Calvert, Elizabeth (nee Rumfitt) (1827-1900)

Transcription of Obituary In the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Charles Rumfitt, B.A., LL.D.

MRS. ELIZABETH CALVERT, the beloved wife of the Rev. Jonathan Calvert, was the second child and eldest daughter of the late Mr. William Rumfitt, of York, and was born in that city on December 11, 1827. She was highly favoured by the grace and providence of God in her parentage and home life. Mr. Rumfitt was one of the earliest members and officials of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, and by a consistent life and many arduous labours, he, with the other pioneers, did his part to establish it in its present position and power in the world. He was for more than fifty years a local preacher, for more than twenty a deed-poll member of the Conference, and at different times held all the offices in the circuit that were open to laymen. He was a Christian of stern principles and somewhat Puritan habits, who set before himself a high standard of righteousness; he was withal a man of deep though restrained feeling, and great kindness, which was most manifest and had the fullest play in his family life. As a Connexional man he was most loyal, having had for many years the friendship and fellowship of the founders, and taken part in the building up of the Connexion. He had an almost perfect knowledge of its laws and customs. Thus his children learned to love it, and were educated in its doctrines and discipline to a degree beyond that of most of the families of the Church. Mrs. Calvert’s mother was in many respects the supplement of her father. She was remarkably tender, prayerful and hopeful, and made it the great business of her life to train up her children for the service of God, and hers was the supreme influence in the moulding of their characters and the guiding of their lives. Having such a parentage, Mrs, Calvert’s life at home was passed amidst spiritual influences and in the observance of religious duties. There was a Church in the house. Family worship and Bible-reading were most scrupulously practised, and conversations on religious and Connexional subjects were very frequent. There were giants in those days – in prayer, faith and zeal for the Lord. In later days she recalled with delight conversations she had held with Clowes, Bourne, Flesher, Bywater, Harland, Atkinson Smith, Dodsworth and many others. She made special mention of the heavenly countenance of Clowes, and the mighty prayers of Atkinson Smith – prayers which her father often remarked should make him long to be remembered in the hearts of those who were privileged to hear them. Thus in her home life she received an excellent training for the work which she was called in after years.

Mr. Calvert, having been for some time a local preacher in the York Circuit, entered upon the Itinerancy in the year 1856. He had been engaged to Miss Rumfitt for some time, and at the conclusion of his probation they were married. This being a union in the highest sense, proved a singularly happy one, and they continued together in the work of the ministry with great acceptability and success until the year 1888, when Mr. Calvert’s health failed, and he was superannuated at the following Conference of 1889. He had been stationed in Ireland during part of his probation, and it is believed that the privation which he then suffered, and the damp beds in which he slept considerably shortened the term of his ministerial labour. On his retirement, and during the remainder of their united lives, they dwelt chiefly at Southport, both of them still working for the Lord as strength and opportunity permitted.

It is difficult for one who devotedly loved her and revered her as her brother the writer, to speak of her fully, lest it should be thought exaggeration, but those who knew her best will say that more might have been said. As a Christian she combined in great measure the principal qualities of both her parents. She was a woman of deep nature, love being the principle and foundation element of her disposition. She was a most loving and true friend, rejoicing with those that rejoice, and weeping with those who weep. Like all persons of deep nature she was undemonstrative. Her inner life was much better than her outer, and she was seen to the best advantage at home, and by those who knew her best. She was somewhat nervous, and shrank from anything like publicity or parade; to speak in public was always to her a great task, and she did so more from a sense of duty than her own desire. She would rather influence by example than precept, and preferred work to speech, giving herself fully to everything she took in hand. She had a very strong sense of right; she was always wishful to do right at whatever cost, and was very indignant at any instances of inconsistency, especially in those who held official position in the Connexion. She was very fond of meetings for praise. Singing the praise of God was to her a great enjoyment She inherited from both her parents a good voice, and used it well in God’s service. She was very fond of the old Connexional tunes, and in the last days of her life, singing the old songs again was a means of grace to her, bringing back the memory of old times. She was of a very hopeful turn of mind, pushing and active, and having great faith in God, and in the ultimate triumph of right doing; she was very seldom cast down except by excessive trouble, and would not think of being “resigned’ until she had tried all measures to overcome difficulties; hence her presence and counsel was always very cheering to all around her. She had few fluctuations in her religious experience; her regular habits of prayer and reading God’s Word generally sustained her in an even and steady temperament.

As a ministers wife she was a helpmeet indeed. Being thoroughly domesticated, she illustrated well Lemuel’s description of a good household wife. She made herself fully acquainted with her husband’s work in every circuit, and by prayer and counsel took her part of the burden. She was very successful in connection with special efforts; the Missionary, Chapel, and School Funds were all indebted to her for raising large amounts of money. Bazaars and sales of work were her special pleasure. In the Dover, Alderney, Middleham, Wrexham, Warrington, and Manchester First Circuits she laid herself on the altar of sacrifice. At Warrington seven bazaars and sales of work were held in three years, and at Manchester First, two bazaars and hundreds of pounds raised chiefly by her zeal and industry. And besides all this work, which cost her much time and money, she, with her husband, most scrupulously devoted one-tenth of their income to the service of God. This was a rule which they adopted at the commencement of their married life, and which they followed to the end.

Mrs. Calvert was a most loyal member of the Primitive Methodist Connexion. She looked upon Primitive Methodism as the best embodiment of Christianity, and her attachment to it has never been surpassed. As a child of some of the first members, born in the first generation of its course, it commanded her “first love” and allegiance, and shge firmly believed that it had been raised up by God to fill a special place and do an appointed work in the century. She looked upon Clowes and Bourne as the apostles of the age, and was proud to confess herself a Primitive Methodist, taking great interest in the growth of her Church both in respect to its numbers and legislative development; the Conference was to her always a subject of special anxiety and prayer. She was very jealous for the honour of the Connexion, and anxious that while it developed, it might not depart from its first principles of Christian holiness and its soul-saving mission.

But it was in her home that she wielded the greatest influence for good and had her most congenial sphere and the happiest part of her life. She remembered the home of her youth, and knew its power in forming the character and directing the course of the whole of her life, and she determined that as far as possible she would reproduce it so that the “inheritance of children’s children to the third and fourth generation” might descend to hers. And no one will ever know the sacrifices she made for their good. Like all Primitive Methodist ministers’ wives, (the father having to be so often from home), she had to act largely in the capacity of both father and mother. She had very great power over her children. There was a happy blend of love and dignity in her life that was felt by all about her. The fear of God was the great ruling principle, and everything was done from this standpoint. She gave her children her confidence, and had theirs in return, hence she was at once companion and mother. She consecrated them all to the service of God, and never rested till they were truly converted, and she taught them to have some pride of ancestry and to keep up the religious character and reputation of their family stock. She taught them to be true to right, self-reliant, and honourable, and above all, to be useful. And she sought to make their home bright, and as far as she could she provided the means of knowledge and pleasure so that they might prefer their own home to any other, and this they did; and she had the supreme joy of knowing that they were living the Christian life and serving the same Church in which she had spent her life. She herself had been a most dutiful daughter, and especially in the widowhood of her own father had done much to make his last days comfortable, peaceful, and happy, and now she received it all back again in the unspeakable affection and reverence of her own children. Thus her old age was, in many respects, the most restful and happy period of her life.

Very many letters of condolence were received by her family at her death, of which two or three extracts are here given, which will show the estimation in which she was held. The Rev. T Newell writes: “Mrs. Calvert was well fitted, not only  by nature, but by early training and the surroundings of her home life from her birth to her marriage, for the position which she subsequently occupied, both as a helpmeet of a minister of Christ and the mother of a family of children who had to be taught the way of the Lord.”

