Vol. V, No. 3, Winter 1992

Fall 1988

The Ozarks Diaries of a Methodist Circuit Rider

1836 1839

Jacob Lanius (1814-1851) was an itinerant Ozarks pastor for the Missouri Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church. Copies of his journal are located at the State Historical Society of Missouri. Lanius' diaries have been transcribed and edited, and some background information supplied, by Theodore H. Wolff.

Lanius was born at Fincastle, Boutatort County, Virginia, the eldest of 14 children. The family moved to Potosi, Washington County, Missouri when Jacob was a small child.

Jacob, named for his German immigrant grandfather, was converted and licensed to preach in 1831, at age 17. While riding circuit, he met and married Nancy Tong of Fredericktown, Madison County, Missouri. The diaries note the birth of two sons, the second dying as an infant in 1842 at the point where the diaries end.

The diary contains brief, almost daily, entries through 1838. Lanius describes his life as a circuit rider, notes sizes of communities, numbers of converts, problems of travel, sociaI and economic conditions, whose homes he stayed in, the Biblical texts for sermons, and ministry to Missouri Indian tribes and slaves.

Excerpts from the Lanius diary:


March 13th-Sunday:--Preached in Potosi great seriousness prevailed but no excitement took place.

Monday--In great body weakness I attempted to preach at Bro. Lances on Brush Run, and I do hope that a revival is about to burst forth here. Thursday. 17th. preached at a house near Bro. Z. Hughes and bless God we had a glorious season. One woman took what used to be called in Tenn. the BARKING EXERCISE. This was something I had never witnessed before and something I am not able to account for on any principal.

Sunday 20th. At Caledonia [Washington County] meeting house had a very nice congregation and some apparent good feeling. Unfortunately this class which numbers more than half a hundred is about to be convulsed to its seats by internal broils. The most influential members are engaged in their disputes.

Wed. 23rd. In the morning I rode 12 miles to the little school house near what is called three forks of Black River ]Reynolds County], and at 1 p.m. preached to the blacks as they are numerously [sic] called. Some of the people seemed to be very devoted. All seemed to be exceeding poor in the world's Goods.

I...pursued my round to Bro. Robert Johnson's the next appointment expecting to find them comfortably circumstanced, but was badly disappointed .... I was amazed and chagrined to see the filthy appearance of the sisters and everything else. The beds were ridiculous and the women were foul almost beyond a savage. I was very hungry haven't eaten anything since morning, but thought this is no place for a hungry and weary traveler.


Proceeding on Bellview Circuit the year ending September 13th, 1837. Preached 245 times; Received into the church 201; Net increase of 109, leaving on the Circuit 434 whites and 51 blacks. This increase does not appear on the printed minutes because of incorrect returns made to me from some cause or other, by my worthy predecessor, but it is the true increase as appears from my own book of items .... I am happy under the reflection that I leave the Circuit in at least a tolerable good and prosperous condition .... My heart gave all the glory to God and not to such a poor feeble worm as I am.


June 22 and 23; Held a Q.M. (Quarterly Meeting?) on White River Mission at W. F. Goffs on James Fork, in Taney County (present Stone County). Met Bro. Glover, the local preacher employed to travel the mission. We organized a conference of about 8 members. Bro. Glover HAS FORMED A CIRCUIT OF ABOUT 200 MILES IN CIRCUMFERENCE WITH 18 PREACHING PLACES AND 24 CHURCH MEMBERS, 3 OF WHOM ARE EXHORTERS and 5 LEADERS OF BANDS. The inhabitable part of the country is confined to White River and its various tributaries, James, Finleys, Crane, Swan, Flat, Beaver and other forks, the surrounding country being mountainous and barren, the residence of Bear, Elk, Deer and other wild beasts. Our circuit will necessarily be a right angled one running parallel with the streams .... The country at present is in a very bad state of cultivation and improvement. People mostly live in log huts, with small farms and plenty of stock, such as horses, cattle and children.

Tues. 26 (25) June: Preached in the courthouse of Springfield to a large and attentive audience, the appointment having been circulated in the public paper of the town, "Ozark Standard." This little village is almost overrun by Campbellites, followers of Joel N. Huden [Haden], and Dr. McBride .... They have introduced "damnable heresy" and thereby drawn many away from "the faith delivered unto the saints." This church is supposed to number about 40 in and about town, other Churches are quite diminutive. Ours about 8 mostly in the vicinity .... I hope the cause of truth received some benefit, although no visible good was done, more than a deep solemnity pervaded the assembly.


Copyright -- OzarksWatch

Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues | Keyword Search

Local History Home

 Springfield-Greene County Library