BLAIRS OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA Part 4

*16 Members of the Turner family represented the line of the Rev. Samuel Blair at the 200th anniversary celebration, August 28, 1930, of Fagg’s Manor Presbyterian Church. In the historical pageant, the Rev. J. D. Edmiston—

*1 These dates in all probability might be confined to 1718-1730, or even less, since Samuel came to America “as a boy,” and pursued both classical and theological studies at the Log College. Rev. William Tennent did not settle at Neshaminy until 1726. (See Dr. Archibald Alexander’s letter to Colonel Walter Blair, printed in this volume, and also “The Log College,” by Dr. Alexander, page 171.)

*2 See Longer note 2: The Log College.

*3 The Presbytery of New Brunswick did not exist until 1738. Mr. Samuel Blair was one of its original members. (Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, Vol. VIII, page 50.)

The most important period of his life began when he received a call as the first minister of the church at Fagg’s Manor that winter, was formally installed in April, 1740, and remained its pastor until his death in 1751.

At Fagg’s Manor, Mr. Blair opened a classical and theological school, from which went forth some of the ablest ministers of the Presbyterian Church. **4

In 1740, Mr. Blair made a journey to East Jersey.

In 1741, he seceded with the New Brunswick brethren from the Synod of Philadelphia. **5

Samuel Blair’s marriage to Frances Van Hook occurred in, or previous to, 1735. Their oldest son, Joseph Blair, was born in 1735-6. Frances Blair was the daughter of Hon. Lawrence Van Hook, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, New York. **6

Mr. Blair made missionary journeys into Maryland and Virginia, and a preaching tour in New England during the summer of 1744. To the fact of the latter journey may be due his “Narrative of the Great Revival,” written by the request of the Rev. Mr. Prince, of Boston. **7 We find Rev. Samuel Blair on September 19, 1745, a member of the first

*4 At Fagg’s Manor, Samuel Blair lived on a farm which he bought, and there maintained his academy.

*5 For the Great Revival, in which the Tennents, Blairs, and others of the “New Side” had so great a share, and for the visits of the Rev. George Whitefield to Neshaminy and Fagg’s Manor; for the split in the Presbyterian church into “Old and New Sides” as the result in large part of the Revival, see “Biographical Sketches of the Founder and Principal Alumni of the Log College,” by Archibald Alexander, D. D., 1851; and also “History of the Presbyterian Church of Fagg’s Manor,” by Rev. W. B. Noble, 1876.

*6 Frances Van Hook Blair died in 1786. Her will is on record in the Office of the Register of Wills, West Chester, Pennsylvania. Foote in his “Sketches of Virginia, First Series,” includes a letter from Frances Blair to her children, which is tenderly religious.

*7 The Narrative is printed in full in “The Log College,” pages 173-192.

Synod of New York, which had taken the part of the dissenters of the “New Side” ejected from the Synod of Philadelphia. He was one of the charter trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1746-8, which was established by the Synod of New York. **8

The Rev. Samuel Blair died in Philadelphia, July 5, 1751, aged thirty-nine years. He is buried in the graveyard at Fagg’s Manor Church. **9

“He was truly a burning and a shining light,” says Dr. Alexander, “one of the most learned and profound, as well as pious, excellent, and venerable men of his day. As a preacher Mr. Blair was very eminent. There was a solemnity in his very appearance, which struck his hearers with awe before he opened his mouth. He spoke as in the view of eternity, as in the immediate presence of God.”

Rev. Samuel Davies declared, on his return from Europe,

*8 “Abundant in labors, he exerted his activity not only at home but abroad. He preached wherever there was an opportunity to do good. Profoundly interested in the cause of education, he took an active part in the founding of the College of New Jersey, frequently riding on horseback from here (Fagg’s Manor) to Princeton, a distance of about one hundred miles, to attend the meetings of its trustees. Such incessant toil no physical frame could long endure. His final sickness laid him low.” (Noble’s History of Fagg’s Manor Church.)

*9 The inscription on his tombstone reads:

“Here lieth the body of The Rev. Samuel Blair,

Who departed this life,

The 5th day of July, 1751,

Aged 39 years and 21 days.”

“In yonder sacred house I spent my breath,

Now silent, mouldering, here I lie in death;

These lips shall wake again and yet declare

A dread amen to truths they published there.”

