METHERALL, FRANCIS, Bible Christian minister, founder of the Bible Christian mission in Prince Edward Island; b. December 1791 in North Devon, Eng.; d. 9 June 1875 at Cape Wolfe, P.E.I.
Francis Metherall experienced evangelical conversion in 1819 under the ministry of James Thorne, associate of William O’Bryan, founder of the Bible Christian movement, a Methodist sect which originated in Shebbear, Devon, in 1815. After being received into the Bible Christian ministry in 1822, Metherall served circuits in the Isles of Scilly, Monmouth, Jersey, Somerton, Guernsey, Portsea, and Penzance.
Metherall was appointed to Prince Edward Island in 1831 following a request by Bible Christian immigrants from the west of England for a minister of their own. He arrived at Bedeque on 26 May 1832, and soon founded his first congregation at Union Road six miles northeast of Charlottetown. Within a year he organized an 80-mile circuit including Wheatley River, Vernon River, and Sturgeon track, with a total of 47 members. He also built a residence and mission house at Vernon River; his first wife was Mary Langlois, whom he had married in Guernsey on 22 Aug. 1826, and they had eight children. When Philip James arrived on the Island in 1834, the circuit was enlarged to include New London with an itinerary of 120 miles and 36 preaching stations. James served the eastern area, and Metherall extended the work westwards to St Eleanors, New Bideford, and West Cape, for several years travelling the rough terrain on foot. In an area settled largely by Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, the progress of the Bible Christians was slow, but widespread use of protracted meetings led to “the great revival” of 1843 when the church’s membership increased to 400 in two years. With this increase, P.E.I. was designated a district of the English Bible Christian Church with Metherall as superintendent. Two additional ministers, William Calloway and William Harris, joined Metherall; James had by that time gone to the Cobourg circuit in Canada West.
In 1846 Metherall moved from Vernon River to the West Cape circuit. His first wife had died in 1841, and in 1853 he married Mary Nelson by whom he had four children. In that same year he took over the Union circuit, and in 1857 was succeeded as superintendent by Cephas Baker. At this time Metherall’s poor health and his failure to secure additional help from England caused a recession in the work of the mission. Metherall retired from active ministry in 1869, but continued to serve on the West Cape circuit until his death. An obituary said of him, “His name on P.E. Island is, and will for many years be an household name, while the fruit of his Christian toil abides as a monument of indefatigable perseverance under the divine direction and blessing.” In 1884 the Bible Christian Church in Canada became part of the Methodist Church of Canada.
UCA, Francis Metherall papers, letters and diary. Francis Metherall family bible, in possession of Miss I. M. Metherall, Halifax, N.S. Bible Christian Church in Canada, Annual Conference, Minutes, 1857–84. Bible Christians, Annual Conference, Minutes (Shebbear, Devon; London), 1819–76. Bible Christian Magazine . . . being a continuation of the Arminian Magazine (Shebbear, Devon), 1831–84. Observer (Bowmanville, Ont.), 1867–84. Albert Burnside, “The Bible Christians in Canada, 1832–1884,” unpublished dd thesis, University of Toronto, 1969. John Harris, The life of the Rev. Francis Metherall, and the history of the Bible Christian Church in Prince Edward Island (London and Toronto, 1883). J. E. Sanderson, The first century of Methodism in Canada . . . (2v., Toronto, 1908–10), II, 426–30. Thomas Shaw, The Bible Christians, 1815–1907 (London, 1965), 31, 52. George Webber, “The Bible Christian Church,” Centennial of Canadian Methodism (Toronto, 1891), 205–27; “Prince Edward Island, No. II,” Observer (Bowmanville, Ont.), 9 April 1873.