John W. Lewis was raised in Randolph County, North Carolina. In 1833, at around the age of 25, Lewis entered the Virginia Conference of Methodist ministers. His 50+ year career as a pastor took him from Virginia to Mississippi and eventually back to his home state of North Carolina. Lewis was a slave-owning member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MEC-S) offshoot that split from the main Methodist Episcopal Church due to differing views on the issue of slavery. He died on May 23, 1885.
Donald W. Bain, ed., Journal of the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Forty-ninth session at Charlotte, NC. November 25th to December 2d, 1885 (Raleigh: Edwards, Broughton, & Co., 1886), 40-41.