Church ministers, MPs, newspapers, business linked in 19th Century South Australia

South Australia and the world's first Labor premier Tom Price was a Methodist lay preacher.
Image courtesy the State Library of South Australia

The nexus of church ministers, newspapers editors, members of parliament and businessmen kept religion at the forefront of 19th Century South Australia.

Many active church members were MPs, led by  premiers John Colton, Frederick Holder, Thomas Price and John Verran – all Methodist lay preachers. Holder was also first managing editor, later owner, of the Burra Record newspaper.

The Advertiser newspaper was founded by the Rev John Henry Barrow, a former Register journalist and Congregational minister.

James (“Dismal Jimmy”) Allen, a Baptist minister, owned the Register and other Adelaide newspapers in the 1840s and 1850s.

Congregational James Jefferis, among the church ministers to write newspaper articles on social and political subjects,  was offered the job as editor and a partnership in The Advertiser in 1876.

Thomas Magarey, who advocated Bible reading in public schools but strenuously opposed government grants to churches, was an MP, an early joint proprietor of the Register and Observer and an original director of the Bank of Adelaide. Magarey, with a breakaway group from the Scotch Baptist Church, helped to found the first Church of Christ in Australia by 1849. In 1872, he joined the Plymouth Brethren, basing his “conversion” on a reappraisal of the doctrine of baptism.

Other newspaper proprietors who become members of parliament Anthony Forster, John Barrow, Ebenezer Ward, F.S. Carroll, E.H. Derrington, J.L. Bonython, M.P. Basedow, David Bews, Paddy Glynn, E.A. Roberts and Douglas Bardolph.

The many prominent businessmen, with strong church links, who became members of parliament included Edwin Smith, William Peacock and William Burford.

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