Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2006-02 > 1140827774
From: "LK Ramsey" <>
Subject: Early Methodism in America
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 19:36:14 -0500
The following is a short historical sketch I conducted several years ago
on the development of early Methodism in America. It is a non-published
item and is presented to the list for its historical value and interest,
showing the development of Methodism following the Great Philadelphia
Wagon Road to the Scotch-Irish and other isolated settlements, primarily
in NC and VA. There were a few circuit riders who would take the trails
into early KY and what is now east and middle TN, but this sketch covers
the onset of Methodism and its development in NC and VA. (Lee
Methodist were the last major Protestant sect to appear in
colonial North Carolina, with the first North Carolina circuit
established in 1776. On the 20 May 1777, at the Preaching House near
Deer Creek, Harford County, Maryland, four Methodist ministers were
appointed as the first to be stationed to the North Carolina circuit.
These traveling itinerate preachers were John King, as the acting
assistant, with John Dickens, Lee Roy Cole and Edward Pride being
admitted on trial.
After a minister was received into full connection he was "to
have the use and property of his horse, which any of the circuits may
furnish him." Every preacher was allowed 6 pounds of currency per
quarter, and "his traveling charges besides." Armed only with their
Bibles and an extra change of clothes tucked in their saddlebags, they
rode the circuits, where they conducted their services in the open or in
homes, receiving their meals and lodging from members of the societies.
The 1777 Meeting Minutes at Deer Creek, Maryland reported that the
Methodist Society in North Carolina totaled 930 members.
During the Revolutionary War, Rev. John Dickens traveled
extensively in North Carolina and Virginia. Rev. Dickens was born and
educated in London, England. In 1774, he joined the Methodist Society
in America, and became a traveling preacher in 1777. Following the war,
he was stationed for several years at New York City, and in 1789, he was
stationed in Philadelphia, PA, where he died 27 Sept 1793, at the age of
After the conclusion of the Revolution, there was an expansion
and growth of Methodist societies in North Carolina. At the 1783,
general meeting at Baltimore, Maryland, the Salisbury, North Carolina
circuit was established, with Beverly Allen, James Forster and James
Hinton appointed as the circuit's first ministers. The 1783 conference
minutes reported 30 members that year for the Salisbury circuit, which
encompassed the Rowan, Lincoln and Mecklenburg County areas. The
circuit's 1784 membership report numbered 375, with Jesse Lee and Isaac
Smith appointed to serve for the ensuing year. Rev. Lee was an itinerant
minister from the British Province of Florida, and served as a presiding
elder for thirty-five years. He served as a chaplain to the Congress,
and was the first Methodist American historian. Rev. Jesse Lee and Rev.
Hope Hull (1785) are credited with laying the foundation for Methodism
in this region of North Carolina. Rev. Jesse Lee died in the year 1816,
and was buried in the city of Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1785, the first annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal
Church was held in Franklin County, NC. This historical event took
place 29-30 April 1785, at Green Hill Place, the home of Major Green
Hill (1741-1826) in central Franklin County, one mile east of Louisburg.
At this conference, which established the founding of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, Joshua Hartley and Hope Hull were admitted on trial
and appointed to the Salisbury circuit. The following year the first
Methodist Annual Conference held in western North Carolina was held at
Salisbury, 1 Feb 1786, with Thomas Williamson and Henry Bingham
appointed to the Salisbury circuit. In 1787, that year's first annual
conference was again held at Salisbury, with Rev. Mark Moore appointed
on May the 17th as the circuit's only minister. The 1787 membership
report stated "391 Whites" and "24 Col.", reflecting the promotion of
the spiritual welfare and religious outreach to the communities wherein
these pioneer ministers traveled.
In 1801, the Salisbury circuit became part of the new "Salisbury
District", and in 1802 this district was included in the newly formed
Virginia Conference, which also included the circuits of Caswell,
Guilford, Franklin, Morganton, Swanino,Yadkin and Haw-River. Rev. Jesse
Coe had served the Salisbury circuit in 1801, and was followed in 1802
by William Ormond. Rev. William Ormond is the first known native of
North Carolina to served the Salisbury circuit. He was born 22 Dec
1769, in Dobbs County, NC, and became a traveling preacher in 1791.
During his ministry he traveled circuits in Maryland, various circuits
in Virginia, North and South Carolina and to parts of Georgia. While
stationed at Norfolk, VA, he contracted a "malignant fever" and died 30
Oct 1803, in Brunswick Co., VA.
