Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Circuit Preachers by Paty Jager


After reading an article in a local paper about circuit preachers in Oregon history, I had a light bulb blink on over my head. I would use a circuit preacher in one of my Letters of Fate books.

That is what started my research on the profession. This is what I found in Wikipedia for an explanation: A circuit preacher is a Christian minister who, in response to a shortage of ministers, officiates at multiple churches in an area, thus covering a "circuit". They were officially called Traveling Clergy.

As small communities sprang up across the American frontier they weren’t large enough to support a church or a minister. They would ask for a circuit rider. A minister who rode from community to community providing services whenever and wherever he came across someone who would listen to him preach. They were also known as “saddlebag preachers,” because they traveled by horseback with everything they owned in their saddlebags.

They would preach anywhere. Cabins, courthouses, fields, meetinghouses, some towns would even close down the saloon  when the preacher arrived and they would hold services in the establishment. These orators of the good book would preach wherever they were welcome. Their areas usually ranged from 200-500 miles. They traveled through mud, rain, snow, and scorching heat to keep on their rounds. It could take them from five to six weeks to make a circuit.

It took a preacher with a good sense of humor to travel as they did, most times alone, just their horse or mule, Bible, and few belongings.  Along the way they would spread the word and help those in need.
There are tall tales of how circuit preachers saved a lost soul from a lynch mob or a landslide and have the saved person immediately open his heart to the Lord. 

In the eastern United States it’s noted that after the Civil War circuit riders were fewer, however, they were still needed in the western territories and states. They continued there until early1900. 

All of this information has brought a unique character and circumstance to mind for a book. I have another Letters of Fate book in the works, so this one will come after that, but that just gives me more time to “stew and brew” this character and plot. 

Have you heard any Circuit Preacher stories?  

My newest Letters of Fate release:
Brody: Letters of Fate 
Historical western filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.

A letter from a grandfather he’s never met has Brody Yates escorted across the country to work on a ranch rather than entering prison. But his arrival in Oregon proves prison may have been the lesser of two evils. A revenge driven criminal, the high desert, and his grandfather’s beautiful ward may prove more dangerous than anything he’s faced on the New York docks. 

Lilah Wells is committed to helping others: the judge who’d taken her in years ago, the neighboring children, and the ranch residents, which now includes the judge’s handsome wayward grandson. And it all gets more complicated when her heart starts ruling her actions. 

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance.  This is what reviewers says about her Letters of Fate Series: “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope! Very well written but sometimes sizzling love scenes!”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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  1. Wonderful post, Paty! Those old time preachers must have been made of tough stuff. Your new book sounds great!

    1. Thanks, Lyn. I agree. They didn't have a very fun life.

  2. Paty, interesting post on the life and times of frontier preachers that I've never read about before. Good luck on your Letters of Fate series.

    1. Hi, Cheri. Yes, the information about their lives caught my attention and made me think it would make a good profession for one of my characters. Thank you!

  3. Paty, my great-great grandfather, Henry Wood, Sr., was a Methodist circuit preacher in South Carolina until he tired of travel and founded Woods Meeting House, which is now Woods Chapel Methodist Church near Spartanburg. Supposedly, at each meeting, each person would state his or her progress since the last meeting. That might be embarrassing today. ☺ He married twice and fathered fourteen children, including my great-grandmother.

    1. Caroline, I'll be contacting you when I get closer to writing this book. You might have some good insights I can use.

  4. I'm sorry I'm so late getting here.
    Honestly, I had never heard of circuit preachers, only judges, but I can see the need for them in the old west. A very interesting article, Paty.
    I wish you great success with Letters of Fate. All the best to your corner.


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