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Collection 068 Papers of Hugh Bourne

Identifier: CN 068

Scope and Contents

Microfilm copy of a journal kept by Hugh Bourne, British evangelist and revivalist, about his mission trip to Upper Canada on behalf of the Primitive Methodist Church. In 1845, he began a tour of the northeastern U.S.A. circuits, and then sailed from New York for England in March, 1846. Includes material on camp meetings, temperance, and Methodists.


  • Created: 1844 - 1848

Conditions Governing Access

The original documents preserved on this microfilm are owned by the library at Hartley Victoria Methodist College. Permission from the rights holder is required to quote, publish, or distribute this material.

Biographical Information

Hugh Bourne was born April 3, 1772, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, the son of Joseph and Ellen Bourne. As a youth, he was apprenticed to his uncle as a wheelwright, and eventually pursued this trade being principally concerned with windmill and watermill wheels. From his childhood he sought an inner conviction of salvation and he spent, as he put it, "twenty sorrowful years" in this pursuit. In 1799, at the age of twenty-seven, he achieved this goal. From that point on, he began to seek a way to be a preacher of the gospel, although by necessity he continued in his trade.

Bourne joined the Methodist movement, but his support of the "camp meeting" type of open-air evangelism did not endear him to many fellow Methodists. Bourne learned much about the camp meeting when the American evangelist Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834) visited England, and on May 31, 1807, he put his knowledge into practice by organizing the first English camp meeting at Mow Cop, on the border of Cheshire and Staffordshire. The Methodist authorities condemned the proceedings as "highly improper in England," and excluded Bourne from the circuit in 1808. Bourne and his followers organized under the name Camp Meeting Methodists.

In 1810, William Clowes (1780-1851) was also excluded from the Methodist circuit for much the same reasons as Bourne's exclusion. On February 12, 1812, the Camp Meeting Methodists and the Clowesites coalesced into one body, taking the name Primitive Methodists. Emphasis on the camp meeting as a channel of evangelism was unquestioned.

For the next forty years, Bourne traveled widely, founding Primitive Methodist societies, which by the time of his death numbered one hundred ten thousand persons with five hundred and more circuit-riding pastors. In 1829, a mission field was opened in America, with stations in New York, Philadelphia, and Upper Canada. In 1840, the United States churches became independent of the English conference. Bourne, at the age of seventy-two, in 1844 undertook a journey to Upper Canada to oversee the mission there. After being there for a year, he accepted an invitation to visit the United States societies of the "Primitive Methodist connexion," as he called it, en route back to England. He sailed from New York for Liverpool in the spring of 1846.

Hugh Bourne died at Bemersley, Staffordshire, England, on October 11, 1852.


1.00 Reel of microfilm

Language of Materials


Arrangement and Description of Material

From 1803 to 1852, Hugh Bourne kept a journal. Twenty-two volumes of this exist, lacking the years 1821-1842. This collection is a microfilm copy of two of these volumes, covering February 8, 1844, to April 14, 1848. A detailed description of the volumes, with explanation about pagination, can be found in the introductory material at the head of the microfilm. The journal is preoccupied with religious matters, specifically the salvation of souls and the furtherance of the Primitive Methodist cause. Constant themes in the journal are: nearly daily preaching, teetotalism, Sunday schools, and Methodist politics. He refers to salvation often as "liberty." One special interest of Bourne's was what might be called Children's Sermons.

The two volumes of Bourne's journal contained in this collection cover the two years he spent in missionary work in Canada and the United States. Below are noted some of the more significant passages, selected because the commentary is particularly good, or because the event itself is noteworthy.

1844 Apr 3 His birthday; he discusses his age and spiritual life

Jun 9 Description of a camp meeting

12 Troubled mind about decision to go to America

18 Description of a barn fitted up as a chapel, where he spoke

Jul 2 Preparing to sail; list of wardrobe; description of embarking

Jul-Aug  Description of journey; seasickness; things seen; religious services on board

Aug 26  Recap of journey; sailors' ideas about church and Sabbath observance

Sep 7 Montreal; foodstuffs; prices; economy

14 Sunset on St. Lawrence River (excellent description)

15 Church services on board ship

16 Passenger drowns in Rideau Canal; journey to Toronto

Oct 2 First log house he has ever seen

Nov 6 Threshing machine

13 Dealing with a reprobate man

21 List of his appointments through January 1845

Dec 26 Sleighing

1845 Jan 1  He walks nineteen miles; receives invitation from Primitive Methodist Society of New York to visit

10 Difficulty in winter travel

Feb 12  District reports 1832-1844 for England's seven Primitive Methodist districts (membership statistics); recipe for homemade yeast

[End of volume one; beginning of volume two. There is a bit of an overlap, with volume two beginning at February 1, 1845.]

Feb 5 Winter weather in Canada

Mar 25 Boiling down maple sugar

May 9 A successful Sunday school

15 Rumors of war between U.S. and England

19 Niagara Falls

23 Primitive Methodist ministers' pension fund

29 Description of Niagara Falls and museum

Jun 30 A funeral

Jul 20 Camp meeting at Buffalo, new York

23 Cradling wheat

Aug 4 Minutes of Niagara Falls and Buffalo mission station meeting

14 Costs of trip from Toronto to New York City

Sep 15  Testimony of a man in New York; Bourne's thoughts that Satan is behind some of william Clowes's publications

Mid-September and after: descriptions of New York City

Oct 19 Vandalism done on a chapel in Brooklyn

Nov 1 Trouble is over in Brooklyn

13  Visit with the Pennington family: mother and son churchgoers, father a drunkard; his words to Mr. Pennington about having "a little hell" in him

23  Dedication of a new church at Paterson, New Jersey; distinction between a "church" and a "chapel"; good descriptions of church services and the building

1845 Nov 26 Passaic Falls and its value to Paterson

Dec 15 Reservoir at New York City

16 Journey, New York to Philadelphia; church meeting at Philadelphia

17 Description of Philadelphia

26 Post-communion "lovefeast" described

31 Watchnight services in church

[Printed leaflet stitched into journal at this point: "American Man-Stealing and the Alliance." Concerns the Presbyterian Church and slavery.]

1846 Jan 8 A backslider "gloriously set at Liberty"

9  Philadelphia water works: steam engine vs. water wheel; involvement of whiskey in steamworks system

19 Pottsville (New Jersey) circuit

20  Slave trade a blot on religion, especially the "Episcopal Methodists"

25 Description of Norristown, Pennsylvania

26 Winter: England vs. America

28  Excellent description of a Protestant Methodist Church service; mention of "penitent bench"

30  Suspension bridge over Schuylkill River; waterworks for Philadelphia

31 Various Methodist groups in the United States

Feb 2 A robbery

Feb 3  He charts out the Great Lakes from the Lake of the Woods to the Atlantic; "ungodly" men create a disturbance at church

11 Fellow member is excluded from the circuit

13 He makes arrangements to sail for England

18 Discovery of deception in a fellow worker, William Lawson

Mar 1 Communion; grape juice and NOT wine is noted

4 He sails for Liverpool

12 Winter storm at sea; water in ship

[Two items stitched into volume at this point: (1) A letter dated October 19, 1847 concerning an attack on Bourne's leadership in the Primitive Methodist church, and (2) a pamphlet, primarily statistical in nature, entitled "A Nine Years' Progress Report of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, from the Conference Held in the Year 1824 to the of 1833, Intended as a Continuation of the History of the Primitive Methodists."]

1846 Mar 20  Poor spiritual condition of crew and passengers on board; his health improved when he left America

24 Ireland sighted

26 Arrival in Liverpool

Apr 4  Description of the herb cure his mother used on him as a boy for an eye disease; cure still in use in 1846

May 24 Camp meeting at Oldbury

25 Meeting continues; woman preacher

Jun 7 Camp meeting

22 A textbook description of Niagara Falls

Jul 5 Blind preacher

Aug 2 Camp meeting

Sep 3 Wool combers out of work

9 He fears Primitive Methodist Connexion is declining

14-15 Proselytizing of a sick girl; her death predicted by another

16 Teetotalism service preached at Rochdale

Dec 27 Christmas sermon at Mow Cop

1847 Apr 14 He tries that old herb remedy for the eye problem

May 9 Camp meeting

Jun 15 Description of an excellent sermon he heard

Jul 4  Services at Doncaster: sermons, prayer meeting, mourner's bench, woman preacher

25 Camp meeting at Masbro (Masborough?)

31 Gets a new tarp on his umbrella

Aug 1 Sheffield camp meeting (at Cricket Grounds)

1847 Aug 9  An attack is made on Bourne's character and leadership abilities (see letter stitched in journal after March 12, 1946)

17 He has a dream with a message from God

Aug 24 York museum

Oct 6 Tooth extracted

[The rest of the journal is rather mundane; it ends April 14, 1848.]

After the day-by-day entries are over one hundred pages on which many essays, letters, and extracts are written. Not every item is noted here, but the more important pieces follow in this order:

1. Sketch of some of Hugh Bourne's early religious work, ca. 1799-1800

2. Primitive Methodist statistical accounts

3. Excerpt from 1826 annual meeting minutes, including a denunciation of "reciting sermons"

4. Invoice of Sunday school books, purchased 1825

5. More statistics

6. Text of "Temperance Sermon or Lecture"

7. "Niagara Falls"--a technical description

8. Extract from a book, A Testimony of God Against Slavery, 1839

9. Copies of several letters

10. "Secret of Oliver Cromwell's Success"

11. Essay "On the Meekness of Wisdom"

12. Essay "On Commerce Connected with Religion"

13. Pamphlet "An Account of the works of God at Harriseahead, near Mow, in Staffordshire..." by Hugh Bourne, 1842

14. Pamphlet "Letters to Mr. Aaron Leese, of Tunstall, on his History [of Wesleyan Methodism]..." by Hugh Bourne, 1842

15. "On Relieving the Eyes," concerning the herb eye cure. Apparently a manuscript draft for an intended pamphlet

16. List of the foodstuffs, clothing, and other things Bourne took from New York to Liverpool in 1846

17. More copies of letters

18. Essay "The Temperance Movement"

19. Miscellaneous letters, essays, and accounts

20. Deed Poll of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1830

21. Cure for Burns/Cure for Sore Throat. Recipes for home cures.

22. Essay "The Camp Meeting, or Open-Air Preacher"

23. Miscellaneous letters and essays

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were purchased by the Billy Graham Center Archives.

No Accession number

September 22, 1982

Galen R. Wilson

Collection 068 Papers of Hugh Bourne
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Nineteenth Century Handwriting

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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