As the early Methodist societies were being established in
Mecklenburg County, other Salisbury circuit ministers continued to make
their appointed rounds. These ministers included James Boyd and John
Moore in 1804; William Algood and John Weaver, 1805; Josiah Philips,
1806; John Owen and R. Owen, 1807; John French and Joshua W. Kilpatrick,
1808, (the year in which Salisbury District became the Yadkin District
of the Virginia Conference); Gary Williams and Thomas Burge, 1809; John
Lattimore and Thomas M. Bacon, 1810; and Joel Burgess with Nathan Weedon
Rev. Nathan Weedon was a native of the Northern Neck of Virginia,
and in 1805, he was recommended and received on trial at the annual
conference held at "Edmund Taylor's, North Carolina", and was appointed
first to the Guilford circuit. Prior to his appointment to the
Salisbury circuit, he served the Mattamuskeet and Banks circuits in
1806, the Yadkin circuit in 1807, the Trent circuit in 1809, and the
Franklin circuit in 1810. In 1811, after making two rounds of the
Salisbury circuit, Rev. Nathan Weedon developed severe headaches
accompanied by bouts of delirium. He was never able to make a recovery
from his infirmity, and in November he suffered the lost of his sight.
Two weeks before his death, Rev. Weedon went to the home of William
Shepperd in Surry County, NC, where he died on 26 Dec 1811
Another pioneer Methodist minister, who contributed much to
Methodism within this region of North and South Carolina, was Rev.
Daniel Asbury. Rev. Asbury served in Mecklenburg County as pastor of
the Tryon Street Methodist Church in Charlotte from 1824-1825. He was a
native of Fairfax Co., Virginia, where he was born in 1762. While
serving the Salisbury circuit Rev. Asbury established the Rehoboth
Campground in Lincoln County, which became the first Methodist Church
built west of the Catawba. As early as 1812, he is found serving as the
presiding elder for the Camden District in the South Carolina Conference
The earliest known Methodist society in Mecklenburg County was
formed in the southern part of the county in 1785. This congregation
was established as the Harrison Methodist Church in 1819, south of
Pineville. A deed dated 15 July 1824, shows the church property as
located on Twelve Mile Creek, adjacent to the lands of Reuben Bozwell or
Bozzell, who deeded four acres of his own land to the Methodist Church
Trustees for the purpose of building a meetinghouse. These early church
trustees were Wm. McRee, Abner Houston, John Fullwood, John Osborn and
James H. Morrison. In 1815, the Buck's Hill Methodist society was
organized 7 miles northwest of Charlotte on the Beatty's Ford road.
This congregation was the origin of the Tryon Street Methodist Episcopal
Church, with the first church being erected on Seventh Street in 1834.
It was relocated to its present site in 1859.
Mecklenburg County local history states that the first Methodist
Church to be established between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers was the
"Bethesda Church" ca1810, with its' founder as Andrew Moore, a local
chair-maker. This church name may have been confused with the Bethesda
congregation in former Mecklenburg/Tryon County, NC, west of the
Catawba, which was established there in 1769, and which became the
Bethesda Presbyterian Church of York County, SC. Mecklenburg County
land deeds show that in 1818, Andrew Moore was one of the trustees for
the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States located on Barren
Creek, which was a branch of the Rocky River in northern Mecklenburg
County near present day Cornelius, NC. This deed for three and one half
acres was adjacent to the "existing meetinghouse and graveyard." Other
trustees identified by the deed are Moses Christenbury and William Ford.
A Mecklenburg County deed dated 24 Mar 1828 also list Andrew Moore among
the trustees and identifies the church as the Zion Methodist Episcopal
Church, with other trustees from Mecklenburg County as John Cannon and
John Kerr, and with trustees from Iredell County as David George and
Osborn Jetton. Probably the earliest Methodist Church in Mecklenburg
County was the Bethel Methodist Church, which was established in 1790,
but was taken into the newly created Cabarrus County, NC in 1792.
Ferguson, Herman W., "Abstracts of Deed Books 15-23, Mecklenburg County,
North Carolina 1794-1830, Rocky Mount, NC, 2001.
Hitt, Daniel and Thomas Ware, publishers, "Minutes Of The Methodist
Conferences, Annually Held In America; From 1773 To 1813", Volume The
First, John C. Totten, printer, New York, 1813, reprint edition by
Magnolia Press, Swainsboro, GA, 1983.
Leary, Helen F. and Maurice R. Stirewalt, Eds., "North Carolina Research
Genealogy And Local History, Raleigh, NC, The North Carolina
Genealogical Society, 1980.
Powell, William S., "The North Carolina Gazetteer", reprint by The
University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1987.
Ray, Worth S., "The Mecklenburg Signers And Their Neighbors", Reprint
for Clearfield Company, Inc. by Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.,
Baltimore, MD, 1993.
Rumple, Rev. Jethro, "A History Of Rowan County, North Carolina,
Containing Sketches of Prominent Families and Distinguished Men",
Reprint Bicentennial Edition, With A New Index By Edith M. Clark for
Regional Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD, 1978.
Tompkins, D.A., "History Of Mecklenburg County North Carolina And The
City Of Charlotte From 1740 to 1903", Volume One, Narrative, Charlotte,