Thomas Bramwell

Thomas Bramwell Welch

Thomas Bramwell Welch (December 31, 1825 – December 29, 1903) was a British–American Methodist minister and dentist. He pioneered the use of pasteurization as a means of preventing the fermentation of grape juice. He persuaded local churches to adopt this non-alcoholic wine substitute for use in Holy Communion, calling it “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine.”

Welch was born in Glastonbury, England on December 31, 1825. He moved to the United States when his father emigrated in 1834. He attended public schools in Watertown, New York.

At age 17, Thomas Welch joined the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, founded the same year (1843). From its beginning, the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion strongly opposed (1) the “manufacturing, buying, selling, or using intoxicating liquors”, and (2) “slaveholding, buying, or selling” of slaves.[3]

With the first edition of their Discipline, the Wesleyan Methodists expressly required for the Lord’s Supper (Communion) that “unfermented wine only should be used at the sacrament. This requirement was about 25 years before Welch used pasteurization. So it is clearly evident that pasteurization was not the only method used to prepare it unfermented. There were traditional methods to prepare unfermented wine (juice) for use at any time during the year, e.g., to reconstitute concentrated grape juice, or to boil raisins, or to add preservatives that prevent juice from fermenting and souring.

Throughout his late teens, Welch was active in the Underground Railroad that transported escaped slaves from the south into Canada. He was one of many Wesleyan Methodists connected to the “Underground Railroad.”

By age 19, he graduated from Gouverneur Wesleyan Seminary and became an ordained Wesleyan Methodist minister. He ministered first in Poundridge, in Westchester County, New York, then in Herkimer County, New York.

While in Herkimer County, he married Miss Lucy Hult. They would have seven children. The children included: Charles E. Welch, who became a dentist, and Emma C. Welch Slade (1854-1928) who also became a dentist.

He continued in the work of ministry until his voice failed him, and he was obliged to direct his attention to other pursuits. He then attended New York Central Medical College (Syracuse campus), becoming a physician in Penn Yan, New York. Welch then relocated to Winona, Minnesota in 1856. He changed his profession to dentistry.

He continued to practice dentistry in Vineland until 1880 and “enjoyed a very successful and lucrative practice through the entire time.” Thomas Welch was a Methodist and staunch Prohibitionist, who actively worked to reduce or end the sale of alcoholic beverages in New Jersey and adjacent regions. Currently, Welch’s Grape Juice is sold in grocery stores.