The Presbyterian Patriot
by Rev. David T. Myers
Born in North Ireland, John Haslet was the eldest son of Joseph and Ann Haslet. His father was a Presbyterian well-to-do merchant and tenant farmer. After John finished up his early education in Ulster, he went to Scotland and the University of Glasgow for ministerial training. The Derry Presbytery in 1750 licensed him and later in 1752, ordained him as a teaching elder. Try as I could, I could not find any record of him serving as a pastor or teacher there. He married a Presbyterian minister’s daughter in 1750, but who tragically died in childbirth after birthing their daughter Mary.
North Ireland was desperate for its living conditions, so John moved with his young daughter to the three southern counties of Pennsylvania around 1757, near Milford, Pennsylvania. There he married Jemina Molleston, and with her fathered four children.
It is strangely silent in that there is no record that he served a Presbyterian church or ministry here either. Instead, there must have been some training in the medical field, as he was known as a “doctor” in Pennsylvania.
With the French and Indian War starting, he volunteered to serve as a captain in that war with the Pennsylvania militia. We know that he participated in the Forbes expedition which captured Fort Duquesne in November 1758. Returning to his home in Pennsylvania, two changes occurred which brought him fame.
First, the southern counties of Pennsylvania in 1776 separated from that “state,” and became the new state of Delaware. And second, with the outbreak of the American revolution, now Colonel John Haslet became the commander of a nine hundred Delaware regiment known as the “Fighting Blue Hens.” It would take a courageous and sacrificial role in the Revolutionary battles of Brooklyn, Trenton, and Princeton, for all purposes ceasing to exist in the cause of liberty. It was at the latter battle of Princeton, New Jersey on January 3, 1777 that Colonel Haslet was killed.
It is interesting that he was buried in the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The custom then was that no one could be buried in a Presbyterian cemetery except Presbyterians! So his Reformed faith must have stayed with him all during his time in America, even though there is no record of him serving as pastor/teacher of a Presbyterian church.
Delaware as a state recognized his true home in that on this day, July3rd, 1841, they moved his remains under a military honor guard to the Presbyterian cemetery in Dover, Delaware. There his remains are in an honored position today, as a hero of the state of Delaware.
Words to Live By:
Why our Presbyterian figure honored on this day did not serve his and our Lord Jesus as a Presbyterian pastor or teacher is not known to us. In Scotland, he went to theological seminary, was licensed, and ordained by a Scottish presbytery. What the Presbyterian historical record says here is that he did not serve such a calling, there or here. Yet what he did serve was important so that others could worship and serve the Lord Jesus in Presbyterian churches and agencies in the newly formed country known as America. Let us rejoice in that truth and leave the rest of our questions to our Sovereign God.