According to the United States Historical Census Data Base (USHCDB) (2002), the ethnic populations in the American Colonies of 1775 were: English 48.7 %, African 20.0 % Scots and Scot-Irish 14.4 %, German 6.9 % Dutch 2.7 %, French 1.4 %, Swedish 0.6 %, Other 5.3 % The larger settlements of Scotch-Irish, were located directly to the west of the Cape Fear in the highlands of Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, those settlements were called “Scotch-Irish Mesopotamia”.
In 1729, King George II decided that the colony of Carolina needed be split it into North Carolina and South Carolina. Scots and Scotch-Irish farmers from Virginia migrated to settle in North Carolina because it had a warm climate, good soil and larger tracts of cheaper, available land. Most of North Carolina would become plantations.
Colonial North Carolina had three geographic regions: the Coastal Plain, the Appalachian Piedmont, and the Appalachian Mountains. Between 1717 and 1775, over 200,000 Scots and Scotch-Irish had migrated to the original thirteen American colonies. Most went into Virginia, the Carolinas and across the South, with a sizable concentration in the Appalachian region.
There existed a big division between the cultures of the Carolina’s eastern and western counties. They did not grow the same crops or market their produce at the same towns. The East was settled chiefly by the upper class of English societies, while in the West there was a large proportion of Scotch and German farmers who still retained many of their native customs. For many years after the Revolution for Independence, the poor roads and the lack of good transportation kept the two regions apart. It would be a long time before the two cultures would come to associate with one another.
From these bigotries, many of the Scotch farmers sought to escape the unfriendly territorial restrictions of Tidewater Virginia and struck out to tame the wilderness of the western frontier. Long considered the “rural, backwoods” many of those living in the Appalachians didn’t mix well with the other populations and in some remote areas, they still preferred to speak Gaelic.
There were also in this area, enslaved Africans who worked in the houses and plantations of these settlers. According to the Census of 1790, one of four Carolina families had slaves and, of those who owned slaves, the average was almost 5 slaves per family.
These "Appalachian Highlanders" spoke Gaelic, they did begin to use English more and more in order to conduct business with the majority of coastal cities of English speaking population and the Tidewater Lowlanders. But, in the Blue Ridge households that had slaves, even the enslaved Africans spoke Gaelic. The following excerpt tells the story of a woman from the Highlands of Scotland landing in Colonial North Carolina:
“As she disembarked at the wharf, she was delighted to hear two men conversing in Gaelic. Assuming by their speech that they must inevitably be fellow Highlanders, she came nearer, only to discover that their skin was black.” (Myer, 1957, p. 119)
Traditionally Scots, unlike the Scotch-Irish, who frequently emigrated individually, often emigrated in groups, which reflected their traditional dependence of family security similar to the clan system in the Scottish Highlands. Their typical migration involved small networks of related families who settled together, worshipped together, and intermarried. They moved to available cheaper lands on the frontier avoiding areas already settled by Germans and Quakers and moved south, through the Shenandoah Valley, and through the Carolinas and into Blue Ridge Mountains. This is true of Alexander Davidson and his descendents for the another 100 years, all the way across the country to Oregon in 1850.
The primary dividing line between the Scotch-Irish and the Irish has always been religion. While Irish immigrants have been primarily Catholics, the Scotch-Irish are followers of John Knox and John Calvin. The largest influx into North Carolina was in the form of Protestants. Their belief in predestination of the soul had a powerful effect on the shaping of the Scots' psyche.
The religious beliefs of Alexander Davidson III and that of Elijah Davidson and his descendants faith were the result of an indigenous American movement seeking to restore the gospel and church of the New Testament. What has been called the "Restoration Movement" has been employed as a self-designation by it's adherents, although this particular phraseology is not widely employed to identify these churches by outsiders. Three sizable constituencies now exist from the late eighteenth century beginnings: (1) The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), (2) The Independent Christian Churches (Christians Churches/Churches of Christ, and (3) The Churches of Christ.
Prior to the Revolutionary War several Americans with religious interests grew restless over autocratic structures, European control and theology, and denominational boundaries.
Joseph & William Murphy were called “the greatest Baptist preachers that ever was known in Virginia of their Day” they were popularly called the “Murphy Boys” as they were so young & so very eminent. Both William and Joseph were converted as youths, trained for the ministry under the mentorship of Shubal Stearns, and became active evangelists of the Gospel. These pressures not only revamped mainline aristocracy's religion, but also resulted in the growth of independent constituencies springing up in various regions, i.e., Virginia, Carolinas, Tennessee and into Kentucky.
