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Look to the Rock From Which You Were Hewn…

The United Methodist Story in its Heritage Landmarks



"Friday, February 6, 1736. About eight in the morning we first set foot on American ground. It was a small, uninhabited island, over against Tybee. Mr. Oglethorpe led us to a rising ground, where we all kneeled down to give thanks." So John Wesley records his arrival on American soil. Today a marker on Cockspur Island commemorates that event. The marker is part of John Wesley's American Parish in Savannah, Georgia, which also includes the sites of Wesley's first service (March 7, 1736), his parsonage and gardens, and the Town Hall, where Wesley held regular services. Another point of interest is Christ Church, where Wesley served as rector and established the first Sunday School in America.

John Wesley spent twenty-one months in the Georgia colony. He was an unsuccessful missionary, an unpopular preacher, and a disappointed lover. Yet his American sojourn was an important part of his spiritual and intellectual development.

Charles Wesley accompanied his brother to Georgia, settling on St. Simons Island south of Savannah. There he served as General James Oglethorpe's secretary and was pastor to the soldiers and families stationed at Fort Frederica. Charles Wesley's American experience was not a happy one, and he returned to England a few months later.

"Monday, July 26, 1736. The words which concluded the lesson, and my stay in Georgia, were, 'Arise, let us go hence.' Accordingly at twelve I took my final leave of Savannah. When the boat put off I was surprised that I felt no more joy in leaving such a scene of sorrows." Charles Wesley's Journal


"Tuesday, August 1, 1769, our conference began at Leeds. On Thursday I mentioned the case of our brethren at New-York . . . The society at New-York had lately built a commodious preaching-house, and now desired our help, being in great want of money, but much more of preachers. Two of our preachers, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmore, willingly offered themselved for service; by whom we determined to send over fifty pounds, as a token of our brotherly love." John Wesley, Ecclesiastical History

Methodism returned to America some twenty-five years after the Wesleys' departure. By the 1760s, immigrants began bringing their Methodist beliefs and practices to the American colonies. Barbara Heck and her cousin Philip Embury, Irish immigrants, settled in New York in 1760.

Embury had been a Methodist local preacher in Ireland, but worked as a carpenter and attended a Lutheran church in New York until his cousin Barbara urged him to resume his status as a Methodist preacher. He organized a society in his home that became the John Street Church in lower Manhattan, established in 1766, the oldest continuous Methodist congregation in the United States. The present building dates from 1841.

Further south, the Robert Strawbridge House in Carroll County, Maryland is the site in about 1764 of the "first Methodist Society in America," according to Francis Asbury. Strawbridge, also an Irish immigrant, preached and organized in Maryland and Virginia. His home, originally a log cabin, was later enlarged and clapboarded. His first class met there until 1768.

Nearby is the home of John Evans, one of the members of that first society, and a replica of the Strawbridge Log Meetinghouse, built in 1764 and possibly the first Methodist chapel in America.

Robert Strawbridge's influence is also recalled at the Old Stone Church Site in Leesburg, Virginia, the first property in America owned by the Methodists. It was deeded to the Methodist Society in Leesburg, May 11, 1766, and the first church building was constructed in 1768. There is little doubt that the Society, the Church, and the church building were the direct results of Robert Strawbridge's missionary zeal. Next to the churchyard is a privately-owned home which was once the first parsonage of the Old Stone Church.

Francis Asbury, the tireless itinerant of American Methodism, spent forty-five years travelling. He visited at least twelve of our historic places, many of them several times. Upon arrival in America in October 1771, his very first stop was at St. George's Church in Philadelphia. "October 27, 1771: This day we landed in Philadelphia, where we were directed to the house of one Mr. Francis Harris, who kindly entertained us in the evening, and brought us to a large church, where we met with a considerable congregation. Brother Pilmoor preached. The people looked on us with pleasure, hardly knowing how to show their love sufficiently, bidding us welcome with fervent affection, and receiving us as angels of God. O that we may always walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called!" Francis Asbury, Journal

St. George's Church was erected in 1763 as a Dutch Reformed church. A Methodist Society later purchased the church, which was dedicated in 1769. Captain Thomas Webb, a veteran of the French and Indian War, was instrumental in the purchase of both St. George's Church and the John Street Church lot. One of the early church's more colorful figures, he was easily recognizable by his eye patch and red uniform, and always preached with a drawn sword laid across the pulpit.

