Waxhams and the Methodist Church


by Robert D. Waxham

We have known for years that Rev. John Waxham, one of the four brothers who started the Waxham line in America, was a Methodist circuit rider in England and that many of the children brought here by the four brothers had been given Methodist baptisms before emigrating. However, recently discovered evidence shows that the ties between the early Waxhams and the Methodist Church were even stronger than we realized.

When Rev. John’s younger brother, James Waxham, first came to Chautauqua County, New York in 1831, he found a small Methodist group meeting in a schoolhouse in Silver Creek. They resolved to construct their own building, which was completed in 1842. One of the members of the building committee was James Waxham. A publication entitled History of Methodism in Silver Creek, 1812 to 1962  states that James “walked three miles from his home in Hanover Center for every committee meeting as well as every church service.”

James later moved to Wesleyville, Pennsylvania, a suburb of the city of Erie, which was a prominent Methodist center named for John Wesley, cofounder of the Methodist movement in England.  James’ property was immediately adjacent to the Wesleyville Methodist Church. 

Another of the four immigrant brothers, Thomas Waxham, had a son, also named James. This James was ordained a Methodist minister at the tender age of 19 and spent most of his life in La Porte County, Indiana. A recently found death notice in the June 7, 1899 issue of the Fort Wayne Sentinel stated, “He served seventy-two years in pulpit work.” This is certainly an impressive testimonial but is a bit difficult to accept. Since he died at the age of 81, 72 years in the pulpit would mean he began preaching as a 9-year-old boy while still in England.

With these strong links between the early Waxhams and the Methodist movement, it is not surprising that we find evidence of active service to this denomination in later generations. Thomas’ son Herbert, half-brother to Rev. James, was also a Methodist and his wife, Belle, was a lifelong worker on behalf of the Methodist Church as well as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In fact, she attended a Methodist church meeting on the very day she died. Their son, also named Herbert, was a Methodist Sunday school superintendent and chairman of the church building committee.