The "Murphy Boys" had a big impact within the Davidson family tree. Margaret Murphy (b. 19 Aug 1785, d. 2 Mar 1864) wife of Elijah Davidson, was the granddaughter of William Murphy. Her father John Murphy, was an imminent preacher and abolitionist as well.
Starting in Virginia in the 1750's, ministers like William and John Murphy had sought freedom from the crown's controlling “state” supervision so that circuit riders could determine their own itinerary, escaping taxes and preaching assignments that were placed in the hands of a government appointed Bishops. These pioneers preachers who favored self-determination broke away and they changed the name of their assembled body of believers to the Christian Church.
By 1796 Alexander was an elder of the Sandy Run Baptist Church, Mooresboro, N.C. he was ordained in 1796 .
Before the turn of the century preachers from this movement that now included Alexander Davidson were traveling into the Carolinas and making their way through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee.
ALEXANDER DAVIDSON III, land owner, state assembly representative and circuit rider preacher moves his family to Kentucky in 1796.
Alexander Davidson was the first pastor of Mount Tabor church, and considered the very first preacher that settled between Green and Barren rivers. He was active in gathering the first churches in that region, before any other preacher settled there, as well as afterwards. He must have been a man of considerable prominence, as he represented Warren county in the convention that formed the second constitution of Kentucky, in 1799. He was a number of years pastor of Sinking Creek church, in Warren county, which was probably gathered by his ministry.
History of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church (Barren Co., Ky.)
"A Covenant of a Baptist Church on Beaver Creek entered into the 5th of November 1798. With 7 members and constituted by Elders William Hickman, Carter Tarrant, and Alexander Davidson. Agreed to be constituted on the essential doctrines of the gospel,
First: We believe in one only true and living God and that their are three persons in the God-head, the Father, son, and Holy Spirit.
2nd. We believe that the scriptures of the old and new Testaments, are the word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice.
3rd. We believe that we are saved by grace thro faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God.
4th. We believe in the doctrine of original sin.
5th. We believe in mans impotency to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by nature.
6th. We believe that sinners are justifyed in the sight of God only by the imputed righteousness of Christ.
7th. We believe that the Saints shall persevere and never finally fall away.
8th. We believe that baptism and the Lords supper are ordinances of Jesus Christ, and that true believers and them only are the fit subjects of these ordinances, and we believe that the true mode of baptism is by immersion.
9th. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and universal judgment.
10th. We believe the punishment of the wicked will be everlasting and joys of the righteous will be eternal.
On Saturday November I, 1800, the Green River Association of Baptists met at the Trammel's Creek Meeting House in Green County, Kentucky.
“At 12 O'clock the worship service began. Seated in the congregation were some of the most rugged yet noble men of God that could be found west of the Appalachian Mountains. These men, in the face of untold difficulties, had plunged into the howling wilderness of the American frontier, and in the face of their bitter enemies, had conquered the land for Christ. When the legal persecutions against the Baptists began in Virginia and North Carolina. where many were imprisoned for preaching and their possessions, gained by hard labor, were taken from they, they had fled into the hills of Kentucky and there suffered incredible hardships. They endured hunger, fatigue, cold, and nakedness. The only clothing which many of them could obtain was the skins of animals. And yet the scattered and homeless ones would assemble to unite their voices in singing, and praising God. They encouraged and cheered one another, and were grateful for even their miserable retreat. Many of their children sickened and died from cold and hunger, yet the parents did not for a moment think of yielding religion. They praised the love and favor of God far above earthly ease or worldly riches. "If there ever was a religion that functioned during the week-days as well as on Sundays, it was the type found among the pioneers."
Present were such men as Robert Stockton who was "said to have been thrust into jail at one time 'for preaching the gospel'" and William Matthews who, for religious sake, was almost drowned by wicked men while on his way to preach. Also present was Richard Skaggs, one of the old "Long Hunters" who had explored Kentucky with Daniel Boone, and blazed trails to lead settlers there. He was a man who knew how to survive in the wilderness surrounded by fierce animals and warring Indians.
Others included Rev. Benjamin Lynn, for whom No-Lynn (Nolin) River was named. His knowledge of Indian wiles and of the wilderness ways had saved many a settler's life. He had performed the first baptism in Kentucky, in the waters of Nolin River, while men armed with rifles had guarded them against the Indians, which were lurking in the surrounding forests.
