DAVIS, JOHN, Baptist minister and author; b. 7 or 8 Nov. 1802 at Liverpool, Eng., son of Richard Davis (or Davies); d. 14 Aug. 1875 at Charlottetown, P.E.I.
John Davis’ father was a prominent Baptist clergyman and four of his sons followed in his footsteps. John received his theological education at Horton College, Bradford, Yorkshire, and was ordained at Portsea, Hampshire, probably in 1829. When Richard Davis died in 1832, John wrote A brief memorial of the Reverend Richard Davis of Walworth (1833), his first published work.
After serving in several English churches, Davis came to North America, probably in 1845. Following a brief ministry in New Jersey, he became an agent for the American and Foreign Bible Society, which shared his belief in the folly of infant baptism. This belief he later developed in Circumcision and baptism, published in Charlottetown in 1867. His work with the society brought him to Yarmouth, N.S., in 1852; he was eventually persuaded to become co-pastor there with the aging Harris Harding*. During his pastorate two additional churches were established in Yarmouth when he sent his own members out to form “colonies” of his church.
In 1855, the year after Harding’s death, John Davis resigned to move to New Brunswick. He visited Prince Edward Island as a representative of the New Brunswick Home Mission Board, and was invited to become pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charlottetown. At first he declined, but in 1858 he was persuaded to accept the position to represent both the Nova Scotia and the New Brunswick Home Mission boards on the Island. There he continued his work of colonization by establishing at least two more churches – St Peter’s Road and one called North River (West and Clyde River). Davis published The patriarch of western Nova Scotia: life and times of the late Rev. Harris Harding . . . in Charlottetown in 1866. He was instrumental in separating the churches in P.E.I. from those of Nova Scotia – a split designed to make work more effective and probably to provide some financial relief to Nova Scotia churches.
John Davis was noted among his contemporaries as a man of vigorous intellect, more interested in truth than in feeling; his preaching was instructive rather than emotional. He was described as an enthusiastic friend of liberty, of conscience, of trade, of the constitution, and of the press. A prominent member of Maritime Baptist circles, he was awarded an honorary ma by Acadia University in 1870. He resigned his pastorate in 1873 and died two years later, having outlived all his children.
Acadia University Library, “Historical sketch (1836–1874) of the Charlottetown Baptist Church,” W. B. Haynes ms; Zion United Baptist Church, Yarmouth, N.S., Notes from the records, 1814–56. John Davis, Circumcision and baptism (Charlottetown, 1867); The patriarch of western Nova Scotia: life and times of the late Rev. Harris Harding, Yarmouth, N.S., intro J. W. Nutting (Charlottetown, 1866). I. E. Bill, Fifty years with the Baptist ministers and churches of the Maritime provinces of Canada (Saint John, N.B., 1880), 330–32. J. A. Clark, A history of the First Baptist Church, Charlottetown ([Charlottetown, 1959]). W. E. McIntyre, Baptist authors, a manual of bibliography, 1500–1914 (3v., Montreal and Toronto, ), III, 190. One hundred and fiftieth anniversary, Zion Baptist Church, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 1797–1947 ([Yarmouth, N.S., 1947]). A short history of the Baptist Church of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (Sunnyside (Charlottetown), ), 9, 10.