Hoosier Preacher

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JAMES HAVENS

DIED

NOV. 4, 1864

AGED

73 YRS. & 9 MO.

—-

ANNA

WIFE OF

JAMES HAVENS

DIED

MAR. 23, 1864

AGED

75 Years.

I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. I HAVE FINSIHED MY COURSE. I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. HENCEFORTH THERE IS LAID UP FOR ME A CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHICH THE LORD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, SHALL GIVE ME AT THAT DAY, AND NOT TO ME ONLY, BUT UNTO ALL THEM ALSO THAT LOVE HIS APPEARING.

LET BROTHERLY LOVE CONTINUE.

The white marble gravestone of Rev. James Havens can be found in section 1 of the East Hill Cemetery at Rushville, Indiana. The gravestone is described in the National Historic Places of Registration Form as “sculptural” and “a tall marble obelisk crowned with a small pyramid below which is a pediment on each side of the obelisk. The obelisk sits atop a broader base, at the front of which is a nearly full round portrait sculpture of Reverend Havens. A book written about Reverend Havens describes the monument this way, “the beautiful spire which marks his grave is a gift of his own children. Soon after his death, the administrators of his estate, Rev, George Havens and John Dixon, Esq., contracted for the erection of a marble monument at a cost of $2,500, which it was supposed would fully meet the wishes of his friends, and serve as an appropriate memorial of the distinguished itinerant. The stately and beautiful mausoleum is certainly creditable to the family and to the hero whose memory it perpetuates. It is composed of the finest grained Italian marble and exhibits fine mechanical skill and workmanship. And ornamented as it is with a striking bust in bas-relief of “the brave old man,” the presentation is as complete as it is beautiful and appropriate. Some, indeed, may think the display as extravagance, but nothing less would have done justice to the man or the minister, or have given to the present or coming generations any fair conceptions of his worth and virtues.”

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Above the high bas-relief of Reverend Havens on the lower portion of the obelisk is a round metal marker affixed to the gravestone that shows a minister riding a horse.  The image is an appropriate one, especially for the Methodist clergy.  While many denominations had circuit riding ministers during the settlement of the Frontier, no single church grew at the rate of the Methodist church largely because of the horseback evangelism of the Methodist ministers.  In 1784, only 14,986 people belonged to the Methodist Church but by 1839, over 749,216 people were members.  The number of traveling clergy during that time had grown from 83 circuit preachers or “saddlebag ministers” as they were often called to over 3,500 serving congregants in the far-flung reaches of our new and sprawling country.  The circuit riders rode from village to village and met with people in homes, open fields, country stores, and courthouses, nearly anywhere, so they meet the needs of the people living in remote areas.  The tradition of the travelling clergy as they were officially called by the Methodist Church is gone, but Methodist churches can be found in every corner of the country largely because of the efforts of ministers who were willing to live a lonely life on the back of a horse spreading the Word.

Havens was a circuit-riding Methodist minister. Havens had humble beginnings—born in a log cabin in Kentucky. His mother, the daughter of a Baptist Minister, died when Havens was a boy and he was sent to live in Ohio with an older brother. At the age of fourteen James Havens heard the powerful preaching of James Finley, a Methodist circuit riding minister spreading the gospel out in the prairie. Havens was so taken with the message that he joined the church himself and devoted his life to be a life of virtue. Havens eclipsed the fame of his mentor, becoming widely known as the Hoosier Preacher. Havens had a very large circuit in Indiana and was known far and wide.

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The Reverend Havens, according to the Honorable H. Smith, being quoted in a book written about the minister titled, James Havens: One of the Heroes of Indiana Methodism, written by Key. W. W. Hibben published by the Sentinel Company, of Indianapolis in 1872, said, “Mr. Havens was one of the most powerful preachers I ever heard, and I have no hesitation in saying that the State of Indiana owes him a heavier debt of gratitude for the efforts of his long and valuable life, to form society upon the basis of Morality, Education, and religion, than any other man living or dead.”

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