John Kingwell was born in 1823 near London, England. Five years later in 1828, the family moved to Spaniards Bay, Newfoundland, then part of the Mission of Harbour Grace, where his father was a Deacon Schoolmaster with the Colonial and Continental Church Society. John was ordained a deacon with the Church of England by Bishop Field in 1843 and a priest in 1849. Meanwhile on Nov.15,1848, he married Lilias Moore, daughter of Mr and Mrs James K Moore of Conception Bay. The ceremony was conducted by the Lord Bishop of Newfoundland. His first mission was at Morton’s Harbour in Notre Dame Bay, where he spent thirteen years.
In 1861 he was sent to the Mission of Harbour Buffett Placentia Bay, under the
auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. There he spent the remainder of his life, ministering to members of the Church of England faith in twenty-three communities, all of which were accessible only by boat. Ministering to the spiritual and physical of all, for he was a doctor as well as a priest in his mission, he worked with zeal and diligence, thinking more of the needs of others than of himself. This determination may have led to his death at the age of 68, as after an attack of influenza, he returned to work before he had fully recovered. This brought on more serious illness from which he died on November 15,1891.
Rev. Kingwell is buried at Harbour Buffett, just a few miles from the settlement which bears his Name. Formerly known as Muscle Harbour Arm, the community was renamed for the man who laboured so long and hard in the service of the people who chose to live and die in one of the most arduous places on earth at that time.
Kingwell has the distinction of being the only town in the world to bear that name.