Friday, July 4, 2014

James Nunn: Hebrew Christian soldier and Methodist Preacher

Rev. William Nunn brother of James Nunn

James Nunn (1778-1859) was a second generation Hebrew Christian who was baptised in 1788 in Barbados at the age of 10 along with his parents Jacob Castello Coronel Nunes (1760-1813) and his wife Esther (nee Montefiore) and his siblings. His parents were known as Jack and Esther Nunn. The Nunn or Nunes family were descended from the Senior Coronel family of Dutch Brazil and Surinam who were descended from Don Abraham Senior who was also known as Duarte Saraiva Coronel. Jack was a wine and spirit merchant and after their embrace of the Church of England they moved to Colchester in England. Jack's brother William Nunn (Nunes) and his wife Ann had also become Anglicans in Great Wilbraham. It is believed that many of the family were converted to Wesleyan Methodism by James's older brother George (b.1776) who became a fervent Wesleyan Methodist and by as early as 1793 a Wesleyan preacher at the age of 17. James' brother William Nunn (b.1786) was to become a calvinist Anglican while studying at University to become a priest of the Church of England. He was a prominent personality in Manchester for many years at St Clement's Church.

At this period is found the genesis of the Hebrew Christian movement in Britain. It would seem that the mass conversion of over 60,000 Jews to Catholicism in 1760 had an effect in England where some of the Frankists on moving to the British Isles became Anglicans. This growing movement for Jewish evangelism led to the formation of the London Jews Society (London Society for the Propagation of Christianity among the Jews). James' brother the Rev William Nunn was very involved in the work of this society and after becoming an Anglican priest in 1818 he became a member of the Committee for the London Jews Society. His Methodist brothers George and John (a corn merchant and priest) were also involved in the Hebrew Christian movement. John was ordained as a priest in 1806 and was the curate of Shrewsbury St Chad in Shropshire until 1813 when he became the curate of Stanton Lacy until 1817. Rev.John then had to take over running the family business but became an assistant curate of Stockton in 1824 while still running his merchant business in York St in Manchester. William clashed theologically with his brothers over predestination and the harshness of his calvinistic approach. Their understanding of the place of Jewish traditions and Judaism differed.

William followed the understanding of those involved with LJS that was negative towards Hebrew Christians maintaining Jewish observances. The Methodist Hebrew Christians of the Nunn family were more positive towards Judaism and observances. They often secretly attended Jewish services and maintained privately in the home certain Jewish practices. These Hebrew Christians were tolerated by the wider Jewish community in a policy of 'don't ask don't tell', whereas the Jewish community vehemently opposed the missionary work of the LJS who encouraged their converts to abandon Moses and the Torah observances. The LJS and William Nunn saw an opposition between Law and Grace whereas his brothers and the Methodist Hebrew Christians saw no opposition between Law and Grace. They didn't see salvation history as divided so much into Old and New but more as First and Second. They saw the Rabbinic Jews as members of the "First Tribe" and the Christians and Hebrew Christians as members of the "Second Tribe" but both the equal sons of Abraham and Israelites. The Law was the first rain and the grace of the Gospel was the second rain - both were needed to produce a good harvest.

James Nunn was a soldier who settled his family after his marriage with his relatives in Great Wilbraham. They also lived in Bury St Edmund in Suffolk and Creeting St Mary Suffolk. James was born in the West Indies and at the age of 16 he joined the 23rd Regiment of Foot in 1794. He arrived in England in 1795 where he began an affair with a Jewish girl who he married when she was found to be pregnant with his child. He moved his young wife to Great Wilbraham to the home of his uncle William Nunn of Great Wilbraham when the Regiment left England for the Continent. His uncle William Nunn had been a soldier in the 1st Regiment of Foot from 1793-1815 and his son also called William had died due to wounds received in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

James Nunn's wife Ann Elkin belonged to a Jewish family in Portsea in England who later moved to Barbados. In 1799 James fought against the French in Holland in a combined force of British and Russian forces called the Helder Expedition. James met a number of Frankists (Hebrew Catholics) and Jews among the Russian troops. In 1801 he was in Egypt and fought in the Battle of Alexandria.

James transferred to the 63rd Regiment of Foot in 1808 to serve in Barbados and the West Indies. His wife and children went to Barbados with him. He became friends with his Jewish brother-in-law Benjamin who had come to Barbados in 1804 and was a watchmaker there. In 1810 he encouraged Benjamin to go to England and contact the Nunn family who were merchants. Benjamin Elkin returned to Barbados as a merchant and eventually became one of the most wealthy merchants and a great benefactor of the Jewish community both in Barbados and in England. Benjamin remained great friends with his Hebrew Christian brother-in-law James Nunn and they had many spiritual discussions which influenced Benjamin Elkin's ideas. James Nunn as Jacob Nunes and his cousin John Castello Montefiore still attended the synagogue and were involved in the life of the Jewish community (eventhough they were Hebrew Christians) with the support of Benjamin Elkin.

Ann Nunn (nee Elkin) returned to visit England with their children in 1813 where her daughter Eliza was born. Ann died soon after and her son James went to join the army in Donegal Ireland. The other children stayed with their relatives in England. James in the West Indies met and was influenced by the Wesleyan Methodist and Hebrew Christian preacher Rev. Joseph Orton in 1826 as were some of his Montefiore relatives in Barbados such as John Castello Montefiore. He later went to Australia in 1829 as a Lieutenant where he left the army in 1833 and settled there. Rev Orton arrived in Australia in 1831 and James became very involved with him. He moved to Maitland in the 1830's to establish a Wesleyan Hebrew Christian ministry to the Jewish community.

In 1842 he became a Catholic (or at least agreed to raise his children as Catholics) and married Margaret Smith in Maitland New South Wales in the East Maitland Catholic Church. He was working for the Jewish merchant and wholesale business of D.Cohen and Co in 1848 when his horse was stolen. However his wife died in 1849 with her new born baby and he put his children in a Catholic orphanage and moved to Melbourne where his grandson Richard Nunn had just arrived. Other members of his family also arrived from England. His grandson James Montefiore Nunn (1825-1904) arrived with his wife Sarah in 1853 from Cambridgeshire.

James Montefiore Nunn (1825-1904)

James' grandson James Montefiore Nunn was the son of James Vaughn Nunn (1796-1864) of Great Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire. James Vaughn Nunn had been a soldier in the 23rd Regiment of Foot (1813-1822) like his father and he fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 where he was a private in Captain Brown's Company No. 4 when he was about 18 or 19 years old. James Vaughn Nunn's sons all came to Australia. Richard in 1849 on the "James T Foord", John in 1852 on the "London", James in 1853 on the "Credenda", Thomas in 1854 on the "General Hewitt", William in 1855 on the "Mary Hay". James's granddaughter Mrs Amelia Thorogood (by his son William Nunn) also went to Australia in 1853 but her husband died on the journey.Amelia's sister Mrs Elizabeth Reeves also came to Australia as did her brother William in 1853 on the "David McIver". James's three grandsons John, Charles and George by his son Samuel (1805-1867) went to New Zealand and John and George later moved to Queensland. James' nephew John Nunn the son of his brother the Reverend William Nunn of Manchester also went to live in Melbourne. Those family members that settled in Melbourne were the key group of the Wesleyan Hebrew Christian prayer meetings in the Brunswick and East Melbourne areas. James Vaughn Nunn's sons Richard, John and William Nunn were involved in the brick industry in Ballarat and led the Wesleyan Hebrew Christian meetings there. They were later joined in Ballarat by their nephew Henry (Harry) Simpkin (son of their sister Mary Simpkin nee Nunn) from England.

