Born in April 1837 at Braichgarw, Tal-y-bont, Cardiganshire, second son of Humphrey and Catherine James; the family removed, in his childhood, to Bwlch-y-dderwen at some distance, but retained their Baptist membership at Tal-y-bont, where James James (the ‘Spinther’ came later on) was baptized at 13. Before he migrated (1854) to a colliery at Aberdare, he was a shepherd-boy and a cattle drover.
At Aberdare, he threw himself into the literary activities fostered by his minister Thomas Price (1820 - 1888); but it was at Tal-y-bont, during a period of unemployment in the Aberdare mines, that he began to preach.
In 1859 he went to Haverfordwest Baptist College; in 1861 he was ordained minister at Llanelian, Denbighshire; he built chapels at Old Colwyn and Llanddulas, and married Elizabeth Hobson, of Llandudno. A year's ministry (1865-6) in America was followed by a period without charge (except for a few months in 1867 at Treuddyn and Leeswood, Flintshire), but in 1870 he undertook the pastorate of Glanwydden, where he remained for twenty years. He was an eloquent preacher, and a stirring political orator, but personally he was not very highly regarded.
As a littérateur and a historian, however, he displayed unbounded energy; he wrote poetry, and published collections of hymns, but his fame rests rather upon his historical work, more especially in the field of Baptist history. He contributed many articles or chapters to such works as Owen Jones's Cymru, Gweirydd ap Rhys's Hanes y Brytaniaid a'r Cymry, and Enwogion y Ffydd. With John Emlyn Jones he completed Y Parthsyllydd, 1870-5 (see the Cardiff Catalogue for details). But undoubtedly his magnum opus was his four volume history of the Welsh Baptists (Hanes y Bedyddwyr yng Nghymru, 1892-1907), weak in plan and proportions yet extremely useful. A small book of his, Y Gwasanaeth a wnaeth y Bedyddwyr i'r Byd, 1906, on the general contribution of the Baptist Church, had a wide circulation.
He died, suddenly, 5 November 1914.
Published date: 1959
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