February In History

February 5, 1723

Rev. John WitherspoonOn Feb. 5, 1723, the Rev. John Witherspoon was born. He was a Presbyterian minister, the only clergyman to sign of the Declaration of Independence, a Continental Congress member (1776 - 1782) and president of Princeton University (elected Dec. 1767; took office in August 1768).
Photo courtesy of Independence National Historical Park.

February 7, 1954

Rev. George Docherty and President EisenhowerOn Feb. 7, 1954, the Reverend Dr. George MacPherson Docherty of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church preached a Lincoln Day sermon titled "A New Birth of Freedom." In the congregation was President Dwight Eisenhower. The sermon helped to convince the President to support pending legislation in the U.S. Congress to amend the Pledge of Allegiance to insert the phrase Lincoln used at Gettysburg, "under God." Congress passed the legislation and Eisenhower signed it into law on June 14, 1954.
Photo taken on Feb. 7, 1954 with (left-to-right) Rev. Docherty, President Eisenhower, and unidentified man and woman.

February 8, 1779

On February 8, 1779, The Rev. Moses Allen was drown while attempting to escape from a prison ship. In 1778, he had entered the army as chaplain and was taken prisoner. He was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, February 1, 1774, and on March 10, 1775, was ordained at Charleston, S. C., and installed pastor of an Independent Church at Wappetaw. In 1777 he resigned his charge and moved to Liberty County, Ga., where he became pastor of the Midway Presbyterian Church; but the next year his congregation was dispersed and his church burned.

February 9, 1939

On February 9, 1939, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America voted to change the denomination's name to the Orthodox Presbyteran Church, which it retains still today. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America had filed a lawsuit against the breakaway denomination over the name.

February 10, 1925

On Feb. 10, 1925, Atlantans kicked off an endowment campaign for $250,000 to seek to move Columbia Theological Seminary from South Carolina to the area. The seminary moved in 1927 to Decatur, Georgia. Started in 1828 in Lexington, Georgia, the Presbyterian Theological Seminary moved to Columbia, SC, in 1830.

February 13, 1882

Rev. Henry Highland GarnetOn February 13, 1882, Rev. Henry Highland Garnet died two months after arriving in Liberia. Born a slave in Kent County, Maryland, he escaped to freedom in 1824. Educated at Oneida Institute in New York, he served as a minister beginning in 1840 at the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, NY, (1840 - 1848), actually being ordained in 1842. Later churches he served were in New York City (September 1856 - 1864 and then 1869 - 1881, Shiloh Presbyterian Church) and in Washington, DC (1864 - 1869, Fifteenth St. Presbyterian Church). On February 12, 1865, Rev. Garnet addressed the U.S. House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol. The first speech by an African-American in the halls of Congress, the appearance by Rev. Garnet was arranged by President Abraham Lincoln. In 1881, he was appointed diplomatic minister to Liberia, which was founded by free blacks from America and promoted by the American Colonization Society, which was founded and led by many Presbyterians.

February 19, 1747

ORev. Samuel Daviesn Feb. 19, 1747, the Rev. Samuel Davies was ordained as an evangelist by the Presbytery of Newcastle, which had licensed him on July 30, 1746. Davies was sent to Hanover, Virginia, in Spring 1747.

February 21, 1721

On February 21, 1721, Dr. John McKinly was born in Ulster. He emigrated to the Delaware Colony in 1642. A lifelong Presbyterian, McKinly would serve as a physician, the initially elected President of Delaware (1777), in effect Delaware's first Governor, and would chair the board of the Newark (DE) Academy from 1794 to 1796 when he died. The Academy would become the University of Delaware.

February 24, 1790

On February 24, 1790, the Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia was formed for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church of America. Forming the Presbytery were 43 ARP churches including 14 North Carolina ARP churches: Hawfields, Eno, Goshen, Fourth Creek (now Statesville), Coddle Creek, New Hope, Gilead, Prosperity, Rock Springs, New Sterling, New Perth, Sardis, Providence and Waxhow; 22 South Carolina ARP churches: Ebenezer (in York county), Steel Creek (now Blackstock), Neely’s Creek, Ebvenezer (in Fairfeld county), Rocky Creek (now Hopewell), Rocky Creek Meeting House (now Union), Ebenezer (now New Hope), Indian Creek (now King’s Creek), Cannon’s Creek, Prosperity, Cedar Creek (now Cedar Springs), Long Cane, Little Run (now Little River in Abbeville county), Rocky Springs (in Abbeville county), Generostee, Duet’s Corner (now Due West Corner), Diamond Hill, Crystal Spring, Rocky Spring (in Abbeville county), Little River (in Laurens county), Warrior’s Creek (in Laurens county), and city Charleston; and 8 Georgia ARP churches: Queensborough, Back Head, Big Creek, Joppa, Popular Springs, Twenty-Six-Mile Creek, Eighteen-Mile Creek, and Rayburn’s Creek.

February 26, 1890

SS AdriaticOn Feb. 26, 1890, Rev.William Henry Sheppard, an African-American Presbyterian minister ordained in 1888 to serve at Zion Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, sailed on the Steamship Adriatic (at right leaving New York City harbor) with white missionary Rev. Samuel Norris Lapsley. They were on their way to the Congo as Presbyterian missionaries. Reverends Sheppard and Lapsley were members of the Presbyterian Church (US).

February 27, 2003

Fred Rogers on setOn Feb. 27, 2003, Mr. Rogers — Frederick McFeely Rogers — passed away. An American educator, ordained Presbyterian minister, songwriter and television host, Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was the host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," in production from 1968 to 2001.

While working at WQED in Pittsburgh on children's programs, Rogers decided to get his Masters of Divinity from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (founded 1794), graduating in 1962. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Pittsburgh in 1963. (Publicity photo.)