The Methodist Church in Wonthaggi

This is an interesting account of the Methodist Church in Wonthaggi. I have taken it from A Century of Victorian Methodism by The Rev. C. Irving Benson. Published by Spectator Publishing in 1935.

Wonthaggi – Here we were the first Church on the coalfields. On the arrival of the first batch of miners, thirty-five in all, they were met by the Rev. Courtenay Thomas, who sensing the possibilities of the place, promptly secured a tent, which would accommodate 200 men and obtaining meanwhile a supply of red-gum planks for seats, was ready to begin operations. A Sunday School was opened under the guidance of Mrs. Gardiner, and before long its success became an embarrassment, the number of children in attendance passing the 400 mark. Later, Mr. M.D. Cock provided an iron building, which was placed on the site secured for the Methodist Church and after this had been in use for a while, in 1911 a wooden structure, 66 feet by 34 feet, was built.

According to the Rev. Benson the Methodist Church was also the first Church to have a resident Minister and erect a place of worship on the goal fields in the 1850s as there “were many Cornish miners and Irish Methodists aflame with the fire of Methodism, and by their frank and fearless piety they won a singular respect among the wild and reckless men who abounded at the Diggings.”

It appears that the Methodist Church was very pro-active, as we would say now, from the beginning of Victoria’s European settlement. The first Methodist to settle in Melbourne soon after 1835 was said to be Thomas Watson, a veteran of Waterloo, known as “Waterloo Watson.”

*Originally published in South Eastern Heritage Issue 6 October 2007 and written by Heather Arnold.

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