Friday, May 13, 2011

Insight into Early Methodism from My Ancestor

On April 25, I posted an online memorial for Rev. Levi Garrison. He was my 4th great grandfather and early American Methodist circuit rider in South Carolina. I mentioned a letter he wrote in 1831 concerning his views on the episcopacy (organizing our bishops) that is in the archives at Wofford College.

Here is a scan of the letter and my transcription. It was difficult to make out but I did the best I could! It gives insight into early Methodism as it was taking shape while growing dramatically:

A transcription of a letter regarding the episcopacy written in 1831 by Rev. Levi Garrison of Anderson, South Carolina (1779-1855). Garrison had at one time been a circuit rider but located years prior to the letter after a Yellow Fever epidemic. It is addressed to the bishops and members of the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The original is in the archives at Wofford College, and it is transcribed by Rev. Stephen Pierce West (1965-), his fourth great grandson. West attempted to maintain the original punctuation, grammar, and spelling unedited.

December 30. 1831. To the Members of the Southcarolina Conference to be held at Darlington the 26 of January 1832.

Dear Brethren, I have been an Old Souldier among you. I joined the Traveling Connection in 1800. I traveled seven years, located in 1807. I have watched the movements of the Methodists ever since. I am still unmoved in my faith and ettachment to our doctrines and economy, but it does appear to me that as it relates to the Episcopacy that the cause may yet be improved. So as to eliviate, both the Traveling and Local Body in some way like the following: to elect & ordain at least one Bishop for every three Conferences, and for the Bishops to change; in there districts, alternately, as do the Presiding Elders. Then in all cases of ordination, all could be attended to in the year, and also it would effectually secure the Episcopal ethority in all cases of death. The reason of my suggesting to your honorable body the above thoughts is that some of your delegates to the general Conference that is coming on may consult other preachers and make some improvement to the above plan and try to have something done in that way. There is also one other thing I will mention. Our book business has become an establishment of such worth and magnitude, that the Connection could well afford to make such a rule; that all preachers that have traveled, “we will say,” so many years, and have married in honour to the cause of Methodism, and stand firm in the old plan fully effected towards us, the old body, shall be furnished gratice, with a libery of the best theological books that we have to prepare them to maintain our ground and doctrines. I would say more, but this is enough to impress your mind with my views and to help some of you to improvement. I am your humble and loving brother in Christ, Levi Garrison

Levi Garrison
To the Bishops, and
Members of the
Southcarolina Conference