Monday, December 08, 2014

Quaker Alphabet Blog 2014 - W for James Wilson

James Wilson was born in 1677 in Kirby Lonsdale, Westmoreland. His father owned a 'tolerable estate' and James was brought up in the Church of England. However from his youth he was dissatisfied with what he had been taught and searched for what he called 'real religion'. He read the Bible, especially the New Testament, but eventually found what he was looking for among the Quakers.

After he was convinced James married Sarah Gardener in 1704 and they became members of Grayrigg Meeting. As well as their own numerous family they took in others including John and Samuel Fothergill who stayed with the Wilsons while attending school in Sedbergh. Later Samuel recalled that James 'discharged the office of a father to me in my minority with a father's regard and tenderness.'

When James was in her thirtieth year he became a Quaker minister and began to travel, at first locally and then farther afield. He visited Scotland and in 1714 went to Ireland. He also frequently attended Yearly Meeting in London, Wales and elsewhere.

He was not prominent nationally and wrote no journal of his travels, but he was much valued by those who knew him. His family connections with those of high rank in the district were useful to local Friends and he was of great service in settling disputes among his neighbours.

James Wilson was a good friend and neighbour as surviving letters to and from him testify. He gave good advice and encouragement, acted as a listening ear, sympathised with his friends' hardships and rejoiced with their joys. Lydia Lancaster writes to him in 1755 'with much thankfulness that I had such a friend as thee, to open my mind to and pour out my complaints...wherein thy wise counsel and tender, fatherly sympathy was a great strength to me, a poor distressed creature'. Samuel Bownas corresponded with him as a fellow minister when he was concerned about the state of Quakerism.

His old age brought much pain and infirmity but his memory and understanding did not leave him. James Wilson had outlived all his nine children and all but two of his grandchildren when he died at his home in Kendal at the end of 1769 at the age of 92.

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