This blog focuses primarily on the various evangelical movements in the Tasmanian Northwest.
It is faith that can bind us together and propel us forward as can be seen by Huguenot emigres who fled France to nearby countries such as England and the Puritans, Quakers, Mennonites and others, who sought refuge in the New World. It is also faith that can drive a wedge between families and cause much heartache through separation between loved ones.
My great grandmother's cousin, James Jensen, was a 12 year old when he was sent ahead to Utah. He was of an age where it would cost more to buy him a one way ticket should his family wait much longer. The intention was for the rest of the family to follow him six months later. However, in the interim, clash of will between James' father and the missionary who was helping him put an end to such aspiration. James never saw his parents again and his mother grieved for him for many years thereafter.
Fifteen years later my great grandmother's first husband also made his way to Utah, leaving behind an infant daughter he too would never see again.
Both my great grandmother's cousin and husband went on to live prosperous lives in Utah and paved the way for future generations.
Here in Australia, our early colonial identity was not so much faith driven to find safety from persecution as seen in the New World, but rather of convicts and immigrants determined to forge better lives. In the Tasmanian Northwest multitudes of faiths prevailed in close proximity such as the Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Church of England. The latter part of the 1800s saw a rise of evangelical culture with firebrand preachers bringing about dramatic shifts to the religious landscape.
In Burnie alone, there were three Methodist churches—the Primitive Methodist, the United Free Methodist and the Wesleyan Methodist. In 1901, the three churches amalgamated, retaining the Primitive Methodist site on the corner of Mount and Ladbrooke streets. Prior to the establishment of the first Methodist church at Burnie, the first service was conducted in the farmhouse of Thomas Atkinson in August 1868.
The Salvation Army was a relative latecomer, first arriving in the northwest at Latrobe and Waratah around the early 1880s. William Potter Barfoot and his wife, Honora Linnane, were members of the organisation and were also strong adherents of the Band of Hope, a temperance and religious movement intent on teaching the importance of sobriety. The photograph above depicts Honora Linnane seated at centre with her daughters and grandchildren.
Other groups associated with the temperance movement were mostly affiliated with the church such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Church of England Temperance Society.
According to the 1904 subscription list, there were other Seventh Day Adventist subscribers from the locality, including those from Penguin, Devonport, Latrobe and Wynyard.
Today religious affiliation is on the decline with Tasmanians among the least religious people in the country according to the 2016 Census. In the 1911 Census for Tasmania, the Church of England (88,158) was the leading Christian denomination followed by Roman Catholic (28,581), Methodist (24,975), Presbyterian (15,735), Congregationalist (4,880) and Baptist (4,757). The Brethren (including Plymouth Brethren and Christian Brethren) and Seventh Day Adventists were 960 and 514 respectively. There were just 198 individuals with no religious affiliations out of a population of 191,211. Today 53 per cent of the Tasmanian population of 519,050 people claim to have no religious affiliations. This compares to 29 percent in the 2011 Census.
The following table compiled from the 2011 Census is a representation of religious affiliations in the Tasmanian Northwest with towns listed where figures are available. Despite the higher percentage of Tasmanians with no religious affiliations compared to the rest of Australia, non-conformist faith is still somewhat higher in the northwest than the rest of the country.