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



Marker Text:

     Many of the earliest settlers in Piedmont North Carolina belonged to the Presbyterian Church. The Orange Presbytery, led by Hugh McAden, established the earliest Presbyterian Churches on record in the colony. Speedwell is widely believed to be the oldest congregation in Rockingham County, and among the earliest in the colony. Although the exact date of establishment remains a mystery, local historians consider 1757 as the first year of service. The current structure is the second incarnation of Speedwell, erected in 1844.

     The Orange Presbytery, established by missionary Hugh McAden (c. 1720-1781), flourished in the Piedmont region, creating six permanent churches among unorganized Presbyterians. The church received itinerant ministers until 1793, when Rev. James McCready assumed leadership of the congregation, a position he relinquished three years later. Other notable ministers include David Caldwell, William Thompson, and Eli W. Carruthers. In 1844, the original structure on the corner of Main and Gilmore Streets in Reidsville was razed, and a new structure was built on the same lot.

     The church served as a community school throughout the Civil War, and after the war, Speedwell experienced a surge in membership under the leadership of Cornelius Miller. The church cemetery contains several gravestones from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and reflects the historical tradition to which Speedwell Church lays claim.

Betty Sue Gardner, History of Rockingham County (1964)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 150—sketch by Duward T. Stokes
A. L. Honeycutt, Jr., “Speedwell Presbyterian Church, ca. 1844: Report I” (unpublished research report, North Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1969)
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources