Hugh Blair McMahen

1804 - 1880

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

We Need a Photograph



REV. H. B. McMAHEN, the subject of this sketch, was born in Abbeville, District, State of South Carolina, on the 27th day of July, A.D. 1804. His parents' names were David and Sallie McMahen. In his early life his parents moved to the State of Alabama, where he continued with them until he was of age.

He professed religion in his fifteenth year, through the instrumentality of pious training and by the direct agency of the Holy Spirit. He joined the Memphis Presbytery, as a candidate for the ministry, in McNairy county, Tenn., at its meeting in April, 1835, and was licensed to preach the gospel of the grace of God by said Presbytery, at Ebenezer church, Madison county, Tenn., at its meeting in October, 1839. He was ordained to the whole work of the ministry in Union county, Ark., by the Ouachita Presbytery in the fall of 1849. Rev. A. Fortenbury preached the sermon, and Rev. J. F. King presided and gave the charge. He continued in connection with this Presbytery until his death, which occurred at his home, in Columbia county, Ark., May 9, 1880. His age, at his death, was 75 years, 9 months, and 13 days.

The most active part of his life was during the time he labored as a licensed preacher, and he often said, "This was the most useful part of my life." This was in the early days of our Church, when she practiced, and, perhaps, adopted the itinerant system of work. He was, in the true sense of that term, a "pioneer preacher." He rode and preached in localities where society was scarcely organized. He traveled many of the circuits of Tennessee and Mississippi, while he resided east of the river. He came West with the tide of emigration in the year 1848. Here he was engaged in active missionary labor as long as he was able to work. He was the first Cumberland Presbyterian preacher in the State of Louisiana. Here he missionated and established churches until his removal to Columbia county, Ark., where he lived, labored, and suffered till he died. A few years after he moved where his family now resides he became sorely afflicted, his health became impaired, and he continued to decline until, at his own request, he was placed on the superanuated list. He never grew any stronger, but continued this relation to the Presbytery to the last.

His style of preaching was not at all times pleasing; neither did he labor for that purpose. His commission was not to go and please the people, but to preach the gospel to them; and if ever uninspired man fulfilled that commission, the writer is of the humble opinion that Uncle McMahen did. He was not a pedantic preacher, but was grave, and seemed at all times to be burdened with feelings of solemnity. He felt the weight of the preacher's responsibility resting continually upon him. He was not a stylish preacher, in the modern sense of that term, but labored, rather, to please God, save the people, and built up the Church. His manner of preaching was more forcible than it was persuasive. He was a modern Boanerges. He came like an earthquake, and mightily bore down all opposition, and by the help of God's Holy Spirit, would force conviction upon the minds and hearts of the people. He preached the law of God, with its awful terrors, more than any other doctrine, and in this lay the reason of his success. Would to God all our preachers would follow his example in this more than they do. We would soon see the life and activity brought back to the Church that it possessed in its early days.

But Rev. H. B. McMahen's voice is no longer heard amongst us--it has been hushed in death; yet he lives, and will continue to live, in the hearts and affections of surviving men and women. Does he not live in the affections of many of God's people that now live, and did live, within the boundaries of what was once known as the Henderson and Perdy [sic: Purdy] circuits in the State of Tennessee, and the Hernando circuit in Mississippi? I know he lives in the hearts of brethren and sisters in Louisiana and Arkansas. His burning words are still remembered; and though he is dead, he speaks loudly by the example of a pious life, and by his quiet submission to and Christian fortitude in bearing the nine years' afflictions, which at last laid him in his grave.

He leaves a loved and loving wife with five children at home, together with sons and daughters both in Texas and Arkansas, to mourn their loss. He was a good citizen, a good preacher in any place, and a good counsellor and presbyter. Like his bereaved family and connection, we miss him too. But we do not mourn for him as for one without hope, for father McMahen died as he had lived--a Christian. He loses the associations of family, relations, and brethren for a time, and joins the society of the Master, angels, and just men made perfect; he loses the heavy afflictions under which he groaned so long, and gained a country where perfect health will be his portion forever. In a word, he is exempt from all the evil effects of a sin-blighted earth, and has gone to breathe the atmosphere of holiness and heaven.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 1, 1880, page 2]

Candidate: April 1835, Memphis Presbytery

Licensed: Oct. 1839, Memphis Presbytery

Ordained: Fall 1849, Ouachita Presbytery

Information from General Assembly Minutes

1849 - No Ministerial Directory

1850 - No Ministerial Directory

1851 - No Ministerial Directory

1852 - No Ministerial Directory

1853 - No Ministerial Directory

1854 - Ouachita Presbytery did not report

1855 - No Ministerial Directory

1856 - Ouachita Presbytery did not report

1857 - Ouachita Presbytery did not report

1858 - No Ministerial Directory

1859 - No Ministerial Directory

1860 - page 100
H. B. McMahon, Haynesville, La.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1861 - No Ministerial Directory

1862 - No Ministerial Directory

1863 - No Ministerial Directory

1864 - No Ministerial Directory

1865 - Ouachita Presbytery did not report

1866 - No Ministerial Directory

1867 - No Ministerial Directory

1868 - page 107
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1869 - page 86
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Arkansas
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1870 - page 81
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1871 - page 81
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1872 - page 123
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1873 - page 100
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1874 - page 99
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1875 - page 83
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1876 - used 1875 information

1877 - page 88
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1878 - page 97
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1879 - page 92
H. B. McMahen, Magnolia, Ark.
Ouachita Presbytery - Ouachita Synod

1880 - page 24
H. B. McMahon in list of deceased ministers
died before May 20, 1880 - date of General Assembly meeting


Information from Ouachita Presbytery Minutes

1849 September 20
page 5 of typescript
"Brother H. B. McMahan, having procured testimonials satisfactory to this Presbytery that he was a licensed preacher formerly under the care of McDonald Presbytery and he being regularly dismissed from said Presbytery, was received under the care of this Presbytery."

September 22
page 7 of typescript
"Whereas, Brother H. B. McMahan's ordination is desired by the Church where he resides; resolved, the examination by the Committee on Literature and Divinity in his case be extended to all the parts of trial required by the Book of Discipline preparatory to ordination."

page 8
"The Committee appointed to conduct the Examination on Literature and Divinity submitted the following, which was adopted and is as follows:

Your Committee have discharged the duty assigned them and as far as the examination has gone, it was tolerably satisfactory, particularly in the case of Hugh B. McMahan, whose ordination they recommended forthwith. All of which is respectfully submitted."


"Ordered, that Bro, H. B. McMahan preach his trial sermon for ordination this morning at ten o'clock.

At Hillsboro, Union County, Ark., on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1849, the Ouachita Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, having secured testimonials in favor of Bro. Hugh B. McMahan of his good moral character and of his being in communion of the Church, proceeded to take the usual parts of trial for his ordination; and he, having given satisfactory evidence as to his aptness to teach, as to his experimental acquaintance with religion, as to his internal call to the work of the [page 9] ministry, and as to his proficiency in divinity; the presbytery did and do hereby express their approbation of all these parts of trial. He, having adopted the Confession of Faith of this Church, and having satisfactorily answered the questions appointed to be put to candidates to be ordained; the Presbytery did and do hereby ordain him, the said H. B. McMahen, and by the impositions of the hands of the Presbytery set him apart to the whole work of the ministry.

Whereas Homer Congregation has petitioned this Presbytery to satisfy an agreement between said congregation and Bro. H. B. McMahan, constituting his the pastor of said congregation; resolve, therefore, that said agreement be and the same is hereby confirmed."

1854 Winter meeting
Hugh B. McMahen, minister

1879 July 26
page 190, H. B. McMahan, absent

1879 Dec. 20
page 195, H. B. McMahan, not mentioned

1880 July 21
page 207, H. B. McMahan, absent
page 211, H. B. McMahan in report of deceased ministers

McMahen Family Information

Please Send Additions/Corrections to the Archives

Updated February 13, 2007