Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Eggleston, John (1813–1879)

by Renate Howe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

John Eggleston (1813-1879), Wesleyan minister, was born on 2 January 1813 at Newark, Nottingham, England, son of Frederic Eggleston, confectioner and local preacher, and his wife Ann, née Else. In 1833 he was hired by a Lincolnshire circuit to conduct services. Next year he was accepted by the British Conference as a ministerial probationer and filled appointments at Rotherham, Buxton, Sheffield and Edinburgh before his ordination in 1838 at the Wesleyan Conference in Bristol. There he was persuaded by the newly-appointed general superintendent of Australasian Missions, Rev. John Waterhouse, to accompany him to New Zealand.

After his marriage to Eliza Moulton in 1838, Eggleston embarked with the missionary party and arrived in Hobart Town on 31 January 1839. Because plans were changed Waterhouse and Eggleston stayed in Hobart while the others went to New Zealand. A year later Eggleston left Hobart to take charge of the small Wesleyan society in Adelaide. Primitive living conditions and disagreements with church members over state aid led to his early withdrawal and he returned to Van Diemen's Land where he was stationed at Launceston as a colleague of Rev. William Butters in 1843. Appointments to New Norfolk in 1846, Hobart in 1847, and Sydney in 1850 preceded his transfer to the Collins Street Chapel, Melbourne, where he was active on the Wesleyan Education Committee for the Victoria district. He returned to Sydney in 1856 as general secretary of Australasian Foreign Missions and became responsible for their oversight in New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, which in 1855 had become the charge of the Australasian Conference. Because of the huge correspondence Eggleston was released from circuit duties in 1858. He faced many difficulties: missions in the north of New Zealand were desolated in the Maori wars of 1862 and those in Samoa were the subject of a bitter dispute with the London Missionary Society. Despite Eggleston's efforts to raise money, the amount contributed by the Australasian Church decreased, and the Missionary Committee of the British Conference had to continue substantial grants. After debate the Australasian Conference of 1861 decided to continue the missions despite their financial burden.

Confidence in Eggleston's administration was expressed by his election as president of the Australasian Conference in 1860. He resigned as missionary secretary in 1863 and returned to circuit work at Wesley Church, Melbourne. There he renewed his interest in educational affairs, especially the establishment of the Wesleyan Grammar School (Wesley College) opened in 1866. He visited England in 1867 and on his return was superintendent of circuits at St Kilda, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Clunes and Geelong East. He was appointed treasurer of the supernumerary ministers and ministers' wives fund in 1868 and helped to prepare a plan for the improved government of the Church by annual and general conferences. Failing eyesight forced his retirement in 1878 and he died at Brighton on 23 January 1879. Eggleston was an untiring and earnest minister, evangelical and pietistic in theology. His two sons and two daughters, together with their descendants, became influential in church, law, politics and architecture in Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • J. C. Symons, Life of the Rev. Daniel James Draper (Lond, 1870)
  • M. Dyson (ed), Australasian Methodist Ministerial General Index (Melb, 1889)
  • Spectator (Melbourne), 30 Jan 1879.

Citation details

Renate Howe, 'Eggleston, John (1813–1879)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/eggleston-john-3473/text5315, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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