrs. Henry Clay. 6th. Samuel—an eminent physician and professor in the Medical School of Transylvania. 7th. Preston—a physician.

The Alexander family formed a part of the Timber Ridge settlement and congregation. In giving farther specimens of the genealogies of the Scotch-Irish emigrants, of which numbers may be found, there are reasons why that of this family should be chosen for the public eye. The sons of a certain Archibald Alexander removed from Scotland to Ireland, in the great immigration in the early part of the 17th century. Their names were, Strong, William, and Thomas. One of these had a son William, remarkable for his corpulency. This William had four sons, Archibald, William, Robert and Peter. Peter died in Londonderry; the other three removed to America about the year 1736. Archibald, the eldest, born in the Manor of Cunningham, Ireland, Feb. 4th, 1708, married his cousin Margaret Parks, Dec. 31st, 1734, — “a pious woman, of a spare frame, light hair, and florid countenance.” Their eldest child Eliza, was born in Ireland, Oct. 1735. They took their residence in America in 1737, near Nottingham. Here their children, William, Ann, Joseph, and Hannah were born. Mr. Alexander being persuaded by his wife to hear Mr. Whitefield, became a convert. In the division of the Presbyterian Church which followed the great revival, the family was numbered with the new side — or new lights. Their place of worship was called Providence.

About the year 1747, this Mr. Archibald Alexander joined the settlement and congregation of Timber Ridge, Virginia, and took his residence on the South River, a tributary of the James, opposite the mouth of Irish Creek. The country is rOugh but well watered. It abounded in timber and was desirable for grazing. Here his children Phoebe and Margaret were born. Mr. Alexander formed a part of the first session of the Church of Timber Ridge. Rev. Samuel Davies visiting the congregation, lodged at his house; his daughter Hannah, that married James Lyle, used to tell of his gold headed cane given him in England, and his gold ring presented by an English lady. Mr. Alexander went as the Elder from Timber Ridge, with Mr. Steel of Providence, to present the call for Rev. John Brown, in August 1753. Before his return his wife suddenly died of dysentery. In 1757, he was married to his second wife, Jane M’Clure. Their children were Isabella, Mary, Margaret, John, James, Samuel, Archibald and James. Of his fifteen children, three girls died young. Six sons and six daughters became heads of numerous families. His grandson Archibald Alexander D. D., says of his grandfather—“He was rather below the common height, thick-set, broad-breasted and strongly built. His face was broad, his eyes large, black and prominent. The expression of his countenance, calm and benignant his manner of speaking; was very kind and affectionate.” Such a man, fearing God, could not fail to impress the community with a conviction of his personal bravery. Of course when the young men wanted a captain of Rangers, they naturally looked to "old Ersbell" Alexander; and he as naturally went along to tell the boys what to do, — when to march, — where to camp, — what was right, and what was wrong. As to the fighting, every man expected to do that, when it was wanted, without much order or direction. The authority of the father, the grandfather, the elder, the captain, and above all, the irreproachable man, was unlimited. Mr. Burden employed Mr. Alexander very extensively in his affairs; and at his death, left him to fill up the deeds for lands. This delicate business he performed to the entire satisfaction of. the purchasers and the heirs. He entered into no speculations while settling the intricate affairs of Mr. Burden’s estate. His stern honesty and calm uprightness, Archibald Alexander bequeathed to his children, baptized into the everlasting covenant of God the Redeemer. No one expected a descendant of “old Ersbell” to be greedy, or avaricious, or pinching, or unkind, or indolent, or ignorant, or very rich. But the public did expect them to know their catechism, to be familiar with their Bible, to keep the Sabbath, to fear God, keep a good conscience, with industry and economy to be independent, and at last to die christianly. Mr. Alexander taught his children for a time himself; and to accommodate his neighbors and encourage his own children, he opened a night school in the winter — and thus supplied the deficiency of proper teachers. His brother Robert Alexander, was a fine classical scholar. He also removed to Virginia, and made his residence near the present village of Greenville, in Augusta. He taught the first classical school in the Valley.

