Prepared and Submitted By: Dr. Farley
of the life of the Reverend Benedict Swope, Sr.
Schwob, Schwop, Schwope)
Prepared in 1981 by Rev. Gary Farley, a descendant.
--Born in York, PA. Son
of John Geo. Swope who came to America in 1727 from Liemen, Germany.
His mother was named Ana Maria Keydel.
His siblings--Ana Maria, 1719, Johann Michael, 1727, Margaretha,
1733, and John Jacob, 1745. (The Michael was likely the Col. in
Continental Army. Captured
at Ft. Washington. His home
stands today in Alexandria, Virginia.)
--Married Susanna Walker. Their
children were John, Benedict, Pollie, Jacob, George, Susanna, David, and
Sally. He seems to have
also been called Benjamin. Apparently
he was an innkeeper during this decade.
--Signed Church Order as a member of the York, PA.
Reformed congregation. (Wm.
Otterbein was pastor of the York Church briefly in 1755. Apparently a
friendship was developed which greatly effected the destiny of both
--A ruling elder at Pipe's Creek Church (DR)
--subsequently known as St. Benjamin's and as Krider's Church.
Westminster, MD. Otterbein visited the church in 1766. He baptized several of the Swope children there.
At this time he was in the midst of a nine-year pastorate of the
York church. The Swopes
moved to Maryland in about 1756.
-- His name appeared on a petition to move the Carroll County
seat to Baltimore.
-- Examined for ordination by the Reformed Synod of Germantown,
PA. He may well have been
preaching at Pipe Creek by then. Significant
-- (Otterbein is visiting in Germany.)
Otterbein was an early advocate of German pietism.
Apparently, a segment of the Baltimore Reformed congregation
became pietistic and was dissatisfied with their pastor, Rev. Farber.
They asked Swope to come from Pipe Creek to minister to them.
At about the same time they formed a second Reformed
appealed to the synod and blocked Swope's ordination for a time.
However, a committee investigated and gave Swope a clean bill of
health. It seems that they
hurriedly ordained Swope without the usual approval of the German
coetus in Europe. The
coetus responded with only a light reprimand.
Swope pastored both churches for the next several years.
The Baltimore church subsequently became the mother church of the
United Brethren and is known as the Otterbein church.Now a Methodist
shrine, it is located between the Inner Harbor and the Camden Yard
Station. (The current United Methodist church is the result of a merger
of the Methodists and the United Brethren.)
-- Toward the end of the year, or early in the next, Swope became
acquainted with Francis Asbury, newly arrived from England to begin the
work of Methodism. He was
impressed. When Otterbein returned to America he introduced the two, and
they became good friends. (Things
seem to come full circle. The
German pietists had been the source of the Wesleys' methods and
inspiration and now Asbury inspires the Germans to move more into the
-- Discussed with Asbury the possibility that his friend and
neighbor, Robert Strawbridge, the first Methodist teacher in America, be
ordained. According to some
Methodist historians, Swope did in fact ordain Strawbridge.
Given his own unusual ordination, this is an interesting fact.
Asbury resisted this because of theological and political
-- Sought to get Otterbein to become pastor of Baltimore
-- Otterbein came. Swope
focuses on pastoring the Pipe Stem congregation. Other Reformed
ministers in MD join with them in promoting Pietistic/Wesleyan type
renewal. From 1774 to June 1776 they meet semi-annually at Pipe's
Creek with Otterbein as president and Swope as secretary. Asbury mentions meeting with them in October 1777.
So Swope may have left Pipe's Creek, and no one took minutes.
-- Asbury mentioned Swope being with him in West Virginia.
Swope may have had kin there.
He preached in German. Eldest
son John entered land at Shelbyville, KY. Records at Pipe's Creek
indicate Otterbein was pastor in 1776.
--Ref. to BS in Asbury's Journal (Dec. 16) would indicate Swope
was not then in pastorate. B.S.
Jr. married Margret Keener in Baltimore.
(Rev. B's daughter, Susannah, married Christian Keener and their
grandson became Methodist Bishop of New Orleans in late 19th century.)
--Took Oath of Fidelity to the USA.
Held money for the use of the army.
This qualified him as a Patriot according to the DAR. (This may
have been, however, Benedict, jr.)
--Son Benedict moved to Lincoln County, KY and took 1800 acres of
land. (I think that this is
correct. But it is
difficult to separate out the several Benedicts in the family.)
--At least by this time he moved to near Logan's Station, KY.
(Others claim he came as soon as 1774 and made several trips back
and forth to Baltimore during the war.)
--He bought 1000 acres on the Dicks River adjoining Baughman's
tradition holds that the Swope sons built William Whitley's brick
mansion at Crab Orchard about this time.
Son David was an artist and George a tanner by trade.) In 1975
this land was owned by George Swope of Stanford. On the land was an old
double pen cabin which had had siding put on it.
This may have been the early home of Rev. Benedict Swope.
--George Stokes Smith wrote in his journal about hearing Swope, a
Methodist preacher, preach at Gilbert's Creek Baptist Church, Lewis
Craig's famous traveling church. (I
am of the opinion that Smith misunderstood the denomination connection
of Swope.) Son John was killed by Indians at Long Run, Jefferson County.
Rev. David Rice, Presbyterian, arrived in KY.
--Attended the famous Methodist Christmas Conference in
Baltimore. Helped ordain
Asbury as Bishop. His
attendance is confirmed by records of land sales and his empowerment of
son Jacob to act as his attorney. (I
sense that he and his sons were involved in buying land and selling it
to people in Baltimore who were interested in moving to KY.)
--Rev. Swope bought an additional 1000 acres on Dicks River in
--First regular Methodist ministers came to KY.
--Ref. in Lincoln County Court Order Book.
Produced credentials and made bond to perform weddings.
Listed as Presbyterian. (Renewed
in 1792.) I found several weddings recorded in county records that he
--Listed by the United Brethren in Christ ministers (an outgrowth
of the Pipe Stem meetings) who met in conference that year as one of
their number, absent. He
was also listed the following year.
When again they met in 1800 he was not listed.
(Tradition is that he continued to preach both in German and
English until 1808.)
--Elected to serve as a member of the state constitutional
convention in Danville. He
was one of seven ministers. He
was listed as an anti-slave delegate.
(Owned 4700 acres--but this may be too much and a confusion of
Sr. and Jr.'s land. Interestingly,
in 1789 tax returns, he listed a slave in his household.)
One of the first acts of the new legislature was to authorize him
along with Jacob Kizer to hold a lottery to raise $500 for the
construction of a church for the German Presbyterian Society (Dutch,
High Dutch). Without an
exhaustive search of Bluegrass area county court records I have found
references of two congregations by this unusual name near Jeffersontown
and one near Danville. All
four passed out of existence by 1820. United Brethren historian Drury suggests that when Christian
Newcomer, a major leader of that denomination, first came to the
Jeffersontown area in 1816 these people were the beginning of the United
Brethren churches in Kentucky. As
far as I can discover, there is no information available either from
Presbyterian, German Reformed, Dutch Reformed, or United Brethren
denominations. Concerning the fate of these churches, I wish that Benedict
Swope had followed the practice of his friend Asbury and kept a Journal.
If the records of one of the churches had survived, this might
have been informative. But
thus far, I have reached only a dead-end. The German Reformed denomination was formed in 1792 out of
the Dutch. A century later
it reunited with the Dutch.
the anti-slave position lost in the convention. He does not seem to be a major figure. His colleague from Lincoln County, Isaac Shelby, was and
--Mrs. Swope died.
--Goodin's Fort in Nelson County passed into the hands of B.
Swope Jr., not Sr., as a Filson article stated.
--Asbury met Swope by chance in Nelson County.
He indicated that Swope was not as well-preserved as Asbury.
But Swope was 10-20 year his senior.
-- Asbury noted Swope's death.
Suggested that he had not been as useful as he might have been.
But Asbury was critical of most people.
He died in Lincoln County at the home of his son Jacob.
He suffered from gout. I
do not know where he is buried, but I
wonder if it is not in an old cemetery not far from the home of
Jacob which is on US 150 north of Stanford.
--Asbury and Boehm preached to some followers of Otterbein and
Swope as noted in his journal. Location
at Brunnertown. The next
entry in the Journal is from Beargrass Creek.
So his may have been one of the churches in the Jeffersontown
area, or perhaps a fifth German Presbyterian congregation. (Yet another
may have been in Bardstown.)
--Methodist Magazine says that B. Swope called Otterbein
to translate the general rules of Methodism and explain them to the
German brethren. About the same time but from a late source, Asbury is quoted
as saying at the funeral of Beohm that Swope was the first to discover
the necessity of discipline.
Certainly to Swope must go the honor
of being the first Reformed minister to bring the light of the Gospel to
the "Dark and Bloody" ground.
Many unanswered questions remain.
Interestingly, many of his descendants moved on to Missouri and
became Baptists. Most who I
have met in Kentucky became Disciples of Christ.
(Records of the Methodist Conference
and of the Presbyterian Synod have jurisdiction over KY during the
lifetime of B.S. but do not list him as a member.)
The best known German church early in
the Bluegrass was the Mud Meeting House of the Dutch Reformed near
Harrodburg. It was begun in
the early 1790s and by 1820 had disbanded as the members had been
anglicized. I was surprised that there is no record of Swope's
involvement with this church. But
since it was Dutch and B.S. German, this would seem to explain things.
So my guess is that Swope was involved in the planting of German
speaking Reformed congregations in Kentucky.
The name German Presbyterian was descriptive of their nature.
But they were never really accepted by the Scottish Presbyterians
in Kentucky, nor by the United Brethren who really did not get started
until around 1815 and the work of Christian Newcomer.
(I have not searched the German Reformed records in Lancaster,
PA, but was told by the archivist in the Reformed Library that he knew
of no record of these German churches on the frontier.)
while I imagine that he was a mix of land speculator/agent and
missionary at the end of the 18th
Century, the question remains as to the source of pastors for the
churches of the German Presbyterians.
Related, it should be noted that none of his sons or sons-in-law