Samuel was the son of an "eminent Minister of the Gospel", John Fothergill and his wife Margaret of Carr End in Wensleydale, and he was carefully reared in the religious life; but Samuel, "being of an active and lively disposition, and during his Apprenticeship mostly from under
the watchful Eye of his affectionate Parent", fell into wild ways and company until, at the age of 21, he received a powerful "visitation of divine love" which turned his mind to God's service. He soon became an "able Minister of the Gospel", a diligent attender at Friends' Meetings and one who cared warmly and tenderly for the rising generation.
He travelled a great deal in England, Scotland and Ireland, and
once in the North American colonies. In 1769 and afterwards he visited very helpfully families of Friends in London. He generally attended Yearly Meeting in London and elsewhere, and his ministry and his work in Meetings for Discipline were much appreciated. His wife, Susannah Crewdson of Warmington, whom he married in his 23rd year, "was ever religiously concerned to set him at liberty when he found himself engaged in Spirit to travel in the Service of Truth.
He was steadfast and courageous, "graceful in person", grave "in deport- ment"; "His private conversation excellent, seasoned with salt." "His ministry at times went forth as a Flame, and we believe often pierced into the inmost Recesses of Darkness and obduracy"; he had no affectations,
and his word was "clear, sound, elegant and pathetic".
He died at Warrington after a long and painful illness patiently borne on 15 June 1772 in his 57th year, a minister for 36 years, and was buried at Penketh.