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Rev John Stough page 10

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primeval forest infested by hostile Indians, in order to establish homes. In their mutual struggles to drive out the savages, and conquer the wilds, and found homes, they forgot any religious disputes and maybe sometimes even the religion which they may have had in their former homes. Therefore, when religious freedom was established by law, members of many denominations of Protestants were living side by side in the western mountains, although few churches had been erected there."

The Catholic colony of Maryland had established religious freedom by law in 1649. In Virginia, prior to 1785, all citizens were required to belong to the Anglican (Episcopal) Church. It is likely that John Stough, and his clerical contemporaries, knew that they were in their legal rights to establish Christianity, according to their sectarian belief and practice, in what was then known as western Virginia, now West Virginia.

There were several itinerant preachers who had preceded Stough to the Allegheny Mountains, and prior to the Virginia act of religious freedom in 1785. The Rev. John Taylor, Baptist, is reported to have held services along the Maryland-West Virginia border as early as 1773. The Reverend Joseph Doddridge was the founder of the Episcopal Church in south-western Pennsylvania and the Northern Panhandle of W. Va. In 1792-1793 he established three congregations and remained in the area as resident pastor. As early as October 1782 the Rev. John McMillan organized a congregation in south-western Pennsylvania. He is said to have been the first Presbyterian minister who settled west of the Allegheny Mountains. In the 1780s the Methodists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians established headquarters at Redstone, now Brownsville, Pennsylvania. As home missionaries they radiated from that center to the surrounding regions of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

It was not until 1819 that the Catholic Church provided a priest for the faithful in the Youghiogheny Valley. That year Father Redmond celebrated Mass in a Catholic home at Blooming Rose (Garrett County) which later became Saint Mary's Church. This was in the Friendsville neighborhood. Of the various denominations Methodism planted the most churches west of the mountains in the decade 1780-1790, which was also the decade when Bishop Asbury visited the region.

Besides the journals of Bishop Asbury, Rev. John Taylor, Rev. Joseph Doddridge, Rev. John McMillan we have those of Rev. David McClure, Rev. Levi Frisbie (1772) Rev. Peter Muhlenburg (1784) and Rev. Henry Smith (1794). Also:

"That circumstances would seem to render it probable that the Gospel through the instrumentality of the Methodists was introduced on the waters of the Little

"History of West Virginia by Henry Morton Callahan, Vol. I, p. 257, The American Historical Society, Inc., Chicago and New York, 1923.


Felix G. Robinson


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Maryland, History

Western Maryland, 1750-1963

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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