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Erie Cemetery History Project

The Rev. A.M. Earley (1811-1902)

The following biography comes from the minutes of the 64th Session of the Rock River Annual Converence of the Methodist Episcopal Church held in Aurora, IL, in October of 1903.

"The Rev. A.M. Earley was born in Philadelphia June 1, 1811, and died in Erie on December 11, 1902, at the age of 91 years, six months and 11 days. He grew to manhood in the place of his birth, where in 1831 he was married to Miss Christie A Sheed, who died four years later. To them were born three children, only one of whom, Mrs. L.S. Childs, of Erie, is still living. In 1839 he was married to Miss Ruth B. Childs, who died in 1873. To them were born nine children, two of whom are now living, Mrs. P.C. Smith of Beardstown, IL, and Mr. C.W. Earley of Prophetstown. Again in 1877 he was married to Mrs. Mary E. Carpenter of LeClaire, IA, whose loving care and tender ministries were a daily consolation in his declining years.

"Brother Earley was converted in 1836 at the age of 25 and at once joined the M.E. Church. The next year he came west, traveling by boat as far as Cleveland, OH, then on horseback through unbroken forests and across trackless prairies to Plattville, WI. Immediately after his conversion he was made class leader and then exhorter. He soon felt a call to preach the gospel, but being engaged in a lucrative coal and lumber business, employing about 40 men, he struggled for some time against his convictions, but later surrendered to his Lord's will, sacrificing his financial interests for the cause of Christ and the ministry. In 1837 he received his first appointment, which was the Plattville circuit with 20 appointments, requiring four weeks' time and a ride of 200 miles to travel the round. In order to preach Christ to these frontier people, often rude and illiterate, he was obliged to ford dangerous streams, to travel through unblazed forests, to preach in wet and even dripping garments, to ride day after day in frozen clothing and to brave sleet and stream and savage Indian. The first parsonage he occupied was not a steam-heated, electric-lighted, ten-room dwelling, but a log cabin 16 by 20, one story high with puncheon floor (that is, logs split and hewed down to two inches in thickness) and clapboard roof with earth thrown on this roof to the depth of six inches to keep out the cold in winter and the heat in summer. This cabin, lot and pen for horse cost $75. His food was often rather plain, consisting of bacon, corn-dodgers and coffee made out of potatoes sliced and browned, with boiling water poured over them.

"At the time of his death he was the oldest member of the Rock River Conference (of the Methodist Episcopal Church), joining on trial under Bishop Waugh at its organization in 1840 when it included all the northern part of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. His charges were: 1837-38, Plattville circuit; 1839, Lafayette circuit; 1840, Apple River mission; 1841, Freeport; 1842, Sugar River; 1843, Monroe, WI; 1844, Union Grove, Ill; 1845, Buffalo Grove; 1846, Elgin and Dundee; in 1847 he took a superannuated relation because of failing health caused by the hardships of the frontier; 1847-50, Mount Carrol; 1851-52, Melville Mission; 1853, Hanover circuit; 1854, Magnolia; 1855, Washington; 1856, Spring Valley; 1857-58, Albany circuit; 1859-60, Prophetstown; 1861-62, Erie, where he built our church as it was until 1901. In 1862 he took a superannuated relation. In 1870, however, he supplied LeClaire circuit; 1874, Spring Hill; 1875, Wilton circuit, Iowa; and in 1876, Valley City, Iowa. In addition to the above appointments, he served one year in the Bible cause. In 1842, he and Hooper Crews were appointed a committee to take into consideration the advisability of publishing, in the city of Chicago, a religious paper to be called the Northwestern Christian Advocate.

"After 1884, he made his home in Erie, where he had already served three pastorates -- a rather unusual experience for any preacher. He served as Sunday School superintendent of this Sunday School for 15 years and as trustee for 18 years. As a citizen he was interested in the community in which he lived and was elected township supervisor for two years. He was chaplain of the Old Settlers' Association of Whiteside County for 15 years. His consideration of the comforts and welfare of others and his keen sympathy for the unfortunate and the destitute were conspicuous traits in his character.

"He was a kind and tender husband and father. Genial in conversation, affable in his manner and most hospitable in his home.

"Brother Early was pre-eminently evangelistic in his preaching and some sweeping revivals were conducted by him.

"His last testimony was given at prayer meeting, when he said, 'My faith is in God and His power to save through Jesus Christ, His Son; and oh, I would be so happy if He would take me home.' He often said 'There is no work like that of leading men to Christ, and if I had my life to live over again I would give it all to Him.' Patiently he waited until the Master called just as the morning broke Dec. 11, 1902.

"The funeral services were held from the Methodist Evangelical church in Erie on Dec. 14, 1902, conducted by the Rev. E.W. Thompson, his pastor."

(Information provided by the General Comission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church)