Dr. Samuel Findley
Stories of Guernsey county by Wm. Wolfe Page 896-897-898-899-900
Dr. Samuel Findley, Pioneer Preacher and Teacher
We remember the men and women who first settled the county and cleared away the forests, who built roads, who held office, who fought in wars, who engaged in activities that advanced it materially. Such persons, overlook the fact that there were others here whose work, although of a different kind, affected the future of the county. One of the greatest of these was Dr. Samuel Findley. His memory should be honored.
There are seemingly but few persons in Guernsey county today who know much about Dr. Findley. However, there are many whose lives have been influenced by the work done by him here almost a century ago. His influence has reached down through the generations, affecting directly or indirectly both the educational and the religious interests of the county, even to the present time.
His Youth.—Dr. Samuel Findley was born in Western Pennsylvania in 1786. His father was a farmer and a judge in the Butler county court. His uncle, William Findley, was appointed by President George Washington as arbiter in the settlement of the Whisky Rebellion. He was a member of the Pennsylvania delegation that met to ratify the Constitution of the United States, and voted against it because it contained no provision for education.
At fourteen years of age Samuel dedicated himself to the preaching of the Gospel. He found a Latin grammar, and having no time out from work for study, he tied it between the plow handles and studied as he walked back and forth across the fields. He took up Hebrew, Greek and the Bible, and walked a mile each morning before breakfast to recite to a preacher. At the age of twenty he rode horseback to New York City to study for the ministry. His last cent was spent to cross the Hudson River by ferry. He sold his pony for money to pay tuition, and then worked at odd jobs for enough to pay for his room and board. Having received his diploma, he walked home, a distance of 500 miles.
Becomes a Preacher and a Teacher.—Ordained to preach in the Associate Reformed church, he married and located in Washington county, Pennsylvania. Here he preached in several churches, and he opened an academy in which he taught.
In 1818 Dr. Finley made a missionary trip through the newly opened country west of the Ohio River. He followed Zane’s Trace until he came to Fairview in Guernsey county, Ohio, which was then a settlement of log cabins. Gathering the pioneers about him, he preached to them under the trees on the hill south of the settlement. He returned later and organized an Associate Reformed society. The little group built a stone church under the trees on the hill where he had preached. This was the first Associate Reformed church in Guernsey county, and , as that denomination afterwards became the United Presbyterian church, it may be considered the first of that faith whose adherents now constitute the county’s second largest religious group. All of their many churches in this section, with few exceptions, can trace their origin directly or indirectly to the influence of Dr. Findley.
In 1824 Dr. Findley organized an Associate Reformed church at Washington, and one near the present Antrim, which was called Miller’s Fork.
Having three preaching appointments here, he moved his family form Pennsylvania to Washington, giving up an academy and established congregations for the hardships of a new country. His unselfish reason for this change is shown in a petition to the Guernsey county commissioners for his release from the bond of dishonest county official. He therein says of himself in the third person: “Twenty-one years and two months have now elapsed since the subscriber became a located citizen of this county. The literary, as well as the moral and religious character of the county was, at that time below par. He felt that there was work to do, and he set about doing it with his very might. His labors for the elevation of the literary, moral and religious character of the community have been untiring. Whilst obstacles apparently insuperable, at times, have blocked up his way, he has found perseverance and increased exertion at all times the sure badge of Success.”
The Religious Examiner.—At Washington, in 1827, Dr. Findley began publishing The Religious Examiner, a monthly periodical of forty or more pages devoted to the interests of the Associate Reformed church. It was one of the first religious journals to be published west of the Allegheny Mountains. In the closing issue of the first year he says:
“His (the editor’s) resources of information are greatly increased. His exchanges with the most respectable eastern publications are now extensive. (The National Road was built through Washington that year.) He has it in his power to give the earliest intelligence even from Europe, that can be thrown afloat at the same distance, in the interior of America. The mail stage passing through this place in which he resides, twelve times every week, renders his situation a thoroughfare of intelligence—and being on the great National Road which connects the eastern and western hemispheres of the U.S., forty miles west of Wheeling on the Ohio River, he can correspond with and have access to, the eastern and western extremities of the U.S. with equal facility.”
Dr. Findley published The Religious Examiner for several years. As the organ of the Associate Reformed church, it had much to do with the planting of the principles of that church in the minds and hearts of the early settlers of Guernsey and neighboring counties.
Locates at Antrim.—He purchased 160 acres of land immediately west of Antrim in the early 1830’s, built a cabin on it and moved his family there. Educational advantages were lacking in the community. The young people attended the little log schools in the woods, where they were taught to read, write and cipher, but nothing else. Although Dr. Findley was still editing The Religious Examiner, was preaching at Fairview, Miller’s Fork and Washington, and farming to support his large family, he offered to teach any of the young men of the Antrim neighborhood who might want to pursue studies beyond what the little log school had to offer.
In the fall of 1835 a class of eight young men was organized, and began work in a room of his cabin home. So enthusiastic was Dr. Findley and so eager were the young men to learn that within a short time the number wishing to enroll could not be accommodated in the cabin. In 1837 Dr. Findley opened an academy which was called the Philomathean Literary Institute. This proving to be a success, a charter was granted by the state legislature to 1839 and the name changed to Madison College, with Dr. Samuel Findley as president.
Educated Preachers and Teachers.—The popularity of Madison College extended throughout Eastern Ohio. On its advisory board were such persons as Hon. John A. Bingham, the nationally known statesman, and Dr. Joseph Ray, the author of the old-time popular arithmetics. Young men prepared for teaching at Madison, and lifted the schools of Guernsey county to a higher plane. Dr. Findley prevailed upon many of the students to enter the ministry; in fact, it was his desire to advance the interests of the Associate Reformed church that prompted him to establish a college. Financial difficulties resulting from the unsettled condition of the country in Civil War days caused the college to be closed.
A Strict Disciplinarian.—As shown by the rules of Madison College, Dr. Findley exacted the very best conduct of his students. In the family circle he was a disciplinarian of the first order. No literature was permitted in the home more profane than Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. One of his sons, David, wanted to study medicine, but Dr. Findley would not give his consent on the grounds that no doctor could be a Christian. But David did become a doctor, and two of his sons are now prominent physicians in the West. Four of Dr. Samuel Findley’s sons went into the ministry and two of his daughters married ministers.
Dr. Findley opposed the introduction of the organ into the church services. It is said that he and his son, Samuel, attended the meeting of the General Assembly in Philadelphia when the question was up for debate. It was well into the night when the meeting broke up, having arrived at the decision in favor of the organ. As the two left the meeting, Samuel asked, “Father, where shall we sleep tonight?” The father replied, “My son, I do not know, I do not care.”
The story is told that he would begin his Sabbath service at in the forenoon and close it with the twinkling of the stars; that his prayer was three-quarters of an hour long and that the exposition of the Scriptures consumed twenty minutes. To prepare for the Sabbath service he would shut himself up in his room on Friday and would brook no interruptions from anybody but his wife.
It is not recorded that he ever indulged in frivolities save on one occasion when he took his children to a circus, for which he was castigated by members of his congregation. Reconciliation came when it was learned that he only saw the animals, avoiding the allurements of the ringside.
His Works Do Follow Him.—Guernsey county has never realized its debt to Dr. Samuel Findley. A reading of the Cambridge newspapers published since 1824 will show that he had a leading part in every movement designed to elevate the intellectual, moral and religious planes of the county. He came here because, on a missionary journey, he found them to be “below par,” and he labored “with his very might” to change this condition.
We submit the following as one example of his influence: From the first little church established by him at Fairview went forth a score or more of preachers, some of whom reached prominent places in the United Presbyterian ministry. Some of them became professors in theological seminaries. Two of them became presidents of Muskingum College. Through all of these Dr. Findley’s influence was multiplied.
After Madison College had been closed Dr. Findley left Guernsey county. His death occurred at the home of a son in Newark, New Jersey, in 1870. In compliance with his oft expressed wish, is body was brought to Antrim for burial. The United Presbyterian congregation served by him there for thirty years, erected a modest monument to his memory.
Erected by the U.P. Cong.
of Antrim to the Memory of
Rev. Samuel Findley, D. D.
who was born
June 11, 1786
Feb. 22, 1870
In the 84th year of
He was installed first pastor of
this Congregation in June, 1824,
and faithfully served in this capacity
His works do follow him