Smith, Priscilla (nee Gaukrodger) (1810-1899)

Transcription of Obituary In the Primitive Methodist Magazine by G Newton

Priscilla, the wife of the late Rev. R. Smith, Ex-Governor of Elmfield College, York, entered into rest on the 15th of March, 1899, at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Whiteley, The Elms, Heworth Green, York. Mrs. Smith was born at Halifax on December 9, 1810.

Her father, Jonathan Gaukrodger, was a member of the Baptist Church, Pellon Lane, Halifax. Her childhood and girlhood were associated with this Church and its Sunday School. Here she received her first religious impressions, and though a regular attendant both at the Sunday School and religious services, yet she never joined herself to them in Church fellowship.

In after years her memory often went back to those early days, and she would recall those blessed influences that she received at Pellon Lane Church. We have no data that will enable us to definitely fix the time when she became a member of our own denomination. It would be soon after the establishment of Primitive Methodism in Halifax. We are guided to this conclusion by the fact that very early in the Church’s history we find her brother, Jonathan Gaukrodger, was one of the leading spirits connected therewith. Also that at that time she lived with her brother, it is therefore presumed that through his influence she was led to cast her lot with the Church she so faithfully served.

Soon after she had joined herself to the society worshipping at Ebenezer, the Rev. G. Lamb was appointed to the Halifax Circuit. From the forst a deep and lasting intimacy sprung up between Mrs. Lamb and Miss Gaukrodger, a friendship lasting till death called the former away. We are informed that the two were associated in every good work connected with the Church. It would appear as though she was, before she knew Mr. Smith, initiated into the work of the Church, which in after life gave her such a pre-eminence as a minister’s wife. As teacher of the  young women’s class, Miss Gaukrodger was eminently successful, not only as an instructor in Biblical knowledge, but in leading many to decide for Christ; a number of these in their turn became “mothers in Israel,” and some of their children are now connected with the old school and church at Ebenezer.

The Conference of 1840 appointed the Rev. R. Smith to the Halifax Circuit. The laws and usage of the Connexion did not, in those days, allow the young men much time to make the acquaintance of the young ladies of the stations in which they travelled. A change of circuits every six months was the rule, twelve months being the exception. Mr. Smith’s term in Halifax was for one year; during this time he made the acquaintance of Miss Gaukrodger; when he removed it was understood that they should be married as soon as circumstances permitted. The circuit, Louth, to which he was stationed by Conference of 1841, he, having passed into full ministry, was not prepared to take another married preacher. Hence it was not until September, 1842, that they were married, the officiating minister was the Rev. John Garner, the ceremony took place at Ebenezer, Halifax. Their first abode was in furnished lodgings at Louth. The December Quarterly Meeting of the Circuit removed Mr. Smith from the circuit town to Alford Branch. It was here they had their first home.

We have no doubt but that in Mrs. Smith the change would be very great, as up to now she had been surrounded somewhat with luxury and comfort. Her father was a manufacturer, and hence her life would be blessed with a considerable degree of ease. Previous to going to reside with her brother Jonathan, she spent some years as lady‘s maid in a wealthy family.

But the life of a minister’s, wife sixty years ago would be no bed of roses. Small houses, indifferently furnished; salary that did not allow of many luxuries, wide circuits, husband from home the greater part of the time, the wife left alone, or left to train the olive branches that were springing up, with no one to lend a helping hand – that was the lot of a minister’s wife.

But Mrs. Smith had counted the cost, and was never heard to say that she wished it had been otherwise. It was the Master’s work in which she was engaged; it brought its own reward.