Many of the old soldiers of the Revolutionary War were present. Such men as Jonathan Cowherd, who participated in the Battle at Great Bridge near Norfolk, Virginia; Philip Crowder, who was with George Washington at Yorktown and saw the British commander hand his sword to Washington when the war ended. Abraham Harding, who served in Capt. Shin s Company in Pennsylvania and came to Kentucky to assist the recovery of his sister from the Indians; and many others whose countless acts of valor would fill a book of this size.
One writer said " I have seen a rural audience in those backwoods, made up of men and women of strong nerve, and not to be moved by any story of pain, danger, or death, weep with the deepest emotions as," the pioneer preachers of that day, "told of the struggles of their souls in the days of their conviction and conversion.
After the worship service began, Elder Carter Tarrant delivered the introductory sermon from Psalms 55:14, "We took sweet council together, and walked unto the house of God in company." Elder Tarrant had helped constitute the first Baptist Church in present Barren County, Kentucky in 1798. He was later called to the pastoral care of this church (Mt. Tabor). As early as 1796, he had been a member of the Tates Creek Association (the first United Baptist Association in Kentucky) when they appointed members of the clergy "to visit the destitute brethren on Green River with their ministerial labor " Brother Tarrant died during the War of 1812.
Alexander's son, Elijah Davidson (b. 1783) would simply go the name Christians. Alexander had championed American independence and the defeat of taxation without representation, and now Elijah would reject the doctrinal aspects of Calvinistic or Puritan theology in regard to election and predestination. To him, the Bible was to be heralded, especially the New Testament, as the only source of authority and faith.
Elijah Davidson and others, would soon contend that Christians should cut adrift from the historical encrustations of European religion and with the elimination of the institution of slavery, so to create a New Testament church in its first century purity.
Elijah, along with his father-in-law John Murphy and Carter Tarrant left the Baptist church and severed himself from the very church established by his father Alexander and joined the Emancipationist's movement called Friends of Humanity.
The first meeting of the Emancipators as a body, was in August, 1807, when they convened in conference, to deliberate on the mode of their future proceedings. At this meeting, eleven ministers and nineteen private brethren entered their names as advocates for emancipating principles.
Eleven queries were presented to this Conference, and most of their time appears to have been taken up in discussing and resolving them.
One query was, Can any person be admitted a member of this meeting, whose practice appears friendly to perpetual slavery?
Answer. We think not.
Is there any case in which persons holding slaves may be admitted to membership into a church of Christ? Answer. No; except in the following:
1st. In the case of a person holding young slaves, and recording a deed of their emancipation at such an age as the church to which they offer may agree to.
2nd. In the case of persons who have purchased in their ignorance, and are willing that the church shall say when the slaves or slave shall be free.
3rd. In the case of women, whose husbands are opposed to emancipation.
4th. In the case of a widow, who has it not in her power to liberate them.
5th In the case of idiots, old age, or any debility of body that prevents such slave from procuring a sufficient support; and some other cases, which we would wish the churches to be at liberty to judge of, agreeably to the principles of humanity.
The 6th query was, Shall members in union with us be at liberty in any case to purchase slaves? Answer. No, except it be with a view to ransom them from perpetual slavery, in such a way as the church may approve of.
The last query which we shall notice, was, Have our ideas of slavery occasioned any alteration in our view, of the doctrine of the gospel? Answer. No.
Rev. Elijah Davidson - Born 1783
At the turn of the 19th century the second great awakening titillated the Kentucky and Ohio frontiers. Camp meetings sprang up throughout the region, the largest being the 1801 Cane Ridge, Kentucky, northeast of Lexington, extravaganza. Denominational barriers crumbled followed by conversion away from traditional election theology. Not too long after, they carrying these interests to their logical conclusions, they dissolved their Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian affiliations in order to "sink into union with the body of Christ at large." These leaders found many frontiersmen ready to embrace their sentiments and rapid growth ensued.
Early in the 1830's the churches like those founded by Elijah Davidson, commenced merging into an amalgamation that expanded to churches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and eventually Oregon
Usually going by the name Christian Churches, they multiplied rapidly, becoming the fastest growing indigenous American church.
Even today, the Churches of Christ have no organizational structure larger than local congregations and no official journals or ways of declaring consensus positions. The churches and preachers are highly entrepreneurial. Consensus views often emerge through the influence of Christian universities.
Significant attributes of Elijah Davidson's beliefs are: an affirmation of the centrality of Scripture; commitment to church life, the responsibility of all members for the church, church planting and evangelism; a genuine struggle with Biblical precedents; personal commitment to the Lord, a devotional life; focus upon Biblical ethics and morality; concern for the needy; a strong brotherhood networking, and acquaintance with other members nationally.