HUGH McMASTER HENRY, D.D.
1879 - 1933
Hugh McMaster Henry was born at
Hazelwood, Chester County, South Carolina, on December 9, 1852. He
was the son of William J. and Sarah Henry. In his childhood he experienced
some remarkable escapes from death - once from drowning, once from a coal-kiln
with a burned leg, and again from the accidental discharge of a shotgun
in the hands of Rev. John A. White, then a boy with him.
He enjoyed good educational
advantages for the times, having several notable teachers. He graduated
from Erskine College in 1874. He joined the church at Hopewell, South
Carolina. He was received as a student of theology by the Second
Presbytery at Due West, South Carolina, in the fall of 1874, and was licensed
to preach by the same Presbytery September 20, 1876, in Newberry or Prosperity,
South Carolina, and was ordained at Due West, South Carolina, September
28, 1878. In the minutes of Bethel Church, Oak Hill, Alabama, September
18, 1887, is this note regarding the further education of Dr. Henry:
"Mr. Henry was granted a six months' leave of absence to go to Alleghaney
Seminary for the purpose of improving himself in Hebrew and other branches
of Theological study."
For sixteen months he labored
in the Arkansas Presbytery, in Drew, Bradley, Dorsey, and Lincoln counties,
Arkansas, and for three months at Salem church, Covington County, Alabama.
He declined a call to the pastorate of Saline, Arkansas. In May,
1879 Mr. Henry accepted a call from Bethel Church, Oak Hill, Alabama.
He was installed pastor at Bethel on October 25, 1879. He served
Bethel for fifty-four years and seven months, until his death, one of the
longest pastorates in the A. R. P. Synod's history.
During the First World War,
1914-1918, Dr. Henry spent some time preaching at various military camps.
Synod met with Dr. Henry's church, Bethel, September 23, 1880, and again
in April, 1931 when Camden and Bethel entertained it jointly. The
Woman's Synodical Union met with Bethel and Camden in May, 1933.
The present church building at Oak Hill was built and dedicated during
Dr. Henry's ministry. It was dedicated November 9, 1895, with appropriate
services conducted by Rev. E. P. McClintock of Newberry, South Carolina
and Rev. J. A. Lowry of Marion Junction, Alabama and Dr. Henry.
From Dr. Henry's congregation
and under his ministry three men have entered the ministry, Dr. J. G. Dale,
missionary to Mexico, Rev. W. R. Carothers, and Rev. W. J. Bonner, both
of whom entered other Presbyterian denominations. Mr. Bonner also
was a missionary to Mexico. Mrs. Flora Harper Halliday is a third
missionary to Mexico from Dr. Henry's congregation.
On October 4, 1881, at Due
West, South Carolina, Dr. Henry married Miss Mary Evelyn Young, a daughter
of Rev. John N. and Mrs. Euphemia E. Strong Young. She was born in
Due West, September 14, 1855. Eight children were born to them.
The following survived them: Dr. Jonathan Edward Henry, U. S. Navy,
Mrs. Euphemia Henry Moore, Marion Junction, Alabama, Mrs. Sara Henry Nicholson,
Centerville, Alabama, Dr. W. John Henry, Tucson, Arizona, Mrs. Jamie Henry
Reynolds, Montevallo, Alabama, John Torbit Henry, Marion Junction, Alabama.
Dr. Henry installed three
of the men who have been pastor of the Camden, Alabama church, viz. Dr.
Richard Lee Robinson, November, 1899, Dr. Boyce Hemphill Grier, January
8, 1911, and Rev. Renwick Carlisle Kennedy, July 3, 1927.
Mrs. Henry died August 26,
1932, after months of illness. Dr. Henry dies November 2, 1933, in
a hospital in Selma, Alabama. The funeral service was conducted on
November 3rd by Rev. R. C. Kennedy, assisted by Rev. J. L. Pressly and
Rev. W. A. Hayes. Dr. Henry and Mrs. Henry are buried in the cemetery
of Bethel Church at Oak Hill, in the first lot directly behind the pulpit.
On their tombstone, besides the names and dates, are the words, "Faithful
keepers of His flock."
On December 17, 1933, a memorial
service for Dr. and Mrs. Henry was held at Bethel Church. A marble
tablet to the left of the pulpit was unveiled. On it were these words:
"In Memory of Rev. H. M. Henry, D.D., Pastor of this Church 54 years and
7 months. Born December 9, 1852, died November 2, 1933. The
path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto
the perfect day." Mr. John T. Dale and Rev. R. C. Kennedy selected
the verse of scripture for the tablet.
On a page of the session book
of Bethel Church, in the resolutions adopted by the congregation shortly
after Dr. Henry's death, are these words: "Dr. Henry had the unusual
distinction of having served the Oak Hill (Bethel) Church most faithfully
for 54 years. Most of the present members were baptized and married
by him, and most of the dead in Oak Hill cemetery were buried by him.
In a real sense the life of the church and the community centered around
him. His influence has been incalculable during these 54 years.
Dr. Henry was an eloquent preacher and a most excellent pastor, a worthy
citizen, a good Presbyter, a strong character. He loved his church
to which he was loyal at all times. Without a shadow of turning he
upheld her policies all his life. he was a faithful shepherd of his
Dr. Henry received his degree
of Doctor of Divinity from Erskine College. He was a man of strong
personality, an original and striking personality, a bit eccentric in some
respects, devoted to his Church and its institutions. He was unusually
gifted in prayer. He trained his people in church attendance, and
in the giving of their means. Bethel has never failed to meet its
obligations to Synod's budget, nor pastor's salary. Dr. Henry's influence
lives on at Bethel in the life of the people.
Dr. Henry's grandfather was
a Covenanter. Mrs. Henry was a granddaughter of the Rev. Charles
Strong. One of her ancestors was killed while at worship during the
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