Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Francis Asbury


Bishop Francis Asbury was born in Staffordshire, England, August 20 or 21, 1745. By 1770, Asbury was part of the growing Methodist movement. In 1771 he volunteered to come to America, and Methodist founder John Wesley appointed him one year later as one of his assistants in America. The Christmas Conference held in Baltimore in 1784 founded the Methodist Society in America, and Francis Asbury was appointed as its first superintendent. In that same year, a regular Methodist Society was formed in Greenbrier County. In 1787, Asbury broke with English Methodists and established the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.

Asbury and the Methodists were part of the great revival known as the Great Awakening. Emotional gatherings drew large crowds, and denominations connected with the Great Awakening spread rapidly. This excitement led to a strong sense of evangelism, which pushed men such as Asbury westward. Records show that Asbury first set foot in present West Virginia on July 18, 1776, outside of Berkeley Springs. He notes in his journal that the area was ‘‘Good for the health, but most injurious to religion.’’ He worked extensively in what is now the Eastern Panhandle, preaching and lecturing almost every day, before continuing farther into Western Virginia.

In 1785 or 1786, Rehoboth Church was built in what is now Monroe County. Bishop Asbury is said to have preached the dedication sermon. He later held sessions of the Methodist Greenbrier Conference at the church in 1792, 1793, and 1796. Eventually, Asbury crisscrossed much of the state and brought many people into the Methodist Church. Bishop Asbury died March 31, 1816.

Written by Bil Lepp

Sources

  1. Rudolph, L. C. Francis Asbury. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1966.