FORDYCE, JOHN, priest of the Church of England, missionary at St John’s, Newfoundland; d. 1751 at Prince Frederick (Georgetown), South Carolina.
John Fordyce was ordained by the bishop of St David’s, Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1730. He was then sent to St John’s, Newfoundland, where he was warmly welcomed by the residents, who had been without a missionary since the death of Jacob Rice* in 1728 and had petitioned the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for a replacement. In September 1731 Fordyce obtained from the leading churchmen of St John’s a certificate that he had behaved well and given attention to his duty, and handed this document to Governor Henry Osborn* to be forwarded to the bishop of London.
Within a month, however, Fordyce informed the bishop that he was having to contend with some “capricious and fractious people.” His situation was rendered uncomfortable by the failure of the residents to fulfil their promise to the SPG to provide him with a subscription of £45 and a quintal of merchantable fish for every shallop fishing from St John’s Harbour. In November 1735 Fordyce appealed for assistance to the SPG, which decided to increase his grant “if the Lord Bishop of London is satisfied in his character.” After some persuasion from the SPG, the defaulting residents agreed to carry out their promise if Fordyce would have a gallery built for them in the church. Fordyce had the gallery erected in 1734 at a cost of £30 10s. 6 d. to himself, but “after all that, they paid him in such miserable fish as they would never have dared to give to anyone else.” Their cash dues remained unpaid.
In 1735 Fordyce asked to be transferred to South Carolina, and the society agreed. He arrived in New York in July 1736 and took up residence soon afterwards in his new parish of Prince Frederick, South Carolina. Three years later his parishioners sent a testimonial to the SPG thanking it for sending him as their missionary. This happy relationship was not to last, however, for in 1741 Fordyce decided to “quit his ungrateful parish,” when the vestry raised objections about his character. He moved for a while to the neighbouring parish of Prince George’s (Winyaw). The parishioners of Prince Frederick, however, complained bitterly that they were without a missionary, and when they promised to elect Fordyce their minister, despite the vestry’s objections, he returned to them. By October 1744 his health was failing and he asked to be allowed to return to England. Though permission was given the following spring he did not return, probably because of a serious outbreak of yellow fever around Prince Frederick. His wife died of consumption in 1748, and in October 1751 the wardens and vestry of Prince Frederick notified the bishop of London of Fordyce’s death.
Fordyce seems to have been a deserving minister who was treated harshly in the two colonies in which he served. The bishop of London and the SPG dealt cautiously with his complaints, however; and his letters from St John’s and Prince Frederick suggest that life might have been a bit easier for him if nature had endowed him with a greater degree of tact.
USPG, A, 25, p.348; 26, pp.280–81; B, 7–2, p.249; 10, pp.146–48; 12, p.90, 92–93; 13, p.351; 16, p.134; 19, p.147; Journal of SPG, 6, pp.223–38. The Fulham papers in the Lambeth palace library, ed. W. W. Manross (Oxford, 1965), 5. Prowse, History of Nfld.