Mark 2:2 "  So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them."


Jesse Lee, the son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Lee, was born in Prince George County, Va on March 12 1758. The following is from :
In 1773 his parents joined the Methodist society. Jesse Lee, "in that same year experienced, in a marked manner, the sense of pardoned sin." "  In 1776, he experienced a state of grace which he called "  perfect love." "  In 1777 he moved from his home into the bounds of Roanoke circuit, North Carolina; where the next year he was appointed a class leader. He preached his first sermon November 17, 1779, and for a time supplied the preachers place."....At the tenth conference, held at Ellis meeting house, April 17, 1782, he was deeply impressed by the union and brotherly love prevalent among the preachers; and at a quarterly meeting, in November, he was prevailed upon to take charge, together with Mr. Dromgoole, of the Amelia circuit, near Edenton, NC."  ... "  At the Ellis meeting house, May 6, 1783, he was received on trial into the conference. This year he preached with marked success" and was moved by the effect that he had on those to whom he preached and by his own emotions. "  From this time he labored on different circuits, with like success, and was now regarded as an important man in the connexion. December 12, 1784, he was invited to meet Coke, Whatcoke, and Vasey, at the celebrated Christmas conference of 1784, at Baltimore, when with the aid of these persons ordained for this purpose, the Methodist Episcopal church was organized. Lee could not attend this conference on so short notice, but was immediately after requested by Bishop Asbury to travel on a Southern tour....."

"  Lee was a man of vigorous physique, imposing presence, and great power of endurance. In weight, about two hundred and fifty pounds. In travelling, he rode horse-back, and like most other circuit riders of those times, he was a skillful horseman. In most of his travels, two horses were required for his use; each for a relay, when the other became fatigued. The horses were trained so that they would come to him at his call; and each would follow the other. So completely did the horses understand their duty, that if any person attempted to frighten away the companion horse, the indigent animal, with a show of teeth and heels, would drive away the intruder, and the itinerant rode on without further molestation." "  Lee's outfit consisted of the inevitable saddle-bags, stored with bible, hymn book, a few other books, and a needful supply of clothing." "  He went among strangers, preaching,singing, and praying, in barns, school-houses, or in the open air, wherever he could obtain an audience; forming classes whenever two or three were willing to unite with the [Methodist] society."  Lee's impassioned sermons, fervid prayers and grand singing drew crowds to hear him. His genial manners and ready wit, made him an agreeable guest in the families of the people, especially in the rural neighborhoods. He was often coldly received in the villages, and he sometimes encountered violent opposition from the settled pastors, who regarded him as a visionary enthusiast, and denounced his doctrines as pestilent heresy."   He was often challenged to discuss "principles,"  but generally evaded controversy, or repelled assaults with some short witty rejoinder. He proclaimed, with great force, a free and full salvation, and with great power, exhorted sinners to repent."

At one point Jesse Lee was assigned to the Salisbury area of North Carolina. It was during this time that, while in the Yadkin River area, he preached to the Methodist community at the home of John Randle (known as Dumb John as he was deaf and could not speak) The book, The Life and Times of the Rev. Jesse Lee states:

“On one occasion he preached at the house of a man deaf and dumb from his birth, but who had acquired the power of pronouncing the name of his wife and of his brother, very distinctly. But, 'I could not learn,' says Mr. Lee, '  that he had ever uttered any other word.' And, he adds, 'he is esteemed a pious man, and, by signs, will give a good experience of grace, both of his conviction, conversion, and of his progress in the service of the Lord: and of the pleasing hope he has of heaven when he leaves this world.' “

Jesse Lee is considered to be the first "circuit riding preacher" of the early Randall Church community. After his time at the Randall Church, Jesse Lee became the Father of New England Methodism - as well as Chaplain to the US Congress. His call to New England began after his 1785 meeting with Asbury and just after he left their time at Randalls. He stopped with Asbury in Cheraw - where Asbury spoke at Old St. Davids - and Lee met a store clerk there from New England, who told of the deplorable spiritual state in N.E. - Lee pleaded with Asbury for 5 years to send him there -and finally he did. There are churches from Connecticutt to Maine in New England which bear the name Jesse Lee United Methodist Church. Jesse Lee died on September 12, 1816.

As part of The Asbury Project the Rev. Dennis Mardis of Aynor United Methodist Church in Aynor, SC and others re-enact the circuit riders of early Methodism in the southeasern United States. During the summer of 2007 Rev Mardis visited the Norwood community at the First United Methodist Church of Norwood and provided a valuable re-enactment of what a visit from Jesse Lee might have been like. The following photos capture that visit.


"Jesse Lee" riding the circuit.

"Jesse Lee" spreading THE WORD.

"Jesse Lee" and church member.

"Jesse Lee" visits home of John Randle.

Rev Mardis visits the grave of John Randle.

The Cross and Flame is a registered trademark and the use is supervised by the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church. Permission to use the Cross and Flame must be obtained from the General Council on Finance and Administration of The United Methodist Church - Legal Department, 1200 Davis Street, Evanston, IL 60201.