Was There a 'Circuit Rider' with your Family Tree?

The phrase ‘circuit rider’ is not a commonly known expression anymore yet at one time it was very well known. A Circuit Rider was a clergy member who traveled a certain region across the United States to minister to settlers in sparsely populated areas and even for organized congregations who could not afford a regular permanent minister.

The circuit was a geographic region with at least two or more churches or settlement in need of a minister. When the pastor was in a community on his circuit he conducted worship services, visited congregation members, performed marriages, baptisms and funerals. Most of the circuit riders over the decades in America were Methodists.

They traveled on horseback with just a small suitcase or saddlebag. As the nation grew, more territories added and then states, so did the number of circuit riders. In the early years such as 1784, there were about 84 traveling ministers. In 1839 there were about 3,557 traveling preachers.

To travel in the frontier, they had to be dedicated, hardy individuals who braved cold and hot weather, robbers, marauding Indians, wild animals, sickness, thugs, poverty, and impassable rivers.

There has been databases created about those individuals who were circuit riders. Click on the latest submissions section, then to browse all submissions indexed going from page 001 to page 009. Unfortunately, the ‘search’ portion is not working.

You might just discover an ancestor who had this unusual occupation.

Photos: Circuit Riders

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Family Church – Religion

List of US Pastors and Ministers

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