Methodist Church records from 1844 record a church membership of over 1 million, with 4,000 ministers riding circuits in the U.S. These preachers spreading the word were a different breed, says historian Dale Patterson.
Typically, circuit riders traveled 200 to 500 mile routes on horseback. At times, they preached every day. Sometimes circuits were so large that it took six weeks to complete a cycle. Exhaustion, illness, animal attacks, and unfriendly encounters were constant threats.