Long Cane Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, near Troy, will have a program July 15 marking the 100th anniversary of the erection of the church building and the 175th anniversary of the establishment of the church.
The late Mrs. Carolina Bradley Klugh prepared a history of Long Cane Church at the time of the 150th anniversary program in 1931 and the history is reprinted from The Index-Journal in connection with the coming observance. (The following is taken from The Index-Journal, Greenwood, S. C., June 28, 1956, under the heading “Long Cane ARP Church To Have Anniversary Program July 15th”.)
Long Cane has been called the Historical Church of Synod. The early settlers and first worshipers here were of a history-making race. In 1764 a band of 300 Scotch-Irish settlers came to New York from Ballibay, Ireland to find new homes and religious freedom. The leader of this band was Dr. Thomas Clark, a Scotchman of great ability and influence among his people. Dr. Clark had traits that peculiarly suited him to be a leader and organizer. He was educated at the University of Glasgow, receiving the degree of Doctor of Medicine. As a soldier he fought in 1745 and 1746, against the Pretender. The first public mention made of him in connection with the church was at the Synod of 1747 at Sterling. At that time “the Presbytery of Glasgow took home on trial for license, and, after studying at Sterling under Ebenezer Erskine, he was licensed to preach in 1748.” He was ordained and installed as pastor at Ballibay Ireland in 1751 and there organized the Presbytery of Downs. He was imprisoned for a short time in Ireland for alleged disloyalty to the King. While in prison his followers were faithful to him, visiting him, and at least one couple going to be joined in wedlock by him within the prison walls. This couple were the ancestors of the Griers in our church today.
After bringing his flock to America he remained as pastor with the settlement in New York for sixteen years. Subsequent to their arrival in New York a number of the settlers separated themselves from the rest and came South to make their home. These settled in Abbeville county at Long Cane and Cedar Springs. This body of settlers were not the real pioneers of the locality, however, for it is said that William Creswell, John Bicket, James McFarland, and James Patterson preceded them by 17 years. In 1779 Dr. Clark paid a visit to those of his old charge who had settled in South Carolina and while on this visit organized them into the congregations of Cedar Springs, in 1779, and of Long Cane in 1780. It was an event of great moment to these staunch and pious people and one of far-reaching consequences, worthy of our celebration today. More that 150 years have passed since the beginning of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in the South at this historic spot and from these beginnings the church has grown and spread throughout out Southern and Western States and reached down into Mexico and across the ocean to far away India and Africa. Had Dr. Clark not come to South Carolina it is a matter of conjecture if those early settlers would have banded together and formed congregations of their own or if they might have become scattered and been gradually absorbed into other churches. Dr. Clark received a call from the joint congregations of Long Cane and Cedar Springs in 1786 and in that year he came here to live. Whether he was ever installed pastor over these charges is not recorded. His installation was ordered by the Presbytery in 1791 but he died the following year and it is possible that his installation had not taken place. He lies buried at Cedar Springs, his grave being a hallowed shrine for pilgrims who journey thither to honor his memory. Dr. Clark was a man of stern demeanor, tall, gaunt, wearing a Scotch bonnet, speaking a broad Scotch dialect and generally rather unprepossessing to the stranger. He was greatly beloved and revered by his people whom, it is safe to say, he ministered unto as a physician as well as pastor. In his familiar role as organizer he instigated the formation of the Associate Reformed Presbytery of the Carolinas and Georgia at Long Cane on February 24, 1790; the first Presbytery in the South, having four ministers and forty-four congregations. The ordained ministers present at this organization were Dr. Thomas Clark, Peter McMullen, John Boyse, and David Bothwell. There was one licentiate, James Rogers, and two ruling elders, James McBride and William Dunlap. The hundredth anniversary of the formation of this first Presbytery was celebrated with elaborate services at Long Cane on February 24, 1890. Dr. H. T. Sloan, Dr. W. M. Grier, and Dr. W. L. Pressly were appointed by Synod to arrange for the centennial. There were eight or ten addresses by the following
Welcome Address by Dr. H. T. Sloan
Response - Rev J. A. Lowry
Letter from Mr. McBride, Cotton Plant, Miss.
Letter from Rev. J. N. Young
Address - Dr. E. E. Boyce
Historical Address - Dr. Robert Lathan
Prayer - Rev. R. F. Bradley
Address - “The Secession Churches of Scotland and Ireland” - Dr. J. E. Pressly
Address - “The Revelation” - Dr. J. L. McCain
Closing Address - Dr. W. M. Grier - Moderator
Dr. F. Y. Pressly, Dr. J. C. Galloway, Dr. R. A. Ross, and Dr. D. G. Phillips were also included on the program but were unable to be present.
The First Elders
As long as the joint congregations of Long Cane and Cedar Springs remained under one pastorate the same officers served both churches. Some of the first elders under Dr. Clark were Robert Foster, Elijah Sinclair, Mr. Patterson, James McBride, Arthur Morrow, Robert Bibson, and William Robinson. The salary paid Dr. Clark was £100 - about $500 a year, a very good salary at that time. The first services at Long Cane were held under a vast canopy of heaven, The pulpit was a board fastened between two trees. These twin trees may be seen standing today near the rear of the church, with hugh knots on them, marking the places where the board once rested. The first structure here was of rude logs which was replaced during Dr. Clark’s pastorate by a larger and better building. The Second church stood with its door near the immense oak that still stands beside the drive leading to the gate of the cemetery. The present building was erected in 1856, during the pastorate of Dr. H. T. Sloan.
For four years after Dr. Clark’s death the church was without a pastor, the Rev. Peter McMullen supplying, when possible, during the first year. In 1797 the Rev. Alexander Porter was called to the joint pastorate of Long Cane and Cedar Springs. He served for a period of over five years. Mr. Porter was a native of this section, having been born and reared near Parson’s Mountain, better known today as “Little Mountain.” He was the first native born member of the Second Presbytery, of which he was one of the organizers at Cedar Springs in 1801. The church flourished greatly at this time, being the oldest and largest pastoral charge in the Presbytery. It is said there were 700 and more to partake of the sacrament in those days. These were occasions of great spiritual feasts and five days were the extent of time required for them. Thursday was fast day. On Friday applicants for membership were received. Saturday and Sabbath were especially devoted to sacramental services, tokens being distributed on Saturday to those who were to receive the sacrament, and Monday was thanksgiving. “On account of his weak state of health and the uncommon largeness of his charge, making it impossible for him to do his duty, Mr. Porter asked to be released in the fall of 1803.” Three months later he accepted a call to the pastorate of Cedar Springs, alone, and Long Cane remained without a pastor for a period of twenty years. This state of affairs was not according to the desire of the members of the congregation who were a God-fearing people, accustomed from infancy to church attendance and were glad when it was said to them “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Although they made repeated efforts to secure a pastor it was not until 1828, when they again united with Cedar Springs that they succeeded in obtaining a regular pastor. Dr. John Taylor Pressly, like Mr. Porter, a native son of Abbeville county, had as his first pastoral charge the congregation of Cedar Springs. He had served this church alone for eleven years when it was reunited with Long Cane. He remained in charge of the joint congregation for a period of three years. The church membership had dwindled at this time to 172 families of 334 members. The cause of this decrease in membership was due to migration to the west, a large colony having gone with Mr. Porter, others preceded him and still others followed later. Dr. Pressly enjoyed great popularity here and was most useful in this broad field. At this time there was no theological seminary in the South. Students of theology were obliged to go to Pennsylvania or Ohio for training. To meet the exigencies of these conditions Synod appointed Rev. John Hemphill and Rev. John T. Pressly professors of a theological school. They lived a hundred miles or more apart so it was hardly possible for their pupils to report to each of them on the same day. They had to complete one subject at a time and went to live with and study under Dr. Pressly for six months and then journeyed to Hopewell, in Chester County, to study for another six months with Dr. Hemphill. Under two such distinguished teachers, able ministers were trained. It was with much regret that the people of Long Cane and Cedar Springs gave Dr. Pressly up to take sole charge of the newly established Associate Reformed Seminary in Pittsburg which he shortly afterward removed to Allegheny. Dr. Pressly has been called “the prince of the Pressly family” which is high praise, indeed, in a family which has produced so many princely members. He was a dignified, systematic and laborious student, able in debate, preaching and oratory. “Psalm singing Presbyterianism never had an abler or more influential defender.” After Dr. Pressly’s departure the pulpit of Long Cane again remained vacant for a period of six years.
Pastor W. R. Hemphill
Fresh from the study of theology at Allegheny Seminary under the tutelage of Dr, John T. Pressly who had so recently given up this charge, William Ramsey Hemphill came in 1837 to take over the pastorate of Cedar Springs and Long Cane and to make his home in the Long Cane settlement. Here for eleven years he devoted himself to his work, studying hard, preaching able sermons, winning for himself the love and esteem of his congregations and earning a well-deserved ministerial fame. He was a gifted writer as well as a preacher and his versatility was shown in the vast range of subjects upon which he wrote. He produced numerous newspaper articles. His piquant humour and easy grace in this field were handed down to his illustrious sons and grandchildren. In 1848 Dr. Hemphill was elected by Synod to the chair of Latin in Erskine College and removed from Long Cane to make his home in Due West. His people gave him up with great reluctance.
On November 1, 1850, Dr. H. T. Sloan was ordained and installed at Long Cane and this marked the beginning of a long and fruitful ministry. The joint churches of Long Cane and Cedar Springs were his sole pastorate and for forty years he laboured with faithfulness and loyalty among his people, gaining their fidelity and love in return. There are many of us present today who remember well his clear and musical voice in which he delivered, with great persuasiveness, his appeals to the sinner to “turn ye, turn ye from your sins, why would you die, O House of Israel?” He was especially given to texts of repentance, forgiveness and salvation. His style was evangelistic and through his efforts many were drawn within the folds of the church. He had a commanding presence and his perfection of manners was almost synonymous with his name. He was punctual in attendance upon meetings of Presbytery and Synod, missing not more than one of each in all the forty years of his pastorate. He was equally faithful in attending meetings of the Board of Trustees of Erskine College and commencement at Due West. Those who attended services at Long Cane and Cedar Springs during Dr. Sloan’s pastorate well remember his announcement made every Sabbath: “By Divine permission there will be preaching here this day two weeks, next Sabbath at Cedar Springs” - or if at Cedar Springs the announcement would state that the next Sabbath’s service would be held at Long Cane. It was during Dr. Sloan’s pastorate that the present church building was erected. Besides its porch with classic columns, its gallery around three sides and other distinguishing features that remain today there was a session house to the rear at the left where timid applicants for church membership faced stern interrogators. It was in this session house too, that the guilty culprits faced a stern tribunal and had justice meted out to them - perhaps a surer justice than one citizen of the community felt that he received in the local civil court. The magistrate, Squire Alex McCaslan, was a member at Long Cane, the defendant John Baughman, was a good Baptist. After receiving an adverse decision in his case the culprit in the eyes of the law remarked “One thing certain and show nobody can’t justice here cep’n he be a Seceeder.”
In its original form the church did not have the small session rooms partitioned off to the left and right of the pulpit as they are today but its entire body was needed to accommodate the vast throngs who came to hear Dr. Sloan. It was only after nearby churches were organized at Abbeville, Troy, Bradley, and other places, drawing their congregations from here and Cedar Springs, that space in the church could be spared.
Dr. H. T. Sloan Resigns
On account of failing health Dr. Sloan gave up his charge in 1890. One has truly said of him. “He tenderly bore in his arms the lambs of the flock, placing upon their young brows the seal of the covenant of baptism, and when these had grown to manhood and womanhood he united them in the holy bonds of wedlock with pious admonition, and when later on the Reaper came, as he so often did with sickle keen, and reaped the bearded grain, in melting tones and more melting words he consigned them to their last resting place.”
Dr. R. F. Bradley
It was a most fitting thing that for their sixth pastor the congregation at Long Cane should call one who had been reared in the very shadow of the church, whose ancestors for three generations were ruling elders of the church. Robert Foster Bradley was installed as pastor at Long Cane on December 5, 1891. His has been a long and tender ministry among people whom he knows so well and whose every tradition is familiar to him and whose families are linked inseparably with his own. Dr. Bradley is today the honored and revered pastor-emeritus of this flock. For almost forty years, with keen intellect and alert mind, he has ably preached sermons showing great depth of thought. Aside from his pastoral work he founded and published for two years “The Psalm-Singer” which he afterwards sold. He proposed the first Pan Psalmody Council which was held at Belfast, Ireland. He visited in the “Old Country” the places where the church had its beginnings and whence the early settlers came to America. Today Dr. Bradley wears his years with dignity and grace and faces the future with calm serenity.
The congregations of Long Cane and Cedar Springs for so many years have been joined under one pastorate that the history of one must necessarily be almost the history of the other. However, when the Long Cane congregation called Dr. Bradley to preach for them they separated themselves from Cedar Springs and from the beginning of his pastorate he held services here every Sabbath. Owing to his declining health Dr. Bradley gave up active charge of this congregation at the meeting of Presbytery last year. For the past year Rev. W. C. Kerr, pastor of the church at Abbeville, has ably supplied the pulpit here on alternate Sabbaths and has done excellent work in reorganization of the Sabbath School as well as pastoral work.
It is a unique fact that in the 150 years of her history Long Cane has been served by only six regular pastors and even more remarkable that for the past eighty years she has had just two - Dr. Sloan and Dr. Bradley each having served a period of about forty years. These six pastors have stood out as foremost ones in their day and time in wisdom, learning, and spirituality. They have been men who well deserved the cultured and appreciative congregations that have been accustomed to gather here. Each of these ministers has taken active and leading parts in the organization of or carrying on the work of the various bodies of the church.
Elders and Deacons
Upholding these pastors as elders and deacons were such men as Robert Foster, Elijah Sinclair, Mr. Patterson, James McBryde, Arthur Morrow, Robert Gibson, William Robinson, William McGaw, John Patterson, John Young, A. Thomson, Samuel Leard, Hugh McBryde, James Foster, James Cochran, John Devlin, William Dale, Robert Drennon, Samuel McQuerns, Adam Stewart, Robert M. Mealy, Archibald Kennedy, John Bradley, Dr. George W. Pressly, Harper Foster, Samuel Foster, Robert Drennon, P. H. Bradley, W. K. Bradley, Squire McLane, Samuel Jordan, David Morrah, Dr. John Hearst, David Wardlaw, A. P. Weed, John McCreary, J. J. Shanks, James Lesley, William Gibson, A. Boyd, S. B. McClinton, Dr. Robert Devlin, Dr. J. L. Pressly, J. H. Chiles, John P. Kennedy, Dr. A. T. Wideman, David McLane, E. W. Watson, J. C Lindsay, Adam Wideman, W. Butler, Dr. J. D. Neel, J. L. Drennon, W. P. Kennedy, J. A. Devlin, J. H. McClinton, R. W. Lites, T. M. Jay, J. E. Bradley, W. P. Wideman, John Lyon, Andy Brown, J. H. Morrah, Ed Cowan, A. W. Young, S. P. Morrah, W. H. Kennedy, W. D. Morrah, J. U. Wardlaw, W. W. Wardlaw, G. P. Watkins, J. A. Young, J. C. Dansby, T. W. Cowan, J. H. Drennon, J. L. Kennedy.
The list of these names reads much like the roster of the church for they were mainly, the heads of families who, with their descendants and relatives have helped fill the church role. Many distinguished statesmen, doctors, lawyers, educators, writers, and at least a score of ministers have gone out from Long Cane and Cedar Springs.
