Samuel McAdow

1760 - 1844

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

There is no surviving image known to exist


[Judge McAdow, Rev. Joel Knight, Foote's "Sketches of North Carolina."]

SAMUEL MCADOW [the proper spelling of the name is evidently McAdoo, but I follow the usage of the Church Records.] was born, April 10, 1760, in Guilford county, North Carolina. He was the youngest of eight children, four of whom were boys; the four others were girls. His father, John McAdow, emigrated from Ireland when young, and settled in Guilford. He there married Ellen Nelson, who had also crossed the Atlantic. The father was a farmer, and both the parents were Presbyterians, members of Buffalo congregation, which was at the time under the pastoral care of Dr. David Caldwell. The mother seems to have been a very pious woman, and Mr. McAdow often spoke of her in his subsequent life, bearing testimony to the great excellences of her character and piety of her life. He did not enjoy the benefit of her counsel and watchful care long, as she died when he was about ten years of age. When he was about eleven years of age he professed religion, and was received into the Church by Dr. Caldwell. His early years were divided between the labors of the farm and the school, but when quite young he was placed under the care of Dr. Caldwell, as it would seem, for a regular education. The Revolutionary War, however, came on, and the school was broken up.

After the close of the war he renewed his studies, and completed an academic course. He afterward took a three-years' course in Mecklenburg College, where he completed his education. His father had died in the meantime. On his returning home his step-mother, who occupied the old homestead, prevailed on him to take charge of the farm. He did so, and on the 24th of November, 1788, was married to Henrietta Wheatly. She became the mother of five children, all of whom died young, except one who was living in 1869.

After he professed religion and joined the Church he became seriously impressed with the belief that he ought to prepare himself for the work of the Christian ministry. After having left college, however, and taken charge of the farm, especially after having married and become the head of a family, he, in a great measure, lost those impressions for a time. Still his mind was not long at ease. The impressions returned with increasing force. He left the farm, procured a place near to the residence of Dr. Caldwell, and commenced the study of theology under the guidance of his old teacher. On the 20th of September, 1794, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Orange. This was the oldest Presbytery in North Carolina, having been first constituted in May of 1770. At the time of Mr. McAdow's licensure its ministerial members were, Dr. David Caldwell, James McGready, William Hodge, Henry Patillo, William McGee, and perhaps others.

We have an account of his ordination, but the time is unknown. The information is that he preached after his licensure in different parts of the country until he was ordained, and settled in charge of Hopewell congregation, in Orange county. I find the following in Foote's "Sketches of North Carolina:"

"In the year 1796, Mr. McGready, who had been ordained in 1793, removed to Kentucky. In the year 1799 the Presbytery of Orange dismissed Rev. William McGee and Barton W. Stone, a licentiate to Pennsylvania Presbytery, and about the same time the Rev. Messrs. William Hodge, Samuel McAdow, and John Rankin, to remove to the West. The part that these men acted in the succeeding events in the West forms an interesting part in the 'History of the Valley of the Mississippi.'" [Page 376.]

Mr. McAdow was evidently ordained, therefore, previous to 1799. It has been mentioned also that he was settled after his ordination as pastor of Hopewell congregation in his native State. On the 20th of April, 1799, he lost his wife. This occurred in North Carolina. After the death of his wife, feeling himself to be very much broken up, he turned his attention toward the West, whither several of his old friends in the ministry had gone, and also a number of his relatives. He therefore made his arrangements to remove to Kentucky. He was accordingly dismissed by his Presbytery, as we have seen, for his new destination in 1799. On his way Westward he yielded to the solicitations of friends, and spent the first summer in East Tennessee. During the summer he preached as a supply to the Big Limestone congregation. But when the fall came he resumed his journey to the farther West, feeling that he could not be satisfied until he rejoined his former friends. Of course he did not foresee, but we can now see, that he had a great providential mission to fulfill in the West. A call signed by one hundred and eighteen heads of families for his continuance in East Tennessee as pastor of Big Limestone congregation was presented, but his purpose was fixed. When he reached Kentucky he found his old friends and fellow-laborers engaged in the great revival. The work was just beginning to develop itself in its wonderful power.

