compiled by Lynn Fusinato – 2008
Page from Family Bible of Robert B. Blackwell & wife Sarah C. McFarland
According to an obituary of the Rev. John McFarland that appeared in the “Western Christian Advocate” issue published Jan. 15, 1847, John was born sometime between 1782 and 1783 and died in Ste. Genevieve Co. Missouri on Sept 20, 1846. John’s parents were listed as Duncan and Janet McFarland, both natives of Scotland. Reportedly, Duncan McFarland had immigrated to America with an older brother who joined General Wolf’s Army as a grenadier (probably in the 1750’s) and was thought to have died in 1759 during the French and Indian War when Wolf’s forces captured Quebec. John’s parents, Duncan and Janet, both died when John was a small boy and their orphaned children were raised in Robertson Co. TN by Janet’s father, a Presbyterian. John had one brother and two sisters. 
By the time he was 28, John had become an itenerant Methodist-Episcopal minister and was assigned to the Meramec circuit in Missouri (probably named for the Meramec River where it runs along the southern border of St. Louis Co.). The next year (1811), he was placed in charge of the Cape Girardeau and New Madrid circuits. That was the year that the great New Madrid earthquakes first struck that area of Missouri and brought many new Methodist-Episcopal members into folds of his church. According to another preacher, John Scripps, “This year the Lord shook terribly the earth, particularly the circuits of Brother McFarland’s charge. The people became alarmed and fled, many to Christ, but more to the Church, for refuge.” Rev. Scripts also indicated that a Rev. Leven Green was assigned to accompany John McFarland on his circuit route during that year and that when Green won the hand of the prettiest girl in the circuit, McFarland and her many other suitors were so enraged that they did not rest until Green was expelled from the Church .
After the largest quake of that series struck in early 1812, the membership in the Cape Girardeau and New Madrid circuits had grown too large for one man. Shortly after that last quake struck, a Methodist-Episcopal conference meeting was held in the Ste. Genevieve district where John was reassigned to the Meramec circuit and the Cape Girardeau and New Madrid circuits each got their own circuit riders. In 1813 the Meramec and Coldwater circuits were united into one circuit and John shared the circuit with Rev. Richard Conn. In 1814 the “Saline” circuit was formed and it incompassed all of the country between the Meramec river and Apple creek. This circuit included the “New Tennessee” settlement in present day Ste. Genevieve Co., the Callaway settlement in present day Madison Co. and both the Murphy settlement and the Cook settlement in present day St. Francois Co. John probably was assigned to this circuit of 115 members. In 1817 a Rev. Thomas Wright was assigned to the Saline circuit but by 1818, that circuit may have been divided because John McFarland was assigned to the St. Francois circuit while Thomas Wright remained assigned to the Saline circuit. In 1820 the Rev. Thomas Wright was appointed a Presiding Elder and other preachers were assigned the St. Francois and Saline circuits.  John continued to preach and ride circuit in Missouri over the next 20 or so years. When in 1840 the Methodist-Episcopal conference decided it was time to build a permanent meeting house in the Saline district, that stone meeting house was built on land on the western edge of his homestead. By the 1980s that Old Stone meeting house had crumbled to a pile of stones but the cemetery on that site still exists and is called the Old Stone Cemetery.
It was probably around 1814 or 1815 that John married his wife Elizabeth and they settled down on his homestead just southeast of present day Coffman, MO, in the “New Tennesse” settlement of Ste. Genevieve County. There they farmed and reared their eight children: Jane, James D., Margaret, Sarah, John G., Eveline, Emily and Ann. The 1830 Census for Ste. Genevieve Co. shows a young man between the ages of 20-30 lived with John McFarland and his family. The 1840 census shows a Joseph McFarland and his young family living near John McFarland’s household and that Joseph is the right age to have been the young man living with John’s family in 1830.  According to a biosketch of Joseph’s son Jasper McFarland, Joseph had been brought from North Carolina to Ste. Genevieve Co. MO by his parents in 1812 and Joseph remained in that county until his death in 1861.  Since Elizabeth McFarland was much younger than her husband John, it is possible that Joseph was John McFarland’s son by a first marriage and that Joseph’s mother died a few years after the family moved to Missouri. However, because Joseph was not listed in the the Family Bible of John’s son Robert McFarland on the page where the death dates of Elizabeth’s eight children were entered, it seems just as likely that Joseph was the son of John’s brother and the reason Joseph was living with John’s family in 1830 was because Joseph’s parents died in Missouri when he was still a child and his uncle John took him in and raised him.
According to the diary of the Rev. Jerome C. Berryman who came to Missouri in 1827 to be a circuit rider for the Methodist-Episcopal church, “Very shortly after my arrival in Missouri, a camp meeting was held in what was called new Tennessee, Ste. Geneieve Co. I attended in company with my brother Josias . . . Among the citizens living in New Tenneesee were the Hollomans, Pattersons, Counts and Rev. John McFarland. The last was a man possessed of very good natural abilities, and did a good work for his part of the state as a citizen as well as a minister; he left the savor of a good name.” 
The Hollomans and Counts had come by wagontrain from east Tennessee to Missouri in 1810 and settled on homesteads in Cape Girardeau County area. They were living in John McFarland’s circuit when the great New Madrid earthquakes struck in 1811 and 1812 and were probably greatly comforted by him during that difficult period. In late 1812 after John McFarland had been reassigned to the Meramec circuit, these families moved out of the devastated area north to the “New Tennessee” settlement and established new homesteads that were not far from where the Pattersons and John McFarland homesteaded, possibly drawn to that area by John. These families (the Hollomans, Pattersons, Counts and McFarlands) established close ties with each other and to the family of a William Holmes who moved his family from Cooks settlement between 1810 and 1820 to the “New Tennessee” settlement. The children of these families grew up going to church together, becoming close friends and, sometimes, intermarrying. The Rev. John often performed those marriages.
John’s wife Elizabeth died in 1845 and he died in 1846, leaving his younger children orphans who were taken in by his older married children. Two of his daughters died within two years of his death. The other children lived well into adulthood. Most of them married and had children of their own. Reportedly, both John and Elizabeth were buried in the Old Stone Cemetery. Unfortunately, their tombstones have not survived. However, tombstones for one of their sons, two of their daughters and numerous grandchildren, all of whom died after 1864, can be found in that cemetery today.
1. Berryman, Rev. Jerome C. “A Circuit Rider’s Frontier Experiences.”
16 (1925): 177-226. Memoir, completed in 1868.
2. Family Bible of John McFarland, owned by Burton Brown of St. Marys, MO.
3. Houck, Louis, “A History of Missouri: From the Earliest Explorations and Settlements Until the Admission of the State Into the Union”, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Chicago, 1908.
4. Leaton, Rev. James, “Methodism in Illinois from 1793 to 1832”, Walden and Stowe, Cincinnati, 1883, pp. 232
5. Obituary of Rev. John McFarland, “Western Christian Advocate”, Jan. 15, 1846.
6. Wilder, J. T., “Portrait and Biographical Record of Johnson and Pettis Counties, Missouri : containing portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the counties : together with biographies and portraits of all the presidents of the United States”, Chapman Pub. Co., Chicago, 1895, 178-9.
7. 1830, 1840, 1850 Missouri Census.
Page from Family Bible of Robert B. Blackwell & wife Sarah C. McFarland