Michigan Conference
United Methodist Archives


Search Website

Adrian College:

Detroit Conference United Methodist Archives Facebookemail

Albion College:

Detroit Conference United Methodist Archives Facebookemail

<< Back to West Michigan Conference Cane

John Graham

j graham

4 December 1835 - 24 December 1920
Conference Cane: 1920
Age at death: 85 years

Rev. John Graham, D.D.

Doctor Graham was a Scotsman born and bred, a fact of which he was very proud.

Born within sight of Stirling Castle, in his veins ran some of his country's best blood. His early development was in an atmosphere supersaturated with traditions and ideals, religious and political of the very highest order, and must be recalled as we think of the sturdy personality amongst us no more.

At the age of sixteen he came with his parents to Canada, locating in Oxford County. Here he became a Methodist and was licensed to preach by the Washington church. Here also he met and married Miss Hannah Cornell; a woman of great strength of character, poise and judgment, who became to him a pillar of strength upon whom he leaned heavily, and whose memory he cherished with characteristic tenderness to the last.

He came to Michigan in 1869 as junior preacher at Cedar Springs; that fall he entered the Conference and was appointed Preacher in Charge. Next came Lamont, where he served two years. Then followed the full term of three years in Muskegon, Sturgis, Kalamazoo and Jackson, where a notable debt of Forty Thousand Dollars was paid. In 1884 he was pastor at Albion and the year following was appointed to First Church (Division Street) Grand Rapids. Here he remained five years. Then came a temрогагу retirement, at which time Mrs. Graham died. A vacancy occurring on the Albion District, occasioned by the death of the presiding elder, Bishop Fowler appointed Dr. Graham. Here he spent five years, and was transferred to the Grand Rapids District by Bishop Vincent. Six years were spent in this office. He then became the pastor of Joy Memorial Church for two years. His appointment as Field Agent of Albion College concluded an active ministry of over half a century.

The passing of John Graham from our ranks removes an outstanding individuality. Intense, sensitive, intuitional, of energy all compact, shrewd in a high degree, of utter honesty of purpose. He was a personal force to be reckoned with anywhere.

By temperament and cultivation Dr. Graham was a preacher. To him preaching was a serious business, and the pulpit a sacred responsibility. His themes always centered in the great verities of the Faith. He labored prodigiously, for the most part writing in full and committing to memory his discourses.

He scorned the sermonette. Catch-penny puerilities, picture shows, and the like, were to him the abomination of desolation in the house of God. The recent emphasis upon the managerial and scheme producing function, at the expense of preparation for a message as ambassadors of God, in the training of young men for the ministry, gave him grave concern. He was a great preacher.

The neat, carefully attired, refined gentleman of the immaculate linen and white tie was no more in deshabille than John Wesley himself; always cheerily dignified and self-respecting. There was an inner correspondence; clean hearted, the coarse or prurient word never formed upon his lips. His eye was as pure as his mind. His half century cycle of service was unflecked by even a suspicion as to his moral character.

Long a Presiding Elder he came into close relationship with many of his brothers in the ministry, the great majority of whom loved, trusted and honored him. He had permanent friends all over the Conference, the quality and number of whom would do honor to any man.

He was elected to the General Conferences of 1884 and 1904. He was a member of the Conference board of trustees for many years, also of the Clark Home board, the Deaconess Home board, and of Albion College board twenty-seven years.

In 1888 Albion College conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Dr. Graham's religious life was not of the emotional type. God as revealed in Jesus Christ was to him the great reality. Here his faith was firmly anchored, and his experience had tested in many a storm of heartbreak and disappointment. Trust in God was the habit of his soul. When, in feebleness extreme he came to face the last enemy, it was not with ecstatic anticipations of deliverance, for his was the normal desire to live, but in the same sane soul temper in which he had lived, he met the inevitable, unafraid.

On Christmas Eve 1920 he departed this life from his own home, surrounded by his family, which consisted of his daughter, Mrs. С.R. Wallace of Jackson, his two sons William S. and James E. and his nieces, Misses Flora and Edith Thompson.

December 28th funeral from the house was followed by public services in First Church in charge of the Pastor and participated in by a number of his brothers of long fellowship in the ministry. Addresses were made by Rev. J.W. Sheehan and the writer.

A temporary resting place for his remains was in the mausoleum of his long time friend Mrs. Emily J. Clark. Later, interment was made in the family lot in the beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, where he rests side by side with his beloved wife.


- Michigan Annual Conference minutes of 1921, pp. 229-231