Some Events and Persons Connected With
The First Methodist Episcopal Church
of East Liverpool, Ohio.
by Christian Metsch & C. R. Boyce
O faithful worthies! resting far behind
In your dark ages, since ye fell asleep,
Much has been done for truth and human kind-
Shadows are scattered wherein ye groped blind;
But to rebuke the age's popular crime,
We need the souls of fire, the hearts of that old time!
The oldest living authority on the early church history of this section is the venerable Alexander Wells, of Wellsville. His father, William Wells, located his family in a block house near the present site of Wellsville in 1797, and one year later received from Governor St. Clair of the Northwest Territory, a commission as magistrate for Jefferson County, which at that time comprised the territory now included in Columbiana and several other counties.
Alexander Wells was born in 1808 and remembers many of the old time circuit riders who stopped at his father's home. He has a distinct recollection of Rev. George Brown who organized the Methodist society here and describes him as a man famed throughout the Ohio valley for his ability as a preacher.
The public sentiment of those days cannot be better illustrated than in a circumstance related by Mr. Wells in describing a debating society which existed at Lancaster, O., in 1828. The meetings of this society were held in a school house and were open to the public. At the close of one of their debates a member suggested "Railroads and Telegraphs" as a topic for the next discussion. Some of the school directors happened to be present, and, on hearing this subject mentioned, they issued the following notice, signed by ten of the best citizens of the place (Mr. Wells says most of them were Methodists): "You are welcome to the use of the school house to debate all proper subjects in, but such things as railroads and telegraphs are impossibilities and rank infidelity. There is nothing in the word of God about them. If God had desired that his intelligent creatures should travel at the frightful speed of 15 miles per hour by steam, He would have clearly foretold it through his holy prophets. It is a device of satan to lead immortal souls down to hell."
Church attendance was regarded by the pioneers as a great a privilege, and many were the hardships endured in order that they might be present at the services. Men and boys walked ten miles to attend some campmeeting, and it was at these gatherings that scores were converted and became staunch members of the church. No better example of church attendance under difficulties could be found than the story of a good old sister who lived near Calcutta, and was for many years a member of this church. This woman was particularly anxious to hear a famous circuit rider who was to preach at the old Harold and Spear mill on Beaver Creek in June, 1829. Her husband was unable to attend, and as she had three small children, the prospects of her getting there seemed very dark indeed, but, of all the things that may possibly happen in this world, the thing most likely to happen is that which occurs when a woman sets her will, and so it was in this case. She persuaded her husband to saddle the trusty old family horse, "Fan," and then, taking the oldest child in front, a younger one behind and the baby on her lap, this faithful Methodist wet for five miles over a road that most of the way was simply a bridle path in the woods. It is scarcely necessary to add that with such a mother and such training these three children all became faithful members of the Methodist church, and the pictures of each of them are given in this book as being among the oldest members.
But church attendance in those days was not alone a privilege - it was a duty as well, and the absence from class meeting for three consecutive services without good cause was the subject of investigation on the part of the class leader. If his kindly advice and earnest appeal to walk more faithfully did not result in a change, the preacher talked with the erring one and if that failed - then expulsion from the church was the result. Even until recent years it was customary to ask in the leaders and stewards meeting, "Are there any that walk disorderly and will not be reproved?"
Next to the preacher, the class leader was the spiritual advisor of the members and he was usually a man selected on account of his piety and holy life. In the class room, he exhorted each member to give in a testimony by calling them out individually, and he not infrequently gave a kindly word of encouragement to some trembling member of the flock or some good advice where occasion seemed to demand it. The duties of the class leader were not alone in spiritual matters for it was his work to collect from the members of his class their offerings for the support of the ministry, more commonly known in those days as "quarterage" from the fact that it was collected four times per year. This duty and his interest in the spiritual welfare of his class made him a frequent visitor at their homes, and we cannot overestimate the strength and spirituality of the Methodist church resulting from this faithful work performed by the class leaders.
We sometimes think of the circuit riders as men who were always solemn and severe even to the point of sadness, and, while it is true that they were deeply burdened with the message which they had been called to deliver, yet they were none the less capable of mixing with all classes and enjoying the humorous side of life as well. Frequently they were lovers of good horses, and in their constant travels over the country some of them were not averse to an exchange if the results seemed promising. On one occasion a preacher who traveled the Liverpool circuit traded a particularly fine riding horse to one of the official members of this church for another horse and a bonus of $50. The preacher dwelt especially on the merits of his animal as a saddle horse for that was of course the only way in which he had ever used him, but the official brother found to his sorrow that the animal could not be used in any other way unless provision was made for certain delays which were sure to occur. Before becoming fully convinced of this fact, he attempted to drive the horse to a Quarterly Meeting which was held at the old Mt. Zion church, and when he reached that point neat the close of the service, it was after he had experimented with all the known antidotes for balkiness in a horse, finally driving in with the horse blindfolded, very much to the merriment of the other brethern.
**The book "Memories" was contributed to Genealogy Pit Stop by Cookie Sisco, with the desire that it be shared with all of you.