Unsung Methodist Personalities: Biographies from the history of New Zealand Methodism by Donald Phillipps

The Cornish Miner

Around a century ago a traveller commented: “Wherever a hole is sunk in the ground today – no matter in what corner of the globe – you will be sure to find a Cornishman at the bottom of it, searching for metal.”
One of the reasons for the early growth of Wesleyan Methodism on the Otago goldfields, at Gabriels Gully, Tuapeka, Dunstan and Maniatoto, was the strong presence of Cornish prospectors. They liked a rousing sermon and their favourite hymns, and they tended to be both public-spirited and law-abiding citizens. 
Of the few score Cornishmen who served in the Methodist ministry in New Zealand a dozen or so were either miners themselves or from families in mining – tin, china clay, and ironstone. A few of them were stationed by the Church to West Coast circuits and stations where they understood the miners’ life and language, and were in tune with the mind-set of their flock.
Francis Phillips Kellow was the son Joseph Kellow, an ironstone miner of Calstock, and his wife Elizabeth Ann Phillips. Francis was educated at the local Wesleyan day school, and from age 10 until 16 he worked at Calstock as a miner.
For the next few years he moved to the North Country, Yorkshire and Northumberland, where he studied ironstone mining engineering at the heart of the great ironstone fields at Cleveland and Normanby. His health gave out, however, and he came to New Zealand in 1873.
For a time Francis worked as a roading contractor, and then he took up farming at Carnarvon, near Rongotea. In 1878 he entered the profession of journalism, as bookkeeper and reporter with the Rangitikei Advocate.
He had been involved in his local Wesleyan church, probably as soon as he settled in the Rangitikei, and for one year, 1884-1885, he was the Home Missionary at Feilding. He then returned to journalism and in 1890 became part proprietor, with his brother-in-law Nicholas Andrew, of his newspaper, all the time maintaining his farm, adjacent to the railway station at Marton.
Francis took a keen interest in public affairs, and was a member of the Sandon Highway Board till it was merged into the Manawatu County Council. He continued as a local preacher in the Wesleyan Church, and, as his wife was vice-president of the local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, he was a prominent prohibition worker in Marton. At the general election of 1896, he unsuccessfully contested the Manawatu seat as an independent.
It would seem that his call to ministry had not been satisfied, and at the age of 56 he again took up Home Mission work. He was at South Road, New Plymouth (1909-1912), at Gonville, Wanganui (1912-1918), and at Mayfield, Canterbury (1918-1922) when he retired at the age of 70.
Considering the pittance that Home Missionaries received, the 13 years of service France gave after a long period in business, was a generous act. He stayed on at Mayfield for a year or so, and then settled in Wanganui, where he died of December 22nd, 1929. 
He was survived by his wife (his first cousin) Mary Susan Kellow, whom he had married in 1883.

Francis Kellow


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Last updated on 21 April 2021, 1:00 PM