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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part I - Scots in the Settlement and Development of The United States
Scottish Clergymen and Educators


"THE Presbytery of Philadelphia, founded by (Francis) Makemie in 1706, was the tap root from which the institutional growth of Presbyterianism proceeded." Presbyterianism took root in. New York in 1707, but ten years passed ere the first regular congregation was established, now the Old First Presbyterian Church, under the Rev. James Anderson, a native of Montrose. The Church prospered in its new home, and by 1738 it was ordered that the Presbytery of Long Island and the Presbytery of New Jersey should be united and thenceforward known as the Presbytery of New York. To Jonathan Dickinson (1688-1747) is mainly due the credit of the advancement of Presbyterianism, and to him also it is due that "the Church became an American Presbyterian Church, and that it was not split into fragments representing and perpetuating the differences of Presbyterians in the mother countries of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales."

Francis Makemie was the pioneer Presbyterian missionary to the New World, his labors taking him from Virginia to New England, and he is rightly considered the chief founder of the Presbyterian Church in America. He was born about 1658 in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland, and was educated at the University of Glasgow. He came out as an ordained Evangelist from the Presbytery of Lagan in 1683, at the request of Col. William Stevens, to minister to the people of the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia. He was the founder of the first organized Presbytery and the first moderator. Makemie was a distinguished advocate of religious liberty, and was banished from Taunton, Mass., and other localities, and suffered imprisonment and trial in New York, in 1707, for holding services in that city as a Presbyterian minister. His acquittal in this action, and the masterly appeal he delivered before the court on that occasion were a potent influence in crystallizing public opinion and in assuring religious liberty in the United States. Makemie died in the Summer of 1708 and was buried near his home, in Accomac County, Virginia. May 14, 1908, his grave was marked with an imposing monument dedicated by the American Presbyterian Historical Society, of Philadelphia.

The Rev. Richard Webster in his exhaustive History of the Presbyterian Church in America has traced the nativity of two hundred ministers before 1760, and of these fifty-five were Ulster-Scots, twenty-six were from Scotland direct, six were from England, five from Wales, seventy-three were native born, many of Ulster-Scots and Scots parentage, and of the remaining thirty-three their places of nativity were unknown.

Some of the early Presbyterian ministers of Scottish birth or parentage deserving of brief mention are: The Rev. John Wilson of Delaware (died 1712) ; Nathaniel Taylor, who came here from Scotland with his congregation and settled in Upper Marlborough, Maryland, about 1690; Rev. George MacNish, who came to America in 1705; Rev. Robert Orr, ordained and installed at Maidenhead in 1715; Rev. George Gillespie, who came to America in 1712, bearing a letter of recommendation from Principal Sterling to Cotton Mather; Rev. James Anderson, ordained by Presbytery of Irvine, Ayrshire, in 1708, and came to the colonies the year following, and died in 1760; Rev. John Moorhead, born near Belfast, and educated in Scotland (died 1773) ; Rev. John Elder, minister of Paxton and Derry, from 1738 to 1792; Rev. John Hogg, licensed by the Presbytery of Newcastle, Delaware, October, 1753; Rev. John Miller, of Scottish parentage, born in Boston in 1722; Rev. Samuel Kennedy, minister of the congregation of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, for thirty-seven years (1750-1787), was born in Scotland; Rev. Henry Patillo, born in Scotland in 1726, was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Hanover in 1757; Rev. James Latta, ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1759; Rev. William Arthur, born in Peebles in 1769, held a charge in Paisley, and in 1793 came to the United States; Rev. Alexander McWhorter, minister in Newark. New Jersey (died 1807).

In the South, Presbyterianism was a direct importation from Scotland. Its introducers here were Scots who emigrated from Scotland after the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679. Ford mentions that a body of twenty-two sailed from Glasgow to Carolina and settled at Port Royal on the Broad River. Their minister was the Rev. William Dunlop, who afterwards returned to Scotland and eventually became Principal of the University of Glasgow. Some additions were made to the Presbyterian colonies here by emigrants from the ill-fated Darien Colony (1699-1700). With the abandonment of that colony, many of its members sought refuge in New England and in the Carolinas.

Rev. William Tennent (1673-1746), a Scot from the North of Ireland, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, came to Pennsylvania in 1718. In 1726 he became pastor of a church in Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pa., and two years later, on fifty acres of land given to him by his kinsman, James Logan, established the famous Log College. Probably no other school, says Ford,

ever produced so many eminent men in proportion to the number of its pupils, and it became the progenitor of numerous institutions of learning. Here he educated his three sons, Gilbert (1703-1764), William (1705-1777), John (1706-1732) ; all of whom worthily carried forward their father’s ministry in the Colonies. Among his pupils were such distinguished men as Samuel Blair, John Rowland, James McCrea, William Robinson, John Blair, Samuel Finley, John Roan, Charles Beatty, Daniel Lawrence and William Dean; earnest preachers of the Word and many of them interested in the early educational life of the country.

Samuel Finley (1715-1766) was born of Scottish parents in County Armagh, Ireland, and came to America in 1734. He completed his education at the Log College and preached in New Jersey, Connecticut and Indiana. With other Log College graduates he was active in securing the charter for the College of New Jersey, now Princeton, and succeeded to the presidency in 1761. His brother; Rev. James Finley, was also a noted educator and pioneer missionary of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. John Huston Finley, Commissioner of Education for the State of New York, is a descendant of Rev. James Finley.

Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D. (1772-1851), one of the most eminent clergymen of his time, was the grandson of a Scottish settler in Pennsylvania. His eldest son, James Waddell Alexander, D.D. (1804-1859), was also a distinguished clergyman, author, and a professor in Princeton. Another son, Joseph Addison Alexander, D.D. (1809-1860), was also a professor in Princeton and was particularly distinguished as an Oriental scholar.

Rev. William Craig Brownlee (1783-1860), D.D., was the fourth son of the Laird of Torfoot, Lanarkshire. He was graduated from the University of Glasgow with the degree of M. A., and came to the United States some time after 1808. He held various charges in this country, and was appointed professor of languages in Rutgers College in 1825. He published a number of works and was editor of the Magazine of the Reformed Dutch Church.

A worthy successor of Witherspoon was Rev. Dr. James McCosh, who became president of Princeton in 1868. Dr. McCosh was born in Carskeoch, Ayrshire, Scotland, April 1, 1811. He studied at Glasgow University, 1824-1829, and Edinburgh University, 1829-1834; was ordained at Arbroath in

1835, and removed to Brechin, 1839, where his congregation numbered 1400. In 1843 he took an active part in organizing the Free Church of Scotland. He early attracted attention by his writings on philosophical subjects, and for sixteen years before coming to America was professor of logic and metaphysics in Queen’s College, Belfast. Dr. McCosh died in 1894.

Rev. Dr. William Mackergo Taylor was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, October 23, 1829. He studied at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, and after preaching for two years at Kilmaurs, in Ayrshire, went to Liverpool, in 1855, where he brought together a very large congregation. In 1872, Dr. Taylor was called to the Broadway Tabernacle, New York City, where his labours were blessed for many years, until his death, July, 1895. He lectured at Yale, 1876, and 1886, and at Princeton, 1880; and from 1876-1880 was the editor of the Christian at Work. He was one of the most noted preachers in the country in connection with the Congregational body.

The Rev. Aeneas Mackenzie was sent by Queen Anne in 1704 to minister to her faithful subjects on Staten Island, New York, and in 1708-1711 built the historic St. Andrew’s Church in the old village of Richmond.

Samuel Auchmuty (1725-1777), D.D., another distinguished minister of the Episcopal Church, was born in Boston of Scottish parents. He was graduated at Harvard University and afterwards studied divinity at Oxford. On his return to the United States he became assistant rector of Trinity Church, New York, and afterwards had charge of all the Episcopal churches in the city.

Charles Pettit Mcllvaine, one of the oldest bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, was of Scottish descent. He was also noted as an educator; Bishop Matthew Simpson, one of the ablest leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, was also of Scottish descent; James Dempster, sent by John Wesley to America as a missionary, was a Scot. His son, John Dempster, was the founder of the School of Theology, Boston University. "Father McCormick" organized the first Methodist Episcopal Church in the Northwest Territory. John Rankin was the founder of the Free Presbyterian Church; Alexander Campbell of the Christian Disciples Church; Robert Turnbull was the most scholarly divine of the New England Baptist Church; and Edward Robinson, of the Puritan Church, was recognized as among the ablest American Biblical scholars.

The Presbyterian Church not only established Princeton but nearly fifty other colleges; Rev. Dr. John C. McMillan and the Finleys—Samuel and James—themselves established nearly a score in the West and South, and Rev. Charles Clinton Beatty, the first women's college west of the Alleghenies. Thomas Jefferson gave to the South the University of Virginia. Jefferson’s teacher at William and Mary College was Dr. William Small, a native of Glasgow, professor of mathematics, "a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with . . . an enlarged and liberal mind." "From him," says Jefferson, "I got my first views of the expansion of science, and of the system of things in which we are placed" (Autobiography, p. 2).

James Blair (1656-1743), a native of Scotland, founded William and Mary College, February 14, 1692, and was its first president. William Graham was the founder of the classical school in Lexington that afterward became Washington and Lee University.

Other early educators of Scottish birth or descent were: Rev. Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), previously mentioned, a native of Virginia, the noted divine and author of the History of the Log College, who became president of Hampden-Sydney College in 1796.

