- Honorary Degree (1834)
- Master of Arts
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Andrew Wylie
Allen Wiley was born in Virginia in 1789. He was the first child of Moses and Rachel Wiley and was named in honor of his grandfather. His parents had six more children: James, Nancy, Hiram, Elhanan, Mahala, and Addison. His family moved to Kentucky when he was 8 years old and then to Dearborn County in Indiana Territory when was 15 years old.
Wiley joined the Methodist Church in 1810 and became licensed to preach in 1813. In 1811 and 1812, he witnessed firsthand the “great ingathering in the time of the earthquakes” – the religious revival in Indiana Territory accompanying the unprecedented New Madrid earthquakes.
Wiley spent the rest of his life as a minister of the Gospel. Beginning in December 1816, the month Indiana achieved statehood, and continuing until October 1847, he was a circuit preacher, riding on horseback across Indiana to various churches and communities. His assignments usually changed each calendar year. The longest he stayed in any one circuit was four years. He ministered in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Greencastle, Lawrenceburg, Whitewater, Oxford, Madison, Miami, Charlestown, New Albany, Crawfordsville, Brookville, and Brazil. Out of his thirty lifetime appointments, twenty-seven were exclusively in Indiana.
Wiley was recognized as a profound theologian. He was educated and wrote intellectual articles, but he could also preach with frontier zeal and emotion. At the same time he was doing his circuit work, he formed the first Bible societies and early temperance societies of Indiana. He was occasionally a presiding elder and a delegate to the Methodist General Conferences.
Indiana College (now IU) awarded Wiley an honorary Master of Arts degree in 1834. That same year, he became a trustee of the college. In 1838, he became a member of the Board of Visitors of Indiana College. Thirteen days later, when it officially became IU, he became a member of its inaugural Board of Trustees.
In October 1847, at age 58, Wiley retired from circuit riding, with a pension, and moved his family to Vevay. He died in 1848 after a four-day illness. He had been in the itinerant ministry for thirty-one years.
Wiley married Margaret Eads in 1818. They had seven biological children, three of whom survived to adulthood. They adopted a son and daughter, Melville and Julia, who were both born in the fall of 1813. They had another daughter, Almarinda, in 1826.
In 1838, Wiley’s father, Moses, died.
Wiley’s son, Melville, was a pioneer Methodist minister like his father. He died in 1841 at age 27. He left behind a wife and three children.
Wiley’s mother, Rachel, died in 1849. His wife, Margaret, lived until 1856.
Several of Wiley’s male relatives served in the Civil War on both sides of the conflict. These include his namesake grandson, Allen E. Wiley of the 54th Indiana Infantry (son of Melville); son-in-law, Sergeant John Gaither of Company G (discharged in 1862 for disability); son-in-law, Wilber Pettit (who died at age 24 or 25); and nephew, Stephen Gould of the 50th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers (who died three days after his 17th birthday, which was one of the war’s youngest military casualties).
Allen’s brother, Hiram, died in his twenties, but all five of his remaining siblings outlived him by at least twenty years, the last dying in 1899. Wiley’s two daughters lived to 1905 and 1907. His grandson, Edward Swiggett (Almarinda’s son), was a pastor in Ohio for twenty-seven years.
Lauretta Works Borgman, great-great-granddaughter of Allen’s brother, Elhanan, wrote and published religious poetry and hymns including “A Soldier’s Prayer.” Donald Leroy Works, great-great-grandson of Elhanan, was mayor of Rising Sun, Ohio County, Indiana from 1968 to 1980. Patricia Lou Rohrick Hendrick, great-great-granddaughter-in-law of Allen’s brother, James, worked with the Red Cross at disasters in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, South Dakota, and in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
According to one biographer, a non-Methodist lawyer once remarked, “that Allen Wiley had done more to improve the manners and morals of Indiana than any other citizen in it.”