WELTON, DANIEL MORSE, Baptist minister, scholar, and educator; b. 20 July 1831 in Aylesford Township (Kingston), N.S., son of Sidney Welton and Isabel Morse; m. 23 Sept. 1857 Sarah Eliza Messenger in Upper Wilmot, N.S., and they had at least three children; d. 28 Feb. 1904 in Toronto.
After preparatory schooling at Horton Academy in Wolfville, N.S., Daniel Welton entered Acadia College in 1851 and graduated ba four years later. He remained for an additional year at Acadia, studying theology under John Mockett Cramp* and serving as tutor in rhetoric. Following a further year of study at Newton Theological Institution in Newton, Mass., he returned to Nova Scotia where he became pastor of the Windsor Baptist Church. He was ordained on 3 Sept. 1857, in Windsor.
It was during his Windsor pastorate that he became involved in the debates in which 19th-century Canadian theologians seemed to revel. In Nova Scotia, one of the chief topics was the proper mode and time of baptism, with Baptists pitted against most other denominations. Local Methodists and Presbyterians took offence at a series of sermons preached by Welton in 1870, and responded with sermons denouncing his position. Welton replied in kind, and issued a pamphlet entitled Christian baptism: a sermon in reply to Rev. Dr. Richey’s two sermons on the same subject; also strictures on Rev. Mr. Annand’s lecture on the mode of baptism. The debate settled nothing, but it did bring Welton forcefully to the attention of his denomination.
Welton had maintained his connection with Acadia since his graduation, and served on the board of governors from 1861 to 1874. Although some theological courses had been taught there on occasion, theological studies were not undertaken in a systematic or extensive way. Most Maritime Baptists who wished to pursue formal ministerial training had to go to the United States. Growing dissatisfaction with this situation led to the decision to increase the opportunities at Acadia. Welton’s education, commitment to the college, and active involvement in theological debate made him an obvious choice for the position of professor of theology and church polity; he was appointed in August 1874.
In 1876, realizing that further study was advisable, Welton applied for a leave. The next two years were spent in Germany at the University of Leipzig, where he followed courses in Hebrew and Old and New Testament interpretation. During this time he was a frequent contributor to the denominational press, keeping Maritime Baptists informed about his work and his impressions of Europe. He was at particular pains to explain that, contrary to the suspicions many might have, the professors under whom he studied were evangelical, not “rationalistic.” He did express grave reservations about the future of Germany, however, commenting that “when a people have gone to the length of putting human speculation in the place of the Book of God; the day of worldly pleasure in the place of the day of God; and the theatre and ballroom in the place of the house of God, they have not much farther to go, to get rid of God himself.” Welton graduated with a phd in 1878, having written a thesis entitled “John Lightfoot, the English Hebraist.”
Whatever the accuracy of Welton’s claims about not being a rationalist, theological studies at Acadia acquired a much more scholarly approach after his return, as professor of Hebrew and systematic theology, in 1878. Even admitting that the Scriptures could be interpreted in the light of modern scholarship was a step that not all Canadian Baptists were prepared to take. More and more emphasis would be put on “professional” training as preparation for the Christian ministry. By 1882 Acadia would have a well-planned, coherent program of study in theology, and this achievement must be attributed largely to Welton.
Once back at Acadia Welton began a concerted effort to strengthen theological studies, gradually taking over control of the theological department from the aged and largely ineffective Edmund Albern Crawley*. He argued forcefully in the denominational press that Maritime Baptists must have a strong theological school in their midst if they expected to have the educated, enlightened leadership he felt was necessary for sustained growth. He was particularly concerned with the continued inclination to seek theological training (if sought at all) in the United States. Financial constraint frustrated Welton’s plans, and the retirement of Crawley in 1882 left most of the burden of theological work on his shoulders.
Similar concerns among Ontario Baptists about the quality and cost of ministerial education had led them in 1881 to open a theological school in Toronto which could serve the entire dominion. The move had been made possible by the financial assistance of Senator William McMaster*. The hope was that Acadia in the east, Woodstock College in Ontario, and a yet-unfounded Baptist college in the west would all send their graduates to Toronto Baptist College for the study of theology. With this objective in mind the main force behind the scheme, John Harvard Castle*, the college’s president, visited Acadia in 1883.
It was with some misgivings that the board of governors agreed to the Ontario proposal, recognizing the difficulty of securing funds for two or three Baptist theological colleges yet reluctant to send their young men off to Ontario. Welton’s appointment as one of the five professors in the new college eased some of their reservations, and the decision was made to suspend theological studies at Acadia. By 1890, however, Maritime Baptists had concluded that the experiment had failed, since Maritime students preferred to study in the United States rather than Toronto. Support of the central theological school was withdrawn, and Acadia resumed ministerial education. By this time, Welton was too well established in Toronto to return.
Welton had been appointed to the chair of Old Testament exegesis at Toronto Baptist College, and, after the college was subsumed into McMaster University in 1887, he took on responsibility for Hebrew and cognate languages in the theology department of that institution, then located in Toronto. There he taught for the rest of his life. For McMaster, and the denomination, probably his most important student was Howard Primrose Whidden*, future chancellor of the university.
During his lifetime Welton witnessed major advances in ministerial education within his denomination. He himself contributed substantially to the increased emphasis on a scholarly approach to the ministry, and in 1884 Acadia awarded him an honorary dd in recognition of his services. He died in 1904, well before the bitter quarrels of the fundamentalist-modernist conflict in the 1920s, which would tear his denomination apart.
In addition to the works mentioned in the text, Welton is the author of The imitative faculty, its use and abuse: a lecture delivered before the Acadia Lyceum, Wolfville, N.S., Feb. 2, 1858 ([Halifax?], 1858).
Acadia Univ. Arch. (Wolfville, N.S.), Board of governors, minutes. Canadian Baptist (Toronto), 10 March 1904. Christian Messenger, 7 Oct. 1857, 1876–79. Messenger and Visitor (Saint John, N.B.), 23 March 1904. The Acadia record, 1838–1953, comp. Watson Kirkconnell (4th ed., Wolfville, 1953). Edward Annand, Christian baptism: a lecture in reply to a sermon by Rev. D. M. Welton (Halifax, 1870). Eaton, Hist. of Kings County. D. C. Goodwin, “The baptismal controversy, 1811–1848, as the religious dimension of the intellectual awakening in Nova Scotia” (m.div. thesis, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, 1989). C. M. Johnston, McMaster University (2v., Toronto, 1976–81), 1. G. E. Levy, The Baptists of the Maritime provinces, 1753–1946 (Saint John, 1946). R. S. Longley, Acadia University, 1838–1938 (Wolfville, 1939). Memorials of Acadia College and Horton Academy for the half-century 1828–1878 (Montreal, 1881). G. A. Rawlyk, “A. L. McCrimmon, H. P. Whidden, T. T. Shields, Christian education, and McMaster University,” Canadian Baptists and Christian higher education, ed. G. A. Rawlyk (Kingston, Ont., and Montreal, 1988), 31–62. Univ. of Acadia College, Calendar & catalogue (Halifax), 1882/83.