Our History | The Wesleyans of the Yass River

The Methodist or Wesleyan church was begun by John Wesley who led a revival movement within the Church of England in England in the later 1700s.

Some of the very earliest settlers along the Yass River became ardent supporters of the movement and seem to have formed their own strong community groups, both there and at Nanima.

Some of the very earliest settlers along the Yass River became ardent supporters of the movement and seem to have formed their own strong community groups.

An early 1847 sketch map of the river shows the small unregistered holdings of Noah Davies who arrived in NSW in 1838 and William Armstrong in 1839 - both free immigrants.

The families of Noah and his wife Mary Ann (née Sainsbury) and William and his wife Mary (née Edgerton) were to go on to play a significant part in the Wesleyan revival movement that swept through the district from the 1850s.

By the 1850s a small slab church with a bark roof was built at Mundoonan.

It served as a church, school and Sunday school for both children and adults. Mary Ann Davies started religious classes and her husband Noah would often be the preacher.

Here at the church, the young Elizabeth Davies probably first met young Thomas Armstrong whom she would later marry.

CHURCH PEOPLE: (clockwise from top left) Noah and Mary Davies with their group for religious instruction in the first slab Methodist church at Mundoonan in the late 1850s; Thomas Armstrong Junior and his wife Minnie May née Young, and family, 1912. (Photos Judith Davidson); and Nanima Creek Methodist Church, mid 1960s after it closure. (Photo Oskar Pumpurs).

CHURCH PEOPLE: (clockwise from top left) Noah and Mary Davies with their group for religious instruction in the first slab Methodist church at Mundoonan in the late 1850s; Thomas Armstrong Junior and his wife Minnie May née Young, and family, 1912. (Photos Judith Davidson); and Nanima Creek Methodist Church, mid 1960s after it closure. (Photo Oskar Pumpurs).

This primitive building was destroyed by fire.

A team of neighbours led by the Thompson brothers, John and James who had settled nearby at Greenfields in the 1850s rebuilt the church but this time in brick. The date 1862 is still visible above the entrance to this substantial little church.

James's great grandson, the late Bert Thompson, recalled the names of other Yass river families; the Sainsbury, Foot, Wiggins, Petty, Egan, Carter, Wheatley, Mater, Edgerton, Woodman and Wilkinson families would have worshipped here. Then came the Grubers, Sleemans, Walmsleys, Armours, Johnsons, Wrights, Greys and many more. All these names resonate down the years to the present day, although the church closed in 1986.

Methodism followed the movement of these families to Murrumbateman Creek.

In 1901 Elizabeth Armstrong, known as Gran, daughter of Noah and Mary Ann Davies, widowed and living on Greenwood, donated the land for a Methodist church to serve the Nanima community.

Her son Thomas Armstrong Junior married Minnie May, teacher at nearby Toual school, who boarded with his mother at Greenwood.

Thomas along with John Armstrong, George, Charlie and Richard Butt and John Hall were the original trustees of the little pise church that closed in 1959 but still stands on Winstonwood. Minnie May ran the Sunday school, played the organ and organised the harvest festivals.

Along with Methodism went the Temperance movement. Alcohol was forbidden as was dancing and certainly no sport or work on Sunday. Church attendance and Sunday school were the social highlights of the week.

At Nanima fortnightly meetings of the Band of Hope, tea meetings and the annual Harvest festival made the church a focus for this tight-knit community.

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