Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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sense, than those of older and more refined countries.

Miss Laman was married to Mr. — now Rev. — James
Conrey, November 21, 1816, and thus became the mistress
of a family at a little over seventeen years of age. The
Bible says, "Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord!"
Their long and happy union was crowned with nine chil-
dren, six of whom are still living, and three are not; for
the Lord took them to himself in early life, two in infancy,
and one son, a youth of piety and great promise, at six-
teen years of age. No doubt but those departed children,
and their now departed mother, had a joyful meeting in
their heavenly Father's house above. "Blessed are the
dead which die in the Lord."

Mrs. Conrey was favored with religious parents, and
realized the benefit thereof in after life. In the twenty-
eighth year of her life, being somewhat afflicted in body,
and more so in mind, on account of her lost condition,
some of her relatives urged her husband to go for a phy-
sician, and he went; but, differing in judgment from them
as to her real condition, instead of brin^in^ the doctor, he
brought two Methodist brethren to converse with and pray


230 M IS O EL L ANY.

for her; the very kind of help she most needed. AVhile
they sang that moving hymn,

"Awake, my soul, in joyful lays," etc.,
light, joy, and peace from heaven broke into her disconso-
late heart, and she was soon well enough to leave her bed,
and resume domestic business. Shortly afterward, she
and her husband united with the Methodist Episcopal
Church. Mrs. C. possessed much stability of character,
as well as amiableness of disposition. Her piety was of
the uniform kind, giving a steady and increasing light,
which shone more and more unto the perfect day. In her
feelings she seldom, if ever, rose so high, or sank so low
as many others ; but she was favored with a firm, unwa-
vering confidence in God, attended with emotions deep
and abiding, though scarcely ever with great ecstasy.
Her professions of Christian experience were rational and
prudent, saying but little of raptures on one hand, or of
trials on the other; but walking in newness of life, her
conversation was such as becometh the Gospel. In all
her domestic affliction and sorrow, her religion sustained
her, and enabled her to comfort her family in the day of
adversity. The testimony of her pastor, Rev. Mr. Keely,
in substance was, that, in the numerous interviews he had
with her during her various 'seasons of affliction the past
year, she was always calm and resigned, as one who
appeared to be more under the influence of principle and
settled confidence, than any excitement of passion, not
now elevated, and then depressed beyond measure, but
uniformly collected and peaceful, professing a firm trust in
Christ, that she would make a safe crossing and joyful
landing over the Jordan of death.

Her health was much interrupted, and declining for
fourteen months previous to her decease. At different
times she suffered severely, and was, apparently, brought
near to the gate of death, so near that all her family were

B I O 6 R A P II I C A L B K B T II E S . 231

twice collected home to witness her departure; but she
still survived. Subsequently, there appeared to be some
improvement in her condition, and hope of her recovery
revived for a time, but was soon withered. Her last
illness, in its severity, was protracted some three weeks,
during which period she suffered much, suffered con-
stantly; her disease, most of the time, being wholly
unmanageable. At different periods it was apprehended
she was about to depart, but temporarily revived. On
Tuesday her friends began to lose all hope, and on Thurs-
day death appeared to be very nigh, and was expected
hourly ; but she lingered till Sabbath morning, November
26, 1848, at three o'clock, when she left her friends below
to join her friends above.

As to her religious prospects, it was observed by those
about her during her last sickness, that she was much
engaged in prayer. To the last, she felt great solicitude
for the welfare and salvation of her family, and on the
Sabb:ith previous to her death, held a conversation with
her husband on that subject. That concern for her family,
however, was nothing new; she was only carrying out to
the end what had been her constant aim all the time.
The rule of her Christian life was, to do unto others as
she would they should do unto her. This rule she taught
her children, and what she thus taught she enforced by
her personal example.

Amidst her protracted and painful affliction, she enjoyed
singing, and other religious exercises, in her room, often
repeating, herself, parts of hymns, especially the lines,

"Jesus, the name to sinners dear,
The name to sinners given;
It scatters all their guilty fear;
It turns their hell to heaven."

While Rev. Z. Connell spoke of her peace being made
with God, she said that matter was all settled and


arranged long ago, and she felt that her peace wa*
made with God. When he reminded her that the
promises of God to the believer were exceeding great
and precious, she replied that she felt that they were
verified in her. To all her religious friends who con-
versed with her on the subject of her future prospect, her
uniform testimony was expressive of firm trust and hope
in the Lord.

She frequently spoke of exchanging her suffering body
for a new body — the resurrection body — especially after a
night of weariness and pain; but was fully resigned to
the will of God, and desired her family not to grieve for
her. There were paroxysms of distress, during which she
could not possibly speak. In one of these, on Tuesday,
when she was presumed to be entering upon her last
struggle, one of her daughters asked her if she felt Jesus
precious. She nodded an affirmative answer several times.
On Thursday morning, when apparently near her end, she
desired to see her family alone, and they gathered round
her bed ; she spoke a few words to each, and desired them
all to meet her in heaven. Having finished her dying
counsel, and distributed some mementos of her affection,
her strength was much exhausted; and feeling that her
work was done, she repeated the words of dying Simeon,
"How, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace."
To a friend she said, at another time, "I am almost over
Jordan, and feel that I shall have a safe landing."

Her son, who is a minister, said to her, "Mother, if you
must be taken from us, you feel all is well?" She
answered, "0 yes; all I need is patience. If these are
my dying words, I want you all to meet me in heaven.
As for you, my son, I want you to be a burning and a
shining light on the walls of Zion. Don't let the world
too much engross you." Again, on Thursday afternoon,
when it was thought she was just going, he said, "Mother,


do you feel that you have the victory through the Sa-
vior?" She assented, and tried to raise her hands; one
assisted her to do so, when she waved her right hand sev-
eral times in token of victory. She was perfectly con-
scious, and to the last recognized her friends.

About twelve o'clock Saturday night, and some three
hours before her exit, at her OAvn request, she was re-
moved from her bed to an armed chair; and being
propped up nearly erect, she requested her friends to
sing one of her favorite hymns:

"I have sought round the verdant earth for unfading joys/' etc.
While they sang, she raised both hands, as if triumphing
over her last enemy, and praised God in broken accents,
till her strength failed, and she was replaced on her dying
pillow. Some time during the last struggle, her son sug-
gested that her end was nigh, and trusted she was not
alarmed. She said, "No." Again, he said, "You have
the same confidence?" She responded, "Yes." After
she was unable to converse, her husband inquired if she
still felt the Savior precious? — to which she distinctly
nodded assent. Again, at a later period, he asked, "Do
you still feel the sustaining grace of God?" and she again
assented as before. Finally, he exclaimed, "Victory in
death!" and she returned the same signal. Among her
last words, turning her eyes upward, she said, "Who is
that?" Soon after, she distinctly articulated, "A book!
a book!"

When dying saints are losing sight of this world, it is
presumed that eternity begins to break upon their mental
vision. When Mrs. C. exclaimed, "Who is that?" per-
haps she saw the pilot-angel sent to convey her happy
spirit home; and when she exclaimed, "A book! a
book!" who knows but she saw the "Book of Life," con-
taining the names of all the saints, and hers among them?

May we all follow her. as she followed the Savior!

|5art tfjiiti.


2C o t £ of (ftrcttfe



Hitherto I have been providentially hindered from
attending any meeting of the Methodist Historical So-
ciety, but have not been indifferent toward that noble
enterprise. The work which it proposes to accomplish is
praiseworthy, and I have read its proceedings with much
pleasure. Such an association is the most certain means,
within our reach, of keeping future generations correctly
advised of the character of our fathers in the Gospel, and
the labor of love performed by them in the latter part of
the eighteenth and commencement of the nineteenth cen-
tury, in this western country. And what could be more
interesting to our children and children's children, after
we shall be numbered with the dead, than a correct his-
tory of the introduction and spread of Methodism, or,
what is the same thing, Scripture holiness, over these
western valleys? Of the commencement of this work, it
does not become me, who am of yesterday, to speak. I
leave that for a Burke, Kobler, Wilkerson, Lakin, Roberts,
Quinn, Young, and their cotemporaries in the kingdom
and patience of Jesus. And on this part of the subject I
will only express the convictions of my mind respecting
the general character of the pioneers of Methodism in the
United States and territories.

As often as I have referred to the old Minutes, read the
names of our fathers in the Gospel, and traced out their
history by the best lights I had, so often have I received



the impression, that they were a body of Methodist
preachers vastly superior to those of this generation, both
in the western country and elsewhere. In saying this, I
do not mean to disparage our preachers of this day; in
doing so, I should reproach myself also, for I am one of
them ; nor will it offend me if others differ in judgment ;
but I can not obey the clearest conviction of my own
mind, in rendering honor to whom honor is due, without
offering this tribute of respect to our fathers in Christ.
That there are exceptions is admitted; but in making my
comparison, I speak of primitive and modern Methodist
preachers generally ; and I do this not in reference to any
one qualification, but to their entire qualifications for the
work of the ministry. And the fact here assumed, that
our fathers excelled lis, may be admitted without involv-
ing any absurdity ; for it is easily accounted for, in view
of the work assigned them, and the circumstances under
which it was performed.

In the first efforts to introduce and carry on that work
of God called Methodism, such were the prejudices of the
people against, and their ignorance of it, such the opposi-
tions to be encountered and obstacles to be overcome by
the teachers of it, that common men were not suitable
instruments for its accomplishment. The ordinary bless-
ing of God on such instruments, would not have rendered
their labor successful ; it would have required miracles.
It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose, that, under such
circumstances, most of those called of God to the work
of the ministry, were men of more than common moral
courage, as well as intellectual and physical strength.
Dwarfs and shadows, without force or courage, were not
the heroes for field-preaching, contending with mobs and
savages, and sleeping in the woods without guard or shel-
ter. And who does not know that a large proportion of
the first American Methodist preachers were men, not


only of vigorous and well-disciplined minds, but likewise
of iron constitutions and tremendous muscular force ? As
examples in the east, we might refer to Joseph Everett,
Jesse Lee, and S. G. Roszel; and in the west, to V. Cook,
John Page, R. R. Roberts, and others.

It required more religion to enable our fathers in the
Gospel to engage in and prosecute the work assigned
them, than most of us have in this day, though not more
than we might and should possess, if we sought as earn-
estly and perseveringly as they did. Time was when to be
called a Methodist preacher, was, in the estimation of the
great mass of the people, to be virtually charged with
being every thing vile and despicable, and consequently
only worthy of insult and personal violence, which he often
received in abundance. That was a day that tried men's
souls. And in view of the odium and insult, fatigue and
peril, poverty, nakedness, and starvation, to be expected
consequent upon such a calling, no one was prepared
to engage in it, till he was crucified to the world, and
the world crucified to him — till the love of God and man
filled his heart, and constrained him to turn out into
the highways and hedges, and exhort sinners to come to
the Gospel supper — and till he had the clearest evidence
that God called him to that work, and pronounced woe
upon him if he preached not the Gospel; so that when
our fathers agreed to enter the list of traveling preachers,
they literally left all to follow Christ, gave themselves
wholly to the work of saving their own souls and the
souls of the people, and consequently received and con-
tinued to enjoy present and full salvation, and saw their
labors crowned with glorious success among the people.

Beside their natural and spiritual advantages, they were
prompted, by the force of circumstances, to more diligence,
and made greater improvement of their time and talents.
The doctrines, ordinances, and usages of Methodism were


not then so well understood as at present. Those denom-
inations that now compliment us with the appellative
evangelical, treated our fathers, though more worthy than
we, as heretics, fanatics, and impostors, and thus set the
dogs of the people on them. Methodism was grossly
misrepresented in public and private by those of different
creeds, partly through ignorance and partly through mal-
ice ; while the world and Satan directed their heaviest
artillery against it, because it waged a potent and success-
ful warfare against sin. Methodism being thus assaulted
on every side, its first public teachers were continually
thrown on the defense of truth ; and to answer all objec-
tions, and stop the mouths of gainsayers, excited them to
constant diligence in research and reflection ; while daily
practice in public, and extemporaneous speaking, rendered
them more perfect; and knowing their cause was good,
they fearlessly advocated it on all occasions. God blessed
them in it, and they became able ministers of the New
Testament. Beside, they were strong in faith, felt their
awful responsibility as embassadors of Christ, spoke as in
sight of his judgment-seat, and their word was attended
with power and the Holy Ghost, and much assurance.

Such are briefly my views of the character of our early
ministers, and the cause of their excelling. What re-
mains for us but to follow them as they followed Christ,
according to the ability given us, that both they who
sowed, and we that reap, may rejoice together forever?

Leaving the history of early Methodism in the west
to those who understand it better, I beg leave to notice
briefly a few things of which I have more personal knowl-
edge. Great changes have appeared in our western fields
of labor, even since I entered it in the fall of 1815, under
♦he direction of Rev. D. Young, presiding elder; and such


changes, too, as have some bearing on our work as trav-
eling preachers. Among these changes none are more
palpable than such as relate to the facilities for traveling.
Where we used to convey our salt, venison, and bear meat
on pack-horses, we now see canal-boats gliding along,
richly laden w T ith flour and all the essentials of good liv-
ing. Where we once followed the dim path, guided by
the blazes on the saplings, made with the woodman's ax,
we now hear the coach w T heels gently rumbling on the
smooth M'Adamized turnpike. In the same place where
we formerly swam our horses beside the little canoe, plies
the steam ferry-boat, crossing and recrossing every five
minutes, crowded with passengers ; and where we used to
plunge in on horseback at a venture, through flood and
bog, current and quicksand, now rests the arched bridge
on piers of granite. From these hints may be inferred
some of the difficulties of traveling preachers in the west,
only twenty years ago, or even less in some places.

In 1825 my district embraced that part of Kentucky
west of the Tennessee river, which was then all in one
circuit, called Clarke's River, of which John S. Barger
was preacher in charge. We were not the first on that
ground after the Indians left. Brothers Crouch and
Parker had been there forming a circuit the year pre-
vious; and if they w^ould speak out they could relate
scenes of suffering sufficient to cause the ears of some
readers to tingle. Still, when we went, the settlements
were "few and far between," and frequently without any
road, or even path, from one to the other. When we
wished to visit a neighborhood fifteen or twenty miles
distant, we ascertained as near as we could the general
course, and struck off through the woods without road or
guide. If the sun w r as visible, we steered by him, and if
not, by a pocket compass ; and if a creek — too deep to
ford — obstructed our course, we had our choice to swim


or stay on our own side, having neither boat, bridge, nor
canoe. Of the manner of overcoming these obstructions,
I will here furnish an example or two.

At the close of a camp quarterly meeting in Clark's
River circuit, July, 1826, the small streams were much
swollen by reason of heavy rains. Soon after leaving the
camp, we had to encounter a small stream, which was usu-
ally some three rods wide, but at that time spread over
the banks and much of the adjoining low ground. How-
ever, we were told that by going to the Shallow Ford
above the forks, we could probably ride across without
losing bottom ; but where we expected a shallow ford, we
found a sheet of water about a hundred yards wide, it
having overflowed its banks, with a rapid current in the
middle. Our company consisted of Geo. Richardson,
John S. Barger, Alexander H. Stemmons, another young
preacher, whose name I have forgotten, and the writer.
We were all sound except myself. I was sick — had been
so for five or six days, and was much more fit to be in
bed than on horseback. In consequence of this circum-
stance, the company objected to my swimming, lest the
wetting, after taking medicine, might prove injurious.
But by riding in mid-sides to the horse, I gained the large
end of a great tree, which had been cut down so as to fall
across the main channel just above the ford, for a tempo-
rary foot bridge. Here they deposited me and the bag-
gage, till they should swim the horses over. In the mean
time, others came up from the meeting, forming a com-
pany of some fifteen in all. The coming-out place lay
rather up stream from us, and just below it, we were told,
the bank, then under water, was too steep for the horses
to rise when they should strike bottom. To avoid this,
and procure a sloping bank to rise on, they selected a
place below, where the bluff changed sides ; so that after
riding in till the horse was nearly covered, and arriving

