As to the general state of religion and morals at the time the Methodist preachers first visited Tennessee, our information is very imperfect. It is to be presumed, however, that, as in most new countries, the means of grace were within the reach of but few, and that those hardy adventurers who first peopled the wilderness of this new territory were chiefly actuated by a desire to enlarge their earthly possessions, and not, like the pilgrims who first settled New England, to insure religious privileges, as these were fully enjoyed at home. Some idea, however, may be had, of the general state of society from the fact, that the tour of Bishop Asbury through the wilderness was in company with a guard, and amid “confused accounts of Indians,” who, they feared, would intercept their path; and the following extract from his Journal, giving an account of his entrance from Tennessee into the state of Kentucky, will show some of the hardships which he and others had to undergo while carrying the “glad tidings of salvation" into this wilderness, and likewise exhibit some of the honors conferred upon this “strutting bishop,” as some of his heartless revilers have called him. He says, —
“Wednesday 5. This morning we again swam the river,” (namely, Laurel River,) “and the west fork thereof. My little horse was ready to fail. I was steeped with water up to the waist. About 7 o’clock, with hard pushing, we reached the Crab Orchard. How much I have suffered in this journey is only known to God and myself. What added much to its disagreeableness was the extreme filthiness of the houses.”
Again he says, under date of May 1, —
“An alarm was spreading of a depredation committed by the Indians on the east and west frontiers of the settlements; in the former, report says, one man was killed; in the latter, many men, women, and children; every thing is in motion. There having been so many about me at conference, my rest was much broken I hoped to repair it, and get refreshed before I set out to return through the wilderness, but the continual arrival of people until midnight, the barking of dogs, and other annoyances prevented. Next night we reached Crab Orchard, where thirty or forty people were compelled to crowd into one mean house. We could get no more rest here than we did in the wilderness. We came the old way by Scagg’s Creek and Rock Castle, supposing it to be safer, as it is a road less frequented, and therefore less liable to be waylaid by the savages. My body by this time was well tried. I had a violent fever and pain in my head; and I stretched myself on the cold ground, and borrowing clothes to keep me warm, by the mercy of God, I slept for five hours. Next morning we set off early, and passed beyond Richland Creek. Here we were in danger, if anywhere. I could have slept, but was afraid. Seeing the drowsiness of the company, I walked the encampment, and watched the sentries the whole night. Early next morning we made our way to Robinson’s Station. We had the best company I ever met with — thirty-six good travelers and a few warriors; but we had a packhorse, some old men, and two tired horses.” He adds: — “Through infinite mercy we came safe:” and then he exclaims, “Rest, poor house of clay from such exertions! Return, O my soul, to thy rest!"