Ohio History Journal

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Episcopal Versus Methodist:                             Religious

Competition in Frontier Worthington




One hundred hearty souls were spending their first winter in crude log

homes in a wilderness clearing when James Kilbourn wrote Ohio Senator

Thomas Worthington, "We have formed a regular Society for religious pur-

poses & have Divine Service performed every Sunday in public." 1 It was not

unusual for westward immigrants to be religious people, or for several fami-

lies of similar belief to migrate together, but forming an organized congrega-

tion with regular services within weeks of their arrival was highly unusual.

One missionary to the Western Reserve several years later found that many of

the New Englanders there had come from "a land of bibles and Sabbaths and

ministers and churches," but "now they act like freed prisoners."2

James Kilbourn, however, was an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church,

a convert from his family's Congregational faith, and an ardent believer who

sought like-minded men to form the Scioto Company for westward migra-

tion.3 Not all of these men from the Farmington River valley of Connecticut

and Massachusetts were Episcopalians, but all wanted the town they founded

to have a religious presence. They agreed that a one-and-a-half-acre lot facing

the public square would be reserved for the use of the church and one hundred

acres of farmland would be set aside as rental property for its support, the

same for a subscription school.

Actually, the articles of agreement for ST. JOHN'S CHURCH IN

WORTHINGTON AND PARTS ADJACENT were executed February 6,

1804, the day before Kilbourn wrote so proudly to Worthington.4 Those who

signed the document signified that they agreed "in Sentiment with the Faith,



Virginia and Robert McCormick are both retired faculty from The Ohio State University.

Portions of this article appear in their current book New Englanders on the Ohio Frontier;

Migration and Settlement of Worthington, Ohio published by the Kent State University Press,



1. Letter from James Kilbourn, Worthington to Thomas Worthington, Washington, February

7, 1804, Thomas Worthington Papers, Ohio Historical Society, MIC 91, Roll 3, Box 2, Folder 6.

At this time Kilbourn spelled his name without the final e he began using late in life after his

son did so. The authors have used the original spelling.

2. Quoted in William Warren Sweet, Men of Zeal: The Romance of American Methodist

Beginnings (New York, 1935), 195.

3. The Scioto Company was organized May 5, 1802 in Granby, Connecticut, and its Minute

Book is at the Ohio Historical Society, MSS VOL 40.

4. "St. John's Church," Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly, 6 (Oct., 1903), 147-49.