William, the eldest son of this Archibald Alexander, born in Pennsylvania, near Nottingham, March 22d 1738, came to Virginia with his parents when about nine years of age, and grew up in the retirement and hardships of a frontier life. He was familiar with the Larger Catechism from his childhood, and could repeat the greater part of the Psalms and Hymns in Watts’ version, and was well acquainted with Christian doctrine. He was married to Agnes Ann Reid, a young lady reared like himself in the simplicity of frontier life, and in the Presbyterian faith, retiring in her manners, and affectionate in her disposition. Her grandfather Andrew Reid, came from Ireland with two brothers, and settled in Octorara, Pennsylvania, having the Scawanese as their neighbors. Her father, Andrew, was born in Ireland and emigrated at the age of 14. He married his cousin Sarah, daughter of John Reid, and removed to Virginia. The children of William Alexander were Andrew, Margaret, Archibald, and Sarah, born on Irish Creek ; Phoebe, Elizabeth, John, Nancy, Ann, and Martha, born on North River, near the present town of Lexington. His mercantile arrangements being broken up by the Revolutionary war, Mr. Alexander became deputy Sheriff of the county, his father being the High Sheriff. As an elder of the Church he was highly respected, though his children say he was not as impressive in religion as their grandfather.' When the Academy, now Washington College, was removed to the vicinity of Lexington, the buildings were ejected on his lands; and in the charter obtained in 1782, he was named one of the Trustees. In fostering that institution, he secured to his sons the best education the Valley of Virginia could afford.

Archibald Alexander, dear to the Presbyterian Church as the first Professor of Theology in the Assembly’s Seminary, at Princeton, New Jersey, was the third child and second son of William Alexander and Agnes Ann Reid, born April 17th, 1772, on South River, Rockbridge County, Virginia. He grew to early manhood on the banks of North River, near Washington College, as it now stands. The early instruction of Mr. Alexander was at an “old field” school, and under very indifferent teachers. With these he saw or heard nothing to awaken desires for literary excellence. In his youth, he came under the instruction of his pastor, William Graham, whose teachings were not calculated to foster self-conceit; and in the estimation he formed of himself fell vastly below the grade of excellence assigned him by his venerable teacher. At Liberty Hall, he also had the instruction of that surpassing teacher Janies Priestley. This man loved the classics passionately. Growing up on Timber Ridge, he attracted the attention of bis minister, and by his aid and devotion acquired an education at Liberty Hall. His Greek and Latin approached the vernacular. The finest passages of the classics were lodged in his memory. He would declaim before the boys, in Greek, with the greatest vehemence. In various ways he inspired them with the most enthusiastic ardor in their pursuit of knowledge and literary eminence. He became to his pupils the standard of excellence in classic attainments; and measuring themselves and others by him, they cultivated a refined taste and a correctness altogether beyond the common standard. His influence on young Alexander remained through life, exciting to greater and greater acquirements in the languages. The memory of this man stimulated him in Spottsylvania and in Prince Edward. The standard of classical acquirements raised by that man has been as influential in Virginia and the Western States, as Graham’s Philosophy. And how he became such a. linguist no one can tell any more than how Graham became master of such a philosophy. The power of such men is never lost.

At the age of seventeen, young Alexander was employed as tutor in the family of General Posey, of Spottsylvania, about twelve miles from Fredericksburg. Here he became acquainted with the manners of the more refined of low Virginia, whose beauty was in part in that simplicity that ever characterized him in all his stations of life. Here, to preserve his character as tutor, he made great advance in his acquaintance with classic authors. Here, he began to feel his personal responsibility to God, and to act for himself. Here, by the instrumentality of a pious member of the family, he felt his own need of conversion; and here, as he fully believed in after life, he was born again. The examples and instructions of former years became, under the Spirit’s influence, a quickening power. The human hand that applied the match to the train was a Baptist lady, of whom there remains on earth no other memorial; and Flavel was the instrument she used. Did that woman live in vain ? The place in which the Spirit opened his eyes, might be found on the banks of the little creek near General Posey’s dwelling. Soamme Jenynscame to his aid—“ When I ceased to read, the room had the appearance of being illuminated,” and the same blessedness, perhaps in a higher degree, came to his heart as he prayed in the arbor on the little creek. Having fulfilled his engagements with General Posey, he returned to Rockbridge, and was sensible, for the first time in his life, of the beautiful scenery around the place of his childhood. How should he know the excellence to which his childish mind had been accustomed, and assimilated, till he had looked on other things, and lost, in a manner, the vision of his earliest days? The place of his childhood, the purity of his father’s house, the excellence of his academical instructors, the refinement of his first field of effort, the gentle influence of a pious lady—all prepared him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for that visit to Prince Edward and Charlotte, memorable in the history of many.

