Samuel Wesley was born December 17, 1662. He was the son of the dissenting pastor John Wesley, rector of Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset. His mother was the daughter of John White, rector of Trinity Church, Dorchester.
John Wesley was imprisoned for not using the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, imprisoned again and ejected in 1662. He died at the age of 42. Samuel was being educated as a dissenter. But he had a change of view and enrolled as an Anglican at Exeter College in Oxford. He served wealthy students to pay his way through school. In 1688, he completed his degree at Exeter and married Susanna Annesley. They moved to Epworth when he was named as rector there in 1697.
He was a supporter of royalty, an unpopular stand in Epworth. The marshy area had been ordered drained years earlier by the king. A portion of the newly created lands went to the king, another portion to the men who drained the land and finally a portion to those who lived there. This change in land ownership angered the locals and they did not look kindly on supporters of the king. This led to fires being set to the rectory and damage to its fields and livestock. Wesley stayed in debt especially after fire destroyed the rectory and he built a new home in its place.
The Foundery Press book on Samuel Wesley describes his imprisonment
All for the sake of a third pounds debt. His creditor seemed set on punishing Wesley and would not give Samuel 24 hours to find the money. The unsuspecting Samuel came out of church after christening a baby and was arrested in his own churchyard. News filtered through Epworth. Far from taking pity on Susanna, the villagers proceeded in the rector’s absence to wreak havoc on his farming endeavors. Samuel remained imprisoned for five months.
The Wesleys had three sons and seven daughters who lived into adulthood. The sons all graduated from universities at Oxford.
Samuel held his parish and family to strict standards. His public condemnation of church members contributed to the ill treatment of the family. He was at odds with his wife and left Epworth in protest for months. When his daughter Hetty ran away and returned home unmarried and pregnant, he was unforgiving. When John preached sermons in Epworth on the subject of mercy, Samuel did not mend his relationship with Hetty and took issue with the criticism.
Samuel was an author. He published articles that helped him pay his way through university. His life’s work was a study of the Book of Job written in Latin. His son John completed and published the work after Samuel’s death on April 5, 1735 He was buried at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Epworth.