These California Pioneers were full of Faith & Vision!

   The pioneer Protestant organization north of the bay was in Sonoma.  On December 14, 1850, Isaac Owen and his saddlebags went to Sonoma for its first quarterly conference.  No pastor had yet been on the field.  The minutes of the meeting indicate that five men were present, including Owen, while the names of three others not in attendance are mentioned.  The minutes of that first meeting are short but striking:

  • “Question:  Is there any advisory business?  Answer:  Yes.

  • Resolved that it is expedient to include in the Sonoma Circuit Bodega County, the Russian River neighborhood, Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley.

  • Resolved that when it is convenient for the agent of the American Bible Society to visit this part of California, we will cooperate with the Bible cause.

  • Resolved that as a circuit we will cooperate with other circuits on this California District in establishing a University of Learning in California under our care.”

    A fourth resolution named an estimating committee to fix the salary of the presiding elder (there was, you remember, no pastor yet).  The next quarterly meeting was set for the first Saturday and Sunday of March, 1851, and the meeting was adjourned.

    In other words, this infant, pastorless church on the day of its birth proposed to stake out a claim of 250 square miles which it would cultivate for the Lord, to cooperate in spreading the Bible, and in starting a university, and to raise the support of its local and administrative ministry!

    As evidence of what actually came about, consider the strong churches that sprang up on the Sonoma Circuit, - Napa, - Santa Rosa, - Petaluma, and as many others that are not so large.  Also there were Martinez, Benicia, that have disappeared from the roll with the passing years.  Sonoma was the mother church of North Bay Methodism.                

    What did the circuit riding preachers do with their time?  Records from the Sonoma Circuit, California District, Oregon and California Mission Conference, 1851, gives one answer.  These appointments were filled generally once in two weeks from February to August, 1851.  The usual round has been:  Preaching on Sunday at Vallejo, Benicia & Martinez.  The next Monday night in Napa.  Tuesday at 8PM near Bro. Harbins’.  Wednesday at 8PM near Bro. Kellogg’s.  Thursday at 3PM at Mr. Gordon’s on the Russian River.  Friday , 12 Noon, at Bodega.  Saturday at 12 Noon at Mr. Elliot’s.  Sunday at Sonoma, two or three sermons...


 - Taken from the book:  In Search of God’s Gold

A collection of historical accounts of California’s Methodist Church History - Page 49-51

* Special Note:  The routinely travelled circuit described in the last paragraph above, if they could cross two bodies of water by boat, was at least 200 miles from start to finish.

                             This was travelled on horseback, but often on foot as well!