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Rev. John Wesley Caughlan

John Wesley Caughlan was raised and educated in St. Louis, Missouri. At about age 18 he went from New York to California to take part in the gold rush. Upon retuning from the gold fields, via a sailing ship around the tip of South America, the worked for a time in St. Louis at his brother David's bell foundry on the riverfront close to where the arch is now. Later he became a Methodist preacher in 1857.

At that time he was appointed a circuit rider. His circuit included Bowing Green and nearby cities in Eastern Missouri. He took charge of the M. E. Church in St. Joseph, which was then in its infancy. In 1860, he went to Savannah in the same capacity, and until 1879, was at Macon, Hannibal and Mexico. During the rebellion, he was First Lieutenant in the Fifth Missouri State Militia. In 1879, he established and commenced the publication of the Good Way and Temperance Bugle in Savannah, and in 1880, removed the office to St. Joseph, discontinuing the Temperance Bugle. The Good Way, under his supervision and management, has obtained a wide spread reputation and is numbered among the leading non-sectarian religious newspapers of the day.

Nancy Jane Miller,
wife of John Wesley Caughlan

 

Chronology of John Wesley Caughlan’s life

 

John Wesley was born was born on 3 Aug 1832 in Cabell County Virginia to John O. Caughlan and his wife Sarah Murray Byrd Childers. According to his Civil War Pension file he moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1835 with his father, mother, his sister Mary Ann and brother David. According to his son Fred W. Caughlan John went to grammar school, but Fred did not know whether he went any further or not. But Fred did know that he belonged to a study and debating club, and took up a study course in Greek.

 

When John was just 15 years old John’s father, John O. Caughlan died on 14 Dec. 1847. We don’t know where his father is buried but believe it was in either the St. Louis Missouri Area or in Illinois because he was teaching and was in both these close to the time of his death.

 

On 20 March 1850 we find John working for David’s father-in-law, Edmond Beall, as a clerk in Alton Illinois.

 

Later in 1850 John, at the age of 18, John traveled to the gold fields in California via New York and the Isthmus of Panama. From Fred Waller Caughlan’s book and letters we know that while in San Francisco he worked for a few weeks at odd jobs to meet some of his expenses. He spent about 18 months there and in 1851 returned traveling on a sailing ship around South America to St. Louis Missouri to work at his brother David’s Bell foundry. We also have evidence that he also worked for Edmond Beall from 1851to1853.

 

On February 7, 1856 John obtained a Preachers License at the Annual Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church held Hannibal Missouri. He was appointed, along with another preacher “to be supplied” to the “African Chapel” located in the St. Louis District in the City of St. Louis. Record show this church contains 246 white members, 40 white probationers, and no coloreds and 3 local preachers.

 

John becomes a “Circuit Rider”. In 1857, the Rev. James Witten was placed over the district. During this year, St. Joseph, Missouri was included in a circuit and the Rev. J. H. Hopkins and the Rev. J. W. Caughlan had charge. A letter written to him by his mother, Sarah, dated August 5, 1857 gives us further evidence that he was in St. Joseph preaching at this time.

 

At the Missouri Conference, held in St. Louis, John W. Caughlan was “admitted in full connect” and ordained as a Deacon. He was assigned to Ridgley in the Platte District. In had 116 members, 34 probationers, 2 local preachers and 3 meeting-houses valued at $1,500.

 

While a circuit rider John met Nancy Jane Miller in Savannah Missouri. On October 9, 1858 John married Nancy Jane Miller in Savannah, Andrew County Missouri. He serves in the church at Savannah for about 2 years. While living in Savannah his mother dies on 23 Feb 1859 in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

On July 3 1860 his first son Charles Wesley is born in Fillmore, Andrew County, Missouri. The 1860 Federal Census finds John living with his father-in-law, Abraham Miller, and mother-in-law, Mary (Thompson), in Fillmore, Andrew County, Missouri.

