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John Alfred Seymour (1881–1934)

by J. H. Love

This article was published:

John Alfred Seymour (1881-1934), Presbyterian minister, was born on 16 June 1881 at Mountain near Winchester, Ontario, Canada, son of John Wesley Seymour, farmer, and his wife Hope, née Milward. He graduated from the Columbian Methodist College, Ontario (affiliated with the University of Toronto), as licentiate of sacred theology in 1905 (B.D., 1907). Ordained in the Methodist ministry in 1906, he spent two years in home-mission work in Yukon Territory. In 1908 he began postgraduate study at Yale University (B.D., 1909; M.A., 1911), and became pastor at Westville Methodist Episcopal Church, New Haven, Connecticut, in 1909. In the previous year he had married Elsie Liddelow, an Australian; they had one son. After graduating as doctor of sacred theology from Temple University, Philadelphia, in 1912, he migrated to Melbourne where the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia received him as a minister, subject to a year's probation. He took charge of a new church at Murrumbeena. He moved to Chalmers (now Scots) Church, Adelaide, in February 1916.

A thoughtful preacher, Seymour quickly gained his peers' esteem in Adelaide, being elected moderator of the South Australian General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1918. During nine years as convener of the South Australian Home Mission Committee, Seymour guided and encouraged partly qualified men in country and suburban churches which were not self supporting. He was largely responsible for an agreement with the Congregational and Baptist churches under which ministerial candidates were able to study at the Congregational Parkin Theological College; he lectured there in church history. He also lectured in biblical subjects at the Chapman-Alexander Bible Institute. He was twice president of the South Australian Council of Churches and was the first president of the local Evangelisation Society. In World War I he was an Australian Imperial Force military-camp chaplain in Adelaide.

Seymour's most distinctive contribution to South Australia was in education. His persistence persuaded the General Assembly to agree to, and enough Presbyterians to pay for, the foundation of Scotch College in 1919 and Presbyterian Girls' College in 1922, both catering for children from grade I to matriculation. He was chairman of the council of Presbyterian Girls' College (later Seymour College). Although he was a scholarly and perhaps rather reserved man, an adventurous side to his character is revealed in anecdotes about his being treed by a bear in the Yukon and taking his young son to Scotch College on the back of his motor cycle.

Seymour resigned from Chalmers Church in 1928 and moved to St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Belleville, Ontario. An accident in which he was hit by a tram caused his death in Toronto on 14 February 1934.

Select Bibliography

  • Presbyterian Banner, Mar 1916, p 8, Mar 1934, p 7
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 16 Feb 1934
  • Uniting Church Synod Archives, Melbourne
  • Presbyterian Church Archives (State Library of South Australia)
  • correspondence with Yale, Temple and McGill Universities, and Scotch College, Adelaide
  • private information.

Citation details

J. H. Love, 'Seymour, John Alfred (1881–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 June, 1881
Mountain, Ontario, Canada


14 February, 1934 (aged 52)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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