north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     Adam Empie, doctor of divinity, educator, author, and college president, was born on September 5, 1785, in Schenectady, New York. He attended Union College in Schenectady before being ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church. His ministry began in 1809 at St. George’s Church in Hempstead, Long Island. In November 1811, Empie left New York for Wilmington to become rector of St. James. Under his direction, the Episcopal church grew from 21 to 102 parishioners. While in Wilmington he met and married his wife, Ann Eliza Wright. They had five children. Empie was a member of St. Johns Lodge, North Carolina’s oldest Free Mason Lodge.

     Empie left the Port City in 1817 to accept a position as the first chaplain at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While there, he also served as a professor of history, geography, and ethics. In 1817, Empie left that post to return to Wilmington. At that time, services were added and the side galleries of the building had to be opened to accommodate the growing congregation. During this second term at St. James, Empie instituted Sunday School and Bible classes, as well as associations for the education of poor children, the distribution of Bibles and prayer books, and the formation of a parochial library. Empie became president of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1827. He simultaneously served as the rector for the Bruton Parish in Virginia. He served in those positions until 1836 and took a congregation in Richmond in 1837. That congregation built a church and named it St. James in honor of Empie’s former Wilmington parish. Over protests, he taught religious subjects to slaves in Richmond.

     With his health declining, he resigned and returned to Wilmington in 1853. He lived there with one of his sons until his death on November 6, 1860. Adam Empie was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 48—sketch by Alice R. Cotten
St. James Church, “One Hundredth Anniversary Commemorating the Building of St. James Church” (1939)
College of William and Mary website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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