DART, ELIZABETH (Eynon), Bible Christian preacher; b. April 1792 in Marhamchurch, England; m. 18 March 1833 John Hicks Eynon*, and they had one daughter, who died at birth; d. 13 Jan. 1857 in Little Britain, Upper Canada.
Elizabeth Dart has been called the best missionary that her denomination sent to Canada. Her parents belonged to the Church of England, but were not deeply religious. Sometimes her invalid mother talked to her about “spiritual matters”; her father was more interested in his farm crops and livestock. She read the Bible as a child, and at times her thoughts of Christ were so intense that she could see Him on the cross. In 1811, at the age of 19, she joined the Wesleyan Methodist Church, but four years later was one of 22 men and women who met at a farm house in Shebbear on 9 October to form a new society, later called the Bible Christian Church. In 1816 she became its first itinerant preacher under the founder, William O’Bryan. By 1819 there were 29 itinerants, 15 men and 14 women.
Elizabeth had spoken in public before the new society began, although like most 19th-century women preachers she began hesitantly and reluctantly. At first it was difficult for her even to lead in prayer, but she kept on because of her effectiveness. She often spoke three times on Sunday and once every day except Saturday. She preached to mobs; she was pelted with rotten eggs; she walked 14 miles some days. In Bristol she began a society, and was responsible for the movement’s success in Wales, although she travelled mainly around Devon and Cornwall. She was an outstanding speaker, intelligent, and fond of books. She was well liked and was said to possess a “simplicity of character, a quaintness of manner and a power of sympathy.”
In 1833 Elizabeth married the itinerant John Hicks Eynon, who had been converted nine years earlier through her preaching in Redbrook, Wales. That May, as missionaries posted to Upper Canada, they boarded the small brig Dalusia with six other settlers, and after a stormy 42-day crossing landed at Quebec on 17 June. They reached Cobourg, where a number of emigrants from the West Country had settled, on 6 July, and immediately began their ministry. Among the colleagues who later joined them in Upper Canada were Philip James and Ann Robins [Vickery].
Elizabeth preached her first sermon in Cobourg on 10 July 1833. Later that month she set out alone on a 45-mile trip to Whitby Township to preach in a large barn in the woods. Often she and her husband went their separate ways on a 200-mile circuit, speaking in fields, woods, homes, or schools. Elizabeth rode in a one-horse carriage or walked. She took part in protracted meetings in the winter: at Cobourg for four weeks in 1838, and at Bowmanville in 1840 and 1842. In the summer of 1842 she also preached at field meetings in Bowmanville and Peterborough, and at a revival at Dummer Township. On her missions Elizabeth felt afraid and inadequate, but trusted in the power of the Lord. “I walked about six miles through the woods; on entering which, I was tempted that fear would overcome me; but after I proceeded some distance, I felt not the least fear, and my soul was so filled with heaven and God, that I felt all within was joy and love. . . . I could truly say I had fellowship with the Father, Son and Spirit.” She was sensitive to her environment, recording in her journals the beauty of the woods and the waters. “I delight to see on the one hand the woods showing forth their beauty in so many shades of green; and on the other, the large Lake runs by Cobourg, shewing its fulness. These things lead me to reflect on the power of the Creator, and the valuable purposes they serve. The wood to make fire to communicate warmth in this icy climate, and the water for navigation to convey the necessaries of life to the inhabitants in its vicinity.”
John suffered from the long journeys, hot summers, and severe winters. He was bedridden for several months in 1839, and Elizabeth took over his ministry in addition to her own. In 1848, both exhausted from their missionary work, they returned to England for a visit that lasted a year. Elizabeth had been plagued with ill health as a young woman, and was asthmatic for the last 20 years of her life. Yet, after returning from their visit, she remained active in the Cobourg church until her death in 1857.
Elizabeth Dart’s journals and letters were published during her lifetime along with those of other Bible Christian missionaries in the Bible Christian Magazine (Shebbear, Eng.), 12 (1833)–36 (1857). Excerpts from the journals comprise the bulk of an uncredited biography, “Delayed but not forgotten: Elizabeth Dart Eynon,” which appeared in a later organ of the Bible Christian Church in Canada, the Observer (Bowmanville, Ont.), 28 March–9 May, 23, 30 May, 25 July, and 1 Aug. 1883.
Bethesda Cemetery (Bowmanville), Tombstone of John Eynon and Elizabeth Dart Eynon. UCA, Bible Christian Church in Canada, minutes of the elders’ meetings, Cobourg, 1849–55 (mfm.). Bible Christian Church in Canada, Minutes of the annual conference (Bowmanville), 1876–83. Bible Christians, Minutes of the annual conference (Stoke Damerel, Eng.), 1819. Canadian Statesman (Bowmanville), 22 Jan. 1857. Cobourg Star, 3 July 1833. F. W. Bourse, Bible Christians; their origins and history, 1815–1900 ([London], 1905). William Luke, The Bible Christians: their origins, constitution, doctrines, and history (London, 1878). Methodist Church of Canada, General Conference, Centennial of Canadian Methodism (Toronto, 1891). Canadian Statesman, 24 March, 4 April 1888. W. Kenner, “Memoir of Rev. J. H. Eynon,” West Durham News (Bowmanville), 20 April 1888: 1. Elizabeth Muir, “Petticoats in the pulpit: three early Canadian Methodist women,” Canadian Soc. of Church Hist., Papers (Toronto), 1984. West Durham News, 23 March 1888.