Transcription of Obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine
The subject of this sketch is another evidence of the importance and value of village Methodism, and goes to prove very clearly that to neglect the villages and agricultural districts of our country would be to us, as a Connexion, an unspeakable loss. The return we have in prominent ministers and in leading officials who have been called from the villages, fully compensates for all the expenditure of both money and strength. Peter Aston was born in the village of Tiverton, situated about midway between Crewe and Chester, on October 30th, 1842. His father was a farmer, and his ancestors were Tiverton’s Manorial lords from the middle of the 15th century to the year 1670. Peter was educated at Tilstone National School, where he ultimately became a teacher, and with the other members of his family was a consistent member of the Established Church.
The village of Tiverton was missioned by the Primitive Methodists in 1812, the sainted John Wedgwood visiting the place frequently, but the cause did not grow very rapidly, as may be gathered from the fact, that after forty years there were only five members of Society. On Sunday, July 14th, 1861, a camp meeting was held in the village, conducted by the late Rev. James Prosser, who was one of the ministers at that time of the Nantwich and Burland Circuit, and at the lovefeast that evening, which was held in a barn, Peter was converted.
Saved himself, Andrew-like he sought first to bring the members of his own family to Jesus, and it was his joy to see each one of his brothers and sisters, (eight in all) saved. The society worshipped in a farmhouse when he was converted; he at once began to move for land whereon to build a chapel, and in response to his personal appeal, Lord Tollemache presented a piece of land, on which the present chapel was built, in 1863, in aid of which Mr. Aston raised and gave £83. The officials of the circuit seeing in him elements of usefulness put him on the plan, and soon afterwards requested him to devote himself to the work of the regular ministry, to which request he responded, spending the first eighteen months in his native circuit. He afterwards travelled on the following circuits, West Bromwich, Minsterley, Welshpool, Tunstall (twice), Talke, Macclesfield and Hanley.
In the year 1885, the Queensland District Meeting sent to him, through the English Conference, an invitation to labour in that Colony. He accepted the same, and left England, July 22nd, 1885. On his arrival in Queensland, he took charge of Brisbane Second Circuit, and remained there until April, 1889. His term was one of exceptional prosperity. He removed in 1889 to Brisbane Third Circuit and continued for three years, when, with the consent of Conference, he entered upon a Temperance Campaign, visiting all the important centres in the North and West of the Colony, preaching on Sundays, and holding temperance meetings each week-evening. He also took occasion during his tour to visit the mission stations belonging to the Connexion. This campaign necessitated much privation and exposure, and undoubtedly told on his constitution. Towards the end of the tour he had a very severe attack of influenza, from which he never fully recovered. In the year 1894, he was stationed to East Brisbane, and had most encouraging success; a flourishing church was gathered together, and the prospect for further extension was very encouraging. During the latter part of 1895, he was laid aside with a severe illness, and was compelled early the following year to get a supply, so that he might have a much needed rest. For months he was a great sufferer, his friends alternately hoping and fearing, until about the middle of the month of May, when the doctor said definitely there was no hope of recovery. A complication of complaints brought down the once noble and stalwart frame, causing intense suffering; but throughout his illness his faith never wavered, and the Saviour whom he had preached to others, sustained and comforted him. Always very fond of hearty and lively services, he showed the same spirit during his illness, often requesting his friends who visited him to sing such hymns as, “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Let earth and heaven agree,” – the last named being a special favourite. On the evening of May 26th, 1896, he called each member of his family to his side and gave a few words of advice to each one, also a text of Scripture which was to be their motto through life, and just before midnight he quietly fell asleep in Jesus, and passed from this land of shadows into that of Eternal Light and glory, to be for ever with the Lord. Towards the end he bore testimony to the reality and genuineness of the religion of Jesus, saying, “I die fully trusting in a living, loving Saviour, for Jesus is mine and I am His for ever and ever.”
As a minister of the Gospel of Christ, he was most faithful, his sermons were truly Gospel messages, his one aim ever being to make plain unto man God’s plan of salvation, and with all the powers he possessed he sought to persuade men to come to Jesus for salvation. His heart ever yearned to save men, and he refused to be satisfied unless he saw as a result of his ministry, people deciding for Christ. He was seen at his best conducting a prayer-meeting, when the “Communion Rail” or “Penitent (Form” was crowded with seekers after God, and such scenes were frequent on all his circuits. Many who were privileged to join with him in such services, delight to talk of scenes they have witnessed, and of blessings they have received at such times.
He was a most popular speaker and preacher with all classes, and his services were in great demand for specials, As an official he was loyal, attentive and painstaking, his accounts and circuit affairs always being kept in perfect order. As a brother he will ever be remembered for his unbounded generosity; he had a very large heart, every one found in him a friend, and no one ever appealed to him for advice or assistance but it was given most ungrudgingly, every case of need being helped to the utmost of his ability. His removal is a great loss to the Church of Christ on earth, we are the poorer owing to his absence, but heaven is the richer.
Our Connexion has lost one of her most faithful and loyal ministers, he was a firm believer in our doctrines and polity, and could be trusted to speak in the defence of our Church anywhere and always. It is to men of his stamp that we owe our present position as a branch of the Church of Christ, men whose aim in life was to inform the mind, rouse the conscience and carry the heart for Christ. He leaves behind him a widow, one son and three daughters, the son and two elder daughters being married and settled in Queensland, the widow and youngest daughter having returned to England. We bespeak for them the prayers of our Church; their loss is irreparable, for there never was a more loving husband and father than he. May the presence of the loving Saviour that was ever his comfort be theirs, and may they at last meet in the Eternal Home of God.
Peter was born to parents John, a farmer, and Hannah. he was baptised on 1 January 1843 at Bunbury, Cheshire. His brother Joseph also became a PM minister.
Peter married Elizabeth Ellen Bolton (1840-1878) in the summer of 1868 in the Nantwich Registration District, Cheshire. Census returns identify three children.
- Thomas Peter (abt1870-1924) – died in Perth, Australia
- Mary Anne (1871-1953) – married Alexander Mclean Jack in 1896
- Elizabeth Hannah (1875-1956) – married George Pope in 1896
He married Emma Morry (b1855) in the summer of 1879 in the Oswestry Registration District, Shropshire. Census returns identify one child.
- Frances Emma (1880-1948) – a teacher, returned to Australia in 1924
- 1863 Nantwich & Crewe
- 1864 W Bromwich
- 1866 Minsterley
- 1868 Tunstall
- 1870 Talke
- 1872 Leek
- 1875 Macclesfield
- 1879 Tunstall
- 1882 Hanley
- to Australia
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1898/227
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers