Presbyterians of the Past

General Assembly Moderators

The list that follows provides the moderators of the general assemblies of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) beginning in 1789. Also, it includes moderators of both the Old School and New School, 1837-1869, as well as moderators of the Schools reunited as the PCUSA, 1870-1923. In 1861 the churches of the Confederacy separated from the PCUSA in response to the Gardner Spring Resolutions calling for allegiance to the Federal Government. During the Civil War years the Confederate churches formed their own assembly, 1861-1865, which came to be the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in 1865. Note that the New School held its meetings at irregular intervals sometimes resulting in some gaps in the list.

A few observations may be helpful. The only presbyter to be a moderator twice is William S. Plumer who hefted the gavel in both the Old School, 1838, and then the PCUS in 1871. Up to the 1837 division the assembly met in Philadelphia 44 out of 49 times and Pennsylvania was the venue 48 out of 49 times. The only time the Assembly convened in the southern states was 1799 in Winchester, Virginia. It is easy to see why churches in the South and West complained about the obvious inequity of the travel situation which resulted in considerable attendance and influence from New England and the upper mid-Atlantic States. However, 1837-1869, the Old and New Schools varied their locations better.

John Witherspoon was appointed by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia in 1789 to convene the First General Assembly when it gathered in Philadelphia and then John Rodgers was elected moderator by the commissioners. The selection of Rodgers was not a snub because Witherspoon would die in 1794 and in his latter years he suffered from blindness and other physical difficulties. Witherspoon had to be helped into and out of the pulpit when he preached. It must have been a heart-rending sight to see a father of American Presbyterianism and of the United States declining.

In The Presbyterian Magazine, vol. 1, 1851, pages 478-79, the following comment is made about the Assemblies to date, but note the quote does not take into account convening the first Assembly by John Witherspoon. “There have been sixty-three General Assemblies in our Church, and of course there have been as many Moderators. Of these, 32, being more than half, are no longer numbered with the living. The first 18 on the list are dead. Of the 31 survivors, 1 is in the Dutch Church, and 4 joined the New-school, leaving 26 in our Church [Old School]. Of these 26, 6 reside in Pennsylvania, 5 in New Jersey, 4 in New York, 3 in South Carolina, 2 in Virginia, 2 in Kentucky, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Ohio, 1 in Iowa, and 1 in Tennessee. Of the 26 it is believed that 6 are over 75 years of age. The youngest is said to be over 38 years of age. Of the whole number (63), 16 were at the time of their election residents of New York, 16 of Pennsylvania, 10 of New Jersey, 5 of Virginia, 5 of South Carolina, 4 of Ohio, 2 of Maryland, 2 of Kentucky, 2 of Tennessee, and 1 of North Carolina. From this time forth, it is probable that as many of the survivors will die in a term of years as there will be names added to the list. The Moderators of the Assemblies of 1807, 1808, 1811, 1815, and 1818, still survive, and are Drs. A. Alexander, P. Milledoler, E. Nott, W. Neill, and J.J. Janeway.”

The links are to biographies, reviews, or other articles about or associated with the moderator on Presbyterians of the Past.

The header image shows the Old School General Assembly convened in Seventh Presbyterian Church May 29, 1861 which was the day before the vote regarding the Gardner Spring resolutions. It is cropped from a stereo view held by the New York Public Library in their digital collection and is titled, “The General Assembly of 1861.” The obverse of the stereo view has a list of the commissioners in attendance. The retiring moderator was John W. Yoemans and the moderator elected—likely seen in the pulpit—was John T. Backus of Baltimore. The man at the desk may be Clerk A. T. McGill. 

For each moderator the year of the assembly is given first, his name is followed by his presbytery, and last is the location of the assembly. The norm for moderators until after the Civil War was to elect a minister. The practice of some Presbyterian bodies today is alternating moderators between ministers or teaching elders and ruling elders, which is surely the appropriate method. Sometimes the name of the state is provided in the list when the city name could be confused with another location.

