He was born in Monmouthshire, where his BC parents moulded his religious character from birth. He was educated at Shebbear College, later serving as Assistant Master. In 1869 he emigrated to South Australia, where he was appointed to Auburn. He was an effective speaker with strong convictions and a champion of many social reforms. He was President of the BC Conference in 1886 and of the Methodist Conference in 1915. He edited the Australian Commonwealthand wrote many devotional meditations and hymns.
His wife Serena (née Thorne, 1842-1902), the daughter of Samuel and Mary Thorne, was born at Shebbear. Educated at home and filled with evangelistic fervour, she became a local preacher and was known as 'the girl preacher' of North Devon. In 1865 she was sent to Brisbane to establish BC work in Queensland. Moving to South Australia in 1870, she preached each Sunday to crowded congregations in the Adelaide Town Hall. She and Octavius renewed acquaintance and were married in 1871. She remained a leading woman preacher and organized the BC Women's Missionary Board. She was a lifelong total abstainer and opponent of the liquor trade.