The Gordon family came from Brora, Sutherland, where William Gordon was a Presbyterian and a shepherd. In the latter part of the eighteenth century his grandson, Alexander Gordon (d. 7 January 1848) went into business at Dudley and there was converted by John Wesley, in due course becoming a local preacher in the Wolverhampton Circuit. His son John Gordon (b. 1 March 1807-1880) was educated at Dudley Grammar School and Queen's College, Oxford, with the intention of entering the Anglican ministry. Refusing to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles, he returned to Dudley where he became a local preacher and then in 1827 an itinerant in the London (City Road) circuit under Henry Moore, subsequently travelling in the Cheltenham and Stroud circuits. In 1835 he resigned from the ministry on doctrinal grounds and over a failed attempt to reform the Connexion, as well as sympathising with his friend Joseph Rayner Stephens, a Chartist and former itinerant. He entered the Unitarian ministry in 1838.
His son Alexander Gordon (1841-1931)) was born at Coventry on 9 June1841 and also became a Unitarian minister. From 1890 to 1911 he was the Principal of the Unitarian Home Mission College, Manchester, as it was then called. A Nonconformist historian with a prodigious knowledge, he contributed nearly 800 articles to the Dictionary of National Biography, including those on John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and Jabez Bunting. He died on 21 February 1931.
It should be noted that John Gordon, the Wesleyan turned Unitarian, has been confused (e.g. in O.A. Beckerlegge's list of UM Ministers and in W.R. Ward, Early Victorian Methodism (1976) p.112) with another of the same name who served on the MNC Irish mission, but who never had the status of a regular minister – the closest was when he was designated an assistant missionary from 1852 to 1860.