Rev. LeRoy Madison Lee, D. D.
THE face of Dr. Lee has been made familiar to American Methodism by repeated engravings and publications. His name is known throughout the Wesleyan world, by prominence in the great councils of the church, and by contributions to the permanent and the periodical literature of his denomination .To set forth his services, would bring in the history of the church in one of its most eventful periods. The scheme of this book, however, allows only a line where a biographer would not be faithful to his trust without giving a chapter.
In the General Conference he wrestled with the champions from all sections, and. not to his discomforture. He expounded and defended with signal clearness and vigor, by pen and from the pulpit, the polity and doctrines of the church. He ranked with the mighty men of valor in the times when there were giants.
He is the oldest, effective member of the Virginia Conference, and is the Presiding Elder of the Richmond District. Age and years of service have smitten his body with disease; time has not marred his pleasing and intellectual features.
The Rev. Devereaux Jarratt, an evangelical Protestant Episcopal minister, entered heartily into the plans of Mr. Williams, and those who came after him; and as he could not open his church to their ministrations, by reason of the yet unspiked canon on its pulpits, he fitted up his barn as a preaching place, and for a few years it was on the regular plan of Methodist preaching places. But it was, we think, during the Revolutionary War transferred to the residence of Mr. Lee; and continued on the plan of for perhaps thirty-five or forty years, until the death of Mr. Lee, and his two sons, Jesse and John, when the' church, then and now known as Salem, was built and became the home of the society until this day. On the last visit of the subject of this sketch, to his venerable grandmother, in the Summer of 1827, he well recollects the old pulpit chair, in which Asbury, Coke, Garrettson, Hull, Jesse and John Lee, and their contemporaries, had all stood; and of his own emotions when kneeling before it in private -prayer, he thought of the great and holy men who had from it preached salvation through the Crucified.
He was converted under the ministry of Rev. William A. Smith, on Sunday night, April 1st, 1827, and joined the church, on Sunday after, the 8th. He was appointed leader of a class of venerable old mothers in Israel, in a few weeks afterwards; in the month of August he was licensed as an exhorter; and in the same month ventured to take a text, and tried to preach. In November, after examination before the Quarterly Conference in Petersburg, he was recommended to be received on trial by the Virginia Annual Conference, and was received with twenty-two other young men, at the session of the Conference in Raleigh, N. C., in February, 1828. His first appointment was to Campbell Circuit, with Joshua Leigh as preacher in charge. His second year, 1829, was in charge of Washington and Plymouth, N. C.; in 1830, Newbern, N. C.; 1831 Prince Edward, Va.; 1832, Brunswick Circuit; 1833 Elizabeth City, N. C.; 1834 in Portsmouth, Va.; 1835 Trinity, Richmond, Va.; entered on his work Sunday, March 2d. On the night of June 20th held a prayer meeting .in the basement of the church. After midnight the house took, or was set on fire, and was entirely destroyed. He remained among his people, preaching as he could, and arranging to rebuild the church. He accomplished this, and after the work was advanced, in November he went by sea to Charleston, S. C., intending, for the benefit of his health, to spend the winter in St. Augustine, Florida. The breaking out of the Indian war in Florida hindered him, and he remained in Charleston until January, 1836; and after a stormy passage of twenty-three days reached Norfolk, when the Conference had nearly completed its business. He was surprised to find the Conference had purchased the "Christian Sentinel," a paper started in Richmond in 1832, and that he was to be its editor. He had been a frequent contributor to its columns since its origin, and he supposed this induced the selection. The Conference had no right or power to appoint an editor ; and his name stands on the Minutes as colleague of W. A. Smith, at Trinity Church. The church was finished in June, 1836, and he preached one of the. sermons at its dedication. It was sold some years after, and turned into a theatre. He thinks himself peculiar, that, as a Methodist preacher, he built a theatre. The first paper that ever floated his name at its head was issued on the 4th of March, 1836. He continued to edit the paper until April, 1837, when his health was so feeble he resigned; and then, until February, 1839, he travelled through the Conference as a means of restoration. In 1839 he was unanimously re-appointed to the paper ; the General Conference of 1836 had recognized and adopted it as one of the church papers. He remained editor until the Southern General Conference of 1858, when he resigned to enter the pastoral work. In November, 1858 he was appointed Presiding Elder of the Norfolk District. The war drove him from his district, the day the Federal troops entered Norfolk, May 10, 1862.
At the Conference, November, 1862, he was appointed to Centenary Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, and was continued as its pastor until November, 1865, at Danville. Thence he was sent to. Granby Street Church, Norfolk, where he remained until November, 1867. In 1868-69, at Union Station, Richmond; November, 1869, appointed to Richmond District. In 1874 Presiding Elder of Petersburg District. In November, 1877, returned as Presiding Elder to Richmond District.
He was a member of the General Conference of 1811, in New York, at which the church was divided. A member of the General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, 1845, at which the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized ; and has been a member of. every General Conference of the church since its organization.
On the 30th of November, 1836, he was again married to Miss Virginia
Addington, of Norfolk, Virginia. She bore him nine children, six sons and
three daughters. Two of these died in infancy, and one in early womanhood.
Four sons and two daughters survived her. Her youngest child was nearly
fifteen years old at the time of her death; her youngest daughter has
married and died since the death of her mother. Mrs. Lee died suddenly, in
the absence of her husband from home, on the 19th of March, 1872.
Source: Sketches of the Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South. by Rev. John J. Lafferty Richmond, Va., Christian Advocate Office 1880.
The above biography is held at Genealogy Finds. Permission has been granted to republish here.
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