Barry Waugh

1789 to 1837 and the Old School-New School Division

1789, John Witherspoon, D.D., New Brunswick, at Philadelphia

ibid., John Rodgers, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1790, Robert Smith, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1791, John Woodhull, D.D., New Brunswick, at Philadelphia

1792, John King, D.D., Carlisle, at Carlisle

1793, James Latta, D.D., New Castle, at Philadelphia

1794, Alexander McWhorter, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1795, John McKnight, D.D., New York, at Carlisle

1796, Robert Davidson, D.D., Carlisle, at Philadelphia

1797, William M. Tennent, D.D., Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1798, John B. Smith, D.D., Albany, at Philadelphia

1799, Samuel S. Smith, D.D., LL.D., New Brunswick, at Winchester, Virginia

1800, Joseph Clark, D.D., New Brunswick, at Philadelphia

1801, Nathaniel Irwin, Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1802, Azel Roe, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1803, James Hall, D.D., Concord, at Philadelphia

1804, James F. Armstrong, New Brunswick, at Philadelphia

1805, James Richards, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1806, Samuel Miller, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1807, Archibald Alexander, D.D., Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1808, Philip Milledoler, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1809, Drury Lacy, Hanover, at Philadelphia

1810, John B. Romeyn, D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1811, Eliphalet Nott, D.D., LL.D., Albany, at Philadelphia

1812, Andrew Flinn, D.D., Harmony, at Philadelphia

1813, Samuel Blatchford, D.D., Columbia, at Philadelphia

1814, James Inglis, D.D., Baltimore, at Philadelphia

1815, William Neill, D.D., Albany, at Philadelphia

1816, James Blythe, D.D., West Lexington, at Philadelphia

1817, Jonas Coe, D.D., Columbia, at Philadelphia

1818, Jacob J. Janeway, D.D., Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1819, John H. Rice, D.D., Hanover, at Philadelphia

1820, John McDowell, D.D., Jersey, at Philadelphia

1821, William Hill, D.D., Winchester, at Philadelphia

1822, Obadiah Jennings, D.D., Steubenville, at Philadelphia

1823, John Chester, D.D., Albany, at Philadelphia

1824, Ashbel Green, D.D., LL.D., Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1825, Stephen N. Rowan D.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1826, Thomas McAuley, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1827, Francis Herron, D.D., Ohio, at Philadelphia

1828, Ezra S. Ely, D.D., Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1829, Benjamin H. Rice, D.D., Hanover, at Philadelphia

1830, Ezra Fisk, D.D., Hudson, at Philadelphia

1831, Nathan S. S. Beman, D.D., LL.D. Troy, at Philadelphia

1832, James Hoge, D.D., Columbus, at Philadelphia

1833, William A. McDowell, D.D., Charleston Union, at Philadelphia

1834, Philip Lindsley, D.D., West Tennessee, at Philadelphia

1835, William W. Phillips, D.D., New York, at Pittsburgh

1836, John Witherspoon, D.D., LL.D., Harmony, at Pittsburgh

1837, David Elliott, D.D., LL.D., Ohio, at Philadelphia

1838-1869, Era of the Old and New Schools, PCUSA

For both Schools the two meetings in 1869 were for completing the reunion.

Old School

1838, William S. Plumer, D.D., LL.D., East Hanover, at Philadelphia

1839, Joshua L. Wilson, D.D., Cincinnati, at Philadelphia

1840, William M. Engles, D.D., Philadelphia, at Philadelphia

1841, Robert J. Breckinridge, D.D., LL.D., Baltimore, at Philadelphia

1842, John T. Edgar, D.D., Nashville, at Philadelphia

1843, Gardiner Spring, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Philadelphia

1844, George Junkin, D.D., LL.D., Oxford, at Louisville

1845, John M. Krebs, D.D., New York, at Cincinnati

1846, Charles Hodge, D.D., LL.D., New Brunswick, at Philadelphia

1847, James H. Thornwell, D.D., LL.D., Charleston, at Richmond, Virginia

1848, Alexander T. McGill, D.D., LL.D., Ohio, at Baltimore

1849, Nicholas Murray, D.D., Elizabethtown, at Pittsburgh

1850, Aaron W. Leland, D.D., Charleston, at Cincinnati

1851, Edward P. Humphrey, D.D., LL.D., Louisville, at St. Louis

1852, John C. Lord, D.D., Buffalo City, at Charleston, South Carolina

1853, John C. Young. D.D., Transylvania, at Philadelphia

1854, Henry A. Boardman, D.D., Philadelphia, at Buffalo

1855, Nathan L. Rice, D.D., St. Louis, at Nashville, Tennessee

1856, Francis McFarland, D.D., Lexington, at New York

1857, Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, D.D., Burlington, at Lexington, Kentucky

1858, William A. Scott, D.D., LL.D., California, at New Orleans

1859, William L. Breckenridge, D.D, Louisville, at Indianapolis

1860, John W. Yeomans, D.D., Northumberland, at Rochester

1861, John C. Backus, D.D., LL.D., Baltimore, at Philadelphia

[Confederacy Old School formed its own assembly—see “1861-1922, PCUS” below.]

1862, Charles C. Beatty, D.D., LL.D., Stubenville, at Columbus, Ohio

1863, John H. Morrison, D.D., Lodiana, at Peoria, Illinois

1864, James Wood, D.D., Madison, at Newark, New Jersey

1865, John C. Lowrie, D.D., Chillicothe, at St. Louis

1866, Robert L. Stanton. D.D., Chillicothe, at St. Louis

1867, Phineas D. Gurley, D.D., Potomac, at Cincinnati

1868, George W. Musgrave, D.D., LL.D., Philadelphia Central, at Albany

1869, M. W. Jacobus, D.D., LL.D., Ohio, at New York

ibid., M. W. Jacobus, D.D., LL.D., Ohio, November 11, at Pittsburgh

New School

1838, Samuel Fisher, D.D., Newark, at Philadelphia

1839, Baxter Dickinson, D.D., Cincinnati, at Philadelphia

1840, William Wisner, D.D., Ithaca, at Philadelphia

1843, Ansel D. Eddy, D.D., Newark, at Philadelphia

1846, Samuel H. Cox, D.D., LL.D., Brooklyn, at Philadelphia

1849, Philip C. Hay, D.D., Tioga, at Philadelphia

1850, David H. Riddle, D.D., LL.D., Pittsburgh, at Detroit, Michigan

1851, Albert Barnes, Philadelphia Fourth, Utica, at New York

1852, William Adams, D.D., LL.D., New York Fourth, at Washington, D.C.

1853, Diarca H. Allen, D.D., Cincinnati, at Buffalo

1854, Thomas H. Skinner, D.D., LL.D., New York Third, at Philadelphia

1855, William C. Wisner, D.D., Niagara, at St. Louis

1856, Laurens P. Hickok, D.D., LL.D., Troy, at New York

1857, Samuel W. Fisher, D.D., LL.D., Cincinnati, at Cleveland, Ohio

1858, Matthew L. P. Thompson, D.D., Buffalo, at Chicago, Illinois

1859, Robert W. Patterson, D.D., Chicago, at Wilmington, Delaware

1860, Thornton A. Mills, D.D. Indianapolis, at Pittsburgh

1861, Jonathan B. Condit, D.D., Cayuga, at Syracuse, New York

1862, George Duffield, D.D., Detroit, at Cincinnati

1863, Henry B. Smith, D.D., LL.D., New York Fourth, at Dayton, Ohio

1864, Thomas Brainerd, D.D., Philadelphia Fourth, at Dayton, Ohio

1865, James B. Shaw, D.D., Rochester, at Brooklyn, New York

1866, Samuel M. Hopkins, D.D., Cayuga, at St. Louis

1867, Henry A. Nelson, D.D., St. Louis, at Rochester, New York

1868, Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D., Newark, at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

1869, Philemon H. Fowler, D.D., Utica, at New York

ibid., Philemon H. Fowler, D.D., Utica (November 12), at Pittsburgh

1870-1922, Old and New Schools Reunited, PCUSA

1870, J. Trumbull Backus, D.D., LL.D., Albany, at Philadelphia

1871, Zephaniah M. Humphrey, D.D., Philadelphia, at Chicago

1872, Samuel J. Niccolls, D.D., LL.D., St. Louis, at Detroit

1873, Howard Crosby, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Baltimore

1874, Samuel J. Wilson, D.D., LL.D., Pittsburgh, at St. Louis

1875, Edward D. Morris, D.D., LL.D., Cincinnati, at Cleveland, Ohio

1876, Henry J. Van Dyke, D.D., Brooklyn, at Brooklyn

1877, James Eells, D.D., LL.D., San Francisco, at Chicago

1878, Francis L. Patton, D.D., LL.D., Chicago, at Pittsburgh

1879, Henry H. Jessup, D.D., Lackawanna, at Saratoga, New York

1880, William M. Paxton, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Madison, Wisconsin

1881, Henry Darling, D.D., LL.D., Albany, at Buffalo

1882, Herrick Johnson, D.D., LL^D., Chicago, at Springfield, Illinois

1883, Edwin F. Hatfield, D.D., New York, at Saratoga

1884, George P. Hays, D.D., LL.D., Denver, at Saratoga

1885, Elijah R. Craven, D.D., LL.D., Newark, at Cincinnati

1886, David C. Marquis, D.D., LL.D., St. Louis, at Minneapolis, Minnesota

1887, Joseph T. Smith, D.D., LL.D., Baltimore, at Omaha, Nebraska

1888, Charles L. Thompson, D.D., LL.D., Kansas City, at Philadelphia

1889, William C. Roberts, D.D., LL.D., Chicago, at New York

1890, William E. Moore, D.D., LL.D., Columbus, at Saratoga

1891, W. Henry Green, D.D., LL.D., New Brunswick, at Detroit

1892, William C. Young, D.D., LL.D., Transylvania, at Portland, Oregon

1893, Willis Green Craig, D.D., LL.D., Iowa, at Washington, D.C.

1894, Samuel A. Mutchmore, D.D., LL.D., Philadelphia, at Saratoga

1895, Robert R. Booth, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Pittsburgh

1896, John L. Withrow, D.D., LL.D., Chicago, at Saratoga

1897, Sheldon Jackson, D.D., LL.D., Alaska, at Winona Lake, Indiana

1898, Wallace Radcliffe, D.D., LL.D., Washington City, at Winona Lake,

1899, Robert F. Sample, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Minneapolis

