Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
Moses Franklin Shinn was known for his work within the Methodist Church throughout the Midwest.
The man was born in Hillsboro, Ohio on January 3, 1809. In the early 1840s, he was a Methodist circuit rider with a route that included Birmingham, Philadelphia (the early name for Kilbourne), Keosauqua, Bentonsport, Bonaparte, Utica, Washington and Winchester in Van Buren County, as well as several private homes in Van Buren and Washington Counties.
It is said that he was a very fiery Methodist preacher, but he was just as learned in full deck poker as he was in theology. In the early 1850s, he was sent to Council Bluffs, where he became the presiding elder of the Council Bluffs District of the Methodist Church, which included work over in neighboring Nebraska Territory.
Around 1854, he moved over to Nebraska Territory, and was the first minister in Omaha, where he laid out “Shinn’s Addition” northwest of the city and plotted 10 acres for a cemetery, which he named Prospect Hill.
Along the Platte River, Shinn continued to pioneer, and operated a rope ferry aiding thousands of wagons to cross the Platte River between 1859 and 1872. It is said that he held daily services for travelers using the ferry.
Shinn was not only a powerful leader in the church, but also in the Masonic Lodge. Once asked to denounce Masonry to devote his energy to the church, Shinn left the ministry instead. One of his fellow pastors stood up and asked Shinn to teach him about Masonry and have him inducted into Shinn’s Lodge. One by one, other ministers followed this action and joined in the request. As a result, Masonry became accepted throughout the Methodist Episcopal Church, and this influenced the spread of Freemasons throughout the west.
Before his death in 1885, Shinn was a wealthy man with about $250,000 worth of land holdings. In an effort to be “poor” like it says in the Beatitudes of the Bible, Shinn gave most of it away, until his assets were less than $10,000. Some of the money went to help families, including his own, but most of it went towards building new churches across Iowa and Nebraska.
Shinn was a member of the Fort Madison, Iowa Masonic Lodge. He was buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, in Omaha.
(most of this information is from Wikipedia, the Internet’s free encyclopedia)
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick