The first introduction of Methodism on this island was subsequent to the Revolutionary war. The Baptists then had a flourishing society, chiefly consisting of residents of Tisbury, but numbering some from other towns on the island. The Congregationalists were here from the earliest settlement, and were often spoken of as “the standing order.”

During the year 1787, a vessel commanded by Capt. Thomas Luce, of Tisbury, - who afterwards lost his eyesight, in taking a solar observation, and was generally spoken of, as “the blind man,” - left a port in Virginia, bound north, with a load of corn. The night before she sailed, two slaves came on board and were secreted in the corn. These were John Saunders, a pure African, and Priscilla, his wife, who was half white. They were slaves to a Virginia planter, and both were zealous christians, and Methodist speakers.

After a pleasant passage, they arrive at Holmes Hole, now Vineyard Haven, where they held several meetings. Crossing the harbor to the East Side, they repaired to the house of Col. Davis, not far from what is now familiarly known as the Camp-Ground, where they met with a hospitable reception, and were invited to move into the little school house, standing a few rods east of the Colonel’s residence. Here, or in this neighborhood, was born John Saunders, well known for his great strength, and as a singer and dancer. Here, too, died Priscilla, the wife of the minister. After living five or six years in this place, he located at Chappaquiddick, where he preached as usual, and became acquainted with Jane Diamond and married her.

His marriage and residence caused the Indians to become exasperated against him. His African descent and his earnest protests against their many vicious habits are supposed to have aroused their resentment. It may have been owing to these causes, or to their opposition to spiritual religion, and their dislike to him as a man of prayer, earnest and faithful in his labors for their good, that Saunders was murdered in the woods. At least, the late Jeremiah Pease, Esq., who took pains to gather all the facts in the case, has been heard to say that, judging from all the circumstances which had come to his knowledge, John Saunders was a martyr.

Close by the Camp Ground, there now lives a grand-daughter of this early minister, Mrs. Priscilla Freeman, of good report among all who know her. Her sweet-toned voice is often heard in prayer and conference meetings; and few women can more effectively promote the interests of a cause which commands their sympathy, than can Priscilla when she personally appeals to those whose judgment or sympathy she desires to enlist.

Some years after the advent of these christian slaves, Jesse Lee, so famous in the history of New England Methodism, came to Martha’s Vineyard, and preached the glad tidings of salvation to every one willing to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Of Lee’s visit and of the labors of Saunders and others in the early days of Methodism on Martha’s Vineyard, very full particulars are to be found in a manuscript Essay by Rev. Hebron Vincent, of Edgartown, which it is to be hoped may one day be given to the world in a more permanent form.

The material for this article is chiefly from a communication furnished me by a worthy citizen of Edgartown, Samuel Butler, Esq., whose homestead adjoins the Camp=Ground, and who, at the ripe age of four score years and upwards, still lives to think and write. Other matter from his pen I hope to send you soon.