The Hon. and Right Rev. John Strachan , D.D., LL.D.
First Bishop of Toronto

Early Years

Clergy in 1820

Clergy Reserves

Clergy in 1844

1842 - 1865

In Old Age

The Bishops of the Church of England in Canada and Newfoundland

Charles Henry Mockridge
published in 1896

Alexander Bethune
2nd Bishop
of Toronto

Arthur Sweatman
3rd Bishop
of Toronto

Beginnings of the Anglican Church in Ontario


John Strachan's Career Commences
Henry Patton
Bishop John Strachan John Stachan was born at Aberdeen, in Scotland, on April 12th, 1778. His father, John Strachan, was an overseer of granite quarries near Aberdeen.1   His mother was a rigid Presbyterian. Her maiden name was Elizabeth Finlayson. Though his father seems to have been rather inclined to Scotch Episcopalianism, the son was certainly brought up a Presbyterian. He was only fourteen years old when his father died, and the burden of supporting his mother made him thoughtful beyond his tears. The best way to support her, as he thought, was to qualify himself for school teaching. With this end in view, he entered the University of Aberdeen at the age of sixteen, and during the long vacation earned money by teaching. After holding one or two situations as a teacher he was offered a position in Upper Canada by the Governor, to take charge of an academy there at a stipend of £80 sterling a year. He arrived in Canada, as he himself used to put it, "on the last day, of the last week, of the last month, of the last year, of the last century." He arrived, however, only to meet with a great disappointment. The scheme for the proposed college had failed. The poor young Scotchman found himself a stranger in a strange land, with only about twenty shillings in his pocket. He made a friend, however, in Richard Cartwright. Esq. who engaged him as private tutor in his own house. This brought him other pupils.

At this time there were only three clergymen in the whole of Upper Canada. The Rev. John Stuart was at Cataraqui (Kingston); Rev. John Langhorn was at Ernest Town, on the Bay of Quinte; Rev. Robert Addison was at Niagara.2   But others were destined very soon to be added. The Rev. George Okill Stuart (son of Rev. John Stuart) was appointed to York (Toronto) in 1800, and Rev. J. S. Judd to Cornwall in 1801. Mr. Rudd, who was a B.A. of Queen's College, Cambridge, removed to Sorel in 1803, where he died in 1808, after having buried his wife and all his children save one.3   These clergymen received about £100 a year, paid partly by Government and partly by the S.P.G.

The four places mentioned are of historic interest. At Niagara (called at first Newark) the first Government of Upper Canada was formed under Governor Simcoe.4   This shortly afterwards was moved to York (Toronto).5   It must be borne in mind that they were all mere villages, nestling amidst the trees of a primeval forest. The first church built at York was one of primitive simplicity, constructed of wood and surrounded by trees.

Such was the state of the country when Mr. John Strachan was tutoring children at Kingston. His intercourse with the rector, Rev. Mr. Stuart, and with other Churchmen of strict integrity and noble mind, soon led the young Scotchman to incline to his father's predilections and to claim the Episcopal Church as his own. He studied for Holy Orders, and was ordained by the first Bishop of Quebec (Dr. Jacob Mountain) in 1803, and was appointed to Cornwall at £130, a year. Here he opened a grammar school, which for nine years was the seminary of higher learning in Canada. He taught in a little wooden building, which, scarred with the initials of the pupils - many of them afterwards men of renown in Church and State in Canada - still stands in Cornwall.6  

In 1807 he married the young widow of Mr. Andrew McGill, of Montreal. She was the daughter of Dr. Wood, a physician of Cornwall, and being possessed of an annuity in her right right was able to be of considerable assistance to her husband in his work. In Cornwall Mr. Strachan built a church of wood, and this primitive building he always regarded with much affection.7   In 1811 his own University of Aberdeen conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in that year his old and valued friend at Kingston. Rev. Dr. John Stuart, the pioneer clergyman of Upper Canada, died. Dr. Strachan hoped to succeeds him at Kingston. but Rev. G. O. Stuart, the rector's son, received at the hands of the Bishop (Dr. Jacob Mountain) the position, somewhat to the doctor's disappointment. However, he contented himself with accepting the rectory of York (Toronto), which in the end proved to be by far the better appointment.

This was early in 1812, the year of the war between Great Britain and the United States. The new rector at the capital showed himself equal to the circumstances of the country, even to heroism. In 1813 he was appointed a member of the Executive Council of Upper Canada. This honour was bestowed upon him on account of "his zealous and valuable services during the late war." When peace was established the work of the Church went on. Dr. Strachan, as was his wont, opened a school; and thus, with all the irons he had in the fire, his hands were full. York was but a small place, yet it was a city in miniature. having within itself all classes of people, from the representatives of royalty to the poorest in the land, with here and there a red man of the forest to remind all of its primitive condition. In the little square wooden church, painted as it was of a bluish tint, was the Governor's pew, and when occupied by such personages as Sir Peregrine and Lady Sarah Maitland - zealous Church people - was a place indicative of some power both in Church and State. The church had no vestry; the clergy robed under the pulpit in full sight of the people

Next Page - Upper Canada Anglican Clergy in 1820

1See "Memoir of the Rt. Rev. John Strachan" By Bishop Bethune.
2A very interesting account of these pioneer clergy is to be found in "The Church in the Colonies, Toronto." by Rev. Ernest Hawkins. The Rev. H. C. Stuart, in his "The Church of England in Canada, 1759-1793" makes it quite evident that, in addition to these, a Rev. Mr. Bryan had ministered at Cornwall somewhere about 1786 or 1788 (see pp. 88, 89). There is no mention, however, of Mr. Bryan in the "Digest of S. P. G. Records." It would be interesting if someone could throw some light upon his history.
3Digest of S. P. G. Records.
4"Life and Times of Governor Simcoe.'' By D. B. Reid.
5Rev. Dr. Scadding in his "Toronto of Old" makes it very evident that "Toronto" was the ancient name of this historic place. An attempt was made to change it to York, but the old name, fortunately, was soon reverted to.
6The writer saw this venerable building in 1889. It was then used as a cow stable!
7This, since his death, has been replaced by a substantial stone structure known as the "Bishop Strachan Memorial Church."
(this is the 1898 note.   Today, Trinity Church, Cornwall is dedicated to Bishop Strachan's memory)