Memorable Manitobans: James Robertson (1839-1902)
He was born 24 April 1839, in Dull, Scotland, the third child of James and Christina Robertson. His family came to Canada in 1855 and settled in the township of East Oxford. After passing a teacher’s examination he taught school near Woodstock. After two and a half years he secured a school at Inneskip where he taught from 1859 to 1863. He matriculated at the University of Toronto in 1863. He joined the University Corps of the Queen’s Own Rifles and took part in the Fenian raid in 1866. He entered the seminary at Princeton as a student in theology for the session 1866-67, and in the autumn of 1868 he enrolled in Union Theological Seminary, New York.
On 23 September 1869, he married Mary Anne Cowing, daughter of John Cowing of Inneskip, Canada West. They had five children.
In 1869 he returned to Canada and was ordained and inducted into the pastoral charge of Norwich, a small village in the province of Ontario. In 1874 he became pastor of Knox Church, Winnipeg. He was active in Manitoba College and helped found the University of Manitoba. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society. He received the appointment of superintendent of missions for the Presbyterian Church in Western Canadain 1881, devoting his energies to building churches and staffing them with ministers. In 1888 he was made a D.D. of the Presbyterian College of Montreal, and in 1895 he was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Robertson died at Toronto on 4 January 1902, but was buried in Kildonan. He is commemorated by Robertson Street in Winnipeg.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Page revised: 20 March 2011
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