Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by W. Garner
AN ACCOUNT OF THE SUDDEN AND LAMENTED DEATH OF JOHN BRANFOOT & JOHN HEWSON, P. M. ITINERANT PREACHERS.
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh,” Matt, xxiv. 44.
On Saturday Feb. 26, 1831, about three o’clock in the afternoon, our justly respected brethren, J. Branfoot, and John Hewson, were going to their appointments, they were by an inscrutable Providence removed out of this world. This took place on the rail-way on which the coals are brought down from the Hetton colliery. It may be observed there is near Warden-law a steep or inclined plain on this rail-way. And in such cases the rail-way is double; and a train of loaded waggons in going down one rail-way, draw a train of empty ones up the other. The two brethren in ascending this incline, were met by a train of loaded waggons, which they carefully avoided; but it seems did not recollect that a train of empty waggons were rapidly coming up after them, on the other rail-way. And it seems in avoiding the loaded waggons they stepped on the other rail-way, on which were the empty ones; and these suddenly overtook, and partially at least passed over them, Brother Hewson was killed in an instant. Brother Branfoot was likewise thrown down and dreadfully injured, He, however, raised himself up, and inquired for Bro. Hewson, and on being informed he was no more, Bro. B. replied, “He is gone to glory, and I shall soon be with him.”
Brother Branfoot lingered a few hours in extreme bodily pain, but was surprisingly supported in his mind. He was once observed to shiver, and heard to complain that he was cold, which probably was owing chiefly to the great effusion of blood which had issued from his wounds. About half past nine o’clock he departed in peace, and entered that rest which remains to the people of God.
Why the Lord has done this thing we know not now, but we shall know hereafter. His ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. But whatever he does is well done. For he is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind, I think it would be wrong for any one to presume to tell us why they were removed from us by means so singular and distressing, “The ways of God are unsearchable, and his judgments are past finding out.” And it would not become us to pry into his secret and eternal counsels, and summon him to give an account of his matters. That would he an attempt,
“To snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice (and) be the God of God.”
We are certain the time and circumstances of their dissolution were under the control of Jehovah, and a hair of their head could not have fallen to the ground without his divine permission. But why one was suddenly taked away in a moment, in the midst of health and usefulness; and the other removed in a few hours after, are mysteries too profound for us to explain. They are too wonderful for us, we cannot attain unto them. Let us not comment upon the secrets of God, but reverently adore what we cannot comprehend, and humbly acknowledge that he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
Though death came upon our brethren like a thief in the night, at an hour they thought not of, he did not find them unprepared. They had trimmed their lamps before that fatal period, and it is a matter of consolation to their surviving friends and the church, that they were well employed when it arrived. We are told by one of our members who was with them when the misfortune happened, that a lovefeast which Bro. Hewson was appointed to hold at Hetton, the day following, was the subject of their discourse. Thus their conversation was in heaven. Their death has awakened an uncommon sympathy in the public mind, and excited an extraordinary spirit of benevolence towards their disconsolate widows and fatherless children.
J. Hewson was born at Tanfield near Ripon, in the year of our Lord 1793. At a very early age his mind was deeply impressed with religious truths, but he was not savingly converted till he was about 20 years of age. He was called out to travel by the Hull circuit, and ministered before God in our connexion about ten years and a half.
I understand his pious and active labours have been crowned with an abundant harvest. So far as I can learn, as a christian he sustained an excellent character, and was greatly beloved in the several missions and circuits where he has laboured. He died aged 38 years. He has left a widow and 5 children the eldest aged 15 years, the youngest one year and a half.
John was born in 1793 at Tanfield, nr Ripon, Yorkshire.
John died on 26 February 1831. He was buried on 2 March 1831 at Holy Trinity, Sunderland.
- 1821 Hull
- 1828 Redruth
- 1830 Sunderland
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1831/274
H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 1, p372
J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p155 & p243
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers