PEDLEY, CHARLES, historian and Congregational clergyman; b. 6 Aug. 1820 in Hanley, Staffordshire, Eng., son of James Pedley and Alice Curtain; d. at Cold Springs, Ont., on 22 Feb. 1872.
Charles Pedley, whose father was an engraver, entered Rotherham College in Yorkshire in 1844. During his student years he spent a summer vacation as a supply minister in Hamburg, Germany. In 1849 he married Sarah Stowell, the eldest daughter of his tutor at Rotherham. In the same year he received a call from the Congregational Church at Chester-le-Street, Durham. After nine years in Durham he was asked by the Colonial Missionary Society to go to St John’s, Newfoundland; in 1857 he and his family moved there.
During his Newfoundland years he took an active part in the community and delivered a series of lectures on David Livingstone’s travels, the proceeds from which he donated to the Colonial Missionary Society. He seems to have been popular with people of all faiths, and his engaging personality as well as his evident intellectual interests were probably responsible for the encouragement he received from Sir Alexander Bannerman*, governor of Newfoundland, when he undertook to write a history of Newfoundland. He returned to England in 1863 to oversee the publication of this work, which was dedicated by permission to the Duke of Newcastle [Clinton], principal secretary of state for the colonies.
Pedley’s History of Newfoundland . . . is attractively written. He went to some pains to give due recognition to earlier writers on the subject, John Reeves* and Lewis Amadeus Anspach*, and criticized another whom he accused of “over credulousness.” He shows considerable tolerance for other races and other beliefs. Bannerman had put at his disposal “many-thousand pages” of documents and, despite his period’s limited knowledge of the early explorers, Pedley’s book is generally useful. His interest in his subject was more than factual, which adds to the readability of the book, as may be seen from the following extract: “The French nomenclature is not confined to the South of the island, but is also found . . . scattered on the n. e. shore, and it must be confessed that the names thus derived are less coarse and homely than many which are of English origin, among which we meet with such as ‘Old Harry,’ ‘Pipers-Hole,’ ‘Hell Hill,’ ‘Seldom-come-bye,’ ‘Come-by-chance’ and other like suggestive, but unpoetic, sounds.”
Whilst in Newfoundland Pedley travelled both in the United States and in Canada. He attended the ninth annual meeting of the Congregational Union of Canada in 1862. At that meeting he was invited to assist at the service and apparently decided that he would eventually settle in Canada.
When Pedley moved his wife and seven sons there in 1864 he did so with no certainty of a church. He was eventually appointed as a substitute in Guelph while the regular minister was on missionary service in British Columbia. When the incumbent returned, Pedley was once more out of work, with an ailing wife and a hungry family. His son remembered that “there were times when we had little but turnips to eat . . . we boys were having the time of our lives but father was breaking his heart.”
Finally in January 1866 a call came from Cold Springs. There his wife died leaving him with a large family to care for by himself. He undertook their education, and raised several ministers and missionaries, a school teacher, and a civil servant. At Cold Springs he was a vigorous and popular minister, and in May 1866 took on the church at Cobourg as well. During his ministry he made his church self-supporting.
Pedley seems to have been an unhappy and unfortunate man, his intellectual capacities not challenged enough by his work or by his associates. Although welcomed by the Congregational Union when he came as a visitor from Newfoundland, once he had moved to Ontario he was made to wait several years before he was accepted as a member. One wonders if this delay was the result of his showing impatience or arrogance. When finally accepted he seems to have been appreciated and was scheduled to lead the opening service at the next meeting of the Congregational Union of Canada when he died suddenly at the age of 51.
Charles Pedley, The history of Newfoundland from the earliest times to the year 1860 (London, 1863). Congregational Church (St John’s), Register of baptisms. UCA, Interview with the Reverend J. W. Pedley by C. E. Silcox, 16 Dec. 1930; letter from Miss Stowell, Charles Pedley’s sister-in-law, to the Reverend A. M. Fenwick. Colonial Missionary Society, Reports (London), XXI (1857)–XXXVI (1872). Edward Ebbs, “Notes of missionary meetings, Western District, no. 2,” Canadian Independent (Toronto), XI (1865), 286–89. Morning Chronicle (St John’s), 4 April 1872. Public Ledger (St John’s), 5 April 1872.