Rivers, James (abt1819-1901)
Transcription of Obituary in the Christian Messenger
James Rivers, local preacher in the Bradfield Circuit. The subject of this memoir was born in London. Very little is known of his parents. His mother died when he was very young. While he was yet a child his father left him in care of his grandfather to go abroad. His grandfather was a flock owner in the neighbourhood of Hendred, Berks. Of him James used to say he never heard him swear or tell an untruth, that he would say his prayers and repeat “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” When about eighteen years of age he was hired as a shepherd in the Parish of Ashampstead. Our Church at Quick’s Green, Bradfield Circuit, is about two miles from Ashampstead. James joined our church here in the midst of a revival of great power. The meetings were unusually long and earnest, and in them he found the greatest joy of his soul.
“We should suspect some danger nigh
Where we possess delight.”
And so it happened: his master commenced a series of persecutions against him. James was accustomed to sing and pray aloud as he went about his work. His master felt annoyed. He did not understand the motives and methods of our people in their worship. James could not keep quiet. His master became enraged and took him before a magistrate to see if he would threaten and so frighten him out of his religion. The magistrate asked what he had been doing – if he had been neglecting his work or stealing something. His master had no such complaints, but said he had joined the “Ranters” and he would keep on singing and praying, and stayed late at the meetings. The magistrate asked him if that was all? He had better pay him his wages and let him go somewhere else. But his master asked him to remain with him, and the persecution ceased.
In the death of James Rivers, Bradfield Circuit has seen the last of the sainted men who sustained its pulpits 30 years ago. Among these were Isaac S. Nullis, Richard Turner, Edmund Kirby, John May, James Cox, and others. Bro. Rivers being of an open, cheerful disposition, went by the name of “happy shepherd.” As a preacher he was accepted wherever he went. In warning the wicked his flashing eye and stern look could not fail to impress, and in encouraging God’s people his pleasant smile and happy laugh could not easily be forgotten. He was quite at home in speaking of “The Good Shepherd,” “The Lord is a sun and shield,“ and kindred subjects. He was an accredited Local Preacher for more than 50 years. His last illness, paralysis, lasting three years, was painful to those who had to wait upon him. His daughter, Mrs. Clark, was very devoted to him. His brain at times was considerably affected. His end was hastened, through breaking his arm in falling downstairs. Although he could seldom recognise old acquaintances who called upon him, he was always very clear in his acceptance with God and exhorting them to preach Christ. He quietly fell asleep in Jesus on July 2nd, 1901. In accordance with his desire he was buried in the Ashampstead Churchyard alongside his wife, who had gone before. Bros. J. Trotman and G. Kidd represented the Bradfield Circuit at the funeral, and by the kind consent of the Vicar spoke a few words at the graveside. Bro. J. Trotman, as the Circuit Steward, improved his death in Quick’s Green Chapel to a large and sympathetic congregation on September 1st.
Census returns identify various birth dates for James between 1818 and 1823. They also give varying birth-places, London or St Albans. There is a possible baptism on 13 December 1818 at St Dunstan in the West London, a church in Fleet Street. If this is James he was born on 18 November 1818 to parents Thomas, a tallow chandler, and Margaret.
James worked the land.
He married Elizabeth Pinfold (1825-1874) in late 1845 at Ashampstead, Berkshire. Census returns identify three children.
- Sarah (b abt1848) – married Bernard Clark in 1872
- Jeremiah (b1854) – an agricultural labourer (1871)
- Eliza (b abt1860) – only identified in 1861 census
Christian Messenger 1902/287
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers