Laurence Coughlan

(1743—1784) founder of Methodism in Newfoundland

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(d. 1784), founder of Newfoundland Methodism. A convert from Roman Catholicism, the Irish Methodist preacher Coughlan came, in 1766, once he had been ordained, to Harbour Grace, Conception Bay, where Anglicans sought a priest to help stem the tide of ‘Popery’. He was permanently established there in 1767. From then until 1773 he preached to Anglicans on Sunday and went door to door looking for Methodist disciples on Monday. His facility in the Irish language attracted some Roman Catholics, but he converted not a few Anglicans too. A Methodist ‘awakening’ commenced and spread ‘like fire’ beyond Harbour Grace to Carbonear and smaller places. In 1770 Governor John Byron made Coughlan a justice, giving him power over sabbath-breakers, drunkards, and adulterers, a power he was not slow to use. Protests against him mounted, and in 1773 he appeared before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London and resigned his mission. His radicalized following kept the Methodist flame burning. Coughlan's Account of the Work of God in Newfoundland (1776) contains a sensitive description of the people he served.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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