The North Carolina Visitor Center




Old Bluff Church

A Brief History:

The Old Bluff Presbyterian Church

“Cum’nad chuimhe ar sinnsre”

(Keep in remembrance our forebears)


Reverend James Campbell, who was born in Campbelltown, Kintyre, Scotland about 1705, came to America about 1730.  He came to North Carolina from the Presbytery of Philadelphia about 1757 and settled on a tarct of two hundred acres on the west side of the Cape Fear River opposite to where the Old Buff Presbyterian Church now stands.  Reverend Campbell commenced his preaching among the Scots, in both Gaelic and English, in three locations: at the home of Roger McNeill, near Tranthams Creek, at the home of Archibald McKay on the Long Street (the Yadkin Road), and at John Dobbin’s Ordinary on Barbecue Creek.


The Presbyterian Church in the Upper Cape Valley was organized on October 18, 1758, with the signing of a contract with Reverend Campbell by “Presbyterian Gentlemen” Hector (called “Bluff” Hector) McNeil, Gilbert Clark, Thomas Gibson, Alexander McAlister, Malcom Smith, Archibald McKay, John Patterson, Dushie Shaw, Neil McNeill, Archibald Buie, Angus Culbreth, and John McPherson for “the sum of 100 pounds in good & lawful money of North Carolina . . . yearly.”  Although the call was effective from June 22, 1758, Reverend Campbell was not (legally) allowed to preach or perform marriages until January 18, 1759 when he subscribed to the required oath that he would not oppose the doctrine, discipline, and liturgy of the Anglican Church of England.


Neill McNeill (and his wife Catharine) by deed of February 18, 1761, conveyed to Hector McNeill and Alexander McAlister, members of the original Session and both residing on the east side of the Cape Fear River, “one acre of land whereon is built and erected a Meeting House as the same now stands” on the west side of the Cape Fear River near Tranthams Creek close to the home of Roger McNeill, son of Neill McNeill.  Called Roger’s Meeting House, this building was probably a small log structure built about 1759 and the first church building in the Upper Cape Fear Valley.


Reverend Campbell served the three churches, now represented by Bluff, Longstreet, and Barbecue Presbyterian Churches, assisted in the Barbecue area from 1770 by Reverend John MacLeod, until about 1776 when, threatened about his prayers supporting the Patriot Cause, he moved to Guilford County.  In 1780, Reverend Campbell returned to his home on the west bank of the Cape Fear River, where he died and was buried in a family graveyard.


Buff Church still preserves two Communion Goblets with the inscription, “For the Presbyterian Congregations in Cumberland County, under the care of the Rev’d John MacLeod, Apr. 21st 1775.”


Sometime after 1780, a new meeting house, probably also a log structure, was built on the east side of the river.  Apparently both meeting houses were used until about 1785 when a frame building was built on the bluff at the east side of the river.  On July 23, 1791, John MacNeill conveyed to Farquard Campbell and Alexander McAlester, as trustees of the Bluff Meeting House, two acres near the burying ground “part of 200 acres possessed by sd. MacNeill known by the name of the Bluff where said piece of land with the Meeting House now standing on the same. . . .”  this frame building was repaired in 1816, the subscription list totaling $112, and used until about 1855, when the present Bluff Church was built.


Reverend Dugald Crawford, who began his ministry in North Carolina in 1783, came from time to time to preach at the Bluff until he was called as pastor in 1786.  He served until about 1793 when he was followed by the newly immigrated Reverend Angus McDiarmid who served until 1803.  The Bluff was supplied by Reverend Murdock Murphy until November 1810 when Reverend Allan McDougald took over as a regular supply.  Reverend McDougald received a regular call on April 2, 1812, to serve Bluff, Barbecue, and Averasboro in the new Fayetteville Presbytery.  He was followed about 1844 by Reverend Evander McNair who served until 1855 except for a short period when he was relieved by the Reverend Simeon Colton.  Reverend Duncan D. McBryde served from 1855 to 1890, Reverend Joseph B. Mack from 1890 to 1891, and the Reverend George A. Hough from 1891 to 1892.


In 1892, a group of forty-one Bluff Church members attending a mission chapel begun by Reverend McBryde organized and moved their memberships to Macmillan Presbyterian Church, located about four miles to the southeast of the Bluff Church site.


Reverend Andrew Morrison Hassell served as stated supply of the Bluff from October 1893 until October 1894 when he was regularly called as pastor.  He served until May 1899 when the Reverend James Stedman Black was called.


On August 16, 1903, the congregation met to consider moving the place of worship to a more accessible location.  They voted 31 to 11 to move the church to Godwin where a Sabbath School had been begun in 1889 and where the manse was located.  Objections from the church members living in the Wade area resulted in a split, the members from Wade keeping the Bluff Church and one hundred members from the Godwin area organizing and moving their memberships to the Godwin Presbyterian Church in May 1904.


Under the leadership of Reverend Letcher Smith who served the Bluff form 1904 to 1906, a new frame church was begun at “Wade Station.”  Under the guidance of Reverend Angus R. McQueen, who replaced Reverend Smith in 1907, the move was made on October 18, 1908, one hundred and fifty years to the day after the call to Reverend James Campbell.


The Old Bluff Church building, left in disuse to watch over the cemetery, was deteriorating when, in 1929, Mr. W. W. Fuller, a former Chief Counsel of the American Tobacco Company of New York, paid to restore the church, both inside and out, to reflect properly its prominent place in history.  The Old Bluff Presbyterian Church Trust Fund continues the maintenance and improvement of the building, grounds, and cemetery.