[Handwritten Autobiographical Memoir of 18th Century Beginnings of Methodism in Dorchester on the Eastern Shore of Maryland].
Autobiographical memoir, apparently unpublished, concerning the beginnings of Methodism in Dorchester on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Discussing the progress of the Second Great Awakening in that place, the manuscript notes the possible freeing of a slave, the Revolutionary War-era religious persecution of the Methodists, and mentions such important church leaders as Joseph Hartley, Caleb B. Pedicord, Joseph Everett, Bishop Francis Asbury, Richard Whatcoat, and the author’s own mother who “...was placed leader of the Woman’s class.” (p)
Intriguingly, the manuscript contains a reference to “servants that belonged” and to the manumission of a girl—both possible references to slavery and, in this context, its incompatibility with the tenets of Methodism:
[The author’s mother] Catichised [sic] her child send on the servants [slaves?] that belonged to Br. [Brother?] B.T. [the writer’s uncle?] as she had But one and that not long soon after her own soul got free she manimated [manumitted] the only Girl she had…
In 1780, as a young boy, this native Eastern Shore writer reports hearing Joseph Hartley preach under a large oak as the local Episcopal church vestry “refused to let him in the House” to preach. The locals had never heard such loud, noisy preaching and were quite astonished that they were told to convert or never enter in the kingdom of God, a doctrine entirely unheard of by them. He continues:
The next year 1781 Thos. T. Chew & Stephen Black was appointed I think this was [the] year that my mother was got the Evidence of her acceptance of her maker. She was before a very strict Church woman tend [attended?] her church observed the Sabbath day. Catichised [sic] her child send on the servants [slaves?] that belonged to Br. [Brother?] B.T. [the writer’s uncle?] as she had But one and that not long soon after her own soul got free she manimated [manumitted] the only Girl she had… About this time C.B. Pedicord came round… In the winter they had to preach in the house and yard was crouded [sic] by attentive hearers about this time Joseph Everett came down. This was before he was rec’d by the confference [sic]. He came with Thunder of Law. About this time persecution Began to rage. Calop [Caleb] B. Pedicord in coming down was beaten on his hors[e] by J.M. This year in the sum[m]er they Preached [in] the wood under shadow[?] It was all seated like our Camp Ground and a stand in the midst. I have seen the people fall under Word and many Trembling, Weeping. This part of the country was much Exposed to the Torrey [Tory] and Refugees, so called many were Burned and Rob[b]ed By them and It Became necessary to station a g[u]ard for the Protection of the neighborhood. This Gard or small army was stationed here. Here the Methodist preached and here was men to fight. Crowds Came out, some to hear and others to see the soldiers and hear the Musick the word reached the heart of many of the soldiers and got convert[ed] and became powerful in pray[er]. ... This year several classes were formed, of which my Mother was placed leader of the Woman’s class. (pp[2–3])
The writer describes a missionary outreach to the nearby “necks & Islands” such as at “Mrs Wileys,” Hooper’s Island, and Elliott’s Island. He describes the preachers’ manners: “They were Solom [solemn] no trifling groaning and praying almost day and night…and Before they left the House They spoke to each member of the family Both white and collered [colored].” (p) The author describes the building of a formal meting house:
I came home the same year . This year came the Good news of peace liberty and Independence to the United States of America. Their [sic] was great rejoicing and Shooting, Soldiers returning home with Hounor [sic], &c. Some Short time after this, the neighbours meet together…and consu[l]ted about Building a meeting House Which was agre[e]d on and The place whch was on B. Todd’s the size of 40 feet by 30 with a gal[l]ery. This house was de[di]cated By R. Whatcoat soon after he came to this country…Bishop Asbury came down. (p)
Returning to the opening theme of his memoir—beginnings and his own birth, the author concludes with a wistful note at the end of his narrative: “I often think of [the] place of [my] nativity, and how the Preachers found their way there.”
The role of women in the early Methodist church may shed light on the authorship of this memoir. Scholar Cynthia L. Lyerly in her book Methodism and the Southern Mind, 1770-1810 (New York, 1998) writes: “White women also tended to precede men into the church—both in families and in neighborhoods. When Methodist itinerants first came into an area, women were often the initial converts and the main source of encouragement to the clergy. ... Mary Ennalls was credited with bringing Methodism to Dorchester, Maryland.”¹
Was Mary Ennall’s child the author of this memoir? If so, was her own Methodist conversion so deeply affecting that she freed her own slave?
An intriguing manuscript, apparently unpublished, relating to early Methodism in America, the likely freeing of a slave, and the role of women as leaders in that church.
Description: [Handwritten Autobiographical Memoir of 18th Century Beginnings of Methodism in Dorchester on the Eastern Shore of Maryland].
[Dorchester County, Eastern Shore, Maryland: c.1820s–1830s?]. pp. Quarto. Bifolium; wove paper. Folds; separations along horizontal folds with some minor losses, not affecting sense; good.
Note. 1. p101. See also Williams, The Garden of American Methodism, The Delmarva Peninsula, 1769-1820 (Lanham MD, 2005), pp99–100.