This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, January 21, 2011

NC Churches Formed from Argyll Colony

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

During my research for a novella I'm writing about Scots emigrating to North Carolina, I came across several Presbyterian churches that sprang up as a result of the Argyll Colonists who migrated through the Cape Fear region. Most are still in existence to this day. 

To understand why so many Scots migrated to North Carolina, you first need to know about North Carolina's Governor, Gabriel Johnson. He was a lowland Scot and a graduate of St. Andrews University. He served as governor of NC between 1734-1752. There is no portrait of him, but the University of NC Library has many of his books that contain his family Coat of Arms, and most are commentaries on the Holy scriptures. This would indicate that he was a deeply religious man.

More about Argyll Colony 
Scots emigrants traveled up the Cape Fear River nearly 90 miles upstream from the port of entry to what would become known as the Argyll Colony. The area was then known as Bladen County, but in 1754 it was restructured as Cumberland County, as what is now Fayetteville. At the time, two adjacent towns existed called Campbelltown and Cross Creek. 

These Scots set up blacksmith forges, built tanneries and grist mills on the streams and a number of saw mills for timbre. Due to the abundance of Long Leaf Pine, NC became known by its production of naval stores, turpentine, resin, tar, and charcoal. This is why we became known as the 'Ole Tarheel State. The colony grew along wide Cape Fear river and the lumber mills and loggers placed log rafts into the river and floated them to the market in Wilmington. An average raft would sell for upwards of $500 in town.

The area is very sandy, white sand, pine trees. For this reason it is called the Sandhills. While some tobacco was produced in the area, it wasn't an important feature. Instead they farmed corn, rye, peas, sweet potatoes, flax and cotton. They raised horses, cattle and sheep.

Presbyterian Churches
The Argyll Colony petitioned the Presbytery of Inverary and Synod of Argyll for a Presbyterian minister to come to NC. A petition was presented in 1739, 1741, and 1748, all without success. However, eventually the Rev. Hug McAden came down from Philadelphia and preached among the Sandhill Scots in 1756. Among other places, he preached at the homes of John Smith, David Smith, and Alexander McKay. Then in 1758, the Rev James Campbell came down to the Scottish territory of Carolina as minister.

Barbeque Church (as it was spelled then) was founded by NC Highlanders in 1758, who erected a one room log structure, 27 sq ft, in 1765. It became Barbeque Presbyterian Church and the famous Flora MacDonald worshiped here during 1774 while staying with her half-sister, who lived nearby Mount Pleasant, now Cameron Hill.

Longstreet Church was founded by Highland emigrants in 1758. (Now on Fort Bragg)
Old Bluff Presbyterian Church was founded in 1758, and first met in a log building.
Union Presbyterian Church was founded in 1797 in Moore County, a few miles east of Carthage. At one time this was the largest Presbyterian congregation in all of NC, full of Highlanders from Skye. 
Old Bethesada Church, site of Solemn Grove Academy, was founded at least by 1788 by Scots emigrants, near what is now Aberdeen in Moore Country. Most of these Scots were from Knapdale and Kintyre provenance.

"Carolina Scots" by Douglas F. Kelly and Caroline Switzer Kelly.