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Rev. John Ellis Edwards


IN the space of a handsbreadth we set down what is rather like a leaf of "contents " to a volume than the record of a busy and extended public life. Any paragraph of this sketch could be unravelled and knitted into a engaging narrative. On this page has been gathered a plexus of the strands woven into the church-life of Methodism in Virginia and North Carolina far on towards fifty years.

It has been said that John Randolph could have written the Childe Harrold. The tropical fancy of Dr. Edwards and his tuneful periods suggest that under favoring auspices he might have matched with Moore in Lallah Rookh and the Irish Melodies. In social life the preacher has exercised a similar charm with the poet.

Rev. John E. Edwards, son of Thomas and Susannah Edwards, was born in Guilford county, North Carolina, August 1st, 1814. On his father's side he is of Welsh descent, on his mother's of Swedish blood. His early education was received principally among the Quakers. Living, as his parents did, in the neighborhood of the New Garden Quaker school, he spent four or five years, first and last, in that institution. He professed conversion at a camp-meeting, held at Centre campground, September 11th, 1832-joined the. Methodist Episcopal Church, and soon became exercised on the subject of entering the ministry. 

April 7th, 1834 he was licensed as a local preacher, and spent the remainder of that year on the Iredell Circuit as assistant to Rev. Joshua Leigh.

February, 1835, he joined the Virginia Annual Conference, and entered on the regular work of an itinerant preacher. At the time of the division of the Virginia Conference in February, 1837, he was appointed to the Raleigh Circuit, and thus fell into the North Carolina Conference. In this Conference he spent eight years, being stationed one year in Beaufort, on the sea-shore. One year on the Roanoke Circuit, when it embraced Warren and Halifax counties, with not less than twentytwo regular appointments. Warrenton, Halifax and Enfield, (small towns,) were all in this big circuit. The membership was large, and represented millions of dollars. The pastor was a married man, with a wife and one child to support. His allowance was $440 for the, year-and, by an extra effort, at a fifth quarterly meeting, the entire amount was raised, with a surplus of four or five dollars, the whole of which, in the liberality of the stewards, was paid over to the preacher. In 1841 and 1842, Mr. Edwards was stationed in Newberne, where very great revivals attended his ministry. A new house of worship was nearly completed when he left that charge. A protracted attack of of typhoid fever left him broken down in health. During the year 1843 he 'did no regular work. In 1844 and 1845 he was stationed in Raleigh.. At the close of his pastoral term in Raleigh, he was transferred, by special request, to the Virginia Conference, and stationed at Centenary. Since which time, up to this present writing, his ministry has been confined exclusively to the cities of Richmond, Norfolk, Petersburg and Lynchburg. Twenty years, first and last, in Richmond; four years in Norfolk, four years in Petersburg, and six years in Lynchburg. In Norfolk he was connected with the building of Granby Street church. The Market Street church, in Petersburg, was built mainly by his efforts. Trinity church, in Richmond, was carried to its completion, just after the late war by him, while he was pastor in. Richmond Centenary church was enlarged and remodeled, at an expense of $25,000, while he was in charge of that station from 1872 to 1876. Park Place church, in Richmond, was also built under his pastorate.

The subject of this sketch received honorary degrees of A. M. and D. D. from Randolph Macon College. In 1856 Dr. Edwards travelled in Europe, and on his return published a book of travels, which had a fine. run. A recent traveller says it is on sale in London, having gone through several editions in England, and sought for by tourists.

He is the author of the life of Rev. John Wesley Childs ; and also of a small book styled " The Confederate Soldier." Besides these works, he has published a considerable number of tracts, lectures, addresses, and other miscellaneous matter. 

Dr. Edwards has been a member of the General Conference at each quadriennial session from 1858 to 1878. His whole ministry has been devoted to the pastoral work. He lectured on Mental and Moral Science for two years in the Petersburg Female College, while at Market Street church in 1859 and 1860. He, with Dr. D. S. Doggett, (now Bishop,) originated and edited "The Episcopal Methodist," for one year just after the termination of the late war. He has never been Presiding Elder, or agent of any sort. Persistently, he has refused to be professor, or president in colleges. It is reported of him that he has never failed to receive every dollar of his salary as pastor, from his first entrance on the ministry up to date. There is scarcely a gray hair on his head. His health is good. He performs all his work with the unabated vigor and freshness of his earlier years.

As the reader advances in the sketches he will notice a number of preachers brought into the church under the ministry of Dr. Edwards.

Source:  Sketches of the Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  by Rev. John J. Lafferty Richmond, Va., Christian Advocate Office 1880.

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The above biography is held at Genealogy Finds.  Permission has been granted to republish here.


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