Bell, Aaron (1817-1838)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J Guy


Aaron Bell was born Feb. 14, 1817, in Dorsetshire. His parents having some knowledge of salvation, wished him to be religious. He attended a Sabbath school, learned to read the word of life, was convinced of sin, and saw himself exposed to eternal death. When about sixteen he heard the P. Methodists, joined the society at Zeals, in Motcomb circuit, and at a class meeting the Lord manifested his saving power to his soul. His evidence was clear, and his joy unspeakable.

About the March quarter day 1834, we understand he was put on the Motcombe circuit plan, and laboured with satisfaction and success.

In 1835, the family removed to the city of Bath; and in that circuit he laboured with success as a local preacher. And at the March quarter day, 1836, the Frome circuit called him out to travel. He was very zealous in family visiting, and the Lord owned his labours in the salvation of souls.

In 1837, the Conference stationed him in Reading circuit; and during the first nine months he was stationed in the home part, and was instrumental in the salvation of many souls. Possessing great courage, he feared not the wrath of persecutors; processioned the darkest towns and villages, amidst showers of flints and dirt, and curses, and other ill treatment.

At the quarter day held in March, 1838, the Reading circuit appointed Bro. Ride, and Bro. A. Bell, to open a mission in the much neglected county of Surrey. They left Reading April 17, and walking thirty miles, arrived at Guildford, the county town. On their way, conversing with the people, they found great ignorance; one instance we may relate. Brother Ride asked an aged woman:

R. “Do you know any thing of the great God?”

Woman. “No, we know nothing about the great God here. I suppose you mean religion.”

R. “Do you know any thing of Jesus Christ?”

W. “There is no man of that name living any where about here.”

R. “Do you know the way of salvation?”

W. “I have lived here many years, but I have heard nothing of such a way yet. But there are some men making a new road down yonder; you had better ask them if that is the way of salvation.”

This instance will show the benighted state of the people. And to turn these from darkness to light, Bro. Bell laboured hard and suffered much, especially the first quarter. But the seed he sowed sprung up in the salvation of souls.

At the June quarter day I was stationed with Bro. Bell on the mission. We had few homes, and the people in general were the darkest I had ever met with. We were obliged to spend many hours alone in woods and on wild heaths, with little food: especially during the harvest. But Bro. Bell made daily progress in righteousness, and left a good savour of religion wherever he went.

On one occasion he informed me that he had received a letter from one of his sisters, to say that she had three times dreamed of him being killed and thrown into a river; and that it was ascertained who he was by his watch and pocket-book. But to this he paid little attention, leaving all to God.

Saturday, August 18, 1838, he was at Reading, and spent some time at Mr. Saxon’s, with Brothers Whitfield, Grigg, and others, in singing, and conversing on the mission work.

Sunday, August 19. He was with the friends at a Camp meeting, at Bracknell, on the mission. He laboured much in the praying services, and seemed in his glory. And at the close he was industrious to obtain accommodations for the preachers and praying labourers.

About six o’clock, he and I parted with the Reading friends, and set off for Binfield, where Bro. Bell preached his last sermon. 

Monday 20, he went to Thorpe; but the people being at work in the harvest, he did not preach. Tuesday, Aug. 21, 1838, in going to his appointment, he had to pass through Windsor. He took some refreshment at Bro. J. Clarke’s, in that town; and he sung several hymns and appeared to be very happy. He left about twelve o’clock; and on passing through Eton, he turned aside to bathe in a back stream of the river Thames. About four o’clock, a boy seeing clothes lying on the bank, gave an alarm. Several gentlemen came; and, with the assistance of some watermen, succeeded in finding the corpse of Bro. Bell. And in his pocket-book they found his name, and a direction which led them to Bro. Clarke’s house; which place he had left about four hours before. How true it is, that, “In the midst of life we are in death!” A medical gentleman gave it as his opinion, that his being drowned, was caused by the cramp seizing one of his legs. 

He had several times spoken of bathing; but as he could not swim, I advised him not to do so alone. He, however, did; and in these solemn circumstances closed his mortal life, on Tuesday, August 21, 1838, aged twenty-one years.

Bro. John Ride came to Windsor, and got the corpse conveyed to Reading, where he was buried, in St. Mary’s church, not far distant from Bro. John Woodward, a P.M. missionary, who rests in that place. The funeral was numerously attended, and seemed to make a solemn impression on the whole town.

Funeral sermons were preached on the occasion in most of the places on the circuit and mission, with good effect.

While on earth he was continually labouring for the good of souls; and as a consequence, he was much respected, and is generally lamented. Let us not forget the words of Jesus. “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.”

(Approved by the Quarter Day.)


Aaron was born on 14 February 1817 at Gillingham, Dorset, to parents John, a labourer, and Elizabeth. He was baptised on 17 February 1817 at Gillingham.

Aaron drowned in the River Thames on 21 August 1838 near Eton.


  • 1837 Reading


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1839/223; 1839/290; 1839/367

J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p362

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Transcription of extracts from the journal of Aaron Bell published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine.

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