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Centennial of Canadian Methodism
Historical Sketch of Methodism in the Eastern Provinces

By the Rev. John Lathern, D.D.

“A hundred years ago! What then?
There rose, the world to bless,
A little band of faithful men,
A cloud of witnesses.”
—James Montgomery.

IN tracing a river to its source a number of springs are often found, and it is not always easy to distinguish between head-waters and tributaries. And so in regard to the rise of Methodism in the Eastern Conferences of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, we meet with more than one date of consecrated interest. A year before the introduction of Methodism into the United States, in 1775, Laurence Coughlin began his evangelical labours in Newfoundland. But the Rev. William Black was the founder of organized and perpetuated Wesleyan societies, and is justly regarded as the Apostle of Methodism in the Eastern Provinces. He was converted to God at a prayer-meeting held near Amherst in 1779. Several Yorkshire families had come out recently from England to occupy lands vacated by exiled Acadians. Scenes of Wesleyan revival were familiar to them. William Black was then nineteen years of age, at the formative period of life, and full of bright, intellectual promise. Through genuine spiritual change he was led along unconsciously to a new history. As in the case of St. Paul, Luther, John Wesley, and other leaders of Christian thought and action, whose hearts have been “strangely warmed,” that experimental fact of conversion held in it the germ of all that followed; flaming evangelism and soul-saving results, throwing over an otherwise inexplicable movement the luminous light of heavenly law.

The gifts of William Black were at once exercised in testimony and prayer. He saturated his mind with Wesley’s evangelical sermons, while glorious hymns moulded his theology and enriched his vocabulary for the proclamation of a free and full salvation;

“To praise the Lamb who died for all,
The general Saviour of mankind.”

The country was then new, having a population of about twelve thousand, and there must have been great spiritual destitution. Labourers were few. On the 10th of November, 1781, manifestly called to special work, the youthful evangelist started on his first excursion. The whole land was before him. He crossed the Tantramar marshes to forest settlements, and the log dwellings of lonely woodsmen, dotting the region between Amherst and the Petitco-diac river.

But in Pauline spirit and purpose, and with a genius for evangelism, William Black began to look at once to centres of population, whence lines of influence might radiate to extremities of the land. Windsor became an objective point of his mission. Failing to reach it by way of the Avon, rounding the magnificent Blomidon, he landed at Cornwallis. On the 26th of May, he preached his first missionary sermon in Nova Scotia. We may well emphasize the date. On that memorable Sabbath, from ocean to ocean, through all the territory of what is now the Dominion of Canada, there was not another Methodist preacher. As might* be expected, themes of supreme and infinite glory were announced on the occasion. His first text—the first also of Francis Asbury on this continent—was the affirmation of St. Paul: “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.55 Passing through the land of Evangeline, Windsor was reached on the 5th of June, and, after a brief visit to the capital, he was back again to that town on the 16th. Congregations overflowed, an open-air service was held, souls were saved, a meeting for spiritual fellowship was organized, and Sabbath services were closed and crowned by a love-feast. The work proved to be of a genuine and permanent character, developed on thoroughly Wesleyan lines. Here, then, we stand beneath the morning sky, full of bright promise ; an organized Methodism of the Maritime Provinces.


The reflection of revival, like a pillar of light suddenly kindled in a dark place, caught the eye of distant watchers. In response to urgent appeal, Mr. Black became at once an itinerant preacher, and soon an immense circuit was formed. It led on the eastern side through an unbroken forest to Halifax, and extended westward down a noble valley, from the Avon to Annapolis. Consequent upon the closing of the revolutionary war, the year 1783 became one of memorable and historic interest in the country, for that summer the Loyalists landed in the Eastern Provinces. They came with a purpose to hew out homes from the forests primeval of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick ; so that again, as with the Pilgrim Fathers,

“The sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.”

By a coincidence which one cannot but regard as providential, that great evangelistic movement initiated by Mr. Black took definite shape just in time to become a mighty moulding influence for a new population, estimated at not less than twenty thousand, and to form a potent factor in the development of a fine type of national and religious life in the Provinces.

On the 7th and 8th of May, 1783, sixteen sail of ships, with emigrants from New York, of whom a few were old John Street Methodists, anchored at Port Rose way, on the western part of Nova Scotia. Town lots were drawn, soldiers’ tents furnished by Government, and there was a dream of making Shelburne a seat of future magnificence, in commerce and structures. The itinerant was soon on the ground, and, standing at a table in front of one of the tents, surrounded by the stumps of newly felled forest trees, he proclaimed the message of a great salvation. But the Word did not run and burn as at Liverpool on the same shore. There was amongst the Loyalists an element of ecclesiastical exclusiveness, and perhaps a recklessness generated by revolutionary experiences. From the outskirts of the crowd, a stone was hurled with force at the undaunted preacher, and he was threatened with vengeance. But he had the firm support of a little band of brethren, soon to be strengthened by an important accession. Another fleet of ships reached Shelburne the same fall, and Mr. John Mann arrived with the refugees. He had been a local preacher in New York, and with his brother, Mr. James Mann, was soon after summoned to the ranks of an itinerant ministry.

Coasting a rocky shore, where “ forests murmur and the surges roar,5’ Mr. Black visited La Have, Liverpool and Shelburne. The itinerancy of that second year, 1783, comprised also repeated journeys through the Annapolis valley, visits to the Cumberland congregations, and an excursion across the gulf to Prince Edward Island, then known as St. John’s. Leaving Cumberland early in the spring of 1784, the intrepid pioneer sailed from Halifax, on his second missionary-tour, to settlements on the Atlantic coast. A visit was made to Birchtown, adjacent to Shelburne ; a community of colored people, mostly liberated slaves and refugees, arrivals with the Loyalists. Here fourteen classes were formed. The work there arrested the attention of the venerable Wesley, as with still undimmed eye he scanned the various parts of his world-wide parish, and he regarded it “as a wonderful instance of the power of God.” These families were mostly shipped away by the British Government to Sierra Leone, on the western coast of Africa, and there they furnished the nucleus of the first Methodist mission to the Dark Continent.

Thus from the surf-beat of the Atlantic to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, a vast circuit was formed within the space of a little more than two years. Very great must have been the exposure and fatigue of such travel in a new country. Reminiscences of old people afford an occasional glimpse of the condition of new settlements in this part of America. Roads through the interior were rough and almost impassable. Shores were skirted by dense woods down to the water’s edge. A single log was not always at hand to bridge the swollen and rapid stream. Often there was a perplexity as to which of the obscure paths might lead safely to destination. And welcome indeed to the preacher, amid the silence and seclusion of the deep and dense forest, were the shelter and hospitality of a log cabin, such as he might reach after long and weary hours of solitary travel. But the aspirations of the itinerant were scarcely to be bounded by the limits of the Eastern Provinces; and, prizing such indomitable energy, but knowing how to give prudent counsel, Wesley reminded him that Nova Scotia (then understood to include New Brunswick) and Newfoundland were sufficient for one circuit, and it was not expedient to take in any part of the United States.

John Wesley’s letters to William Black (originals of which were for some time in possession of the writer) began early in 1783, and were continued to the elose of life. They give evidence of a deep solicitude, habitual to the mind of England’s great Apostle, for the promotion of a genuine work of God in the Provinces. At first, it was thought that preachers might be sent out from England; but Wesley’s plan was to send only volunteers to America, and such did not offer. One or two, it was thought, might be spared from the United States. Acting upon the hint, his youthful correspondent started at once for Baltimore.

The now historic “Christmas Conference” of 1784 was to meet there under the presidency of Rev. Dr. Coke, who, in association with Francis Asbury, had been designated by Wesley for episcopal office and administration, thus paving the way for the perfected organization of the Methodist Church in America. Mr. Black’s eloquent appeal to the

Conference evoked a deep sympathy for the work in the Provinces. His enthusiasm fired also the soul of Coke with a missionary zeal, which soon after flashed into the brightness of holy and unexampled enterprise, and which continued to burn with pure and ceaseless flame until he found a grave in the eastern seas. Freeborn Garrettson and James 0. Cromwell were ordained and appointed to the mission in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, reaching Halifax early in 1785.

Garrettson, charged with the oversight of the work, though young, was a seasoned veteran in the service, as modest as he was meritorious, and as heroic as he was heavenly-minded. He had been born to wealth, but all was freely given up for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s. Halifax, where a place of worship was rented, formed a small part of his extensive circuit. He visited all parts of the Province; traversing mountains and valleys, frequently on foot, and knapsack at his back; threading Indian paths up and down through the wilderness, where it was not expedient or practicable to take a horse; wading through morasses of wood and water; satisfying hunger and thirst from knapsack and brook by the way, while at night he had sometimes to rest his weary limbs on a bed of forest leaves. But there was compensation for toil and self sacrifice. He had seals to his ministry. Even in communities such as Barrington, where there was at first a chill reception, New Light was dissolved, and he witnessed triumphant scenes of saving mercy. In 1785, Nova Scotia found a place for the first time on the Minutes of Wesley’s Conference.


The first meeting of ministerial brethren in the Eastern Provinces, for conferential purposes, took place in Halifax, in the autumn of 1786. It was hoped that Dr. Coke— bishop in America—might be present. He had left England about the middle of October, bound for the Provinces, accompanied by three missionaries. But unknown to the brethren, under stress of ocean-tempest, the brig had drifted away to the West Indies, where a beginning was made in what proved subsequently to be a glorious and successful mission. In addition to Mr. Black, the ministerial staff comprised Messrs. Garrettson, Cromwell, John Mann, James Mann, and William Grandine, formerly of New Jersey. In 1787, Garrettson being needed for a larger field, he and his associate returned to the United States. It is probable that John Wesley and Dr. Coke continued to regard the episcopal form of church government as the most suitable for all parts of America, and so James Wray was ordained in 1788 for the supervision of the work in the Eastern Provinces. Wesley marvelled at this juncture to learn from “ one just come from Halifax,” that objection was made to the superintendency of an Englishman. But in a new country, especially in this land of the Loyalists, experience, as well as gifts and graces, was a necessary qualification for an efficient discharge of episcopal functions. Mr. Wray must have been conscious of this fact. He sought more genial work in the West Indies, where, two years later, he died “in resignation, peace and holy joy.” In 1789, Nova Scotia was excluded from the Minutes of the English Conference, and in the same year Mr. Black was ordained at Philadelphia by Bishops Coke and Asbury. He was at once appointed to the superintendency in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

The death of the immortal Wesley, March, 1791, must have seemed like a final severance1 of these Eastern missions from the English Conference, and that summer found Mr. Black at Philadelphia in consultation with Dr. Coke as to the future of his charge. The policy then adopted was one of close and organized relation to the Methodism of the United States. In that year 1791—signalized also by the first regular appointment to Upper Canada—the New York Conference appointed six preachers to circuits in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. On the American Conference Journal, stations appeared as follows : William Black, Elder; Halifax, William Jessop, John Mann ; Liverpool, Thomas Whitehead ; Shelburne, William Early; Cumberland, Benjamin Fiddler; Newport, John Cooper; St. John, John Pagan ; Annapolis, James Boyd. Two or three other preachers followed in the footsteps of these pioneers during the later years of the century. But the stay of these American preachers in the Provinces came to be transient and uncertain, a matter to be deeply regretted, as they possessed the requisite qualifications for a rough itinerancy in a new country. Early departure could not have been due to the nature of mission work, for they were inured to hardship. It may not have been congenial to encounter dominant loyalist feeling. But the thought returns that the main cause of hurried departure, remembering that there was then no missionary society, was the strain of inadequate financial resources. The last of the preachers who had laboured for longer or shorter periods in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, returned in 1799 to the United States. It now became a policy of necessity to look .to English Methodism, then beginning to flame with missionary zeal, for requisite ministerial supply.


When, in tentative excursion, William Black first crossed the Tantramar marshes, a vast forest territory stretching away to the boundaries of the United States formed the county of Sunbury, a part of Nova Scotia. But soon after the arrival of the Loyalists, it was created into a province, and received the name of New Brunswick.

On the 18th of May, 1783, several thousands of refugees landed on the rocky and wooded shore of what is now the St. John market slip. Amongst them was Stephen Humbert, one of the grantees of the new town, and the following year, 1784, when the Province received its constitution, a representative in the House of Assembly. Mr. Humbert was a New Jersey Methodist, and he proved splendidly loyal to his religious convictions. His memory should be kept green in St. John Methodism; and the wreath should be interwoven with another of imperishable lustre, that of John Abraham Bishop, a native of Jersey, and a man of rare saintliness of character. Methodism was at that time under a ban, and it was no light undertaking to plant its standard in the loyalist town. But sanctified tact and holy courage were crowned with merited success. Mr. Bishop reached St. John on the 28th of September, 1791, a date forever memorable in our eastern annals. He was welcomed by Mr. Humbert, and preached on the first Sunday after his arrival. The following Sabbath, the first in October, a class was organized. Methodism had come to stay. Very opportunely a building had been vacated by the Episcopalians, on the dedication of Trinity, and it was secured for Wesleyan worship. This was the precursor of grand old sanctuaries that went up in the flames of 1877, and of the later Queen Square and Centenary splendid structures.

Under Mr. Bishop’s ministry, remarkable for its holy unction and persuasive tenderness, a congregation was soon gathered. Excursions were made up the river to Sheffield, Fredericton and Nashwaak, everywhere with abiding revival results. A marvellous success caused a difficulty in regard to ministerial supply. How could settlements on the river be visited without loss to the infant cause in the town Rev. William Black, ever on the alert, sought to strengthen the work under his supervision at every available point. He hastened across the Bay of Fundy for the purpose of ministering to the St. John congregation, in the absence of its beloved missionary. But under a regime of rigid exclusiveness, an officious magistrate threatened him with arrest and imprisonment in the county gaol, should he attempt to preach without a special license from the Governor. This could not be conveniently obtained, and there was nothing better to be done than to return to his own work in Nova Scotia.

Scarcely had two years of successful labour been completed in New Brunswick, when Mr. Bishop was inopportunely removed to the West Indies; his knowledge of the French language constituting an exceptional qualification for the Island of Grenada. He soon after caught the yellow fever, was laid in a missionary grave, and was mourned by his brethren as “one of the holiest men on earth.” But while God buries His workmen, He carries on His work.

At St. Stephen and the western parts of the Province, Duncan McColl was raised up and commissioned for the fulfilment of a special ministry. A brave Scotchman, and a soldier, he had often been under fire during the revolutionary war. But converted to God through an extraordinary agency, he became an eager student of Mr. Wesley’s writings, and the herald of a full salvation. He preached along the line, where he was located, organized classes, was ordained by Bishop Asbury in 1795, and fulfilled a faithful ministry for nearly forty years. Preachers from the United States, and others, who followed, kept up the ministerial succession. Circuits were formed on the River St. John, in Charlotte county, Westmoreland and Miramichi.

It is worthy of note that the first Methodist church edifice opened in the Lower Provinces—and the first in all the territory of what now is Canada—was at Sackville, N.B., 1790. Another church was erected the same year at St. Stephen. The next was the Argyle Street Chapel in Halifax, 1792, built mainly through Rev. William Black’s exertions; Zoar it was called, a place of refuge for a congregation excluded from the Marchington building.

That old Argyle sanctuary, around which hallowed memories still cling, as the green ivy twines around a mouldering ruin, has been replaced and followed by a goodly group of Methodist churches. As a way-mark of progress, it may be mentioned that the same year, 1791, saw the erection of the first Methodist church edifice in Upper Canada. Germain Street, St. John, N.B., another of our historic structures, dates from 1807-8.


This gem of our eastern territory was known as the Island of St. John’s until 1799. We have seen that in the fire of a fresh evangelism, Mr. Black crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1783.

In 1792, a passage from the mainland was made by Mr. Grandine. A second time, in the autumn of 1794, William Black visited the Island, apparently with good results. At Charlottetown, he preached to an influential audience, comprising a number of dignitaries. A class of six or seven members held in it the germ of a future cause. At Tryon, twenty persons made application for membership. The first regularly appointed minister to the Island (now Prince Edward) was James Bulpit, formerly a missionary to Newfoundland. Reaching Murray Harbour, July 20th, 1807, he was welcomed by about fifty people. They were mostly from the Channel Isles, and had been brought under Methodist influence through the ministry of Adam Clarke. At Charlottetown, Mr. Bulpit found fifteen members, preached in the Court House, and was listened to by a large congregation. He was succeeded by Messrs. Hick, Strong and other ministers, whose names are now a cherished memory. Methodism has won a commanding position in Charlottetown, and through most parts of that beautiful island it is broadening out all its borders, whilst its converts are multiplied. The last census brought out the extraordinary fact that this Church, as the result of sustained evangelical enterprise, had during the decade doubled the number of its adherents.

This historical sketch would be incomplete were it not to contain some notice of the Bible Christians of Prince Edward Island. A number of families connected with that body having emigrated from Devonshire, England, a Bible Christian missionary was sent out to the Island in 1831. A cause was organized. This was the only form of Methodism other than Wesleyan ever established in the Lower Provinces. For several years the Bible Christian ministers and people put forth strenuous and successful exertions for the spread of Scriptural holiness through the land, until its half-dozen ministers and congregations became part of a united Canadian Methodism,

In regard to Cape Breton, another portion of eastern territory, separated from Nova Scotia by a narrow strait, but forming part of that Province, it may suffice to say that the first stationed minister, 1829, was the Rev. Matthew Cranswick, a man of fine presence, noble character, and a successful winner of souls.


The first mission of English Methodism was to the Ancient Colony, and to the work in Newfoundland must be assigned a prominent place in the annals of our Eastern Methodism. In 1775, as has been noted, Lawrence Coughlin was sent out from England as a missionary to Newfoundland. Though for several years a Methodist preacher and a correspondent of Wesley, he laboured there in connection with the Church of England Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. But at Harbour Grace he did the work of an evangelist. His converts were formed into classes, and considered as Methodists. In 1782, Coughlin’s health failed, and he returned to England. It now devolved on two local preachers, one of whom was John Strettin, to care for those sheep in the wilderness. An appeal was made to Wesley for a preacher. At the Conference of 1785 Newfoundland was put on the Minutes, and John McGeary was appointed to the mission. But, in the meantime, the Roman Catholics had put on their strength and multiplied their agencies. The results of Coughlin’s labours had been largely scattered, as fifteen members only could now be found. John McGeary toiled under deep discouragement for a period of five years, uncheered by ministerial success, often in straitened circumstances, and then began to think of abandoning the Island.

At a gloomy crisis, 1791, after consultation with Coke, the Rev. William Black visited Newfoundland, and his visit was felt by the forlorn and depressed missionary to be as “life from the dead.” At Carbonear, Harbour Grace and Blackhead, Pentecostal scenes were witnessed. Two hundred souls were converted to God around Conception Bay during the special services then held, and a new and blessed impetus was given to the cause of Methodism.

But Mr. McGeary could not see his way to remain longer at the arduous and exposed outpost mission. He soon after returned to England, and, to the serious loss of a struggling cause, no missionary was sent to replace him during the years 1792-93. But the time was nearing when the star of missionary enterprise was to rise into ascendency in English Methodism. Another appointment was made in 1794, and from that time, in Newfoundland, there was an uninterrupted ministerial supply. In 1815 the circuits of Newfoundland — Carbonear, Blackhead, Port de Grave, Island Cove, St. John’s, Bonavista—were formed into a missionary district. There was then a staff of six ministers: Sampson B. Busby, William Ellis, John Pickavant, John Lewis, Thomas Hickson and John Hickson. The following year, 1816, was signalized by a magnificent reinforcement of Methodist agency. Six missionaries arrived that year from England, and two of these were Richard Knight and George Cubitt, each one a host in 4 'himself. Passing over the years between, we find a bead-roll of immortal names. Pacts of which the writer became cognizant during a recent visit to the Island, chiefly from contact with missionaries from solitary stations—compelled at that season to visit St. John’s for supplies—produced a thrill of sympathy and of exultation. It was like reading a chapter from the Acts of the Apostles or pages of John Wesley’s Journal, to hear of the toils and tireless energy of men who proclaim the message of salvation to fishermen and their families along those northern shores. Such experiences make men heroes.

But in that most eastern of our Conferences, from Conception Bay to the dreary coast of Labrador, the years of ceaseless persistence have been crowned with gladness and triumph. From Cape Freels to Cape John, on the northern part of the Island, there was no record of Methodism in the official returns of 1836. But at the last census, out of a population of about 20,000, a little over 10,000 people of that district were returned as Methodists. Such magnificent results may well lead us to exclaim, What hath God wrought! In Newfoundland, we have circuits—as at Carbonear, with its spacious church edifice and overflowing congregation—which any preacher might covet for possibilities of usefulness. At St. John’s, the noble and commanding architecture and position of ecclesiastical and educational structures cannot fail to challenge the admiration of deputations or other visitors interested in the progress of our work—on a first visit to that city. To God be all the praise!

“When he first the work begun,
Small and feeble was his day ;
Now the Word doth swiftly run,
Now it wins its widening way.”


Transition in thought from the storm-swept shores of Newfoundland and ice-bound Labrador to the soft and sunny scenes of distant Bermuda requires some mental effort. To the north, around a perilous coast, are fierce hurricanes or fields of floating ice. Far to the south are the summer isles, with their picturesque beauty and fragrant cedar groves, where shore and coral reef are laved by waters of sapphire hue and clearness. But to every extreme of climate and race the Gospel of Jesus has a perfect adaptation, and in all latitudes the consecrated cross has been uplifted with success.

The pioneer missionary of the Methodist Church to Bermuda was the holy and heroic John Stephenson, the mission dating from 1799. His attempts to reach and lift up an outcast race encountered bitter and unscrupulous opposition. An inscription cut with his penknife in the cedar floor of St. George’s prison, recounts a thrilling story of faith and fortitude, indicating a pure flame of consuming zeal, such as in the martyr’s glowed:—

“John Stephenson, Methodist missionary, was imprisoned in gaol for six months, and fined fifty pounds, for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to African Blacks and captive Negroes. St. George’s, Bermuda, July, 1790.”

