Presbyterians of the Past

Samuel Waugh, 1749-1807

Some Presbyterians of the past have more information about their lives available than others and the current biography is one composed with little source material. The farther back one goes in American history, the more often sources are in archives or are simply not available at all. Regardless, Samuel, a good name for one who would grow up to be a prophet from the pulpit, was born in 1849 within the area of Lower Marsh Creek Church in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The pioneer settlers of the region were Scots-Irish and if there was a church around, it was Presbyterian. His father was a farmer named William and his mother’s name was not located. Early education for Samuel was provided by a man named Dobbin who lived somewhere around Gettysburg. For college, he went east to the College of New Jersey and graduated in 1773 after two years of study. Showing linguistic finesse, he earned prizes for competitions in Latin and Greek. He was a member of the American Whig Society and during commencement he put on a show of his linguistic ability in a debate conducted entirely in Latin (despite the common surname, I doubt he is an ancestor).

Called to the ministry, Samuel Waugh was tutored in theology by someone in Pennsylvania and then during the meeting of Donegal Presbytery (named for County Donegal in Ireland) on December 4, 1776, at the Upper West Conococheague Church in Cumberland County he was licensed to preach. The Cumberland frontier had several settlements sprinkled hither and yon with each needing a worship leader. Licentiate Waugh supplied remote churches traveling on horseback and was officially ordained a missionary in May 1781. In April the next year he was installed in the united congregations of East Pennsborough and Monaghan. His guaranteed annual salary was £150 and he was promised a gratuity of £75 from each of the two churches. It is unclear from the source what constituted a “gratuity,” but it may indicate a gift provided if the storms didn’t come and the creeks didn’t rise to set back the local economy.

As often occurred for a single minister in his first church, Pastor Waugh was attracted to one member of his flock in particular, Eliza, the daughter of David Hoge. They were married April 14, 1783. Samuel and Eliza moved into the manse when the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church constructed a stone church building to replace the rustic log meeting house in East Pennsborough where the congregations had met together. The Silver Spring Church building still exists and was restored to its original form in the nineteen twenties.

In 1786 the bounds of Donegal Presbytery were changed to create Carlisle Presbytery with its first meeting held October 17, 1786 with Waugh attending the session in the church he grew up in, Lower Marsh Creek. Rev. Waugh was joined by eleven of the twenty-two ministers constituting the presbytery. Ruling elders in attendance numbered five. Pastor John Craighead convened the meeting with a sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ,” which was an appropriate text to remind presbyters of what the work of the church is all about. Ten years later Carlisle Presbytery was divided to create Huntingdon Presbytery with Waugh continuing as a member of territorially reduced Carlisle.

Located about ten miles west of the Silver Spring Church was and is Dickinson College in Carlisle. The school was chartered in 1783 and since its founding and into the nineteenth century had suffered problems for a variety of reasons. A sample of troubles faced can be seen in the biography of William Neill (1778-1860) as he worked to keep the college afloat. Samuel Waugh was on the board of trustees from Dickinson’s beginning until his death and worked through problems with students, faculty, and administration. Waugh and a member of his College of New Jersey class, John Linn, who was also a minister, were the only clergymen on the college board by the turn of the century. Waugh and Linn tried to improve Dickinson in 1796 by presenting a plan for the “Regulation of Classes” which was believed could have eased administrative issues, but the plan was not adopted.

At the end of 1806 Samuel Waugh was stricken with pleurisy but weakness did not stop him from performing a marriage ceremony as scheduled. The couple went to his room in the manse so he could unite them in Christ. Three days later, January 3, 1807, Pastor Samuel Waugh died after twenty-five years of service to the Silver Spring Church. He was survived by Eliza and at least one son and two daughters (one source says six children). He is buried in the yard of the Silver Spring Church and upon his stone is the brief but fitting remembrance, “He lived beloved and died lamented.”

Barry Waugh


Sources: Exercises in Commemoration of the One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Thursday, August 5, 1909, [no date], the header showing Silver Spring Church is from this book but the picture was taken before the stone church, on the left, was restored to its original form; Charles Coleman Sellers, Dickinson College: A History, Middletown, 1973; Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle (1889), 2 vols., and the picture of Marsh Creek is from vo. 1; History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania. Containing History of the Counties; their Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Industries, etc.; Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania, Statistical and Miscellaneous Matter, etc., Chicago, 1886; C. C. Sellers, Dickinson College, 1973; and Richard A. Harrison, Princetonians, 1769-1775: A Biographical Dictionary, Princeton, 1980.

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