Great Scots

Scottish Name List


Photo Journal


Visit our Blog



Francis Makemie

Church Founder. Colonial American
Advocate of Religious Freedom.

Religious liberty wasn’t always guaranteed in early America. In 1707 the Rev. Francis Makemie was jailed and charged with flouting a prohibition against Presbyterian religious services in Taunton, Massachusetts. Some English colonists hoped to import their persecution of Presbyterians — mainly Scots and Ulster Scots. But the Scots resisted with the same fierce, sullen resentment evident in Scotland and Ulster. The Scots were intensely religious and saw no reason to compromise. At his trial in New York, the Rev. Makemie delivered a powerful polemic on religious liberty that brought about his acquittal. More important was the fact that his masterly arguments were disseminated widely and were a powerful force in crystallizing public opinion on the side of religious freedom in America. Makemie was born about 1658 in Ulster of Scottish parents. He studied for the Presbyterian ministry at the University of Glasgow. Following his ordination in Scotland in 1683, he came to America to minister to Presbyterian congregations in Maryland and Virginia. Unfortunately, he died at the apex of his career in 1708, only one year after his acquittal. Though he is not well known, even in his own church, the Rev. Francis Makemie is distinguished as the founder of the Presbyterian Church in America. He was the organizer of the first American Presbytery and was the first Moderator of the American Presbyterian Church. Perhaps his greatest contribution to America was his influence on religious liberty. In 1908, exactly 200 years after his death, the American Presbyterian Historical Society erected a monument at his gravesite near Holden’s Creek, Virginia, to one of the great figures in the American Presbyterian Church.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546