Johnson, Thomas (1832-1915)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by D. Cooke

Within a fortnight of completing his eighty-third year, Thomas Johnson, of Backworth, in the North Shields Circuit, passed away, and was buried September 23rd at Earsdon. Profoundly religious in private life, Mr. Johnson was a great moral force in his public work. He was born at Benton Square, where the Johnsons were a strong contingent. His brother Charles was a man of splendid abilities; John distinguished himself as a miners’ leader, and for some time was Member of Parliament for Gateshead, and another brother is a minister of conspicuous ability—Rev. M. Johnson, of Hexham.

In 1855. Thomas married Mary, daughter of Ralph Dawson. For upwards of sixty years a local preacher, he had a full mind, a noble soul, and a magnetic personality. Preaching to him was a passion. About 1859 he removed to the neighbouring village of Backworth, and though in great demand abroad he never neglected his duties at home. His offices in the church ranged from class leader to choir leader. He was the spiritual guide of the whole society. Any movement that meant moral uplift to the masses claimed his sympathy and co-operation. 

The Newcastle Daily Chronicle states: “He took a leading part in agitation for two shafts at all pits after the Hartley disaster. He was one of the pioneers of the Permanent Relief Fund and treasurer and secretary of the local branch. He saw the inception of the co-operative movement locally, and had held the offices of president, secretary and treasurer.” 

He was the most familiar figure in the district, and.was the first person called to pray with the sick or dying. His well-beloved wife pre-deceased him a few months. Those who entered the family circle felt the sanctity and the influence of a deep religious life. Each member of their family is a pillar in the Church. A large crowd gathered for the funeral, which was conducted by Rev. D. Cooke, assisted by Messrs. J. Brown, W. Proudjock and T. Bolam.


Thomas was born in 1832 at Benton Square, Northumberland, to parents Thomas Johnson, a coal miner (1841), and Dorothy Goulburn. he was baptised on 31 March 1833 at Long Benton.

Census returns identify the following occupations for Thomas.

  • 1851 coal miner crane man
  • 1861 coal miner
  • 1871 check weighman
  • 1881 coal miner
  • 1891 coal miner
  • 1901 coal miner waste man below ground
  • 1911 retired coal miner

He married Mary Dawson (abt1833-1915) on 6 August 1855 at St Andrew, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland. Census returns identify eight children.

  • Dorothy Ann (1856-1925) – a dressmaker (1881); married John Batey, secretary of Northumberland Association of Colliery mechanics (1911), in 1884
  • Mary Jane (b1858) – a house maid (1881)
  • Robert Dawson (1860-1934) – a coal miner (1911)
  • Elizabeth (b1862) – general domestic servant (1881)
  • Annie (1867-1892) – school mistress (1891)
  • Hannah (1870-1959) – dressmaker (1891); married Thomas Thompson, a stationary engineman (1911), in 1895
  • Thomas (b1873) – a coal miner banksman (1901); Prudential Assurance agent (1911)
  • Florence (1882-1896)

Thomas died on 21 September 1915 at West Holywell, Northumberland.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1916/161

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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