Early American Faith: The Wild Man of Goose Creek

EarlyAmerFaithBy the late eighteenth century John Wesley’s Methodism, having spread to the American colonies, was formally established as the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore in 1784.  While the Congregationalists and Episcopalians remained along the Eastern seaboard of America, Methodism began to spread with the push into uncharted territories to the west.

Methodists weren’t shy about their faith as circuit-riding preachers accompanied patriots who received land grants for their war service, crossing the mountains and heading to Tennessee and Kentucky.  Often the first person settlers met along the way was a man on a horse with a Bible in his hand.  While Francis Asbury is widely credited as the most famous circuit rider and responsible for Methodism’s early exploding growth (1784-1816), there is another man who made his mark in a much briefer period of time (1800-1804).

John Adam Granade, a descendant of French ancestors, was born near Newbern, Jones County, North Carolina to parents John and Ann (Ward) Granade.  While some have published his birth date as May 9, 1763 others claim the exact date is unknown.  Although taught the fear of God by his mother early in life and embracing faith at the age of thirteen, John, a gifted poet, soon lapsed and gave “all his energies to the service of Satan”.1

Although not much is known about the first thirty years of his life, Granade later confessed intemperance to his fellow Methodists.   A journal entry indicates he would spend as many as seven consecutive days dancing and frolicking, although he hadn’t much of a taste for alcohol.  His father had died in 1791 and when John returned in 1796 to find his mother had also died, he blamed himself for her death.

Following his mother’s death John moved to Anson County, North Carolina and taught school just across the border in Chesterfield County, South Carolina.  He was a popular teacher but after reading of the difficulties arising between the United States and France John determined to enlist in the military.  Yet, the more he thought about the possibility of facing great danger the more he began to examine his life.

Thereafter, he found “himself unready to meet God in judgment” and wrestled with the fate of his soul, “plunged into dreadful conflicts with Satan.”2  The battle for his soul took on such an agonizing dimension that John, determined to avoid being made a laughingstock by his friends and students, would flee to the woods to howl and cry for mercy.  Even after receiving counsel from a Methodist minister, John found little solace and continued to struggle.

Although a popular teacher, he decided to leave and made his way to Sumner County, Tennessee in the company of his married sister and her family.  After settling along Goose Creek, he found a Methodist church and a few days later made the acquaintance of William Burke who rode the Cumberland Circuit.  Burke invited John to join him on the trail, a perfect opportunity for John to unburden himself.  Burke encouraged him to press on until he found peace for his soul.

Still struggling, he secreted himself in the rocks along the banks of Goose Creek where the rushing waters would drown out the noise of his anguish.  For quite a while he’d been wrestling – sometimes hopeful and often despondent.  One source suggested he may have been bipolar.3

Yet, after returning to the camp and hearing his sister sing, John felt a sweet peace.  However, that night was a restless one as he continued to struggle.   These taunting words rang in his ears: “Your damnation is sealed; your day of grace is past; the wrath of God is upon you; you are a vessel of wrath; and the devil can be as readily saved as you.”4

The spiritual anguish manifested in his mind and body – burning in his stomach, feeling faint, fearing he was losing his mind.  William Burke and his wife invited John to again accompany them on the circuit and for four weeks they attempted to console him, apparently without much success.  During the winter of 1797 and the spring of 1798 John spent day and night in the woods through cold, snow and rain  – howling, praying and roaring.  Little wonder people regarded him as crazy.

Satan continued to taunt him, trying to convince John he was out of his mind and had lost his poetic talents.  The first spiritual poem he wrote, however, was well received by his students (he was teaching again).  He continued to teach during the 1799 school year, but since schoolbooks were scarce he turned to the scriptures – the Epistles of Paul – to teach elocution.  The power of these scriptural speeches pierced his soul, although he yet struggled with self-condemnation.

John attended church services and occasionally “a slight ray of hope would flash upon his gloomy spirit.”5  Meanwhile, the great Kentucky revival of 1800 was on the horizon and John was set to attend a union meeting of the Presbyterians and Methodists after a dream in which he saw himself surrounded by God’s people, delivered from all his spiritual troubles.6

William Lambuth was speaking when John arrived at the meeting and he drank in every word.  Lambuth was followed by Reverend John Rankin, a Presbyterian, who began teaching about being “born of the Spirit”:

When the minister came to the words, “The wind bloweth where it listeth; . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” that very moment heaven, which he had thought was forever sealed against him, was opened; the power of God as a rushing mighty wind descended fro heaven and filled his whole being.7

He began to cry out “Glory to God!   Glory and adoration to God and the Lamb forever!”, going throughout the camp until the midnight hour, praising God who had finally delivered him.  Many knew him as a wicked poet who had long ridiculed religion with his unbelieving and profane prose, and of course as the “wild man of Goose Creek”.

After partaking of communion John began to speak, and within a few moments sinners began falling under the power of God.  All night and well into the next day John Granade, a tortured soul no longer, exhorted people and continued to praise his newfound Savior.  His students, his friends and neighbors began to realize they too needed God’s saving power – even those who had written him off as a madman.

John had found his new calling and gave up teaching to begin traveling from settlement to settlement, sharing the Word of God, after receiving consent from Bishop Asbury and his associate Richard Whatcoat.  New to Methodism, he joined Benjamin Young on the Cumberland Circuit.  Everywhere he went John was determined, with God’s help, “to attack the hosts of Satan wherever he might encounter them”.8

He set out for Nashville and stopped at taverns along the way, went right in and preached to the rowdy crowds.  Some repented and found peace while others stomped off “furious and blaspheming”.  He was cursed and ridiculed by many, yet this new convert who some called the “distracted preacher” went on his way rejoicing.

After being baptized John attended a quarterly meeting in 1801 where he was recommended for the Western Conference on a trial basis.  His first assignment, along with Moses Floyd, was to the Greene Circuit.  Word spread that the “wild man” would be preaching and folks would come from miles around to hear him speak.  Many would follow him from place to place, shouting along the road and attracting even more attention.

By the time he transferred to the Holston Circuit in 1802, between five and six hundred members had been added to the Church on the Greene Circuit.  On the first round of Holston one hundred new members were added and by the fifth round at least five hundred had been received.  Because there wasn’t a house or building large enough to hold the crowds, preaching stands were built for him in the woods.

The Holston Circuit was cut short and he was appointed to New River, by John’s own account a rude and wicked place.  In 1803 John received his last assignment as an itinerant minister on the Hinkstone Circuit.  His extensive travels, however, took a great toll.  After contracting a “breast disease” he left the circuit and studied medicine near Lexington, Kentucky.

In 1805 he married Polly Wynn after returning to Tennessee to practice medicine.  Together they had two sons, one born after John’s death on December 6, 1807.  His final words: “Glory to God and the Lamb forever!”  Polly completed her husband’s journal following his death and noted John had continued to preach as he was able, kept the Bible close and “enjoyed perfect love.”

John Granade never lost his poetic gift, but instead used it to write spiritually uplifting poems and hymns following his dramatic conversion.  Around forty hymns have been attributed to his authorship, including one entitled “Let Thy Kingdom, Blessed Savior” (from the first line).   Later sung to the tune of “Good Shepherd”, the hymn caused one Methodist congregant’s flesh to tremble in 1808, leading him to convert:

Let they kingdom, blessed Saviour,
Come, and bid our jarrings cease;
Come, oh, come and reign forever,
God of love and Prince of peace!
Visit now they precious Zion,
See they people mourn and weep;
Day and night thy lambs are crying,
Come, good Shepherd, feed thy sheep.

Many follow men’s inventions,
And submit to human laws;
Hence division and contentions
Sully the Redeemer’s cause –
Hence we suffer persecution;
While the foolish virgins sleep,
All is uproar and confusion;
Come, good Shepherd, feed thy sheep.

Some of Paul, some of Apollos,
Some of Cephas, none agree;
Jesus, may we hear thee call us,
Help us, Lord, to follow thee;
Then we’ll rush thro’ what encumbers,
Every hindrance overleap,
Fearing not their force or numbers;
Come, good Shepherd, feed thy sheep.

SECOND PART:
Hear the Prince of your salvation,
Saying, “Fear not, little flock,
I myself am your Foundation,
Ye are built upon this Rock;
Shun the paths of vice and folly,
Lest you sink into the deep;
Look to me, and be ye holy,
I delight to feed my sheep.”

Come, good Lord, with courage arm us,
Persecution we’ll not fear;
Nothing, Lord, we know can harm us,
While our loving Shepherd’s near;
Love’s our bond, and Christ our centre –
At his name our hearts do leap;
On the gospel word we’ll venture,
Come, good Shepherd, feed they sheep.

Sweetest of all names is Jesus,
Taught by him, we bear his name;
Christ both comforts us and frees us,
Glad we tell his wondrous fame.
Over death and hell victorious,
Strong is He, his flock to keep;
He will clear our way before us,
The good Shepherd feeds his sheep.

While his public ministry was abbreviated, John Granade was nonetheless effective in preaching the Gospel.  As Richard Nye Price concluded in Holston Methodism, his convictions and struggles were so intensely real as God prepared him for the extraordinary work, brief though it was:

When God has a work to do, he prepares the proper instruments for it.  Conversion never goes deeper than conviction.  The crop does not usually send its roots farther down than the plow has gone.  He that is forgiven much loves much. . . An extraordinary interest, awakened by the Spirit of God in the minds of the people, demanded and justified extraordinary measures.9

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

 © Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

Footnotes:

  1. Holston Methodism: From Its Origin to the Present Time, Volume 2, by Richard Nye Price, 1912, p. 2
  2. Ibid., p. 3
  3. The Makers of the Sacred Harp, by David Warren Steel and Richard H. Hulan, 2010, p. 71
  4. Holston Methodism, p. 3
  5. Holston Methodism, p. 7
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Holston Methodism, p. 9
  9. Holston Methodism, p. 18

3 Comments

  1. Another great Circuit Riding Methodist was Peter Cartwright.

    Reply
    • I saw his name while researching this story.

      Reply
  2. Superb job on Grenade. He was a flash in the pan but did some fantastic work while he worked for God. Interestingly enough the old primitive and regular baptists still sing a few of his songs. Methodist’s have totally abandoned them.

    Reply

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