METHODISM came to MORANT BAY in April 1802, when some local preachers visited from Kingston. One of them, Mr T. WARREN, later became a Minister. Revd. Daniel CAMPBELL with Rev. William FISH followed up the visit and by July a Society of 30 persons was formed.
Persecution soon began among the Preachers and their Helpers who were refused Licences to allow preaching – especially among slaves. John WILLIAMS – A Freed Slave – was the outstanding Layman. Refused a Licence to preach, he met his group in a home, sang hymns and prayed. He was imprisoned for this in a damp cell calculated to destroy his health. Rev. Daniel Campbell was tried several times and finally imprisoned in 1803 and so persecuted he had to leave the island. He was the First Methodist Minister to be imprisoned in Jamaica.
William WHITE, a local preacher shepherded the flock for years. The First Chapel was built in 1807. In 1815, with membership at 155, Morant Bay became Head of a Circuit with Rev John BURGAR as superintendent. He was taken to court and charge with conspiracy – distributing mysterious slips of paper – urging violence. These “slips of paper” with persons’ names and the Minister’s proved to be Class Tickets of Membership and Rev. Burgar was acquited. When he died of yellow fever, the Vestry gave his widow £100 in tribute to him and his Ministry.
The Morant Bay Circuit stretched to Manchioneal, Bath, Pomfret and Port Antonio. Ministers were regularly appointed – Revs. Horne, Underhill, Ratcliffe, Hartley, Johnstone, Duncan and others. Rev. Joseph Hartley spent only 18 months in his ministry before he died from yellow fever in Jan 1820. He was only 20 years old. Rev. James Penman lasted on 20 months dying 30 Nov 1830. Missionaries ran the risk of dying, but yet they kept coming.
By 1832, when Rev David BARR came as Minister, the work had settled into a routine, but the SLAVE UPRISING in the west made St Thomas most uneasy and martial law was enacted. A run-away slave was caught and his head cut off and fixed on a a pole for warning. Even after Emancipation, it was stressful and it can be seen that the “seeds” for the 1865 Rebellion were sown……………[adapted – plaque on display in the church]
Sacred to the Memory of Rev. James COX….rest illegible [far left]
Scared to the Memory of Rev. James KERR, Wesleyan Minister, died 23 Aug 1835 in the 29th year of his age….[middle]
In Memory of Margaret the beloved wife of the Revd William HODGSON, Wesleyan Minister who died at Morant Bay on the 7th Oct 1844 in the fortieth year of her age…[foreground]
30-32 Queens Street
St. Thomas, Jamaica W.I.