In the beginning...
Hillsborough Presbyterian Church was organized by the (then called) Orange Presbytery on September 25, 1816. Previously, it was the site of a Church of England structure that was destroyed by fire before the end of the 18th century. The current sanctuary was built in 1814. It became the property of the Presbyterians after the State made the land and building available to the first religious body in town to call a minister. John Knox Witherspoon became the first minister to accept a call, granting the property to the Presbyterian Church. Notably, Rev. Witherspoon was the grandson of Dr. John Witherspoon, the only clergy person to sign the Declaration of Independence.
This particular lot holds a lot of historical significance. It was the site of the Third Provincial Congress of 1775 and the meeting place of the NC Legislature in 1778, 1782, and 1783. The first NC Constitutional Convention was held on this site in 1788 and refused to ratify the Constitution which had been drafted in Philadelphia during summer of 1787. There is a historical marker noting this on the south lawn of the church.
Concerns over race relations and race-related justice
Being over 200 years old, the church itself has lived through many events of historical significance. In the fall of 2020, when protests against clear racial injustices were occurring across the nation, some members of HPC requested that we look into our church’s historic relationships with African Americans. The stated goal of the proposal to the session was to provide the congregation an understanding of HPC’s place in the history of race relations in Hillsborough and beyond as a context for our ongoing endeavor to "bring healing, hope, and joy to all." The session approved the request at its November 2020 meeting and authorized formation of a working group to conduct a study and prepare a report. After a year of research and discussion, the following report was presented to the session and congregation. You may find it attached below.
An important note before you read our report: we recognize this is only part of the story and not a complete picture, but we hope this will lead to further discoveries as we continue to explore our history. This is an on-going conversation that will always be part of our life as a congregation. As a friend in the presbytery once said, "This is a lifestyle change, not a crash-course diet." While we consider this an urgent issue, we also recognize there will always be more to learn. In everything, we seek to be guided by God's grace working through the Holy Spirit.