Rev. Moses W. Trader - The Beginning

In the beginning…

“Soon after the village of London was platted in the early 1810s, a Methodist church was founded in the community. Today known as First United Methodist Church, this congregation built a small log church building in 1820; it was London's first church and orphanage”. (History of Madison County Ohio: Its People, Industries and Institutions. Chester E. Bryan, gen. ed. Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen, 1915, 285).

How did it happen that our church became the first church in London? Let’s meet Reverend Trader.

Reverend Moses W. Trader was born in Virginia on December 29, 1794. At the time of his birth, his father, Moses Trader, who had been a soldier of the Revolutionary War, and one of Morgan’s Riflemen, resided in Virginia. Moses Trader was granted 400 acres of land, which he left in 1792 when the family immigrated to the North West Territory, and landed at the mouth of the Little Miami River on the 19 of December. A settlement was begun there by a Major Strites in 1789, only four years from the first settling of Ohio at Marietta. It was in the wilderness and dangers were ever present.

Rev. Moses’ parents were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. There were no members of that church in reach not any regular Methodist preaching until the Rev. John Kobler came, who was the first Methodist preacher to cross the Ohio River to preach the gospel to the few hardy pioneers who had pitched their camps in the wilderness. This did not occur until after the death of his father. Hostilities continued with Native Americans from the time of their landing until the treaty at Greenville was signed in 1791.

Not long after, his father died and his mother was left with six small children, the oldest of whom was fourteen. Young Moses grew up on the frontier. The spirit-stirring scenes and dangers he was familiar with in his youth, seemed to have inspired him with a fondness for enterprise and adventure. He hunted with the Shawnee Indians, understood their manners and customs and spoke their language fluently. He was known as an unerring marksman and good hunter, as well as for his unflinching courage and ability to endure fatigue. Such qualifications made him a great favorite with the tribe. It is not known when he came to what is now Greene County – it must have been at an early period as he cleared the first field at a settlement called Caesarsville on Caesar’s Creak (near Xenia).

He married Miss Elizabeth McDaniel September 2, 1804. The McDaniels were staunch members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and had a great influence on Moses W. Trader. Later in this article, we will present in his own words, Reverend Trader’s path to accepting Jesus Christ and his decision to preach the gospel as a Methodist Episcopal pastor. In this same year, he, his father-in-law and others built a log church, Union Church, which was the mother church of Methodism in Green County. After his marriage, he strived to obtain the education he had lacked in his boyhood and youth in the wilderness. His determination and efforts in this direction were so successful that he is said to have astonished those who knew him. He is said also to have learned to read Hebrew in later years.

Moses Trader decided that he would be a Methodist preacher (more on this later in the article), although he had many fears and doubts about his qualifications. In 1806 or 1807 he was licensed to “exhort”, and a little later, to preach. For three or four years he preached locally in and near Xenia, but in 1810 he started out as a circuit rider to assist others on the Union Circuit, which took in Xenia and a large adjoining territory. As he said, he was going “more fully into the vineyard of my Lord and Master”.

A "circuit" was a geographic area that encompassed two or more local churches. Once a pastor was assigned a circuit, it was his responsibility to conduct worship and visit members of each church in his charge on a regular basis in addition to possibly establishing new churches. Because of the distance between churches, these preachers would ride on horseback. These frontier clergy were never officially called "circuit riders," but the name was appropriate and it "stuck. They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available (peoples' cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners). Methodist circuit riders were always on the move. Many circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover them. This early frontier ministry was often lonely and dangerous. The ministerial activity of the circuit riders boosted Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination at the time. In 1784, there were 14,986 members and 83 traveling preachers. By 1839, the denomination had grown to 749,216 members served by 3,557 traveling preachers and 5,856 local preachers.

Reverend Trader joined the Ohio Conference in 1812 and was assigned to the Paint Creek Circuit, which included London. He organized a few neighbors into a class, selected a class leader, and arranged the time and place for the next preaching service. (Preaching was done in different locations until a log cabin was built in 1820 for this purpose.) Services would have been held on weekdays as well as Sundays based upon his availability.

He continued until 1817, when bad health compelled him to relocate. Such were his attainments in that time that he ranked as one of the most intelligent and profound members of the Ohio Conference. He had made himself well acquainted with history, theology, and was deeply versed in biblical lore. He grew in his knowledge of the Hebrew language. His grammar of that language was copied by his own hand and was a curiosity for neatness and penmanship.

Accepting Christ in his own words...

