Samuel McAdow, one of the founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was born on April 10, 1760, in Guilford County, North Carolina, the son of Scots and Irish immigrants. Raised a Presbyterian, McAdow attended the church and school led by Dr. David Caldwell. He studied at Mecklenburg College for three years before returning to Caldwell’s tutelage to prepare for the ministry. McAdow was licensed to preach in 1794 and ordained prior to 1799.
That same year McAdow left North Carolina to begin work in Kentucky. He spent the summer in Tennessee, where over one hundred families appealed to him to remain as their pastor. From 1800 to 1806 McAdow served in the Cumberland Presbytery in Kentucky though he occasionally journeyed to Tennessee to preach. McAdow participated in the revivals of the period and became involved in the conflicts that gripped the frontier Presbyterian Church over the proper response to the emotionalism associated with the western revivals. In 1806 the Presbyterian Church dissolved the Cumberland Presbytery and prohibited pastors who had participated in the Great Revival from preaching or administering sacraments.
During this period, McAdow left Kentucky and settled in Dickson County, Tennessee, in an area that is now part of the Montgomery Bell State Park. At his home on February 4, 1810, McAdow met with other revival pastors including Finis Ewing and Samuel King and organized–independently of the Presbyterian Church–the Cumberland Presbytery, which quickly became known as a new denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
McAdow and his family moved to Illinois in 1828, where he continued his work in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He founded the Mount Gilead Church in 1828, and several members of his family are buried in the church cemetery, including two sons, a daughter, and his wife Hannah. Samuel McAdow was married three times. In 1788 he married Henrietta Wheatley in North Carolina. They had five children, three of whom died in infancy. His first wife died in 1799, and the next year McAdow married Catherine Clark of Logan County, Kentucky. She died in 1804. McAdow married for the third time in July 1806 to Hannah Cope, who died in 1839. McAdow died on March 30, 1844. A replica of McAdow’s log dogtrot dwelling has been constructed in Montgomery Bell State Park to commemorate the foundation of the denomination.