Rev. Samuel Davies declared, on his return from Europe,

*10 The Works of the Reverend Mr. Samuel Blair, Philadelphia, printed and sold by W. Bradford at the Sign of the Bible in Second Street: M D C C L I V

“The Preface to the Reader” begins

“Courteous Reader … ” and is signed

“Thy Soul’s sincere Wellwisher John Blair”

Middle-Spring March 26, 1754

(The volume is octavo and bound in leather.)

“A Sermon by Rev. Samuel Blair and printed by B. Franklin for the author, 1742, Philadelphia.

(Late minister at Shrewsbury, N. J.)”

This thin volume is one of the treasures of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.

Issue of Rev. Samuel Blair and Frances Van Hook Blair

Sons:

Joseph Blair, **11 born 1735 or 1736; died aged 12; buried in the graveyard of Fagg’s Manor church.

William Blair, an attorney; no further information.

Rev. Samuel Blair, Jr., D. D., born at Fagg’s Manor, 1748; died 1810. (See Longer note 3 on page 70.)

Lawrence Blair; no further information.

Isaac Blair, **12 born 1750; died 1752.

Daughters:

Hannah Blair, born at Fagg’s Manor, March 15, 1745; married Rev. William Foster, pastor of Upper Octorora and Doe Run churches, Chester County, Pennsylvania. **13 She died May 14, 1810. She was distinguished for her equanimity of temper, even in view of approaching

*11 The touching inscription on his tombstone reads: —

“Here lyes what remains of Joseph Blair who departed this life May 22nd 1748 aged 12 years.

Singularly dutiful to his Parents and conscientious towards God 1st Thes. 4th Chap. 14 Them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.”

*12 Inscription in Fagg’s Manor Church graveyard: —

“Here lieth the body of Isaac, the son of the Rev. Mr. Samuel Blair and Frances His Wife who departed this Life the 30th of July 1752, Age 1 year and 8 Months.”

*13 Rev. William Foster (1740—1780) was distinguished in the American Revolution for his patriotic spirit. He encouraged, in his sermons, young men to enlist. Parties of British soldiers were sent by Sir William Howe to arrest him, but he escaped capture.

death. Rev. William and Hannah Blair Foster had a large family of children. They have descendants in western Pennsylvania. Stephen Foster, song writer, author of “My Old Kentucky Home,” etc., was their grandson.

Of the following daughters of Rev. Samuel and Frances Blair, we have no dates.

Mary Blair, married the Rev. David Rice, **14 of Hanover County, Virginia. They had eleven children.

Elizabeth Blair, married her first cousin, the Rev. George Duffield, son of her father’s sister, Margaret Blair, who married George Duffield. **15 Issue reported extinct.

Sarah Blair, married the Rev. John Carmichael, a well-known divine, pastor of the old Manor Church at the Forks of the Brandywine in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She was one of three wives, two of whom are buried, as is their husband, in the graveyard of the Manor Church. Sarah’s tomb could not be found there (1930).

Martha Blair, married Dr. Samuel Edmiston, a physician of Fagg’s Manor. Their daughter, Mrs. Margaret D. Turner, lived to be over 90. **16

*14 The Rev. David Rice, known as “Father Rice,” missionary and (it is said) first Presbyterian minister of Kentucky.

*15 The Rev. George Duffield, of Philadelphia, an ardent patriot of the Revolution, Chaplain, with Bishop White, of the Continental Congress, served also with the American Army in New Jersey, a reward of 50 £ on his head. As pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Fourth and Pine Streets, a tablet was erected to his memory in the church, under the lecture-room of which building he was buried.

*16 Members of the Turner family represented the line of the Rev. Samuel Blair at the 200th anniversary celebration, August 28, 1930, of Fagg’s Manor Presbyterian Church. In the historical pageant, the Rev. J. D. Edmiston Turner impersonated his ancestor, Rev. Samuel Blair.

Francina Blair married Mr. James Moore, a farmer.
Susannah Blair married Mr. Sanderson, a merchant.

The will of Rev. Samuel Blair is on record in the Office of the Register of Wills, West Chester, Pennsylvania (1751). He mentions all of the above children, except Joseph, who died 1747-48.

The Log College

This famous classical and theological school at Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about twenty miles from Philadelphia, is thus referred to by the distinguished Archibald Alexander, D.D., President of Princeton, in his book “Biographical Sketches of the Founder and Principal Alumni of the Log College.” (Printed 1851.)

“The place wherein the young men study now, is in contempt called The College. It is a log house, about twenty feet long, and near as many broad; and to me it seemed to resemble the school of the prophets. From the despised place seven or eight worthy ministers of Jesus have lately been sent forth; more are about ready to be sent, and the foundation is now laying for the instruction of many others.”

Of Mr. Tennent, the head of the school: “An old gray-headed disciple and soldier, and eminent servant of Jesus Christ.” (Quoted by Dr. Alexander from the journal of Rev. George Whitefield, November, 1738.)

“It was the first literary institution above the common school in the bounds of the Presbyterian Church.” “An institution of unspeakable importance to the Presbyterian church in this country.” “The germ not only of New Jersey College (Princeton), but of several other colleges risen to high estimation in the country. Most of the ministers who exerted themselves in the establishment of the New Jersey College had received their training within the walls of this humble institution. Besides Dickenson and Burr, who were graduates of Yale College, the active friends and founders of Nassau Hall were the Tennents, Blairs, Finley, Smith, Rogers, Davis, and others.”

Rev. Samuel Blair, Jr., D.D. (1741-1810)

Samuel, son of Rev. Samuel Blair, emigrant, graduated with honor at the College of New Jersey. He declined, at the age of twenty-six, the presidency in order to prefer Dr. Witherspoon for that office. “As colleague minister of Old South Church, Boston, he proved an acceptable and eloquent preacher of the gospel, a beloved shepherd of the flock.” His voice and constitution permanently injured by a shipwreck, he devoted his life to those services of religion within his power: organized (largely) the Presbyterian Church at Germantown and occupied chaplaincies in the Revolutionary army and Congress. He was highly valued in the church assemblies.

Rev. Samuel Blair, Jr., married Susan Shippen, of Germantown, and left descendants.
(See “Blair Family” by Roberdeau Buchanan, in Rare Book Department, Library of Congress.)
The Shippen-Blair House still stands in Germantown, Philadelphia.

Rev. John Blair, Emigrant to America

John Blair, born in 1720, emigrated from Ireland to America early in the 18th Century. He was the younger brother by eight years of Rev. Samuel Blair, emigrant. Their similar lives and connections were often so close that personal history is repeated. Both were brought to this country as boys. Both received a classical and theological education at the Log College, Neshaminy, Pennsylvania. Both were licensed, ordained, and accepted pastoral charges as Presbyterian ministers at an early age. Both were inspired with a zeal for preaching the gospel, and for promoting Christian education; both were fired with a missionary spirit. Samuel and John Blair married early, leaving each a large family of sons and daughters. Both were distinguished for their pulpit excellence and theological learning, Samuel Blair excelling in the former attainment. They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, though divided in death by a score of years.

It becomes suitable, therefore, to distinguish, in its particulars, the career of Rev. John Blair. Whether he accompanied his elder brother Samuel to America, we do not yet know. A family tradition has it that he left Ireland when only six years old. One writer states that “he came to this country when quite young and settled with his father near Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania.”

His arrival in this country probably took place between the dates of 1726 and 1739.

He was licensed to preach by the “New Side” Presbytery of Newcastle, Pennsylvania, and before that must have spent at least several years at the school in Neshaminy.

The Rev. John Blair’s first pastoral charge comprised the three churches of Big Spring (Newville), Middle Spring, and Rocky Spring, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, “then on the very frontier of civilization, where the war-whoop of the savage was still heard. There, at the age of 22 years, he was ordained and installed December 27, 1742.” (Noble’s “History of the Presbyterian Church of Fagg’s Manor.”) “Rev. Blair lived at Middle Spring (near Rocky Spring) in the centre of his large field of labor, on a farm now owned by W. S. Zeegler (1894). He married a Miss Denburrow (Durburrow) of Philadelphia and lived in a style altogether above that of his plain parishioners. He was a great untiring worker. He was frequently absent from the Springs and engaged in revival work and preaching tours in Virginia.” (Rev. Samuel Wylie’s address in “The Centennial Celebration of Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church.”)

“This indefatigable servant of Christ, during this pastorate, made frequent preaching tours, especially southward, for at that time the laborers were few. He penetrated twice to the Valley of Virginia, preaching wherever he went with great acceptance and power, and organizing churches in destitute regions.” (Noble’s “History of the Presbyterian Church of Fagg’s Manor.”) “He visited the valley and places east of the Ridge in 1745, and again in 1746, and during his last visit he organized the congregations of North Mountain, New Providence, Timber Ridge, and Forks of James.” (Foote’s Sketches of Virginia, First Series, page 119.)

