This began to change with a decision by Annual Meeting in 1856 which gave conditional approval to the formation of districts by groups of adjoining churches. Final approval to this structure was given in 1866.
The first meeting of this kind (in Northern Indiana) was held in 1857 at the Bethany Church, then known as Solomon's Creek. Another similar meeting was held in 1859 at a love feast near Goshen. This meeting was attended by 25 elders and ministers.
The first meetings which closely resembled today's district conferences were held in 1863. More about that first district conference tomorrow.
Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana, Steve Bowers