Bann Valley Genealogy
The following was transcribed from the Maghera Presbyterian Church Register by Barbara Braswell. Different ministers have written various parts as there are several different hands. This first page was written by the Rev. Thomas Witherow.
Maghera, January 21st 1848
As Marriage Register Books have been provided by Government for the use of our congregation in common with the other congregations of the Church, there is no further use in my opinion to preserve this portion of the book for the purpose for which it was originally destined. I have thought it therefore right to mark down in this place some things regarding the history of Maghera Congregation, which might be satisfactory to others at some more distant day - and for this purpose I intend to keep this portion of the book. I do not propose to write a history but only to furnish some material thereto that may be interesting to others, when the hand that now writes this shall have moulded into dust.
Shortly after my ordination in this congregation as Assistant to the Rev. Charles Kennedy and Successor to Rev. Smylie Robson now Missionary to the Jews at Damascus, I made application to the Senior Pastor for any documents in his possession that might throw light upon the history of our Congregation, but he informed me that by some accident most of all the records in his possession had been destroyed - he did not tell me however that he had any older than his own time, but said that on order of the Synod of Ulster had had at an early period of his ministry written a history of the Congregation which had been given in to the body, but he did not know what had come of it. I received no public documents whatever from him.
Maghera, March 8th, 1848
Called this day and conversed with James J. Clark, Esq. J.P. of Largantogher, who read me an extract which he copied from an old Session Book of Maghera Congregation, which gave an account of the state of the congregation in the middle of the last century, the Rev. Smylie Robson. On his removal to Damascus, it is not known to me whether he took the book with him or left it behind. This extract was to the effect that about the year 1720 or 1719 the Rev. James Dykas became Minister of Maghera - that his stipend was 34 pounds - and that among a large staff of elders there are found the names of Samuel Auld and John BarkleyThomas Witherow
"Tradition informs us that the Congregation of Castledawson, Maghera, Tubermore and Magherafelt met at Noclaughran to worship the Lord their God. There are yet some remains of the walls of their Meetinghouse to be seen at that place on the North side of Nocloghrin hill".
-----This abstracted (?) from the Rev. Mr. Brown Castledawson history of that Congregation, which was copied from an old Session Book now in possession of Rev. James Wilson, Magherafelt and that was once the property of the Castledawson Congregation.
"It appears that sometime before the year 1695 the congregation of Maghera was erected, and their Meetinghouse built: (It was built among the rocks at the west end of the town that is now called the fair hill.) Mr John Tomb was their Minister"From Rev. Wm. Brown's Copy of the old Session Book
Among the list of Ministers ejected from their benefices in the North of Ireland at the Restoration given in Reid's History of the Presbyterian Church is a certain Robert Auld in the Presbytery of Tyrone, whom Reids conjectures to have been Minister of Maghera. From the documentary evidence above quoted I am of opinion that there was no congregation in Maghera in 1661 (all unp.RLM) and not till after the Revolution which set William and Mary on the throne. It is most likely that Mr. Auld was Minister of Knockcloghrin, at which tradition says there was a Church, and where must have met for Worship the ancestors of the people now forming the Congregations of Maghera, Tubermore, Magherafelt, Castledawson, Curran and Bellaghy.The above written by Thomas Witherow
In another handwriting - probably Rev. R. Marshall There was a Congregation of Maghera long before The Revolution. There is a clear succession of ministers in Maghera since 1658 and proof of its existence before this d. It may, possibly, have arisen in connection with the Army Presbytery.
"A Register of the communions which were kept in the Congregation of Maghera, and Dawson's Bridge during the time of Mr. Tomb's Ministry in those places, since the year 1695 together with the times thereof.
The first Communion at Maghera Meetinghouse the first Sabbath of September 1695.
The 2nd Communion at Maghera Meetinghouse the third Sabbath of August 1696.
The third Communion at Maghera Meetinghouse the 2nd Sabbath of August 1697.
The fourth Communion at Maghera Meetinghouse the last Sabbath viz the 28th August 1698.
The fifth Communion at Maghera Meetinghouse the last Sabbath viz the 30th July 1699.
This was the last Communion Mr. Tomb held in Maghera and he removed in 1700 to Dawsons Bridge (now Castledawson).
Mr. Tomb's first Communion at Castledawson was held on the 6th August 1701."From Rev. Mr. Brown's Copy of Castledawson Session Book.The above written by Rev. Thomas Witherow
Maghera Presbyterian Church was connected with the Synod of Ulster in the following Presbyteries: Antrim, 1654-57; Route, 1657-1702; Tyrone, 1702-1737; Route, 1737-1834; Magherafelt, 1834-1840. With the General Assembly from 1840 in the Presbytery of Magherafelt.
- Rev. Robert Rowan. ord. 1658, conformed 1661, died, 1693. See "Burkes Landed Gentry in Ireland", p. 525. Witherow in Evang. Witness, 1868, p. 316. King's Visitation Book (Phelp (?) of Derry) 18 Aug. 1683.
- Rev. James Kilpatrick. Installed 1668. Scott's Fasti, p. 305. Shiss King's second admonition, p. 8. Rawdon Papers p. 222-3 for his connections with Major Hugh Montgomery of Knocknokielt Galloping Braes'' Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 9 p. 291. Minster of Antrim Presbytery 1654-8.
The ministers of Antrim Presbytery give details of how Maghera was supplied with preaching as early as 1655. See originals in Magee College and copy in Hist. Soc. Room, Church House, Belfast. See Synod of Ulster minutes for succession since 1695.Rev. R. Marshall
Note in Records: A copy of Rev. Chas. Kennedy's call to Maghera is in my possession.--Rev. MarshallDavid Egler, 1838
Note in Records: This call is now in my possession together with a photocopy. I also have some letters relating to it and the Kennedy family. These should be carefully preserved and not allowed to disappear like Watty Graham's rope - from his hanging!!S.S. McFarland
It appears from the old Session book from which Mr. Brown of Castledawson quotes that in the year 1710 a Mr. Boyd was Minister of Maghera. This appears from the following appointment made by the Session of Castledawson on the 2d June 1710.
"This session appoints John Caldwell to go to Maghera for the cups, and to carry a letter from Mr. Tomb to Mr. Boyd, which he promised to do". From Rev. Mr. Brown's copy of the old Session Book of Castledawson---copied about 1831.
Maghera - March 5th 1850 I have since seen the old session book of Castledawson - the original from which Rev. Mr. Brown copied - and have verified the above extracts. I have seen it in possession of Rev. James Wilson of Magherafelt. [Rev. R. Marshall]
Maghera-Dec. 30th 1981 The book mentioned on this page and the previous page is now in the Presbyterian Historical Society in Church House, Belfast and may be consulted there. This is the original-not a copy-and I have seen the extracts mentioned here. There is also an unpublished biographical record written by Dr. Witherow which has much information relating to Maghera and indicated other sources of information. Scott's Fasti mentioned on the previous page is there also. Witherow's two articles, one a correction of the previous article, should be consulted for an informative outline of the early years of the congregation. These are in Evangelical Witness'.Signed: S.S. McFarland
Linde Lunney writes that in a book written by Sidlow McFarland on Presbyterianism in Maghera he lists the church elders in 1720 as: John O'Cahan, James Houston, Alexander Thompson, Nathaniel Patterson, Daniel Blair, James Burns, James Paul, John Gordon, Thomas Hanna, James Lawrence, John Adams, John Robson, John Barkley, Samuel Burns, James Murdogh, Samuel Hazlett, Samuel Aull, William Smith and James Alexander.
In 1843 the elders were Alexander Lytle, Robert Graham jun, Andrew Smyth, Robert Cunningham, Robert Graham sen, Thomas McCool, Samuel Aull, James Shiels, John Burns, Matthew Lytle, John Lytle, Robert Lytle, and James Kerr.