Editor’s Note: This is taken directly from the writings of Rev. Trader. It may be a little difficult to follow, but if you stick with it and overlook the spelling errors, you will find a great story.

Very early I had the fear of the lord before me in some degree. The Methodist began to preach in the settlement where my father lived. When I was about 6 or 7 years old I thought them to be the holys men that I had ever seen. My father and Mother soon joined the society and became praing people and I have often seen them earnestly engaged with the lord for themselves and for their children but this was a mistrey to me tho I often had very serious empresions and thought about heaven and hell very frekently about deth. My parents soon taught me the Lord’s prayer.

I use to see the people in Meating much affected the preachers allwas appeared to me that they ware on life and Death. I use to see them in class Meatings all baithed in 6ears and their hole theam was about Jesus and heaven. I did not know what theas things ment. One day one of my Cuzzons about 9 or 10 years old who was a member of the Methodist began to talk to 3 or 4 of us that was younger than herself and she talked so wonderfull about Jesus Crist and heaven. She mentioned something about a grate white throne which maid grate impression on my mind and I beleave that I should have got religion sooner than what I did had not my parents moved to the western territory and some time in December we landed at the mouth of the Litel Miama a place very remote from reliton and wickedness abounded amidst the tumult of solders and Indians and Clamers of wor - I soon found myself inclined more than ever to wickedness.

One thing I wish to mention for a warning for all young people and old ones too once in my life - about the 13 year of my life I told an absolute lie to gain a litel honer to myself and was caut in it by a good old Baptis woman who sharply reproved me for my folly and wickedness. I do not believe that ever I tol a lie on purpis for any advanteg from that time to this I am not 25 years old. Of warning all thi while the Spirit of the lord was striving with me and I woul still promus the lord that I would mend my life in a future period. I was very much tormented with dreams or visions of the night I have frekenly been forst to scream out at night and jump out of my bed under the belief that I saw all manner of the most awul serpents crawling about my bed.

My haire have rais on my head and cold chils run all over me in a moment o What a Cursed thing is Sin and oh how unwisely Do peopul act who live under the Continual influence of it. Not far from this time John Coblon a Methodist preacher came to this country and formed a sirket on the Miami waters and my Dear old mother wised to go to meating and having no company I went with her. When I saw the man I truly felt aufull so it was either by preaching studing or let me be whare over I went to the thunder of gods holy word pursued me (no peace for the wicked) while a gilty conscience tormented me day and night. So powerful was my convictions at times that my Dear old mother thought I was agoing crasey. One time in particular I had been sick for 3 wekes with the pleuricy and was expected by all that saw me to Die. Still I was not afreaid of diing. After I began to mend one night Such a aufull Shock of conviction seased my gilty soule that I thought that I should fall into hell in a few minutes. I saw the mouth of the pit open and the flames come rolling out just by my feet it appeared to me that my feet was standing on the desent of the ground within a few feet of slipping into the lake of fire. The inder and ashes seemed to be fawling all round me. So grate was my terror that I could no longer refrain from crying aloud and sprang out of my bed as quick as if I had been in perfect helth an cried alound to my mother and told her to get up and lets pray or we should all go to hell. She ameadently arose I turned as to devower meand fell on my neas and prayed as the torments of hell tho I was so weak that I could hardly stand at other times I prayed so loud that I might have been heard a grate way off. I swet to such a degree that my shirt was wet I cryed with the utmost vehementcy and never eased till I was delivered from the fear of hell and the torment that I felt was removed. I then went to bed again and slept quiet easey but new nothing about the Lords hearing prayer.

...I was ashamed that any body should know I had thoughts about religion. I drowneded those convictions by running in to young company and frolicking away my preshous time and as I grew in years grew in wickedness…..I was about 20 years old and having gained my former strength and vigor from a longe illness - not withstanding the spiret of the Lord strove with me an I maid many promises to serve him but frolicking that cursed sin had well nigh landed my soule in hell fire -- I worn the yong as well as all others to flee this cursed eavil and scape as clear from the houll same as you would from the Devell if you do not wish to ruin your carrecter and end your soules and bodys to the flames of hell. I well remember once while at a frollick just as I was leading out my companion to take a real Conviction seased my gilty soule and I truly was afrade that - god - in justice was agoing to kill me there on the spot. I trembled my hare raised upon my head and could Chils ran all over me in one moment. I began to pray to the lord that if he would spare me that time and not expose me before the people that I never would go to another frollick while I lived. So in a fue moments the convictions were o far removed that I went on the flore but Did not enjoy myself as I had done before… I promised the lord that if he would spare me till I got married that I would serve him all the rest of my days.