The Rev. G. Armitage writes: “It is now twelve years since I joined you as colleague in the Manchester First Circuit. I think 1888-1890 would be about the most trying period in your long ministry, and your wife went through the trial most bravely. The churches in Manchester First Circuit were all steadily declining owing to the gradual deterioration of the districts and the consequent removal of the supporters to other neighbourhoods. There were crushing debts upon the properties, and your wife toiled hard and long with her needle to prepare for bazaars. I am sure she has done splendid work for Christ and His Church. Her name and work are treasured, not only by her family, but by the churches in which she lived.”

The Rev. H.J. Taylor writes: “Mrs. Calvert impressed me by a three-fold devotion. No one could know her casually or intimately without feeling that her devotion to God stood first and was without reserve. She was all His, and always His, and the charm of this was that it never seemed to be the devotion of duty or policy, but of great privilege and deepest love. Next to this I was impressed with her deep attachment to the Church. Indeed, attachment hardly expresses her relation to the Church. She felt ever more that she was a vital part of it. She was joined to our Church by many bonds, and not the least by her personal acquaintance with Hugh Bourne. How she gloried in this acquaintance, and with what gusto she talked of the man and his deeds! She believed that our Church was providentially raised up for a specific work, and was peculiarly adapted to play a specific part in the evolution of ecclesiastical and moral life. With these characteristics I was always impressed with a third: her devotion to her children. I should say that she held the lofty and important view that a mother’s first and highest way to serve God and His Church is by training up her children in the ‘way they should go.’ She trained, not by correction and repression of the evil, so much as appreciation and commendation of the good.”

During the years of their retirement from active work they spent a very peaceful and happy time with their family and friends, attending the services and taking an interest in Connexional and public affairs, and it was noticed that Mrs. Calvert was becoming weaker with age, and more mellow and ripe for heaven, but it was not anticipated that her end was so near, or would be so sudden. On July 14, 1899, she accompanied her husband on a voyage to America to see two sons, the eldest and the youngest, who are both settled there. Most of their time was spent at Pittsboro with their youngest. Thence they came back to Portsmouth, in Virginia. In the early part of January, 1900, she complained of pain in her head, and Mr. Calvert wished her to return to England, but she was anxious to see her youngest son and his wife once more before returning. At the end of January, and the early part of February she was somewhat better, and on February 17th she rose, as was thought, in her usual health, but whilst washing and dressing she was seized by a severe pain in her head and back. The doctor was at once summoned, and after a careful examination he said there was no cause for alarm. Her pain abated during the day, and she fell into a sweet sleep, and all retired to rest in the hope that all would be well in the morning. He husband, sleepless, lay watching her peacefully sleeping, thinking how refreshed she would be, when about midnight she suddenly raised her head on the pillow, breathing heavily, but in a state of unconsciousness, and despite the efforts of her husband and family, she quietly ‘fell on sleep” on Suinday morning, Feb. 18, 1900. Her remains were taken on Monday to Pittsboro, N. Carolina, 200 miles, where her youngest son resides, and were met by a large number of sympathising friends, and on Tuesday the funeral took place in the burial ground of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The choir sang very softly and sweetly, “l have heard of a heavenly city,” and the service was read and an address dellivered by the Rev. Dr. Sanford, the superintendent minister, to a large crowd of friends. A memorial service was also held at Warrington, where Mrs. Calvert was held in high esteem, conducted by the Rev. C. Finch, and attended by a large congregation. May her husband and family be comforted by the record of her life’s work, as they will receive the legacy of blessing she has left them, and may the Primitive Methodist Church have many such devoted and loyal members, and may we all meet her again in the “Kingdom of our Father.”

Family

Elizabeth was born in 1827 at York, Yorkshire, to parents William Rumfitt and Ann Yewdall. William was a cabinetmaker and joiner.

Elizabeth married Jonathan Calvert, a P.M. Minister, in the summer of 1859 at York. Census returns identify five children.

  • William Jonathan (1861-1924) – a draper; emigrated to America
  • Albert Ellis (1863-1948) – a draper
  • Claudia Rumfitt (1865-1931) – married Walter Dale, a chemist’s manager (1901)
  • Ann Elizabeth (1867-1942) – married John Griffiths, a draper
  • Tom Henry (1868-1955) – a lawyer, emigrated to America in 1890

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1901/787

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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