JOHN WESLEY AND THE QUAKERS
VISITS TO A DARTMOOR VILLAGE By HERBERT RICHARDS, Of Penzance.
About 20 miles west of Exeter, on the border of the Dartmoor country, lies the delightful village of Sticklepath. Situated at a considerable height above the sea level, it enjoys all the advantages of the invigorating air, the sparkling streams, and the romantic scenery with which the so-called Dartmoor Forest abounds, and is one of the prettiest villages Devonshire.
Sticklepath derives its name from the steep, or stickle, path that leads up to the surrounding hills. From earliest times man has made his abode on this enchanted spot. Centuries before our civilization it was the scene of human struggles and triumphs. The neighbourhood abounds with objects of historic and prehistoric interest. Sacred avenues and circles, huge menhirs and cromlechs, in fair state of preservation, bear testimony to the crude ambitions of primitive man. Often the plough has turned up the weapons of his warfare and the implements of his toil. The flint arrowhead, the knife, and sometimes the Celt hammer or axe have rewarded the wary antiquary.
FIRST MEETING. The village, lying as it does on the main road from Exeter to Plymouth and Cornwall, was visited various occasions by John Wesley on his journey to and from the Delectable Duchy. His first visit is thus recorded m his journal: –
Sept. 22, 1743. We were riding through a village called Sticklepath when one stopped me in the street and asked me abruptly: “Is not thy name Wesley?” Immediately two or three came up and told me I must stop there. I did so, and before we had spoken many words our souls took acquaintance of each other. I found they were called Quakers. But that hurt me not, seeing the love of God was in their hearts.
Sunday. April 1, 1744, Wesley again visited Sticklepath. The previous day he had ridden from Chard, a distance of nearly 40 miles, to the adjacent village of Crockernwell, a place that afterwards became of some importance as a station to the old coaches running between Plymouth and Exeter. After a heavy journey through storm, hail, and snow, Wesley reached Crockernwell at 9 o’clock in the evening and remained there all night.
FAMILY OF ENDICOT. During his brief Sabbath rest at Sticklepath, Wesley read the account of John Endicot, Governor of New England, and his connection with those who beat and imprisoned so many of the poor Quakers and murdered William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson and others.
“Who would have looked for father inquisitors at Boston?” observed Wesley. “Surely these men did not cry out against Popish cruelty?” It is a striking coincidence, but one which may explain how Wesley met with that particular report at Sticklepath, that Endicot was the most prevalent name in the Dartmoor district, and it is well known that a family bearing that name and belonging to that neighbourhood were among the early emigrants to New England, from which family Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain traced her descent.
The next day Wesley preached at 5 a.m., and afterwards left for Launceston. On the afternoon of the 17th the great evangelist returned to Sticklepath and again conducted Divine service, and afterwards left for Crediton, some thirteen miles distant, only to find the town reduced to ruins as the result of a recent fire.
Wesley next visited Sticklepath on Monday, September 1, 1746, when on his way to Cornwall with T. Butts. Early in the morning of that day, having conducted a service, they left Middlezoy, near Bridgwater, for the long ride of 60 miles to the Devonshire village. It was a day of heavy rain, and by noon the travellers were thoroughly wet. They reached Sticklepath in the evening, and left early next day for Plymouth Dock.
LAST RECORDED. On Tuesday, September 16, Wesley paid his last recorded visit to his Quaker friends of Dartmoor. That Wesley should have elected on various occasions to stay the night at Sticklepath, in preference to Exeter or Okehampton, is suggestive that, his friendship with this people was of more than ordinary interest to him.