The name of Francis Asbury has been indelibly imprinted on the pages of United States history, and so has that of one of his proteges. Scholars remember Asbury today as the “Founding Father of the American Methodist Church,” but few give him credit for having a part in providing the residents of Indiana with their nickname.
It just so happens that while Asbury was preaching all of those sermons and riding all those miles evangelizing America, he met an illiterate former slave who had obtained his freedom and converted to Methodism. Asbury took the African-American under his wing and helped him memorize scripture, hymns, and sermons. Before long, the black man, whose name was Harry, was drawing crowds as large as those of his mentor.
In time, Harry went out on his own to hold camp meetings on the frontier, which at that time had reached the Ohio Valley. Harry set his sights on Indiana, and soon had sinners flocking to the mourner’s bench by the hundreds.
Even though he was illiterate, such was Harry’s memory that upon hearing Scripture or hymns he could recite them with the greatest of accuracy. Thus armed, Harry traveled by horseback preaching through the backcountry of the frontier with tremendous success, especially in Indiana...