Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Smithurst (1807-1867)


Born in Derbyshire, England, he was educated at Islington College and ordained in 1839, on the eve of his departure for Red River. He took up a position as missionary and Hudson’s Bay Company chaplain at Netley Creek, where he attempted to learn Cree. Smithurst produced some translations, but James Evans’s linguistic work was preferred by his church.

His ordination became a subject of controversy in 1842 when Adam Thom insisted that the bishop of Quebec did not have the authority in Rupert’s Land to ordain Smithurst as a priest. Smithurst became the man in the middle, criticized by both the HBC and the Church Missionary Society. In attempting to gain support from his Native parishioners in 1846, Smithurst ruffled more feathers. In 1849 he became a councillor of Assiniboia. He served at Red River until 1851 and was then appointed rector of St. John’s Church at Elora, Canada West (now Ontario). His memorial sermon for the Duke of Wellington was published in Elora in 1852.

Smithhurst died in Elora in 1867. His letters and journals are in the Rupert’s Land Archives. His papers are at the Archives of Manitoba.

See also:

“John Smithurst and the Ordination Controversy: Reflections on Red River Society in the 1840s” by F. A. Peake, in B. Ferguson, editor, The Anglican Church and the World of Western Canada 1820-1970 (1991), pages 72-82.

John Smithhurst, Dictionary of Canadian Biography IX, 732-33.


Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

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

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 24 August 2018

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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