Minister, author, and theological professor, William Swan Plumer (1802-80) was one of Princeton Theological Seminary’s most well-known students. Born in Griersburg, Pennsylvania, Plumer would graduate from Washington College in Virginia in 1825. Following a year of study at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1826, Plumer began a very active and diverse ministerial career.
During the first several years of Plumer’s ministry he helped organize and found churches in Danville, Virginia and Warrenton, North Carolina. After several years of itinerant preaching ministry, he served as a resident pastor in Petersburg, Virginia from 1831 to 1834, and in Richmond, Virginia between the years of 1835 and 1846. During his Richmond pastorate, Plumer founded a religious weekly, the Watchman of the South, and an institution to assist the deaf, dumb, and blind.
In 1847, Plumer accepted a pastoral call to Baltimore, Maryland. After eight years of ministry with the congregation there, Plumer became pastor of a church in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, where he also served as a professor at Western Theological Seminary. Plumer relocated to the Philadelphia area in the mid-1860s. He assisted a congregation in Pottsville, 1865-66, at which time he received appointment to serve as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. He served in this position until 1875, when he was transferred to the chair of Historic, Casuistic, and Pastoral Theology. He held this position until shortly before his death.
Plumer was a prolific author and active churchman. His published works include commentaries, biblical studies, articles, essays, sermons, and a volume on pastoral theology. His writings, while profoundly theological in nature, are very practical in focus. A number of his books have remained in print; they represent a high point in the theological-devotional literature produced of nineteenth century American Presbyterianism.
As a churchman, Plumer had the rare distinction of serving as Moderator of the General Assembly of the undivided Presbyterian denomination (1838) and of its southern branch (1871). In his life and work, William S. Plumer embodied Princeton Theological Seminary’s vision for an intelligent and informed piety that rested on the theological foundations of Scripture and the Westminster Standards.[James M. Garretson in Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry, Volume 2].