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Five Shiploads of Settlers to South Carolina

Not that long ago in Ulster or North Ireland. some 250 Christians gathered at a crossroads in County Antrim, known as the Vow, to remember the ordination of the Rev. William Martin. That ordination took place on this day, July 2, 1757. He was the first Covenanter minister ordained in Ulster. He had a wide place of ministry, essentially covering two counties. In fact, in seven separate towns, he pastored various societies. In addition to his pastoral role, he became the voice of opposition to the Anglican authorities who sought to place huge rent demands on the Presbyterian tenants, often evicting them from the land for failure to pay those demands.

Sometime during the year 1770, Rev. Martin received a call from the Scot-Irish settlers in South Carolina to come and pastor the church at Rocky Creek.  After prayerful consideration, Rev. Martin decided to go.  But being a true shepherd of the flock, he urged a mass movement of his congregations in Ulster to join him in South Carolina. Think of the administration gifts needs to move shiploads of settlers to South Carolina that year of 1772. But that is exactly what occurred. Five ships—the James and Mary, the Free Mason, the Lord Dunluce, the Hopewell, and the Pennsylvania Farmer—carried over 1200 Scot Irish from Ulster to South Carolina. And while some went to other areas of the South, most settled in the region around Rocky Creek.

As astonishing as this move was, consider the fact that this large number of settlers were composed of several factions of Presbyterians from the old country. There were Associate Presbyterians, Covenanters, Burgher Presbyterians, Anti-burgher Presbyterians, and Seceders. All of them came together in the local congregation known as Catholic Presbyterian Church. An interesting fact which shows up in the record is that the families lived in tents on their property until the church building was erected! The Lord came first.

When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Rev. Martin preached a fiery sermon reminding the congregation that there was a time to pray and a time to fight. Two companies were raised out of the congregation, and over fifty fought and died from the congregation. Rev Martin himself was imprisoned for six months by the British.

All was not right however with Rev. Martin himself. After returning to the parish for three years, he was let go by the congregation for “intemperate” remarks. Finally in 1801, six charges were brought against him. Two of these were habitual drinking and the holding of slaves. He was deposed by the Presbytery in 1801. He died five years later in 1806.

Words to Live By: We cannot take away the amazing work which Rev. Martin did in transporting so many Christian Presbyterians to the new land of opportunity. Certainly, he remains as one of the stalwarts in establishing Presbyterianism in the South. But at the same time, we who are involved in the Lord’s work must pray and work to remain in good standing with the Lord. It is so easy to fail and fall away from the standards of His Word. So people, pray much for your pastors that they will remain solid in the Lord until their labors are finished on the earth.

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