Nelson, John (1798-1869)

Kendall, Origin & History of the PM Church, Vol 2, p170

Early years

John was born on 6 December 1798 at Disforth, Ripon, Yorkshire.

He was converted on 22 October 1816 and became a local preacher the following year.

John’s brother Thomas also became a PM Travelling Preacher.


Kendal writes: “John Nelson entered the itinerant ranks in December, 1820.  He had the advantage of his brother as to physique, being tall of stature and strongly built, his countenance pleasing, and his presence commanding. In him were united zeal and industry, considerable intellectual power and fluent utterance – a combination of qualities which naturally rendered his ministry popular and attractive. John Nelson entered, too, the ranks of authorship; but he took his place there as the precursor of J. A. Bastow, John Petty, James Garner, and Thomas Greenfield, not as a Biblical scholar or systematic theologian, but as a preacher still. The volume of “Sermons and Lectures” he published – the bulkiest and highest-priced book as yet given to the press by a Primitive Methodist preacher – was a souvenir of his ministry in Hull in 1828-9. It consisted of a series of discourses – doctrinal, practical, and experimental – delivered on Sunday evenings when, in his turn, he occupied the town pulpit.”

Petty records how John and George Cosens, a native of the West Indies, were sent to mission Dorset by the Sunderland Circuit. Unfortunately there was a falling out between the two which eventually resulted in Cosens leaving the Primitive Methodist Ministry for the Baptist Church and John leaving to become a Methodist New Connexion Minister. More information is given on this story in an article by H. Bickerstaffe Kendall, published in the Christian Messenger in 1914. A full transcription of the text is attached.


John married Mary Wesleby (b abt1794) of Barton, Lincolnshire. She died before the 1861 census, possibly in Bradford in 1860. Birth records identify two daughters.

  • Mary (b1828)
  • Elizabeth (b1832)

John died on 23 May 1869 at Belfast, Ireland.


  • 1823 Hull
  • 1828 Birmingham
  • 1829 Hull
  • 1831 Brompton
  • 1832 Newcastle
  • 1833 Sunderland
  • 1836 Manchester
  • 1837 Withdrew from PM Church
  • 1838 Newcastle – Methodist New Connection
  • 1840 Sheffield Sth.
  • 1841 Gateshead FC
  • 1843 Sunderland
  • 1845 Hull
  • 1846 Barnsley
  • 1847 Wolverhampton
  • 1849 Nottingham
  • 1851 Chester
  • 1854 Gateshead
  • 1856 Thorne
  • 1859 Bradford
  • 1862 Dudley
  • 1863 Stalybridge
  • 1864 Truro
  • 1866 Ballyclare, Ireland


J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p176, p322

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p.170

Christian Messenger 1914/204

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

Oliver A Beckerlegge, United Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1968

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Note: Wife’s surname from daughter’s baptism records.




Transcription of an article in the Christion Messenger 1914, which tells the story of two travelling preachers who left the PM Connexion.

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