Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

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

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circuit, and parts of several others. It extended from
Newport, sixteen miles above Marietta, to the west end of
Athens county, a distance of some sixty-five miles in a
straight direction, and was so arranged as to include the
neighborhoods on the Ohio river as far down as Newbury ;
those on Duck creek ; on the Big Muskingum, as far up as
Big Hock, above Waterford ; those of Little Hockhocking;
Federal creek; Big Hockhockino*, from the mouth to Min-
ker's Bottom, ten miles above Athens; part of those on
Shade river; and all intermediate points. To compass
this plan, each of us traveled some two hundred and fifty
or three hundred miles, preached forty times, and exam-
ined about one thousand persons in the classes every
twenty-eight days; besides laboring extensively in prayer
meetings, catechising children, etc.

The Muskingum circuit, when the Rev. Charles Elliott
was my colleague, in 1818-19, included what are now
called Zanesville station, Cambridge circuit, Putnam cir-
cuit, and parts of others; and the year following, when
Samuel Brockunier and James Gilruth were my colleagues,

24:6 M I S E L 1 A N V .

we so enlarged it as to include Washington and Coshocton,
and the intermediate settlements. Those familiar with
the country can see the extent of our plan, by running a
supposed line from Zanesville by Dilan's Iron Works, and
curving round through the settlements on Jonathan's
creek, to Wc^f creek, below M'Connellsville ; thence up
the Muskingum, on the west side, to Putnam and Zanes-
ville; thence south-east, by a zigzag route, past Chan-
dler's Salt Works, and on to the head of Wills creek, and
all the neighborhoods down to Cambridge; thence to
Washington, Sugar creek, Wagoner's Plains, Coshocton,
and Johnson's Plains ; and finally, by numerous angles,
right angles, and acute angles, back to Zanesville. This,
when I went to it, was a four weeks circuit, but when I
left, it required a tour of six weeks, and allowed but little
rest for man or beast. Our first year's labor there resulted
in a small decrease, chiefly on account of strictly enforcing
the rules of Discipline, and laying aside many delinquent
members; but the second year we received about two
hundred new members, which, after deducting all losses,
afforded some considerable increase.

I will name one other circuit which I traveled, to show
the extent of the fields we used to cultivate. Christian
circuit, in Kentucky conference, to which I was assigned
in 1821-22, with Philip Kennerly, who died before I
reached the circuit, embraced all of Christian and Todd
counties, most of Muhlenburg, and parts of Butler and
Logan counties, in Kentucky, and, in Tennessee, parts of
Montgomery and Stewart counties. This was also a six
weeks circuit, about three hundred miles round, with near
forty appointments, out of which have since been formed
Greenville circuit, Hopkinsville circuit, Montgomery cir-
cuit, Tennessee conference, and parts of several others.
I have referred the reader to these circuits, of which I had
personal knowledge, not as unusual, but ordinary fields of

NOTES O F T K A V E L . 247

labor in those days, in the western country, which, how-
ever, when compared to the circuits of our fathers before
us ; were mere pea-patches. Still, they were sufficient to
keep us busy. No account was taken of wet, cold, or
stormy weather. When we had appointments to preach,
we generally filled them, though often through much dif-
ficulty, and sometimes at the risk of life, on ice, or in
crossing fearful streams. It was considered but moderate
work to preach and meet class once a day, on an average,
and ride eight, ten, or fifteen miles. And if we redeemed
one or two days in the week, to stay with our families and
rest, or, rather, work to make provision for them in our
absence, it was by riding harder, and preaching oftener in
the day, while out on the circuit. Our preaching-places
were not only far apart in general, but the way from one
to the other was often very difficult ; being only a dim
path, which frequently branched off, without affording
the stranger any direction which to follow. Some of the
preachers, in early times, carried a hatchet to mark the
trees, in a certain way, at each place where they had to
turn off from the main track, and others adopted the plan
of splitting a bush, to enable them to recollect which path
to take ; but their enemies, finding out these things, made
false signs to deceive and get them bewildered : so that,
with all the care we could take, it was quite common to
miss our way and get lost, till we became familiar with all
the different routes and neighborhoods in the circuit.
And when we were favored with plainer roads, they were
not well improved; and we had to contend with mud,
water, and quicksand, swamps and pole-bridges, and
steep, difficult ascents and descents alternately. In the
winter season, when the weather was rough, the mornings
short, and the roads in the worst state, it required great
effort to keep up with our appointments. Sometimes Ave
had to travel twelve, fifteen, or twenty miles before the


