Wesley Monument - Fort Pulaski, Georgia
Wesley Monument - Fort Pulaski, Georgia
This simple monument on the grounds of Fort Pulaski
National Monument in Savannah commemorates the
arrival of Rev. John Wesley in Georgia.
Rev. John Wesley, founder of
the Methodist Church, first set
foot in America on Cockspur
Island at Savannah, Georgia.
Wesley Monument - Fort Pulaski N.M., Georgia
Methodist Founder in Georgia
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: February 24, 2013
Christian Landmarks of the South
John Wesley in America
Cockspur Island was known
by the curious name of "The
Peeper" when Rev. Wesley
Mouth of the Savannah
The ship that brought Wesley
to America sailed into these
waters at the end of its long
Rev. John Wesley, the noted founder of the
Methodist Church, preached his first sermon
on American soil at what is now Fort Pulaski
National Monument near Savannah, Georgia.
The arrival of the religious leader and the site
of the sermon are commemorated by the
Wesley Monument. The simple memorial
can be seen down a walkway not far from the
historic fort for which the park is named.
John Wesley already was a noted religious
leader by the time he came to Georgia in
1736. The 15th child of Rev. Samuel and
Susannah Wesley, he had grown up in a
family that placed great value on piety and
religious study. He father was rector of the
Anglican church in Epworth, England, when
John was born.
After studying at Charterhouse School and
Christ Church, the young evangelist to be
became a fellow at Lincoln College in Oxford,
England, in 1728. He was then 25 years old.
Because John and his brother Charles
attempted to live their lives through careful
habits that reinforced their Christian beliefs,
they were jokingly referred to as "Methodists"
by their friends. The ridicule over their
methodical ways, ironically, created a name
for the modern Methodist church.
By 1735, the Wesley brothers had achieved
note as evangelists and decided to expand
their efforts to the new colony of Georgia. To
lead this effort, John and Charles Wesley
sailed across the Atlantic in the company of
the colony's founder, James Oglethorpe,
making friends with Moravian colonists
during the voyage.
The ship carrying the Wesley brothers arrived
at the mouth of the Savannah River on
February 5, 1736. Savannah was not yet
three years old at the time.
As he recorded in his journal, John Wesley
and the others of his party first set foot on
American soil on Cockspur Island the next
Fri. 6, - About eight in the morning I first set
my foot on American ground. It was a small
uninhabited island,...over against Tybee,
called by the English Peeper Island. Mr.
Oglethorpe led us through the moorish land
on the shore to a rising ground.
Wesley's description of Cockspur Island,
once called Peeper Island, is quite valid
today. The shores of the island are marshy or
"moorish," but near its center it rises just
enough to provide a core of firm ground.
It was on this ground that John Wesley
conducted his first service in America on
February 6, 1736:
...We chose an open place surrounded with
myrtles, bays, and cedars, which sheltered us
both from the sun and wind, and called our
little flock together to prayers.
After a brief stop on Cockspur, the
passengers went on upriver to the new city of
Savannah. There John Wesley met the
famed chief, Tomochichi, who headed the
Yamacraw village that stood atop the bluff
where Oglethorpe founded Savannah.
The chief told Wesley that he and his people
had been unwilling to become Christians in
the way that the Spanish made converts, but
wished instead to be taught Christianity
before making their decision to adopt it. The
evangelist responded that only God could
provide wisdom and that it would be up to
Him whether the two brothers would be able
to provide instruction to Tomochichi and his
On Sunday, March 7, 1736, John Wesley
preached his first sermon at Savannah itself.
The focus was 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and
angels, but have not love, I have become a
sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And
though I have the gift of prophesy, and
understand all the mysteries and all
knowledge, and though I have all faith, so
that I could remove mountains, but have not
love, I am nothing....
In Savannah, however, Wesley soon found
himself at odds with a number of his
parishioners for a number of different
reasons. The dispute grew so intense that
he was charged to appear before the local
court and two presentments were made
against him by the grand jury.
The controversy became so severe that John
Wesley left America for good on December
22, 1737. Leaving Charleston on board the
ship Samuel, he wrote on Christmas Eve
that, "We sailed over Charleston bar, and
about noon lost sight of land."
Despite the manner in which he left Georgia,
Wesley did later note that a significant event
in the founding of the Methodist Church took
place there. According to the evangelist, the
second major event in the development of
the church took place in Savannah when
"twenty or thirty persons met at my house" in
The parsonage for Christ Church, to which
he referred, then stood immediately west of
Reynolds Square in Savannah. A monument
to John Wesley now stands on Reynolds
Square and a marker there notes the nearby
site of the parsonage.
Christ Church, where Wesley served as
rector while in Savannah, was founded in
1733 and is called the "Mother Church of
Georgia." The present structure faces
Johnson Square and was consecrated in
The Wesley Monument at Fort Pulaski
National Monument is located down a
walkway just north of the parking lot for the
historic fort. It stands in a secluded spot near
Battery Hambright and can be visited daily.
John Wesley preached his
first sermon in America on the
grounds of today's Fort
Pulaski National Monument
on February 6, 1736.