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CHAPTER IV.

FROM THE FIRST CONFERENCE HELD IN KENTUCKY, IN

1790, TO THE CONFERENCE OF 1792.

Bishop Asbury's first visit to Kentucky-The first Annual Confer

ence in the District held at Masterson's Station, near LexingtonRichard Whatcoat—Hope Hull—John Seawell—First Methodist Church in Kentucky-Peter Massie-John Clark—The Conference composed of six members—Limestone and Madison CircuitsHenry Birchett—David Haggard—Samuel Tucker-Joseph Lillard—Death of Samuel Tucker-Bethel Academy-Madison Circuit disappears from the Minutes—Salt River Circuit-Barnabas McHenry-Death of Peter Massie--Life and death of Simeon.

In the spring of 1790, Bishop Asbury made his first visit to Kentucky, where, for the first time, an Annual Conference was held. He was accompanied by Richard Whatcoat-afterward elected Bishopand also by Hope Hull and John Seawell, men well known in those days as ardent, zealous, and useful preachers. The Conference was held, commencing on the 15th of May, at Masterson's Station, about five miles north-west of Lexington, where the first Methodist Church* in Kentucky—a plain log structure—was erected. To reach the seat of the Conference, required a journey of several days through à dreary wilderness, replete with dangers and infested by savages.

* This house is still standing (1868). See engraving.

"A volunteer company was raised to guard the Bishop through this dreary waste.” This company was composed of the Rev. Peter Massie and John Clark, with eight others.

On the seventh day of their journey, they reached Richmond, the county-seat of Madison county, and three days afterward, reached Lexington. In alluding to this journey, Bishop Asbury says:* “I was strangely outdone for want of sleep, having been greatly deprived of it in my journey through the wilderness—which is like being at sea in some respects, and in others worse. Our way is over mountains, steep hills, deep rivers, and muddy creeks—a thick growth of reeds for miles together, and no inhabitants but wild beasts and savage men. I slept about an hour the first night, and about two the last. We ate no regular meals; our bread grew short, and I was much spent.” On his way, he “saw the graves of the slain-twenty-four in one camp”—

. who had, a few nights previous, been murdered by the Indians.

The Conference was composed of six members, namely, Francis Poythress, James Haw, Wilson Lee, Stephen Brooks, Barnabas McHenry, and Peter Massie.

Bishop Asbury, in his journal,† in speaking of the Conference, says: “Our Conference was held at Brother Masterson's

a very comfortable house and kind people. We went through our business in great love and harmony. I ordained Wilson Lee,

* Journal, Vol. II., P.

83.

+ Vol. II, p. 84.

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Thomas Williamson, and Barnabas McHenry, elders. We had preaching noon and night, and souls were converted, and the fallen restored. My soul has been blessed among these people, and I am exceedingly pleased with them. I would not, for the worth of all the place, have been prevented in this visit, having no doubt but that it will be for the good of the present and rising generations. It is true, such exertions of mind and body are trying; but I am supported under it: if souls are saved, it is enough. Brother Poythress is much alive to God. We fixed a plan for a school, and called it Bethel, and obtained a subscription of three hundred pounds in land and money toward its establishment."

The Conference lasted only two days; for, on Monday, the 17th, we find Bishop Asbury again in the saddle, and “preaching ten miles from Lexington.” The session was attended by a large

" number of people. The preaching was with divine power. One who was present* says: “The house was crowded day and night, and often the floor was covered with the slain of the Lord, and the house and the woods resounded with the shouts of the converted."

The visit of Bishop Asbury to Kentucky was of the highest importance to the infant Church. Although his labors had been abundant, they had been bestowed on the older settlements of the country. That he might fully understand the condition and the wants of the Church here, it was requisite that he become personally familiar with the perils by which it was surrounded. No Bishop of our Church had ever preached in the District. Bishop Asbury was the first preacher of any denomination, holding that high and sacred office, who exercised its functions in Kentucky. It was necessary to organize a Conference in Kentucky; and it was proper, in an eminent degree, that its organization should take place under the auspices of such a man as Bishop Asbury. Privations had to be endured, sacrifices

* Rev. Lewis Garrett.

. made, difficulties surmounted, and dangers encountered, by the missionaries—and who was so well prepared to whisper words of cheer as one who had trodden the path of trial, and planted the standard of the cross amid discouragements before which stout hearts had paled ?

Bishop Asbury was no ordinary man. the only son of an intelligent yeoman of the parish of Handsworth, Staffordshire.”* From early childhood, he was seriously impressed upon the subject of religion. Converted to God when quite a youth, "at the age of seventeen he began to hold public meetings, and before he was eighteen began to preach ;"+ and started out as an itinerant before he was twenty-one years of age. At the age of twenty-six, he was appointed by Mr. Wesley to America; and, at the Christmas Conference of 1784, held in the “Lovely Lane Chapel,” in the city of Baltimore, he was unanimously elected to the office of Bishop.

6 He was

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* Stevens's History of M. E. Church, Vol. I., p 111. † Ibid., p. 115.

.

Possessed of a high order of talent, with a mind well cultivated and richly stored with useful knowledge; with a will to execute; thoroughly imbued with the spirit of his mission; entirely consecrated to the service of God; devoting every energy to the prosecution of the work to which he had been called-to this man American Methodism and American Christianity is more largely indebted than to any minister of the gospel of the present or

the past. He was a Bishop according to apostolic • rule. While many of the prelates on the Continent

were reposing on their beds of down, and priests of the Established Church, in silken robes, were reeling before the altars of God, like the unwearied sun, he was “moving from day to day in his journey around this vast continent, of five thousand miles, annually," and diffusing his benign influence from center to circumference.

To the infant Church in Kentucky, his visit, though brief, gave a fresh impulse. The revival of religion that commenced at the session of this conference spread through many portions of the State, so that this year was far more prosperous than any that had preceded it.

The Conference was an humble one-only six* preachers; but small as it was in the beginning, these ministers were destined to go forth, “a flame

* Collins, in his History of Kentucky, says twelve; but Mr. Collins counts visiting preachers. The Minutes report only six, and the list of appointments adds four, and deducts three, namely, James Haw, Wilson Lee, and Peter Massie. These latter were appointed to the Cumberland Circuit.

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