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Samuel Waterhouse (1830–1918)

by Niel Gunson

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WATERHOUSE BROTHERS: Jabez Bunting (1821-1891), Joseph (1828-1881), and Samuel (1830-1918), Wesleyan ministers, were the fifth, ninth and tenth children of Rev. John Waterhouse (d.1842) and his wife Jane Beadnell, née Skipsey. In 1838 their father, a prominent Yorkshire Methodist, was appointed general superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission in Australia and Polynesia with a roving commission. With his wife, seven sons and three daughters, he reached Hobart Town in the James on 1 February 1839.

Jabez was born in London on 19 April 1821, educated at Kingswood School in 1832-35 and apprenticed to a printer. In Hobart A. Bent's printing premises were purchased and worked by Jabez. In 1840 he became a local preacher extending his ministry to convict road menders. Received as a probationer in 1842, he returned to England to enter Richmond (Theological) College and in 1845 was appointed to Windsor circuit. After his ordination at the Methodist chapel, Spitalfields, he was sent to Van Diemen's Land in 1847, and ministered successively in the Hobart, Westbury, Campbell Town and Longford circuits. In 1855 the first conference of the Wesleyan Church in Australia appointed him to South Australia; he served at Kapunda, Willunga and Adelaide, his ministry marked by his business acumen and his role as secretary of the Australasian Conference at Adelaide in 1862.

In 1864 Waterhouse was transferred to New South Wales and was appointed successively to Maitland, Goulburn, Orange, Waverley, Parramatta, Newcastle and Glebe. In 1874-75 he was secretary of the New South Wales and Queensland Annual Conference and president in 1876; he was elected secretary of the first three general conferences of the Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Church: in Melbourne 1875, Sydney 1878 and Adelaide 1881. In 1882 he retired as a supernumerary, but remained on committees such as those of the Sustentation and Extension Society and the Missionary Society, frequently looking after missionary interests during the absence of George Brown. He supported the Wesleyan Church in Tonga in the dispute with S. W. Baker and published The Secession and the Persecution in Tonga … (Sydney, 1886). Regarded as a gifted preacher by his denomination and as the architect of most of the conference legislation, he died of heart disease and dropsy at Randwick on 18 January 1891 and was buried in the Wesleyan section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by his wife Maria Augusta, née Bode, whom he had married at Windsor, England, on 13 August 1847, and by seven sons; his second son John was headmaster of Sydney High School.

Joseph was born at Halifax, Yorkshire, England, in February 1828 and educated at Kingswood School in 1832-36, and St Andrew's Presbyterian school, Hobart; he became a member of the Methodist society at 14. In 1846 he joined his brother George Marsden in Adelaide. After serving as a local preacher for a year, in 1849 he was recommended for the ministry by Rev. D. J. Draper and volunteered as a missionary to Fiji. He worked in the group from 1850-57 when he returned to Australia on deputation for two years. He went back to Fiji in 1859 and, as chairman of the district, accompanied Colonel W. J. Smythe on his tour of the islands, and influenced him against their cession to Britain. Forced by ill health to leave Fiji in 1864, next year he was appointed to New Norfolk and served in Tasmania until 1870 when he moved to Victoria, ministering at Beechworth and Ballarat. In 1874, after its annexation to Britain, he returned to Fiji at the request of the Sydney Conference and took charge of the Training Institution at Navuloa until 1878 when he returned to Australia. He was drowned in the wreck of the Tararua off Dunedin on 29 April 1881 after visiting New Zealand.

Regarded as a great missionary, Joseph championed the system of indigenous teachers in Fiji against the policy of F. Langham, and was credited with the conversion of Cakobau, chief of Bau and afterwards King of Fiji. A man of forceful personality he believed in 'a Methodism startling hell itself by its aggressive movements', and was described as 'a splendid man, inclined to hardness, but just'. He published in London Vah-tah-ah, the Feejeean Princess (1857), The Native Minister … (1858), The King and People of Fiji (1866) and The Ocean Child … a Memoir of Mrs Anna M. Rooney (1868). By his wife Elizabeth, née Watson, whom he married on 26 March 1850, he had ten children.

Samuel was educated at St Andrew's school, Hobart. In 1850 he was appointed to the Melbourne circuit as a 'bush missionary' with a commission to itinerate around Kilmore, Bacchus Marsh and Mount Macedon and was the first minister to preach at the Mount Alexander goldfields. In 1851 he became a missionary to Fiji, but was forced by ill health to return to Victoria in 1857. Stationed successively at Warrnambool, Kyneton and Amherst, he became a supernumerary in 1865. Next year he moved to Hobart but was confined in the Hospital for the Insane, New Norfolk, from 1870 until he died on 19 November 1918. He was described by his family as 'a real genius, fiery, eloquent, affectionate, generous'. He had one son George Wilson Waterhouse, a celebrated lawyer, by his first wife Esther Day, née Wilson, whom he married on 27 January 1852; she died in Fiji on 17 April 1856. On 9 February 1858 he married Eleanor Watson, sister of Joseph's wife, who bore him three sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Dunn, The Missionary of Australasia and Polynesia (Lond, 1842)
  • R. Young, The Southern World (Lond, 1854)
  • Mrs W. J. Smythe, Ten Months in the Fiji Islands (Oxford, 1864)
  • J. Colwell, The Illustrated History of Methodism (Syd, 1904)
  • G. C. Henderson, Fiji and the Fijians, 1835-1856 (Syd, 1931)
  • C. Irving Benson (ed), A Century of Victorian Methodism (Melb, 1935)
  • G. J. Waterhouse et al, A Brief Account of the Life and Activities of Rev. John Waterhouse: More Particularly from the Time of his Arrival in Van Diemen's Land Until his Death (Syd, 1937)
  • Wesleyan Missionary Notices (London), 1838-65, and (Australasia) 1857-81
  • Town and Country Journal, 4 Mar 1876
  • Weekly Advocate (Sydney), 7, 17 May 1881, 24 Jan, Feb 1891
  • Methodist overseas mission papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Waterhouse papers (Trinity College, Auckland, New Zealand)
  • family papers (privately held)
  • manuscript and printed catalogues (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Niel Gunson, 'Waterhouse, Samuel (1830–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




19 November, 1918 (aged ~ 88)
New Norfolk, Tasmania, Australia

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