David Elliott was born in Sherman Valley, now in Perry County, to Thomas and Jane Holliday Elliott on February 6, 1787. Of Scots Irish heritage, he was raised on his parents' farm in a pious Presbyterian family. He was educated at home and in several neighborhood church schools, including that of the Reverend James Linn at Center Church. He entered Dickinson College in the junior class, and was graduated with the class of 1808, and with high honors and voted valedictorian by his peers.
He then studied theology for three years and was licensed as a pastor in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1881 and took his first church at Upper West Conocheague near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania in 1812 and there he remained until 1829. In the meantime, he founded the Franklin County Bible Society and was present at the founding of the American Bible Society in New York in 1816. He also served on the board of trustees of his alma mater between 1827 and 1829.
In 1829, Elliott was called as pastor to Washington, Pennsylvania in the west of the state. He found the local Presbyterian college in a parlous condition and serving as acting president and professor of moral philosophy for nearly two years during which the college recovered from closure and near extinction. He declined the permanent presidency of the institution, preferring his local full-time pastorate and turned Washington College over in December, 1831 to fellow Dickinson graduate David McConaughy. Washington College today is Washington and Jefferson College.
In 1835, he turned down the professorship of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at the Western Theological Seminary, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania but the following year, accepted the chair of Polemic and Historical Theology at the same institution. He held this post for nearly thirty-five years, and retired in 1870 as professor emeritus. He became increasingly involved in the governance of the denomination. In 1837 he was moderator at the Philadelphia General Assembly that split the church between New and Old Schools; but he lived to see and take part in the exercises at the reunification of 1870.
He had married Ann West, daughter of Edward West of Landisburg, Pennsylvania in May, 1814. David Elliott died on March 18th, 1874 in Allegheny at the age of eighty seven years.
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