09 March 2011

Rev. Samuel Porter (1760-1825)

From the Stewart Family History, a personal family history written by William Flennikan Stewart, circa 1900 --
Samuel Porter b. 1760 Ireland. He came to the U.S. Samuel was a minister of the Gospel and did a good deal of pioneer work in Washington Co. Pa. His studies were under the direction of Mr. Smith & Dr. McMillen, the latter making no charge for board or tuition, while a friend provided for his family in the meantime. He was licenced Nov 12, 1789. In the following year he became pastor of the congregation of Poke Run & congruity. Of the former he was pastor until 1789, of the latter until his death Sept 23, 1825 in the 66th year of his age. He was a very able man. The above churches were in Washington Co. Pa.
 From History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania by John Boucher (Lewis Publishing Co., New York :1906).
Rev. Samuel Porter was an Irishman, born in 1760. He studied Greek and Latin and theology under Rev. McAlillen, and boarded with his family while doing so, all free of charge. He was licensed to preach in 1789, and the year following began preaching at Polk Run and Congruity. He died September 23, 1825, while pastor in charge of the latter congregation. . . .
The first pastor, Rev. Samuel Porter, was born in Ireland, June 11, 1760, and was of Covenanter parentage. He came to America in 1783, and spent some time in Mercersburg. In 1784 he went to Washington county, where he taught school. There he came under the notice of some of the renowned men of the Presbyterian Church, and he was induced to enter upon a course of study preparatory to entering the ministry. He studied under James Hughes, John Brice and Joseph Patterson and others. After three years he was licensed by the Red Stone Presbytery on November 12, 1789, and in April of the following year began his work at Congruity and Poke Run. The region embraced by his congregation was little less than a backwoods or frontier settlement at that time. Many of the people were as wild and uncultivated as the country in which they lived, and they were greatly in need of the refining influences of the gospel. It is said that on one occasion when Rev. Porter was preaching in the weeds, two young men withdrew from the congregation and ran a foot race in full view of the preacher and his hearers. Under his faithful work the congregation increased very rapidly, and in eight years they felt themselves able to support a pastor alone, so Poke Run was taken from Congruity in 1798. This was due in part to the fact that Mr. Porter did not regard himself as physically able to attend to the wants of both people. Congruity congregation promised him a salary of "one hundred and twenty pounds per year, to be paid one-half in merchantable wheat at five shillings per bushel, and the remainder in cash." To this Mr. Porter agreed, and continued his pastoral relations in that church until his death, September 10, 1825, in all a period of thirty-five years.

While Mr. Porter was pastor there, a new stone tavern was built on the pike, scarcely a mile from the church, and was opened by the owner, a very clever and ingenious landlord, who invited the young folks to have a housewarming and dance in his new tavern. Tickets were distributed and guests invited, many of whom were members of Congruity Church. On the Sunday previous to the intended ball, Mr. Porter, after preaching one of his customary eloquent sermons, before dismissing the congregation, said that the Presbytery would meet the following Tuesday in Greensburg, and also said that on Thursday evening at early candle-light a ball would be held about three-fourths of a mile from that place. He said it was to be hoped that all polite young ladies and gentlemen would attend, for it was a place where politeness and manners could be learned and cultivated, and that many other things could be said in favor of such places which it was not necessary for him to mention at the time. For his own part, if he did not attend, the young' folks, he hoped, would excuse him, as it was likely he might be detained by the Presbytery, but if he should return in time and nothing else prevented him, he would be present and would open the exercises of the night by reading a text of scripture, singing a psalm, etc. Then, with full and solemn voice and in his most impressive manner, he read the 9th verse of the 11th chapter of Ecclesiastes; next he announced and read the 73rd Psalm, and then offered prayer. He prayed for the thoughtless and gay, and asked the Great Spirit to guard them from the vices which might lead the youthful minds astray, after which, with a most solemn benediction, he dismissed his congregation. The evening set for the ball arrived and passed away, but no ball was held, the whole community having been awakened by the venerable pastor's words. During his last years he was enfeebled and unable to stand, and therefore preached while sitting in a split-bottom chair which stood in the pulpit.
From Banners in the Wilderness: Early Years of Washington and Jefferson College by Helen Turnbull Waite Coleman (University of Pittsburgh, 1956) --
Samuel Porter (1760-1825) had come from Ireland in his twenties with a wife, and with his trade as a weaver. McMillan gave him free board and instruction; a neighbor (possibly John McDowell) provided for his family. He spent his subsequent life in the expanding border country; as did also John Brice (1754-1811), William Swan (1764-1827), Thomas Marquis (1757-1827), and John McPherrin (1757-1822), whose ministerial studies were directed by John Clark.
Every one of them, except McGready, participated in the local schools which grew into W. and J. Swan succeeded James Rossas assistant to McMillan in his log cabin school; Patterson and Marquis served as trustees of Canonsburg Academy and Jefferson College; Hughes, Swan, Porter, and McPherrin as trustees of Jefferson College; Patterson and Brice as trustees of Washington College.
There were other contemporary ministers and teachers who came a little later and therefore are not named by McMillan among this second set.
Reverend Samuel Porter was my g-g-g-g-granduncle, through my great-grandmother Camilla (Porter) Needham.   

Copyright © 2011 by Kevin W. Walker

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