March 31, 1816: Bishop Francis Asbury Dies at 70
Bishop Francis Asbury died on March 31, 1816, at age 70. Born in England in 1745, he volunteered to come to America in 1771 on behalf of the rapidly growing Methodist church. During pioneer days, Asbury was one of many Methodist circuit riders who spread the gospel from community to community. His travels often brought him into what is now West Virginia. And his diary provides some of the best early accounts of western Virginia life.
His first documented visit to the region was in 1776, just outside Berkeley Springs. He noted in his diary that the area was “good for the health, but most injurious to religion.” Likewise, after visiting Morgantown in 1788, he lamented the town’s “excesses, particularly drinking.”
In 1785 or ’86, he preached the dedication sermon at Rehoboth Church in present Monroe County. He later held sessions of the Methodist Greenbrier Conference at Rehoboth, which is reportedly the oldest church building west of the Allegheny Mountains. Thanks to his efforts in establishing Methodist churches, Asbury is considered one of the most significant religious figures of the region’s frontier era.