The first conference of Methodist preachers ever held in America met at St. George's:

"Wednesday, July 14, 1773: Our general conference began . . . There were some debates amongst the preachers in this conference, relative to the conduct of some who had manifested a desire to abide in the cities, and live like gentlemen. Three years out of four have been already spent in the cities. It was also found that money had been waster, improper leaders appointed, and many of our rules broken." Francis Asbury, Journal

In 1784, Richard Allen was licensed to preach by St. George's, the first African American so authorized. Three years later, in reaction to prejudice from white leaders, he led most of the black members out of St. George's; they eventually founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Similarly, Peter Williams, born of slaves, was a member of Philip Embury's society and became sexton of the John Street Church. He eventually helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Not all the African Americans at St. George's Church joined Richard Allen. In 1794, eighteen of the remaining black members began holding religious services of their own. They met in individual homes at first, and then in a building that had previously been a butcher shop. After two years, they acquired a site and built Zoar African Church at Fourth and Brown Streets.

Bishop Francis Asbury and the pastor of St. George's helped dedicate the church on August 4, 1796. The church always retained its Methodist Episcopal affiliation, and at least five other United Methodist congregations have organized out of Zoar, giving it the name "Mother Zoar."

"Sunday, October 9, 1796: At Zoar chapel, the church of the second African society, in Campingtown, I enlarged on 'Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.'" Francis Asbury, Journal


In 1780, Phillip Barratt, a member of a Methodist Society north of Frederica, Delaware, donated a parcel of land to the Society. Barratt's Chapel was built on the land, and it stands today as the oldest house of worship still extant in the United States built solely for Methodist use.

Here Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury met for the first time on November 14, 1784, and laid plans for the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church:

"Sunday, November 14, 1784. I came to Barratt's chapel; here, to my great joy, I met these dear men of God, Dr. Coke, and Richard Whatcoat, we were greatly comforted together . . . The design of organizing the Methodists into an Independent Episcopal Church was opened to the preachers present, and it was agreed to call a general conference, to meet at Baltimore the ensuing Christmas . . ." Francis Asbury, Journal

"Sunday, November 14, 1784. About ten o'clock we arrived at Barret's-chapel [sic], so called from the name of our friend that built it, and who went to heaven a few days ago. In this chapel, in the midst of a forest, I had a noble congregation . . . After the sermon, a plain robust man came up to me in the pulpit, and kissed me: I though it could be no other than Mr. Asbury, and I was not deceived. I administered the sacrament, after preaching to, I think, five or six hundred communicants, and afterwards we held a love-feast . . . After dining, in company with eleven of our preachers, at our sister Barret's, about a mile from the chapel; Mr. Asbury and I had a private conversation concerning the future management of our affairs in America..." Thomas Coke, Journal

That conversation bore fruit at Lovely Lane Meetinghouse in Baltimore the following month: "Friday, December 24, 1784: We then rode to Baltimore, where we met a few preachers: it was agreed to form ourselves into an Episcopal Church, and to have superintendents, elders, and deacons. When the conference was seated, Dr. Coke and myself were unanimously elected to the superintendency of the Church, and my ordination followed, after being previously ordained deacon and elder...We spent the whole week in conference, debating freely, and determining all things by a majority of votes... We were in great haste, and did much business in a little time." Francis Asbury, Journal

Lovely Lane, the second Methodist edifice in the city, was built in 1774 with the enthusiastic involvement of Francis Asbury. "Thursday, February 24, 1774: I . . .was much pleased to hear of the success which William Moore had met with in raising a subscription of more than a hundred pounds for our building. Thus doth the Lord give us favour in the sight of the people. Mr. Rogers took up two lots of ground for the purpose of building; and Mr. Moore seemed determined to prosecute the work at all events. Surely the Lord hath stirred up their minds to this pious enterprise, and will bless them therein." Francis Asbury, Journal

The site was later occupied by the Merchants Club, and today the Lovely Lane name is kept alive by the former First Methodist Church of Baltimore.

In April 1785, several months after the organization of the new Methodist Episcopal Church, Major Green Hill, a Revolutionary war officer and Methodist local preacher, opened his home in Louisburg, North Carolina to some twenty preachers from Virginia and North and South Carolina. This was the first annual conference session held after the Christmas Conference in Baltimore, and the Green Hill House later hosted annual conferences in 1790, 1791, and 1794. Major Hill later emigrated to Tennessee, where he and his family continued their tradition of hospitality to Methodist preachers.

"Tuesday, April 19, 1785. We came to Brother Greenhill's [sic], where we held our conference. There were about twenty preachers, or more, in one house, and by laying beds on the floors, there was room for all. We spent three days, from Wednesday to Friday inclusive, in conference, and a comfortable time we had together." Thomas Coke, Journal

"Tuesday, April 19, 1785: Preached at the Cypress chapel, and had many people to hear. I met Doctor Coke at Green Hill's that evening: here we held our conference in great peace." Francis Asbury, Journal


The founders of the United Brethren in Christ are remembered at three locations. One of the decisive factors in the eventual formation of the United Brethren in Christ occurred when Philip William Otterbein met Martin Boehm in Isaac Long’s Barn in Lancaster County. It is commonly believed to have been held in 1767. At the end of Boehm’s sermon, Otterbein went forward, embraced Boehm and exclaimed, “Wir sind Brüder!” (“We are Brethren!”)

Boehm's Chapel in Willow Street, Lancaster County, was built in 1791 on land given by Jacob Boehm. His father, Martin, deeded the land to "a Society of Christians calling themselves Methodists."

"Wednesday, July 31st, 1799. At friend Boehm's meetinghouse I preached on Isai.XXX,21. I had a very percious season in preaching, and the power of the Lord was with us; and there were many tears shed by the hearers; thank God for another happy meeting. Then Mr. Asbury preached on Heb. vi.12. He gave us a good discourse." Jesse Lee, Memoir

Nine years later, Martin Boehm was elected a bishop of the newly formed United Brethren in Christ, along with Philip William Otterbein, pastor of the German Evangelical Reform Church in Baltimore. Today the church is known as Old Otterbein Church, in memory of the man who was its pastor for thirty-nine years. It is the oldest church edifice in Baltimore.

In 1800 the United Brethren in Christ was formed. Important locations connected with its establishment are commemorated by the United Brethren Founding Sites Cluster in Frederick and Washington Counties, Maryland.

In 1800, Jacob Albright organized three classes among German speaking settlers in his home state of Pennsylvania. Later, "Albright's People" adopted the name the Evangelical Association. In 1850, on the fiftieth anniversary of their church's organization, the Evangelical Association erected Albright Memorial Chapel in Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania. The construction was faulty, and the building had to be rebuilt in 1860, but still stands today in memory of "the honest tile maker," who is buried in the adjacent cemetery.

New Berlin, Pennsylvania became the headquarters of the Evangelical Association. The first General Conference convened near there on October 14, 1816. The First Evangelical Church was erected on this site and dedicated March 2, 1817. The denominational Publishing House was built at about the same time.


As Methodist Episcopal Church structure developed, some felt that too much power was given to the bishops. They also protested the absence of lay representation in the annual conferences. By 1828, the conflict was serious enough to cause a major breach in the church. On December 19-20, 1828, Whitaker's Chapel in Enfield, North Carolina hosted the first North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church. This was two years before the first General Conference of the new denomination. The Methodist Protestants rejoined their Methodist Episcopal cousins in 1939 with the formation of The Methodist Church.

Whitaker's Chapel was built in 1740 as an Episcopal Church. Methodists appropriated it during the Revolutionary War after it was abandoned by the Anglican clergy of the area.

In 1939 the northern and southern branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church were also reunited, nearly a century after their division over the issue of slavery. In Louisville, Kentucky, the Site of Organizing of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South is marked with a plaque that recalls the 1845 organizing convention of the new denomination at the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church.

The followers of Jacob Albright, Philip William Otterbein, and Martin Boehm came together in 1946 when the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren in Christ united to for the Evangelical United Brethren. On November 16, 1946, delegates to the United Brethren General Conference met for the last time, immediately followed by the opening session of the new EUB church. First Church, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, hosted the two sessions.


As the United States spread westward, so did the forerunners of United Methodism, carried by circuit riding preachers and by settlers. Edward and Sally Meredith Cox moved into Tennessee, and so did their Methodist faith. Edward Cox was the first Methodist local preacher in Tennessee, and his home, near Bluff City, was the site of the first organized class of Methodist worship in Tennessee. Francis Asbury was a guest at the Edward Cox House five times.

"Monday, April 28, 1788: About nine o'clock we came to Andrew Greer's. After taking a little rest here, we set out next morning for brother Edward Cox's on Holston River. I had trouble enough. Our route lay through the woods, and my pack-horse would neither follow, lead, nor drive, so fond was he of stopping to feed on the green herbage. I tried the lead, and he pulled back. I tied his head up to prevent his grazing, and he ran back. The weather was excessively warm. I was much fatigued, and my temper not a little tried...Arriving at the river, I was at a loss what to do; but providentially a man came along who conducted me across. This has been an awful journey to me, and this a tiresome day, and now, after riding seventy-five miles, I have thirty-five miles more to General Russell's. I rest one day to revive man and beast." Francis Asbury, Journal

About two weeks after his memorable trip to the Cox home, Francis Asbury attended the first Methodist Conference west of the Alleghenies. The meeting was held May 13-15, 1788 in the upper room of Stephen Keywood's (or Cawood's) log house in Glade Spring, Virginia, and the Keywood Marker reminds the visitor of that meeting.

The conference was preceded by several days of evangelistic preaching, which led to the conversion of William and Elizabeth Henry Russell. General Russell, a Revolutionary War veteran, and Madam Russell, sister to Patrick Henry, were prominent citizens, and their conversion was an influential event. General Russell died in 1793; Madam Russell was a great friend to Methodism in Virginia until her own death in 1825.

"May 13-15, 1788: Came to...Keywoods, where we held conference three days, and I preached each day. The weather was cold; the room without fire, and otherwise uncomfortable. We nevertheless made out to keep our seats, until we had finished the essential parts of our business." Francis Asbury, Journal

Old McKendree Chapel, near Jackson, Missouri, is probably the oldest Protestant church building standing west of the Mississippi. The church was organized in July 1809 following a camp meeting, and the edifice was built in 1819. The Chapel was almost certainly named for Bishop William McKendree. He is known to have been at the site in 1818, and may have inspired the church's construction.

Further north, in Union, West Virginia, a Methodist society was organized in 1784 which met for two years in a schoolhouse. In 1786, they built Old Rehoboth Church, the oldest extant Protestant church building west of the Alleghenies. The church also hosted the first Methodist ordination ceremony west of the Alleghenies on July 5-6, 1788, conducted by bishop Francis Asbury. Asbury visited Rehoboth several times in the 1790s.

The first Methodist meetinghouse in Tennessee was Acuff Chapel, one mile west of Blountville. The land was granted to Acuff for his service in the Revolutionary War, and the chapel was built by Timothy Acuff and his neighbors around 1786.

"Sunday, May 1, 1796: We came to Acuff's chapel. I found the family sorrowful and weeping, on account of the death of Francis Acuff, who from a fiddler became a Christian; from a Christian, a preacher; and from a preacher, I trust, a glorified saint. He died in the work of the Lord in Kentucky. I found myself assisted in preaching on Ephes. ii, 1,2. The house was crowded, and I trust they did not come together in vain." Francis Asbury, Journal

Methodism was not the only denomination moving west. Most of the members of one of Jacob Albright's first classes migrated to Flat Rock, Ohio from Pennsylvania early in the nineteenth century. John Seybert, first bishop of the Evangelical Association, made the settlement a regular stop in his travels. He died in 1860 in Flat Rock, and was buried in a nearby cemetery, now part of the Bishop Seybert/Flat Rock Cluster, as is the Bishop Seybert Museum.

