Posted by: jrirish | April 26, 2012

William Black – from Methodist to Latter-day Saint

William Black, a stocking weaver, was born in Belfast in 1744 and first heard the Methodists at an old slaughterhouse at Malone during 1764. He joined the society soon afterwards and in 1766 married Elizabeth Charlotte, daughter of Hans Cumberland who, with his wife, had been among the first to associate with Methodism in Lisburn some ten years earlier. Elizabeth died in 1781 and William married for a second time in August 1782. He died in Lisburn in 1835 aged 89. His obituary stated that he had been a member of the Methodist society for 70 years and, for 66 of those, a prayer and class leader. In 1798 he had embraced the Methodist New Connexion form of church government and continued with them until his death.

Jane Black, almost certainly a daughter, married Samuel Tucker, the son of one of John Wesley’s earliest preachers, in 1793. A daughter Harriet was born in the following year but Jane died in 1795, aged only 24, and was followed soon afterwards to the grave by her child who died of smallpox at only 16 months.

Her half-brother, William Black, was born in 1784 and at the age of 17 enlisted in the 72nd Regiment serving for 21 years both in Ireland and abroad. On his return to Ireland he married Jane Johnston, daughter of another Wesleyan preacher, who had died when she was just 16. They joined the Methodist New Connexion Methodists and lived with William’s father until the venerable old man’s death.

The family then moved to Manchester (England) and at the beginning of 1839 joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On 27th July 1840, Elder Taylor, accompanied by James McGuffy from Newry and William Black, who was by then a newly ordained priest, embarked from Liverpool for the overnight voyage to Ireland. They disembarked at Warrenpoint next morning and in the evening Elder Taylor preached at Newry. These were the first ‘Mormon’ missionaries to visit Ireland.

Elder Black laboured in the Lisburn area until September when he returned to Manchester to help Jane and their three sons immigrate to the United States. He followed in December 1842 arriving in Nauvoo in April of the following year. Having spent time in Iowa they crossed the plains [over 1000 miles by ox team] to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake and finally settled on the Rio Virgin River in Southern Utah where William died in 1873 in his ninety-ninth year.



  1. Thanks for this post, Wesley. I think the connection between Mormonism and Methodism in northeast England deserves further study. Nearly a quarter of those who were converted by Joseph Smith’s missionaries to Britain were from Methodist backgrounds. There is also an interesting Canadian connnection to the work, in that Brigham Young, before embarking to England, had first visited Upper Canada and had considerable success amongst the Methodists here, many of whom had recently immigrated from Liverpool.

    • Hi Rob
      Thanks for that insight … I was unaware of it.
      I will bear it in mind when I get to researching early 19th c. Irish Methodism especially its interaction with the NE of England.

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