Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Charles William Gordon [Ralph Connor] (1860-1937)

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Charles William Gordon
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Cleric, publicist, author.

Born at Indian Lands, Glengarry County, Ontario on 13 September 1860, son of the Reverend Daniel Gordon and Mary Robertson, he was educated at public schools at Athol and Harrington, Ontario (1871), St. Mary’s High School (1879), University of Toronto (1883), Knox College (1887), and the New College, Edinburgh (1887-1888). He took a bicycle tour of Europe in 1888.

Gordon taught school in early life; was Classical Master, Chatham High School, 1887; Master, Upper Canada College, Toronto, 1886-1887. Post Graduate work at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland; travelled as a Missionary in the Canadian Rockies in 1890-94; travelled in the old country as Commissioner for Presbyterian Missions in Canada. In August 1894, he was called to St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church. Was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. President of the Canadian Club of Winnipeg from 1909 to 1910. Overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War in the Chaplain Service. One of Canada’s most popular authors written under the pen name of Ralph Connor, of the following books:

  • Black Rock, 1898
  • Sky Pilot, 1899
  • Man from Glengarry, 1901
  • Glengarry School Days, 1902
  • The Prospector, 1904
  • Beyond the Marshes, 1900
  • The Pilot at Seven Creek, 1903
  • The Doctor, 1906
  • The Angel and the Star, 1907
  • Life of James Robertson, 1908
  • The Foreigner, 1909
  • The Dawn by Galilee, 1909
  • The Recall of Love, 1910
  • Ould Michael, 1900

On 28 September 1888, he married Helen Skinner King (1875-1961, daughter of John Mark King) with whom he had seven children: John King Gordon, Mary Robertson Gordon (1902-?), Gretta Helen Gordon, Lois Isobel Gordon (1906-?), Ruth Gordon, Marjorie Gordon (1911-?), and Alison Gordon (1915-?).

His Winnipeg home was designed by architect George William Northwood. His recreations included driving, canoeing, and camping. In 1910 he was listed by the Winnipeg Telegram as one of Winnipeg’s 19 millionaires. In 1937, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba.

Scholars study him today less for his craftsmanship than for his attitudes, many of which were quite typical of much of middle-class Anglophone Canada. An ardent imperialist, he was an enthusiastic patriot in the First World War, and undertook many fundraising and speaking tours during the conflict. He was also an early enthusiastic cottager at Lake of the Woods. His autobiography was published as Postscript to Adventure (1938).

He died at Winnipeg on 31 October 1937 and was buried in the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery. His papers are at the Univerity of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Ralph Connor House (54 West Gate, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Ralph Connor School No. 1769 (RM of Siglunes)

The World of Helen Gordon by J. King Gordon with introduction by Marjorie Gordon Smart
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 24, Number 1, Autumn 1978

Commemorating Ralph Connor House
Manitoba History, Number 69, Summer 2012


1901 and 1911 Canada censes, Automated Genealogy.

Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1916 Canada census, Ancestry.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Sam Coghlan and Agnes Collins for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 11 May 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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