Abel Stevens.

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Bequest of

Frederic Bancroft


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By ABEL S T E Y E N S, LL. D.,



^^t planting of g^nteruair Petl^obism.




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S64, hy

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New-York.

-t — I — . t » n « — t


To Gabeiel p. Disoswat, Esq.

My Deab SiE, — In submitting to you the first two volumes of the
" History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of
America," 1 acknowledge, with grateful pleasure, my obligations to you
for the counsels and encouragements you have constantly given me in
my laborious task. During more than a quarter of a century the extra-
ordinary "Eeligious Movement of the Eighteenth Centiuy, called Meth-
odism," has been to me a profoundly interesting study. But such are
the paucity, the carelessness even, and consequent inaccuracy of our
early documents, that my task has had extreme embarrassments. So
formidable have these been that, could they have been estimated in the
outset, they would have deterred me from my undertaking. No man
has given me more intimate sympathy or more valuable advice in my
researches than yourself. Your ancestral connection with the early Hu-
guenotic religious history of the country, and a Methodistic parentage
which has rendered you familiar with nearly the entire history of Amer-
ican Methodism, have enabled you to afford me indispensable aid, and
have enabled me, as difficulty after difficulty has vanished, to rejoice
m the labors of my pen.

My public function, as a Church editor, afforded me, for years, means of
gathering fragmentary accoimts of our history, as they occasionally ap-
peared in my periodical " exchanges." They accumulated in large col-
lections. An early correspondence with many of the fathers of the
denomination, most of whom have now gone to their rest, procured
autobiographical sketches, local historical records, and other invaluable
manuscripts, which remain with me as precious relics. I found, in
these materials, many data which, though unsuitable for a general his-
tory of the denomination, were too important to be lost, and might be
properly enough used in a local narrative. More than fifteen years


Bince, a portion of them ■vrere, therefore, published in a volume of " Me-
morials of the Introduction of Methodism into the Eastern States, com-
prising Biographical Notices of its Early Preachers, Sketches of its first
Churches, and Reminiscences of its Early Struggles and Successes."
The unexpected interest excited by this publication led to a second
series, some twelve years since, entitled, " Memorials of the Early Prog-
ress of Methodism in the Eastern States," etc. As many, if not, indeed,
most of the early preachers of Methodism in New England, were from
the Middle States, and, by the transitions of the " itinerant system,"
were tossed, not only back again to their original fields, but, many of
them, to remote parts of the country, their personal history, as given in
these early volumes, presented not a few data of the general history of
the denomination. Historical students know that no literary labor is
more onerous than the preparation of works like these. The private
correspondence, the collection and combination of fugitive and frag-
mentary accounts, the collation of documents, the harmonization of
conflicting statements, the grouping of events lacking often their most
essential connecting links, the portraiture of characters, historically im-
portant but almost totally obscured in undeserved oblivion, present em-
barrassments which may well constrain the writer often to throw down his
pen in despair. But I have been abundantly compensated by the facts
that the " Memorials " have become recognized as indispensable author-
ities, for reference, in subsequent historical works on Methodism, that
they are incessantly cited in accounts of eastern Churches and Confer-
ences, and that they have rescued, at the last moment, many heroic
characters from utter obUNion. I have even had the presumption to
suppose that, as no general ecclesiastical historian can now ignore the
primitive Church chroniclers, Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomcn, Theodoret,
Evagrius, feeble and blundering narrators aa they were, so these humble
contributions of my pen shall, by the mere fact of their chronological
precedence, be necessary documents of reference for the abler writers of
the future. They have been followed by one effect for which I have
especially to congratulate myself: they were the first in that numerous
series of local narratives of the denomination which have since enriched
us with our best historical materials. " Memorials of Methodism in New
Jersey," by Atkinson ; " Annals of Southern Methodism," by Deems ;
" Sketches of Western Methodism," and several similar works by Fin-
ley ; " Methodism within the Troy Conference," by Parks ; " Early
Methodism within the bounds of the Old Genesee Conference," bj


Peck; "Sketches and Collections," by Carroll ; "Lost Chapters," and
the "Heroes," by Wakeley; the "Heroines," by Coles; "Methodism
in Canada," byPlayter; "Methodism in America," by Lednum,
" German Methodist Preachers," by Miller, and many similar and
equally valuable works, besides almost innumerable biographical con-
tributions to our history, have, since, been incessantly issuing from the
press, and it seems probable that few recoverable documents or remi-
niscences, of our early times, wUl now be allowed to perish. If there has
been somewhat of antiquarian extravagance in this prevalent and in-
fectious spirit of inquiry ; if it has sometimes harassed our public press
with belabored controversies about names and dates, it is nevertheless
pardonable, and indeed admirable, for the rich results it has afforded.
The researches of Wakeley have especially given us facts of priceless
value, and I cannot too strongly acknowledge my obligations to him.
The occasional publications of Drs. Coggeshall, Hamilton, and Roberts
deserve equal commendation. These writers, though differing on im-
portant questions, have illuminated phases of our history which formerly
seemed hopelessly obscured.

The two volumes of " Memorials" were but preliminary to a more
elaborate work, " The History of the Religious Movement of the Eight-
eenth Century, called Methodism, considered in its Different Denomi-
national Forms, and its Relations to British and American Protestantism,"
in three volumes. I know of no work on Methodism which proposed
80 comprehensive a scope ; many of its necessary routes of research had
never, to my knowledge, been explored ; but if at any time I was bewil-
dered, and disposed despondently to retreat from the labyrinth of inco-
herent data and conflicting authorities, as well as from other and more
vexatious discouragements, with which our mutual confidence has
made you familiar, your genial voice has never failed to summon me
forward with renewed determination.

Early in the prosecution of these works I became convinced of two
facts : first, that if successfully completed they might be more useful
than any other possible service of my life to the Church ; but secondly,
that they could not be successfully prosecuted without comparative re-
tirement from most other public labors, for, at least, some years. During
nearly a quarter of a century my official position in the Church had
kept me reluctantly engrossed in exhaustive labors and ecclesiastical agi-
tations. The latter were always repugnant to my best instincts ; and the
historical tasks I had planned seemed to justify a resolute escape from


them. The General Conference at Buffalo presented an opportunity
which I accepted with an unutterable sense of relief. During Bome
years I have stood apart from our public controversies, asking of aU par-
ties the favor of being, as far as possible, ignored in their combats, theii
party schemes and ofBicial promotions ; assuring myself, however vainly,
that, at last, they themselves might acknowledge I had chosen the better
part, and had worthily, however unsuccessfully, attempted a better
service for our common cause. Confining myself to quiet pastoral du-
ties, besides my literary tasks, among a people who have facilitated my
aims, by a generosity equal to their abundant means, and amid a pic-
turesque and tranquilizing scenery, singularly congenial with meditative
iabors, I have spent what has been the happiest and most hopeful period
of mj- public life, in the attempt to fumisb the Church with such a liis-
tory of its providential career as it may not willingly let die. I have ad-
mitted no interruption of this plan of life, except a short interval, devoted
to a biographical tribute to our common and venerated friend, Dr
Nathan Bangs.

The three volumes of the " History of the Religious Movement of the
Eighteenth Century," etc., are devoted to a survey of general Method-
ism centraliziug in the British " Wcsleyun Connection." WhUe, there
fore, it is as exact a record of the latter organization as I could make it,
the foreign ramifications of the movement could be treated only in out-
line, and in their essential relations to the central body. This in
especially the case with the Methodist Episcopal Church, whoso fruitAil
history might well claim as many, if not more, volumes than that of
British Methodism. In the preface to that work intimation is, therefore,
given of a further history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, not as a
completion, but as a complement to it, and frequently, Ln marginal notes,
the reader is referred to this future record for fuller information on
American subjects. My design has been, in fine, to write a distinct
history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as complete as I could make
it, and though complementary to the preceding work, yet as independent
of the latter as if this had not been written. You have in the present
volumes the first installment of my new work. I have endeavored to
render these volumes complete in themselves, so that no contingency,
which may interfere with the further prosecution of my plan, can impair
the present portion of it. They are conclusive as a historj- of the
"Planting" of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, narrating
the progress of Methodism in the United States from its introduction to


its Episcopal organization at the memorable " Christmas Conference,"
and its subseqiaent outspread generally in the nation, and presenting, in
its organic completeness, the theological and disciplinary platform on
which the whole fabric of the denomination has been constructed.

An author is seldom a good judge of the probable popular interest of
nis book. I have endeavored to hold all such considerations in abey-
ance ; a full and a correct history of the Church is what we have needed,
and I have attempted to provide it. If, however, the reader shall share
a tithe of the interest with which I have traced the details of this narra-
tive, and if, especially, he shall have patience to follow me in the future
and grander development of their results, I presume to hope that he
win find the history of this portion of the "kingdom of God" on earth
as significant and as impressive as the cbtemporaneous history of any
other religious body. The iuterest of the present volumes must, how-
ever, be quite different from that of the preceding work, on the general
history of Methodism ; in the latter imposing characters appear imme-
diately on the scene, the Wesleys, Whitefield, Fletcher, with many other
great men, and not a few saintly women, and the historic movement
goes on with singular unity and almost epic interest to its culmination
in its centenary jubilee. In the present volumes we wander over a
hardly defined field, gathering fragmentary and scattered, though pre-
cious materials ; brought together and rightly placed, these fragments
at last stand out a goodly and stately structure, a shining " city of God ;"
but the vague, preliminary, if not tedious toil of gathering and shaping
them must precede the imposing construction. Many really great char-
acters — Asbury, Coke, Whatcoat, Garrettson, Lee, etc. — enter the
scene, but they hardly yet assume their heroic proportions. "We see
them but ascending to those high positions where they will hereafter
appear as colossal historic statues, at once the architects and the orna-
ments of the great temple. If, however, I were amenable to the bar of
criticism for the comparative popular interest of the two productions, I
might well hesitate to appear before the public with the present vol-
umes, after the unexpected favorable reception of the former work. The
historian must not inventhin materials, in the popular sense of the word ;
he can only do so in its etymological sense ; success in this respect is,
therefore, the only just question of criticism. To this inquisition I
willingly submit these volumes. The first historian of Methodism,
Jesse Lee, gives to the period I have gone over, but little more than half
of his small volume, inserting large official documents ; Bangs gives it


but one volume, insertin? still larger documents, including nearly an
entire copy of the Discipline ; I have added to their materials enough to
make, with no slisjht condensation, t\ro volumes. These additional
materials have mostly come to light since the publication of the works
of my predecessors. I flatter myself that their importance, aside from
their popular interest, will justify my attempt to provide this now nar-
rative of our early history.

I have had to meet one somewhat invidious necessity — the correction
of not a few errors, especially chronological mistakes, in our primitive
documents and in some of my historical predecessors. I must doubtless
bear similar criticism, if my work shall be deemed worthy of it ; and I
shall heartily welcome it, especially if it shall be conducted with the
candor and cordiality which I have endeavored to exemplify. Our early
records are so defective, they were printed with such apparent haste,
and many of the events I have narrated are so incoljcrently given by
them, that it can hardly be presumed I have not made grave mistakes.
To the many students of our denominational historj', in all parts of the
country, 1 look for such corrections as shall enable me, hereafter, to rec-
tify largely my pages.

I have thus, my dear friend, taken advantage of your name and con-
fidence to say many things, unusual in a preface, and liable, perhaps, to
bo deemed superfluous, if not egotistical. If the proverbial whimsical-
itv ""'f authors should not be admitted as my excuse, I might add that
there are reasons, known to yourself if not to other readers, why these
somewhat personal remarks should be excused.

With grateful affection,

Abel Stkvkns.

MAJLUtONEOE Pabsomaoe, 8^t«mber. 18A4.




Wesley and Watt 15

The Steam-Engine 16

Us Importance to America lY

Necessity of the Methodist Sys-
tem for the Moral Wants of

the Country 17

Development of the Nation aft-
er the Revolution 17

Great Growth of its Popula-
tion 18

The "Great West" 25

Ecclesiastical Methods of

Methodism 26

Its Development in England . . 29


It is not a new Dogmatic Sys-
tem 29

Its Theology 29

Arminianism. 80

Whitefleld 31

John and Charles Wesley 32

Bishop Bi'ihler 85

The Genius of Methodism 86

Evangelical Life _ _. . . 36

Development of its Ecclesias-
tical Peculiarities 39

Its Catholicity 40

Its Persecutions 41

Its Success 42





Wesley among the Irish 47

The ""Palatmes " 48

Their Historical Importance. . 49

Their Origin 49

Their Character 50

Their Emigration to America. 51

Philip Embury 52

He Founds Methodism in the

United States 55

Captain Webh 57

Sketch of his Life and Charac-
ter 51

His Style of Preaching f 9

Barbara Heck 62

The First American Methodist

Chapel 62.

Embury Retires from New

York 67

His Death 68

Barbara Heck 68

Curious Controversy : Note.. . 69





Kobert Strawbridge 71

Trace.'* of him in Ireland 71

Jlid Character 72

Hi.s Emigration to America. . . 72

Hi? Methodistic Labors 73

Kiihard < Kven, the first native

Methodist rreacher 74

Watttre'> Eulogy r.n Lim 74

Strawbridtre's latter Years i.^

His Death and Funeral 78

Asbnry's Opinion of liim 79

t)ri'rinal Humility of American

Mcthodi.<m 80



Immigration 81

The Methodists of New York
ajiply to Wesley for Preach-
ers 82

Interest in England for Amer-
ica S3

Robert Williams hastens to the

Colonies S3

A slit on of Ash grove S8

Williams's Services S4

He founds Methodism in Vir-
ginia S5

Rev. Devereaux Jarratt So

Jesse Lee 8.5

William Watters, the first Na-
tive Itinerant 85

Williains'.s Death ^5

Asbury's Eulogy on him 86

Other Testimonials to hia

Character and Usefulness. . . 80

John King 87

He preaclics in the Potter's

Field of Philadelphia 88

He Introduces Methodism into

Baltimore fts

Preaches in the Streets 89

Traces of his Life tio

His Faults 90

Wesley's characteristic Letter

to him : Note 91



Appeals to Wesley for Mission-
aries flO

Dr. Wrangle 92

John Hood and Lambert Wil-

mer of Philadelphia 93

Wesley's Appeal to his Con-
ference 93

The Response 93

A liberal Contribution for

America 93

The Confirence 93

Leeds in Methodist Missionary

History' 94

Sketch of Richard Boardmon. . 95

His Perils bv Water W

Instrumental in the Conver-
sion of Jabez Bunting 97

Josej'h Pilmoor 98

A Temp(!stuous Voviijre 98

Arrival of the Missionaries in

A merica 99

Pilmoor preaching in the Streets

of Philadelphia 99

His Letter to Wesley 99

Boardman en the Way to New

York 100

Whitefleld greets them l"!

Presentiment of his Death 1 ol

His last P'vangelical Triumphs lol

Last Sermon 10-2

Lnst Exhortation lf>2

Jesse Lee at his Tomb: Note. 103

Boardman in New York li'S

His Success 104

John Mann 104

Pilmoor 104

His Letter to Wesley 104

Singular Introduction into New
Rbchelle 107



America appears in W'esley's

Minutes T,o

Appeal for more Preachers ... 110

More sent HI

Early Life of Francis Asbury. Ill
Methodism in Statfordshire '. .113
A.sbur}- becomes a Methodist. . 114

His Character li.')

He embarks fr>r. America 117

Richard Wright, his Compan-
ion '. lis

Their Arrival in Philadelphia. 119
Number of Methodists inAmer-

ica 120

St. George's Chapel 120

The First Philadelphia Meth-
odists 121



Pase I

Bohemia Manor 122

Asbury in New Jersey 128

Peter Van Pelt 128

Staten Island 124

Methodism there 125

Israel Disosway 125

Asbnry enters New York 125

He Contends for the Itinerancy 126

He extemporizes a Circuit 128

In Philadelphia 128

The Itinerancy in Operation. . 128
Asbury's Preaehinff and Spirit 130
Wesley appoints him " Assist-
ant " or Superintendent 131

His Labors in Maryland 132

In Baltimore 132

A Quarterly Conference 132

Asbury forms Classes in Bal-
timore 184

First Methodist Chapel there. 135
Asbury's Baltimore Circvnt. . . 188
Quarterly Conference 138



Captain Webb Eecruiting the

American Itinerancy 141

Charles Wesley opposes him . 141
Webb Appeals to the Confer-
ence 142

Thomas Eankin and George

Shadford 142

Eankin's Early Life _. . . . 143

Methodism in the British

Army 143

Whitefield 143

Eatikin's Conversion 145

He becomes a Preacher 145

His Success 146

His Appointment to America. 147
George Shadford's Early Life. 148

His Conversion 153

His Usefulness 154

He joins Wesley's Itinerancy. 155
Hears Captain Webb's Appeal
at Leeds, and Departs for

America 155

Wesley's Letter to him 156

ficenes of the "Voyage 156

Anival at Philadelphia 157

Eankin's Invocation 157

Eankin and Asbury in New

York 158

Eankin in John-street Church 158
Shadford in New Jersey 159




First American Methodist Con-
ference 160

Its Members 160

Statistics 161

Laxity of Discipline 161

Proceeding of the Conference. 162
The Sacramental Controversy . 163
Eobert Strawbridge steadfast

to the American Claim 164

ItsEesult 165

Ger n of the " Book Concern" 165

Appointments 166

Eetum of Pilmoor and Board-
man 166

Further traces of Boardman. . . 167

His Death 167

Further traces of PUmoor 169

He leaves the Denomination. . 169

Eetains his Interest for it 169

Eichard Wright returns to En-
gland 172

Final traces of Captain Webb. 172
His Death 174



William Watters, the first Na-
tive Methodist Itinerant .... 175

His Early Life 175

His Conversion 179

He becomes an Itinerant 181

Eobert Williams ISl

Eev. Devereux Jarratt _. . 182

Great Eeligious Excitement in

Virginia 182

Watters on the Eastern Shore

of Maryland 187

Methodism in Kent County. . . 188

Its First Chapel 188

Philip Gatch, the second Na-
tive Itinerant 189

His Early Life 191

Nathan Perigau 191

Gatch's Conversion 192

He Begins to Preach 194

Itinerates in New Jersey 194

Benjamin Abbott 195

His Character 196

His Early History 196

His Moral Struggles 197

His Conversion 200

The Fall of Abraham Whit-
forth 202



Abbott Begins to Preach 204

Power of his Word 2^5

A Remarkable Example 205

Daniel Ruff 206



Rnnkin after the Conference. . 208

Pilmoor 209

Boardman 209 j

Rnnkin in Marvland 210

A (.Quarterly Meeting at the

Watters HoiuesteaJ 211

Departure of Pilmoor 211

Runkiu in Ntw York 211

Shadford in New York 212

His Character and Usefalnefls. 212

Asbury in Maryland 214

Exaltation of his Spirit 215

Baltimore 216

Otterbeiu 215

German Methodism 217

"United Brethren in Christ". 218 |

Sketch of their History 216 i

Death of Otterbeiu 219 |

Boehm and Gueting 220 j

Otterbein and Asbury's Poe- !

try: Note " 221 |

Advancement of Methodism

in Maryland 222 I

New Chapels 222

Wrieht in Virtrinia ,. . 228 I

Itt* first Two < 'hapels ■. 228 i

Willinius in Virgmia 224 ]

Old Brunswick Circuit 224

Jarratt 224 '

Jcs.<<e Lee 224 '

Freeborn Garrettson 225 j



The Conference of 1774 227;

Rankin's Disciplinary Rigor. . 228 |

Asbury 228 I

Watters and Gatch 229

Statistics 229

Prot;ret*s in the Middle Colonies 229

The Itinerancy 280

Its Effect on the Ministry 230

Asburj-'s Sufferings and Labors

in New York 231

In Philadelphia 283

In Baltimore 233

Otterbem 23-t

Williams's Success in Virginia 234
Asbury and the Revolution. . . 235
Perry Hall and Henry Dorsey

Gougb 235

Rankin at Quarterly Meetings

in Maryland 240

Shadfordin Marjland 241

Remarkable Incident 212

Robert Lindsey 243

Edward Dromgoole 248

Richard Webster 244

Their Success 244

Philip Gatch on Frederick Cir-
cuit 245

Shadford's Rule for Effective

Preaching 245

Gatch on Kent Circuit 245

Hostile Rencounters 240

" Parson Kain " 247

Gatch's Success 248

He Returns to Frederick Cir-
cuit . . 24»

Attacked by Ruffians 249

Enters New Jersey 250

Whitworth and Ebcrt 250

Benjamin Abbott in New Jer-
sey 251

An Encotinter atDeerfield 251

Online LibraryAbel StevensHistory of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 33)