DOVE, JAMES, Methodist clergyman and historian; b. 3 Dec. 1827 in Darlington, England; m. 1859 Mary White in St John’s, and they had four daughters and five sons, of whom five survived their parents; d. there 2 Jan. 1908.
James Dove prepared for the Methodist ministry in the days when Newfoundland was a mission of the British Wesleyan Conference. With another young missionary, Charles Comben, he volunteered for service in Newfoundland in 1855. Arrangements for their free passage to the colony were made with Mission House in London by a prominent St John’s merchant and Methodist lay leader, James Johnstone Rogerson. The pair embarked on Rogerson’s brig Claudia at Torquay, and after a month-long voyage reached St John’s on Saturday, 1 December. The following day Dove preached his first sermon at Gower Street Methodist Church, and on Monday he celebrated both his 28th birthday and the beginning of an active ministry of singular length and some distinction.
Following his probationary period as an assistant at the Gower Street church, Dove acted as relief minister in Burin for two years. In 1859 he married Mary White, the eldest daughter of the noted sealing master and lay Methodist Edward White*, and began a circuit ministry characteristic of the time. His charges were frequently in Conception Bay communities, the scene of the earliest Methodist missionary activity in North America [see Laurence Coughlan*], but were sometimes further afield. These years of pastoral service included Port de Grave (1859–60), Lower Island Cove (1860–63), Harbour Grace (1863–66), Bonavista (1866–69), St John’s (1869–72), Twillingate (1872–73), Carbonear (1873–76), Blackhead (1879–82), Cupids (1882–85), and Brigus (1885–88).
From these busy years few personal details survive apart from the steady record of service and a growing reputation as “one of the strong preachers of the Methodist ministry.” There is one intriguing anecdote recounted by David G. Pitt, the biographer of poet Edwin John Pratt*. In 1882, when Dove was serving at Blackhead, Pratt’s father, John, was pastor at the neighbouring station of Western Bay. Dove baptized the future poet, naming him at the parents’ request Edwin John Dove Pratt. Ten years later, we are told, Dove fell briefly from grace in the eyes of his church for an offence not specified, and John Pratt, a severe, almost chalcenterous Methodist, “expunged the old patriarch’s name from that of his son forever.”
In 1888, after 29 years on circuit, Dove became a supernumerary minister in St John’s, principally at George Street Wesleyan Church, where he was admired for his performances as a theological preacher. He was also busy in the affairs of the St John’s Wesleyan Academy (later the Methodist College) as a member of successive boards of directors, executive committees, and the like. For this work, and for his services as twice secretary (1875 and 1878) and thrice president (1876, 1879, and 1883) of the Newfoundland Conference, he was awarded a dd by Mount Allison College in Sackville, N.B., in 1893. Two years later his brief history of the Methodist Church in Newfoundland was one of four chapters in the ecclesiastical supplement to Daniel Woodley Prowse*’s massive History of Newfoundland . . . (London). At the time of his death in January 1908, Dove, aged 80, was engaged in writing a formal history of Methodism in St John’s. The unfinished but valuable manuscript remains as a relic of “the Nestor of Newfoundland Methodism,” the last survivor from the era of British missionaries to the island.
[Information on Dove’s family background is sparse; the details presented in his biography are based mostly on the family bible presented to Mary [White] Dove by her father, Captain Edward White, now in the possession of Miss Janet Story of St John’s.
Dove’s papers, including a manuscript “History of the Methodist Church in St John’s,” are preserved in the UCC, Newfoundland Conference Arch. (St John’s); a second copy of the history in Dove’s hand is located at the UCC, Central Arch. (Toronto). g.m.s.]
Daily News (St John’s), 3 Jan. 1908. Collegian ([St John’s), 1960: 65–84. Family names of the island of Newfoundland, comp. E. R. Seary with S. M. P. Lynch (St John’s, 1976). D. W. Johnson, History of Methodism in Eastern British America . . . ([Sackville, N.B.], n.d.). Charles Lench, The story of Methodism in Bonavista . . . (n.p., 1919; repr. St John’s, 1985), 89. Methodist Monthly Greeting (St John’s), July 1893; February, March 1908. D. G. Pitt, E. J. Pratt . . . (1v. to date, Toronto, 1984– ), 13, 370. G. M. Story, George Street Church, 1873–1973 (St John’s, 1973), esp. 46. William Wilson, Newfoundland and its missionaries . . . (Cambridge, Mass., and Halifax, 1866)