MINISTERS OF ERSKINE CHURCH
From 1833-1933

From "One Hundred Years of Erskine Church, Montreal 1833-1933"


Mr. David Shanks, a licenciate, was sent out to the Secession group from Glasgow. He commenced his duties about May 15, 1832, and the services were fairly well attended; although not an ordained minister he was engaged for one year. On September 12, 1832, Rev. Mr. Robertson, who had just arrived from Cupar, Fyfe, was appointed to organize a congregation but, shortly afterwards, was taken ill of the dread cholera on a Saturday afternoon and buried on Sunday morning. Mr. Shanks carried on until the spring, when he became connected with the Church of Scotland, ministering in St. Eustache, Que., Valcartier, Que., and Cumberland, Ont., and again in Valcartier, where he died on November 12th, 1871.
 


REV. WM. TAYLOR, D.D., 
of Linlithgowshire, Scotland,
Minister of  Erskine from July 15, 1833 to September 4, 1876

Rev. Wm. Taylor arrived from Peebles on June 3, 1833, and completed the organization of the congregation within seventeen days. He was chosen its first pastor, serving brilliantly and with the utmost devotion and zeal until his death forty-three years later (at Portland, Me.). 

The congregation was exceedingly well organized and administered and solidly established. It was divided into Elders’ Districts for regular visitation and supervision (each district was also assigned a “lady visitor” and later lady collectors of the Missionary Society). Dr. Taylor was identified with most of the moral, social, intellectual and educational progress of Montreal. “His desire was to be at the head of a praying church, a working church, a giving church.” Son of a Scottish farmer, of high culture and distinguished and graceful figure, but of simple faith, his scholarship was exact and he was perhaps the best Hebraist in the Dominion, taking also a prominent part in the general work of the Church, especially the missionary and temperance movements. He was the first Moderator of the General Assembly of the “Canada Presbyterian Church” and a consistent advocate of Church Union. 

An editorial in Montreal Gazette. September 5. 1876 states “There were stormy times in the earlier part of his ministry, and his strength of conviction and general force and firmness secured him many opponents, but his transparent integrity and earnest simplicity won the respect of all."

A connection with the late Dr. Taylor is happily retained in the congregation in the persons of  Mrs. George Hogg and Mr. J. Newton Drummond. respectively grandniece and grand nephew, their grandfather having been a brother of Dr. Taylor.
 


REV. J. MONRO GIBSON, D.D. 
of Brechin, Wiltonshire, Scotland,
Minister of Erskine from December 16, 1864 to April 1, 1874

The son of a Presbyterian minister with a large family and a small stipend, who emigrated to Owen Sound as a missionary. Monro Gibson was determined to procure an education and entered Toronto University, earning his way through Knox College. Mr. Gibson was appointed Assistant Minister at Central Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, and came to Erskine in 1864 as the Colleague and designated successor of Dr. Taylor, then in a period of ill health, where he laboured successfully for ten years (he was also lecturer in Greek and Hebrew at the Montreal Presbyterian College). It was estimated later that approximately 700 new members had been received into fellowship during the first ten years of the St. Catherine Street Church. He was a radiant soul, the very essence of good humour and warm-hearted geniality and the possessor of admirable administrative abilities. The Trustees, Elders and Managers in February, 1874, pledged themselves “to use all legitimate means to retain his services”, to no avail and his next six years were spent with the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago, where he co-operated with D. L. Moody in evangelistic work. Dr. Gibson was then invited to the pastorate of St. John’s Wood Presbyterian Church, London, which became his life work. He was a distinct force in English Free Church life and always a welcome visitor in Montreal. Dr. Gibson died in London after a long illness on October 13, 1921.
 


REV. JAMES STURROK BLACK, D.D. of Brechin. Scotland 
Minister of Erskine from October 8, 1874 to April 7, 1884

Rev. J. S. Black was educated in Glasgow and Edinburgh and afterwards travelled in Egypt and Palestine. He was ordained to the ministry in Nashua, N.H.. and came to Erskine after the departure of Dr. Gibson, to be the colleague and successor of the venerable Dr. Taylor. Dr. Black took a warm interest in education and was lecturer of sacred rhetoric for two years in the Montreal Presbyterian College. He was eloquent, evangelical, progressive and possessed marked literary ability. Shortly after the successful celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Erskine, Dr. Black removed to Colorado Springs on account of the health of his first wife. He became pastor of the First Church there and later of the First Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. After considerable travel in Europe, he accepted a call to St. An-drew’s Church, Halifax, in 1895. From October, 1905, to March, 1906, he was acting pastor in the First Congregational Church at Nashua, N.H., and passed away on September 19. 1906, in Monroe, N.Y.

Dr. Black retained until the last a warm regard for the members of Erskine Church. The second Mrs. Black resides in New York and was greatly interested in the accounts of the One Hundredth Anniversary.
 


REV. LOUIS HENRY JORDAN, B.D., of Halifax, N.S.,
Minister of Erskine from May 7, 1885 to May 5, 1890

This careful and cultured student graduated from Dalhousie University and also studied at Princeton and Edinburgh. He attended later Oxford, Berlin and Marburg. St. Andrew’s Church, Halifax, was his first charge, 1882-1885, and the next five and fruitful years were with Erskine. He resigned to undertake studies abroad in Comparative Religion and published several volumes on the subject (when in Montreal, had lectured in the Presbyterian College, as had his predecessors)

Mr. Jordan returned to Canada for a short time and was pastor of St. James’ Square Presbyterian Church at Toronto 1894 to 1900. Retiring to London, where he built a home in Chelsea, he died there in 1923 and was buried in Halifax, His term in Erskine witnessed great activity in the organization of societies and in general progress.
 


REV. ANDREW J. MOWATT, B.A., D.D., 
of Woodstock, N.B.,
Minister of Erskine from January 8, 1891 to February 19, 1911

His parents removed early to Harvey, N.B., where, with other pioneers from the Old Country they opened up a new settlement in the virgin forest. Privations there were in plenty, the men trudging 28 miles through the forest to bring in the flour on their backs. The quest for an education led the boy Andrew first to Fredericton, then to Truro and Halifax, teach-ing and tutoring enabled him to graduate in Arts and Theology.

Stellarton, N.S., was his first charge, then Windsor, N.S., Fredericton, N.B., and finally Erskine Church, Montreal. His wife was a sister of the late Rev. Dr. Joseph Annand, missionary to the New Hebrides, and he gave one son to the ministry at home and one to the foreign field (Honan). As a preacher he was fearless in his presentation of “Truth”, but ever dwelt on the winsome side of the Gospel, Simple and whole-hearted, he was singularly free from censoriousness or criticism of others, loved his people and was beloved by them, knowing the families intimately. Questions raised during his visits in the home often served in the presentation of his sermons and made for that directness of appeal and originality that so characterized them. They were published weekly in the “Fredericton Gleaner” for more than twenty years.

Dr. Mowatt took a share in the larger work of the Church and was Chairman of the Committee on French Evangelization for many years. His passing was as he would have wished, on Sunday morning, February 19, 1911, as he was about to announce the text of what was virtually a farewell to his people.

Some of his children and grandchildren are active and useful members of the present congregation.
 


REV. GEORGE HANSON, M.A., D.D.,
of Fahan, Co. Donegal, Ireland.
Minister of Erskine from January 19, 1912 to December 31, 1924

His father, maternal grandfather and great-grandfather, three uncles, many cousins and his only surviving brothers were all Presbyterian ministers. George was educated at the Royal Academical Institution and Queen’s University (Belfast), graduating as gold medalist. From 1881 to 1897 Rev. Mr. Hanson officiated in Ballymena and Rathgar (Dublin). For eleven years he laboured successfully in Marylebone Presbyterian Church, London, when a call was accepted from Duncairn Church, Belfast. Dr. Hanson had been a delegate to Australia and in 1910 visited Canada at the request of the World’s Evangelical Alliance, returning full of enthusiasm for the Dominion.

As a result of insistent calls from Erskine, this attractive Irish divine was induced to recross the ocean in January, 1912.

Dr. Hanson immediately took a prominent part in the religious life of the city and of the Dominion. Although extremely conservative and insistent in his theological views, he was quite liberal in almost every other way; his charm and warmth 0f heart made him a welcome visitor in the home. He held strong personal, indeed impassioned, convictions on Church Union but resigned in December, 1924, shortly before the vote, retiring on pension in June, 1925. A period was spent touring Canada on behalf of the Home Missions Board of the United Church. in October, 1926, an unanimous call was extended from Emperor’s Gate Presbyterian Church (South Kensington) and a particularly happy year was spent in London.

Dr. Hanson passed away unexpectedly on January 31st, 1928, while apparently recovering from a severe operation for mastoid. A granite cross marks his resting place, with this noble inscription:  “I know that my Redeemer liveth”, and "So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.” Mrs. Hanson, the son and two daughters, reside in England.
 


REV. EDWARD LESLIE PIDGEON, R.A., D.D.,
of New Richmond, Que.,
Inducted September 18, 1925

Leslie Pidgeon is of Scottish pioneer extraction and a graduate of Morrin College (Quebec) Presbyterian College, (Montreal) and Queen’s (Kingston), having followed a grandfather and his own eldest brother into the ministry. He knows the Dominion thoroughly, his first charge having been St. Andrew’s Church. Markham, Ont., in 1901, followed by Knox Church, St. Thomas, Ont., in 1905, St. John’s. Vancouver, in 1911 and Augustine Church, Winnipeg, in 1915 and Erskine, Montreal, in 1925. (In their student days (1893) Mrs. Pidgeon and he had each been members of Erskine Church.)

Dr. Pidgeon is a clear and logical thinker and preacher with a modern outlook. He keeps well abreast of current thought and possesses the confidence of his people and asso-ciates. Is a strong advocate of home and foreign missions. (His grandmother, Mrs. Edward Pidgeon, was prominent in the founding of the first Women’s Missionary Organization in Canada, at Princetown (Malpecque), P.E.I., in 1825). A tower of strength on the side of Church Union, his services are in frequent demand on Committees, especially those dealing with law and legislation or some unusual problem.

An ardent golfer and a lover of the out-of-doors, Dr. Pidgeon was elected President of Rotary International in June, 1917, and enjoys a very wide acquaintance.
 


Assistant (Student) Ministers

REV. W. M. ROCHESTER, D.D., 
of Burnstown, Ont., 
Assistant Minister of Erskine - December, 1888 to January, 1891

Educated in public schools Ottawa, McGill University and Presbyterian Theological College, Montreal. In charge of Maisonneuve Mission and later also assistant minister at Erskine for two years, since which his distinguished career has been as follows:
 

1891 - St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Prince Albert, Sask 
1896 - Cowan Ave. Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ont 
1898 - Knox Church, Kenora, Ont 
1906 - Western Secretary, Lord’s Day Alliance, Selkirk, Man. 
1910 - General Secretary, Lord’s Day Alliance, Toronto, Ont. 
1927 - Editor, The Presbyterian Record, Toronto, Ont 

 

REV. EDWARD MCGOUGAN, M.A.,
of Ekford Township, Middlesex, Co., Ont.,
Assistant Minister of Erskine - January, 1907 to March, 1909

Graduated from Glencoe, Ont., High School; fellowships through McGill University and the Montreal Presbyterian College (gold medalist). A well remembered assistant to Dr. Mowatt at Erskine for two years, thence Wetaskiwin, Alberta, for one year and Knox Church, Edmonton, nine years. Inducted into a notable ministry in Chalmers United Church, Vancouver. February 11, 1921, where he remained until his death, after a lengthy and trying illness, on Sunday, December 13, 1931.
 


REV. NEIL MACLEAN RATTEE, 
of Hants Co., N.S..
Assistant Minister of Erskine - April, 1920 to March, 1921

Graduated with honours from Prince of Wales College, Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S. (Overseas three years. C.A.M.C.) First year theology Knox College, Toronto. Assistant to Dr. Hanson at Erskine for one year and student, Montreal Presbyterian College. Ordained September 30. 1921, and designated missionary to British Guiana. Settled in the United Church at Martintown, Ont., November, 1926.
 


REV. WILLIAM EWART COCKRAM, 
of Gillingham, Dorset, Eng..
Assistant Minister of Erskine - December. 1928 to March, 1932.

Educated local schools and in R.F.C. during the War. Left England in 1923 for Newfoundland and ministered to the Bell Island Church until 1928, when he entered the United Theological College, Montreal, and at the same time became assistant to Dr. Pidgeon, specializing in young people’s work. for which he was well qualified. Held summer appointments at Montreal South and Montreal West and upon graduation served the congregations at Winchester Springs and Elma, Ont., for a year. In September, 1933, accepted a call to St. Andrew’s United Church, Sudbury, Ont.

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