One of the many notable collections in the Flavia Reed Owen Special Collections and Archives is the Methodist Collection, the historic archive of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Music has always been important part of Methodist church services, and the collection includes numerous hymnals.
This rare 1820 hymnal (only 4 known copies in libraries) was owned by Gabriel Poillon Disosway, a native New Yorker who became perhaps the strongest proponent for a college to be established by the Virginia Conference, ultimately leading to Randolph-Macon College in 1830. Disosway graduated from Columbia University in 1819 and came to Petersburg, where he was a great friend of Rev. Hezekiah Leigh and it has been hypothesized that Disosway is the one who most strongly influenced Leigh into pushing for a Methodist college in Virginia. Disosway was appointed to the committee formed in 1825 that looked at founding a college, although he left Virginia to return to New York in 1828 before the college became a reality. His original signature can be seen in the upper right hand corner of this title page, while the penciled name to the left of it was added later by someone else. It is unknown whether he left the hymnal behind when he went back to New York, gave it to a friend, or passed it on later to someone in Virginia.
Another rare hymnal in the collection, also with only 4 known copies in libraries, is this 1825 volume collected by Rev. Lewis Skidmore, of “…the latest social and camp-meeting hymns….” Camp meetings were evangelical religious gatherings held outdoors that were of particular importance in the spread of Methodism in the nineteenth century, and music played a big role at these revival meetings.
To learn more about the Virginia Methodism Collection, please visit https://library.rmc.edu/library/specialcollections or email archives [at] rmc.edu.