This Week In History

May 31, 1803Rev. Gideon Blackburn

On 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.

June 2, 1886Rev. Byron Sunderland

On June 2, 1886, Presbyterian minister Byron Sunderland married President Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsom in the White House (see drawing below). It was the only marriage of a President in the mansion. Rev. Sunderland (shown left) was pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC, and had also served as Chaplain to the U.S. Senate. Cleveland was the son of a Presbyterian minister.

Cleveland Wedding

June 2, 1930Sarah Dickson

On June 2, 1930, Sarah E. Dickson became the first ordained woman Presbyterian elder in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA). She was a member of the Wauwautosa (WI) Presbyterian Church (USA). The PCUSA General Assembly meeting in Cincinnati approved the ordination of women as elders, but defeated a measure to allow ordination as ministers.

June 5, 1837

On June 5, 1837, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America voted to rescind the 1801 Plan of Union with Congregationalists. That action labeled four New School Presbyterian synods brought in by the 1801 plan “to be out of the ecclesiastical connection of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.” The result was to split the church into Old School (primarily mid-Atlantic and Southern churches) and New School divisions (primarily New York, New England and mid-west churches). The differences focused on theology, polity, and social reform (reflecting Presbyterian differences on slavery). This 32-year split ended in 1869 when the two factions reunited. In the intervening period, Southern churches had split from the Old School Presbyterian Church (USA) at the beginning of the Civil War.