The Bethune Family


From: "Montreal History and Gazeteer to the year 1892"
By Rev. J. Douglas Borthwick, John Lovell & Son, Montreal 1892


"PERHAPS no English family in this city is so long and intimately connected with the advance and growth of Montreal as the Bethune family."

John Bethune Sr., the first mentioned, the founder of the family on this Continent, was born in the Island of Skye, Scotland, in 1751.  He was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, and emigrated to South Carolina before the War of Independence.  Being made a prisoner by the Americans, he so continued till an exchange took place, when he went to Nova Scotia and resided at Halifax.  After the Peace he came to Montreal, not the only U. E. Loyalist who found his way thither.  He remained in Montreal till 1787, when he removed to Upper Canada.  One reason of this removal was his wish to locate on the land which as a U. E. Loyalist he had received from the Government.  His grant was 3,000 acres, he ranking as a military chaplain, equal to a captain.  He took up his residence at Williamstown and resumed his ministerial work there. 'I'o show how zealously he worked during his term of office in that part of Upper Canada, he baptized no less than 2,379 persons.  He died 23rd September,1815 universally regretted.

Two of his sons and the most eminent members of his family became high dignitaries in the Church of England--
John Bethune Jr., the third son, being the late Very Reverend the Dean of Montreal, and Alexander Neil Bethune, the fifth son, the late Right Reverend Bishop of Toronto.

The Rev. John Bethune(Jr.), D.D., late Dean of Montreal, was born about the time his father, John Bethune Sr., removed to Upper Canada, ordained in 1814, and was first settled at Augusta, near Brockville.  In 1818, he became Rector of Christ Church, Montreal.

In features he very much resembled his father.  An admirable portrait likeness of the Dean can be seen in the Vestry House of  the Cathedral. In 1835, he was appointed Principal of  McGill College.   J. McGill, the founder, wished the Rev. Dr. Strachan, who was afterwards the first Bishop of Toronto, but the Rector of that city then, to be the Principal.  However, he declined, and the choice fell on the late Dean.  The college question, however, not being ever satisfactorily settled, a new charter was procured in 1852, and the present regime of that Institution then began.  From 1850, when Montreal·District became a separate diocese under Bishop Fulford, the Dean was ever prominent in ecclesiastical affairs, and through all the changes of chief Diocesan Pastors, and meetings of both Provincial and Local Synods, he was ever ready to advise and counsel what was best to be said or done.  He was more than once the Bishop's Commissary during the absence of the Head of the Diocese in England, and for six months before the second Bishop was elected.  During his long incumbency.he saw great changes in the city.  At one time he was the only clergy-man of the Church of England in Montreal, now there are resident at this day over thirty.  After an honoured life he died some years ago.

see also Strachan Bethune
Rev. John Bethune Sr.'s daughter, Mary Bethune, married J.J.C. Abbott
Rev. John Bethune Sr.'s son, Norman Bethune, married Margaret Kittson, step-daughter of Alexander Henry.

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