James attended with his grandchildren the Wesleyan Hebrew Christian prayer meeting held usually in the home of one of the group and he also attended the Melbourne Synagogue and prayed with the Jewish minyan. He was the Patriarch and leader of the Hebrew Christian group. Until the end of his life he maintained his loving and merciful Wesleyan approach and maintained his Hebrew Christian witness to the position of the complementarity of Torah and Gospel. His family became involved in the brick industry in Melbourne and Ballarat. His grandsons Richard and James Montefiore Nunn (both in the brick trade) and their families attended with him the prayers at the Melbourne Synagogue as well as being involved in the Hebrew Christian prayer meeting. James Nunn died in Victoria Australia in 1859 at the age of 81 (at the age of 84 according to his death record).

Children of James Nunn and Ann Elkin

1. William Nunn (b.1795 Great Wilbraham). He married and lived in Great Wilbraham his whole life. He had 7 children: Amelia, Eliza, Elizabeth, James, Joseph, John and William.

2.James Vaughn Nunn (b.1796 Great Wilbraham). He married Elizabeth Farrell in 1823. His children: Ann, James, Thomas, Richard, Mary, Catharine, John and William.

3. Isaac Nunn (b.1799 Bury St Edmunds Suffolk). He emigrated to the USA to Indiana where he married and had one son Edgar. He died when his son was a child and his wife Sarah (nee Walker) remarried to Benoni Wilson Babb

4. Sarah Nunn (b.1802 Suffolk). She was secretly married to her Jewish cousin Horatio Joseph Montefiore but died at 19 after having one daughter Elizabeth Ann Montefiore who at one stage lived with her aunt Lydia (Leah) Montefiore and introduced her to Hebrew Christian missionaries which led to her becoming Christian in her old age.

5. Samuel Nunn (b.1805 Suffolk). Three of his sons went to New Zealand. One (Charles Nunn) remained there and the other two went to Australia. He married Martha Simpson in 1828. Their children: James, William, George, John, Mary Ann, Charles and Henry.

6. John Nunn (Nunes) (b.1809 West Indies). He had a wine distillery in Cuba where he was known as John Nunes. His distillery was later bought by the Bacardi Rum Company.

7. Henry Nunn. (b.1811 West Indies). He returned to live and marry in Barbados. His son was John Henry Nathaniel Nunn.

8. Eliza Nunn (b.1813 England). She married James Nunn of Creeting Suffolk. Their children: Charles, James, William and Alfred.

Note: Not all the Nunn families of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Colchester are of Coronel Nunes ancestry but many genealogies have confused them with other Nunn families. Jack (also known as John, James and Jacob) is not the John Nunn who is a son of Joshua and Mary Nunn of Essex. Jack Nunn had an uncle David Castello Coronel Nunes of Barbados [son of Ephraim Castello Coronel Nunes] who was the ancestor of the Jewish Nunn family in America from whom Senator Sam Nunn descends.

Ephraim (b.1698) was the grandfather of Jack Nunn. Ephraim's grandfather Jacob (b.1644) was born in Recife Pernambuco Brazil. His family were forced to leave and move back to Amsterdam in 1654 when the Portuguese took back Dutch Brazil when Jacob was 10 years old. In 1670 he put his daughters in an Amsterdam orphanage and moved to Dutch Surinam where they took up the Sugar plantation as they had in Recife. They joined their great uncle Jacob Nunes (b.1604) who had come to Surinam in1666 from Cayenne in French Guyana. Jacob's son David (b.1670) left Surinam with his family for Barbados around 1700 (possibly earlier). His older brother Isaac and his nephew David (Duarte Saraiva) remained in Surinam to run the Sugar Plantation.

The Nunn family of Ireland descend from James Nunn's ancestral uncle Joshua Senior Saraiva Coronel Nunes (b.1600 in Amsterdam) the son of David Senior Saraiva Coronel and Maria Nunes-Saa. Joshua became a merchant trader in London where he used the name Joshua Nunn. His son Richard Nunn joined the army and was a captain in Ireton's Regiment in 1649. Joshua and Richard took up land in Wexford Ireland and Richard became the High Sheriff of Wexford in 1676. Joshua is a popular name in both the Irish branches of the Nunn family and those that settled in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. They conformed to the Anglican Church for mainly social reasons.