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Strachan, John (1778-1867) (DNB00)


STRACHAN, JOHN (1778–1867), first bishop of Toronto, son of John Strachan, overseer in the granite quarries near Aberdeen, and Elizabeth Findlayson, his wife, was born at Aberdeen on 12 April 1778, and educated first at the grammar school and then in 1793 and the following years at King's College, Aberdeen. In 1794 he took charge of a school at Carmyllie, and in 1796 received a better appointment at Dunino, all the while continuing his studies at the university, and taking his M.A. degree in 1797. In 1798 he became master of the parish school of Kettle, near St. Andrews, joining the university in order to study theology. He acquired a solid reputation and made friends with some notable men in the two universities. On the recommendation of Dr. Chalmers he was invited to go out to Canada in 1799 to take charge of the new college which had been projected by Governor John Graves Simcoe [q. v.] at York (now Toronto).

On his arrival in Canada on 31 Dec. 1799, Strachan found that the project of the college had fallen through, and he was without an appointment. Again he began life as a private tutor, and, subsequently opening a school at Kingston, he soon began to prosper. Having decided to leave the free church and enter the ministry of the church of England, Strachan was ordained in May 1803, and became curate at Cornwall, where he also opened a grammar school. In 1807 he became LL.D. of St. Andrews, and in 1811 D.D. of Aberdeen. In 1812 he was made rector of York, chaplain to the troops, and master of the grammar school. He warmly advocated the establishment of district grammar schools throughout Canada. During the war with the United States he was active in the work of alleviating suffering. In 1815 he was made an executive councillor, and in 1818 nominated to the legislative council.

In 1825 Strachan became archdeacon of York. A description of his visitation in 1828 is in Hawkins's ‘Annals of the Church of Toronto.’ In 1830 he revisited Great Britain. In 1833 Strachan gave up his active school work, and in 1839 he became first bishop of Toronto. In 1841 he made his first visitation, going by way of the southern missions and Niagara westward through what was then a new country, holding services in log school-houses or in the open air. In the succeeding years these journeys were constantly repeated. In five years the number of churches had more than doubled. He established common schools throughout the province, and through his exertions a statute was passed establishing twenty grammar schools where a classical education might be obtained. In 1827 he succeeded in obtaining five hundred thousand acres to endow a university of Toronto, and after many struggles succeeded in founding it. When in 1850 it was deprived of its Anglican character and was made unsectarian, he issued a stirring appeal to the laity, and, obtaining a royal charter for the purpose, formed a second university under the name of Trinity College. Strachan died at Toronto on 1 Nov. 1867.

His admirers speak with enthusiasm of his capacity, wisdom, and worthiness. He did ‘more to build up the church of England in Canada by his zeal, devotion, diplomatic talent, and business energy, than all the other bishops and priests of that church put together’ (Rogers). There is a memorial to him in the cathedral at Toronto.

Strachan married, in 1807, Ann, daughter of Thompson Wood, and widow of Andrew McGill of Montreal, and had four sons and five daughters.

[Scudding's First Bishop of Toronto, and Toronto of Old, pp. 155 sqq.; Chadwick's Ontarian Families, pt. xvi.; Morgan's Sketches of Celebrated Canadians; Bethune's Memoir of Bishop Strachan, 1870; Taylor's Last Three Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, 1870, pp. 187–281; Melville's Rise and Progress of Trinity College, Toronto, 1852, pp. 25 sqq.; Rogers's Hist. of Canada, i. 105–6; Colonial Church Chronicle, vol. i. sqq. passim.]

C. A. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.261
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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10 i 21f.e. Strachan, John (1778-1867): for Govenor read Governor