Rev John Stuart (1736 - 1812)

The Rev. John Stuart was born in the year 1736 in the State of Virginia.   His father was a rigid Presbyterian, who drilled his children every Sunday in the Shorter Catechism, and then in the Confession.   Young Stuart was repelled by its appalling Calvinism, and after examination made up his mind to seek orders in the Church of England.   His father after a time reluctantly consented, and he sailed for England, as all men of that time desiring orders had to do.   He returned to Philadelphia in the full orders of a priest in 1770.   The first seven years of his ministerial life were spent amongst the Mohawks at Fort Hunter.   Then the Revolutionary War broke out, and Mr. Stuart openly avowed his allegiance to the King.   After a long course of injury and ill-usage, as well from the new authorities as from the populace, he escaped into Canada in 1781, and was soon afterwards appointed to the Chaplaincy of a Provincial Regiment.   Mr. Stuart felt a warm and affectionate interest in the Indian tribes, loyalists, and voluntary exiles like himself, and now again brought within reach of his ministrations.   He visited their settlements with as little delay as possible. In writing to the Society an account of his first service among them he says--

"I never felt more pleasing sensations than on this solemn occasion.   To see those affectionate people from whom I had been separated more than seven years, assembled in a decent commodious church, erected principally by themselves, behaving themselves with the greatest outward devotion and becoming gravity, filled my heart with joy."

A Commemorative Plaque was erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board In front of St. George's Anglican Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario.   It reads:


Born in Pennsylvania, Stuart was ordained in 1770 and sent to Fort Hunter NY as a missionary to the Mohawks.   An ardent Loyalist, he came to Canada in 1781 where he was appointed chaplain to the 2nd Battalion King's Royal Regiment of New York.   In 1785, having settled at Cataraqui (Kingston), he became the first resident Anglican clergyman in what is now Ontario.   Stuart ministered to the white and Indian settlers of this area and visited as far west as Niagara and the Grand River.   He was the first chaplain of the legislative council of Upper Canada and was responsible for the building of Kingston's earliest church, St. George's, in 1792.

Before leaving he baptized 104 infants and five adults.   He then visited Cataraqui (now Kingston) and the Bay of Quinte, instructing and baptizing all whom he could reach.   Two years later he returned and settled at Kingston, his mission embracing many townships, which he visited periodically.

The next year, feeling that he alone could give the newly-appointed Bishop of Nova Scotia information about the condition of things in Canada, he set forth, in company with the John Langhorn, on a journey of over 400 miles to attend the visitation at Quebec.   It took them five weeks to accomplish it.   The next visitation was in his own parish at Kingston, by Bishop Mountain in 1794, when several Scottish Presbyterians avowed their conformity to the Church, and received confirmation by the Bishop. He says there did not exist in the whole parish any party or faction against the Church.

He made annual missionary tours, 150 miles east of Kingston to Cornwall, and as far west as the Indian settlement on the Grand River.   He is described by one who knew him well as a very fine elderly man of lofty stature and powerful frame, and of somewhat stately bearing, as conceiving himself the lineal descendant of the legitimate monarch.

He was subject to occasional attacks of gout, and when the attacks came on he walked into the lake and stood there some time to soak his shoes and stockings, and then walked at a swinging pace until they became quite dry.   This he found an immediate, safe, and complete cure.   Chief-Justice Sir John Beverley Robinson writes of Mr. Stuart--"He had been an intimate friend of my father's during the five or six years that our family lived in Kingston.   My father became indebted to him in the course of some transactions about land, and had given him a bond for the amount.   I well remember his coming to our house near York, a short time after my father's early and sudden death, and destroying in my mother's presence the obligations of my father, declaring that he would never consent to receive any part of the amount.   Then, as he was returning, he strongly urged my mother to allow him to take me with him, that I might attend Mr. Strachan's school just opened at Kingston.   I went, and spent three years in his family, treated as tenderly and kindly as if I had been his own son."

No clergyman could be more universally beloved than he was by his own people, and between him and the members of other religious communities there was always a kindly feeling.   "I have seen no one who came so fully up to the idea one is led to form of a fine old Roman--a man capable of enduring and defying anything in a good cause, absolutely in capable of stooping to anything in the least degree mean or unworthy."

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. London, Brighton and New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1892.
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