A Brief History of the Author's Life. 23 From the time of my marriage I have always kept an open house for the Ministers of the Gospel, and there was nothing too good to provide, nor any labor too great to perform to make those happy who rested under my roof. When I went on Church Creek Cir- cuit, there was a camp-meeting going on at Old Ebenezer.
I arrived on the ground on Sabbath morning. It was soon known that the young preacher had come to the Circuit. There was a vast congregation on the ground and all eyes were on me. In the afternoon I was put up to preach. This was a great trial to me, for I knew that all that I would say would be criticised. However I did the best I could and after that the time went on pleasantly. In August, I went into protracted meetings and never came out of them till the close of conference year, which was the next March. I formed many very pleasant associations while on the Circuit, and was treated with high respect. This did not puff me up with pride, for I knew for whose sake this respect was given, but it made me feel the greater responsibility resting upon me to conduct myself as one that needeth not to be ashamed, "rightly dividing the Word of Truth." While on this Circuit I had no home of my own, my family still living in New Town, and, as a necessity, I was thrown upon the hospitality of the families on the Circuit. While visiting around I had ample opportunity of discovering the habits of the people, and to my regret I found one habit into which nearly all the people had fallen, it was the use of tobacco.
In some families all the children as well as the parents used it excessively. I used what influence I could to dissuade them from it, but it was hard work stemming the tide. On one occasion, while in company with the Preacher in Charge, and also a Local Preacher, who both used the weed, I got into an argument with them upon the use of tobacco, and was progressing in it very well, and as I thought to a successful issue, when they asked me if I did not sell it. I told them yes. They burst out into a great laugh.
That ended the argument, but in my complete discomfiture, I saw, as I 24 A Brief History of the Author' 's Life. never saw before, the futility of my arguments while I sold tobacco. I told them that if my selling it closed my mouth upon the subject, 1 would sell it no more. When I came home to visit my family, I told my son, who was attending to the store, that we would clear it of tobacco. We did so, and never sold it any more. In 1867, I was again employed, this time, by the Rev. Vaughn Smith, who was Presiding Elder, to serve as Assistant Preacher on Princess Ann Circuit. The Rev. John M. Purner was Preacher in Charge. During the year, by incessant labor, which brought on protracted illness, Mr. Purner succombed to the inevitable, and passed away in holy triumph. Rev. J. T. Vanburkalow succeeded him for the remainder of the year, with whom I labored in harmony until Conference. In reviewing my work on this Circuit, during the year, I will say, although the times were perilous, yet I made many friends, both in and out of church, and I trust I did some good.
At the last Quarterly Conference for the year, I was recommended to the Phil adelphia Annual Conference for Elders Orders, and after passing an examination before a committee who reported favorable in my case, together with the report of the Presiding Elder upon my character and usefulness, I was unani- mously elected to the office, and was ordained by Bishop Janes, assisted by the Elders present, on the loth day of March, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-eight, in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the preceding year I sold out my store house and stock of goods, and I was now desirous to devote my life, exclusively, to the office, and work of the Ministry. In my earlier life I had considered the support of my family and education of my children to be a great achieve- ment.
This I had done without any help save my own native will and energy, and now after accomplishing this most responsible duty, I had enough left to take care of my wife in a small way, and was ready to enter any open door of usefulness in the cause of the Redeemer. In reading the Minutes of the Virginia Annual A Brief History of the Author's Life. 25 Conference, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, I discovered that there was a great want of Ministerial help. I corresponded with the Rev. Elisha P. Phelps, who was the leading spirit in the Con- ference and a Presiding Elder, at that time, of Rockingham District, in regard to joining the Conference. I stated my age, that I was in Orders, and that I could do Circuit "Work. He encouraged me to make application.
The Conference met the following year, 1870, March the 1st, in the City of Richmond. I went to that Conference, and did not know a living man in it, but Bishop Janes, who was presiding. After my name was handed in, I was put under examination, by a committee, upon the following course of study, which is laid down in the discipline of the Church, for those who are to be admitted on trial, namely : Common English, Ancient History, Scripture History, History of the United States, History of Methodism, Rhetoric, Logic, and Disci- pline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The books to be read, preparatory to, and in connection with this examination, were: Wakefield's Theology, Watson's Life of Wesley, Whitney's Hand Book of Bible Geography, Foster's Christian Purity, and Student's Gibbon. I had, however, received from the Quarterly Conference, of New Town Circuit, preparatory to going to the Virginia Con- ference, a recommendation to that Conference as a suitable person to enter the Traveling Connection, and also an individual letter from the Presiding Elder, the Rev. Vaughn Smith, which was of great benefit to me as a stranger.
After the committee reported upon my examination, I was received on trial and my name put in the basket for an appointment, and when the appointments were read out my name was put down for Middle Brook Circuit. After this the Presiding Elder came to me and said he had done the best he could for me, and he did not know how much they would give me, probably not much, but if I pleased them the Lord knew how much they would give for my support. Middle Brook is a small village, ten miles above Staunton, in the great valley of Virginia^ 26 A Brief History of the Author's Life. between the North and South Mountains. The valley at this place is about twenty miles wide. I had eight appointments.
The extremes were from the North Mountain to the top of the South Mountain, and in climbing the South Mountain, the distance from base to summit is six miles. After receiving m} r appointment from the Conference I took the cars for Staunton, and thence, by stage, to Middle Brook. The Circuit was out to the commons. There had been no regular Preacher sent to that Circuit, by the Con- ference, for a year. I was perplexed at this state of things, however, after consultation with my friends, my plans were formed as above stated.
After preaching at Middle Brook, I started for Sherando.a small village at the foot of South Mountain, a distance of twenty miles. It was in March, and there was snow on the ground, in a thawing condition, and this, together with the sticky, red clay, made it very bad traveling on foot, and the roads in some places, for some distance, would be covered with water, so that I would have to go off the road in the fields to find better walking.
Two incidents on this, my first round, I will here record : The first, was one which I often call up in memory with the greatest pleasure. It was on this wise : After traveling the road for about six miles, the noon of day came on. I knew no one on the road nor where to stop to get anything to eat. I knew that I must eat something to enable me to perform my journey. It did not, however, take me long to demonstrate the old adage, "wherever there is a will there is a way." I called up to a well-to-do farmer's house, which stood close on the road.
I asked them if they could accommodate a stranger with dinner. They eyed me, and then said yes, invited me in, and after taking off my overcoat and overshoes, I sat down in conversation with the lady [of the house, who was, as is often the case, the chief speaker. I soon discovered that she was a christian and feared God.
The conversation took a religious turn and soou the silent tear was seen standing in the eye as we conversed on the deep things of God. During my call it A Brief History of the Author's Life. 27 was found out what my mission was and they treated me with the same spirit of courtesy that the Angels received from Abraham. After dinner, which was of the first-class, for they were indepen- dent, I got ready to start, and called for my bill, they informed me there was no charge, save that I call and see them again. I informed them upon those terms I would do so. They filled my pockets with apples, and ordered two horses to be saddled and bridled, and requested their oldest son, at home, who was a young man grown, to take me on my way some distance ; this he did for about six miles.
This call was my introduction to one of the sweetest homes that I had on that Circuit. I was always welcome, and they were able to take care of me and my horse without any inconvenience, and my gratitude was enhanced from the consider- ation that they were not Methodists, but Lutherans. Their names were Baker. I have lost their first name. They lived near Greenville, on the road from Middle Brook to Sherando. The name Baker, to me yet, has a pleasant sound in view of those associations. As I think of them, I think of the memorable words of the Saviour.
"I was an hungered and ye gave me meat. I was a stranger and ye took me in." "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." If this little book should ever fall into the hands of that dear family, they will see, by this narrative, that the kindness they bestowed upon me, for the want of greatful remembrance, has not been lost.