Rev. J. B. Smith, of Hampden Sidney, invited Rev. William Graham, of Liberty Hall, to visit him, and be a co-laborer at a communion, while the extensive revival was in progress. Mr. Graham had been the means of putting Liberty Hall far ahead of all the literary institutions in Virginia, except Hampden Sidney; and Mr. Smith had put Hampden Sidney above all except Liberty Hall. Some small collisions had taken place. Each with the other stood upon his dignity. When this invitation came, Mr. Graham resolved to go. God had revived his brother Smith, and in that blessing had exalted him above his head; and he meant to bow to the favored one of the Lord. Archibald Alexander, and some other young men, accompanied him. The journey was on horseback, and full of interest. It afforded the pupil a full and free conversation with his teacher, on the subject of justification by faith, and the work of the Spirit. The exercises of the communion season had commenced when they reached Briery. The excitement on religion was high, and its influence over the young people generally controlling. Le-grand rejoicing in the success of his mission to North Carolina, was there with a company of professed converts from Granville County. The woods rang with the songs of praise as the companies of young people rode to and from public worship. The meeting of the two Presidents was touching. Smith rejoicing in the work of God, heartily welcomed, with Christian dignity, his brother Graham. Graham returned the salutation with urbanity, but evidently as depressed in mind as he was wearied in body from the ride through a long hot day. They lodged at the house of widow Morton, a convert of Davies. Mr. Smith called on William Calhoon to pray, and William Hill to exhort; both young converts. Young Alexander was greatly moved by Hill’s address. Mr. Smith gave a warm address. Mr. Graham with great oppression of heart led in prayer. The young people thought Mr. Graham cold, and urged Mr. Smith to preach the action sermon on Sabbath morning, because Mr. Graham was not prepared, as they thought, for the occasion. Smith suffered himself to be persuaded, through fear that ill might come to the cause. Graham gladly listened to his brother as he preached from the words—“ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise !” The crowd was great. Preparation had been made to hold all the services in the open air. The coming of rain changed the purpose after sermon, and the sacrament was administered in the house. While the change of arrangement was going on, Mr. Legrand preached from the horse-block, and Mr. Samuel Houston did the same while the services were progressing in the house. After the sacrament, Mr. Graham preached in the house, from the words— “ Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God.’* Smith had set forth the acceptable sacrifice; Graham held forth the comfort God gives when iniquity is pardoned and the warfare over, the wonderful mercies God bestows on his church in revivals and gifts of grace. The cloud had gone from his mind, and the weight from his heart. The crystal fountain poured forth its living waters. Smith was amazed; the crowd enwrapt; and Graham scarce knew himself as be was borne along by the tide of feeling, and the vast truths of grace. The rain came on, and the house was crowded to its utmost capacity. Graham turned his address to the impenitent. Silent, motionless, almost breathless, all heard the sermon to the close. Was that the man, “too cold to preach the action sermon? Was that Mr. Graham, or an angel from heaven? Smith wept with thanksgiving. The sweet harmony of that hour was unbroken through life. After a half century, the survivors of that crowded, assembly would talk of that sermon. The Womacs, the Allens, the Mortons, the Venables, the Spencers, the Watkinses, sinking with age would rouse upon mention of that text—Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people—“that was Mr. Graham’s text.” Mr. Smith repaid Mr. Graham’s visit. His sermons in the Valley were remembered as Mr. Graham’s were east of the Ridge, particularly the one on— “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.”-

Mr. Alexander was not prepared to commune. To see his cool, reasoning pastor all on fire amazed him. “Ye comfortless ones” met his ear as he entered the house. “Ye comfortless ones” prefaced many sentences, and rung for days and nights in the ears of sinners without hope, and of saints without joy. More distressed than ever, Mr. Alexander wondered he could not feel like his pastor. Mr. Smith told him his exercises as yet had been vain. He tried to give up all hope, but could not be exercised as those around him were. On his return home, he laid his case before Mr. Mitchel, of Bedford, who gave him counsel that led him to hope in Christ as his Saviour. The company tarried a few days in Bedford in the congregation of Mesrss. Mitchel and Turner. A revival was in progress there, and many young people from the valley were assembled to partake, if possible, of its blessings. They all returned together, about thirty in number, and as they slowly crossed the mountains, the woods and valleys echoed with the songs of praise. The little village of Lexington was moved at their coming, and at night heard for the first time the voice of a youth in prayer, and that youth, Archy Alexander. There was no house for public worship in Lexington. The congregation had hitherto assembled at New Monmouth. The young converts were full of hope that a revival would be felt in Rockbridge. Legrand, with his sweet, earnest voice and pathetic exhortations, and Graham, with his entreaties, and tears, and clear sermons, were, with the news from abroad and the sight of the converts at home, the means of awakening multitudes. In the experience of a religious nature as related by the converts, were found distinct views of truth, deep conviction of sin and ill-desert, much distress in view of sinfulness and wrath, and a clear view of mercy by the cross of Christ in laying sin on Christ and reckoning righteousness to the sinner. Mr. Alexander had many days of deep distress; and the coming of hope was like the shining light. Every one but himself believed that he was chosen of God for a minister of the gospel; and nobody but himself doubted of his conversion.


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