Ministers were Dr. John T. Pressly, Dr. Joseph Pressly, Dr. E. E. Pressly, Dr. Jas. P. Pressly, Dr. David Pressly, Dr. J. E. Pressly, Rev. Joseph McCreary, Rev. William Patton, Rev. E. L. Patton, L.L.D., Rev. W. W. Patton, Rev. Samuel Morris, Rev. John Hemphill, Rev. Jas. Weed, Rev. S. P. Robinson, Rev. J. C. McDonald, Dr. R. F. Bradley, Dr. E. B. Kennedy, and Dr. I. N. Kennedy. Long Cane and Cedar Springs have sent out more than the usual quota of missionaries. From the family of Dr. J. D. Neel the beloved and lamented Miss Lavinia Neel and Mrs. Katharine Neel Dale dedicated themselves in their youth to mission work in Mexico and Miss Mary Kennedy is an active missionary in India. Mrs. Mary Bradley Pressly, who was born and partly reared in the environs of Long Cane, is actively engaged in mission work in Mexico with her husband, Rev. H. E. Pressly.
Long Cane for many years was noted for its exceptionally fine choir, first under the able leadership of Dr. A. T. Wideman whose excellent voice was surpassed only by that of his son Hon. W. P. Wideman, upon whose shoulders the mantle of his father fell as choir leader. Mr. W. P. Wideman’s fame as a singer was not local for he was in demand throughout much of the South as a song leader and entertainer. One who knew music and was capable of judging said that if Mr. Wideman had been given equal opportunities of voice culture he would have rivalled Caruso. Mr. Wideman was ably supported in the choir by many excellent voices of the young people of the church. On all occasions the music was fine. One particular occasion when it was very exceptional was in 1890 at the celebration here of the centennial of the first Presbytery. The combined choirs of Long Cane and Cedar Springs rendered beautiful anthems at that celebration. Tho no organ was used in those days the music was unerringly pitched in perfect key. Once Dr. Sloan invited Dr. D. G. Phillips to hold a meeting at Long Cane. After a morning sermon they recessed for lunch to resume the services immediately afterward. When the time came for reconvening, the congregation assembled but the young members of the choir loitered on the outside. Dr. Phillips gave out a song number and there being no choir to raise the tune W. K. Bradley, who made no claim to musical talent, rose to the occasion - at the same time rising to his feet the better to reach the high notes - and pitched the tune, his only error being in setting a long-meter Psalm to a short-meter tune. Of course there was much cutting off and adding of words at the end of each line to fit the tune and needless to say no one could join Mr. Bradley in his original version so he sang the song through its entire length as a solo. Dr. Phillips afterward said, “I could not laugh in the pulpit so I stood up and wept.”
Besides the organizations of two Presbyteries, one at Long Cane in 1790 and the second one at Cedar Springs 1801, there have been numerous meetings of Presbytery and Synod at these historic churches and in those days it was easy to entertain these bodies for the country was more densely populated, with many large and comfortable homes. It is said that in Dr. Sloan’s time there was easily enough wealth to make a million dollars in a comparatively small radius and those were the days when a million dollars was no paltry sum.
In the history of any people there is much that is sacred, much that is tender, and much that is ludicrous. Long Cane has had its share of all of these and an account of its history would not be complete without mention of them. One of the most impressive scenes that lingers in my mind today is that, on communion occasions, of the faithful ex-slaves partaking of the sacrament. After all of the white members of the church had communed at the long tables spread in immaculate white before the alter, two of the elders were accustomed to go to the foot of the gallery stairs and usher a line of humble colored worshippers down each aisle to the table and there they were served by the most dignified elders of the church. A more appealing sight I’ve never seen and their meek devoutness was a lesson for every one present.
Hymns Sung By Germans
At one time a colony of Germans, whom my grandfather has brought to America as an experiment, lived in the environs of Long Cane on his plantation. Conscientious scruples would not permit my grandfather to let these people go without religious services so several times each year he sent to Walhalla for Mr. Probst, a Lutheran minister, to come and preach to them. These services were held in the church and Long Cane, perhaps, has the distinction of being the only church in the Synod in which hymns were sung. The preaching and singing were in German and every person joined lustily in the singing, tho each in a different key, and what they lacked in euphony was made up in volume of sound.
