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McLeod family papers

Identifier: MSS 0514

Scope and Contents

The McLeod family papers, spanning the dates 1798 to 1893, comprise one linear foot of notebooks containing sermons and notes, correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, tax receipts and marriage certificates comprise the collection. The bulk of the collection pertains to the careers of Rev. Alexander McLeod and his son Rev. John Niel McLeod, who consecutively served as pastors to the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in New York City. Other members of the McLeod family and the Wylie family are briefly represented in the collection.

The majority of the collection consists of twenty-nine notebooks of Rev. Alexander McLeod and his son Rev. John Niel McLeod. These notebooks have been grouped by original owner, and arranged chronologically within each series. Rev. Alexander McLeod’s notebooks span the dates 1798 to 1832, with some gaps in the years. This time span coincides with the duration of his position as pastor at the above mentioned church. The notebooks of Rev. John Niel McLeod span the years 1827 to 1851. Again, there are gaps, and the notebooks terminate before the end of Rev. John Niel McLeod’s service as pastor at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, which ended in 1874. Many of these notebooks also include items laid in, which often are of a different date than the notebooks. It appears that the notes and sermons in these notebooks were often reused, and at times John Niel used notes written by his father.

Rev. John Niel McLeod is further represented in the collection by a small group of varied pieces. Two pocket diaries, from 1869 and 1870, record the weather and daily events from these years. There is also a photograph of the Rev. McLeod, as well as five newspaper clippings pertaining to his life, ministry, and death. Also included is a copy of a letter to Abraham Lincoln in 1864, penned by Rev. John Niel McLeod on behalf of his congregation. Another letter was written to him by his Aunt Mary McLeod, of Scotland. She refers to a trip he made to visit her in 1841, before the Tower of London burned. Notable in the personal papers is an 1869 inventory of Rev. John Niel McLeod’s personal library, comprising over 2,000 volumes of religious and historical works (F32).

The collection also includes items related to other McLeod family members as well the Wylie family. The link between the Wylie and McLeod family is two-fold. The Wylie family was long involved in the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, established in 1798. This Church housed the Theological Presbyterian Seminary of Philadelphia, where Rev. John Niel McLeod was Professor of Theology for a period. Reverend John Niel McLeod also married Mary Thompson Wylie in 1830, uniting the Wylie and McLeod families in law as well as in religious affiliation. The items in these series are fragmented, although they all pertain specifically to a member of the McLeod or Wylie families. The most noteworthy pieces are two McLeod family photographs, and a letter from T.A. Wylie of Indiana to his sister, Mary Thompson McLeod. Other pieces include obituaries of Donald McLeod, and ephemera from the Wylie Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

The notebooks of Alexander and John Niel McLeod are the strongest part of this collection. The information recorded in these notebooks offers insight into the busy life of a Presbyterian clergyman in the nineteenth century. Both men traveled often, especially between New York and Philadelphia, and were involved with various Presbyterian societies and committees. The sermon notes recorded in the notebooks would also be useful to historians or theologians interested in the treatment of biblical topics throughout nineteenth century. While the other items in the collection are few and fragmented they do provide some supplemental details pertaining to the personal lives of the McLeod family.


  • Creation: 1798-1893


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Reverend Alexander McLeod, D.D. (also written MacLeod) was born on Mull Island, part of the Hebrides Islands in Scotland, on June 12, 1774. His parents, Reverend Niel McLeod and Margaret (McLean) McLeod, were both involved in the Scottish Established Church, Niel as the pastor of two parishes in Mull Island, and Margaret as the daughter of Niel’s predecessor Reverend Archibald McLean. Rev. Alexander McLeod became the the first pastor of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of New York City in 1801.

The First Reformed Presbyterian Church of New York City emerged in the late eighteenth century out of a praying society aligned closely with the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland. Beginning as early as 1790, this praying society would meet at the home of Mr. John Agnew, whose descendents remained active in the church from that point onward. The congregation was organized in 1797. Rev. Alexander McLeod remained pastor until his death in 1833. At this time his son, the Rev. John Niel McLeod, became pastor and continued his service until his death in 1874.

Rev. Alexander McLeod left Scotland in 1792 and took up a teaching position in Schenectady, New York. In 1796 he enrolled at Union College, and graduated with honors two years later. Upon his arrival in the United States he quickly united with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and was licensed to preach in 1799. Within the year following his ordination he was called to be pastor at two New York Churches, one in Coldenham, and the other in New York City. The First Reformed Presbyterian Church in New York City grew so rapidly it became apparent that he would need to devote all of his time to that parish. Reverend McLeod served there until his death at the age of 59 on February 17, 1833.

Reverend Alexander McLeod married Mary Anne Agnew on September 15, 1805. Mary Anne was the daughter of Mr. John Agnew, one of the earliest congregants of the reformed Presbyterian Church of New York City, and she was also one of the first members to be baptized in infancy under the auspices of the newly formed church. Their marriage produced eleven children, four of which lived into adulthood.

Reverend Dr. John Niel McLeod was the first born son of Rev. Alexander and Mary Anne. Born in New York City in 1806, John Niel McLeod graduated from Columbia College in 1826, and earned a Doctorate of Divinity from Dickinson College in 1846. Upon his ordination in 1828, he was elected pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Galway, New York. When his father’s health began to deteriorate in 1832 Rev. John Niel McLeod became associate pastor at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in New York City to share the pastoral duties. When his father died in 1833 Rev. John Niel McLeod was elected pastor of the church. He maintained this role until his own death in 1874.

His religious work was not confined to New York City. In 1851 he was elected Professor of Doctrinal Theology at the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, located in Philadelphia. He acted in this position intermittently until 1858. In 1855 he traveled to Paris as a delegate to the Paris Conference to form an Evangelical Alliance for the world. He spent six months as Chaplain for the 84th Regiment (New York) during the Civil War, and also was editor of the Philadelphia publication “Banner of the Cross.”

Reverend John Niel McLeod married Mary Thompson Wylie in 1830. Together they had eight children.

Ayers, James A. Associated Clan MacLeod Societies Genealogical Resources. Retrieved on October 13, 2005 from First Reformed Presbyterian Church, New York. A Century of Reformed Presbyterianism: The Handbook of the Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Organization of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of New York City, December 26-30, 1897. New York: First Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1897. Malone, Dumas, ed. Dictionary of American Biography, Volume VI, Larned-Millington. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 131-132.


1 linear foot (1 box)


The McLeod family papers, spanning the dates 1798 to 1893, primarily pertain to the careers of Rev. Alexander McLeod and his son Rev. John Niel McLeod, who consecutively served as pastors to the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mr. Bill Inslee, November 7, 1972

Shelving Summary

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

Processing Information

Processed by Emily Holloway, October 2005. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, March 2010.

Finding aid for the McLeod family papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 24
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA