February In History

February 1, 1823Betsey Stockton

On February 1, 1823, African-American Betsey Stockton (at right) was traveling with a mission group comprised of men and women from the Presbyterian and Congregational churches on a sailing ship to the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaii). Sent out by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, Betsey Stockton's contract specified that she was to share in the mission's primary work as well as to act as a servant to one of the couples, Rev. and Mrs. Charles S. Stewart, who were expecting a child. When she returned to Princeton, Stockton created a Sabbath School at the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.

February 2, 1709

Daniel DeFoeOn February 2, 1709, Scottish seaman and Presbyterian Alexander Selkirk was rescued from the island of Juan Fernandez, off the Chilean coast, where he had been marooned for over four years. Reportedly, Selkirk later recounted the tale to Daniel DeFoe, (at left ) who was a Dissenter (Presbyterian) businessman and writer. On April 25, 1719, DeFoe published The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe novel based in part on Selkirk's adventures.

February 2, 1812

On February 2, 1812, the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo, New York, was organized.

February 2, 1981Rev. Dr. Richard C. Halverson

On Feb. 2, 1981, the Rev. Dr. Richard C. Halverson (1916 - 1995) was appointed chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He served as chaplain until Dec. 31, 1994. Rev. Halverson served from 1958 until 1981 as the Senior Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Bethesda, Maryland.

February 3, 1856

On Feb. 3, 1856, the Rev. Robert Hamilton Byers and 11 people formed the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, TX. Stated supply pastor for Presbyterian churches in Rusk and Henderson counties, Rev. Byers and members met at in private homes, a blacksmith shop, a lumber yard, the courthouse, and a printing shop until the first church building was constructed in 1873.

February 3, 1924Thomas Woodrow Wilson

On February 3, 1924, former President Thomas Woodrow Wilson (shown at right) died. Born on Dec. 28, 1856, Woodrow Wilson was the son of a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson. Woodrow Wilson was a lifelong and devout Presbyterian.

February 4, 1810

ORev. Finis Ewingn Feb. 4, 1810, three ministers, who had been in the dissolved Cumberland Presbytery in Tennessee, met in a log cabin home near today's town of Burns, TN, to form a new Cumberland Presbytery, independent of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The dispute was over the educational requirements for ministers. The national church insisted on advanced education and the old Cumberland Presbytery was ordaining ministers for the frontier without that education. Rev. Samuel McAdow, Rev. Finis Ewing (at right) and the Rev. Samuel King organized a new Cumberland Presbytery, which became Cumberland Synod in 1813 and the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination in 1829. In 1906, two-thirds of the Cumberland Presbyterian churches reunited with the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America. The remaining churches continued on as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church denomination.

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 6, 1921Sunday School

On February 6, 1921, Presbyterian and former Presidental candidate William Jennings Bryan conducted his Presbyterian Tourist Bible Class in Miami, Florida.

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 12, 1865

Rev. Henry Highland GarnetOn February 12, 1865, the crowded public galleries of the United States House of Representatives were there to hear Presbyterian Rev. Henry Highland Garnet (Dec. 23, 1815 - Feb. 13, 1882), an ex-slave, preach in the chambers of the House of Representatives. It was the first public speech by an African-American at the Capitol. Invited by President Lincoln to make the Sunday worship address, Rev. Garnet was pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

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 15, 1837Rev. George Washington Gale

On February 15, 1837, the Illinois legislature charters Knox College due to the efforts of Presbyterian Rev. George Washington Gale (1789 - 1861, shown), who in 1841 is elected Secretary of Illinois Anti-Slavery Association. Backers of the college are New School Presbyterians and Congregationalists from western New York. During 1860, Knox College confers its first honorary degree on Presidential campaigner Abraham Lincoln. It is Lincoln's first educational degree of any kind.

Rev. Gale was was born in Stanford, New York in 1789 and graduated in 1814 from Union College, Schenectady, New York. He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1819. In 1827. Reverend Gale founded the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, NY, where students paid for their education by doing manual labor. Glaseburg, Illinois, was named for Rev. Gale. In 1858, Knox College would be one of the sites of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates.

February 16, 1817

On Feb. 16, 1817, Azariah Smith was born in Manlius, New York. Educated at Yale College, Smith was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1842. Educated at Yale College, Smith studied medicine at Geneva, New York. He served as a missionary to Armenia and Turkey for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1842 until his death on June 3, 1851.

February 16, 1831The Presbyterian

On Feb. 16, 1831, The Presbyterian weekly newspaper was launched in Philadelphia. The first editor was the Rev. John Burtt. The paper survived until June 11, 1925. A June 1865 issue is shown at right.

February 17, 1688Rev. James Renwick

On February 17, 1688, Rev. James Renwick (Feb. 15, 1662 - Feb. 17, 1688) was the last Covenanter (Presbyterian) hanged in Scotland due to the Reformation-Counter Reformation Conflict. Educated at Edinburgh, Renwick was ordained in 1683 in the Netherlands. In 1687 when the declarations of indulgence allowed some liberty of worship to the Presbyterians, he and his followers, often called Camerounians or Renwickites, continued to hold meetings in the fields, which were still illegal. A reward was offered for his capture, and he was seized in Edinburgh in early 1688. Tried and found guilty of disavowing the king and other offenses, he refused to apply for a pardon and was hanged (see illustration).

February 17, 1816

On Feb. 17, 1816, Presbyerian minister and hymnist Edward Hopper was born on this date. He graduated from New York University (1839) and Union Theological Seminary (1842). An ordained Presbyterian minister (1842), he served New York churches in Greenville, Sag Harbor and Church of the Land and the Sea, which ministered to sailors. For hymns, he is best known for Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me written in 1870 or early 1871, also known as The Sailor's hymn.

February 18, 1546Martin Luther

On Feb. 18, 1546, Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther died in his hometown of Eisleben in Saxony, Germany.

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 20, 1817

On February 20, 1817, the Presbytery of Niagara was formed from the Presbytery of Geneva (NY).

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 23, 1850

On Feb. 23, 1850, the Rev. Hiram Chamberlain (1797 - 1866) and worshippers founded the first recorded Protestant church in the lower Rio Grade area — the First Presbyterian Church of Brownsville, Texas.

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.)

February 28, 1868

On Feb. 28, 1868, New York Governor Reuben Fenton signed the bill to create the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.