Guernsey 'Pilgrim Fathers'

From The Guernsey Free Churchman, February, 1924, and written by the Editor, the Reverend George Rabey. The Sarchet family emigrates to Ohio in 1806.

There were two bands of religious non-conformists, mostly Methodists, who decided to emigrate from Guernsey to new lands in the years 1806-7. One went to Prince Edward Island and established a successful colony there, and the other to what was to become Guernsey County, in Ohio.

Amongst the latter, the recently held and most successful historical pageant stands out, setting forth as it does in picturesque form the dramatic story of 'The Planting of the First Church.' We are indebted to the Reverend James Picot for an interesting newspaper cutting, bearing the above title, from which the facts for this short article are gleaned.

In those days, religious persecution seems to have been an important factor in emigration. At any rate, we read that owing to religious intolerance a small group of French-speaking people boarded a fishing boat at St Peter Port in May, 1806, and sailed for Jersey, where they joined an emigrant ship bound for America. (Readers of Methodist history will remember that Jean de Quetteville had met with violent and bitter opposition from those who cried: 'A tout pécheur misericorde; mais aux Méthodistes la corde!' and tolerance and freedom were by no means faits accomplis thirty years later.)

After a long and stormy voyage of two months, they reached Norfolk, Virginia, and then Baltimore, where they purchased three prairie 'schooners' and set out for Cincinnati.

It is interesting to note that one Thomas Sarchet was the leader of this high-hearted company, who after innumerable difficulties at length reached Cambridge on August 14th, 1806. Here they made a camp of brush, and established friendly relations with American pioneers who had preceded them, one family of whom made a present of green corn to the 'French' strangers. The bonds between these families of settlers were further cemented by the marriage of Cyrus Beatty,¹ a young frontiersman, with Nancy, Thomas Sarchet's daughter.

Be it said that although some of the Guernsey folk were disciples of Clement Brown, the Quaker, the majority were Wesleyan Methodists, for whom Thomas Sarchet became a licensed exhorter. It was he who introduced the first minister to Cambridge in 1806, and the Reverend James Watt took charge of the first Methodist Episcopal Church, organised in Sarchet's home. William Ogier, another Guernseyman, became an ordained minister of this Church.

At the pageant, mentioned above, the main object of which was to give colour, romance, and reality to the early religious history of the place, some of these incidents were introduced, and the descendants of these early Guernsey settlers played an important part. The old copper kettle that had been brought by the Sarchets from Guernsey figured as part of the stage property, and various tableaux portraying the coming of the pioneers, the emigration from Guernsey, the War of 1812, the slave days down to the creation of present day industries, and the recent World War were represented before a crowd of ten thousand people.

The Reverend W H Sarchet, MC, OBE, of Windy Ridge, St Martin's, and Miss Ogier, of Duveaux Farm, are connections of those who helped to blaze the trail of Methodism in that far-off land, and the latter, while on a visit to America a few years ago, met some of the descendants of these Guernsey 'Pilgrim Fathers.'

 See also Guernsey in America, by George Rabey.

¹ The Library has a copy of the rare two-volume History of Guernsey County, Ohio, by Cyrus Parkinson Beatty Sarchet (1828-1913), published in Indianapolis in 1911, which recounts a great deal of this history. There is more about the Sarchets in Edith Carey's 'The beginnings of Quakerism in Guernsey,'published in Guernsey in 1918 on behalf of the Guernsey Society of Natural Science, including a recounting of the tale of Sarchet's near escape from impressment during his journey to America.

See also 'Guernsey County, Ohio' by F. D'A Collings, Review of the Guernsey Society Summer (1986), and 'From Guernsey Channel Islands to Guernsey County, Ohio', by Silvia Hickman, RGS, Spring (1999). If you are interested in this family and would like to know more about their Guernsey ancestry, this and further information is available at the Priaulx Library.