May In History

May 1, 1789

Rev. William LinnOn May 1, 1789, the Rev. William Linn (Presbyterian minister shown right) was elected as Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives meeting in New York CIty, continuing the tradition established by the Continental Congresses of each day's proceedings opening with a prayer by a chaplain. Early chaplains alternated duties with the Senate chaplains on a weekly basis. The two ministers conducted Sunday services in the House Chamber every other week. Rev. Linn had served as a chaplain to the Continental Army during the America Revolution and then later as a trustee and President at Queens College (now Rutgers University). .

May 2, 1559

John KnoxOn May 2, 1559, John Knox returns to Scotland after spending several years on the Continent studying and writing. He returned to Scotland to help lead the Reformation there. The next year he would lead five others in writing the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560).

May 2, 1759

Ad for America's first life insurance comjpanyOn May 2, 1759, the charter was recorded for the Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Widows and Children of Presbyterian Ministers — America's first life insurance company. Known as the Presbyterian Ministers Fund for Life Insurance, this non-profit mutual fund was formed by Presbyterians for their ministers.

May 10, 1774

On On May 10, 1774, the first Presbytery in the American colonies by the Reformed Presbyterian Church was formed in Pennsylvania. The first Reformed Presbyterian minister had come to the America in November 1752 just nine years after the formation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (1743). The Reformed church would merge with the Associate Presbyterian Church in America on November 1, 1782, to create the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. With later mergers in 1858, the group became known as the United Presbyterian Church of North America.

May 11, 1824

On May 11, 1824, the new Presbytery of the District of Columbia first met in Alexandria, Virginia. Previously part of the Presbytery of Baltimore, the new presbytery had church membership of 277 and the first moderator was the Rev. John Brackenridge, who at that time was Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. The first Presbyterian minister in Washington, D.C., Reverend Brackenridge served twice as the minister of St. Andrew's (1795 - 1797) and later the First Presbyterian Church (1811 - 1817) of Washington, D.C. He also served as pastor to the Bladensburg (MD) Presbyterian Church for more than 40 years and supervised the creation of the Rockville Academy.

May 12, 1965

By 1964, the Presbyterian Church in the United States allowed women to be ordained as ministers. On May 12, 1965, Hanover Presbytery ordained the Rev. Rachel Henderlite at All Souls Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, as the first woman minister in the PC (US).

May 13, 1878

On May 13, 1878, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Joseph Henry died in Washington, D.C. A lifelong Presbyterian, Henry was an outstanding scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Institution from 1846 to his death in 1878. His funeral was on May 16th at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

May 14, 1874

On May 14, 1874, Black members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church met at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to organize what was called the Second Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The predominantly African-American denomination later became known as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America.

May 15, 1902

On May 15, 1902, the cornerstone was laid for the Texas Presbyterian College for Girls, founded by the Texas Presbyterian Synod. The school opened for its first class on September 24, 1902, in Milford, Texas, with 33 boarding students, 22 day students, and nine faculty members. The school adopted the motto "Christian Women for Christian Homes." It originally offered primary and secondary education, but by 1911 it operated a high school academy separate from the college.

May 18, 1927

1927 King of KingsOn May 18, 1927, Cecil B. DeMille premiered his silent movie, "King of Kings," (at right) at the then brand-new Grauman's Chinese Theatre (which joined Sid Grauman's existing Egyptian Theatre). Thousands of people lined Hollywood Boulevard opening night (see below left) and a near riot broke out as fans pushed to catch a glimpse of movie stars and other celebrities at the premiere.

Grauman's opening 1927Ever the showman, DeMille enlisted four local clergymen to open the festivities. Representing Protestants was Presbyterian Rev. Dr. Robert Freeman, pastor of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

The movie ran for months on a twice-a-day reserved seat policy.

May 21, 1789

On May 21, 1789, the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America met in Philadelphia. The Rev. Dr. John Rodgers of the Brick Church in New York City was elected moderator.

May 24, 1854

On May 24, 1854, Presbyterians founded the first black college in the United States — Ashmun Institute in Pennsylvania. Renamed Lincoln University in 1866, the school was founded by the Rev. Dr. John Miller Dickey, and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson.

May 25, 1824

On May 25, 1824, the non-denominational American Sunday School Union (ASSU) was formed to promote such schools and to produce materials. The ASSU model is based on the 1816 adult Sunday School union created by Presbyterian Alexander Henry in Philadelphia.

May 26, 1858

On May 26, 1858, The United Presbyterian Church of North America was formed by the merger of the Associate and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian churches in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 31, 1803

Rev. Gideon BlackburnOn May 31, 1803, the Presbyterian General Assembly approved the Rev. Gideon Blackburn's proposal to establish a school for Cherokee children and gave him $200 for living expenses. He obtained an additional $730 from private donors and the United States government, following a meeting with President Thomas Jefferson. In Fall 1803, Cherokee leaders granted him permission to begin his work.
He operated his schools for the Cherokees until 1810. Blackburn also is known for the churches he established in Tennessee and Kentucky. He went on to serve briefly as president of Centre College.