north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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      In the early 1800s, Francis Asbury, the father of American Methodism, traveled through western North Carolina, eventually carrying his gospel into eastern Tennessee. Accompanied by William McKendree and Henry Boehm, Asbury was determined to spread Methodism as a circuit rider throughout the frontier communities. His journal records the trials and tribulations the party faced passing over the treacherous, rock-strewn path, often times indicating how close the members came to being killed or seriously injured.

      Along his journey, Asbury often stayed with frontier families, offering his preaching as services. Daniel Killian, a Buncombe County farmer, owned one of the houses Asbury stayed in. Killian’s residence was an obvious choice for the wary traveler as it sat just along the main road that passed through Buncombe County. Asbury’s journal shows that he stayed with the Killians at various times during the years 1800-1803, 1806-1810, and 1812-1813.

      Asbury, born in 1745 in England, had begun missionary work in America in 1771 on behalf of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. For the next fifty years, Asbury traveled nearly 280,000 miles, preached 16,425 sermons, presided over 224 religious conferences, ordained 4,000 preachers, and helped Methodism outstrip the growth of population by nearly five to one. Known as the “Prophet of the Long Road,” Asbury became the archetypal circuit preacher, and was elected the first bishop of American Methodism.

      The “Prophet” visited North Carolina first in 1780, followed by 71 subsequent trips culminating in 1816. Asbury also led an 1811 Methodist conference in Raleigh attended by nearly 2,000 parishioners, and preached in the courthouses of Anson, Beaufort, Buncombe, Camden, Chowan, Edgecombe, Gates, Hertford, Lenoir, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, and Sampson counties. He died in Virginia in 1816.

      The Killian house stood until 1901, when it was torn down and the J. V. Baird residence built on the site. Asbury had visited the home so often that when the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, met at Asheville in May 1910, a piece of the banister of the old Killian home was presented to the presiding bishop.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina History (2006)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 50-51—sketch by Grady L. E. Carroll
Terry D. Bilhartz, ed., Francis Asbury’s America: An Album of Early American Methodism (1984)
Grady Lee Ernest Carroll, Francis Asbury in North Carolina (1964)
Francis Asbury, Journal and Letters (1821)
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Bishop Francis Asbury

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources