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Pioneers of Muskingum County, Ohio

Cornelius Springer

Source: Times Recorder, "Reverend Springer", Zanesville, Ohio, March 9, 1975.

    Cornelius Springer of Meadow Farm, Springfield township, rode on horseback to preach in rural methodist churches for 13 years. He knew from experience the power of the bishops. In 1829 he joined other ministers in revolting against the bishops and organizing the Methodist Protestant Church.

    Springer, a young man of 16 years, migrated with his family to Muskingum county in 1806. Walking beside a covered wagon loaded with the family possessions, he led the horses up hill and down and through the forest to Springfield Township. Hundreds of other boys pioneered here but left no record of achievement. Springer was an exception. He became a farmer, soldier, teacher, preacher, reformer,editor and community leader. Springer was born of Swedish parentage near Wilmington, Delaware, on Dec. 29, 1790. His family joined the tide of migration flowing westward and settled in Virginia. Hearing of better land in Ohio, they hitched their team to the wagon and drove to Muskingum County west of Zanesville. Young Springer was hungry for knowledge. There were few schools in the townships in 1806 and they were taught by poorly qualified itinerant schoolmasters. Springer's obituary in the Zanesville Courier said: "By seizing every opportunity to make the best use of the means at his command, by untiring industry and perseverance he acquired a good knowledge of English literature."

    Joined Methodist Church. About this time Springer started to teach school. He learned while he taught. His obituary said that "while he was communicating the rudiments of education to others, he seized upon every available means of storing his our mind with useful knowledge."

    In 1812 he left the school room for the battle field. His pension papers show that in the second war with Britain he commanded a company at the Battle of Mackinac and served at Fort Gratiot in Michigan. After coming home from the War of 1812, Springer taught in the Putnam Stone Academy on Jefferson Street, later the home of author and actress Elizabeth Robins and now the Taylor residence. Z.M. Chandler, a pupil in that school, said that classes for girls were held on the first floor and boys met on the second floor of the Stone Academy.

    Entered Methodist Ministry. In 1816 Springer left the academy and entered the Methodist ministry. For 13 years he traveled in the itinerant ministry, "carrying words of cheer to many of the old pioneers of the Muskingum Valley." But Springer himself was not of "good cheer" about the government of the church. His name topped the list of signers to "An Appeal to the Public" which filled five and one-half columns in the Zanesville Ohio Republican on May 30, 1829.

    The signers were members of a committee appointed at a Quarterly Conference of the Associate Methodist Church in Zanesville on April 4, 1829. The Associate group had seceded before 1830, the year given in the Encyclopedia Britannica for the organization of the Methodist Protestant Church. The committee complained that the conference of 1824 at Baltimore had refused to pay any attention to the laity. The reformers then organized the Union Society and started publication of a periodical called Mutual Rights. Complained Bitterly. Springer and his fellow committee members complained that "contrary to the express wishes of Mr. Wesley," the founders of the church in America "arrogated and retained to themselves the title of Bishop." The bishops appointed the ministers. That power said the committee "enables them to accommodate their friends with popular and wealthy stations, if so minded, and to place the opposers of their prerogative on the poorer circuits and outskirts of their charge." There were many more complaints. It seems that the Associate Methodist Church merged into the Methodist Protestant denomination.

    Springer lost no time. Late in 1829 he and his wife, Elizabeth Thrapp Springer, organized Meadow Farm Methodist Protestant Church. Meetings were held in the old stone school house that stood on the site of the later Meadow Farm School. He spent a year forming M.P. churches in West Virginia and the Mononghela Valley and filling several other appointments.

    Church Paper Editor. Then the conference appointed him editor of the Methodist Correspondent, a semi-monthly paper. He held that position for four years. In July, 1839, he began editing the Western Recorder, a weekly paper authorized by the Pittsburgh conference. It was printed on the second floor of a frame building that stood until a couple of years ago near Springer's farm home. When we stop to think of the difficulties involved, that publication seems remarkable. How did he transport the press over almost impassable roads? How could he pay a printer to set the type by hand? A story entitled "Sweet Home" appeared in the Recorder. In 1841 it was printed as a booklet at the Meadow Farm office by J.W. White printer. Only one copy is known to exist. It was probably while he was editing the Recorder that Springer built and moved the office to Putnam, where it remained for ten years. It was adopted by the M.P. conference at Zanesville in 1855 and published at Springfield, Ohio. Later it was renamed the M.P. Recorder and moved to Pittsburgh and still later to Baltimore where it continued as the voice of the denomination until the M.P. and M.E. churches merged in 1939.

    Meadow Farm Church Built. In 1854 the present Meadow Farm Church was built on land donated by Springer near his home. The church published a 48-page booklet on its 100th anniversary in 1954. Rev. Springer served as minister in many locations. In 1837 he was elected president of the Pittsburgh Conference. He was an organizer of the Muskingum County Historical Society and served as its president. He performed the same service and held the same office in the Agricultural Society of Muskingum County. He also found time to be active in the Licking County Historical Society. A complete biography of Rev. Springer is found in A. H. Bassett's Concise History of the Methodist Protestant Church, published in 1882. Another publication was issued at Pittsburgh in 1875. It was "A record of the Funeral and Memorial Services of the Reverend Cornelius Springer of the Muskingum Conference, Methodist Church."

    He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. Springer's obituary said that he discontinued editing the Recorder when his eyesight failed. He managed his farm for a few years and then moved to Zanesville. His obituary tells that he died on Aug. 17, 1875, at his home on McIntire Terrace, then the first house west of the Art Center on Adair Avenue. In his will he specified that his books and papers be deposited in the library of Adrian College, a Methodist Protestant institution. But the school had no record of this. Rising from a frontier farm boy to a position of national importance, the Reverend Cornelius Springer ranks as one of Muskingum County's most successful citizens.

submitted by Peg Caccimata

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Cornelius Springer

Cornelius Springer in his early years
Cornelius Springer in his later years

    John Barker, in his History of Ohio Methodism, wrote the early pioneers of Ohio had certain undeviating characteristics, strong physical energies, people of intense activity, they believed in self-protection, they were public-spirited and they possessed strong moral and religious ideas. All these characteristics were exemplified in the life of Cornelius Springer.

    Rev. Cornelius Springer, Springfield Township, Muskingum County was committed to a cause, as one of the founders of the Methodist Protestant Church he was also dedicated to the concept of Mutual Rights for the laity and the preachers of the Methodist Church. Cornelius through his preaching and writing helped to shape the form the government of today's United Methodist Church. In addition he was active in many other endeavors including Agriculture, local history and education.

    Cornelius could trace his family's roots back to the late 1600's; to his ancestor Charles Christopher Springer. Charles Christopher, as a young man of 18,was living as a member of the Swedish ministry to London; John Leyonberg was in charge of the boy and was responsible for the man's further education in London. The story goes that while going home one night the youth was seized on a London street and sold into servitude on a Virginia plantation, Charles Christopher Springer fell victim to the white slave trade. He served a five-year term working on a Virginia plantation, some 400 miles from Christina, Delaware where he later settled and became a leader in this Swedish settlement. He became a founder of the Holy Trinity, (Old Swedes) church. Springer prospered owning several plantations and died May 26 (old style), 1738 and was buried the 28th, under the steps at Holy Trinity Church.

    By the time Cornelius was four years old, the family had moved to Fredrick County Maryland. By the time he was nine, the family lived at Grave Creek flats, near where the stream runs into the Ohio River, near the present day Wheeling West Virginia, but the family was yet to reach their final destination, Ohio. In 1806 when Cornelius was 16 the family settled in Springfield Township of Muskingum County, Ohio. His father, John Springer purchased a portion of the original section 16 from John McIntire, for the sum of 4 Dollars an acre, before it was appropriated for school purposes. Prior to 1812 Mr. Springer and his three sons had cleared 100 acres of land, except for 11 acres of woods. The Springer family was finally home.

    The Springer family had deep religious roots when they arrived in Muskingum County as was evidenced by their father's deep awareness of Charles Christopher and growing up in the Swedish Holy Trinity Church, in Wilmington. John Springer wasted no time, becoming one the founders of McKendree Chapel. Thus, the foundation of Cornelius conversion to the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the summer of 1809, under the ministry of Robert Manley (buried at Asbury Chapel) probably had been building for a long, long time. Cornelius was 32 when in 1822 he started writing letters in the Wesleyan Repository under the pen name of "Cincinnatus". Episcopal Methodism was deeply rooted in America when Cornelius came on the scene. The church government Cornelius found was not a government for and by the people, it was a government of favoritism and control by a few. Springer and others came to realize that "power over a man's substance, in the normal course of human nature amounts to a power over his will."

    The Church had published Doctrine that basically said, Clergy alone had a divine to govern the people in religious matters. The early settlers of Ohio weren't attached to the politics of the church. And rightfully so; for they had been leading Class Meetings and leading people to Christ during the long absences of the circuit riding preacher, who would only visit every six to nine weeks. Plus, here they were on the Ohio Frontier; they believed the right to govern rested with the whole, not just a part thereof. By their circumstances and their commitment, the ministry of the laity was being born.

    In 1828 after a General Church Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, the Radicals as they were known formed a new church, The Associated Methodist Church, and what was later to be known as the Methodist Protestant Church was born.

    Bishop Francis Asbury in Lebanon, Ohio ordained Cornelius Springer in 1816. His first appointment was to Letart Falls, then Marietta, Barnesville, Steubenville and Pickaway Circuit. From 1819 to 1823, he served as Secretary to the Ohio Conference. We know that Springer was sympathetic to the views of the Reformers as early as 1822. Cornelius wrote nine articles on church government in the Wesleyan Repository between 1822 and 1824, under the pen name Cincinnatus. Then on March 7, 1829 he and several others withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Associated Methodist Church in Eastern Ohio.

    After joining the Associated Church, Springer was appointed to the unorganized circuit of New Lisbon. Rev. Springer thus formed a circuit of congregations in the Monongahela Valley. Churches were formed in Waynesburg, Pa., Pruntytown, Morgantown and Fairmont West Virginia. In 1830,Springer was elected President of the Ohio Conference and during his term he oversaw the publication of the first Discipline for the young denomination and spent his time travelling through the territory.

    Cornelius was known as 'consistent, dedicated, outspoken and energetic.' Springer put his energies to work in the spreading the doctrine and philosophies of the young church. He oversaw the development of the young church's first book of Discipline in 1830/31. He became editor of the Methodist Correspondent, which was first published in Cincinnati and later from Putnam and then from his farm, Meadow Farm in Muskingum County.

    Ancel Bassett in his History of the Methodist Protestant Church also states that in 1830 Springer was a representative to the Constitutional Convention of that year.

    In 1839 at the age of 49, Springer started a new publication with his own funds, the Western Recorder and continued to publish until September of 1845 when the post office at Meadow Farm was discontinued and the paper sold to A.H. Basset, due to Springer's poor health and failing eyesight. The Western Recorder evolved into the Methodist Recorder and continued to be published until the Methodist Protestant Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church merged in the 1930's. In a 1929 issue of the Methodist Recorder the early paper was described as "fortress of liberty and an enthusiastic and fruitful agency for the evangelizing of the farther West, and for the up-building of the spiritual and eternal elements of the Kingdom of God".

    After the paper was sold, Springer no longer served specific churches, but he did continued to practice his ministry through the written word and by being active in the formation of local churches. He also had other interests outside of the church, in 1848 he became the first President of the Muskingum County Agricultural Society and served on the board of the state Agricultural Society. It was this organization who was responsible for conducting the first state fair at Zanesville in the early 1850's.

    Cornelius was active in the formation of churches, not just during his ministry, but as a youth and in his more senior years. There are written records regarding at least three of these churches, in Springfield Township, alone. His father, John Springer was a founder of Mc Kendree Methodist Church and served as class leader, soon after his arrival in Muskingum County. Springfield Chapel in the northern section of the township and Meadow Farm Church built in 1854 on land donated by Rev. Springer, after his first wife's death. Of the three churches started by the Springer Family, only Meadow Farm remains today.

    Springer was married three times, the first on July 29, 1820 to Mary Ann McDowell of Chillicothe, Ohio, she died prior to 1848. In 1849 Springer married a second time to Catherine Munday, she died in March of 1856., Both Catherine and first wife Mary A. McDowell are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville, Ohio. In May 5,1857 in Coshocton County, Cornelius married for a third time, her name was Elizabeth Sarah Thrapp, a daughter of Rev. Israel Thrapp. She is buried in Leesburg Florida, with her second husband, John Oliver.

    Prior to entering the ministry Cornelius served under Captain William Wilson as a Lieutenant in the building of Fort Gratiot and the Battle of Mackinaw during the War of 1812. Before and after the war, he taught school at the 'Falls of Licking and Putnam Academy in Putnam, where he became Headmaster.

    Springer's later years were active he moved from his 300-acre farm in Springfield Township to Zanesville. He helped organize the Muskingum and Licking county Historical Societies, serving as Chaplain of the Muskingum organization, and was always in attendance at their Fourth of July celebrations. Springer continued to serve the church he loved, by serving as a trustee of their college at Adrian Michigan from 1867 to 1875.

    Cornelius died at his home on the Barry lot of McIntire Terrace, located north of McIntire Avenue, from the Muskingum River west on the fourth street north of the B&O railroad on August 17, 1875 at the age of 85.

  • Copies of letters from Cornelius Springer, dated January 1866; August 1869 and September, 1869.
  • Cranehook on the Delaware, by Jeannette Eckman, published 1958.chapter 7.
  • The Ohio Republican Newspaper, May, 1829, published in Zanesville Ohio)
  • Funeral & Memorial Record of Rev. Cornelius Springer
  • Founders of the Methodist Protestant Church, by T.H. Colhouler, 1880
  • History of the Methodist Protestant Church, by Ancel H. Bassett, 1882
  • History of Methodist Reform and the Methodist Protestant Church, volumes 1, 2. By Edward J. Drinkhouse, 1899
  • Circuit Rider Days along the Ohio by William Warren Sweet, 1923
  • History of Ohio Methodism, by J.M. Barker, 1898

submitted by Dave Boling

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Last Revised: July 13, 2002