morning preaching, having no lodging-place on the way.
To meet such engagements I have myself, when far from
home, risen long before day, gone to the wood pile, cov-
ered with snow, and fished out the wood, a piece at a
time, packed it on my shoulder, built a large fire, and
then roused up the family to get me a hasty lunch, that I
might be off in good time. Starting with the dawn of
day, on a clear morning, it was pleasant to observe the
sun as he appeared above the horizon, throwing his golden
rays through the frosty boughs of the lofty forest trees,
and spreading cheerfulness over all the works of God.
But if the day was cloudy, and the temperature below
the freezing point, it was tedious to climb the dreary hills,
descend into the ice-bound vales, and plunge into the cold
stream, perhaps breaking ice as we went. This we often
did alone, and far from the habitation of man. When we
reached the place of destination, it was very discouraging to
meet only a few indifferent hearers, as was often the case;
but very pleasant and encouraging to find a house full of
patient, willing hearers, waiting to hail us welcome as mes-
sengers of truth in the name of Christ. In both cases it was
important for the preacher to be punctual ; in the former,
that he might gather a congregation, and in the latter,
that he might retain and increase the one already gath-
ered. A few disappointments in one neighborhood would
discourage the people, and destroy their confidence in the
preacher; so that he lost his influence and his hearers
together. Knowing this, it was expected of the preachers
to attend, if possible, and preach, whether the hearers
were many or few. I have frequently preached to three,
four, or a half a dozen, as well I might, since Philip
preached to the Eunuch on the road, and Jesus to the
Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. And though it was
usually dull work to speak to so few, it was not always so.
[ recollect, the second year I was on Christian circuit, of

NOTES OF T B A V E L ■ 24 ! I

riding about nine miles, to a place called Dunham's
School -house, where I had engaged to preach. The
school-house was among the Knobs, north-east part of
Christian county, situated on the west point of a ridge, in
an exposed position, being an open log building, covered
with clapboards. The north-west wind was piercing cold,
so much so as to prevent the people from venturing out.

However, four persons attended ; old brother D and

his two single daughters, all members, and a neighboring
young woman, who was not a member of the society.
These I found shivering round a small fire, at the time
appointed to commence. But before I began, being very
cold myself, I went to the woods, gathered as much dry
wood as I could carry, and made on a large fire. The
chimney was as broad as the end of the house, which was
in our favor. I stood in one corner, the old brother was
seated in the other, and the women in front of the fire,
all in convenient distance. I read, sang, prayed, and
preached, just as though the house had been full ; after-
ward I proceeded to examine them as in class meeting.
They all wept, one shouted for joy, and the non-professor
being seriously affected, we finished with a prayer meeting
for her special benefit. She became, from that hour, an
earnest seeker of, and soon after obtained salvation. And
though I suffered some with cold, and returned without
my dinner, I did not regret going. The next time I
preached there to a much larger congregation, and our
new convert joined the Church.

Now, it would be easy, if necessary, to multiply anec-
dotes of this character, but I only wish to apprise the
reader of the nature of our work as Methodist preachers
in those days, and the circumstances under which it was
performed. Our preaching was mostly in private dwell-
ings and school-houses, having but few chapels; though
: n warm weather we preferred the open woods, especially


on popular occasions, when very large congregations
attended. And though this seemed to be a small busi-
ness, it was laying a foundation deep and broad, on which
to build subsequently, as the result abundantly shows.

Another part of our duty was, studying to show our-
selves approved unto God, workmen that needed not to
be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. In this
part of our employment we were rather embarrassed in
cold weather. House-room was scarce ; and, as is gener-
ally the case in new countries, families were large. In
many places where we were kindly entertained, a small
cabin, consisting of one room, served for parlor, dining-
room, kitchen, bed-chamber, study, class-room, and
chapel. Still, we did not neglect our books. After
allowing a reasonable time for profitable conversation, we
resumed our studies. While the family were employed at
their business, we read and wrote ; and if they became so
loquacious as to interrupt us much, we read aloud, and
explained, to the mutual improvement of them and us.
And we had more facilities for gaining knowledge than
might, at first, be supposed. The Bible, and most of the
standard works which we have now, we had then, and
made good use of them, being at that time but little
affected with the extensive variety of light reading which
now diverts the mind and heart from more important
things. And owing to our peculiar mode of circulating
books, these standard works got into the hands of all the
preachers, and many of the members, together with a suf-
ficient number of literary works to answer the purpose.
To all these we applied ourselves diligently. In the win-
ter, those whose eyes could bear it, read much at night.
If they could obtain a lamp or candle, well ; if not, they
split boards and old fence-rails to splinters, and throwing


in a piece at a time, read by the blazing light. And in
warm weather we took for our study the .shade of a tree;
or, if the musketos became very troublesome, the preacher
might be occasionally seen up in the fork, or on a huge
limb of a beech-tree among the boughs, where those
insects suffered him to pursue his studies in peace. We
also read much on horseback, occasionally closing the
book, and reflecting on its contents; to which mode of
study our long, lonesome rides were admirably adapted.
But what rendered our studies most profitable, was the
daily opportunity afforded us of turning immediately to
practical, useful account, all the knowledge we gained
from books, conversation, or meditation. The conse-
quence of the whole was, many of the Methodist
preachers who entered the work with very limited edu-
cation, became not only grammarians, historians, philoso-
phers, and orators, but what was much better, profound
theologians and able ministers of the New Testament.
When self-styled competent ministers, of certain Churches,
brought up in literary and theological institutions, ques-
tioned our right to minister in holy things, on the ground
that we were uneducated and ignorant men, we referred
them to the hundreds and thousands converted to God
under our ministry, living epistles, known and read of all
men. Some, not satisfied with this answer, and self-con-
fident in the support of their supposed orthodoxy, espe-
cially considering they were from the college, and we from
the woods, provoked some of our preachers to public dis-
cussion of questions in controversy between them and us;
but the result before the people seldom or never failed to
help our cause at the expense of their own. After pro-
scribing us as novitiates, fanatics, and heretics, till they
became satisfied that their opposition was helping us and
injuring themselves, they struck their crimson colors,
commenced harping on the union string, and began to


style us, one of the evangelical denominations! It was
then, and not till then, that other denominations began to
exert a deleterious influence on the institutions of Meth-
odism, alluring our young members and young preachers
from their Methodist simplicity, and putting into their
heads notions of conformity to the world, and to those
who had only a name to live, while they were dead.
This has been an occasion of much grief to scores of old
preachers and thousands of old members among us who
have borne the burden and heat of the day. But as this
train of thought would lead me from the original design
of these scraps, I forbear.

The next feature of the subject to which I wish to
direct the attention of the reader, is the inducement which
Methodist preachers had to engage and continue in the
toils and hardships above referred to. This is the more
proper, as every motive was attributed to them which
malice could invent, or ignorance credit; each class of
enemies having their own method of accounting for our
conduct. Cold-hearted, half-hearted, and false-hearted
professors of religion, in various denominations, finding
their own craft in danger, charged us with being false
prophets, whose object was to deceive the simple for the
sake of the loaves and fishes, though we received but few
of them. Many ignorant people, of the lower class, pro-
fessed to think we were a lazy set of men, who wished to
be fed and clothed without work, though no men in the
country worked as hard as we did in our ministerial call-
ing. Some, whose reading did not extend beyond the
pages of a stale novel, or the advertisements of a country
newspaper, suspected that we were spies or tories, sent by
John Wesley to spy out the liberties of the people, under
a cloak of religion. Politicians, who exhausted all the


energy of their souls in the scrambles of party politics
and the feuds of county elections, professed to think we
were hired by demagogues — almost as corrupt as them-
selves — to influence the suffrages of the people; and this
charge was preferred by men of all political parties,
though we interfered with none of them. Pleasure-takers
complained that we were officious meddlers with other
people's business, because we preached against balls,
horse-races, profanity, intemperance, and the like. Those
who aspired to the high places of society, but were less
popular and caressed than they thought they deserved to
be, concluded our object must be fame ; and, indeed, we
were somewhat famous in their estimation, and the esti-
mation of all whom they could influence, but it was for
being every thing but Christians and gentlemen; while
those whose god was mammon, wiser than all the rest,
found out to their satisfaction, that we were fortune-hunt-
ers ; that the chief object of our desire was money. This
last was, upon the whole, the most common and popular
allegation of our adversaries ; for as self-interest governs
the conduct of the multitude, it was easy to influence
them to judge us by themselves. To this charge, there-
fore, I will briefly reply.

Any man who has intelligence enough to be a Method-
ist preacher, knows that ours is not a lucrative profession ;
and any man having sufficient energy of character to be a
useful Methodist preacher, could succeed better at almost
any thing else, if money were his object. This is true of
most Methodist preachers now, and it was doubly so
twenty years ago, when we were generally without par-
sonages, received nothing but quarterage, and but little
of that. Some of us had families to support, but we
asked no accommodations on that score — went in for the
work as it came, and moved from circuit to circuit as oc-
casion required, though oft'-n subject to difficulties and


embarrassments, known only to God and ourselves. In
the economy of Methodism, no arrangements could be pre-
viously entered into between the preachers and people in
reference to their field of labor or support. The preach-
ers knew nothing of their appointments till they heard
them read out at conference. Learning to what circuits
we were assigned, we went immediately to them, without
inquiring whether the people to be served by us were
wealthy or poor, liberal or otherwise, and provided houses
for ourselves as we could. We did the work, pay or no
pay, supplying our lack of support out of our own private
funds ; and when these failed, very many were compelled
to locate, and work with their own hands, till they re-
cruited their circumstances so as to resume their high
and holy calling.

On the subject of making money, as a Methodist
preacher, I beg leave to speak that I do know, and testify
that I have seen. I entered the itinerant ministry with a
family, in my twenty-second year, having first sold my
little farm, and vested the funds for safe-keeping, so as to
be at all times ready to go wherever appointed ; and have
been a man of one business for more than twenty-three
years, not incumbered with any worldly business, which
in any wise interfered with my ministerial calling. The
whole amount appropriated by the stewards, during the
first twelve years, as their books in the several circuits
will show, was about $1,700; and if to this be added all
my marriage fees and private presents, the aggregate that
I received on every score, as a minister, for twelve years
service, was about $2,000. This is not guess work. My
private accounts were kept with great care ; and, though
some of them are lost, my recollection of them is sub
stantially correct. The average dividend is $166.66| per
year. This was to pay house rent, buy fuel, and provi-
sions, and clothing for the entire familv, entertain com-


pany, educate the children, pay doctors' bills, public and
private charities, and provide myself with books, and
horses, and riding equipage for the circuit, etc. After
appropriating all I received to these purposes as far as it
went, the balance was drawn from my scant private
resources, only for which we must have suffered till liter-
ally starved out of the connection. In confirmation of
this, I will here detail a few particulars.

The year I was stationed in Hopkinsville, Ky., the
stewards, with some difficulty, raised lor me 830 quarter-
age, and 835 family expense, or §65 in the year; my
expense the same year being about $450, and nothing-
received from conference. This was not owing to any
neglect of the work, or the manner of doing it, that I am
informed of. Nor was this the worst year of my life, in
reference to support. The Green River district, to which
I was appointed in the fall of 1825, was about one thou-
sand miles round, including the journeys I made to visit
my family occasionally between quarterly meetings. My
way led through Henderson swamps and Jackson's pur-
chase, and, consequently, across Cumberland and Ten-
nessee rivers. My first quarterly meeting was one hun-
dred and twenty miles from home, though I resided in the
bounds of the district. Before I commenced this heavy
work, I sold my pony and paid 8100 for an able horse,
on which I traveled that year, by computation as exact as
could be made without measuring, three thousand, nine
hundred miles. The same year, beside holding quarterly
conferences, and administering the sacraments frequently,
I delivered near three hundred public discourses, and, by
the blessing of Providence, never lost an appointment,
winter or summer, spring or autumn, day or night, sick or
well. And now, gentle reader, what do you suppose I
received for the whole year's labor? It w r as $66 and a
few cents. And as I shared with the preachers of the


several circuits my proportion of the whole amount col-
lected, this was equal to the average support of the mar-
ried preachers in the district. The next year two more
circuits were added to the district, which, of course,
increased both the labor and the amount of traveling.
That year my horse began to fail, and I bought another
for $80, and got through by riding them alternately, but
not without losing a few appointments, by reason of family
affliction. My receipts this year amounted to a few cents
over $62. However, near the close of the year a few
friends, incidentally learning my temporal circumstances,
raised for me $120. This was unofficial, but I reported
it at conference to the credit of the district, as a part of
my family expense. Some time previous to my entering
this work, in order to save the remnant of my little estate,
I had laid out part of it in a small private residence in
Elkton, and the balance in a small farm near the town.
This farm of seventy-eight acres, the only productive
stock I had, was rented out for about $65 per year, in
produce, which, added to my salary, made an income of
$130 yearly. But as my annual expenditure was not less
than $400, it became necessary, at the end of the second
year on the district, to sell my farm to pay the bills I had
contracted to support the family, while I was serving the
Church and public. By this means I was thankful once
more to be clear of debt ; and being next year stationed
in Louisville, and subsequently transferred back to the
Ohio conference, have never since been so much embar-
rassed for want of support.

Such were our facilities for making money as traveling
Methodist preachers. Of course it became us, in those
days, to be strictly economical. Costly furniture, silk
dresses, and superfine black cloth coats were out of the
question. We were glad of something comfortable to eat
on poplar tables, and equally so to obtain new garments


of homespun. Though it did not accord with our views
of fitness, for ministers to appear in public dressed like
country laborers, it was the best we could do under the
circumstances ; and as the people chose to hear us preach
in jeans coats and tow-linen or linsey pants, rather than to
enable us to provide better, our chief concern, in refer-
ence to that matter, was to have clothes whole and clean,
which, by the way, was not always convenient.

Before I leave this money-making business, it is proper
to observe, that in almost every circuit we found some
noble souls, whose kindness and liberality ministered to
our necessities, imparting consolation to us in the day of
adversit} T , so as to keep our sinking heads a little above
the waves of despondency. These few liberal souls con-
tributed nearly all that was raised toward our support. I
could name more than a. score of such in the bounds of
Green River district. Their names, I trust, are in the
book of life, and the Lord will remember them when he
makes up his jewels. But the great mass of our people
were formerly very ignorant, or very neglectful of their
duty in supporting the Gospel. In illustration of this, I
will relate what occurred at a country quarterly meeting
in Livingston circuit, October, 1826, while I presided and
Clement L. Clifton was preacher in charge of the circuit.
After passing through the regular business of quarterly
conference on Saturday, the stewards proceeded to make
their call on the leaders for the quarterly collections from
their respective classes ; and as it was a farming district
of country, and some of our members were in quite easy
circumstances, something pretty clever might have been
expected, only that it was the first occasion of the sort
after annual conference ; but when the contributions from
all the classes, containing several hundred members, were
brought together, they amounted to seventy-five cents.
There was due Clifton, for one quarter's service, $25, and

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 19 of 30)