Sunday, April 13, 2008

Eli Farmer on the Methodist frontier

There may not be enough genealogy for some tastes in Riley B. Case's new Indiana Magazine of History article "'An Aggressive Warfare': Eli Farmer [1794-1881] and Methodist Revivalism in Early Indiana," but there's plenty of the historical background that good genealogy requires. (The March issue's table of contents is here.)

Methodism was an overwhelming presence in early Indiana. Official Methodist journals reported membership in Indiana in ten-year increments: 775 in 1810, 4,410 in 1820, 20,095 in 1830; 36,076 in 1840; and 72,404 in 1850. From 1805 to 1850, Methodists established 778 churches in Indiana -- more than Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Quakers combined. Methodist strength, however, was almost certainly greater than such statistics suggest. Federal census takers considered a 'church' to be a building, with a determined property value, set aside for religious functions. Methodist circuits included societies, classes, regular and irregular preaching points. {89-90}
The story of Farmer's struggles in the 1830s with thugs on one hand and his own denomination's hierarchy on the other makes a good read. Like some other pastors, he had a successful second career as a businessman, but by the 1870s came to rue the Methodists' growing respectability.

1 comment:

shirley said...

Eli Price Farmer was my great-great grandfather on my dad's side of the family. Very interesting man. I have a copy of his bio manuscript that was give to IU Lilly Library by his granddaughter. Some of it is very hard to read as it is handwritten by him at the age of 80 and yes, fighting the indians was a big part of his early life.