REV. JAMES McCAUL
1841-1906

By Dr. Evelyn K. McCaul
reprinted with permission from Karen McCaul Grant


James McCaul was born on Christmas Day, 1841, in County Armagh, Ireland, the son of John McCaul and Ann Abram (or Abraham). Tradition has it that the McCauls are descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the first High King of Ireland.  His descendents ruled Ireland until overthrown by Brian Boru. 

John McCaul, was a cousin, in some degree, of the Dr. John McCaul who came to Canada in 1839 to be headmaster of Upper Canada College, and who was the first President of the University of Toronto.  Efforts to trace the background of either John have been unsuccessful.

John McCaul and Ann Abram left County Armagh, with their three children in 1849.  However, John died shipboard, probably of cholera, which was then at its peak.  He was thought to have been buried at Father Point, but there is no record of such burial, and he may have been buried at sea.  It is thought that the widow and children went to McCaul cousins who farmed at Napanee.  From there she moved to Kingston, where she ran a boarding house for university students at 57 Barrie Street, (later renumbered to 124) in a two storey frame house where the Chemistry Building now stands.  After his marriage, she lived with her younger son, James, until her death in Three Rivers in August, 1873.  Ann Abram, according to her death certificate, was born in 1806, and according to the Kingston census of 1861, in 1811.

The exact location of James McCaul's birth in Co. Armagh is unknown. From the Queen's University Archives, we learn that his father was a farmer, that he attended school in Kingston, and enrolled in Arts at the age of fifteen, and graduated in 1859.  They give the incorrect information that he graduated Theology in 1861, but in fact, he taught school in Bath for three years before entering Theology.  He was an outstanding and versatile scholar, winning prizes in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Greek.

In 1864, James graduated in Theology, was ordained, and on  August 16, married Barbara Peden of Brockville.  His first charge was Roslin and Thurlow, in Hasting County, north of Belleville.  In 1867 the couple moved to Melbourne, P.Q., where their daughter Annie McCaul was born in 1868.  His church was the one which appeared on the reverse of the old two dollar bill.  In 1873, the family, which consisted of James, Barbara, Annie, Ann, and possibly Jane, moved to Three Rivers, where James was the pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church. By the end of the year, both Ann and Barbara had died.

In March 1877, James was still in Three Rivers, and by December 1878, he was minister of the Stanley Street Churchin Montreal.  As another indication of his versatility, in 1883, he addressed the Agassiz Society of Cote St. Antoine, Montreal, on the life and scientific career of Louis Agassiz, the zoologist and geologist who studied the effects of glaciation in Europe and North America.

In 1886, James McCaul married Charlotte Fairbairn, a member of Stanley Street Church and the daughter of John Fairbairn. In order to circumvent her parents' opposition, to her marrying a widower with a sixteen year old daughter, they went to visit  Charlotte's brother Will Fairbairn, and his wife Georgia in Philadelphia, and the marriage was performed there in April 1886. 

Soon after the wedding, they sailed for Scotland, to work in a mission to French sailors at Helensburgh, near Glasgow, and James was probably involved as well in a movement for the evangelization of the French in Canada.  The next move was to Birmingham, to take on the pastorate of Broad Street Presbyterian Church.  They lived in the suburb of Edgbaston, and Charlotte developed a friendship with Emma, wife of Richard Cadbury, the Quaker manufacturer and philanthropist.  They became acquainted through mutual involvement in charitable work.  Alice Jones remembers going with her mother to hear Mrs. Cadbury speak in Toronto.

James resigned from Broad Street Church in 1891, "being in trying circumstances", but we do not know what those circumstances were.  Apparently he had no plans for employment on his return, as they lived for some time with the Fairbairns in Montreal, where Effie McCaul was added to their family of three small sons in October 1892.

In 1893, James became minister of the Church of the Covenant, later Avenue Road Presbyterian Church, on Avenue Road in Toronto.  Rob and Mary McConnell have a pew salvaged from the church when it was dismantled.  The family lived at 278 Avenue Road.  Three more children were born in Toronto.  Because it was impossible to support such a large family on his income from the church, James sold insurance for the Oddfellows.  When the children were teen-aged and younger, he developed cancer of the liver, and died in November 1906.

James' sister, Jane McCaul, the eldest of John and Ann's children, was born in County Armagh.  Again there is conflicting evidence of birthdate - 1828, 1830, and 1836.  She remained unmarried, living at home in Kingston, until at some point she went to live with James, whose first wife died in November 1873, leaving a five year old daughter, Annie.  After James' second marriage, Annie lived with Jane on Mountain Street, in Montreal.  In 1898, Annie married Frank Morrison, and Jane moved with them to Peterborough where she died in 1910.

James' brother, Robert McCaul, the second child of John McCaul and Ann Abrams, was born in County Armagh in 1839 or 1840.  In Kingston, he worked for Canadian Engine and Machinery Company, first as a finisher, and then as an engineer.  In 1861, he married Joanna (Johanna, Jane) Escott or Hiscock, and the couple seem to have continued in the family home on Barrie Street until 1866, after which they disappear from the Kingston Directory.  L.F. McCaul thought that his uncle had something to do with marine engines, and may have died in a shipwreck.  Joanna left Kingston sometime before 1893, and went to New York, and then she too disappears into thin air.  There were no children.



Researching Rev. James McCaul.........Karen McCaul Grant (g-g-granddaughter)
                                                    .........Patty Brown (1st cousin 4x removed of his 2nd wife!)

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