See biography by I. M. Page (1938); biographical study ed. by B. S. Schlenther (1971); C. A. Briggs, American Presbyterianism (1985).
Born in County Donegal, Ireland, he became a clergyman and was ordained by the Presbytery of Laggan in Ireland in 1682. At the call of Colonel William Stevens, an Episcopalian from Rehoboth, Maryland, he was sent as a missionary to America arriving in Maryland in 1683. In 1683, Makemie founded the first Presbyterian community in the Town of Snow Hill. The Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is in its fourth building on its third location in the town of Snow Hill. The first building, which was near the river, which was the chief means of travel in the 17th and early 18th centuries, was a log building. A frame building was erected next, a little further away from the water, and during the time the congregation worshiped in this building the current location was purchased and became the site of the cemetery. The third building was of brick and was located on the high ground to the rear of the location of the present building. The remains of the foundation to that building were rediscovered in the late 1980's. The fourth and present building was constructed in 1889 and dedicated to the glory of God and in memory of Francis Makemie. It is the only church in the country allowed to be so named. Makemie also built a church in Rehobeth, Maryland in Somerset County which still stands today as the oldest Presbyterian Church in America. In addition he had a hand in founding churches in Salisbury, Princess Anne, Berlin and Pocomoke City as well as in two places in Virginia. The Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church is the first church in the colonies to present a call for a pastor to the Presbytery. Snow Hill was also to be the center of the Presbytery of Snow Hill, which was chartered by the General Assembly, but never activated.
He married Naomi Anderson, the daughter of a successful businessman and landowner. Francis and Naomi had two daughters, Anne and Elizabeth. In 1706, he was instrumental in the founding of the first Presbytery in America.
Makemie eventually went to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and founded a community there. In 1707, Makemie was arrested by Lord Cornbury, the Governor of New York for preaching without a license. He was acquitted of the charges, and this is considered to be a landmark case in favor of religious freedom in America. Makemie died on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 1708.
Makemie Woods campground, owned and operated by the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is named for Francis Makemie. The camp is located between Williamsburg and Richmond, VA