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Friday October 21, 2016
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Circuit Rider Elijah Pilcher



At a time when lowly farmhands earned up to a dollar a day, Pilcher was paid just $87 a year. That works out to 24 cents a day, the equivalent of $5 today. "Who, not moved by the Holy Ghost to the work of the ministry, would undertake it?" he later wondered. "Long and fatiguing rides were to be performed on horseback; storms were to be breasted; rivers and smaller streams were to be forded and swum; lodgings were to be found in rude log cabins, and sometimes with ruder people..."

This Job-like list of hardships temporarily ended when Pilcher obtained a coveted ministerial station in Ann Arbor in 1837. According to a biography written by his son James, he also served as a U-M regent from 1845 to 1851 and earned a medical degree from U-M in 1859, though he never practiced. But the Methodists kept their ministers moving. Pilcher served as presiding elder for congregations in Monroe, Adrian, Port Huron, Detroit, and Ontario, and founded churches in Detroit, Manchester, Dexter, Chelsea, Saline, Jackson, Grass Lake, Marshall, Coldwater, Hastings, and Ingham County. In between he earned a law degree, helped found Albion College, bought land in Jackson for a farm where, his son wrote, he "evolved vegetables," and wrote editorials for the Kalamazoo Gazette boosting agricultural schools. That helped spur the legislature's establishment of the Michigan Agricultural College, now MSU.

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