This "Sermon" contained biographical information on Reverend Hugh McAden and historical information on the Red House Presbyterian Church. A partial transcription is set forth at the end of this article.
Here is the "Introductory" by the minister in 1918, Numa Reid Claytor (1879-1949).
"In the Summer of 1913 a Committee of Red House Church was appointed to receive funds for the erection of a new building. And due to the diligence of the Committee and the liberality of the people, over $7,000.00 was raised. Mr. H. C. Linthicum, of Durham, N.C. submitted plans for the building which we accepted, and Mr. Henry Fields, of Roxboro, N.C. was given the contract for building. A few changes were made in original plan, which added $1,000 to the cost of the building. A number of friends gave time and labor to the getting of material and the result--the building which we today Dedicate to God as a place of worship.
"By God's Providence, for over a hundred years the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached at this Church, and may the effort of God's people in building this edifice result in the continuation of the preaching of the saving Gospel at this place for ages to come."
N. R. Claytor, Pastor
September 1, 1918
SERMON: Preached at Red House Church at the Unveiling of A Monument to the Memory of the Rev. Hugh McAden
It is a singular co-incident that on this very day one hundred and fifty-eight years ago, the Rev. Hugh McAden preached his first sermon, as a Pioneer Presbyterian Missionary in North Carolina. That sermon was preached at the house of Solomon Debow on the Hico river, not so very far from this place, Aug. 3, 1755. And today we are assembled here to do honor to the name and memory of that good and faithful Servant of God, who has long since passed away.
On the 21st of January, 1781, more than one hundred and thirty-two years ago, there was a funeral or burial service here: The Re. Hugh McAden, having died the previous day, was buried. There are now no living witnesses of the scenes of that day: it was a cold winter day; a day of sadness and gloom; the people were not only distressed at the death of their faithful Minister, but the country was in the throes of the great Revolutionary War! At this very time this section of the country was overrun by two contending armies, the army of Gen. Greene was retreating across the Dan River, and he was closely followed by the army of Lord Cornwallis, and the latter was burning the homes and pillaging the farms of the people, leaving desolation in their track.
Within two weeks of this burial day, a detachment of British soldiers had encamped on the grounds and in the yard of Red House Church and while here many cruel depredations were committed in this neighborhood. They remained here until Gen. Greene recrossed the Dan River, and engaged the British army in the famous battle of Guilford Court House, March 14, 1781. It is said that the British had a particular spite or animosity against the few Presbyterian Ministers in the country, because they were the counselors, and the chief leaders of the people in the great cause of American Independence. Therefore, the house of Mr. McAden was ransacked and burned, and all of his books and papers and property was destroyed, except a few small articles of small value and the greater part of his Journal, which was written in his early life.
I have been in the house of Mrs. James Penn, of Danville, Va., who is a lineal descendant of the fourth generation from Mr. McAden, a small table used as a Candle Stand, and a mended China Cup which was shot and shattered from the hand of a servant on the day of the destruction. The house of Dr. Caldwell in Guilford County met the same fate.
But not satisfied with the destruction of Mr. McAden's property, tradition says that his new-made grave was profanely opened and his body taken up and mutilated. It is said that in re-filling the grave the work was not more than half done, hence the explanation of the sink in the ground which has so conspicuously marked his resting place for so many years. If this tradition is true, it proves conclusively, the fact of Mr. McAden's patriotism to his country, and of his great influence among the people. But his noble spirit had fled to God, far beyond the reach of all enemies.
Allow me to say just here, that under all these circumstances, I do not think it at all strange or surprising that his grave remained unmarked, as the years rolled on, until all his immediate descendants had passed away. But he was not forgotten, for the Lord hath said: "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever: And the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
May we not apply these Scriptures today, in speaking of this great and good man? Behold: after a lapse of nearly one hundred and thirty-three years, a few of his descendants, with others, and notably among them, Mrs. Frances McAden Summey, of Charlotte, N.C., and the Rev. John McAden Rose, D.D., of Laurinburg, N.C., have generously and kindly provided the means, and made possible the unveiling of this beautiful monument today. All honor and praise to them.
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In the long list of Ministers of Red House Church the name of Hugh McAden stands first. His name also stands first in the long list of the ministers of Orange Presbytery, the first and oldest Presbyterian Organization of a Church Court in North Carolina. Then comes the names of William Moore, James H. Bowman, Hugh Shaw, John McLean, A. D. Montgomery, George W. Ferrill, and again A. D. Montgomery, N. H. Harding, John Paisley, S. A. Stanfield, T. U. Faucette, M. McG. Shields, P. C. Morton, Joseph Evans, E. H. Harding, and your present beloved pastor N. R. Claytor.
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There is no living witness, and his Journal, which was written in his early life, is about all that remains. We can read, however, between the lines of his Journal and understand much of his life and character. He evidently was the common people's man, making no attempt at great worldy things, but always faithful in his Master's work. It is plain that he was a noble and brave-hearted man, a spiritually minded man, possessing a wonderful will power, and in the face of great dangers and difficulties, exercising an unwavering faith in the lord as his guiding star.
Mr. McAden was born in Pennsylvania about the year 1715, perhaps a little later, and was educated at the old Princeton, N.J. He was licensed to preach by the New Castle Presbytery in the spring of 1754. He was appointed a Missionary to the South, to visit the vacant congregations in North Carolina, and left Pennsylvania to fulfill this mission on June 3, 1755. His mode of travel was horseback, and for two weary months he wended his way through Pennsylvania and Virginia, enduring many hardships and dangers, before he reached North Carolina. The French and Indian wars were now in full blast, and on his way in Virginia he heard of Braddock's defeat which greatly discouraged him, and he saw the scattered families panic-stricken, building rude forts for protection against the Savages, whose deadly tomahawk was busy with inhuman murders.
He says in his Journal, "Alone in the wilderness! Shall I go on or shall I turn back?" He determined, by the grace of God, to push on, trusting in the Lord for protection and support. He says, "Sometimes a house in ten miles, and sometimes not that," but he pushed on, for the glory of God and the good of men. He reached the borders of this State about the first of August, and on August 3, 1755 he preached his first sermon in North Carolina at the home of Solomon Debow on the "Haw River."
Mr. McAden says he crossed the Dan River five miles above the home of Capt. Moore in Halifax Co., Va. Therefore, if this the true, and since the home of Mr. Debow was in N.C., that house must have been on the northern edge of Person Co., not far from the point where the Hico River crosses the State line, and not far from the railroad station called Alton, Va. On Aug 6th, he left the home of Mr. Debow, and he says, "I rode ten miles to the Chapel on South Hico, where I preached to a number of Church people and some Presbyterians. After the sermon they seemed exceedingly pleased, and returned abundance of thanks for my sermon, and honestly entreated me by all means to call upon them as I came back and showed a very great desire that all our Ministers should call upon them as they travel back and forward."
Now then, it is a matter of great interest to us to know just where this "the Chapel on South Hico" was located. The Hico River, proper, is formed by the junction of two streams, one of which is called "Hico Creek," flows in a northeasterly direction through the eastern side of Caswell County, and the other stream flows in a northern direction through the western side of Person County, and the two streams form a junction in the northwestern part of Person County making the "Hico River," and this junction of the two streams is about four or five miles directly east of Semora, N.C., which is the Post Office of the Red House Church. The "Hico Creek," from this junction in Person County up to its beginnings in Caswell County, was evidently called "South Hico," and along this stream, more than a hundred years ago, there were three Presbyterian Churches.
The Greer's Church was called "Upper Hico," the Red House Church was called "Middle Hico," and the Barnett's Church was called "Lower Hico." The latter Church was in Person County and was very large at one time, and perhaps it was not very far from the home of Mr. Debow, but it has long since ceased to exist as a Presbyterian Church. The name "Middle Hico" was changed to "Red House" about the year 1806, during the ministry of Rev. Hugh Shaw. I have said these particular things that we might locate, if possible, "the Chapel" at which Mr. McAden preached one hundred and fifty-eight years ago. Let us now remember that it is nine miles by rail from Alton, Va., to Semora, N.C., and one mile from Semora to Red House Church. And if Mr. Debow lived on the south side of the Hico River, somewhere about opposite Alton, Va., then we know that the distance from that point to the Red House Church is just about ten miles, the same distance covered by Mr. McAden from Mr. Debow's home to the Chapel on South Hico. Therefore, we conclude, and indeed are convinced, that "the Chapel" was none other than the original "Middle Hico" and present Red House Church. This Chapel was perhaps, an organized Church at this very time.
Mr. McAden says he went home from preaching with Mr. Aaron Vanhook, five miles, and thense to Eno, "about twenty miles," and we know it is just about twenty miles from here to Eno Church in Orange County.
Mr. McAden then went to the Hawfields Church, and having preached at Eno and Hawfields, he went across Orange Co. into Granville County on the Tar River, thence to Grassy Creek and Fishing Creek, and thence he returned to the Eno and Hawfields settlements. He then went to the Buffalo settlement in Guilford County, and thence through Davidson, Rowan and Cabarrus Counties into Mecklenburg County. From here he went into the land of the Catawba Indians in South Carolina, and returned again to Mecklenburg County.
