The First Reformed
Presbyterian Church of New York City emerged in the late eighteenth century out
of a praying society aligned closely with the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland.
Beginning as early as 1790, this praying society would meet at the home of Mr.
John Agnew, whose descendents remained active in the church from that point
onward. The congregation was organized in 1797, and in 1801 the first pastor,
Reverend Alexander McLeod, D.D., was elected. Rev. Alexander McLeod remained
pastor until his death in 1833. At this time his son, the Rev. John Niel
McLeod, became pastor and continued his service until his death in 1874.
McLeod, D.D. (also written MacLeod) was born on Mull Island, part of the Hebrides
Islands in Scotland, on June 12, 1774. His parents, Reverend Niel McLeod and
Margaret (McLean) McLeod, were both involved in the Scottish Established
Church, Niel as the pastor of two parishes in Mull Island, and Margaret as the
daughter of Niel’s predecessor Reverend Archibald McLean.
McLeod left Scotland in 1792 and took up a teaching position in Schenectady, New
York. In 1796 he enrolled at Union College, and graduated with honors two
years later. Upon his arrival in the United States he quickly united with the
Reformed Presbyterian Church, and was licensed to preach in 1799. Within the
year following his ordination he was called to be pastor at two New York
Churches, one in Coldenham, and the other in New York City. The First Reformed
Presbyterian Church in New York City grew so rapidly it became apparent that he
would need to devote all of his time to that parish. Reverend McLeod served there
until his death at the age of 59 on February 17, 1833.
McLeod married Mary Anne Agnew on September 15, 1805. Mary Anne was the
daughter of Mr. John Agnew, one of the earliest congregants of the reformed
Presbyterian Church of New York City, and she was also one of the first members
to be baptized in infancy under the auspices of the newly formed church. Their
marriage produced eleven children, four of which lived into adulthood.
Reverend Dr. John Niel
McLeod was the first born son of Rev. Alexander and Mary Anne. Born in New
York City in 1806, John Niel McLeod graduated from Columbia College in 1826,
and earned a Doctorate of Divinity from Dickinson College in 1846. Upon his
ordination in 1828, he was elected pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church
in Galway, New York. When his father’s health began to deteriorate in 1832
Rev. John Niel McLeod became associate pastor at the First Reformed
Presbyterian Church in New York City to share the pastoral duties. When his
father died in 1833 Rev. John Niel McLeod was elected pastor of the church. He
maintained this role until his own death in 1874.
His religious work
was not confined to New York City. In 1851 he was elected Professor of
Doctrinal Theology at the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian
Church, located in Philadelphia. He acted in this position intermittently
until 1858. In 1855 he traveled to Paris as a delegate to the Paris Conference
to form an Evangelical Alliance for the world. He spent six months as Chaplain
for the 84th Regiment (New York) during the Civil War, and also was
editor of the Philadelphia publication “Banner of the Cross.”
Reverend John Niel
McLeod married Mary Thompson Wylie in 1830. Together they had eight children.
Presbyterian Church, New York. A Century of Reformed Presbyterianism: The
Handbook of the Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Organization of the
First Reformed Presbyterian Church of New York City, December 26-30, 1897. New York: First Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1897.
ed. Dictionary of American Biography, Volume VI, Larned-Millington. New
York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 131-132.
Scope and Contents Note
Family Papers, spanning the dates 1798 to 1893, was a gift of Mr. Bill Inslee
in 1972. One linear foot of notebooks containing sermons and notes,
correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, tax receipts and marriage
certificates comprise the collection. The bulk of the collection pertains to
the careers of Rev. Alexander McLeod and his son Rev. John Niel McLeod, who
consecutively served as pastors to the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in New
York City. Other members of the McLeod family and the Wylie family are
briefly represented in the collection.
The majority of the
collection consists of twenty-nine notebooks of Rev. Alexander McLeod and his
son Rev. John Niel McLeod. These notebooks have been grouped by original owner,
and arranged chronologically within each series. Rev. Alexander McLeod’s
notebooks span the dates 1798 to 1832, with some gaps in the years. This time
span coincides with the duration of his position as pastor at the above
mentioned church. The notebooks of Rev. John Niel McLeod span the years 1827
to 1851. Again, there are gaps, and the notebooks terminate before the end of
Rev. John Niel McLeod’s service as pastor at the First Reformed Presbyterian
Church, which ended in 1874. Many of these notebooks also include items laid
in, which often are of a different date than the notebooks. It appears that
the notes and sermons in these notebooks were often reused, and at times John Niel
used notes written by his father.
Rev. John Niel McLeod
is further represented in the collection by a small group of varied pieces.
Two pocket diaries, from 1869 and 1870, record the weather and daily events
from these years. There is also a photograph of the Rev. McLeod, as well as
five newspaper clippings pertaining to his life, ministry, and death. Also
included is a copy of a letter to Abraham Lincoln in 1864, penned by Rev. John Niel
McLeod on behalf of his congregation. Another letter was
written to him by his Aunt Mary
McLeod, of Scotland. She refers to a trip he made to visit her in 1841, before
the Tower of London burned. Notable in the personal papers is an 1869 inventory
of Rev. John Niel McLeod’s personal library, comprising over 2,000 volumes of
religious and historical works (F32).
The collection also
includes items related to other McLeod family members as well the Wylie
family. The link between the Wylie and McLeod family is two-fold. The Wylie
family was long involved in the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia,
established in1798. This Church housed the Theological Presbyterian Seminary
of Philadelphia, where Rev. John Niel McLeod was Professor of Theology for a
period. Reverend John Niel McLeod also married Mary Thompson Wylie in 1830,
uniting the Wylie and McLeod families in law as well as in religious
affiliation. The items in these series are fragmented, although they all
pertain specifically to a member of the McLeod or Wylie families. The most
noteworthy pieces are two McLeod family photographs, and a letter from T.A.
Wylie of Indiana to his sister, Mary Thompson McLeod. Other pieces include
obituaries of Donald McLeod, and ephemera from the Wylie Presbyterian Church in
The notebooks of
Alexander and John Niel McLeod are the strongest part of this collection. The
information recorded in these notebooks offers insight into the busy life of a
Presbyterian clergyman in the nineteenth century. Both men traveled often,
especially between New York and Philadelphia, and were involved with various
Presbyterian societies and committees. The sermon notes recorded in the notebooks
would also be useful to historians or theologians interested in the treatment
of biblical topics throughout nineteenth century. While the other items in the
collection are few and fragmented they do provide some supplemental details
pertaining to the personal lives of the McLeod family.
I. Reverend Alexander
II. Reverend John Niel
III. Miscellaneous McLeod
IV. Wylie family
Folder -- Contents
I. Reverend Alexander McLeod, 1798 – 1832
This series includes notebooks
containing personal thoughts, sermon notes, lectures and discourses written and
presented during the career of Reverend Alexander McLeod. Many of the
notebooks contained pieces laid in. These have been removed and placed in a
folder following that of the notebook from which it came.
1798, 1809-1810 (2 items)
containing “A short journal after my return from New York-Commencing August 18, 1798.”
bound notebook entitled “Sermons 1809 Anno. 1810.” Removals located in F2 of
from notebook, 1809-1810 (1 item)
notes dated December 1815.
1811-1812, 1813-1814 (2 items)
notebook titled “Sermon-Notes 1811 anno 1812”
notebook containing a section of printed pages titled “The Psalms of David in
Metre: Translated and diligently compared with the original text, and former
translations.” This portion was printed in Philadelphia by William W. Woodward
in 1813. The remainder of the journal consists of handwritten sections titled
“Sermon Notes May & August 1813,” “Sermon Notes October & Nov. 1813,”
‘Sermon Notes Nov. & Decem. 1813,” “Sermon Notes Jany. 1814,” “Feby. &
March 1814, and “Sermon Notes March 1814.”
notes, 1815 (1 item)
notes for sermons given in May and June 1815.
1814-1815, 1819-1820 (2 items)
notebook titled “Some Sermons by Alex. McLeod, from June 1814 to May 1815. The
last section of pages printed with “The Psalms of David in Metre,” printed in Edinburgh
notebook titled “Sermons on various Topics by Alex. McLeod 1819&1820.” Includes
page numbers and index. Removals located in F6 of this series.
from notebook, 1819-1820 (6 items)
sermon notes and a receipt for the sale of “24 copys of Doc. McLeods Sermons on
the Life of Godliness All Bound”
I. Reverend Alexander McLeod, 1798 – 1832 (cont’d)
1820-1821 (1 item)
notebook titled “Sermon Notes in 1820 and 1821 by A. McLeod” includes page
numbers. Opening pages mentions the October 10, 1820 death of Alexander
McLeod’s father-in-law, Mr. Agnew, who was also “the first Reformed
Presbyterian of this city.” Removals from this notebook located in F8 of this
from 1820-1821 notebook (4 items)
notes titled “Ordinances of Man,” and an account statement for an account with John
Hodge, who appears to be a book seller.
contains an 1831 letter addressed to Rev. McLeod discussing a problem with the
publisher. The author of the letter also discusses General Jackson, political
issues and Indian removal policies during this period.
notes, 1824 (1 item)
sermon notes on various topics. Page numbers indicate it is from a larger
1824, 1825 (2 items)
notebook, titled “1824” containing sermon notes on various religious topics and
newspaper clippings listing the government officials and census information
glued on inside cover.
notebook titled “Notes of Lectures and Sermons by Alex. Mcleod, New York 1825.”
Includes newspaper clippings about the establishment of Thanksgiving in New
York State and the history of clocks and watches.
1826, 1827-1829 (2 items)
notebook titled “Notes by Alex. McLeod 1826,” includes page numbers and
statistics of the Church for 1826. Pieces laid in, see folder F12 of this
notebook titled “Alex McLeod New York Notes, for 1827 – 1829. From October 1827
to July 1829, both months included, in all, 22 months, memoranda.” The numbered
pages include sermon notes, personal entries, and records of church membership.
notes. Removals from 1826 notebook. (3 items)
1829-1831, 1831-1832 (2 items)
notebook, 1829-1831, titled “Brethren, Conversations, Sermons, , voyages to
Lower Canada, Sacraments, visits to Europe, return, journal of tour,
Ecclesiastical proceedings, Sickness in person, death of sister, son
&daughter and many other concerns, as well as Lectures and Sermons for more
than two years are here recorded.”
I. Reverend Alexander McLeod, 1798 – 1832 (cont’d)
1829-1831, 1831-1832 (cont’d.)
notebook titled “Sermon Notes, &c. from 1 October 1821 to 1832, by Alex. McLeod.” The entries were continued by William Norman McLeod August 21, 1837, who used the notebook to record the “Sermons preached before the
Presbytery of Philadelphia as a piece of trial” for ordination. For pieces laid
in see folder F14 of this series.
from notebook, 1831-1832 (3 items)
a receipt and sermon notes.
II. Reverend John Niel McLeod, 1827 - 1907
series contains notebooks, sermon notes, pocket diaries, a Catalogue of
Reverend McLeod’s personal library, letters, and newspaper clippings. Many of
the notebooks contained pieces laid in. These have been removed and placed in
a folder following that of the notebook from which it came.
1827, 1827-1834 (2 items)
titled “Volume II” contains lectures on the soul, metaphysics, and providence.
For pieces laid in see F16 of this series.
notebook including continuation of Volume II memorabilia, and “Volume III of
the Memorabilia Sermon Notes, &c. Commenced June 29th, 1833, John N. McLeod, New York.” For pieces laid in see F17 of this series.
from notebook, 1827 (2 items)
business card of “Theodorus McLeod, Attorney and Counselor,” and a handwritten
copy of a family genealogy dated 1869.
from notebook, 1827-1834 (4 items)
Sermon notes and a newspaper clipping advertising an “Enquiry” into the
whereabouts of a Reverend D. Graham.
1831-1833, 1834 (2 items)
notebook titled “Volume Second of the Memorabilia commenced May 21st
1831 John N. McLeod, Galway, Saratoga Cy, New York, and since January 14th
/33 pastor of the Ref. Pr. Church, Chamber St. City of New York.” For pieces
laid in see F19 of this series.
notebook with marbled cover titled “Volume IV Memorabilia,” dated June 6 th 1834, includes sermon notes.
II. Reverend John Niel McLeod, 1827 – 1907 (cont’d)
from notebook, 1831-1833 (10 items)
notes and two rough draft letters: the first concerning the Society for Colonizing
and Evangelizing the Jews, the second responding to accusations that Rev.
McLeod stole and used manuscripts belonging to a deceased Reverend McKinney.
notebook with marbled cover titled “Volume 5 – Memorabilia - by John N. McLeod
at present residing at 71, Crosby (?) City of New York, January 1st 1835.” Includes sermon notes and inserted printed page “Terms of
Ecclesiastical Communion in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America.”
1835-1836, 1837-1838 (2 items)
notebook titled “Volume VI Memorabilia John N. McLeod, New York October 18th 1835” includes sermons and lectures, as well as some personal
entries. For pieces laid in see folder F22 of this series.
notebook “John N. McLeod, New York December 15th 1837, vol. VII”
includes sermon and lecture notes, and record of church activities.
from notebook, 1835-1836 (4 items)
sermon notes, and a Memorandum that may have belonged to his father Alexander
1839-1840, 1842-1843 (2 items)
notebook titled “Memorabilia January 1st 1839, Sermon notes, Et
cetera, John N. McLeod, Vol:8th.” For pieces laid in see F24 of this
notebook of sermon notes from 1842-1843. In 1843 the book was lost, and sermon
notes from 1849 begin at the other end, when the book was recovered. For
pieces laid in see folder F25 of this series.
from notebook, 1839-1840 (10 items)
sermon notes, a newspaper clipping titled “A Word or Two About Bed Covering,”
and a series of notes titled “Redemption Applied by God’s Spirit” possibly in
the hand of his father, Alexander McLeod.
from notebook, 1842-1843 (2 items)
receipts for a room at the Catskill Mountain House, August 5, 1850, and fragments of fabric and ink patterned paper.
II. Reverend John Niel McLeod, 1827 – 1907 (cont’d)
1844-1846, 1846-1847 (2 items)
notebook of “Sermon Notes &c. for 1845-1846.” For pieces laid in see F27
of this series.
notebook of Sermon notes and other notes 1846-1847.
from notebook, 1844-1846 (13 items)
sermon notes; an invitation to a meeting of the American Bible Society in New
York on August 31, 1872; card for the purchase of railway passengers insurance,
and a newspaper clipping of a parable about a large turnip and large cheese
wheel. Many of the Sermon notes are on the back of other documents, such as
Western Union Telegrams and personal correspondence.
1851, 1858 (2 items)
notebook of “Sermons notes 7 other Memorabilia, 1851.” For pieces laid in see
F29 in this series.
notebook containing fragmented lists of church attendance in 1858 and 1859.
from 1851 notebook (11 items)
sermon notes; printed principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church from the
Liverpool and New York Reformed Presbyterian Church; newspaper clipping
concerning a court case concerning the validity of marriage; notes titled “The
Death of the Righteous” possibly written by Alexander McLeod; two letters addressed
to John Niel McLeod from Rev. Campbell, a missionary in India.
Diaries, 1869, 1870 (2 items)
diary of daily events of 1869. For pieces laid in see F31 of this series.
diary of daily events of 1870. Also includes obituaries of William Agnew,
Reverend Donald McLeod, Mrs. Crawford, Honorable Alexander McLeod, Ellen
McLeod, Margaret Wylie, and Amelia Clarkson. Newspaper clipping reporting the
numerical strength of the Presbyterian Church throughout the world.
from pocket diary, 1869 (7 items)
newspaper clippings for life insurance companies, Tea-party of the Sabbath School
of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the Committee on Contested
Elections, and fragments of pencil that accompanied the pocket diary.
F32 Index of
Personal Library, ca. 1869
“Catalogue of Library of Rev. Dr. McLeod” which consisted of 2076 volumes.
II. Reverend John Niel McLeod, 1827 – 1907 (cont’d)
obituaries of Rev. John Niel McLeod; newspaper clipping reporting the “Present
Condition of this Church” in 1869; marriage certificates signed by Rev. John Niel
McLeod; tax receipts from collector’s office; photograph of Rev. John Niel
McLeod; letter from “Aunt Mary McLeod” concerning his trip to visit her in
Scotland; and a handwritten copy of a letter written to Abraham Lincoln in
1864; pamphlet announcing the union of the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the
Scotch Presbyterian Church of New York City.
III. Miscellaneous McLeod
series includes items pertaining to other members of the McLeod family.
and contents, 1834-1837
notebook of (William) Norman McLeod, son of Rev. Alexander and Mary Ann, with
mention of the accounts of Mary Ann McLeod. Various receipts laid in.
obituary of Rev. Donald McLeod; newspaper clipping of a letter from Alex McLeod
Clarkson of San Francisco; business card of “Adams, Mcleod & McAdam,
Attorneys & Counsellors, Notaries Public, New York; two McLeod family
photographs, circa 1887.
VI. Wylie family, ca. 1850-1893
series includes papers of the Wylie family. The McLeod family was linked to
the Wylie family through the marriage of Margaret Thompson Wylie and Reverend
John Niel McLeod in 1830. The Wylie family was involved in the Presbyterian
Church of Philadelphia.
family, ca. 1850-1893 (4 items)
a photograph of Reverend William John Wylie of the Memorial Presbyterian Church
of Philadelphia, letter from T.A. Wylie of Bloomington, Indiana to his sister
Margaret Thompson McLeod in New York City, obituary for Reverend Samuel Brown
Wylie in 1852, and a “Manual of the Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church” in Philadelphia.