The small group of Ulster Presbyterians who had emigrated and settled in Newcastle, Pennsylvania prior to 1706 petitioned Presbytery for the supply of a minister. Their numbers were small and were joined by co-religionists, members of the Dutch Reformed Church and French Huguenots.
Address by the Presbyterians of Newcastle, Pennsylvania 1706
Source: T 3762/1 (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland)
Right Reverend and honorable
We undersubscribers and the greatest number of us born and educated in Ireland under the ministry of one [William Triall]* a presbiterian [Presbyterian] minister formerly of Lifford, Co. Donegal] are by divine providence settled with our families at Newcastle and about it in the province of Pensilvania [Pennsylvania] and we have for present one [Mr.] John [Wilson?] a Scots man who preacheth amongst us to whom [affordeth?] a few of different nations as we do but they are neither capable to maintain a [church?] nor build a [meeting] house and so we are in fear dayly to be cast [out?] and to our great grief we and our posterity left as a prey to superstition and heresies. Therefore though it may be unusual yet out of pure necessity and consideration of our soul circumstances we do most humbly address our [selves] to you as unto our mother church and to [give us?] your advice in this our uncertain condition and if there can be any supply granted for our small congregation which is the custom of other persuasions to doe for them of their way.
Your Supplicants shall ever pray,
Feb 11th 1706/5
William? [-------?] (illegible)
Abraham Emott [Emmett]
Adam Wallis [Wallace]
Robert Wallis [Wallace]
David Wallis [Wallace]
Thomas Southerland [Sutherland]
John Emott [Emmett]
*Presbyterians in Ulster were persecuted during the seventeenth century and were subject to Penal Laws and were forbidden to erect meetinghouses in towns and villages…… the meetinghouse for Clonleigh parish lies 5kms distant from Lifford in Ballindrait. The first recorded minister of Ballindrait Church is Rev. William Triall who laboured in Clonleigh parish and the Laggan Valley 1673-1682. He arrived in Ballindrait from Scotland as a probationer in 1671 and was secretly ordained at St. Johnston for Lifford congregation.
Continually victimised by Bishop Robert Leslie of Raphoe, the Militia stationed at Lifford were sent on two occasions to remove the thatch from the roof of the meetinghouse.
In 1681 while at a Presbytery meeting in St Johnston, Triall learned that the Sheriff was searching for the Presbytery minutes. He urgently mounted his horse and rushed home and made safe the minute book.
The Laggan presbytery appointed 17th February 1681 as a day of fasting and prayer which greatly offended the hierarchy of the Established Church. Four ministers were summoned to Dublin, tried at Lifford and fined £20 each and to enter into a bond not to re-offend. This, they were unable to do and were subsequently imprisoned for 8 months. Whilst imprisoned their congregations were compelled to feed and clothe them.
The situation continued to worsen and public worship almost ceased for 10 years, Triall resigned and fled to Scotland about 1682 and subsequently emigrated to Potomac, Maryland
Much has been stated that Ulster Presbyterians generally, emigrated to the American colonies seeking religious and personal liberty, but in reality, later emigration was driven by a search for economic prosperity. However, for early Presbyterian emigrants, the New World, offered a welcome refuge from the daily persecution they experienced in their native land.