This historic place also includes the Old Stone Church, built in 1841, and the Evangelical Association's Ebenezer Orphans' Home, and the Detterman Log Church, constructed in 1848 and one of the last original log structures in Ohio.

Peter Cartwright is one of the most famous frontier preachers of United Methodism. His travels are recollected in his boisterous autobiography, which paints a vivid picture of rough and ready Methodism. The Peter Cartwright United Methodist Church in Pleasant Plains, Illinois, grew out of a class Cartwright held in his home from 1824 to 1838. The present building was built in 1857, three years after the town was laid out.

"About this time my wife's health was very poor, so that entertaining preaching every two weeks, and class-meeting every Sunday, became a little too much for her strength. I determined to build a church...Our help amounted to but little, but we commenced, and finally succeeded in building a neat little church, twenty-four by thirty feet, which cost us about six hundred dollars, of which I had to pay about three hundred . . . . Long since our little church became too small, and we have enlarged it so that it is now thirty feet by fifty . . . . See what the Lord has done for us, under all the forbidding circumstances that attended our little history in the last thirty years. Praise the Lord!" Peter Cartwright, Autobiography , 1856.

And they kept moving west....In 1831, Samuel Doak McMahan emigrated to Sabine County, Texas from Tennessee. The territory was owned by Mexico, and Protestant preaching was illegal, but James P. Stevenson accepted an invitation to preach at McMahan's home in 1833. Soon a church was formed, called McMahan Chapel, which may be the oldest Protestant church with a continuous history in Texas. A pine log house of worship was built around 1838; the present structure is the fourth building on the site.

Methodism spread across the Great Plains as well as the Southwest. Life for circuit riders was hard and sometimes dangerous. The Deadwood Cluster/Preacher Smith Heritage Center commemorates the life and death of Rev. Henry Weston Smith, who came to the Black Hills of South Dakota in May, 1876. Preacher Smith was murdered enroute to a preaching engagement on August 20, 1876. The Deadwood United Methodist Church, built in 1885, is a living memorial.


"It is to receive for education and board the sons of elders and preachers of the Methodist church, poor orphans, and the sons of the subscribers, and other friends." Plan for Cokesbury College, Baltimore, January 3, 1785; signed by Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury

The Methodist commitment to education began early. Cokesbury College in Abingdon, Maryland, was a joint plan of Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke: "On Tuesday, the 8th of May [1787], Mr. Asbury and I paid a visit to our new college, which will be opened (we expect between this and Christmas; and we trust, will unite together those two great ornaments of human nature, genuine religion, and extensive learning. The situation pleases me more and more. Our object is (not to raise gospel-ministers but) to serve our pious friends and our married preachers in the proper education of their sons." Thomas Coke, Journal

Cokesbury College opened on December 6, 1787, with an enrollment of twenty-five students and a faculty of three teachers. Destroyed by fire on December 4, 1795, it was never rebuilt.

The first United Brethren school was Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. Co-founder was Bishop William Hanby, who is best remembered for his longtime service to the publishing concerns of the denomination. He was also an outspoken abolitionist, and Hanby House in Westerville was a station on the Underground Railroad.

William Hanby's daughter, Amanda Hanby Billheimer, was the first woman foreign missionary of the United Brethren Church to Africa, sailing in 1862. His son, Benjamin Hanby, was a United Brethren pastor, but is better known as a composer. Among his familiar hymns and songs are "Darling Nelly Gray," "Who is He in Yonder Stall," and "Up on the Housetop."

The Town of Oxford, Georgia was laid out in 1837, following the establishment of Emory University in 1836. Emory later moved to Atlanta, and the town is now home to Oxford College. Numerous nineteenth century buildings and sites remain, many associated with prominent southern Methodists.

Oxford was the longtime residence of Bishop James O. Andrew, whose slaveholding precipitated the long-anticipated schism between northern and southern Methodism in 1844. Bishop Atticus Haygood was president of Emory, and in 1880 delivered a sermon, "The New South," which helped launch southern Methodism into a new era of race relations and social reform.

Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836. Four years later, the Congress of the Republic of Texas chartered Rutersville College, the first Protestant and Methodist college in Texas. That same year, 1840, the Texas Conference was organized in the town. Rutersville, named after the pioneer Methodist missionary Martin Ruter, was later incorporated into the charter of Southwestern University in Georgetown.

The property was purchased by the Southern German Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1883. The lumber from the frame college building was used to build a church, which served German-speaking Methodists until the 1930s. The Rutersville Cluster recalls these several pioneering events in Methodism.

Education for women was an early Methodist priority. Until the late nineteenth century, however, academic rigor was not a notable feature of most women's education. An early exception was Wesleyan College. Founded in Macon, Georgia, in 1836, it was the first college to grant regular collegiate degrees to women. It remains a women's college today.

Mary McLeod Bethune is one of the best known figures of modern African American history. A Methodist, she was an influential member of Franklin Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet," and devoted her life to the betterment of young people. In 1904, she founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Girls, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Today that school continues as Bethune-Cookman University, and Bethune-Cookman Foundation on the college campus has turned her home into a museum that recalls her many contributions to her people, her church, and her country.

In 1913, the Wesley Foundation was chartered at the University of Illinois. Designed to provide Christian ministry to college students, the movement quickly spread to other campuses, and today Wesley Foundations can be found all across the United States as well as overseas.


American Methodist missions began in 1816, when John Stewart, of African and Native American descent, felt called to minister to the Wyandott tribe in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. His work prompted the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society in 1819. At the Wyandotts' request in 1821, James Finley opened a school, and three years later a church was built with U.S. government funds. The tribe was forced to emigrate to Kansas in 1843, and the Wyandott Mission ceased.

In September 1821, the South Carolina Annual Conference sent the Rev. William Capers to Fort Mitchell, Alabama. After negotiations with the chiefs of the Creek Nations, he opened the Asbury Manual Labor School and Mission in 1822 to teach Creek children reading, writing, and other "civilized" skills. The school closed in 1830 following the removal to the west of much of the tribe.

By the 1830s, missions to Native Americans were overshadowed by dramatic developments in two far-off places: Liberia and the Pacific Northwest. In 1833, the Rev. Melville Beveridge Cox sailed to Liberia as the first foreign missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Although he died a few months later, he laid the groundwork for the Methodist movement in Liberia. His home church, the Cox Memorial United Methodist Church in Hallowell, Maine, honors his memory.

The Willamette Mission, north of Salem, Oregon was established in 1834 by Jason Lee. His activities on behalf of the Oregon Country make him an important figure in state and national, as well as church history: "We labour under many disadvantages....But after all, I feel greatly encouraged with regard to this mission. We shall soon be in a way of supporting a large school, and if we get help from home, (I do not speak of money, but of men and women), we shall be able to do a great deal in this way....And if there is a place on the Earth where missionaries are needed, it is here. And I do think if the Lord spares our lives, and gives us health, that we shall lay a foundation for usefulness, that shall tell down to generations yet unborn." Jason Lee to Wilbur Fisk, March 15, 1836

The Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church founding site in Boston, Massachusetts, marks the origin of one of the most important missionary organizations in American Methodism. Tracing its beginning to 1869, this society sought "to extend the Gospel to women by women." Its birthplace is the former Tremont Street Church in Boston, now the home of the New Hope Baptist Church. Beautiful stained glass windows commemorate the eight women who played important roles in the society's formation. The Woman's Foreign Missionary Society is one of the predecessors of today's United Methodist Women.

Many of the historic places on our list reflect United Methodist history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York brings us into the era of the Social Gospel. This is the site of the first hospital built by American Methodists. A personal experience by James Monroe Buckley, influential editor of theChristian Advocate, inspired its construction.

The hospital was chartered on May 27, 1881 and opened in December 1887. The concept of church involvement in this sort of social service was not without opposition. Many felt the church's money and personnel would be better spent on preaching the gospel solely and leaving schools, hospitals, and similar services to others. Others, however, followed Buckley's example, and United Methodism today is a leading health care provider around the world.