Tennent was born in Mid Calder, Linlithgowshire, Scotland, in 1673. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1695 and was ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1706. He migrated to the Thirteen Colonies in 1718, arriving in the colony of Pennsylvania at the urging of his wife's cousin James Logan, an Irish Quaker and close friend of William Penn. In 1726 he was called to a pastorate at the Neshaminy-Warwick Presbyterian Church in present-day Warminster, where he stayed for the remainder of his life.
The Log College
In 1727 Tennent established a religious school in a log cabin that became famous as the Log College. He filled his pupils with evangelical zeal, and a number became revivalist preachers in the First Great Awakening. The educational influence of the Log College was of importance since many of its graduates founded schools along the frontier. Princeton University is regarded as the successor to the Log College.
The name Log College had a negative connotation at the time, as it was a derisive nickname attached to the school by ministers educated in Europe. They chided Tennent for trying to educate poor farm boys considered by some to be unsuitable for the ministry.
At least one school, William Tennent High School (located close to the location of the Log College) is named for Tennent. In addition, there is a Log College Middle School named in honor of the original Log College, and is about .25 miles (0.40 km) from the original building's location. Both schools are public schools located within the Centennial School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, specifically Warminster, PA.
Tennent's sons Gilbert and William, Jr. were also noted early American clergymen.
Old Tennent Church
Tennent died in Warminster in 1746, and his gravesite can still be found today in the church cemetery of the Neshaminy-Warwick Presbyterian Church. Tennent’s last will and testament is on record at the Bucks County Court House. It indicates that by the time he died he was still, humble servant of God, leaving what little he had to his wife Catherine (née Kennedy) Tennent. It is interesting to note, however, that Tennent was a slave owner; as his will indicates, he left "three Negroes" to his wife.
- "Who Founded Princeton University and When?", Princeton University website.