Kendall provides the following information about the early life of Nathaniel and his journey to becoming a travelling preacher.
“From the manuscript journals of Sampson Turner now before us we find George Herod, Sampson Turner and Nathaniel West labouring together at the beginning of 1822 in the York branch, which became a Circuit in March of the same year. As this is the first time N. West’s name comes before us, and we shall hear much of him until 1827, a few words respecting this remarkable man will be in place. He was an Irishman, and when we first see him in 1819, he wears the King’s uniform und is known as Corporal West of the King’s Bays. He was a man every inch of him; of splendid physique, more than six feet in height, and with good natural parts sharpened by discipline. Altogether he was a man to impress and look at admiringly. When his regiment was stationed at Nottingham he was drawn to the room in the Broad Marsh and got soundly converted. He soon began to preach, and became very popular. In Leeds, to which town the King’s Bays shortly removed, Corporal West attracted great crowds by his preaching. While at Leeds he talked so much of the Primitives—of their zeal, their methods, their success, that the desire was awakened in many to see and hear this wonderful people for themselves. A pious young woman, a Methodist, fell in love with the handsome soldier and offered to find the whole or greater part of the money to purchase his discharge from the army. The offer was accepted, and N. West showed his gratitude by marrying his benefactress. But before this the King’s Bays had removed to York, and Corporal West may have been one of the troopers who encircled William Clowes when he preached on the Pavement on May 19th. Before the summer was over he was certainly connected with the York Society, for Sarah Harrison expresses her pleasure at meeting with him on her third visit to the city just after the preaching room had been taken, By May, 1820, ex-corporal West was a travelling preacher and, as we have seen, at the beginning of 1822 we find him one of the York staff“
Nathaniel is credited with introducing Primitive Methodism to Tadcaster in 1820.
A transcription of journal extracts from 1821 relating to missions from the Hull Circuit is attached.
The Primitive Methodist Magazine also published letters in 1824 relating to his work in Sunderland. The 1824 Magazine also published articles by Nathaniel about a proposal for a new Magazine aimed at children, a warning about imposters posing as PM preachers and a mining disaster in Co. Durham. The latter article provides a good example of the style of preaching used by early PM preachers, which focused on preparation for the after-life. Transcriptions of these articles are attached.
Unfortunately Nathaniel’s connection with the Primitive Methodist Connexion came to a difficult end. Kendall writes as follows.
“ Unfortunately, the bright prospects of the Edinburgh mission soon suffered disastrous eclipse. Sunderland Circuit had appointed N. West to superintend the mission, and from one with so good a record much was expected. He had already acquired considerable Connexional influence, and was active in originating legislation. His last effort in this direction was to prove his own undoing. At the Conference of 1827 he brought forward a proposal, which became a law, to the effect that any preacher who should refuse to go to his appointed station should, by such refusal, forfeit his position as a minister. What followed furnished a striking instance of the “engineer hoist with his own petard”; for N. West, being now appointed to South Shields, declined the appointment, with the result that the year 1828 saw both the disappearance of N. West’s name from the list of preachers, and also the first appearance on the statute book of that enactment which led to his passing. But N. West did not leave the Connexion unattended. He took possession of the preaching-room, and drew away the greater portion of the society. Then John Bowes was sent to patch up the rent, but made it worse by going over to the malcontents. Jabez Burns, too, who had given Mr. Petty his first ticket, joined the secessionists. For a time they worked together and established several societies, but ultimately the leaders disagreed amongst themselves, and then parted to go their several ways. N. West went to the United States.“
Nathaniel was born in September 1794 in Ulster, Ireland.
After leaving the PM ministry, he travelled to USA arriving on 27 May 1834. There he became a Presbyterian minister (1851). He received a D.D. from Jefferson College, Pennsylvania in 1853. During the Civil War he served as Chaplain of the Satterlee United States Army General Hospital in Philadelphia, being mustered in on May 31, 1862 and served until his death.
He married Sarah Linforth (1800-1881) on 24 September 1820 at Leeds, Yorkshire. Records identify six children.
- Jane Ann West (1821-1886) – married Lyman T Covell, a teacher (1850)
- Harriet (1823-1824)
- Nathaniel (1824-1906) – a Presbyterian clergyman
- George Montgomerie (1827-1828)
- Sarah L (1830-1915)
- Mary Julien (b abt1835)
Nathaniel died on 2 September 1864 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- 1821 Hull
- 1824 Sunderland
- 1825 Silsden
- 1826 Sunderland
- 1827 S Shields
- 1828 disappears
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1822/127; 1824/10; 1824/34
J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p135 & 247
H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p57 & p77 &p206
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers