Francis Makemie

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Statue of Makemie on the banks of Holden's Creek in Accomack County, Virginia

Francis Makemie (1658–1708) was an Irish clergyman, considered to be the founder of Presbyterianism in United States of America.


Makemie was born into the Ulster-Scots community in Ramelton, County Donegal, part of the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. He attended Glasgow University and went on to become a clergyman and be ordained by the Presbytery of Laggan, in West Ulster, in 1682.[1]

At the call of Colonel William Stevens, an Episcopalian from Rehobeth, Maryland, he was sent as a missionary to America, arriving in Maryland in 1683. In 1683, Makemie founded the first Presbyterian community in the Town of Snow Hill.[1] The Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is in its fourth building on its third location in the town of Snow Hill. The first building, which was near the Pocomoke river, which was the chief means of travel in the 17th and early 18th centuries, was a log building. A frame building was erected next, a little further away from the water, and during the time the congregation worshiped in this building the current location was purchased and became the site of the cemetery. The third building was of brick and was located on the high ground to the rear of the location of the present building. The remains of the foundation to that building were rediscovered in the late 1980s. The fourth and present building was constructed in 1889 and dedicated to the glory of God and in memory of Francis Makemie. It is the only church in the country allowed to be so named. Makemie also built Rehobeth Presbyterian Church in Rehobeth, Maryland in Somerset County which still stands today as the oldest Presbyterian Church in America. In addition he had a hand in founding churches in Salisbury, Princess Anne, Berlin and Pocomoke City as well as in two places in Virginia. The Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is the first church in the colonies to present a call for a pastor to the Presbytery. Snow Hill was also to be the center of the Presbytery of Snow Hill, which was chartered by the General Assembly, but never activated.

Historical Marker on U.S. Route 13

He married Naomi Anderson, the daughter of a successful businessman and landowner. Francis and Naomi had two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth. In 1706, he was instrumental in the founding of the first Presbytery in America.[1]

Makemie eventually went to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and founded a community there. In 1707, Makemie was arrested by Lord Cornbury, the Governor of New York for preaching without a license. He was acquitted of the charges, and this is considered to be a landmark case in favor of religious freedom in America. Makemie died on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 1708.[1]

Makemie Woods campground, owned and operated by the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is named for Francis Makemie.[2] The camp is located between Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia.

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  1. ^ a b c d  Hamilton, Thomas (1893). "Makemie, Francis". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 35. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  2. ^ Who was Francis Makemie? Archived February 5, 2010 at the Wayback Machine

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