This really should have been a post for the “W” week of the Gould Genealogy Alphabet challenge, but I have another “W” word in mind for that week (guess which word that will be). To be precise, “W is for…Wesleyan Methodist” would have been more apt as it is the branch of Methodism that the Harman family followed, but due to an overload of “W”‘s, I’ll turn it upside down and make it “M is for…Methodist”.
What did I know about Methodism before I discovered the Harman’s faith? Nothing except for a link to temperance. Therefore, over the years I have tried to find out more about the religion as I think it is definitive in finding out more of what the Harmans were really like, especially James and his brother Walter who were Local Preachers with the church.
It was the role of a local preacher I discovered was one of the characteristics of Methodism. This from the Advocate of Burnie on 16 August 1952 gives something of the background:
I have also found that James did preach at Hamilton Methodist Church on occasions, found in the history Uniting we now stand: a history of the Hamilton Methodist Church by Joan A. Smith (1999). The Hamilton church was originally at 41 McIntyre Street before moving to Lonsdale Street in 1913. In May this year, a gathering was held recognising 150 years of Methodism in Hamilton.
The Byaduk Methodist Church built 1864, was the first church in the town and a weatherboard Sunday School was added in 1889. Located on the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road which runs through the town the Byaduk church, along with the Hamilton church, are now Uniting Churches. This came about after three churches, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational came together in 1977.
Prior to the Byaduk church’s construction services were held in the home of John B. Smith, an early leader of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Victoria. In 1866, Smith went to Portland and travelled a circuit which took him throughout the south-west. His recollections were published in the Portland Guardian of 25 June 1928. If you have Kittson, Lightbody or Hedditch links, this is worth reading in full.
Smith was also a co-author of the book The Early Story of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Victoria available online. Of course, there is a lot in the book about John Smith himself who “.. had a clear grasp of the plan of salvation, and a touching and pathetic way of speaking of the “wrath to come”.”(p.269).
Also of Smith:
“The well-worn family Bible used morning, noon, and night for family worship, told of his love for the Psalms and the words of the Lord Jesus and few could use them (even the deep vast words of the fourth gospel), or the plaintive phrases of the Psalms, or the less familiar lines of shaded beauty found in our Hymn Book, with greater feeling and effect” (p269)
“The influence of this holy man of God and of other kindred spirits make Byaduk a bright spot in the Hamilton Circuit, while the personal worth and , social standing of Mr. Peter Learmonth as a Christian and a citizen, and the active sympathy and generous help of the Wiggins’ and Learmonths’ on the one hand, and the ungrudging labours of devoted Local Preachers on the other, have served to sustain the cause and comfort the Minister’s heart”(p270)
Peter Fraser in Early Byaduk Settlers, describes an early Methodist service at Byaduk:
“They conducted the services differently from now. In singing hymns. the preacher read a verse and the congregation sang the verse, then he read another and the congregation sang it and so on to the end of the hymn. In prayers, most of the congregation knelt; and when the preacher was praying, some in the congregation would sing out AMEN, BE IT SO HALLELUIAH and other words, while others in the congregation would grunt and groan all the time, but it must have been a nuisance to the preacher as the Methodist Ministers stopped it many years ago.” (p. 14)
Peter also names some of the local preachers of which there was an abundance. They included Mr John Henry Oliver senior, father-in-law of Jonathon and Reuben Harman, and his son John Henry junior. Also Daniel Love, John Holmes and Samuel Clarke, just to name a few. George Holmes senior, father in law of Julia Harman, was superintendent of the Sunday School for over forty years.
James and Walter seemed the most devout of the Harman family, with both spreading the word as local preachers. Also, Walter and his wife Lydia established the Sunday School at Ensay and Walter travelled many miles preaching. Walter’s son Henry was an elder of the Omeo Methodist Church and I have previously told the story of the Omeo Methodist Minister Ronald Griggs. The church closed ranks around Griggs and continued to support him at the time of his murder trial in 1928.
The post In Search of the Extraordinary Monster looks at the Port Fairy Methodist church. Port Fairy was the home of the Harman family before they moved to Byaduk
Reuben James Harman, son of James and my gg grandfather, was buried in the Methodist section of the Ballarat New Cemetery, with the faith continuing on to the next generation.
I know there is so much more to find about the Harman family link to the Wesleyan Methodist Church. My ggg grandfather was a great servant of the church and saw some changes during its development in Byaduk and Hamilton. He was still alive when the Hamilton Methodist Church moved to Lonsdale Street, but a major change occurred a year after his death. In 1917, the Methodist Church of Australia at its Melbourne conference ruled that local preachers were to become known as lay preachers.
A post on the website Gospel Australia has a great post “Poor Old Tom Brown”. I have included the link but now the site is only working intermittently. It describes a man who was a Local Preacher in New South Wales and he is very much how I imagine James Harman to have been.
If you have Western District family members who were Methodists, I highly recommend you read The Early Story of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Victoria. Various towns throughout the Western District were represented along with many names. Other areas of Victoria are also covered.
There is one question about the Harmans and their Methodist faith that I may never have answered. Why did Joseph Harman, father of James and Walter, change his religion from Methodist to Presbyterian by the time of his death in 1893? Mentioned in his obituary in Hamilton Spectator it has had me wondering ever since I first read it.