Name of creator(s): Thomas | John | 1796-1881 | missionary
Administrative/Biographical history: Born at Worcester, England, 1796; blacksmith at Hagley, Worcestershire; became a Methodist and soon began to preach; married Sarah Hartshorn (d 1867); accepted by the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (WMMS), 1824; pioneering missionary to Tonga (the Friendly Islands) in the South Seas; arrived in Tonga, 1826; preached at Hihifo, Tongatapu, 1826-1828; moved to the island of Ha'apai, 1829; baptized the chief Taufa'ahua Tupou, 1831; a Tonga-wide revival movement began, 1835; Thomas enthroned Tupou, with English rites, as first king of all Tonga, 1845; although the WMMS withdrew from Samoa (1839) by agreement with the London Missionary Society, Thomas advocated re-entry and supported Tupou's policy of sending Tongan Wesleyan missionaries to Fiji and Samoa; persuaded the Australasian Wesleyan conference (which took over the Pacific from the British Wesleyans in 1855) to reverse the LMS decision regarding Samoa; following a visit to England his influence with Tupou waned, 1850s; retired to England and became supernumerary minister at Stourbridge (Worcestershire), 1860; died, 1881. Publication: translated Hymns, Catechisms, Prayers, &c for the use of the Wesleyan Societies in the Friendly Islands (1861).
Custodial history: The papers were deposited with the Methodist Missionary Society and form part of the special series of biographical papers of individual missionaries.
Immediate source of acquisition: Deposited on permanent loan with the records of the Methodist Missionary Society from 1978.
CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Scope and content/abstract: Papers, 1786-1875, of John and Sarah Thomas, including John Thomas's journals and memoranda books, 1821-1875, including his religious reflections, life in England and Tonga, and missionary work; sermon notes, undated; manuscripts on Tonga and the South Seas, including mythology, religion, history, and ranks of chiefs, undated; photographs, prints and drawings, most unlabelled, of people and places in Tonga, undated [1820s-1850s?]; two accounts of the life of Sarah Thomas by John Thomas [1867 or after]; miscellaneous correspondence, 1825-1873, of John and Sarah Thomas, including letters from John Thomas to Wesleyan Mission House; journals of Sarah Thomas (née Hartshorn), 1826-1855, including her experiences in Tonga; account book for building a new Methodist chapel in Glasgow, 1786-1792; steward's account book, 1813-1820, of the Methodist Society, Glasgow, including Leaders' meetings minutes, 1813-1820.
System of arrangement:
ACCESS AND USE
Language: English and Tongan
Conditions governing access: Unrestricted, but only to be viewed on microfiche. Originals to be consulted only with written agreement from the Methodist Church.
Conditions governing reproduction: No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.
Finding aids: Unpublished handlist.
Related material: The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (Ref: MMS/WMMS), including letters from John Thomas in Tonga (Ref: MMS Australasia Correspondence Friendly Islands). SOAS also holds a photocopy of a letter (1857) from Thomas in Tonga to his brother-in-law, referring to mission activity there (Ref: MS 380449).
Copies: Published on microfiche by IDC Publishers (SOAS ref: Fiche Box Number Special Series 37-41). Microfilm in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, Australia.
Archivist's note: Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Ministers (1878); Wesleyan Methodist Church Minutes of Conference (1881), pp 34-5; British Library OPAC.
Date(s) of descriptions: Mar 2002