Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Grenfell Jenkin (1865–1966)

by Arnold D. Hunt

This article was published:

John Grenfell Jenkin (1865-1966), Methodist minister, was born on 4 August 1865 at Kerrow Madron, Penzance, Cornwall, England, son of John Jenkin, shoemaker, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Grenfell. At 12 he came to Australia with his parents who, after a short period in New South Wales, settled at Daylesford, Victoria, as storekeepers. Educated locally, Jenkin worked as a clerk.

His family was closely associated with the Wesleyan Methodist Church and in 1890 Jenkin became a candidate for the ministry. He transferred to South Australia and after brief terms as assistant in four churches, he was in 1892 the first Methodist minister at Renmark, the new irrigation settlement. His first services were held under a gum-tree but he soon built a galvanized-iron church. After five years' probation and the completion of his studies Jenkin was ordained minister in 1895. A year as pioneer minister at Elliston, Eyre Peninsula, followed and then he volunteered for service in Western Australia.

In 1897-99 he was on the Menzies goldfields north of Kalgoorlie. Conditions were difficult: he lived in a tent and, with dogged tenacity, cycled seventy miles (113 km) over camel pads between the two centres. With iron will and spirit he established a congregation and built the first church at Menzies. He then served in five Western Australian circuits, including Perth and Fremantle and twice at Kalgoorlie. He presided over the State conference in 1913. On 30 March 1904 at South Fremantle he had married Roberta Claudine Bernier De La Grange; they had two sons. Jenkin is remembered in the family as a rather severe but concerned family man. He was interested in youth work: the young men's club he established at Boulder had 200 members and he was a chaplain to the military forces in Western Australia in 1911-17.

In 1918 Jenkin returned to South Australia and spent three years at Kapunda. In 1921 he moved to Pirie Street which for the first six years of his ministry was part of the Adelaide Central Mission. Pirie Street was the leading church of South Australian Methodism; his predecessor had been the great preacher Henry Howard who had drawn huge congregations. Jenkin ministered here for twelve years and maintained the church's primacy as a preaching centre. He formed a young people's institute with spiritual, literary, music and recreation branches and was president of the South Australian Conference in 1931. Strongly evangelical, he fostered the Church's missionary work in the Pacific region. He retired in 1936 but took services for another twenty years. He was a keen artist, caricaturist and photographer and a collector of minerals and gem stones.

His ministry had been distinguished for its vigorous, purposeful preaching; his congregations were always large. He was also active in several community groups, notably Rotary and the South Australian Cornish Association: in the 1920s he was a popular speaker on Cornish subjects and singer of Cornish songs. Jenkin died on 7 November 1966 at 101 and was buried in Payneham cemetery. He had said that his long life was due to 'the goodness of God, the great devotion of his wife and … good ancestors'. He never 'sought anyone's favour nor feared anyone's frown'.

Select Bibliography

  • Methodist Church of Australasia (South Australia), Conference Minutes, 1967
  • Australian Christian Commonwealth, 7 Apr 1933
  • Mail (Adelaide), 8 Mar 1958
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 6 July 1960, 31 July 1965, 5 Aug, 8 Nov 1966
  • private information.

Citation details

Arnold D. Hunt, 'Jenkin, John Grenfell (1865–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 August, 1865
Kerrow Madron, Cornwall, England


7 November, 1966 (aged 101)
South Australia, Australia

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