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Suther, Samuel

by Robert W. Delp, 1994

18 May 1722–28 Sept. 1788

Samuel Suther, German Reformed minister, was born in Switzerland and in 1738 with his family embarked for the American colonies. Early the next year, according to tradition, he was his family's sole survivor in a shipwreck off the coast of Virginia. A decade later he was living in Philadelphia, where he advertised his services as a teacher in the "High German language" with the recommendation of the Reverend Michael Slatter, a German Reformed pastor in that city. By 1751 Suther had moved to Orangeburg, S.C., but after his ordination to the Christian ministry he served as preacher and teacher in congregations of the Lutheran and Reformed persuasions in both South Carolina and North Carolina. In 1768, while pastor of Coldwater Church in Mecklenburg County (now Cabarrus), N.C., he attracted the attention of Governor William Tryon, who ordered him to preach to the Rowan and Mecklenburg militia as the Regulator movement became of increasing concern to the royal governor of North Carolina.

In 1771 Suther transferred to Law's (or Low's) Church, a union German Reformed and Lutheran congregation in Orange (now Guilford) County. His outspoken advocacy of colonial rights led to dissension between Reformed and Lutheran groups and ultimately resulted in the withdrawal of Suther and his followers and the establishment of Brick Reformed Church near the site of Alamance Battlefield. Here Suther remained throughout the American Revolution encouraging the Patriot cause and suffering, along with his congregation, from the attacks of Loyalists who drove him from his home and laid waste his farm. After the Revolution he again served churches in Mecklenburg (Cabarrus) County before returning to Orangeburg, S.C., in 1786 to complete his life.

The organization and survival of the German Reformed Church in North Carolina is due, in no small measure, to this dedicated cleric, educator, and Patriot. His efforts to provide spiritual and material assistance to the struggling German congregations took him in 1784 to Pennsylvania, where he endeavored to interest northern members of the German Reformed church in contributing to the financial support of their southern brethren.

Suther and his wife, Elizabeth, had several children, including Johann Henry (b. 2 Oct. 1752), Jacob (b. 3 June 1756), Elizabeth (b. 5 Apr. 1760), and David (b. 1770). He died and was buried in the vicinity of Orangeburg, S.C. In 1975 a monument to his memory was erected near Concord, N.C., at New Gilead Reformed Church (United Church of Christ), successor to the earlier Coldwater Church where the noted Swiss clergyman was pastor.

References:

Frank K. Bostian and Bernard W. Cruse, Dutch Buffalo Creek Meeting House (1974).

J. C. Clapp, ed., Historic Sketch of the Reformed Church in North Carolina (1908).

Jacob C. Leonard, History of the Southern Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1940).

Banks J. Peeler, A Story of the Southern Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1968).

Records of the North Carolina Classis of the German Reformed Church in the United States (Reformed Church Archives, Salisbury, N.C.).

A. S. Sally, Jr., History of Orange County [S.C.] (1969).

William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. 8 (1890).

Banks D. Shepherd, New Gilead Church: A History of the German Reformed People on Coldwater (1966).

George M. Welker, A Historical Sketch of the Classis of North Carolina (1895).

Additional Resources:

Salley, Alexander Samuel. The history of Orangeburg County, South Carolina. Orangeburg, S.C.: R.L. Berry, Printer. 1898. https://archive.org/details/historyoforangeb00sall (accessed April 29, 2014).

Rumple, Jethro; Daughters of the American Revolution, Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter (Salisbury, N.C.).  A history of Rowan County, North Carolina. Salisbury, N.C.: Republished by the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. 1916. https://archive.org/details/historyofrowanco00rump (accessed April 29, 2014).

 

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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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