Two Bishops Traveling in Style
Soon after the adjournment of the General Conference which met in Baltimore on May 6, 1808, Bishop Asbury
started out to attend some of the Southern and Western Conferences, as well as to preach by the way.
It was a rough and toilsome journey, for a part of it lay directly across the Alleghany Mountains. Physically
the Bishop was wholly unfit for this trip, since his old enemy, the inflammatory rheumatism, had deprived
him of the use of his feet. But, after all, he traveled hundreds of miles on horseback, and preached either
sitting down or standing up with the aid of his crutches. Sick and infirm as he was, the "driving-fires" within
his soul never slumbered.
From Pennsylvania, where he had been preaching to the Germans-assisted by Rev. Henry Boehm, who acted as interpreter-he
crossed over into Kentucky, where Bishop McKendree joined him. The two now entered upon an arduous round, preaching,
marrying, administering the sacraments, and visiting the Conferences. It will doubtless interest the reader to learn
something of the style in which two bishops of the early Methodist Church did their traveling.
They started out in "a poor thirty-dollar chaise," with "purses to match," as Asbury himself humorously put it.
Under this vehicle they carried an ax, for often thy had to stop while the younger of the two cut trees out of the way,
and the elder, feeble and crippled as he was helped to clear the path. Such bishops! But they had no dainty hands to
roughen nor fine cloths to soil-no ruffles to tear, no lawn to rumple, no powdered hair to disorder, nor silver buckles to
Frequently they had to sleep in the woods, for the lack of that within their purses to pay for entertainment at the inns.
Many a night they lay with nothing between them and the ground but the saddlebags under their heads. When they could get a
bed of leaves or a pallet of raw deer-hide, what a luxury it was! Some new danger constantly menaced them - at one
time it was in the form of a bivouac with wolves, at another a close escape from Indians. Once they were near drowning by
missing a ford. Again a hurricane blew directly across their path, but God wonderfully preserved them. Annoyances, too,
beset them-they lost their way in the woods, they were stung by ants, bitten by fleas, tormented by gnats, and harassed by
Sometimes the coarse fare of the district was enough to satisfy their hunger-at other times it was insufficient. Often
when they wanted a dinner they had not only to stop and cook it, but to hunt it as well. But this was small discomfort in
comparison to trying to cook another meal by the fire that would not blaze, or when it did blaze to be at once put out by the
rain. And what a "feast-day" it was when they could dine "on raccoon and bear steaks!" O such bishops! Not once amidst all
these hardships did "a cloud arise to darken their skies, or to hide for a moment their Lord from their eyes."
Contented with their lot? Beyond question they were, and often happy-yes, actually happy over it. Even that old shaky, wheezy,
thirty-dollar chaise was the source of great happiness and satisfaction. And why? Because every and anon they saw "men, women,
and children, almost naked, paddling up the rocky hills, while even the best-off were two or three on the same horse." What a
luxurious vehicle, then seemed that creaky old chaise!
As poor accommodations as the woods frequently offered there were poorer ones at the cabins, where there was but one room, one
fire-place, and from half a dozen to one dozen inmates. "Here," says the patient Asbury, "we had to preach, read, write, pray, sing,
talk, eat, drink, and sleep." Sometimes these cabins were very oddly fitted up and ornamented inside and out with wild-cat skins,
deer's horns, turkey wings, and the like. But wherever they come upon the inmates of these cabins, with few exceptions, our bishops
were given a hospitable welcome. Where the surroundings were clean and tidy numerous discomforts were cheerfully borne; but where they
were disgustingly filthy, as well as infested with vermin, as was to often the case, then indeed the real trials of the poor bishops
began, for both men were fastidiously neat in person and habits. They had a high sense of delicacy as well of the proper return to make
for honest and hearty hospitality, and they would far rather have been bitten over by the tormenting vermin-even poor Bishop Asbury, who
had unfortunately "as thin and fair a skin as ever came form England" than to have hurt the feelings of their hospitable entertainers for a
moment by complaining of their accommodations. O royal-hearted bishops!
How many miles that dilapidated old chaise passed over on this trip; how many times that patient old horse-representing fully two thirds of
Bishop Asbury's earthly property-took his place morning after morning between the shafts; how many times at evening the two bishops came to those
little crowded, skin-adorned cabins, seeking rest, or, in lieu of the cabin, lying in the woods-we may not know. But we do know that never before
had bishops traveled like these two, and never have they since-at least not since the days of Caper and Bascom. Now our favored head of Church go
whirling over country in luxuriously furnished steam-cars, the common schedule of which is from thirty to forty miles on hour; and instead of the
threadbare homespun garments and rough cow-hide shoes of the pioneer episcopacy, lo, broadcloth and patent-leather! But times change, and people
and things change with them; and surely a man is none the less zealous or devout, no farther from being a Christian, because he wears broadcloth.
A note from the editor. This article was written in 1891 by Annie Maria Barnes. Today our Bishops are more impressed with the outward things and being socially correct rather
then standing for what the Word of God says is correct. Therefore, the clothes that Bishop Asbury and McKendree wore was that of the righteousness of God, but
our Bishops today are clothed in social correctness and self esteem rages. What ever happened to righteousness and the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, as hailed by our founding fathers, Bishop Asbury and Rev. John Wesley?