|Thomas Brock Fuller (1810 - 1884)|
Thomas Brock Fuller (1810-1884) was the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara. He was consecrated in 1875.
The following account is from:
History of the Church in Eastern Canada and Newfoundland
by John Langtry, M.A., D.C.L., Rector of S. Luke's, Toronto, and Prolocutor of the Provincial Synod of Canada
published in 1892 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
In 1874 it was determined by the Synod of Toronto to form another Diocese out of the six western counties of the remaining Diocese of Toronto. A committee was appointed to make all necessary arrangements as to Episcopal endowment. This being done to the satisfaction of the House of Bishops, they formally set apart the new Diocese on the 12th February, 1875. At the Episcopal election held in Christ Church school-house, Hamilton, on March 17th of the same year, the Rev. Thomas Brock Fuller, D.D., D.C.L., was chosen first Bishop. He was consecrated by the Metropolitan of Canada on May 1st, the Festival of St. Philip and St. James, 1875. Bishop Fuller was over sixty-five years of age when elected; he was moreover suffering from an incurable bodily infirmity; but with surprising energy and diligence he devoted himself to the work of the Episcopate, and to the very close of his life administered the Diocese with great energy, wisdom, and fairness. Bishop Fuller was of Irish origin, being descended on his mother's side from Archbishop Loft us, one of the founders of Trinity College, Dublin, while on his father's side he was a lineal descendant of the Church historian, "Worthy Master Fuller," as he was styled in his day. He was born in the garrison at Kingston, Ontario, where his father, Major Fuller of the 41st Regiment, was quartered. The gallant Sir Isaac Brock, after whom he was named, was his godfather.
"Mr. Fuller was educated at the best schools then in the country, including that of Dr. Strachan's at Little York. His special preparation for the ministry was made at the Divinity School at Chamblay, L. C. He was admitted to the Diaconate by Bishop Stewart in 1833, and appointed to the curacy of the Church in Montreal. He therefore began his ministerial life in the midst of that terrible scourge of cholera of which we have spoken before. For many weeks he was employed amid the fearful scenes of the city pest-houses in visiting the sick, consoling the dying, and burying the dead in their hurriedly-made graves. It was a baptism of fire, a terrible initiation into the most heart-searching duties of the ministry" (Archdeacon Dixon).
From Montreal he was removed, on his ordination to the priesthood, to the mission of Chatham, on the extreme west of Ontario. Here he laboured alone for four years, supplying as best he could the ministrations of the Church throughout the counties of Lambton and Kent. At this period the Church throughout Canada was exceedingly weak. There were only forty clergymen in the whole of Upper Canada. These, for the most part, were widely scattered over the whole country; they only knew of each other's existence by printed reports, and had very little personal intercourse. They were without combination among themselves, without any plan of operation, and practically without Episcopal super vision. From the Ottawa to Lake Huron there were only three missionaries, where there was abundant occupation for a hundred at least. In the Newcastle district, in which during a single year 8000 English emigrants had settled, there was only one clergyman, settled at Peterborough, and he had the instinct of an old-fashioned English parish priest, rather than of the backwoods pioneer missionary. One cannot help feeling, in looking back at those opening days of our history, that our entanglements with the State, and dependence upon the Crown for the appointment of Bishops, has wrought us great and irreparable mischief. Had half a dozen of the best missionaries of that time been consecrated Bishops, even on the salaries they had, and had they ordained the best men they could find in each settlement the men who afterwards be came Methodist preachers, such men as the apostles of old must have "ordained elders in every city," the state of the Church and the prospects of religion in the land would have been very different from what they are to-day.
Bishop Fuller, it is claimed, was the real originator of the Colonial Diocesan Constitution. As early as 1836 he published a pamphlet on The State and Prospects of the Church in Canada, in which he displays a broad and comprehensive grasp of the whole situation. He saw clearly the calamities, as they were then regarded, that were impending, and which before long actually befell the Canadian Church. The loss of the Government grant of 3000 a year. The confiscation of the clergy reserves, and the secularization of King's College, the Church University. The remedy which he suggested for these perils was the formation of Diocesan Synods, in which he says--"We may be enabled, together with lay delegates from our parishes, frequently to meet in general council. Nothing less than the adoption of a code of laws embraced in a new constitution can bring order and regularity to our Church; nothing short of the admission of the laity into our Councils will give us strength and energy." Bishop Fuller then was the first clergyman in Canada who openly advocated Synodical action on the lines finally adopted. Bishop Strachan shortly afterwards submitted to the Church a somewhat more developed scheme, but on the same lines, and he never ceased to advocate it, till in 1853 he presided over the first Colonial Synod of the English Church ever held. But whether Bishop Strachan merely adopted and unfolded the scheme of Mr. Fuller, with which he must have been familiar, or evolved one out of his own mind, does not appear. Both the one and the other was no doubt suggested by the constitution of the Church in the United States, of which, after all, it is merely an adapted receipt.
In 1840 Mr. Fuller was appointed Rector of Thorold, and established congregations at several places on the Welland Canal. During his twenty-one years residence in that parish, he erected the present beautiful stone church, and shortly after his removal from it he cancelled a debt of 11,000 dollars, due for money which he had advanced towards the erection of the church. He was appointed Rector of St. George's Church, Toronto, in 1861. The congregation was in great financial embarrassment at the time, from which Dr. Fuller's administrative ability succeeded in relieving it before long. In 1869 he was appointed Archdeacon of Niagara by Bishop Strachan, and in 1875, as has been narrated, was elected Bishop of Niagara, over which he presided wisely and well till his death on the 17th December, 1884. In the words of one of the obituary notices--"The lesson of the life just ended is full of example worthy of emulation. It has been a life of unceasing work and constant striving for noble ends and high attainments." Bishop Fuller was most conscientiously and sincerely attached to the Church, her doctrine and her discipline. He was ever against extremes on the one side or the other, and by his conciliating counsel he often allayed rising difficulties of this kind. Bishop Fuller was married at an early age to Miss Street, who in addition to being, in gentleness, goodness, and wisdom, the very ideal of a parson's wife, brought him a large fortune, so that he was quite able to live without his clerical income in abundant comfort, but he never in the least relaxed his energy and toil in the Master's service.
First Anglican Bishops in Ontario
External Links: In 1896 in his book
The Bishops of the Church of England in Canada and Newfoundland
Charles Henry Mockridge also wrote a biographical sketch of
Thomas Brock Fuller
In 1917 Rev. Canon Howard wrote an account Thomas Fuller's missionary work at
St Paul's Anglican, Chatham, Ontario