Chronology of the life of the Reverend Benedict Swope, Sr.
(alts - Schwab, Schwob, Schwop, Schwope)
Contributed by Gary Farley, Conyers, Georgia - 1981
CAVEAT: This chronology pertains to other areas and not specifically Pettis County.
1730 --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 in Alexandria, Virginia.)
1752 --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.
1754 --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 men.)
1763 --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.
1768 -- His name appeared on a petition to move the Carroll County seat to Baltimore.
1769 -- Examined for ordination by the Reformed Synod of Germantown, PA. He may well have been preaching at Pipe Creek by then. Significant controversy followed.
1770 -- (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 congregation. Farber 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 Dutch coetus. They 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.
1771 -- Toward the end of the year or early in the next he became acquainted with FrancisAsbury, 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 were the source of the Wesleys' methods and inspiration and now Asbury inspires the Germans to move more into the Wesleyan/Pietist practice.)
1772 -- 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.
1773 -- Sought to get Otterbein to become pastor of Baltimore congregation.
1774 -- Otterbein came. 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.
1776 -- 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.
1777 --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.)
1778 --Took Oath of Fidelity to the USA. Held money for the use of the army. This qualified him as a Patriot.
1779 --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.)
1780 --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.)
1781 --He bought 1000 acres on the Dicks River adjoining Baughman's Settlement. (Family tradition holds that this sons built William Whitley's brick mansion at Crab Orchard about this time. Son David was an artist and George a tanner by trade.)
1782 --George Stokes Smith wrote in his journal about hearing Swope, a Methodist preacher, preach at Gilbert's Creek Baptist Church (L. Craig's famous traveling church). Son John was killed by Indians at Long Run, Jefferson County. Rev. David Rice, Presbyterian, arrived in KY.
1784 --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.)
1785 --Rev. Swope bought an additional 1000 acres on Dicks River in Lincoln County.
1786 --First regular Methodist ministers came to KY.
1788 --Ref. in Lincoln County Court Order Book. Produced credentials and made bond to perform weddings. Presbyterian. (Renewed in 1792.) I found several weddings that he performed.
1789 --Listed by the United Brethren in Christ ministers 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.)
1792 --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, 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. Incidentally, 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 became governor.
1795 --Mrs. Swope died.
1797 --Goodin's Fort in Nelson County passed into the hands of B. Swope Jr., not Sr., as a Filson article stated.
1808 --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.
1810 -- 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 have searched.
1812 --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. (Another may have been in Bardstown.)
1823 --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 beinrg either 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 not 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.)
But 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 became ministers.
Revised: July 14, 1994