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Rev John Elder

Photo added by Glenn Koons

Rev John Elder

  • Birth 26 Jan 1706 Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Death 17 Jul 1792 Paxtang, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Burial Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Memorial ID 9426390

John Elder was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on January 26, 1706 and came to America about 1735. He became a licensed minister and first took up the pulpit at New Castle followed by a call to Donegal. In 1738 he accepted the call of the Paxtang Presbyterian congregation with whom his fame would be forever associated. Pastor Elder's early years of ministry were not easy as a reformation was sweeping through the Presbyterian Church. Not a man to back down from anything, Elder threw himself into the furor preching against this great revival as it was called but earning himself ememies within the church. Charges of preaching false doctrine were filed against him with the Presbytery but that governing body cleared him but troubles within the church would continue to dog him for many years. Along with these troubles came the French and Indian War. The Paxtang congegration formed their own company for the defense of the frontier. John Elder was elected captian of this company and thus the legend of Parson Elder was born. Parson Elder, as he was now known, was a strict disciplinarian. His mouted rangers called the Paxtang Boys were a forced to be reckoned with on the Pennsylvania frontier in 1763. For 2 years every adult male who attended Paxtang Church carried his rifle with him to services. Parson Elder took his, often propping it beside him in the pulpit to keep it at hand. On July 11, 1762 Elder was promoted to the "dignity of Colonel" by Pennsylvania Provincial authorities. His command consisted of all the forts and blockhouses from Easton to the Susquehanna River. In the late summer of 1763 there were many persons killed by Indians around the Paxtang area and feeling against any Indians were running high. A group of friendly Conestoga Indians arrived in Lancaster seeking protection from roving bands of rangers bent on revenge. The sheriff of Lancaster County not knowing what to do with this unwanted guests clapped them into the Lancaster County jail. Word of Indians being housed in the jail was received at Paxtang and a body of Paxtang Boys went to Lancaster. The jail was stormed by the Paxtang Boys that the unfortunate Indians were slaughtered. It has never been proven that Parson Elder had any prior knowledge that these murders were to be committed but a local legend has it that he did and when he attempted to talk his rangers out of this plot some of them paid a call on Parson Elder at his farm near the church and told him him that they expected him to accompany them on this raid and that if he didn't they would kill an extremely fine horse the Parson owned and was proud of. The movie "Light In The Forest" staring James MacArthur, Carol Lindely and Fess Parker was loosely based on the Paxtang Boys. The Lancaster episode brought Elder at odds with the strong Quaker influence and he was releived of his command by the governor of the Province. In 1768 Parson Elder left Paxtang and took up the call of the Second Philadelphia Presbytery. In a few years he took over the pulpit at Carlisle so he could be closer to his Paxtang holdings but in a few years went to leave from call to become a farmer. The revolutionary war was beginning and the British overran New Jersey. On a fine Sunday morning Parson Elder showed up as usual at Paxtang Church but this time he accended to the pulpit. He gave a call to the patriotism of the men extorted them to the defense of liberty. The fire of Parson Elder still ran strong and in less than 30 minutes a comapny was formed. Elder's eldest son Robert was chosen captian. The company depsrted for active service the next day. Once again Elder was commissioned colonel, this time by the Continential Congress but he only served a short time as age was beginning to slow him down. He resigned his commission when the Paxtang Church summoned him to the pulpit for the second time. He took up the charge on April 12, 1776 where he reamined till his death July 17, 1792.

Bio by: Glenn Koons


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Glenn Koons
  • Added: 6 Sep 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9426390
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rev John Elder (26 Jan 1706–17 Jul 1792), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9426390, citing Paxton Presbyterian Churchyard, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .