John Atkinson (1884). History of American Methodism, Inclusive of Its Ecclesiastical Organization In 1784 And Its Subsequent Development Under the Superintendency of Francis Asbury: With Sketches of the Character And History of All the Preachers Known to Have Been Members of the Christmas Conference; Also, an Appendix, Showing the Numerical Position of the Methodist Episcopal Church As Compared With the Other Leading Evangelical Denominations In the Cities of the United States; And the Condition of the Educational Work of the Church. New York: Phillips & Hunt.
Of Mr. Poythress’s early years little is known. He was born about the year 1745. He, probably, was a native of Virginia, where he was converted in his early manhood. He inherited a considerable estate and became dissipated. He was led to repentance by the conversation and reproof of a lady of elevated position in society. He began to read the Bible and to pray in secret. He sought a religious guide, but, such was the character of the clergy in Virginia at that day, he found none. He heard of the Rev. Deveraux Jarratt and obtained his counsel. He remained for some time with Mr. Jarratt, and at length obtained the forgiveness and peace he sought. He was moved to proclaim the Saviour he had found, and quickly went forth to preach. This was before he became acquainted with the Methodists. In one of his evangel- ical journeys he met a Methodist preacher, who furnished him the means of becoming acquainted with Method- ism. As a result, he united with the Methodists and joined the primitive itinerant band. He became a Methodist preacher in 1775, under the authority of a quarterly meeting in Brunswick Circuit, Virginia. His name appears in the Minutes of 1776. “ Henceforth,” says Dr. Redford, “in North Carolina, Maryland, and Kentucky, he was to be a representative in an of the struggling cause. In 1783 he bore its standard across the Alleghenies to the waters of the Youghiogheny. From 1786 he served it with preeminent success as a presiding elder. Asbury nominated him for the episcopate, in a letter addressed to the Conference, at Wilbraham, in 1797. The preachers refused to comply with the request simply upon the ground that it was not competent in a yearly Conference to elect Bishops. Poythress was to the South-west what Jesse Lee was to New England—an apostle.” Mr. Poythress was of about medium height and of stout frame. In 1788 he was appointed to superintend the work in Kentucky. Thenceforth, until his itinerancy ceased, he was a voice crying in the wilderness. To Kentucky he gave nearly all his remaining years. There he presided at the Conferences and stationed the preachers when Asbury was absent. He saw the importance of education, and, as we have seen, labored to establish the Bethel school in the new State. Asbury was a judge of men, and the work he assigned to Poythress, together with the fact that he desired him to share the labors and honors of the episcopate, shows how he estimated his capacity and his worth. It is said that the administrative abilities of Poythress were great. He had the bearing of a Well-bred gentleman. He was remarkable for his gift in prayer, but his talents as a preacher were not extraordinary. We have seen that a cloud settled upon the life of this brave and devoted itinerant. For some time while he prosecuted his work he showed a degree of mental disturb- ance. The exposures and hardships of his life in the wilderness, in connection with a melancholy tendency of mind, may have destroyed his cerebral equilibrium. At any rate he was driven from the ﬁeld by insanity, and William McKendree, who was sent by Asbury from Virginia to take his place, was thereby introduced to the West. Mr. Poythress retired from his labors about 1800. He died insane at the house of his sister, Mrs. Prior, about twelve miles from Lexington, Kentucky, in or near 1818.
Carter, Cullen Tuller (1959). Methodism in the wilderness, 1786-1836. Nashville: Parthenon Press.
Arnold, W. Erastus. (1935). A history of Methodism in Kentucky. Louisville, Ky.: The Pentecostal Pub. Co. Herald press.
Rev. James B. Finley (1855). Sketches of western Methodism: biographical, historical, and miscellaneous. Illustrative of pioneer life. Ed. by W. P.
Strickland. Finley, James B. (James Bradley), 1781-1856. Cincinnati: Printed at the Methodist book concern, for the author, 1855.
John Lednum (1859). A history of the rise of Methodism in America: containing sketches of Methodist itinerant preachers, from 1736 to 1785 … Also, a short account of many hundreds of the first race of lay members, male and female, from New York to South Carolina. Philadelphia: the author, 1859.
Rev. M. H. Moore (1884). Sketches of the pioneers of Methodism in North Carolina and Virginia. Nashville, Tenn., Southern Methodist Publishing House.
Rev. A. H. Redford (1868). The history of Methodism in Kentucky. Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1868-70
Bennett H. Young & S. M. Duncan (1898). A history of Jessamine County, Kentucky, from its earliest settlement to 1898. Louisville, Ky.: Courier-journal job printing co., 1898.