K O T E 8 OF T B A V E L . 213

at the main channel, lie suddenly and unexpectedly to
himself, though not to his rider, stepped over a precipice,
perhaps ten feet high, into a sweeping current, where horse
and rider were violently immcrged, but soon emerged some
distance from where they first disappeared, and presently
made safe landing. In this way the young brethren con-
veyed their own horses over, after which Richardson and
Stemmons rode for the whole company, securing one horse
and swimming back for another, making several trips each.
This done, Richardson led me over the channel on the log;
and leaving still between us and the dry ground a sheet
of water some thirty yards wide, and three feet deep, he
deliberately stepped in, took me upon his shoulder, and,
notwithstanding much brush and drift-wood were on the
way, placed me safely on solid ground. The whole was
accomplished in a few minutes. Here we parted with all
but our own company, with whom we first started from
camp ; and leaving the Shallow Ford, our way was clear
before us to the next branch of the same stream,* only
a few miles distant.

Our second crossing was like to prove more difficult
than the first, having an equally rapid stream, without
the advantage of any log. Having appointments ahead,
it was important to get on somehow or other; and after a
short consultation, it was thought best, on account of my
condition, to head the stream, or at least go far enough
up to ford. This being agreed on, we made the attempt,
but were so much embarrassed by quicksand, especially
where the ground had been overflowed, that we soon
became weary of it, and determined to cross if possible,
linding a place where the banks were dry on both sides,
the water being there confined within its usual channel,
we dismounted, and were consulting about the mode of

° I regret that I have forgotten the name of this creek ; brother Barger
can tell.


crossing, when Stemmons concluded it was time to execute
as well as plan. Fixing his large, laughing, blue eye on
a tall, slim hickory, growing on our side of the creek, he
deliberately began to ascend, which he did almost as
easily and rapidly as a wild bear would climb a chestnut-
tree on search of nuts. When he had left the ground
about forty feet below him, and arrived where the sapling
had scarce strength to support him, he turned on the side
next to the stream, held on with his hands, letting his feet
swing clear, and his weight brought the top down on the
other side, and, w r ith the assistance of another, who swam
over to his relief, tied the limbs fast to the root of a tree.
This bent sapling formed an arched bridge about forty feet
long, six inches wide, and elevated in the center about
twelve or fifteen feet over the deepest of the turbid stream,
on which we crossed — astride — safely, pushing our bag-
gage before us, and resumed our journey, leaving the
Hickory Bridge for the accommodation of the public.

Such were our facilities for crossing in those days, when
we had help; but when alone, there was often no alterna-
tive but to make the horse swim with his rider and bag-
gage, and trust to Providence to get safely through ; and
such were the difficulties to which we were accustomed in
carrying the Gospel to the poor, in the new countries then ;
and the same are doubtless realized now by many of our
traveling preachers on the frontiers of the work. Now,
for such work as this, I would rather have a half a dozen
such young preachers as those above named, than twenty
graduates of any theological seminary in the United States.
A. H. Stemmons has gone to his reward, and J. S. B. and
G. R. are still in their Master's work, though the latter
has been for many years much disabled by hemorrhage
from the lungs. Peace be with them !


The reader has ample proof, in the preceding scraps,
that I do not aim at regular chronological order, much
less at writing a history of Methodism in the west. My
object is only to furnish a few scraps of information re-
specting the preachers, and the circumstances under which
their work was prosecuted in my day, illustrated by such
anecdotes, and enlivened by such reflections as may seem
edifying and proper.

The next point I shall touch, is the amount of labor
which we used to perform as traveling preachers in the
west. When I labored on Marietta circuit with the Rev.
Marcus Lindsay, in 1816, it was a four weeks circuit,
embracing what are now called Marietta circuit, Athens

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 18 of 30)