1900, Charles A. Dickey, D.D., LL.D., Philadelphia, at St. Louis

1901, Henry C. Minton, D.D., LL.D., San Francisco, at Philadelphia

1902, Henry van Dyke, D.D., LL.D., New Brunswick, at New York

1903, Robert F. Coyle, D.D., LL.D., Denver, at Los Angeles, California

1904, J. Addison Henry, D.D., LL.D., Philadelphia, at Buffalo

1905, James D. Moffat, D.D., LL.D., Washington, at Winona Lake

1906, Hunter Corbett, D.D., LL.D., Shantung, at Des Moines, Iowa

1907, William H. Roberts, D.D., LL.D., Philadelphia, at Columbus, Ohio

1908, Baxter P. Fullerton, D.D., LL.D., St. Louis, at Kansas City, Missouri

1909, James M. Barkley, D.D., LL.D., Detroit, at Denver, Colorado

1910, Charles Little, D.D., LL.D., Muncie, at Atlantic City, New Jersey

1911, John F. Carson, D.D., LL.D., Brooklyn, at Atlantic City

1912, Mark A. Matthews, D.D., LL.D., Seattle, at Louisville, Kentucky

1913, John T. Stone, D.D., LL.D., Chicago, at Atlanta, Georgia

1914, Maitland Alexander, D.D., LL.D., Pittsburgh, at Chicago

1915, J. Ross Stevenson, D.D., LL.D., Baltimore, at Rochester, New York

1916, John A. Marquis, D.D., LL.D., Cedar Rapids, at Atlantic City

1917, J. Wilbur Chapman, D.D., LL.D., New York, at Dallas, Texas

1918, J. Frank Smith, D.D., Dallas, at Columbus, Ohio

1919, John Willis Baer f LL.D., Litt.D., Los Angeles, at St. Louis

1920, Samuel S. Palmer, D.D., Columbus, at Philadelphia

1921, Henry C. Swearingen, D.D., St. Paul, at Winona Lake, Indiana

1922, Calvin C. Hays, D.D., Blairsville, at Des Moines, Iowa

1923, Charles F. Wishart, Wooster, at Indianapolis

1861-1922, PCUS

1861, Benjamin M. Palmer, D. D.,·New Orleans, at Augusta, Georgia

1862, John L. Kirkpatrick, D. D., Concord, at Montgomery, Alabama

1863, James A. Lyon, D. D., Tombeckbee, at Columbia, South Carolina

1864, John S. Wilson, D. D., Flint River, at Charlotte, North Carolina

1865, George Howe, D. D., Charleston, at Macon, Georgia

1866, Andrew H. Kerr, D. D, Memphis, at Memphis, Tennessee

1867, Thomas V. Moore, D. D., East Hanover, at Nashville, Tennessee

1868, John N. Waddell, D. D., Chickasaw, at Baltimore, Maryland

1869, Stuart Robinson, D. D., Louisville, at Mobile, Alabama

1870, Robert L. Dabney, D. D., West Hanover, at Louisville, Kentucky

1871, William S. Plummer, D. D., Harmony, at Huntsville, Alabama

1872, Thomas R. Welch, D. D., Arkansas, at Richmond, Virginia

1873, Henry M. Smith, D. D., New Orleans, at Little Rock, Arkansas

1874, John L. Girardeau, D. D., Charleston, at Columbus, Mississippi

1875, Moses D. Hoge, D. D., East Hanover, at St. Louis, Missouri

1876, Benjamin M. Smith, D. D., West Hanover, at Savannah, Georgia

1877, Charles A. Stillman, D. D., Tuscaloosa, at New Orleans, Louisiana

1878, Thomas E. Peck, D. D., Roanoke, at Knoxville, Tennessee

1879, Joseph R. Wilson, D. D., Wilmington, at Louisville, Kentucky

1880, Thomas A. Hoyt, D. D., Nashville, at Charleston, South Carolina

1881, Robert P. Farris, D. D., St. Louis, at Staunton, Virginia

1882, Richmond K. Smoot, D. D., Central Texas, at Atlanta

1883, Theodorick Pryor, D. D., East Hanover, at Lexington, Kentucky

1884, Thomas D. Witherspoon, D. D., Louisville, at Vicksburg, Mississippi

1885, Henry R. Raymond, D. D., Tuscaloosa, at Houston, Texas

1886, John H. Bryson, D. D., North Alabama, at Augusta, Georgia

1887, Givens B. Strickler, D. D., Atlanta, at St. Louis

1888, Joseph J. Bullock, D. D., Maryland, at Baltimore

1889, Halbert G. Hill, D. D., Fayetteville, at Chattanooga

1890, James Park, D. D., Knoxville, at Asheville

1891, Hampden C. DuBose, D. D., Pee Dee, at Birmingham, Alabama

1892, Samuel A. King, D. D., Central Texas, at Hot Springs, Arkansas

1893, James W. Lapsley, North Alabama, at Macon, Georgia

1894, James R. Graham, D. D., Winchester, at Nashville

1895, Charles R. Hemphill, D. D., Louisville, at Dallas, Texas

1896, Robert Q. Mallard, D. D., New Orleans, at Memphis

1897, George T. Goetchius, D. D., Cherokee, at Charlotte

1898, Edward M. Green, D. D., Transylvania, at New Orleans

1899, John F. Cannon, D. D., St. Louis, at Richmond

1900, Joseph W. Martin, LL. D., Arkansas, at Atlanta

1901, Neander M. Woods, D. D., Memphis, at Little Rock

1902, William T. Hall, D. D., Bethel, at Jackson, Mississippi

1903, Abner C. Hopkins, D. D, Winchester, at Lexington, Virginia

1904, Samuel M. Neel, D. D., Upper Missouri, at Mobile, Alabama

1905, John T. Plunket, D. D., Augusta, at Fort Worth, Texas

1906, Allen G. Hall, LL. D., Nashville, at Greenville, South Carolina

1907, J. R. Howerton, D. D., Asheville, at Birmingham

1908, Walter W. Moore, D. D., West Hanover, at Greensboro

1909, William E. Boggs, D. D., Suwanee, at Savannah

1910, Jonathan W. Bachman, D. D., Knoxville, at Lewisburg, West Virginia

1911, Russell Cecil, D. D., East Hanover, at Louisville

1912, Thomas S. Clyce, D. D., Dallas, at Bristol, Tennessee

1913, John S. Lyons, D. D., Louisville, at Atlanta

1914, William J. Martin, LL. D., Concord, at Kansas City, Missouri

1915, William M. Alexander, D. D., New Orleans, at Newport News

1916, Cornelius W. Grafton, D. D., Mississippi, at Orlando, Florida

1917, John M. Wells, D. D., Wilmington, at Birmingham

1918, James I. Vance, D. D., Nashville, at Durant, Oklahoma

1919, Abel M. Fraser, D. D., Lexington, at New Orleans

1920, Walter L. Lingle, D. D., Concord, at Charlotte

1921, Albert B. Curry, D. D., Memphis, at St. Louis

1922, Richard C. Reed, D. D., Atlanta., at Charleston, West Virginia

1923, Alexander Sprunt, D. D., Charleston, at Montreat, North Carolina


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