There are many features of her life that stand out in bold relief, but if she excelled in one thing more than another it was in the quality that makes a home happy. She conceived she would be helping her husband in his ministerial duties if she so regulated the home as to give him as much comfort and joy as their circumstances would allow; to do this she took upon herself the bother, care, and anxiety that at times would arise, and by frugal management and motherly care relieved her husband of much that would otherwise have worried and annoyed him. But in her care for home she did not forget the court of God’s House, it was to her the “gate of heaven.” Her love for the House of the Lord and her desire that her children should grow up under its influences was manifested by the fact that she carried them to the sanctuary in babyhood. Another motive prompted her. She wished to set an example to others, if happily they too would in infancy take their little ones to the “house of prayer.” Mrs. Smith also found amidst the many home duties time to attend the religious services, and also to help in all efforts set on foot for the extension of the Master’s Kingdom. She employed her time and energy in promoting bazaars, tea meetings, visiting the sick, and above all, the spiritual welfare of the society. Her soul went out towards those meetings that were of a purely religious character. Class-meetings and prayer-meetings had her deepest sympathy. She was truly a worker. If after the Sunday evening service there were signs of penitence, the conductor of the meeting would look towards the pew where Mrs. Smith sat; she knew the sign, and putting her baby on the knee of a friend, would go to the penitent, lead them to Christ, pray with them, and then return to her child.

The Conference of 1877 appointed Mr. Smith to be Vice-Governor of Elmfield College. In making this appointment many members of Conference were influenced by their knowledge of Mrs. Smith, and their conviction that she would make a model matron, nor were they deceived.

On the death of Rev. T. Smith in the year 1879, the Rev. R. Smith was called to take up the duties of governor of that important institute. Here Mrs. Smith’s home-life and home training was practically manifested. She appeared as though she at once took under her maternal care the whole of the establishment. The staff, boys, and servants were all cared for. Being light in weight, nimble and active, she appeared to be here, there and everywhere. Kitchen, laundry, storehouse, and dormitory were under her eye. Busy, ever busy, and yet not too busy to attend to the boys, listen to their troubles, and minister to their wants; binding up a wound, putting a cold water bandage on the aching head, administering medicine for stomachic disorders, but doing more to ease and cure by her motherly kindness than by the remedies prescribed.

If necessary we could give many testimonies from parents who sent their boys to Elmfield; nor are the old Elmfieldians silent on this matter, they speak with the greatest of respect of the kindly matron who so assiduously watched over their interests, and made for them a home away from home.

After years of incessant labour for the youth of the Connexion, she, with her husband, retired from the busy life, and sought the rest they had so well earned.

As long as her physical strength permitted, Mrs. Smith made a point of attending at least once a Sunday the Chapel in Stonegate, York, which was a mile from her home. For years before her death her sight failed her; this was a source of sorrow, as it often precluded her from going to the chapel, it being unsafe for her to venture on the public road alone.

The death of her husband was a very severe blow to her, but the Lord sustained her. She survived him one year and eleven months. As the natural strength failed the spiritual became stronger, her confidence, her trust in the living God sustained her. She went through the valley “leaning on the arm of her Beloved.”

During the weeks of sickness that preceded her death, she murmured not, but patiently waited the Master’s call, and when He called she quietly obeyed.

In Mrs. Smith the Connexion has lost one of its oldest and most loyal members, the Church an earnest worker, and her children a loving mother. She was interred in the York Cemetery on Saturday, March 18, 1899.

Together they bore life’s burdens. Together they rest until the resurrection morn.


Her baptism record gives Priscilla’s date of birth as 2 December 1810. She was born to parents Jonathan and Mary.

Priscilla married Robert Smith in September 1842 at Halifax, Yorkshire. Census returns identify six children.

  • Mary Martha (1843-1912) – married Charles Henry Whiteley, a joiner
  • Emma Susanna (1845-1905) – married George Newton, a PM Minister
  • Anna Matilda Eastwood (1846-1929) – married William Johnson, head-teacher at Elmfield College (1886-1891). Previously married to a Summerscales.
  • Sarah Ruth (b1848)
  • Jonathan William (1850-1880) – a chemist
  • Robert Arthur (b1856)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1901/546

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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