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Past and Present
Traditionary Recollections


Pious people are naturally fond of conversation about those who were their ministers in former days, those especially who have gone home to heaven. And so far as my observation extends, I think they are more likely to remember their excellencies than their defects. Whatever fault they may have had to find with them while present, or how much soever those faithful men may have been misunderstood and misrepresented, when present, the maturer reflection of all seems inclined to do them justice when dead or gone. And if there had been any characteristic excellency about them (and there always is in every good man) that, more especially, would be remembered. This may be a stimulus to us all to “patiently continue in well doing,” knowing that God will “ bring forth our judgement as the light, and our righteousness as the noon day.” Besides, the recitation of these "righteous acts” “to the generation following,” may be a means of stimulating others to the imitation of their virtuous conduct.

The writer has been stirred up a thousand times, and cheered in the prosecution of his work as well as entertained, especially in the early part of his ministry, by hearing many of the fathers and mothers in our Canadian Israel speak of the labors, the exposures, the adventures, the wrestlings in prayer, and the successes of the first race of Itinerant Methodist Preachers in Canada, few of whom he had ever the happiness of seeing, and none of whom he ever knew during the day that was peculiarly their own.

Some of the names which he heard dwelt on with glowing language were the following:—William Losee, Darius Dunham, Calvin Wooster, Samuel Coate, Peter Van-Est, William Jewell, Silvanus Keeler, Seth Crowell,-Densmore, and Nathaniel Reader, with some others now forgotten. Of none of these has he any written memorial, save what has been inscribed on the tablet of his memory. In some instances this consists of a single sentence, and that-almost obliterated by the defacing hand of time. Still, he has thought it might not be an unpleasing or unprofitable task to decipher and transcribe in a more legible and permanent form the impressions made on his susceptible youthful memory.

If memory were our only guide, from what was told us by the old people in the Matilda country we should say that Losee was the first travelling preacher who labored in Upper Canada, at least in the Eastern part of it. We also judge, for a similar reason, that during the first part of his labors he was not a regularly appointed laborer. He seems to have been only a local preacher, who came at his own instance (by God’s providence, no doubt) partly to see some relatives of the same name who had settled in the Province, and partly with a design of being useful to them and others; for he was a fearless, zealous man, who would not confer long with flesh and blood, or wait for human authorization and approval in any enterprize to which he had cause to believe God had called him, and which was likely to redound to His glory. And judging by the result we have no reason to think that he was deceived. His brethren, the Bishops and Ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, seem to have thought the same; for the second year he was sent in armed with proper ministerial authority to feed and govern the flock he had been made the instrument of collecting. One of his first converts, and if I mistake not, the very first soul converted to God through the instrumentality of Methodism in Canada West, was a very young man, a kinsman of the preacher, Joshua Losee, so long known on the Rideau as a gifted exhorter—a man, who I verily believe could have talked for half a day without any trouble in any respect! He had been some time under conviction and in great distress of soul, but had revealed his trouble to none but God. One day being all alone in the lumbering shanty he “ poured out strong cries to Him who was able to save himand that God heard and answered to the joy and comfort of his soul. The tide of glory was so great that he was fain to find relief in shouts of praise. I heard him say many years afterwards, when an old man, while relating his experience in lovefeast, that he “verily believed they might have heard him across the river St. Lawrence.” “Old Peter Brouse,” “Michael Carman,” and “’Uncle John Van Camp,” were some of the converts in that revival. This work was characterized by extraordinary displays of Divine and saving mercy—or, to use the language of the old people themselves, “ they cast out powerful.” A very hardened young man came on one occasion to make sport, and tried to attract the attention of the congregation by grotesque grimaces. The preacher turned on him with a withering look and said, “ You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” On which the power of God struck him to the floor, where he lay several hours struggling in convulsive agony; and did not rise till he rejoiced in the God of his salvation. And although he was a young man of no education he continued stedfast till the end of a long life; was always characterized by unusual zeal in the service of his Master, and became mighty in prayer and exhortation. That young man was familiarly known in after days to hundreds in Matilda and the neighboring townships, as “Uncle Joe Brouse.” Duniiam, if I mistake not, accompanied Losee to Canada on the occasion of his second visit, and remained to the end of his life, having married and settled in the country. What a pity that some one of ability who knew him personally, and who has access to the requisite materials, would not give us a life of this extraordinary man. Dunham was a character, no doubt. The writer never saw him : but he has heard enough about him to say, that there seems to have been some correspondence between body and mind. He was an undersized, compact, strong, healthy man, with coarse Bair, bushy eyebrows, and a grum, heavy bass voice. He was possessed of good talents as a preacher, and very considerable attainments, which enabled him when he desisted from travelling, (as most had to do in that day, when their families became large,) to take up the practice of physic; but he was plain of speech, honest, and very blunt. This last characteristic, among those who did not like his plain-dealing, got him the soubriquet of “scolding Dunham.” But his “scolding,” as it was called, was always accompanied with a spice of wit that rather made it agreeable than otherwise. Many instances of his home strokes, both in and out of the pulpit, have been recited to the writer. In the Ottawa country he was remembered, among other things, for his love of cleanliness and opposition to domestic filthiness. Sometimes telling the slatternly to “clean up,” or the next time he came he would “bring a dish cloth along.” Once in the neigborhood of the “Head of the Lake,” after “preaching and meeting class,” as there were several strangers present he gave an offer to any who wished to “join the society to manifest it by standing up,” according to the custom of the times. Two young women were observed sitting together—one appeared desirous of joining, but seemed to wish her companion to do the same, and asked her loud enough to be heard by the company, if she would join also. Her friend replied in a somewhat heartless manner, “I don’t care if I do”—“ You had better wait till you do *cart” chimed in the grum voice of Dunham. He was for having none even “ on trial” who had not a sincere “ desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins.” But it is in the Bay of Quinte country where he lived so long as a located as well as travelling preacher, that the greatest number of characteristic anecdotes are related of Dunham. His reply to the newly appointed magistrate’s bantering remarks is well known. A new made “ Squire ” bantered Dunham before some company about riding so fine a horse, and told him he was very unlike his humble Master, who was content to ride on an ass. Dunham responded with his usual imperturbable gravity and in his usual heavy and measured tones, that he agreed with him perfectly, and that he would most assuredly imitate his Master in the particular mentioned only for the difficulty of finding the animal required—the government having “ made up all the asses into magistrates !” A person of my acquaintance informed me that he saw an infidel who was a fallen Lutheran clergyman, endeavoring one night while Dunham was preaching to destroy the effect of the sermon on those around him by turning the whole into ridicule. The preacher affected not to notice him for a length of time, but went on extolling the excellency of Christianity and showing the formidable opposition it had confronted and overcome, when all at once he turned to the spot where the scoffer sat and fixing his eyes upon him, the old man continued, “ Shall Christianity and her votaries, after having passed through fire and water, after vanquishing the opposition put forth by philosophers, and priests, and kings—after all this, I say, shall the servants of God, at this time of day, allow themselves to be frightened by the braying of an ass?” The infidel who had begun to show signs of uneasiness from the time the fearless servant of God fixed his terribly searching eye upon him, when he came to the climax of the interrogation, was completely broken down and dropped his head in evident confusion. Dunham was distinguished for fidelity, and faith, and prayer, as well as wit and sarcasm. Religion was much injured by the late American war, and continued very low for some time afterwards ; but a few held on, and Dunham continued to preach under many discouragements. One day he was preaching with more than usual animation, when a person in the congregation responded “ Amen” to some good sentiment that was advanced. On which the preacher paused and looked about the congregation and said in his usual heavy deliberate manner: “Amen do I hear? I didn’t know that there was religion enough left to raise an amen. Well then, A-men—so be it!” He then resumed his sermon. But it really appeared, by a glorious and extensive revival which took place very soon after, that this “amen” was like the premonitory rumble of distant thunder before a sweeping, fructifying rain. A pious man told me that a relative of his, who first lost her piety and then her reason, was visited by Dunham and pronounced to be opossed with the Devil.” He kneeled down in front of her, and though she blasphemed and spit in his face till the spittle ran down on the floor, he never flinched nor moved a muscle, but went on praying and exorcising by turns—shaming the devil for “ getting into the weaker vessel,” and telling him to “get out of her,” till she became subdued, fell on her knees, began to pray and wrestle with God for mercy, and never rose till she got up from her knees in the possession of reason and rejoicing in the light of God’s countenance. I relate it as I got it; and the reader may make what he pleases of the occurrence.

It is natural in an age like the one of which we write for people to ascribe to satanic influence what we should ascribe to natural causes. I shall not decide which of the two is right. An instance of the kind with a supposed disposition at the command of Dunham, was related to the writer by an elderly pious man who said the story was authentic. In some country neighborhood where D. preached he had been disturbed several times successively by the crying of a certain infant at a particular stage of the service, which resulted in the disturbance of the congregation and the marring of the effect of his discourse. Its recurrence in the same way for several times with the same injurious effect, convinced the preacher that it was of the Devil, whom he thought had taken possession of the child for the purpose of destroying the beneficial tendency of ?his ministry, and his soul was aroused to withstand him. Accordingly ^the next time it occurred he advanced towards the child in its mother’s arms, and “ rebuked the Devil in it, and commanded him to come out” And as my story runs, the child ceased to cry and never disturbed the congregation more.

Dunham had once a providential escape from death. He . had aroused the anger of an ungodly man, whose wife had been savingly converted under his ministry. The husband came to the house where D. lodged before he was up in the morning and inquired for him. The preacher made his appearance partly dressed, when the infuriated man made towards him and would have terminated his existence with an axe with which he had armed himself, had it not been for the prompt intervention of D’s host and hostess, who succeeded in disarming the assailant. Dunham’s calm and Christian fidelity, with the blessing of God, moreover, brought the man to reason, to penitence, and to prayer at once, and issued in his conversion. His wife was no longer persecuted, and his house became “a lodging place for wayfaring men.” This was related to me by a relative of our hero.

Of Peter Van Est he remembers as characteristic that his piety developed itself in a zeal for plainness of dress, which he evinced by example and precept to an extent that, with all our conscientiousness on this point, we cannot help thinking Peter carried to an extreme. He wore no buttons on his coat—but fastened it with hooks and eyes. And he bore hard on all who did not come up to his ideal of plainness. “Father Bailey,” late of Moulinette, informed me that when a young man he went some distance to a Quarterly Meeting and Van Est was there. In the course of the evening on Saturday the preacher detected that young Bailey had on his spruce new coat a row of brass buttons too many in front, as well as the superfluous ones behind, and denounced it as a most unallowable instance of pride and vanity. The young convert was very anxious to be a Christian in all respects, and thinking the preacher must be right, very deliberately took out his pocket knife and cut them off; and made his appearance among the people the next day minus the superfluous buttons.

Calvin Wooster’s zeal seems to have displayed itself in a hostility to evils more essential and radical than supernumerary buttons. It was an enlightened, determined, and successful warfare on the kingdom of satan and the empire of sin, both outward and inward. He was a rare example of the holiness he preached. Of his piety and devotion the old people were never weary of speaking in terms of the most glowing admiration. And, indeed, his devotion to God and the work of saving souls was above all praise. He seems to have got his soul deeply imbued with God’s sanctifying spirit, and to have retained it by maintaining a spirit of continual watchfulness and communion with God. His every breath was prayer. An old lady who entertained him, informed me that on his arrival he would ask the privilege of going up to the loft of their one-storied log building, which was the only place of retirement they had, and to which he had to mount up b} the means of a ladder. There he would remain in prayer till the settlers assembled for preaching, when he would descend like Moses from the mount with a face radiant with holy comfort. And truly his preaching was “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” It was not boisterous but solemn, spiritual, powerful. God honored the man who honored him. He was the instrument of a revival characterized by depth and comprehensiveness, a revival of the work of sanctification. Under his word the people fell like men slain in battle. This was even the case when he became so exhausted that he could preach no longer, or his voice was drowned in the cries of the people. He would stand with angelic countenance and upturned eye, bringing his hands together and saying in a loud whisper, “Smite them, my Lord!—my Lord, smite them!” And “smite them” he did; for the “slain of the Lord were many.” This is said to have been the case when his voice and lungs had become so enfeebled by consumption, which brought him to an early grave, that he used to have to employ an interpreter to announce to the congregation his whispered sermons. But if any person wishes to know more of “Calvin Wooster’s Revival,” and of his lamented but gloriously triumphant death, let him consult Dr. Bang’s History of the Methodist Episcopal Church on those subjects.

“But his Master from above,
When the promised hour was come,
Sent the chariot of his love
To convey the wanderer home.

“Saw ye not the wheels of fire,
And the steeds that cleft the wind?
Saw ye not his soul aspire,
When his mantle dropped behind.

