Featherstone, Joseph (1801-1847)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by George Welbourn

JOSEPH FEATHERSTONE was born on March 11th, 1801, near Wearhead, in the county of Durham. When eight years of age he began to work in a lead-mine; and mining was his occupation till he was called to the office of a Primitive Methodist itinerant preacher. In the year 1823 he was converted to God in a prayer-meeting, conducted by Mr. Thomas Batty. Hundreds of souls can dwell with pleasure on the saving glory which then accompanied the labours of brother Batty and his colleagues in Weardale. O, those by-gone days were glorious in the best acceptation of the expression! for the power of the Holy Spirit, to convince and convert sinners, seemed to be nearly overwhelming on every hand; and hill and dale resounded with cries for mercy and the joyful shouts of newly-converted souls and experienced believers. “Haste again, ye days of grace!” 

Brother Featherstone had not been in the habit of attending any place of worship before our people missioned the dale in which he lived; but, attracted by their lively hymns and powerful open-air preaching services, he and hundreds of others became the subjects of saving grace, and then united to erect chapels and spread the work of God in the neighbourhood. The leisure hours of our brother were spent in reading and studying the Scriptures; and soon he was extensively and usefully employed as a local preacher. His invariable conduct was agreeable to the requirements of the gospel, and this fact tended, in a great measure, to render his preaching more acceptable than that of some of his brethren, whose oratory was much superior to his. O, there is in holy living a power which cannot but be felt when its subject officiates in a pulpit!

In January, 1824, the mother of the deceased became a widow, and then her support and that of the younger branches of the family devolved upon him. He knew that the honouring of his widowed parent was divinely enjoined; and therefore he pleasurably placed his earnings at her disposal, until he could not innocently resist the repeated calls which he received to become a travelling preacher. For four years he was undecided whether he should remain at home, or obey the call of the church; sometimes parental entreaties and filial attachment having the ascendency, and a belief that he ought to be wholly devoted to the work of the ministry, having it at others. Finally, this belief was fixed; and. after making honourable arrangements with his parent, he bade her adieu, and felt that God sanctioned his step, though he often had to struggle with the pangs of filial attachment, stirred up by the recollection of his relinquished home and its associations. Far away from this home he never lost a son’s affections, but saved a portion of his small salary to aid in meeting his mother’s wants. Happy mother! to have such a son; and happy son! to have such affections. 

His labours in the itinerancy commenced in Hull circuit, in the year 1831; and having travelled two years with acceptability and usefulness in this circuit, he was stationed successively in Pocklington, Halifax, Bradford, Wakefield, Louth, Swinefleet, Doncaster, Otley, and Pontefract circuits. When in the missionary work he had to endure trials; but these he bore resignedly, and counted all things but loss that he might win souls to Christ. Believing in the utility of family visiting, he often prayed with several families before commencing his evenings’ preaching services; consequently, these services were usually well attended, and highly profitable to himself and his congregations. He was immoveable from any position which his conscience had pronounced righteous; and on this account, partial judges of his character might place him in a category with the dogmatic: but those who understood him properly would merely say, “he had fixedness of purpose.” He was remarkably industrious, punctual in his observance of appointments and engagements, and had little sympathy for those who followed either spiritual or secular objects with half-heartedness. 

On December 8th, 1835, he entered into matrimonial life; and, on account of his manly affection, deep piety, and seasonable counsel, he was endeared to his wife and children. As a friend, he was steady, free from flattery, and exceedingly affectionate, though the last trait was scarcely observable to any but those who were intimately acquainted with him. His appearance was robust; and, till June 17th, 1843, his health was generally good. 

At this period, he spoke of having a severe pain in his head; but the symptoms were not alarming. Soon after his arrival in Doncaster circuit, he had a laborious day at a camp-meeting; a slight discharge of blood from the lungs ensued; and, in a few days afterwards, a second discharge took place while he was coughing. After a fortnight’s rest his work was zealously resumed; and it was continued, without interruption, till May, 1845, when he complained of slight indisposition. When he entered Otley circuit, in July, 1845, the low state of the cause in the town and at some of the country places, led him to labour too freely for his indisposed state; and in March of the year following, while expressing his gratitude to God for an increase of sixty-one members in nine months, he wrote in his journal, that his physical ability was yielding to the pressure of his ministerial toil. As the summer approached he regained strength, and successfully prosecuted the work of the Lord till August, when he was so much prostrated that he attempted not to preach till February, 1847; and then he could preach but once, and speak a little at one missionary meeting. 

Being stationed in Pontefract circuit by the Conference of 1847, he wrote to desire the brethren here not to plan him to preach more than twice on each sabbath, and to say that he hoped to be soon able to take moderate labour. At our first committee meeting, when arrangements were in progress for getting a substitute for him till the September quarterly meeting, he was thankful for our sympathy, but said that he hoped the state of his health would be such as to put an end to the services of the substitute before the time specified. So buoyant was his mind that, within six weeks of his death, he told my colleague he was too well not to be doing something. English cholera attacked him on December 3rd, 1847; and with resistless force it hurried him to the tomb. On the 12th, I said to him, “Friend Featherstone, what do you think of this afflictive dispensation?” and he replied, “It is all right.” Finding him in a dying state on the evening of the 14th, I stepped to his bed-side; when he held out his hand to me, and said, “I am a prisoner of hope.” Though his sufferings were occasionally intense, yet when he exchanged time for eternity, he was like one falling into a deep sleep. May his surviving widow and four children meet him in heaven!


Joseph was born on 11 March 1801 at Wearhead, Co. Durham.

He married Mary Judson (1804-1871) on 8 December 1835 at Bradford, Yorkshire. Census returns identify three children.

  • John Joseph (1837-1867) – a warehouse stock-keeper (1861)
  • Edwin Henry (b1841) – a warehouse stock-keeper (1861); a salesman (1881)
  • Sarah Jane (abt1843-1869)

Joseph died on 14 December 1847 at Pontefract, Yorkshire.


  • 1831 Hull
  • 1832 Pocklington
  • 1833 Halifax
  • 1836 Wakefield
  • 1839 Louth
  • 1841 Swinefleet
  • 1843 Doncaster
  • 1844 Scotter
  • 1845 Otley
  • 1847 Pontefract


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1848/132

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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