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When Marlow Harper Murdock was baptized at Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church on May 27, she continued a family tradition that dates back to the 1700s.
Marlow, the 6-month-old daughter of Ryan and Karen French Murdock of Atlanta, followed in the footsteps of her mother, her grandmother, Catherine Potts French, and six more generations.
“It was so moving and meaningful,” said French, whose 3-year-old twin grandchildren were also baptized at the church as babies. “It gives me a feeling of peace and happiness to be there. It means family.”
The family’s history with the church goes back to William Harper, who emigrated from Ireland in 1767 and is buried in the church’s cemetery.
Also in the family line is Henry Massey Sr., who was a boyhood friend of Andrew Jackson, the eighth president of the United States, said French, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Her grandfather, Julian Starr, was a local architect who hand-carved the wood around the church’s pulpit. Her grandmother, Catherine Eula Starr, played the organ and was known as a historian.
“I glance over and see where my mother sat – the third row from the back. I can look over and almost see her there,” French said. “And my granddaddy in his pew, he would look at his pocket watch to cue the minister to wrap it up.”
Scots-Irish settlers from Pennsylvania established Old Waxhaw in 1755. It is considered one of the oldest and most historic churches in South Carolina.
Andrew Jackson was baptized in the first meeting house, also used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War and burned by the British after a skirmish in 1781.
Second and third churches were raised. The church that now stands at 2814 Old Hickory Road was built in 1896.
The cemetery is the final resting place of pioneers and war heroes, including Andrew Jackson Sr., the president’s father; Andrew Pickens Sr., the Revolutionary War hero’s father; and William Richardson Davie, general in the American Revolution, founder of the University of North Carolina and 10th governor of North Carolina.
The church cemetery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.