In the spring of 1800, he began to preach regularly at Red River, in Logan county, and to the Rockbridge congregation in Christian county. In October of 1800, he was married a second time to Catharine Clark, a very pious lady, of Logan county. The fruit of this marriage was one child, a daughter. His second wife died on the 17th of May, 1804. Being left with two little daughters, one of each family, he committed them to the care of a sister, and engaged in more extensive ministerial operations. He seems to have fully imbibed the spirit of the times; he traveled and preached, extending his tours to the Ohio River, and far into the State of Tennessee. He continued to ride and preach extensively until he was almost entirely disabled from public speaking on account of weakness of lungs. Physicians advised him to desist. His more active ministerial labors, therefore ceased. In July of 1806 he was married a third time. The lady's name was Hannah Cope. There were two sons from this marriage. He now settled in Dixon county, Tennessee, where he owned land. Here he engaged in teaching. His Sabbaths, however, he gave to the work of the ministry. He remained in Dixon county until 1815. This portion of his history brings us to the great work of his life. While he resided in Dixon, on the 4th day of February, 1810, the Cumberland Presbytery was constituted, out of which was grown the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The transaction took place at his house. The house has become historical. It was an unpretending building on the bank on Jones's Creek, about seven miles from Charlotte. The little fire originated in that obscure spot has kindled a great matter. The good men who prayed and acted there on that occasion had no conception of what the result would be.

In 1815 he sold out his possessions in Dixon, and moved to Jackson county, where he also owned land. Here he remained promoting the interests of religion as he was able until 1828. In the fall of this year he moved to Illinois, and settled in Bond county. Age and infirmities were now settling upon him. His time for any thing like active labor had passed away. Says my informant: "He was, however, still ever ready to do what he could in conducting Sabbath-schools and prayer-meetings, and occasionally preaching. His place was never vacant at the house of God when his health permitted him to attend, and the weather was tolerable. On the 3d day of June, 1839, he lost his third and last wife. From this time he confined himself mostly to his home. His time was spent in reading and meditation. His home was with his eldest son. He seldom left it except in attending public worship. His customary health continued to about the 25th of March, 1844. About that time he became dull, and complained of sleepiness. There was, however, no pain. This condition of things continued until the 30th, when he quietly fell asleep to wake no more. He passed off without a struggle or a groan. His last words were, in answer to a friend, 'All is peace, my work is done, every thing is ready; I have nothing to do, but to die; there is no doubt, no fear.'" He was within a few days of eighty-four years of age. A funeral discourse was delivered by Rev. John Barber, in the course of the sessions of Vandalia Presbytery, a week after his death.

Mr. McAdow lived a quiet, but nevertheless an eventful life. He was not ambitious; he did not seek notoriety, but still one act of his life has made his name a household word in many Christian homes throughout the West and South-west. Even his quiet and unpretending home in Dixon county, Tennessee, as I have said, has become historic. The thoughts of coming generations will cluster around it as the birth-place of great events.

I have some characteristics of Mr. McAdow, and some incidents connected with his life from one of his old friends and later associates. Says my informant:

"Mr. McAdow was a very conscientious man, naturally retiring in his manner, and rather inclined to despondency; often doubting his call to the ministry. After his licensure he yielded to these doubts and other discouragements so far that for a time he declined preaching. And in order to avoid being called out in that way he left the vicinity in which he lived, and made a temporary settlement in one in which he was entirely unknown, and where public religious exercises were very infrequent." Of course, however, Jonah was not long at ease in his retirement. "In his restlessness he found another religious person. They became acquainted, held consultations about the spiritual condition of their neighbors, and concluded to have a prayer-meeting. The prayer-meeting was repeated. It was a new order of things; the people became interested. The interest reacted upon the truant preacher: he commenced preaching to them, and continued it for some time, and at length returned to his former home, and submitted himself to the direction of his Presbytery."

One of his difficulties in relation to preaching seems to have arisen from the same source from which embarrassments in other quarters soon began to develop themselves. There were expressions in the Confession of Faith which were difficult of digestion. The atonement seemed to him, as he understood the Scriptures, to have been a universal provision for the salvation of men. In conformity with this view of the subject the offers and invitations of the gospel seemed to be made unrestrictedly to all, and the Scriptures seemed to make men wholly responsible in the case of their own damnation. But all these views appeared to be in conflict with a literal and consistent interpretation of the Confession of Faith. He was conscientious, and did not know what to do. As it was very proper, he referred the matter to his old friend and theological guide, Dr. Caldwell. Dr. Caldwell was a liberal man. He could not with his temperament and habits of thought have been any thing else. He was not formed by nature, nor had his experience trained him, for Procrustean measures in theology. He advised his pupil to use practical texts, and to confine himself to practical discussions in preaching, and to let these difficult questions take care of themselves. This was certainly wise counsel, but still it did not satisfy the inquirer. As every Scotch-Irishman is, he was wedded to Presbyterianism. Nothing else would do him as a form of religious worship, and mainly as a system of religious doctrines.

After awhile there was a call for his ordination. This created a new trial. Any serious man would have considered it a severe ordeal aside from extraneous difficulties. He was very much dissatisfied with his trial sermon; thought at its close that he would keep quiet until the congregation scattered a little, and then betake himself away, and show himself no more on the occasion. Circumstances did not favor the carrying out of his resolution, and he took a walk to the spring. On his way he passed a group of the leading members of the congregation, and one of them remarked to him that they were consulting on the subject of raising means for the publication of his sermon. Of course this was news to him, but something more was to follow which was to be, if possible, still more astounding.

At the spring he met good Mrs. Dr. Caldwell. She was no doubt a liberal theologian and warm-hearted Christian woman. Addressing herself to him in her kind and encouraging manner, she said: "She thanked the Lord that in his good providence the Church would soon enjoy the services of one so well adapted to the work of the ministry, adding that somehow it was deeply impressed upon her mind that day that God had some important place in the Church for him to fill, some great work for him to do." All this seems to us like an approach to inspiration; still, lest we lay ourselves liable to the charge of fanaticism, we will not call it inspiration. It is nevertheless remarkable that subsequent facts should have so fully coincided with the impression. He was ordained, and, as we have seen, became the pastor of Hopewell congregation.

In the progress of things he seemed to think it due to truth and to himself to set forth his doctrinal views clearly and fully, as they were known not to be in strict conformity with the views prevailing around him. He accordingly made an appointment for that purpose. A large concourse attended. The house of worship could not hold the people, and they repaired to the grove, that all might hear. The sermon was a clear and strong exposition of the truth as he understood it. Persons were living a few years ago who were present on the occasion and heard the discourse. Mr. McAdow seems to have been, from some cause, a favorite in Dr. Caldwell's family. One of the daughters pronounced the sermon unanswerable. She was a highly educated and intelligent lady. Others were of the same opinion. A gentleman known in early life to the writer, and up at least to the old age of the former, a respected member of the Presbyterian Church, spoke of it as one of the most masterly discussions which he had ever heard. No opposition, however, was excited.

An observation out of the line of the history may be made here. The theological difficulties connected with the early developments of what afterward became the Cumberland Presbyterian Church are generally regarded as the outgrowth of the revival itself. We see, however, from the facts which have just been presented that the seeds were already taking root in North Carolina which subsequently germinated in Kentucky and Tennessee. Messrs. McGready, McGee, Hodge, and McAdow, and also Messrs. Anderson and King, who were brought into the ministry in the West, all emigrated from the same section of North Carolina to this country. A serious man will involuntarily raise the inquiry whether the revival may not have been the outgrowth of the more liberal theology, working inwardly in the hearts of earnest men, than the theology of the revival. This is certainly an aspect of the subject which deserves to be considered. At all events it is certain that the leaven was at work before it developed itself in the licensure of Anderson, Ewing, and King. It is to be observed, too, that the very region of North Carolina in which these men originated shared very extensively the benefits of the great revival. It was the same spirit in the ministry, and the congregations there, which pervaded the Green River and Cumberland countries.

We have another anecdote of Mr. McAdow, as, it will be observed, rather characteristic of the times. At one time after he was settled in Kentucky, he was rather unwell on a particular Saturday. The next day he was to preach according to appointment. From the condition of his health he was inclined to draw back. His wife also thought he was too unwell to preach. He deferred the decision to Sabbath morning. When morning came he was rather shocked at the thought of not preaching. Early in the morning, while the question was still undecided, a colored man, a Christian, and a man of some sprightliness and experience, came in. The colored friend was invited to lead in family prayer. He thanked God in the course of his prayer for what he had done, was doing, and would do, that day. The spirit and matter of the prayer seemed to suggest to the preacher that he must preach, although not well. He did so, and it proved to be a great day of the Son of man among the people. Many were convicted and converted. This occurred at Red River, and was considered on of the precious developments of the revival.

Mr. McAdow seems to have been steadfastly satisfied with the part he acted in the organization of the Cumberland Presbytery. The tradition is, and he himself sanctions it, that when Messrs. Ewing, King, and McLean [Rev. Ephraim McLean was received as a candidate for the ministry by the Transylvania Presbytery at its fall sessions, in October, 1802. On the 4th of October, 1803, he was licensed as a probationer for the ministry, by the Cumberland Presbytery, which had been stricken off from the Transylvania Presbytery a year before. Immediately after the constitution of the new Presbytery, or rather the reorganization of the old Cumberland Presbytery, in 1810, he was ordained. This was the first Presbyterial act of the new organization. He labored with great fidelity and usefulness a few years after the organization of the Presbytery. His race, however, was short. He seems to have been much beloved. Dr. Cossitt says of him, in his "Life and Times of Finis Ewing," that "After serving the Church efficiently and faithfully for a few years, he died lamented by all who knew him." He left a large and respectable family. Two of his sons have been prominent in the councils of the nation. A grandson is now a beloved young minister in the Church of his fathers.] came to his house in Dixon county to make a final settlement of the question of organizing the Presbytery, Mr. Ewing explained to him the object of their visit, and told him that they had come for his decision, and that they were willing to take that, whatever it might be, as the voice of Providence, and to act accordingly. Mr. McAdow very reasonably replied that the responsibility was too great, and that he could not bear it. The greater portion of the night and of the following day was spent in prayer. After such a struggle he reported himself ready to act. The question was settled. He gives us an account of his feelings upon the occasion. Mr. Ewing does the same thing. It was a fearful responsibility. The men felt it, but as they approached nearer and nearer to the crisis, their confidence evidently increased, that the step to be taken was a necessary one, and one which the providence of God had imposes upon them.

In an interview with a ministerial brother a short time before his death, in reply to an inquiry whether, after a lapse of so many years, he was still satisfied with the proceeding in which he was engaged in the organization of the Presbytery in 1810, he said he had never entertained a doubt on that subject; he believed it was done under the divine sanction, and that God would sustain and bless the Church.

In 1855 his son wrote a letter to a prominent minister in the Church, in relation to his father, from which I make the following extract:

"He was a man of the most fervent piety. Much of his time, especially in the latter part of his life, was spent in meditation and private devotion. He had a strong desire for the welfare and success of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. This, indeed, seemed to be a matter of chief interest with him. He always believed that he acted in conformity with the immediate counsel of God in the part he took throughout the troubles which led to the constitution of the first Presbytery, and the consequent separation from the Presbyterian Church, and often remarked that it seemed to him that God had lengthened out his life that he might see something of the prosperity of the Church which he had participated in organizing."

Mr. McAdow left a considerable mass of manuscript. The last sermon ever preached by the old man was published in the Theological Medium of 1846. It was delivered when he was near eighty years old. The subject is "Peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." A paragraph is extracted and given here as a specimen of his style of preaching. The sentiments as he doubtless understood them himself, and intended them to be understood by his hearers, are correct and exceedingly expressive. He is discussing the subject of holiness:

"But here some will say, The old man has got to preaching up perfection. Well, my friends, perfection is what is wanted, and without it no one will ever see the face of God in peace; for nothing that is impure can abide in his presence, and where or when is this perfection to be obtained? Do you say, Not till we are ushered into the presence of God by death? Christ says, If we died in our sins, where I am ye cannot come. Therefore we must obtain it in this world, or not at all, and the sooner the better, for we know not how suddenly we may drop off the stage of action into an unchanging eternity. God is perfect, and Christ exhorts us to be perfect, as our Father who is in heaven is perfect. Christ in believers, the hope of glory, is perfect, and John says that 'whosoever hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.' Here is the perfection for which we plead, even purity of heart. Christ says, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' The change which Christians undergo from nature to grace is a perfect change; for with such old things have passed away, and, behold, all things are become new. The Spirit of God, which dwells in all true believers, is perfect; and his work, as it relates to the new creation, or inner man, is a perfect work."

The object of the argument is to show that religion must be something real and vital--that it must reach down into the inner heart, and not satisfy itself with a mere external appearance. We see an outcropping of the old spirit of the revival. It is said that, frequently in the progress of the sermon, he shed tears freely, as though feeling that his work was nearly done. How fitting that the sun of a long ministerial life should go down under such circumstances!

I have in my possession several sermons of Mr. McAdow in manuscript. One of them is upon a call to the ministry. It is a long sermon of thirty closely written pages. He enters into the subject very fully. It is discussed negatively, and then positively, and finally objections are answered. He evidently intends to say every thing that can be said upon the question within a reasonable space. The whole discussion takes its coloring from the times. One party required a high grade of learning in the ministry, and would yield nothing to the exigencies of the circumstances. Another party thought that spirituality was the great matter, and that the want of it could not be supplied by any possible human attainments or endowments. Gilbert Tennent had preached and published his famous Nottingham Sermon, on the same subject, fifty years before the time of Mr. McAdow. Mr. Tennent thought, and Mr. McAdow thought with him, that the prospect of money and an easy life called a great many men into the ministry, and that, according to the rule of our Saviour, such men were thieves and robbers. Mr. Tennent said of those who might, perhaps, plead the case of the ministry of Judas in vindication of their course, "I fear that the abuse of this instance has brought many Judases into the ministry, whose chief desire, like that of their great-grandfather, is to finger the pence and carry the bag. But let such hireling, murderous hypocrites take care that they do not feel the force of a halter in this world, and an aggravated damnation in the next." [Dr. Hodge's "History of the Presbyterian Church."]

Indeed Dr. Hodge is candid and honorable enough to represent the New Brunswick Presbytery, of the spirit and measures of which Mr. Tennent was a representative, and the Cumberland Presbytery as occupying analogous ground in their conflicts with the higher authorities of the Presbyterian Church. They were, in fact, cases in which history substantially repeats itself.

Mr. McAdow was not only a preacher, but something of a poet. His poetry seems to have been written for amusement or his own personal improvement. His distrust of himself withheld him from bringing it to the light. I take the liberty of making several extracts. They will give us some insight into the character of the man. I think, too, they will give us a higher appreciation of his ability than what has generally prevailed among us. I take my first extract from an Introduction to what was intended to be a paraphrase, in verse, upon the book of Job. The whole Introduction contains a hundred lines. After acknowledging the dependence of every thing upon God, and the goodness and bounty of the great source of all existence, he commences his invocation thus:

O dearest source of light, and life, and love!
Send now thy gracious influence from above.
A poor unworthy worm to thee would look;
Be not thy word to him a sealed book;
But give him ears to hear, and eyes to see,
A tongue to speak, and show its mystery.
Inspire his heart good matter to indite,
In every sentence teach his pen to write.
O let enlivening rays of holy fire
My mind illumine, and my breast inspire!
With skill divine grand myst'ries to explore,
And right extract the metal from the ore.
O guide my thoughts, my grov'ling passions raise,
Nor let me wander in the sacred maze,
Help me the sacred annals to unfold,
And learn a lesson from the days of old
Of humble greatness in prosperity,
Of patient meekness in adversity,
Of sudden changes, sure impending fate,
Which watches our imperfect changeful state;
Of true submission in the midst of ills,
Of acquiescence when our Maker wills.
And if my thoughts essay the holy lay,
Then suffer not my muse to go astray;
But sanctify my hand, my head, my heart,
That all in holy praise my bear a part;
And so direct me when I choose each theme
That truth may come to men, and glory to thy name.

The contemplated paraphrase was commenced, but never finished. It would be an interesting relic if we had it.

We have another poem on the Signs, Forerunners, and Formality of the last Judgment, in two parts. The whole production consists of one hundred and six stanzas of four lines each.

We have still another, addressed to a friend who was thought to be in danger of losing his day of grace. The writer recollects to have heard the old people say when he was a boy that Mr. McAdow was considered very high authority on the subject of the unpardonable sin. There is nothing, however, in the manuscripts which have come to hand on this subject, except the poetical address which has just been mentioned.

It must be mentioned also that there is still another long poem upon the misery of dying in an unconverted state, based upon the first seven verses of the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes. This is a long poem, covering several closely written pages. The first twenty-four lines have evidently been lost, and replaced by Mr. McAdow himself at a time subsequent to the first draft, or by another hand. There are two or three other poems, or fragments of poems, less important in their character than those here mentioned.

To the present generation nothing is known of Mr. McAdow except through tradition. A few of the old men and women, survivors of a generation which has nearly passed away, knew him personally. Most of the facts recounted in this sketch have been derived from himself through the agency of a friend and brother in the ministry belonging to this last class. It is probable that no other person now living had them in possession. A surviving son is my authority for the more personal and domestic incidents which have been recorded.

Mr. McAdow was a very different man from either Mr. Ewing or Mr. King, with whom he is always associated in our minds in connection with the organization of the Church. His son writes of him that he was a man on "melancholy temperament." He was evidently quiet and retiring in his habits, not adapted to leadership in any great enterprise, nor ever seeking such a position. His associates were intellectually and physically better adapted to the stormy scenes of life, through which they were called to pass. They were men of war. Many of use who still live had heard their clarion voices calling us to the field of conflict. They were sons of thunder in the pulpit. Mr. Ewing was terrible, too, when he spoke through the press to an offending adversary. They were both heroes in the strife into which the providence of God called them. They fell each with his heavy armor on. We honor, and will honor, their memory. I think, too, we have found that Mr. McAdow, far back in early life, in the midst of the honest Presbyterianism of his fathers, was undergoing a providential training for the important part he was to act amidst the stormy religious scenes of the South-west. The theology, which, after the expiration of twenty years, was embodied in the Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith, was even then taking form in his mind. North Carolina Presbyterians could tolerate it. But when it came into contact with the theology of John Knox, and his more immediate followers, there was a want of affiliation, and a conflict was the result. The history of that conflict is known. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church owes a debt to the memory of Mr. McAdow, which, in the rush and excitement of a stirring age, has been too much overlooked. This imperfect sketch has been intended as a contribution toward the payment of that debt. He deserves a better memorial.

[Source: Beard, Richard. Brief Biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Second Series. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1874, pages 7-26]


This name is familiar to all who ever read about Cumberland Presbyterians, he being one of the immortal three who had the courage to face public opinion and the frowns of the "mother Church," and act out his conscious convictions of right, regardless of the applause or censure of the world. At his humble home in Dixon county, Tennessee, Feb. 4th, 1810, the Cumberland Presbytery was re-organized, and another feeble denomination started in its career in the world for good or ill.

As the venerable Dr. Beard, in his second series of Biographical Sketches, has already given the Church and the world a sketch of this father in Israel, this would have been deemed sufficient by the writer, but for the fact that Mr. McAdow spent the last years of his life in Illinois, and his body lies sleeping in Illinois soil. We regard any attempt at a history of the Church in this State as defective and incomplete, without reference to this father also. For the facts of his earlier days herein noted, we are mainly indebted to the sketch by Dr. Beard.

Mr. McAdow was born April 10, 1760, in Guilford county, North Carolina. His father's name was John, and his mother's maiden name was Ellen Nelson. They were of Scotch-Irish descent, and were Presbyterians, members of Buffalo congregation, of which Rev. David Caldwell was pastor. Mr. McAdow's mother died when he was about ten years of age. When about eleven years of age he professed religion and joined Mr. Caldwell's church. He was living on a farm, but when quite young he was placed at Mr. Caldwell's school for a regular and thorough education. The Revolutionary War broke up the school for a time, but after it was over he resumed his studies and completed an academic course. He afterwards attended for three years the Mecklenburg College, where he finished his education. In the meantime his father died. He returned home to the farm, and on Nov. 24th, 1788, was married to Henrietta Wheatley. Five children were the result of this union, all but one dying in infancy.

His impressions to preach the gospel began shortly after he professed religion, but he did not begin the preparation till after he was head of a family. He began the study of theology under Dr. Caldwell, and on the 20th of September, 1794, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Orange, the oldest Presbytery in North Carolina. In this Presbytery at the time of his licensure were Mr. McGready, William McGee, William Hodge, and others, who figured largely in after years in the revival measures and times of the Cumberland country. He was ordained by the same Presbytery, but the exact time is not known. It was prior to 1799. He was for a time pastor of Hopewell congregation, in North Carolina. His wife died April 20th, 1799. After this sad event he turned his attention to the Western country, several acquaintances and a number of relatives having already gone to Kentucky. He started in 1799, but stopped one Summer in East Tennessee, during which time he preached to a congregation called Big Limestone. This congregation was exceedingly anxious for him to remain their pastor, but his mind was fixed upon Kentucky, and therefore in the Fall he came on to Kentucky, and found the great revival in full blast. He preached to Red River church in Logan county, and Rock Bridge in Christian county.

He was married the second time to a Miss Catherine Clark, of Logan county, a very pious woman. One child, a daughter, was the fruit of this marriage. On the 17th of May, 1804, his second wife died. Committing his two little daughters to the care of a sister, he traveled and preached extensively, and thus continued until he became almost entirely disabled by an affection of the lungs. In July, 1806, he married the third time to Miss Hannah Coke. Two sons resulted from this marriage. He now bought land and settled in Dixon county, Tennessee, and taught school. Here he remained till 1815. He was residing here at the ever memorable period of the organization of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. To quote the very appropriate language of Dr. Beard, "The house has become historical. It was an unpretending building on the bank of Jones Creek, about seven miles from Charlotte. The good men who prayed and acted on that occasion had no conception of what the result would be."--Beard's Sketches, page 11.

After the year 1815 he lived a short time in Jackson county. In 1828 he removed to Bond county, Illinois. From age and infirmity he seldom preached here, but never failed to throw his influence at all times in favor of religion. On June 3d, 1839, he lost his third wife.

He became a member of Vandalia Presbytery in rather an irregular way. We do not find anywhere on the records when he joined by letter or otherwise. There may be such record, and we have overlooked it. The action of Presbytery making him a member has been recorded elsewhere. Father McAdow had been in the country about ten years, and was in it when the Presbytery was organized; but there is no mention of his name. Perhaps his age and infirmities prevented him from attending, and the meetings of the Presbytery were seldom near his residence. He was sixty-eight years old when he first settled in Illinois. From the time of the death of his last wife he seemed to fall into a rather gloomy and despondent mood, not about the Church or the cause of Christ, but about his own home enjoyments. Still, he occasionally preached, and his last sermon was from the text, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." It was published in full in the Theological Medium of 1846. His last words are reported to have been, "All is peace. My work is done. Everything is ready. I have nothing to do but to die. There is no doubt, no fear." Suitable resolutions were passed in relation to his death by the Presbytery at its next session, and a funeral discourse was preached to his memory by Rev. John Barber. His grave is in the cemetery at old Mt. Gilead church, in Bond county. Many of his grand-children live in that county yet. It has been our good fortune to look upon that little mound of earth several times, and never without the most strange and thrilling emotions. A near, respectable tombstone has been placed at the grave by his relatives.

Mr. McAdow seems never to have been a "son of thunder," like Ewing and King, yet, while modest and unusually diffident for one of his opportunities and abilities, he was firm and steadfast in his convictions of what was right. He was a man of fair abilities as a preacher, pretty well educated for the times in which he lived, and a man of unspotted character. He lacked only a little of eight-eight years when he died. Had it not been for his decision, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church might not have existed. Who can read the thrilling statement of his anxious, all-night prayer for light and guidance before the organization, without feeling that he was no ordinary man, and his no ordinary degree of piety. Wherever the "medium theology" shall be known and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church shall be heard of, the name and character of Samuel McAdow will stand out in letters of living light, and, we doubt not, will be handed down to generations yet unborn as one of the great moral heroes of the country and of the Western continent.
[Source: Logan, J. B. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Illinois, Containing Sketches of the First Ministers, Churches, Presbyteries and Synods; also a History of Missions, Publication and Education. Alton, Ill.: Perrin & Smith, 1878, pages 167-171]


Sermon by Rev. Samuel McAdow

McAdow Family Information

Updated January 28, 2010

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