It was the mention of Matilda Terry Ennis in an old letter dated 1877 that sparked my interest. She was the mother of a Methodist minister, John Wesley Ennis, and was said to "be one of our liveliest preachers" and a "Northern Methodist". I was hooked to uncover all the possible links and to clarify some family legends.
One of the fundamental elements in any family's evolution is the influence of religion in crafting their traditions, values, and daily life. Like vines, the religious and secular histories are often intertwined. Any attempt to understand the one divorced from the other is often a sure guarantee valuable insights will be lost. Understanding a family's religious history is to understand many of their motivations and subsequent actions with far greater clarity.
Evidence from several private records reveal Terry lines that indicate religion was taken seriously. Some joined the Disciples of Christ, Baptist, and other groups, yet there are intriguing clues that seem to suggest some of these early Terry's had a connection to early American Methodism. Not surprising for a group that at one time could claim a church in every county, yet the details are fascinating and illuminate migration and family stories.
William Terry, resident of Boteourt Co. married Rachel Manson on 3 Feb. 1759 in Christ Church in Philadelphia. It was part of the Church of England and, after the Revolution, the group from which the Anglican Church emerged. .
•The spread of Methodism in America parallels the trek of the early pioneers such as Daniel Boone (who cleared the trail into then largely unknown Kentucky in the late 1700's). The early Methodist preachers were not far behind such pioneers. Even before the formal organization of the "American Methodist Church" or the "Methodist Episcopal Church" (1784), there existed an early circuit (a regular route traveled by one minister in order to preach, baptize, and marry) known as the "Holstein Circuit" (Norwood). It covered the area of NE Tennessee, and SW Virginia through which John Terry, son of William, and his wife Esther Brown Terry migrated circa 1790. Other circuits would form, interestingly enough, in Botetourt Co.,Va, in Kentucky, and southern Indiana. All locations into which John Terry and kin were known to have moved.
•The "father" of American Methodism, Frances Asbury (1745-1816) traveled some of those same areas of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee on his own circuit journeys of the late 1700's and early 1800's. His journal records that in 1786 he stopped at "Terry's" on the border of Fairfield and Chester Co. Cited, re notes, as "Tar Yard" on some old maps. In 1807 he stopped at "Terry's" in the upper part of Greenville Co., near Marietta. The notes indicate this should not be confused with the Terry at Fork Shoals 20 miles below Greenville in NC. An 1833 letter reporting on ministerial activities noted "...my first efforts were in Botetourt, Holston, and New River Circuits 40 years ago ...I kept up with [information?] Viz. Nathaniel Tery 4 miles distant in the bent of James River. (Clark, Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury, vol 1.;pg. 446,507,374-75,574)..
•Many of the early Terry letters reveal people of great faith, living as best they could by their moral convictions and standards. They bear witness of the faith to their relatives, relations, and from their deathbeds. An interest in the church and religious matters was evidenced early as revealed by an 1848 letter of William Terry (1785-1869, son of John), to his son John Terry in Red River Co., Texas:"...our preacher is not onto circuits again and that brother Standford is presiding elder in place of brother Harrol and that brother Harrol is stationed at Little Rock." According to the North Arkansas Conference, United Methodist Church, Commission on Archives and History, the 13th session of the conference was held in 1848. The event recorded that a John Hormel served the Little Rock Station. A Russell M. Morgan served the Huntsville Church in the Fayetteville district in 1848, and Thomas Stanford was Presiding Elder of the Fayetteville District. A book "A History of Methodism in Oklahoma"(The Story of Methodism in Oklahoma by J. Y. Bryce and S. H. Babcock, 1929). indicates that in the early years east Oklahoma was considered "Arkansas Territory" and there is a listed there in the early days a "John Harrell". (see the article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma here.)
•Another interesting thing to note relates to names. William's son Martin is thought by some to have also bear the name Francis; this could relate to the "Swamp Fox" of Revolutionary fame or to the early Methodist leader. There is evidence of naming for both in several lines. A strong point of support may be he named one of his sons Lorenz (or Lorenzo) Dow Terry (1845-1894). Lorenz Dow was a fiery, evangelical preacher and one-time Methodist who crisscrossed the early circuit locales of Tennessee and Kentucky in the early years of the nineteenth century. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that at some point the paths of Terry's and Dow actually intersected..
•Certain letters of Martin Terry from the 1850s-1870s reveal a man of strong moral convictions. He comments about the need for prohibition in the Ozarks to curtail the victimization produced in order to create a market for liquor. The problem was the quality of the product sold was often literally deadly and many families were ruined by the death or addictions which resulted. He also had strong political views but that is for another study..
•Martin and his brother John married sisters; Mary Ann and Lucinda Reed were children of Joseph Reed, and a transcript of an oral history project interview with a descendent of this same Reed states he was a Methodist minister. Reed went to Red River, Texas in 1839 and with him was John Terry, whose biography includes mention of a long membership in the Methodist Episcopal South Church. [see "Fine Points of History" interview with Juanita Stiles Cornwell of Clarksville (1980) in East Texas University Archives pg.10,104.;Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas (1880),pg.817,794-5]..
• Rev.Joseph Reed is an interesting study in himself. He is probably a nephew or cousin of a Rev. Joseph Reed/Reid who accompanied the noted Rev. Stephenson into the area of Red River County, Texas between 1817-1820, a time when our Joseph Reed was also in the area. (Steely, Six months from Tennessee, 1982). His daughter Sarah would marry into the Stiles family at Fort Towson. This other early Reed also came out of Kentucky and Tennessee and resided in Hempstead, Arkansas for a time. He was a slave owning minister, thus a vocal supporter of the southern cause, and thus part of the split creating the Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal South prior to the Civil War. Our Reed died in TX in 1839 but from the letters and notations in a family Bible, and a list of settlers, he was in Oklahoma and Indian Territory (Ft. Towson) prior to 1830.
•Letters of the 1860's and 1870's mention Methodism in relation to meetings or revivals in areas of their southwest Missouri relatives. Also mentioned are Cumberland Presbyterians (Reed may have been associated with them as well for a time) and Baptists.
•In one letter dated 9 Nov. 1877, William's daughter, Matilda Terry Ennis, is said to "be one of our liveliest preachers" and a "Northern Methodist". It is possible she was a "deaconess" or merely a very active church woman, but it is interesting to note that in the Holiness Movement of the same period noted Phoebe Palmer, for example, was part of many revival efforts in the New York period from as early as 1857. This reveals a trend toward greater female participation - and some acceptance of the same - among some groups of Methodists..
The ten year silence between the two Terry brothers during and after the Civil War has been attributed to the devastation and rebuilding of the conflict. The conflict took a heavy toll on the families as both sides contributed family to the cause or lost family as part of the illnesses that followed the troops. It may be, however, that once again religion plays an important role in interpreting the silence as the result of conflicting theological and ideological views. Martin's line in Missouri had clear connections to the North via "Northern Methodist" church membership and John in Texas was connected to the "Methodist Episcopal South". This allegiance reveals that probably the brothers took two different sides in the conflict (and military records seem to support this). The wording of the letter that broke the silence (written by the wives) suggest something beyond disrupted mails was at fault. The letter dated 27 September 1867 reads in part: "I am no politician and take no part in political controversy and I exceedingly regret the unhappy circumstances that has made such a deep and lasting wounds in the minds of those that once was friends and are bound by the nearest and dearest ties of kindred relation." The fact the letter was written by Martin's wife to her sister, and the fact she notes the severing of family ties, seems to pointedly highlight the silence was brought on by more than merely the hardship and grief of war. It may have been caused by differences of deep ideological and theological significance to the brothers.
•John King Terry, Martin's son was married in 1861 in Cassville, Mo by "Methodist minister, Keith Hankins" (County record/Civil war pension record).
•There is a persistent story that Martin was a minister as well. No definitive records exist but if he were a Methodist he may have been a lay pastor and records for those individuals were not usually kept at the time. However, the area of the Ozarks where Martin lived was well known as a place difficult to keep ministers and a tradition of lay ministers evolved in many locations, including Barry Co. This may be what is referred to by the oral tradition. [Clark. Ozark Baptizings, hangings, and other diversions, 1984, pg. 78, 98, 147]..
Further research may minimize or correct any Terry connections to early Methodism, but at this point the cumulative evidence presents a strong case for the serious consideration of this relationship, no matter how short-lived. It certainly serves to clarify the dominate role that religion played in the areas through which all the Terry lines traveled on their way west to Missouri.