“Ye that caught it as it fell,
Bind that mantle round your breast;
So in you his meekness dwell,
So on you his spirit restI”

Of Samuel Co ate, it is perhaps superfluous and presumptuous for us to write. For, who has not heard the fame of his eloquence and polite accomplishments ? His penmanship has, perhaps, scarce ever been equalled. And who, with our slender stock of materials, could presume to do justice to either one or the other ? He was evidently a very extraordinary person for such a day and country. He Swept like a meteor over the land, and spell-bound the astonished gaze of the wondering new settlers. Nor was it astonishment alone he excited. He was the Heaven-anointed and successful instrument of the conversion of hundreds. His success, in the early part of his career, was truly Whitfieldian. What a pity that so bright a sun should ever have been obscured by a cloud so dark! yet it is cause of grateful gratulation, that it sat serenely dear AT LAST.

“No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dark abode;
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
On the bosom of his Father and his God.”

William Jewell, was really what his name imported, in the estimation of those who knew him. He was a gifted, zealous, hymn-singing, laborious, bachelor-presiding elder, who traversed the land from end to end, preaching, praying, visiting, and singing, and delightfully talking of the things of God in the several families whose hospitality he enjoyed, in such a way as to leave a savor after him which made his name “like ointment poured forth.”

The name of Sylvantjs Keeler, converted and raised up into the ministry in Canada, in the Elizabethtown country, not far from where Brockville now stands, is worthy of being rescued from oblivion. He had had no advantages of an early education : and who when he first began speaking in public, it is said, could scarcely read a hymn. But, by assiduously industrous efforts, he so far surmounted this defect as to become possessed of tolerable attainments in English. He had, moreover, endowments natural and of divine bestowment which went, far to counterbalance the defect referred to. His person was commanding and even handsome. His voice for speaking at least (and, if I mistake not, for singing also, a means by which our early Methodist preachers made so lively an impression) was excellent. It was clear, melodious, and strong. The distance at which the old people say he could be heard was marvellous. His spirit and manners too were the most bland and engaging. And his zeal and fervor in his Master’s cause knew no bounds and suffered no abatement. He travelled for several years while Canada was yet the newest and the poorest, and the preachers were the worst provided for. He was often three months at a time from his wife and family of small children. The story of their destitution and the shifts they were put to, to exist, in those seasons of destitution, might bring tears from eyes “the most unused to weep.” No wonder that his return to them was always considered a Jubilee. When the season of his periodical visit drew near, his little ones, as they informed the writer in after years, would mount the fence, and strain their eyes to get the first glimpse of their returning father, often for hours, and even days, before his appearance. In view of such privations, could any one blame him for “locating,” and making provision for those for whom he was the natural provider? But he did not cease to be useful when he ceased to itinerate. He was greatly beloved and respected by the people in the surrounding neighborhoods, and made very instrumental of good to them. And after his family grew up, and were able to provide for themselves, “Father Keeler,” as he was now called, extended his labors to greater distances from home, carrying the .Gospel into the destitute settlements of immigrants beyond the Rideau. His last labor of love was that of holding a Quarterly Meeting in the “Boyd Settlement”, beyond the Mississippi. His name is even still like “ointment poured forth” in all the region from the St. Lawrence to the settlement beyond the last mentioned river. And his piety lives in the persons of his descendants, who have been the faithful adherents of the Wesleyan cause through every vicissitude. Thus it is, that “ he being dead, yet speaks” for that Master whose truth he so zealously proclaimed while living.

Mr. Densmore is remembered at a period somewhat later, about the Bay of Quinte, as a little man, young, sprightly, active, cheerful, and faithful in his work. When he could not get to his appointment by the conveyance he liked, he would cheerfully submit to one he did not like; but go he would, if it were within the bounds of possibility.

Seth Crowel, was the merest boy in years; but gifted, voluble, and possessed of a flaming zeal, which attracted the admiration and ensured the grateful recollection of hundreds.

William Snow was remembered as a simple, open-minded young man, from the States, who sometimes preached with such uncommon liberty and power at camp meetings as to extort an ascription of praise from an old shouter—“for snow in summer,” and at other times, was so straitened and embarrassed as to lead him to say at the close—“Brethren, I have done, and I am glad of it I”

Nathaniel Reader came in at the close of the last American War and travelled the first year on the Belleville circuit, which then extended from there westward to Smith’s Creek, now Port Hope, He told the people that the Lord promised him a hundred souls that year; and the promise was more than verified. A glorious revival took place in every part of the circuit. He subsequently travelled in the Ottawa country, where he was remembered as so remarkably devout and heavenly in his very appearance, as to arrest the attention of even strangers who chanced to see him riding on the road. “ Nathaniel, an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile!”

“Blessings be on their memory and increase!
These are the moral conquerors, and belong
To them the palm-branch and triumphal song—
Conquerors,—and yet the harbingers of peace."


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