 

In March 1860 the Missouri Conference is held at Hudson City from March 22 to the 26th. John becomes the Secretary at the Conference. He was elected and ordained Elder and was assigned to Savannah in the St. Joseph District.

 

During the late Summer of 1860, John Wesley, wife Nancy and newborn Charles Wesley Caughlan departed from Savannah, Missouri by wagon south to Westport, Kansas (now Kansas City, Kansas) and headed westward on the Santa Fe Trail, perhaps stopping at Baldwin City for a short visit with Werter Davis. They would have traveled the Santa Fe Trail until Bent's Fort (near La Junta, Colorado). Along the way they encountered some friendly Indians who enjoyed eating all of Nancy's biscuits. Fred Caughlan writes in “History of the Caughlan Family” about this encounter: “On their way across the plains in western Kansas they were visited by a band of friendly Indians on Saturday evening. Our mother had made a big batch of biscuits to last over Sunday, when a big Indian came to them begging: “Papoos” and pointing down his mouth. Father picked up a whole tray, thinking he would take a couple, but instead, the Indian gathered up his blanket and dumped in the whole batch and left.”

 

From there they would have taken the Cherokee Trail (AKA the Divide Trail) West to Old Pueblo (now Pueblo, Colorado) and then North through what is now Colorado Springs and on to Golden City (now Golden Colorado). They might have camped at or near Palmer Lake and formed a Methodist "class" among the locals. It is hard to imagine the adventures and hardships the little family would have experienced on this trek. Some idea can be had by reading the accounts of travelers on the Cherokee Trail as found at http://www.geocities.com/peaker59/.   A map of the Santa Fe Trail can be found at http://www.authentichistory.com/images/antebellum/maps_and_charts/1820-1860_trails_west.html

 

The website “History of Golden Colorado First Methodist Church, found at www.goldenfirstumc.org/history/pastors/pastors.htm. shows John as their pastor from "1861 - 1862".

 

In March 1862 John is found at the Kansas Conference that was held in Wyandott, Kansas. The Stewards Report showed that John W. had served at Golden City (now Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado) and Golden Dirt (probably Gold Dirt in nearby Gilpin County). He had been pledged an "allowance" of $900, but only received $600. He became the second minister at the First Methodist Church of Golden. John W. Caughlan was listed as serving on the following committees at the Conference: Conference Stewards, Missions (with Werter Davis), and Slavery. The eight-member Committee on Slavery submitted the following report: "Whereas, American Slavery is the main spring of the existing rebellion and has been retained in the Nation, at the sacrifice of moral principle and civil liberty, and it is at the present time drinking the best blood of the Nation, Therefore, Resolved, That we are in favor of the vigerous (sic) prosecution of the present war, until the irrepressible convict between Liberty and Slavery is finally settled in the complete overthrow of rebellion, in the entire destruction of treason, with its twin monster Secession. And that we will as ever pray for the utter abolition of American Slavery. L. D. Price, J. Green, W. Knipe, G. Weidman, J. Parker, T. M. Willet, J. W. Caughlan, P. Hehner."

 

This strong felling was backed up by action on John's part. At this conference he asked to "be located" (leave the ministry) so he could enlist in the Union Army, which he did on 17 April 1862 at St Louis, Missouri.

 

On April 29, 1862 John was appointed First Lieutenant in the Missouri Militia.

 

On July 5, 1862, son Nathaniel Lyon Caughlan is born.

 

Fred W. Caughlan writes in his “History or the Caughlan Family” “When the war broke out they returned to St. Joseph and while there he joined the Army and was soon made a Lieutenant, and afterwards a Provost Marshal. While serving as Marshal several funny incidents occurred. One we quote: “He was sent to draft a young man. When they went in the parents said he was not old enough, so father demanded a family record and asked for the family Bible. After a lot of searching it was produced and showed signs of having been altered. A closer look showed that he and his younger brother were only two months apart in age. Father asked “bow did this happen?” They said “they didn’t know, but it did.” They took the boy along.”

 

On 22 June 1863 John is discharged from the Militia and he moved by to Savannah Missouri.

 

On 12 August he was appointed as Deputy Provost Marshall of the 7th congressional district of Missouri-

 

Another interesting story concerning life for ministers after the Civil War comes for Fred Caughlan’s “History of the Caughlan Family”.  He writes: “After father’s discharge the Bushwhackers mistreated all northern preachers they could catch, so when they questioned him and asked who he was and where he came from, father answered he was just from Virginia, so they let him pass. However, not all of them fared so well.”

 

March 2-7, 1864 John is found at the Missouri and Arkansas Conference held in Jefferson City, Missouri. John W, Caughlan was (re) admitted on trial and assigned to Macon City in the Hannibal District. His was a small church of 31 members, 3 probationers, one local preacher, and a meeting-house valued at $500.

 

On 14 June 1864 son Joseph Hopkins Caughlan is born, probably in Savannah Missouri. In 1865 son John Hopkins dies, probably in Hannibal Missouri.

 

In March 1-7, 1865 the Missouri and Arkansas Conference is held in St. Joseph Missouri. John is in attendance. John was appointed to the church in Hannibal, Missouri, Hannibal District. The Hannibal church was a larger church, with 110 members, 4 probationers, a meeting-house valued at $5,000 and a parsonage valued at $1.200.

 

On 29 Jan. 1867 daughter Mary Draper Caughlan is born probably in Hannibal Missouri.

 

In 1868 John moved to Mexico Missouri and has a church there. While preaching in Mexico, Missouri, son Fredrick Waller Caughlan is born on 18 December 1869. In 1870 the Federal Census finds John and his family still in Mexico Missouri. Interestingly we also find his brother, Daniel living with him also. 

 

According to John’s pension record and his memoir from 1868 to 1878 he lived and preached at Ashley, Mexico, Trenton and Maryville Missouri. In January 1874 his little daughter Bertha Irene died at Trenton Missouri

 

On 23 February 1875 son John William Caughlan is born, probably in Trenton Missouri.

 

In 1876 his pension record shows he moved to Maryville Missouri. He moves again in 1878 to Savannah, Missouri.

 

In 1879, according to Conference records John is on two committees, Publications and Periodical & Book Accounts. At that conference he was appointed to three other special committees, Book Circulation, Fraternal Relations (with the M. E. Church - South), and the Conference Camp Meeting to be held at the LaClede Camp Ground. He had reached the rank of Elder. Conclusion: He had risen to a position of high esteem among his peers.

 

On March 1, 1879, while living in Savannah Missouri, John starts publishing a periodical “The Good Way”. In August of 1879 he and Mr. Park stated and the “Temperance Bugle”.  On February 1, 1880 John moved is family and his publications to St. Joseph Missouri. Both these publications were short lived and by 1882 they were discontinued.

 

The 1880 Federal Census finds John living in St. Joseph Missouri and it lists his occupation as a preacher.

 

At the Missouri Conference held in Cameron, Missouri from 23-28 of March 1881 John is no listed on any committee. He was granted a “supernumerary relationship”, a term that equates to a leave of absence.

 

 So what happened? We have two sources that give us clues to what happened. One is from what Fred said about this time in John Wesley’s life in the “History of the Caughlan Family” and the other source comes form Conference records. 

 

According to Fred Waller’s “History of the Caughlan Family” while living in Maryville, there was some kind of “commotion of jealousy by some of the brethren” at the 1876 General Conference ….

 “Then father was sent to Savannah and at the end of two years one of his enemies he had made by his beating him in the previous election to General Conference, preferred charges because some women had gotten into a church squabble and asked father at a camp meeting what she could do because she could not get along, and her preacher wouldn’t help her. When the Bishop heard the charge, he reprimanded father before the Conference. In his high temperament, father asked for his credentials and joined the Holiness work and started a paper called the “Good Way” and advocated the Holiness movement.

Some of the big men in the movement organized a corporation to take over as soon as it began to look like a good enterprise, and they voted father out, which caused a break in his health. We moved to Kansas City, and he did some evangelistic work. With we three boys working, he got enough together to get a small print shop and tried to start a temperance weekly which he did not get going. Charles used what was left of the plant to get started in Plainville Observer, and from there on is part of Charles’ and Fred’s family history.

 

Father later was induced to reenter the Conference, and did some good work before he retired. He was a man of great faith and prayer, and spent many hours on his knees, till God called him to his reward.

 

Conference Records:

Missouri Conference held at Chillicothe, Missouri, 22-27 March 1882.

 

On the third day, Friday 24 March, the "case of J. W. Caughlan was referred to the committee on conference relations". On the following day, Saturday 25 March, the committee presented the following

report which was adopted:

   "Your committee on conference relations met and carefully considered the case of Rev. J. W. Caughlan, and We unanimously recommend that he be continued in the relation of a supernumerary on the following conditions, viz:

   "That he publicly, before the conference, retract the following statements and promise in the future not to speak or print like sentiments.

   "1. That he, Rev. J. W. Caughlan, would not be governed by disciplines, church creeds, commentaries and church conventionalities.

   "2. Clipping from the Good Way, Oct. 29th, 1881, two articles:

   "This sect originated in a vigorous protest against the very spirit which is now having such marked prominence in the administration of some of the preachers and the lordly decisions of some of the bishops.

   "How unlike their great leader are these modern lords over God's heritage. He did not think that ministers had a 'right to dictate by their own authority what they (the flock) shall believe or what they shall do.' Not so with Bishop Harris and the spiritual lords of Ohio. They say the flock must obey or be cast out of the synagogue.

   "But it is a fact that holiness of heart is but little preached in the Methodist Church of to-day, The doctrine of entire sanctification is with many of our preachers a fine spun theory having no practical value and no responsive experience, And most of the life that now exists in the Church on this subject is due to the labor of these 'self-constituted (God-owned) specialists.' If high-toned ecclesiastics in their 'Churchly 'wisdom should succeed in suppressing those humble evangelists, it would be a fatal blow to vital godliness.

   "3. Also clipping April 17th, 1880:

   "But at a recent camp meeting an old man was saved and asked our counsel. we recommended him to the churches that were most accessible... Methodist and Presbyterian... and he made this reply in substance: These churches are fighting holiness and I can't join them. I don't think I ought to. Do you think I ought?

   "You may be sure we were cornered. We knew it was true that they were fighting holiness, and we did not feel that we could, with conscious approval of God, bid him seek a home where his soul would be imperiled.    

   "D. B. White, T. J. Wheat, J. W. Bovee, G. B. Abbott. H. C. Dayhoff.

   "J. W. Caughlan declining to accept the conditions set forth in the foregoing report, charges and specifications were preferred and a court was ordered to try the case."

   Later that day, "The following were appointed the court in the case of John W. Caughlan, viz:

   "I. Chivington, J. S. Barwick, J. T. Boyle, T. A. Canaday, L. V. Ismond, W. B. Moody, S. H.Enyeart, J. R. Sasseen, S. N. Warner, E. V. Roof, T. B. Bratton, O. Bruner.

   "J. J. Bentley was appointed to preside.

   "The conference agreed that nine should be sufficient to bring in a verdict. (I count 12? I think this note applies to the next jury for the case of Jeremiah Wright, where only nine jurors were named. John must have had a jury of 12.)

   "T. J. Wheat and D. B. Lake were appointed to conduct the case on the part of the church."

   On Monday 27 March 1882 the results were announced:

   "The committee in the case of J. W. Caughlan made their report, recommending that he be reprimanded by the Bishop for insubordination to the order and discipline of the church, and he was called forward and reprimanded.

   "J. W. Caughlan was granted a supernumerary relation."

 

   Conclusion: John Wesley was a man of courage that stuck to his principles. As a result he was subjected to humiliation in front of his peers.

 

Missouri Conference held at ________ commencing 7 March 1883:

 

   "When the name of J. W. Caughlan was called, a communication was presented from him commenting on the action in his case at the last Conference and requesting in consequence thereof to be entered as withdrawn from the ministry and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church, whereupon the following resolution was adopted:

   "Resolved -- That there being no charges against J. W. Caughlan and he having by letter requested to be entered as withdrawn from the ministry and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Conference does hereby, without assenting to the statements and implications in his letter to the Conference grant his request and order his name entered as withdrawn, and requests him to surrender his parchments to the Secretary of the Conference.

 

Conclusion: John resented their actions and was unable to continue in ministry with them.

 

From 1884 to 1888 there is no mention of John Wesley at the Missouri Conferences.

 

Chronology Continued

 

In 1884 John moved to Kansas City Missouri.

 

Then in 1889 he moved to Kidder Missouri.

 

The Missouri Conference was held 20-25 of March in 1889. John is there and wants to be admitted again into the conference. On Friday 22 March 1889, when they asked the question, "Who were admitted on trial?" The name of J. W. Caughlan of the Chillicothe was listed among those "coming properly recommended". He was readmitted, but on the motion of A. H. Powell, he was "excused from examinations in the Course of study"... he had passed them years before. John Wesley Caughlan was back in the fold for good.

 

Overall Conclusions: John Wesley Caughlan not only had the courage of his convictions, but also was big enough to return to the church that had reprimanded him.

 

In 1890 John travels to Payson, Adams County, Illinois. John Wesley is the minister who performs the marriage ceremony for his son Charles Wesley and Anna Long.

 

In 1891 John moved to Breckenridge Missouri and is there until 1912 when he moves St. Joseph, Missouri.

 

The 1910 census confirms he was in Breckenridge Missouri. Also living with him at this time is his daughter Helen, her husband Oliver Ward and their children.

 

On June 5,1912 John applies and receives a Civil War Pension. His application No. WC-856-337.

 

John died on 13 February 1912 living at 2806 Sacramento, St. Joseph Missouri and he is buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri.

 

His wife Nancy Jane died on 13 July 1925 in Pittsfield, Pike County, Illinois and she is also buried at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, St. Joseph Missouri.

 

Important letters concerning John Wesley’s Family

 

The following letters were found in the “History of the Caughlan Family” By Fred W. Caughlan 1962.

 

(By Helen Caughlan Ward, 1957)

 

I know very little about my mother’s genealogy. She was Nancy Jane Miller, daughter of Abram Miller of Savannah, MO. They first lived in Kentucky, then in Indiana. When my mother was about 4 years old, they moved to Missouri, going down to Ohio River, then up the Missouri to Weston, by steamboat. From Weston they went by wagon to a farm north of Savannah. There my mother grew up and when between 18 and 19 she married father.

 

She was one of a family of 17 children. Abram Miller, her father, had ten children by his first wife and seven by this second wife. (She stated it the other way around at anther time.)  My mother was next to the youngest in the second family. I think my mother’s grandmother’s maiden name was Sphune (spoon), and she came from Germany. This is about all I know about the family history, except that one of her half-brothers was the noted George Miller, who ran a line of steamboats on the Mississippi river during the Civil War. He became a very rich ma, perhaps a millionaire. Some of her half brothers she never saw, and hardly know their names.

 

 

By Fred Caughlan

 

This is about all we know of mother’s family except Hazel Hitchman, who was a daughter of James Chamberlain, is living in Seattle, Wash., about 95 years old at the present time, 1962. Mother’s brothers were Abram, Anderson and Thomas, and her sisters were Aunt Mary King, Matilda Ogel, Liza King, and one who married James Chamberlain.

 

John Wesley Caughlan, our father was born in Virginia, Aug. 2, 1832. At the age of about four, his folks moved to St. Louis, MO. He went to grammar school, but I do not know whether he went any further or not. But I do know that he belonged to a study and debating club, and took up a study course in Greek. When about 18 he started from New York and went to California to the gold rush, making the trip by way of the Isthmus of Panama.

 

While in San Francisco he worked for a few weeks at odd jobs to meet some of his expenses. Not knowing or thinking of ever going to California myself, I never inquired anything of his locations, or I could have looked them up when we were within 50 or 60 miles of it while living there.

 

After spending about 18 months mining he decided to return home. Either before he went west or after his return he worked as a furniture finisher. He then decided to enter the ministry, and joined the Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church as a circuit rider, where he met Nancy Miller, and they were married. After that he served the church at Savannah for two years and was sent as a missionary to Denver where he was when the Civil War broke out.

 

On their way across the plains in western Kansas they were visited by a band of friendly Indians on Saturday evening. Our mother had made a big batch of biscuits to last over Sunday, when a big Indian came to them begging: “Papoos” and pointing down his mouth. Father picked up a whole tray, thinking he would take a couple, but instead, the Indian gathered up his blanket and dumped in the whole batch and left.

                  

When the war broke out they returned to St. Joseph and while there he joined the Army and was soon made a Lieutenant, and afterwards a Provost Marshal. While serving as Marshal several funny incidents occurred. One we quote: “He was sent to draft a young man. When they went in the parents said he was not old enough, so father demanded a family record and asked for the family Bible. After a lot of searching it was produced and showed signs of having been altered. A closer look showed that he and his younger brother were only two months apart in age. Father asked “bow did this happen?” They said “they didn’t know, but it did.” They took the boy along.”

 

After father’s discharge the Bushwhackers mistreated all northern preachers they could catch, so when they questioned him and asked who he was and where he came from, father answered he was just from Virginia, so they let him pass. However, not all of them fared so well.

 

Father was quite a debater and served many larger churches, such as Hannibal, Mexico, Maryville and Trenton. While at Maryville, Missouri. In 1876, he was elected to the General Conference at Baltimore Md., which caused quite a commotion of jealousy by some of the brethren. When it came time to leave Maryville he accepted the job of organization the Preachers Aid, for the relief fund for retired ministers, but found out that he could not collect his commissions until the conference year was up. So the family was moved to the country to dig our living out the soil which we did, and did not starve.

 

Then father was sent to Savannah and at the end of two years one of the enemies he had made by his beating him in the pervious election to General Conference, preferred charges because some woman had gotten into a church squabble and asked father at a camp meeting what she could do because she could not get along, and her preacher wouldn’t help her. When the Bishop heard the charge, he reprimanded father before the Conference. In his high temperament, father asked for his credentials and joined the Holiness work and started a paper called the “Good Way” and advocated the Holiness movement.

 

Some of the big men in the movement organized a corporation to take over as soon as it began to look like a good enterprise, and they voted father out, which caused a break in his health. We moved to Kansas City, and he did some evangelistic work. With we three boys working, he got enough together to get a small print shop and tried to start a temperance weekly which he did not get going. Charles used what was left of the plant to get started in Plainville Observer, and from there on is part of Charles’ and Fred’s family history.

 

Father later was induced to reenter the Conference, and did some good work before he retired. He was a man of great faith and prayer, and spent many hours on his knees, till God called him to his reward.

 

After his family had all reached the place that they could care for themselves, he bought a little home in Breckenridge, Mo., and later sold it and bought a home in St. Joseph, where he spent his last days. He was very active for one of his age. He looked after his property till he fell on the icy street on his way to the barber shop, and broke his hip. Before he could recover the ravages of the years collected its roll. He died alone in the Missouri Methodist Hospital, and I was the last to see him alive.

 

 


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