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Boanerges! – A Son of Thunder

Son of the Rev. Thomas Craighead and Margaret Craighead, Alexander was born near Donegal, Ireland on March 18, 1707. His father was a Presbyterian minister who immigrated to America in 1715, settling with his family in Freetown, Massachusetts. In 1721 the family moved to New Jersey and later to Delaware, then finally to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.

Alexander was, in the modern parlance, homeschooled, taught by his father, even studying theology under his father’s guidance, and successfully so, in that he was licensed by the Donegal Presbytery in the fall of 1734. His first labors as a pastor were with a congregation at the Meeting House Springs, about two miles north of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and by some accounts Alexander was the first pastor to preach west of hte Susquehanna River. He was ordained by the same Presbytery in November of 1735 and installed as the pastor of the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church.

Rev. Craighead reportedly preached with great zeal, and was a supporter of revivals. He was an admirer of the efforts of the Rev. George Whitefield and even accompanied him on some of his tours. But Craighead’s zeal was not tempered by prudence, and he spoke freely in criticism of others whom he deemed lax in their discipline or even unorthodox in their theology. Rev. Craighead expected Presbyterian pastors in the colonies to uphold the practices of their home church across the ocean. He was unrelenting in his standards, in his expectations, and in his accusations against those who did not measure up. Charges and division followed, as Craighead’s strict views ran counter to the majority. Finally the Synod of Philadelphia expelled him.

And so Rev. Craighead migrated yet again, and settled on the Catawba river in Mecklenberg county, North Carolina. Here he was installed as the pastor of both the Rocky River and Sugaw Creek congregations, in 1758. His final years as a pastor were spent here. Fiercely independent and an ardent critic of the King, Craighead conveyed his values to his congregations, and those same members of his congregations later formed a Convention which met at Charlotte, framing what has been termed the First Declaration of Independence. This was in May of 1775.

After long years of ministry, the Rev. Alexander Craighead died at his home near Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 12, 1766, and was buried in the cemetery adjoining his church.

Words to Live By:
Aptly named, Alexander Craighead was a fiery, irrascible, headstrong man with definite opinions about most everything. It is not often easy to hold to a fervent zeal, while at the same time remaining peaceable and calm. In all things, and at all times, we are to stand immovably fixed upon the truths of God’s Word. May God give us wisdom, to know when to be zealous, and when to seek peace.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

For Further Study:
The Presbyterian Church at Rocky River, by Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr. (1954)
A History of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, by Neill Roderick McCeachy (1954).”

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