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MaKemie Memorial Presbyterian Church

Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church Postcard

This church was organized in Snow Hill, Maryland, in 1683 and previously known as Snow Hill Presbyterian Church. In 1883, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the organization of the church, they resolved to build a Makemie Memorial Church. By this time the original structure -- crafted of log and built closer to the Pocomoke river -- had burned. However, financing the construction proved to be a national affair and notices were posted in papers around the country inviting donations.

Notice in the New York Tribune dated June 13, 1884.1

The church is on the same land that the earliest Presbyterians in the community worshiped and was the first Presbyterian Church in the Town of Snow Hill.

Philadelphia architect, Isaac Pursell, was enlisted to design the Victorian Gothic structure. Constructed of red brick with red sandstone trim, the dedication took place on June 29, 1890. The dedication was noted in many newspapers. The following is a transcription of the article appearing in the New York Tribune on June 30, 1890.

Memorial to a Colonial Minister2

A Church Dedicated in Honor of the First Presbyterian Pastor on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Baltimore, June 29 (Special). --At Snow Hill, Worcester County, Md. To-day, a plain but substantial edifice was dedicated to the memory of Francis Makemie, who was the most notable figure in the early history of the Presbyterian Church in this country. Rev. Dr. J. L. Vallandingham, for thirty-seven years the pastor of Head of Christina Church, near Newark, Del., preached the dedicatory sermon. Descendants of Presbyterians who settled in Worcester County nearly 200 years ago took part in the services.

Francis Makemie came to America about the year 1683, in accordance with the prayer sent three years before by Colonel Stevens a member of Lord Baltimore's Council to the Presbyterians of Laggan in Ireland. Colonel Stevens, who was an Eastern Shore man of importance, represented that the Presbyterians of the Peninsula were sadly in need of a pastor and begged that a steady colonist be sent them from Ireland. Accordingly Makemie came from the Presbytery of Laggan. He found the Presbyterians of the Lower Peninsula few and scattered, barred by their Episcopal neighbors, and much out of humor with King James. He founded five churches in this region, those of Snow Hill, Rehoboth, Manokin, Pitts Creek and Wicomico, all in what was then Somerset County. Rehoboth, a hamlet some miles south of Snow Hill, was inclined to insist that the memorial church should be built there, since there were some who believed that Makemie's earliest church was founded at Rehoboth. Eventually, however the claims of Rehoboth were waived in favor of Snow Hill. The Presbyterians of Snow Hill insist that circumstantial evidence proves their church to have been the earliest founded by Makemie. Most of the church historians accept the tradition as correct, though the boast that the Snow Hill Presbyterian Church was the first to be organized in America is disputed. There are one or two Presbyterian churches on Long Island that are said to be of earlier origin, but there is reason to believe that they were not founded as Presbyterian bodies.

Makemie was a sturdy theologian and a capable man of affairs. He wore a gown and bands in preaching. He undoubtedly felt some bitterness toward the church of England and it is probably owed to the influence and memory of Makemie that Eastern Shore Presbyterianism has always been peculiarly blue.

The first church at Snow Hill was built about 1683. In 1795 a large brick church was erected in its stead. This building lasted for eighty-eight years, when architects declared that it was past repairing. It was torn down, and in its place the Makemie Memorial Church was erected. Presbyterians in nearly all parts of the country contributed toward the building of this church. Lady Kortright, of England, a native of Snow Hill, who married a former British Consul at Philadelphia, gave $5,000 to the building fund. The church cost $30,000. It is of brick, with brownstone trimmings. The interior is finished in hard woods and the seats are arranged in semicircles. Five memorial windows commemorate the virtues of departed Presbyterians. The Rev. D. Bruce Fitzgerald is the new pastor of the Memorial Church.

The church cemetery includes many notable residents of the area. A listing of who is buried at Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church can be accessed HERE. Note: There are no McKemie's here.

The church was registered as an historic landmark in 2008. Following this link will take you to Maryland's National Register Properties page for the church. And this PDF file is the application, with many interesting details, as well as historic maps to lend a little context.


  1. "Presbyterian Minister Rev. Francis Makemie." New York Tribue (New York, New York), 13 June 1884. Digital Image. (GenealogyBank.com : accessed 27 September 2016). Page 4.
  2. "Memorial To A Colonial Minister," New York Tribune (New York, New York, 30 June 1890. Digital image. (GenealogyBank.com : accessed 27 September 2016), page 3. Transcribed for the McKemie One Name Study by J. McKemie.

Revised 30 October 2016