Rev. J. B. Finley

Stories of Guernsey County by Wm. Wolfe Page 376

Rev. J. B. Finley.—Traveling a circuit of 475 miles each month, Rev. J. B. Finley, Ohio’s most noted circuit rider, came into Guernsey county to preach to a few Methodist groups that had been  organized here.  He gave forty years of service as a minister in the backwoods of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.  His great energy of character and burning zeal, together with his eloquence, tact and knowledge of human nature, gave him an influence that resulted in much good to the pioneers. 

     When in charge of what was known as the Wills Creek circuit, which included Guernsey county, his home was on Leatherwood creek.  The route of this circuit has been described as follows:

     “Beginning at Zanesville and running east, it embraced all the settlements on each side of the Wheeling Road (Zane’s Trace), on to Salt creek and the Buffalo fork of Wills creek; thence down to Cambridge and Leatherwood; thence to Barnesville and Morristown; thence down Stillwater; thence up the Tuscarawas through New Philadelphia and on to Carter’s; thence to Sugar creek; thence down the Tuscarawas to William Butt’s; thence all the settlements down to Zanesville, the place of beginning.”

Stories of Guernsey county by Wm. Wolfe Page 413

The Circuit Rider

     Rev. James B. Finley, who, it has been said, was for many years the most noted circuit rider of this country, and exerted more influence for good in the Ohio region than any other man in the state, was once a resident of Guernsey county.  During his forty years of service as a minister he traveled circuits of the Methodist Episcopal Church through the forests of Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. He preached and organized churches in every section of Ohio.  He managed great camp meetings in the backwoods and established schools and missions amongst the Indians.

     First Resident Preacher of Guernsey County.—Rev. Finley was the first resident preacher of Guernsey county.  While living here he had as his parish most of the territory now lying within the boundaries of Guernsey, Muskingum, Noble, Belmont, Harrison, Tuscarawas and Coshocton counties.  Rev. James Watts, his predecessor on the circuit, had passed through what is now Guernsey county and organized a Methodist church in Cambridge in 1808, a year before the arrival of Rev. Finley.  The organization was effected at the home of Thomas Sarchet, which stood on the site of the present Central Drug store, at the northeast corner of Wheeling avenue and Seventh street, which stood on the site of the present Central Drug Store, at the northeast corner of Wheeling avenue and Seventh street.    The Methodists worshiped here and in the old court house a few years before erecting a church building.


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