Date of Award
Master of Arts
The Methodist Episcopal Church became the largest religious denomination in the United States during the 1820's. Local expressions of the national body were established in nearly every American community. Methodist expansion was largely a result of the activity of circuitriders. These itinerants traveled and proclaimed the gospel to citizens, many of whom joined the Church and became part of a religious movement which influenced the l development of culture in the United States.
The traveling minister in the Methodist Church was noted for his self-sacrificing spirit. He endured hardships in the ministry which few men of the present age can fathom. Richard Hofstadter, the widely respected American historian, once stated, "The bulwark and the pride of the early American ~ethodists were the famous circuit-riding preachers who made up in mobility, flexibility, courage, hard work, and dedication what they might lack in ministerial training or dignity. These itinerants," he continued, "were justly proud of the strenuous sacrifices they made to bring the gospel to the people." Five hundred of the first six hundred and fifty Methodist circuit-riders retired prematurely from the ministry. Nearly one fourth of the first eight hundred ministers who died were under the age of thirty five. Over one hundred and twentyfive itinerants were between the ages of thirty-five and f~rty-five when they died; and over half of. the eight hundred died before they reached thirty! About two hundred traveling preachers died within the first five years of their entrance into the ministry and nearly two thirds died before they 2 had preached twelve years. The life style of the early Methodist traveling preacher perished in the United States with the settlement and growth of the nations however, his dedication is an inspiration to every generation.
Powell, William A. Jr., "Methodist circuit-riders in America, 1766-1844" (1977). Master's Theses. 813.