He then went to the Scotch settlements on the Cape Fear River, and remained for some time in Cumberland County. In that section of the country there was a region known as the "Welsh Tract," where there were a large number of Presbyterians and also in Duplin County there was a place or Church known as "Goshen," or "Goshen Grove," where there were a large number of Presbyterians "pretty well organized." The people, in connection with the "Welsh Tract" people, earnestly entreated him to remain with them, and they jointly made out a call for him to become their pastor. Mr. McAden then went across the eastern part of the State, and back again into Granville County, and thence across the country, and no doubt by this place, to Eno and Hawfields again. From there he returned to Mr. Vanhook's house, and on May 2, 1756, he preached at the home of Mr. John McFarland on the Hico River, and on May 6, 1756 he took his departure from North Carolina, being accompanied as far as Dan River by Mr. Solomon Debow.
Mr. McAden was in North Carolina exactly nine months during this trip, preaching almost daily to numerous scattered people and at numerous places. His compensation was exceedingly meagre, and he had to endure all sorts of hardships and dangers, and yet not a murmur or note of complaint fell from his lips. At this early period in the history of our country, there were but few roads, no mode of travel but horseback, no mail facilities, and the country was infested with hostile tribes of Indians. Surely it required a brave heart, filled with the love of God and a passion for the salvation of immortal souls, to do these things.
Mr. McAden returned to Pennsylvania and soon afterwards accepted, if he had not already done so, the calls to Eastern North Carolina. We do not know the exact date of his ordination, neither do we know the exact date of his return to Duplin Co., N.C. Mr. Foote in his sketches of N.C., says he was ordained by New Castle Presbytery in 1757, and dismissed to Hanover Presbytery in 1759. But Dr. Hodge, in his History of the Presbyterian Church, records him as a Member of Hanover Presbytery in 1758. Since he returned to Pennsylvania early in May 1756, it would seem most probable that he was ordained sometime during the summer or fall 1756, or early in 1757. It is generally conceded, however, that he was at his post as Pastor, in Duplin County in the year 1757. Thus he became the first pioneer Missionary of the Presbyterian Church who permanently settled in the State of North Carolina.
It is said that the Rev. James Campbell, who was not in connection with the North Synods, came to North Carolina and settled among the Scotch Irish, on the Cape Fear River, in the year 1757. It is a question probably never to be settled, which of the two men actually set up housekeeping first in the State? Bur from all the information I have been able to gather, I am satisfied that McAden was not only the first Presbyterian Missionary, but the first Presbyterian Minister to permanently locate in North Carolina.
He remained with his charge in Duplin County about ten years, until 1767 or 1768. At a meeting of Hanover Presbytery at Buffalo Church in Guilford County, March 2, 1768, he accepted the call from "Hyco -- (Red House), Dan River and Country Line" Churches and it is almost certain that he had already moved to this neighborhood before that date. Mr. McAden lived here faithfully preaching the Word, and ministering to the people for at least thirteen years, and on January 20, 1781 his spirit went home to God, to shine as the brightness of the firmament in his kingdom of glory forever and ever.
One of his sons, Dr. John McAden, in a letter written in 1845 says -- "My father was a very systematic man, once a year he visited with his Elders all the families of the Church, and had worship with them, once a year he catechized the young people, and three days in the week he spent in special study, and if he walked in the fields, he always carried his Bible with him." In his Journal there are many short and tender prayers for the people, and for God's blessing upon his efforts to save souls, especially when he saw evidences of the Spirit's power.
Surely he was a wise man, living for the glory of God, and turning many to righteousness, and surely he shall shine in the kingdom of God's glory as the brightness of the firmament forever and ever, and in the estimation of men as the stars forever and ever. Surely he was one "to be in everlasting remembrance" and this monument over his grave, which we unveil today, will tell to succeeding generations something at least, of his great and noble life, and of his faithful and consecrated service for the Master.
O ye sons and daughters of this historic old Red House Church let us not be satisfied to strive and toil and suffer to reach heaven only empty-handed; but let us go forth, as wise men and women bearing precious seed and doubtless we shall come again rejoicing bringing our sheaves with us, and we too "shall be in everlasting remembrance."
D. I. Craig
1. Paragraph breaks were added to enhance readability.
2. Uncertain is why this pamphlet "The Unveiling of a Monument to the Memory of the Rev. Hugh McAden" was not published until the dedication of the Red House Church September 1, 1918. Apparently the monument unveiling occurred August 3, 1913, some five years earlier.