In 1757, Rev. John Blair removed to Fagg’s Manor to succeed his brother (deceased 1751) in the pastorate of the church there. How long he had remained as the minister of the Three Springs Churches is uncertain. “Mr. Blair labored at Big Spring six years,” says Mr. Noble. “Sprague, Alexander, and Webster,” says another writer, “agree that Rev. John Blair’s reason for leaving the Springs was due to incursions of Indians, but anyone conversant with that period knows that between the settlers and Indians there were no outbreaks in 1748. We all know that after the disastrous defeat of Braddock, July 9th, 1755, and the retreat of Dunbar the tardy, the valley in every part and especially this part was swept by fire and sword, the scalping knife and tomahawk of an exultant savage foe. Seven hundred families left the valley and 1384 were refugees in Shippensburg. Mr. Blair with his family would then have to flee, in 1755, for their lives. No historian of his life gives the least idea of what he did or where he spent his time, if he left in 1748, until 1757, the date of his next pastorate. Is it likely that this man in the prime of his manhood and in the full possession of his many talents would have remained in idleness those nine years? From such facts the best conclusion is that he left this valley in the autumn of 1755, and in those unsettled times the pastoral relation was not dissolved until 1757 when he accepted a call to the Faggs Manor Church.” (Rev. Samuel S. Whaley in “The Centennial Celebration of Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church.”)

“In 1757 Mr. Blair accepted a call to Fagg’s Manor, and took up both in church and school the work from which his sainted brother had been removed. In both departments he was eminent and successful. He was fully as learned a man and as profound a theologian as his brother, though he does not seem to have equalled him in the fire of pulpit eloquence. Both church and school flourished, and the latter continued to send out able men to preach the gospel. Mr. Blair’s pastorate lasted ten years.” (Noble’s “History of the Presbyterian Church of Fagg’s Manor.”)

“When Dr. Finley, chosen president of Nassau Hall, died, a sum of money having been left for the support of a professor of divinity, Mr. John Blair was elected professor of theology in the College of New Jersey. This invitation he accepted, and removed to Princeton. He was also appointed vice-president of the college, and until the arrival of Dr. Witherspoon, performed (for two years) all the duties of president.” * *22 (“The Log College,” p. 198.)

“John Blair received the honorary degree of A.M. from Princeton in 1760. He was Trustee of Princeton 1766-67, and again 1767-69; Professor of Theology and Moral Philosophy 1767-69, and Vice-President of the College from 1767-1768.” *23

“The funds of the college not being adequate to support a professor of theology distinct from the president, Mr. Blair judged it would be expedient for him to resign. Upon this he received a call to settle as pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in Wallkill (otherwise Goodwill), Orange County, New York. Here he continued to labor until he was called away from the field by death, which occurred Dec. 8, 1771, in his 52nd year. In his last sickness, he imparted his advice to the congregation, and represented to his family the necessity of an interest in Christ. A few nights before he died, he said, ‘Directly I am going to glory — my Master calls me, I must be gone.’” (“The Log College,” pages 198-199.)

In the summer of 1931, Mr. and Mrs. James Sutton Blair paid a visit to Wallkill (or Goodwill), about one-half mile from Montgomery, on the west side of Hudson River, twelve miles below Newburgh. Mrs. Blair stated: “The present parsonage was built about 1818 to replace the former two-story house in which John Blair lived and died. We saw a beautiful carved white wooden colonial mantel which had been removed from the former house. We walked a short distance from the manse to the church. Originally of logs, it had been enclosed in brick, the same dimensions and proportions being maintained. A white marble tablet to the memory of John Blair is on the front wall beside the pulpit, similar to the one on his grave, as given in ‘The Two Parsons.’ (See page 35.) The cemetery is very lovely, enclosed in a stone wall and is beautifully kept. More Revolutionary soldiers are buried there than in any other cemetery west of the Hudson River. The stone that marks John Blair’s grave is upright and tall, made of sandstone. It is in good condition. I asked Mr. Thompson, the minister, if he had any theory as to what happened to the Blair family after John’s death. He said there was no evidence that the widow or any of the family remained, nor is there a grave of any Blair near to John’s. Perhaps they went to Princeton.” *24

“Mr. Blair died of a consumptive disorder. An account of his death was written by his eldest daughter.” (Missionary Magazine, Vol. III, Philadelphia, 1807.)

The following is the inscription on his tombstone, at Wallkill:

“Here lie interred the remains of the Rev. Mr. John Blair, A.M., who departed this life December 6, 1771, in the 52nd year of his age.

