Pilmore, Joseph
1743-1825; e.m. 1765

Pioneer itinerant in American Methodism. He was born in 1743, probably on 31 October, at Fadmoor, Kirby Moorside, N Yorks, the illegitimate son of Sarah Pillmoor and Joseph Foord, a Quaker (later a successful watercourse engineer) who denied the paternity, though it was accepted in court. Converted by John Wesley, probably c. 1759, he went for a time to Kingswood School, then entered the itinerancy, possibly in 1764. Following a covenant he made with God at Pembroke in 1768, he volunteered to go with Richard Boardman to America in 1769, where he fostered good relations with the clergy of other denominations.. He had a particularly successful ministry in Philadelphia, during which St. George's Church was bought and fitted out. In 1772-1773 he made a ground-breaking journey south through Virginia and as far as Charleston and Savannah. A popular preacher, his disinclination to alternate frequently between Philadelphia and New York led to friction with Francis Asbury and to his recall by Wesley in 1774.

He withdrew briefly from theitinerancy, but returned in 1776 and served until 1785, when he finally withdrew, possibly because he was not included in the Legal Hundred, partly because he wished to return to America and settle there, and partly because he saw Methodism as a society within the CofE. Returning to the USA, he was ordained by Bishop Seabury in 1785 and became a leading evangelical in the Protestant Episcopal Church. From 1789 to 1794 he was assistant minister at St Paul's, Philadelphia; then served for ten years as rector of Christ Church, New York. He returned to Philadelphia in 1804 to a highly popular ministry as rector of St. Paul's. In 1807 the University of Pennsylvania conferred an honorary DD on him. He retired in 1821 and died in Philadelphia on 24 July 1825.


'Tall; majestic in his person, with his hair flowing in ringlets over his neck. Commanding voice, and superior matter. Unusually popular.'

Wesleyan Takings (1840), p.345

  • Joseph Pilmore, Narrative of Labours in South Wales... in 1767 and 1768... (Philadelphia, 1825)
  • John P. Lockwood, The Western Pioneers: or Memorials of the Lives and Labours of the Rev. Richard Boardman and the Rev. Joseph Pilmoor (1881)
  • 'Dr. Joseph Pilmore to Robert Spence, York, 1790', in WHS Proceedings, 15 pp.125-27
  • Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, XVI (1947)
  • Wade Crawford Barclay, The History of Methodist Missions (New York, 1949) pp.22-3
  • E.S. Bucke (ed.), The History of American Methodism (Nashville, 1964) 1, pp.89-91
  • F.E. Maser & H.T. Magg (eds.), The Journal of Joseph Pilmore (Philadelphia, 1969)
  • Isabel A. McLean, Water from the Moors: the life and works of Joseph Foord (2005)
  • John S. Lenton, 'Joseph Pilmore's Origins', in Methodist History, 44:4 ( July 2006), pp.262-65