Mary Ann Soper was born in Stoke Climsland, Cornwall on the 30th December 1796, and was baptized on 29th January 1797. She served as an itinerant preacher within the Bible Christian Connexion from 1819 to 1823. Mary Ann married fellow itinerant preacher William Lyle on the 16th of June 1823 in Minster, Kent, which created controversy within the Connexion, best described by the 16 year old Mary O’Bryan in her diary.
The couple left the Bible Christians, due to the opposition related to their union, and eventually joined the Primitive Methodists in September 1826, with William preaching within the denomination. In July 1833 they came to Upper Canada as missionary preachers, travelling with their 3 children, Mary Ann, William and Bethesda. Their fourth child, Serena, was born in Upper Canada.
Both Mary Ann and William were prominent within the Primitive Methodists Church in Canada, with William assigned to circuits in and around the Toronto area. In excerpts from William Lyle’s papers, published in his obituary, it is apparent that they worked together “We found among them some of the most kind and devoted friends …” and “Our next and last circuit …”. Within the Primitive Methodist community they were referred to as “Mother” and “Father” Lyle. Mary Ann Soper Lyle’s story has been further described in Petticoats in the Pulpit. The Story of Early Nineteenth-Century Methodist Women Preachers in Upper Canada.
Mary Ann Soper Lyle died at her residence in Smithfield, in the Etobicoke Circuit, on the 7th of May 1862. She was buried in the cemetery at the Primitive Methodist Hainstock Chapel. At her funeral, her two sons-in-law, Revds. William F. Clarke and Richard Lyle Tucker, provided the sermon and address, respectively. As described by her son-in-law, Rev. Clark she “occasionally, and at an early period of her spiritual history, frequently addressed public assemblies. To this she was led by her own experience of the blessed results of such labours, – the belief that God does sometimes call woman as well as man to engage in the Ministry of the Word – and the urgent solicitations of her Christian brethren and sisters.”
Mary Ann Lyle’s remains were transferred in 1875 to the Toronto Necropolis to lay beside her husband, who passed away in 1873. No headstone currently marks their gravesite.
Oliver A. Beckerlegge. United Methodists Ministers and Their Circuits: Being an Arrangement in Alphabetical Order of the Stations of Ministers of the Methodist New Connexion, Bible Christians, Arminian Methodists, Protestant Methodists, Wesleyan Methodist Association, Wesleyan Reformers United Methodist Free Churches and the United Methodist Church, 1797-1932. London: Epworth Press, (1968). pg. 149, 221.
Wm. F. Clarke, R.L. Tucker. A Mother in Israel; or Some Memorials of the Late Mrs. M.A. Lyle by her sons-in-law, Revds. Wm. F. Clarke and R.L. Tucker. W.C. Chewett & Co. Toronto (1862). Available: http://static.torontopubliclibrary.ca/da/pdfs/37131052101128d.pdf [Accessed 24 Oct 2016]
J. Edgar. Obituary. Rev. William Lyle. Christian Journal. January 1, 1874, pg. 2, col. 4; January 8, 1874, pg. 2, col. 4; January 23, 1874, pg. 2, col. 5; January 30, 1874, pg. 2, col. 4. Toronto (1874).
J.A. Hopper. Old-time Primitive Methodism in Canada (1829-1884). William Briggs. Toronto (1884). Available: https://archive.org/details/oldtimeprimit00hoppuoft [Accessed 24 Oct 2016].
Mrs. Mary Ann Lyle wife of the Rev. William Lyle. Christian Journal. Friday, May 16th, 1862. pg 2, col 1. pg 3. col. 3. Toronto (1862).
Elizabeth Gillan Muir. From Itinerant to Guest Preacher: Canadian Primitive Methodist Women. Chapter IV. In: Petticoats in the Pulpit: The Story of Early Nineteenth-Century Methodist Women Preachers in Upper Canada. The United Church Publishing House, Toronto (1991).
John Petty. The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its Origin to The Conference of 1859. Richard Davies, Conference Office. London. (1860). Available: https://ia802606.us.archive.org/3/items/historyprimitiv01pettgoog/historyprimitiv01pettgoog.pdf [Accessed 29 Oct 2016].
Sharon Cemetery (1842-1992) Cairn. Sharon United Church from the Primitive Methodist Connection and original Hainstock Chapel. (https://goo.gl/maps/JrB5wg5QPX82 ). 43°43’14.6″N 79°36’29.3″W
Toronto Necropolis. Burial records for Rev. Wm Lyle. December 3, 1873. Volume 4. 1869-1873; No. 3413; Plot F119. Mary Lyle, October 12, 1875. Volume 5. 1875-1877; No. 4493: Plot. F119. Available: Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989. Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. Toronto Trust Cemeteries, Toronto. [Accessed 24 Oct 2016].
Toronto Necropolis & Crematorium. Section F. Gravesite for William and Mary Ann Lyle. Plot F119. 43°40’04.3″N 79°21’43.5″W
S.L. Thorne. The Maiden Preacher S.W. Partridge & Co. London (1889). pg. 26-29.
Posted by James M. Bowen, Oct 2016
Also see Geoff Dickinson. William Lyle 1795-1873. My Primitive Methodists Ancestors (2012). Available: http://www.myprimitivemethodists.org.uk/page_id__757.aspx [Accessed 30 Oct 2016].