He was a gentleman of a masterly genius. A good scholar, and excellent divine. A very judicious, instructive, and solemn preacher. A laborious and successful minister of Christ. An eminent Christian — A man of great prudence and a bright example of every social virtue.

He was some time Vice President of Nassau Hall, and Professor of Divinity in the College of New Jersey, which places he filled with fidelity and reputation. He lived greatly beloved, and died universally lamented.”

“For his large family he amassed no fortune, but he left them what was infinitely better, a religious education, a holy example, and prayers which have been remarkably answered. His disposition was uncommonly patient, placid, benevolent, disinterested and cheerful. He was too mild to indulge bitterness or severity; and he thought that the truth required little else than to be fairly stated to be properly understood. Those who could not relish the savor of his piety, loved him as an amiable, and revered him as a great man. Though no bigot, he firmly believed that the Presbyterian form of Government is most Scriptural, and the most favorable to religion and happiness.” * *25

Rev. John Blair married, in 1745, Elizabeth, daughter of John Durburrow, of Philadelphia, said to have been an English merchant there. *26

Twelve children; nine survived their father; seven reached maturity. In 1807 six were living.

(The order of ages of the following sons and daughters has not been absolutely determined.)

William Lawrence Blair, born probably between 1750 and 1754. Graduated at Princeton, with the degree of A.M., in 1769. Studied law. Removed to Kentucky.

Judge Samuel Blair, of Kentucky; married Mary Ward. Left issue.

Rebecca Blair, said to have been the 3rd daughter of Rev. John Blair; born probably between 1751 and 1757; married, January 1774, Rev. William Linn, colleague pastor of the Collegiate Church of New York City, one of the city’s most eloquent preachers. He received many honors, occupied many offices, and earnestly assisted the American Revolution.

Rev. William and Rebecca Blair Linn (his first wife), had seven children: among these —

  1. Elizabeth Linn, married Charles Brockden Brown, the first American novelist of repute.
  2. Rev. John Blair Linn. *27 He inherited the great talents of his father and was distinguished besides as a writer. Installed co-pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, he began a brilliant, fruitful ministry, but one of short duration; he died after a five years’ pastorate.

Susan, a writer; married Simeon De Witt, Surveyor General of the U.S.

  1. Rev. John Durburrow Blair (1759-1823). *28
  2. Judge James Blair, *29 born December 1762, at Fagg’s Manor, Pennsylvania; graduated at Princeton (?), removed to Kentucky in 1800. Attorney-General of Kentucky and Judge of the District Court, Fayette County, Kentucky; married, January 2, 1789, Elizabeth Preston, daughter of John Smith and Susan Patton Preston, of Tinkling Spring, Virginia.

Issue

  1. Francis Preston Blair, born 1791 at Abingdon, Virginia; graduated at Transylvania University, Kentucky; married Eliza Violet Howard Gist. He was a distinguished editor, writer, and politician. Died in Washington, D.C., October 18, 1876. *30 Among his descendants of note: —
  1. Hon. Montgomery Blair, eldest son, born in Franklin County, Kentucky, 1813; graduated at U.S. Military Academy, West Point, 1835. In St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. District Attorney, 1839-1843; Judge of Court of Common Pleas, 1843-1849. Removed to Maryland, 1852. Brigadier General U.S. Army, March 1864. Postmaster General in Lincoln’s administration, being able and successful in that office. Editor of “The Washington Union,” 1877. Married Mary Elizabeth Woodbury, daughter of Judge L. Woodbury. Hon. Montgomery Blair died July 27, 18….
  2. William Blair, married Miss Jessup, daughter of Admiral Jessup.

*30 Extract from a letter from General Robert E. Lee to Hon. Reverdy Johnson, United States Senate, February 25, 1868.

“I never intimated to anyone that I desired the command of the United States Army; nor did I ever have a conversation with but one gentleman, Mr. Francis Preston Blair, on the subject, which was at his invitation, and, as I understood, at the instance of President Lincoln. After listening to his remarks, I declined the offer he made me, to take command of the army that was to be brought into the field.” (“Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee,” by his son, Captain Robert E. Lee.)

During 1864-65 Francis Preston Blair went to Richmond under safe conduct of President Lincoln, to discuss peace and compromise with President Davis. This led to the Hampton-Roads Conference.

Issue

Mrs. Violet Blair Janin.

Francis Preston Blair, Jr. (Frank P.), graduated at Princeton, 1849; lawyer in St. Louis; Brigadier General in United States Army, 1861; Major General, 1862; Senator, 1871-any point reached before that time.

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