Kinsearching September 17, 2006




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Church records are among the resources researchers check for genealogical data. If you don't know what religion your ancestors practiced, how can you find out? One way is to notice the names of a couple's children since they may supply clues to which church they attended. Since people were greatly influenced by sermons given by traveling preachers at backwoods camp meetings, they often named children after them. Given names such as John Wesley or Asbury, for example, point to a Methodist affiliation.

     In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were several other widely known Methodist ministers for whom many people were named. Perhaps one of the most famous was the eccentric Lorenzo Dow, who "claimed to have been carried to heaven in a cyclone at the age of thirteen...." (See page 89 of the 1996 reprint of THE GREAT REVIVAL: BEGINNINGS OF THE BIBLE BELT by John R. Boles. The book was originally published under the title THE GREAT REVIVAL, 1787 - 1805: THE ORIGINS OF THE SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL MIND in Lexington by the University of Kentucky Press in 1972).

     A biographical sketch of Dow appears on page 309 of CYCLOPAEDIA OF METHODISM EMBRACING SKETCHES OF ITS RISE, PROGRESS, AND PRESENT CONDITION, WITH BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES AND NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS published in Philadelphia by Everts & Stewart in 1878. The work was edited by Matthew Simpson, one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

     "Lorenzo Dow, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, October 18, 1777, and died in Washington, D.C., February 2, 1834. He commenced preaching in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1798, when but eighteen years of age. In 1799 he left his work under an impression that he had a special mission to Ireland. He attracted great attention both in Ireland and England. Because of his irregular conduct he was dropped from the roll of the Conference, and was never again regularly connected with the itinerancy, but he traveled extensively and preached frequently, and adhered strictly to Methodist doctrine. He made frequent applications for admission into the Conference but because of his eccentricities he was refused. He often preached with great power, and many were awakened and converted under his ministry. He was especially skilled in controversy in refuting atheism, deism, universalism, and Calvinism. He spent many years in the South among the planters and slaves, preaching to vast multitudes as they gathered in the forest or elsewhere. He often rode forty or fifty miles a day, and preached four or five times. His manner and appearance excited great curiosity, and his startling and eccentric statements were widely circulated. He was a pronounced opponent of the Jesuits, and of every form of Romanism. He went to Washington to arouse the government against what he believed to be plans of the Church of Rome, but died suddenly. His writings were numerous and peculiar."

     Another distinguished early preacher, also mentioned in THE GREAT REVIVAL, was Hope Hull. His biographical sketch is found on page 458 of CYCLOPAEDIA OF METHODISM.

     "Hope Hull...was born in Worcester County, Maryland, March 13, 1763. He was received on trial at the Baltimore Conference of June, 1785, and was appointed to Salisbury, N. C. Subsequently he was appointed to South Carolina and Georgia, and was a pioneer preacher in that region. He attempted to form a society in the city of Savannah, but encountered such opposition and peril that he left the place, but it was chiefly through his exertions that the first respectable brick building was erected in Washington, Georgia, designed to be used as an academy. In 1794 he traveled with Bishop Asbury, and in 1795 took a location. His early education had been limited, but during the ten years of his traveling ministry, besides making himself a good English scholar, he had acquired a respectable
knowledge of the Latin language, and after his location he commenced a school in Wilkes County, dividing his time between teaching and preaching. He removed to Athens, and became a member of the board of trustees of the University of Georgia, and was on the presidential committee, which had the more immediate supervision of the affairs of the institution. His whole life was emphatically spent in doing good. He died October 4, 1818."

     Still another renowned early pastor was Richard Ivy of Sussex County, Virginia. A brief sketch about his activities appears in the article "Monumental History" by Margaret Windley. It is appears on page 4 of the April 2005 church bulletin Monumental Messenger, published by the Monumental United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, Virginia. "Richard Ivy was a Methodist minister for 18 years. He served throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, and Georgia, and died in late 1795."

     Clues to their adherence to the Methodist doctrine can easily be found, for example, in the names of two sons of Revolutionary soldier Benjamin WATTS. They were Richard Ivy Watts, born in 1788, and Hope Hull Watts, born in 1791 in Georgia. According to family tradition, Hope Hull Watts was named for the man who baptized him, and he eventually became a minister also. His biographical sketch can be found on page 582 of METHODIST PREACHERS IN GEORGIA, 1783 - 1900 by Harold Lawrence. This book was published in Tignall, GA, by The Boyd Publishing Co., Ltd., in 1984.

     Sometimes early churches were named after prominent preachers. The names not only furnish clues to the church's denomination but may give hints about the origin of the congregation. An example is found on pages 105-106 in HISTORY OF METHODISM IN ALABAMA AND WEST FLORIDA BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE AMAZING MARCH OF METHODISM THROUGH ALABAMA AND WEST FLORIDA by Marion Elias Lazenby. Although no publishing place or company appears on the title pages, the book was published in 1960.

     In a chapter about early churches in Alabama, Lazenby states: "About 1822 more Methodists came into Montgomery County. One group from Georgia included...Abner McGehee....On McGehee's land a church was built, and called Hope Hull, for a distinguished Georgia preacher under whose ministry Lorenzo Dow claims first to have been spiritually awakened...."