John Churchman (1705-1775)

from the Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain
Friends House Euston Road London NW1 2BJ
Born at Nottingham, Chester Co. Pa. 6mo. (August) 1705. Died at the same place, 7mo. 24, 1775, at the age of seventy. John's education was irregular. He had but three months schooling to a man who was a weaver and sat at his loom while the children read to him. Illness struck John in 1725. He had religious impressions very early. In 1730 became an elder and clerk of Mo. Mtg. for 20 years. He began to preach at twenty five, and traveled much in his own country, Europe, Great Britain and Ireland, and left an interesting Journal of his travels and experiences. He was chosen a Justice of the Peace in 1748, which was a great trial to him, and after much reflection, he declined the honor, "because God called him to avoid worldly cumbers." He and Israel Pemberton about this time waited upon the Mayor of Philadelphia, probably Charles Willing, and warned him to deal justly. He made also in this year (1748) a visit to the State House, in Philadelphia, where the Assembly was then sitting, and addressed them on the subject of the war tax and slavery, John Kinsey, a leading Quaker of Philadelphia, being then speaker of the House. The visit was not made without much tribulation of spirit, and some discouragement from the Speaker, but the Journals of the two men would indicate that the Friend to whom John Churchman imparted his "concern" was John Woolman. His address made a deep impression on the statesmen assembled, and Woolman's encouragement was justified.

John Churchman was in England in 1750, and visited Christopher Wilson at Graysothen, near Broughton, and also Robert Barclay, grandson of the Apologist. He returned from this English visit in the "Carolina", Captain Stephen Mesnard, a popular Captain among the Friends, in company with Samuel Fothergill, in 1754. In 1756 John Churchman attended Indian council or convention at Easton, PA. In the spring of 1758 John Churchman accompanied John Woolman to a few of the New Jersey meetings, and at Chesterfield rebuked the 'raw persons', mentioned by both in their Journals, who had come to see two or three proposals of marriage.

In 1759 Churchman says, "In this year I was also engaged with my Friend John Woolman in visiting some active members of our Society who kept slaves, first in the City of Philadelphia and in other places; also in New Jersey where we were enabled to go through some heavy labours and were favoured with peace." John had been ill for three weeks with fever -- his constitution weak -- he died in his chair. Before his death, John Churchman said "I feel that which lies beyond death and the grave, which is now an inexpressible comfort to me." Divine refreshment seeming, as some present noted, to pass through him as a flowing stream, "I may tell you of it," said he, "but you cannot feel it as I do." MSA, of Woolman's Journal, contains a long extract from John Churchman's Journal. During his life, John was a minister for about 42 years; he traveled about 9000 miles and attended about 1000 meetings.

John Churchman married Margaret, daughter of William and Esther Brown, of Chester County, Pa. born 1 mo.. (March) 13, 1707. She died of cancer, after a painful illness, in the summer of 1770.

See Friends' Miscel. V. 8. (1836) for his letters to John Casey, 2mo. 10, 1743, and John Pemberton, 1754.

Note in 'The Journal of John Woolman', 1922, pp. 542-3


  1. Contributed by Bill and Anna Churchman

  2. Return to John Churchman's Biography Page