The real founder of the Presbyterian Church in Loudoun County was the Reverend Amos Thompson, who came to this county around 1764 as a missionary. Thompson had been licensed in 1761 by New Brunswick Presbytery, the licensing agency for the College of New Jersey (Princeton), and ordained in 1762 or 1763. His work in this county seems to have centered around two areas, Catoctin and Gum Spring (Arcola), and in a short time his efforts here showed results. His congregation at Catoctin purchased a plot of ground "with the house thereon for a place of public worship for the Neighboring Presbyterian Congregation" in 1769. The church he established at Gum Spring applied to Presbytery for a minister in 1776.
However, many of the facts of the Presbyterians' early history in Loudoun County have been lost in time. They were dissenters in a colony where the established church was Anglican. Virginia at that time had numerous statutes applying to dissenting churches. One of these required that ministers be licensed by the local courts in order that they might perform the rite of matrimony. Apparently great importance was attached to this responsibility for the license required a bond of 400 pounds, a very large sum in those days. County records show that among the first Presbyterian ministers issued a license were: David Bard, 1781; James Thompson, 1785; Amos Thompson, 1789; and William Allen, 1800. So far no record has come to light on where James Thompson or William Allen preached.
Nor are any facts available of exactly where members from the Catoctin and Gum Spring churches banded together to form the Presbyterian Society in Leesburg. It seems entirely possible that as the area became more heavily populated, Presbyterians around Leesburg wanted a church of their own, since it was a considerable distance to go to either of the existing churches. The Presbyterian Society probably held services in a private home, the courthouse, or perhaps at Catoctin. In 1782 we find them with a regular minister, for that year the Reverend David Bard was ordered from Catoctin "to supply Leesburg until the next meeting of the Presbytery." It is an interesting commentary on the times that David Bar's annual remuneration while he was at Catoctin was 200 bushels of wheat, 50 bushels of ry3, and 250 bushels of Indian corn.
It is also know that the church had its start during those strenuous years immediately preceding and during the Revolution and that the Presbyterians in Loudoun County like those throughout the Eastern Seaboard were ardent supporters of the revolutionary cause. Commenting on the sentiment in the American Colonies, Horace Walpole, the British Prime Minister, remarked "American has run off with a Presbyterian Parson, and that's the end of it." The Presbyterian parson was John Witherspoon, a great Scotsman who was a descendant of John Knox, and president of the College of New Jersey. He was the only minister who was a member of the Continental Congress and the only minister who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.
--- Establishment of the Presbyterian Church in Leesburg ---
The years during and following the Revolution saw great poverty among the people in this area. So it is a tribute to their faith and consecration and determination that by 1802 the members of the Presbyterian Society could plan to build a church. It seems to indicate that they were people of substance, probably aided by a certain amount of Scotch thrift. The Society bought at public auction on November 9, 1802, the lot where the church now stands, one half acre for $80. The deed conveyed the property from Patrick Caven to Robert Wade, Edward Dorsey, John McCormick and Alexander Laurence, representing the Presbyterian Church of Leesburg "for the sole use and purpose of a burying ground and place of worship to be conducted agreeably to the manner prescribed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of these United States, forever." It is an interesting coincidence that the property on which the Catoctin Church stood when the congregation bought it in 1769 was purchased from John Caven, whom we have reason to believe was the father of Patrick Caven. After the lot was bought, two members of the Society were appointed to enter into agreement with W. Wright to build a church "of brick 40 feet by 30 feet, in the clear."
--- Leesburg at this Time ---
Leesburg at this time was hardly more than a remote village which had grown up around a crossroads. Through it - north and south - ran the old Carolina Road, the main thoroughfare between the northern and southern colonies. East and west, the old "Ridge Road" connected Alexandria with Snickers' Gap (Bluemont) and Winchester. At the time the church was being build, Leesburg had a courthouse, the Old Stone Church (Methodist), a considerable number of log houses, and a few of stone and of brick. There was an extraordinary number of taverns and ordinaries. Forty-five years previous to this, in 1757, Nicholas Minor had laid off 60 acres in streets and lots and the Assembly had issued a charter, which used the quaint phrase of "erecting" the town of Leesburg. Among the original trustees was Francis Lightfoot Lee, who some years later was to be one of Virginia's signers of the Declaration. It was for this outstanding member of the famous family that the town was named.
--- The Organization and Dedication of the Church ---
The church's organization was the event of the greatest significance in its early years. The Reverend James Hall had charge of these ceremonies, undoubtedly by the order of Presbytery. At this time, Dr. Hall was Moderator of the General Assembly and he was on his way from his home in Bethany, NC to Philadelphia to its meeting where he was to preach the opening sermon as well as preside. James Hall was one of those great pioneers working to establish the Presbyterian Church in the South, having already been as far as ?Natchez organizing missions. During the Revolution, Hall organized a troop of cavalry and served as chaplain.
At the organization service held on Saturday, May 4, 1804, John McCormick, Obadiah Clifford, and Peter Carr were elected Elders. Peter Carr, whose several descendants are still active members of the church among them John William Carr, was the layman who made the largest contribution to the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in Loudoun County. Previous to this time he had lived in the Waterford neighborhood, where he had been a leader in forming the Catoctin Church, also serving as Elder. When he moved to his plantation below Leesburg and build his stone mansion about 1790, he became a part of the Leesburg congregation. In addition to the Carr family, the church still has many active members and officers whose families participated in the church's beginnings.
The following is taken from the Sessional Records of the Presbyterian Church of Leesburg, Virginia on May 5, 1804, pages 1-3:
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was this day administered in the Presbyterian Church and the following persons were admitted as members in full communion: