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Bible Christians

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The Bible Christian movement was founded by the son of Wesleyan Anglican parents living at Luxulyan in Cornwall. Not content with the sedate Anglican church nor the reforming Wesleyans, William O`Bryan, originally Bryant, started to preach all around his home village and into North Devon. His attempts to join the Wesleyan ministry were turned down, so he and followers, the Thorn family of Shebbear, founded the Bible Christian movement in the home of the Thorns in 1815. It quickly took root and over the next 10 years many more BC preachers went out to spread the word. The first conference was held in Shebbear in 1821, and a BC magazine followed in 1822. William O'Bryan's own book on the origins of the BC movement was published in 1823.

The earliest chapels all over North Cornwall and North Devon were built with generous donations from followers from about 1830.

By 1831 William O'Bryan had fallen out with the Thorns, and elected to move to New York, and although he returned to Devon and Cornwall, and preached in many areas of Cornwall occasionally during the rest of his life, mostly to raise funds for himself and for the Bible Christian Church for which he never lost his affinity and zeal. The Thorns however remained in Shebbear and started a printing press, and then Shebbear College until their movement was assimilated into the United Methodist movement.

From Devon and Cornwall the Bible Christians went primarily to Prince Edward Island and Ontario, a few going to the mining country of Wisconsin. It was decided at the 1831 Conference held at Shebbear, Devon, that missionaries ought to be sent to these far shores to look after the spiritual needs of their former members, and so Rev. Francis Metherall was elected to go to Prince Edward Island and Rev. Glass was sent to Ontario. Whether it was ill health, or the imposing nature of the country, but Rev. Glass resigned within the year, and Rev. John Hicks Eynon was sent to replace him.

Eventually these men were joined by others and the job of building congregations and circuits was tackled with enormous zeal. Because Prince Edward Island (formerly St. John Island) had been settled at a much earlier date, first during the French Regime in North America, then by Loyalists during and immediately after the American Revolution, Rev. Metherall had a much easier time than did J.H. Eynon, who had nothing but a few Indian trails through the bush to follow in his untiring search for his "lost sheep" as he called them.

In Prince Edward Island the task seemed unsurmountable, as most people, though friendly toward the BCs, and willing to take part in anything that needed to be done, refused to "join" the sect - in other words they would not pay their subscriptions (their membership fees)! This was the frustration felt by all the preachers who worked at Prince Edward Island.

In Ontario, however, it was the country that was hard to navigate, J.H. Eynon's circuit, for example, being 200 miles in length. The people willingly came back into the fold once they knew he was there, and within his first year on his circuit he had 14 promises to build chapels. The people kept their promises, too, and indeed built not only those 14 but many, many others as well over the ensuing few years.

Contacts:
Sher Leetooze
Robin Potter.

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