Rev. Charles Nisbet (1736-1804), who was born in Haddington, Scotland, and educated at Edinburgh University. He was licensed in 1760 and was a popular preacher in Montrose when called as the first president of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., in 1785. His library, containing many rare books, was presented to Princeton by two of his grandsons.

Rev. Dr. William Smith (1723-1803), a native of Aberdeen, was educated in Aberdeen University, and came to America in 1751 as a missionary of the established Anglican Church. He was the first provost of the Academy and College of Philadelphia (afterward the University of Pennsylvania), and held the office for twenty-five years with great honour. As a clergyman, he was one of the most profound and eloquent of his day. He was a liberal and practical educator and one of the founders of the American Philosophical Society.

Peter Wilson, of Scottish birth, was professor - of classics in Columbia College, 1789-1820. He served several years in the New Jersey legislature, until his death in 1825.

Francis Allison, who was considered by competent judges the greatest classical scholar in the United States, played an important part in educating the American people for independence.

In more recent years, James MacAlister, M.A., LL.D., one of the foremost educators of America, was born in Glasgow in 1840. After studying in Glasgow University for some years he came to the United States and completed his education in Brown University, Providence. He became Superintendent of Public Schools in Milwaukee in 1874, and in 1878 he became a Regent of State Normal schools in Wisconsin. He published a number of important works on educational subjects, including a Manual of Primary Education (1884), Manual of Instruction in United States History and Civil Government (1887), Manual Training in the Public Schools of Philadelphia (1890), etc. In 1891 he became President of the Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, and the success of that institution has been attributed largely to his wise management. Dr. MacAlister died December 11, 1913.

David Murray, Secretary of the Board of Regents of the University of New York, was the son of Scottish parents. In the interests of the Department of Education he collected materials for the. Museums of Japan, and became an authority on Japanese matters. In 1876 he edited a volume on Japanese Education.

Fanny Wright (1795-1852), the first American woman lecturer, was born in Dundee, Scotland, and was the intimate friend of Adam Smith and other noted contemporaries, who appraised her gifts highly. She visited America in 1818-1820, and finally settled here in 1825 and was an efficient worker in the anti-slavery movement and in other reforms.

Lindley Murray (1745-1826), the son of a Pennsylvania Scot, Robert Murray, who was afterward a successful merchant in New York City, gave us our first English grammar. Lindley Murray himself made a large sum of money by speculation during the Revolutionary War, which enabled him to retire and devote himself to literary labour. His grammar made his name a household word wherever English is spoken.

Henry Ivison published the first American series of school readers, and Joseph Ray and William H. McGuffey—all of Scottish descent—furnished other early school-books. Stoddard, the grandson of an Edinburgh Scot, wrote the arithmetic that was in use for many years in the American schools.


I think I wrote you once before on another subject. I am a direct decedant of a few early Presbyterian Ministers that played a key role in the establishment of the Presbyterian Church.

The first was Rev. John Thomson. He was my GGGGGG grandfather and arrive in America around 1712/1713. He ministered first at Lewis, Delaware then at Chestnut Level in Lancaster County, PA, and various churches in the back parts of Virginia and North Carolina. His unnamed daughter, Ms Thomson, married my GGGGG Grandfather, John Finley. Her first name has been lost to time.

The second was Rev. James Latta. He was my GGGG Grandfather. My grandmother's name was Mary Bingham Latta Finley. His Uncle was Rev. Francis Alison. Mary Alison, Rev. Francis Alison's sister, was Rev. James Latta's mother. Rev. Alison is created with founding the University of Delaware and then went to University of Pennsylvania and helped establish that institution at the behest of Benjamin Franklin.

Interesting Note: My Finley family attended the same church as the Latta's near Elkton, Maryland and about 200 years later my Grandfather Dozier Finley married Mary Bingham Latta. This church is still in existence and is named Rock Presbyterian Church.

Rev. James Latta attended school at Rev. Alison's academy with three signers of the Declaration of Independence and at the University of Pennsylvania attended college with one signer of the Declaration of Independence and one signer of the Constitution. He went on to attend the first General Assembly in 1789 and was elected Moderator at the third General Assembly.

The third and fourth was/were Rev. Samuel Finley, a distant cousin, founding trustee, and fifth President of Princeton. He also founded West Nottingham Academy in 1744 and it is the oldest academy in continuous operation in America. His brother, Rev. James Finley was also an early graduate of Princeton and certainly played a major role in helping establish the Presbyterian Church in America.

Anyway, I was going to recommend you consider adding the names of Rev. John Thomson and Rev. Francis Alison to your article. Their contribution was quite large as well. Thomson was elected Moderator more than once, and Alison played a key role in helping settle the new side, old side dispute, as well as, found two Universities.

Sincerely yours,

Wm. Earl Finley


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