---------- Francis Makemie

 

 

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Francis Makemie was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland in 1658. In 1676, he was enrolled in the University of Glasgow. This young brown-haired blue-eyed Irishman witnessed the extensive persecution of Presbyterians in Ulster and Scotland which followed the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. He was ordained in Northern Ireland in 1682 by the Presbytery of Laggan at the call of Col. William Stevens from Rehobeth Maryland. Col. Stevens had issued the call to the Presbyterian church to send a missionary.

Makemie then traveled to the Americas as a missionary. He went to North Carolina, Maryland, Virigina, and New England. In 1684, Makemie established the first Presbyterian congregation in America, located in Snow Hill, Maryland. In 1687, Francis purchased land in Accomack County, Virginia. He engaged in shipping and trade to make a living, because small town churches could not afford to fully support a pastor. William Anderson, a successfull businessman and landowner, helped Makemie become established. Francis married Anderson's daughter, Naomi. The Naomi Makemie Presbyterian Church in Onancock is named after her. They had two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth. Elizabeth died before her father, while Anne outlived him and was married three times. In 1706, Makemie helped bring together Presbyterians from different backgrounds to establish the Presbytery of Philadelphia. This was the birth of American Presbyterianism. Makemie was elected the first moderator of the Presbytery. Makemie also established a Presbyterian congregation in Rehobeth Maryland, which is still in existence.

In January 1707, he was arrested by Lord Cornbury (aka Edward Hyde), the governor of New York, for preaching without a license. Though Anglicanism was the official religion, there were many dissenters who preached different doctrine, including Puritans, Quakers, and Presbyterians. Makemie had a license to preach as a dissenter in Virgnian and Maryland. After spending 6 weeks in jail, Makemie was aquitted in June 1707. His defense was based on the English Toleration Act of 1689. Though he was found innocent, he was ordered to pay the cost of his prosecution, thus prompting the New York legislature to forbid this from happening again in the future. This is considered a landmark case in favor of religious freedom in America.

Francis died in the Summer of 1708. He was buried on his farm on the Eastern shore.

 

 

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