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Biography — The Reverend Samuel Davies (1723 - 1761)

On Nov. 3, 1723, American Presbyterian leader Samuel Davies was born in New Castle County, DE. Davies was ordained by the Presbytery of New Castle in 1747. He spearheaded of the efforts of New Side Presbyterians to evangelize Virginia and the South. Establishing himself in Hanover County, Virginia, in the 1747, Davies was successful in converting members of the Church of England to the Presbyterian denomination. He led efforts to convert Cherokee Indians and slaves in Virginia to Christianity.

Rev. Samuel Davies formed a society in Hanover County, Virginia, to further the Indian mission, and Presbyterian Rev. John Martin, was sent out in 1757 to reside among the Overhill Cherokees on the Little Tennessee River, the first Protestant to preach the gospel in the Tennessee Country or in the Southern Trans-Alleghany region. A successor, Rev. William Richardson, was sent out to take his place in 1758.

Samuel Davies’ relationship with the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) began in 1751 at age 28, when he embarked on a trip to Great Britain and Ireland to raise money to build Nassau Hall and a house for the college president, as well as a charitable fund “for the education of pious and indigent youth.” In 1758 Davies was elected to succeed Jonathan Edwards as president of the College of New Jersey, but declined, reluctant to quit his pastoral work in Virginia and believing that Samuel Finley was better qualified for the office. He was eventually persuaded to accept and he took up his duties on July 26, 1759. He died in March 4, 1761, in Princeton.

During his brief tenure, Davies drew up the first catalog of the College library, then totaling 1,281 books.

Image courtesy of Union Theological Seminary and
Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, Va.

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