The lives of the people of Long Cane and Cedar Springs were closely interwoven and there were many intermarriages among them. They all felt a warm affection for one another and a deep trust as was exemplified in Mr. Johnny Creswell, the father of the Creswells of today. A member of Mr. Creswell’s family was sick and he made the tedious journey on horseback from his home near Long Cane to get Dr. George Pressly at Cedar Springs. Dr. Pressly was growing old and had taken a young partner to help in his practice. Mr. Creswell arrived at Cedar Springs to find the old doctor gone so he has to take the young assistant home with him. “Well Mary,” he said to his wife on his return, “we will just have to trust in the Lord. The old doctor was gone and I had to bring the young one.”
The convivial cup was indulged in by more than one member of the congregation and sometimes, to their eventual woe, it was partaken too freely. Uncle Wilse Watkins, who was a favourite character with old and young, was reported and called before the session for drinking. Upon being asked by Dr. Sloan if it was true that he had been drinking he replied with characteristic honesty, “Yes, it is true and I am sorry of it, but I have had more fun in one hour than Tatum Wideman and Billy Bradley have had in their whole lives.”
The church, on at least one occasion, was put to other than religious use. The culprit, this time, was a hen. It was in the midst of preaching when Dr. Phillips, again, was filling the pulpit for Dr. Sloan. The hen having found a quiet, secluded spot in the gallery for a nest early in the day remained there until she had laid an egg, then, in characteristic feminine fashion, began making hysterical clattering and cackling over her accomplishment, flying up to the gallery railing and walking along the ledge as her vociferous noise fairly drowned out Dr. Phillips’ voice. Dr. Sloan stood this as long as he could and finally, picking up the first thing at hand, a Psalm book, he flung it at the hen. She came fluttering and flapping down, causing much consternation below amid waving of arms and clutching of Sunday bonnets. Aunt Statia Wideman was heard to remark, “I’ll see that that hen doesn’t get to that church tomorrow,” and, true to her words, she was at church betimes the next morning standing sentinel against all hens that might choose the church for a nesting place.
For many years a time that has been eagerly anticipated by old and young is the annual “Big Meeting” in August. On these occasions there are three days of preaching culminating in the communion on good sermons, powerful prayers and excellent music to constitute a spiritual feast and, at the noon hour, an abundant lunch which, to the young at least, was the crowning event of the meeting.
First Marriage in Church
The church passed its 150th anniversary without a marriage having been solemnized in it. However this record was broken on the eighth of last November when amid beautiful floral decorations Miss Roberta Wilson and Mr. Matthew Moore Cox were joined in wedlock here by Dr. E. B. Kennedy.
The first infant to be baptized in this church was the late John L. Kennedy, son of Boggs and Mary McCaslan Kennedy, who afterward became a deacon in the church.
The women of the community have always taken an active part in the affairs and support of the church. The names of those who have gone to be “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” and to hear the “well-done” of their beloved Master occupy a fragrant spot in our memories today. The Long Cane Missionary Society today is doing a most noteworthy work. Banded together in this organization are not only the members at Long Cane but also members of the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches who live in this community and have no nearby organizations of their own. Their spirit of fellowship and unity of purpose is most praiseworthy and, under the efficient leadership of Miss Clara Wideman, they are accomplishing much in a spiritual and material way. This group is one of the leading ones of the Presbyterial.
With the passing of years great changes have taken place. The heads of old families have passed away and many of the younger generations have gone forth to broader fields of activity. Younger and more accessible churches have drawn their quota from Long Cane. Changing times and industrial conditions have collected many of the rural population into larger centres. And so, with such drains upon them, the congregation at Long Cane has dwindled down to the faithful few who, tho small in number, have lost nothing in spirituality. They continue to gather here to keep the covenant and to say with the Psalmist: “I will abide in Thy tabernacle forever. I will trust to the covert of Thy wings.”