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John Thomson

Genealogy notes

 by Susan Shields Sasek

THE REV. JOHN THOMSON, 1690 - 1753, A.M., V.D.M.

Serving in Virginia and North Carolina
1738 - 1753
The man who more than others
The Presbyterian Church in America
The Westminster Standards
as its Constitution

He was the first pastor of Buffalo Church
Prince Edward County, Virginia

The first Missionary and Gospel pioneer
in the Yadkin-Catawba section of North Carolina
Scotch-Irish of the Old Side, Orthodox,

Author of An Explication of The Shorter Catechism,
Champion of Presbyterian Polity and
Author of The Government of The Church of Jesus Christ

By him Hopewell was rightly started

"Well started, half done."

Born: 1690 in County Down, Ireland

Baptized:  1691

Married:  before 1713; after 1733 married 2) to Mary McKean ("a Highlander of dark complexion", widow of Thomas Reid, I who had died in 1733)

Education:  University of Edinburg, M.A. degree; 17 Jun 1712 "entered on Tryalls in order to Licensing"; 23 Jun 1713, licensed by Ardmagh presbytery

Occupation:  (1st Wednesday of) April 1717, ordained as pastor of Lewis-Town, DE

Immigrated:  summer 1715 to New York with wife and child or family; name of wife unknown. 
"Tradition says that on the same ship with them was Samuel Crockett, son of James Crockett and Martha Montgomery his wife, a young Irishman born about 1690 or 1694, who played with little Esther Thomson, then about five years old."

Buried:  unmarked grave, Baker's Graveyard, Mecklenburg Co., NC

Apr 1717 - Sep 1729, pastor of Lewes, DE

Charter member of New Castle Presbytery & of the first synod in America

1727 brought resolution advocating the adoption of the Westminster standards as the creed of the Presbyterian Church in America; again in 1728 & it was adopted in 1729

preached at New Castle, DE

3 yrs at Middle Octorara, Lancaster Co., PA

1732 - 1744 Chestnut Level

Prominent member of Philadelphia synod

1738 was on committee to wait on the Governor of VA

1739 on synod's commission

Salem Chapel, now Cook's Creek, Rockingham Co., VA

winter of 1738 he "travelled up the Shenandoah, crossed the Ridge at Rock Fish Gap into Piedmont Virginia and crossed the James to the tobacco fields of the Southside"

1743 was in VA as a missionary

1744 was granted dismissal to live in the "Valley"

"When living in Virginia with his son-in-law, Rev. Richard Sankey, John Thomson established a school in Prince Edward County for the young men of "the back parts of Virginia" . . . roughly "might be called a fore-runner of Hampden-Sydney College".  "Dr. Squires quotes the verbal statement of a direct descendant of Thomson, one "Rev. Mr. I'Anson": "This school was probably near old Buffalo Church, a few miles west of Hampden-Sydney, and may have been situated at or near his son-in-law, Rev. Richard Sankey, an advocate of a college in Prince Edward County and later one of the trustees of Hampden-Sydney."

1744 first visited NC as a missionary

19 Dec 1745, purchased 386 acres in Buffalo district, Prince Edward Co., VA (Amelia Co., VA Deed Bk II, pg. 217)

Lived w/ his daughter & son in law, Elizabeth & Samuel Baker (Baker was one of the first settlers on Davidson's Creek near the present Centre Church); visited settlements within a 20 mi. radius of Samuel Baker's -- preached "at the various creeks reckoned first creek, second creek, etc., going west from Salisbury -- affluants of South Yadkin; near Concord on third creek; on South Creek at Cathey's (Thyatira) ten miles from Salisbury; at Osborne's meeting house"; and as early as 1752 he held services at Richard Barry's, "under a wide spreading oak or poplar near the Beatty's Ford Road", ca 14 mi. north of Charlotte.

"Dr. Foote, in his sketch of Poplar Tent (seven miles from Concord and fourteen miles east of Davidson College) says: "He preached at Charlotte in the grove at Block Smith Shop, now the grounds of the Presbyterian Church.  He preached to the people at Poplar Tent under the shade of a large poplar tree which stood near the place now occupied by the session house and academy.  He was never a pastor of a church in N. C. but a missionary to a struggling colony."

Had a cabin built a short distance from the house of his friends

1751, organized Poplar Tent & preached there frequently in the summers of 1752 & 1753

He went on circuit by horseback & made the "circuits profitable by finding and having surveyed tracts of the best land which he sold to immigrants."

Died Sep 1753 in his cabin -- "for some reason they cut a hole through the floor and buried him on the exact spot where he had died. . . . This was the beginning of Baker's graveyard . . . No stone marks the grave of the pioneer missionary, and no one can tell the spot, for all old records were burned."

Published writings include:

The Government of the Church of Christ, "by John Thomson, minister of the Gospel, 1741"

Adoption of the Standards of the Church of Scotland (a tract)

An Examination of the New Brunswick Apology

The Poor Orphan's Legacy (a volume of sermons) published in 1792 by Andrew Baker, a member of his church, Buffalo, in VA; later published by the Board of Publication, Philadelphia, PA.

An Explication of the Shorter Catechism, by John Thomson, A.M. and V.D.M. in the county of Amelia, Williamsburg, VA; printed by William Parks, 1749

Children of John Thomson

Esther Thomson -- b. ca 1710, Ireland; married 1) ca 1732 or 1734 to Samuel Crockett (son of James Crockett and Martha Montgomery; b. ca 1690 or 1694; d. 1750); married 2) William Sayers (from PA, owned adjacent farm in Wythe Co., VA); d. 19 Nov 1770, Wythe Co., VA; possibly buried in the old Oglesby Graveyard, Wythe Co., VA.  Child of Esther Thomson & Samuel Crockett:

Samuel Crockett, Jr., b. 1735, Prince Edward Co., VA

Samuel Thomson -- 1739, ordained as a Presybterian minister in PA; died 1787, PA

Sarah Thomson -- b. ca 1710, Ireland; married Rev. Richard Sankey (or Sanckey; born ca 1700, North Ireland; pastor of Buffalo Church, Prince Edward Co., VA; educated at Glasgow University; resided in PA, then Buffalo, Prince Edward Co., VA; 1775 was chairman of the County Committee of Safety; his name is first (of 160) on the petition for Religious Liberty, 1776 called "the first dissenters petition that came into the House of Delegates"; 1775, one of the founders of Hampden-Sydney College; trustee of Hamden-Sydney College until he died.

Elizabeth Thomson -- married 1) Samuel Baker ("one of the earliest settlers on Davidson's Creek in the lower end of Iredell County near the present Centre Church"); widow w/ 5 children; married 2) 1753 Charles Harris (of Cabarrus Co., NC).  Sons of Elizabeth Thomson & Charles Harris:

Samuel Harris; teacher in Clio Academy, Iredell Co., NC; tutor in Princeton; died 1789, Princeton

Charles H. Harris; resided Mecklenburg Co., NC; surgeon; died 4 Jul 1776 (his wife died a few weeks later)

Hannah Thomson -- married ca 1753 Roger Lawson (of NC); moved to GA

Roger Lawson Gamble is their descendant; became prominent in GA

Anne Thomson -- married James Cunningham of Lunenburg Co., VA

Jane Thomson -- married Douglas Baker of Prince Edward Co., VA

Miscellaneous note:  Rev. James Anderson, "perhaps the most influential minister in synod, a strong friend of Thomson and a protagonist with him for the Adopting Act" was appointed to visit Governor Gooch.  While on this visit to VA, Anderson visited Col. John Lewis & preached the first sermon in Augusta Co., VA.

Source:  The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church for 175 years from the assigned date of its organization 1762, by Charles William Sommerville, Ph.D., D.D.; published 1939 by Hopewell Presbyterian Church; reprinted 1987; pages 14 - 27.
Submitted by:  Susan Shields Sasek.  (My aunt believes that this Thomson family may have intermarried with our Shields ancestors from Mecklenburg Co., NC -- need more info on these families)

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Page Updated on: 2 Dec 2005 Page Visitors: c. Susan Shields Sasek