The mission was suspended for more than eight years. In May, 1808, the Rev. Joshua Marsden, summoned from his work in St. John, N.B., arrived at Bermuda. The station was a most difficult one. An interest had to be created, in the face of all but insuperable obstacles. But difficulties were surmounted. The intrepid but gentle missionary found favour with the people. Souls were converted to God. Congregations increased. Places of worship were erected at St. George’s, Hamilton, Somerset and elsewhere. Marsden was succeeded by Dunbar, Wilson, Rayner, Douglas, Dawson, Moore, and other faithful men ; not to speak of the brethren who, under a later dispensation, have been sent from the Provinces to take charge of the circuits in Bermuda, and who on their return have fascinated us with reminiscences of their ministry in those isles of glowing tropical light and beauty.


As we have seen, the last of the preachers from the United States returned home, 1799, and it became necessary to look elsewhere for a ministerial supply for the Provinces. The magnificent idea of missionary enterprise was beginning to mark the era of a new glory in English Methodism. In finance, it was still a day of small and feeble things, but claims of colonial as well as foreign fields were beginning to receive enthusiastic recognition. Hearts were fired with the idea of a universal evangelization, and not without a thrill of admiration can we think of the bold measures adopted at that day of conspicuously inadequate means, and of the sublime faith and heroic fortitude of the pioneer of Methodist missions.

In 1799, the Rev. William Black crossed the Atlantic to England, appealed to the Wesleyan Conference for labourers, won the confidence and love of the brethren of that noble body, and found a generous response to his request. Under the direction of Dr. Coke, four missionaries were appointed to the Eastern Provinces. Accompanying Mr. Black on his return voyage, they reached Halifax on Sunday evening, the 4th of October, 1800. Two of these young men, Lowry and Oliphant, proved a failure in this field, scarcely completing their ministerial probation. But William Bennett, the first Englishman to identify himself with the work in this country, fulfilled a long and faithful ministry, and finished his course with joy in his eighty-eighth year. The story of Joshua Marsden, another of this band, can still be read in his glowing narrative. He reached his first station by sail over river and basin, and a long tramp through a dense Cumberland forest. His circuit comprised Dorchester, Sackville, Tantramar, Bay de Verte, Amherst and Nappan; extended by excursions through the woods, along a pathway of blazed trees, to settlements on the gulf shore.

It would not be possible within prescribed limits to trace the ministerial succession of the Methodist Church in the Maritime Provinces, to tell of William Sutcliffe, Stephen Bamford, James Knowlan and William Croscombe, all preachers of distinguished ability, following Bennett and Marsden during the first decade. Nor will space avail to recount even the names of their coadjutors and successors, down to this centennial year. At a memorial service, 1882, in commemoration of one hundred years of denominational history in the Eastern Provinces, the Rev. Ingham Sutcliffe spoke of himself as one of the few living links that united the first with the second half of the century. To him it was a year of jubilee. It was fifty years since he began his ministry ; two years before the venerable Black had passed away, saying, “All is well.” Dating from 1832, he stood midway in the succession. Nine or ten ministers, contemporaries of Mr. Black, were living still, measuring out the full years of the century. Amongst them were Dr. Enoch Wood, of rare tact and administrative ability; Dr. Matthew Richey, the most eloquent preacher in Canada, if not of his time ; Dr. A. W. McLeod, a defender of our doctrines; Dr. John McMurray, a recipient of merited ecclesiastical honours ; Rev. George Johnson, who had not only preached but lived the Gospel; Rev. Joseph Fletcher Bent, whose snowy locks were to him a crown of glory ; Rev. James G. Hennigar, genial and faithful; Rev. Henry Daniel, vigorous and orthodox in the pulpit, and vigilant in the maintenance of godly discipline. These honoured ministers had mostly been associated with the venerated Bishop Black, and after their more than fifty years of toil, would soon join him in the rest of the promised land: ready to say, “I pray thee, let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.” “For myself, as one of the number,” said the eloquent veteran, “I see the streaks of light on the tops of the mountains, and that light reaches over to the other shore.

“For me my elder brethren stay,
And angels beckon me away,
And Jesus bids me come. ”

Since then most of those living links have been severed by death. But one or two remain to unite first and final decades of the century. Our fathers, where are they “All died in faith.” Their bodies were buried in peace, but their names live for evermore.


Until 1855 the work in the Maritime Provinces and the colony of Newfoundland formed an important part of the colonial and foreign missions of the English Wesleyan Con ference, and was managed by the London Missionary Committee. That year was historic in the annals of our Eastern Methodism. The missions of this country were then organized into an affiliated Conference. This new departure was made under the guidance of Rev. Dr. Beecham, a man of solid and luminous judgment, large experience and special aptitude for successful organization. Under his presidency the Conference held its first session in the city of Halifax, July 17th, 1855; the following preliminary notice being appended to published minutes of proceedings :—

“The Wesleyan Missions of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland—commenced towards the close of the last century by the Rev. William Black—being constituted a distinct affiliated connexion, the minutes of the several conversations of the ministers from those Provinces, and the Bermudas, assembled in Conference, under the presidency of the Rev. Dr. Beecham (the deputation from England), are now published as the Minutes of the First Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, or Church, of Eastern British America, under the sanction of the British Conference.”

The constituency of this Eastern Conference, according to tabular exhibit, comprised at that time 88 ministers, 13,136 members, 9,111 Sunday-school scholars, and over 60,000 estimated adherents.

Sent out from the British Conference, under the direction of Dr. Beecham, in the course of that ecclesiastical year, the writer of this sketch had then a first experience of ministerial work in the Maritime Provinces, and an opportunity of attending several sessions of the Second Conference, held in Centenary Church, St. John, N.B. A mental impression of the personnel and proceedings of that body has passed into a vivid and indelible memory. It was a purely ministerial conference. Lay representation had not then become a living question. Deliberations were conducted with closed doors. The chair was occupied with dignity and courtesy by the eloquent Dr. Richey, and Rev. William Temple was at the secretary’s table. It was a small conference, and it comprised, in addition to those already named, such theologians, Biblical scholars, and preachers, as Drs. Evans, Knight and Pickard ; Revs. E. Botterell, Charles Churchill, F. Smallwood, William Wilson, William Smith, Charles De Wolfe, J. R. Narraway, H. Pope and T. M. Albrighton; whilst amongst the candidates for ordination was the present Professor of Theology, Rev. Dr. Stewart.

The affiliated arrangement worked to decided advantage. Untrammelled action led to a new sense of responsibility. An impetus was given to aggressive spiritual enterprise. Boundaries of circuits were pushed beyond their old lines. Home missions were formed. New territory was occupied. Methodism was established among agricultural, lumbering, mining and fishing communities, through the interior and along our extended shores. The Gospel was carried to those who needed it most. Hence the proportionately large increase of ministerial agency as compared with that of communicants. The affiliated dispensation lasted nineteen years. During that period ministers multiplied from 84 to 204; while the roll of membership ran up from a little over 13,000 to 20,000.

Some of the distinctive features of the Affiliated Conference may be indicated :—

Vested Rights.—To all missionaries in full connexion at the date of Conference organization, regarded as members of the British Conference, there was a guarantee of supernumerary and other financial claims.

Annual Grant.—An annual grant was stipulated from the Wesleyan Missionary Society, for disbursement according to the exigencies of circuit work, but subject to a condition of gradual reduction and of ultimate withdrawal.

Wesleyan Law and Usage.—In church government, the Conference was amenable to the common law and usage of English Methodism, as embodied and expounded by Grind-rod. There was, consequently, a very wide scope for the discussion of constitutional questions, legal principles and valid usage, and, as might be expected,-some sense of constraint was experienced in subsequent transition to the recognized authority of “ Discipline.”

Supervision.—Annual nomination to the presidential office had to be ratified by action of the British Conference. Rev. Dr. Richey was designated to that office for five years, 1856-60, in succession. At intervals an English Wesleyan minister was deputed to visit the Provinces, and to preside at the Eastern Conference; an exercise of prerogative always hailed with unmingled satisfaction, for it led to the visits of such distinguished ministers as Boyce and Thornton, Drs. George Scott and Morley Punshon.

Right of Veto.—A veto right—rarely if ever exercised— was retained by the parent body, especially in the case of legislation supposed to affect connexional interests and institutions ; a salutary proviso, as it tended to conservative and cautious enactment.

Unchanged Relation to Foreign Missions.—A policy was adopted for identifying foreign mission effort in the affiliated Conference with, or rather in subordination to, the operations of the Wesleyan Missionary Society. Under this policy the funds raised in the colonies for the promotion of foreign missions were to be retained as part of the stipulated grant; or, in case of an excess, the balance only to be remitted to the General Treasurer; an order, regarded in all its phases, considered to be the least satisfactory feature of affiliation.

Economic Development.—Contingent and children’s funds were instituted for the relief and equalization of circuit finance. A supernumerary fund was formed as part of the Eastern Conference organization; which, as “the supernumerary ministers’ and ministers’ widows’ fund of the eastern section of the -Methodist Church,” is still administered on the legal basis of its original constitution. As it came to be felt that the machinery of economical operations was incomplete without sustentation, a home mission fund was organized, available for the extension of the work of God within Conference boundaries, and generously supported by our people.


The year 1874 was signalized in the annals of Eastern Methodism by another vital change in its ecclesiastical organization. The Conference of Eastern British America, the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Ontario and Quebec, and the New Connexion Conference, were then constituted into the Methodist Church of Canada. Affiliated relations were dissolved, and the Eastern Conference was declared defunct. In subordination to a General Conference, Maritime districts were formed into the three Annual Conferences of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland: having executive and pastoral functions, and so perpetuated to the present time.

Another union wave swept over the Church in 1883, resulting in the unification of Methodism from the Atlantic to the Pacific; a movement which took legal effect on July 1st, 1884. With the exception of a few congregations of Bible Christians in Prince Edward Island, there were no distinct bodies to constitute a larger union in the Maritime Provinces. There had been no experience in this part of the work of the rivalries and interlacing operations of three or four divisions of the same denomination, such as had occasioned friction and economic waste in several parts of Ontario. In the meantime we had come to realize that geographical distances must still involve a necessity for eastern and western sections in some General Conference departments. It was scarcely to be expected, perhaps, that the consummation of a United Methodism would excite the same intense and uniform glow of enthusiasm in the eastern as in the western portions of the work.

But union is strength ; we all feel it to be so now. Tabulated and authentic departmental statistics indicate an increasing numerical and financial strength. Eastern Conferences aggregate a staff of 262 ministers and a roll of 35,676 communicants. An extraordinary increase of one hundred per cent, since 1874. “All one body we.” One in doctrine and discipline, one in fellowship and spiritual enterprise, one in a glorious hymnody and blessed charity, one in testimony as to the worth of the work our fathers wrought, one in loyalty to all the crown-rights of our divine Redeemer, and one in the magnificent unity of our Canadian Methodism !


It may be of interest at this commemorative period to note a semi-centennial date in connection with two important departments of Church enterprise in the Eastern Conferences.

About the beginning of January, 1840, the attention of our people was directed to the formation of a “Wesleyan Book Depot” for the dissemination mainly of our denominational literature. The agency was started on a slender scale and with limited resources. A room was set apart in the parsonage for the books ; and, commencing with credit for capital, the enterprise had to struggle for continued existence. But the Book Room thus begun has been the means of circulating an ever-broadening stream of pure literature through these lands, especially of standard Wesleyan works, and has proved a right arm of strength to Maritime Methodism. It now forms the eastern section of the General Conference Book and Publishing Department.

Fifty years ago, June 9th, 1840, Charles F. Allison laid the corner-stone of Sackville Academy. His design was the foundation of an institution in which the higher branches of education might be taught under the control of the Methodist Church. For this purpose he secured an eligible site, and expended $16,000; the largest sum for education from one donor, up to that time, in the Provinces. Other munificent gifts followed. The formula used by Mr. Allison on the occasion of the foundation ceremonial was in distinct accord with the traditional policy of the Methodist Church :—

“The foundation stone of this building I now proceed to lay in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and may the education ever to be furnished by the institution be conducted on Wesleyan principles, to the glory of God and the extension of His cause. Amen.” Educational enterprise at Mount Allison has grown with the growth of our eastern work. Dr. Pickard, first Principal of the Academy, and first President of the College, was identified with this department for over a quarter of a century; and to his administrative ability and indomitable energy the success achieved was, in a large measure, due. Under later management the same high standard of efficiency has been maintained, and with conspicuous success. Mount Allison is beautiful for situation. Several summits overlook the site of the first edifice, bounded by spacious meadows flowing away to meet the distant sky, and these are crowned by a commanding group of educational structures; an honour to the land, as well as a credit to the Methodist community. The several institutions at Sackville —Academy, Ladies’ College, University and Theological Departments — aggregated during the past year an attendance of 290 students.

Facts of past successes are fraught with encouragement for the future of our work in these Eastern Conferences. “The best of all is, God is with us.”

Those who are sufficiently interested in the subject of this paper to desire more than a rapid sketch, should consult the admirable “History of Eastern Methodism,” by Rev. T. Watson Smith. Very seasonable is the proposed publication of the second volume in this centennial year; and, as the work is one of denominational importance, it ought to command a most liberal patronage.

P. S.—Since the above sketch was completed the second volume has been published, and reflects highest credit on the historian of our Eastern Conferences.

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