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McCARTY (McCarthy), CHARLES JUSTIN (James), itinerant preacher; b. in Ireland, date of birth unknown; m. Catherine Lent, and they had four children; d. c. 1790.

Charles Justin McCarty was living in the province of New York when he became an ardent follower of the evangelist George Whitefield. He came to Canada in 1788 and preached effectively in the homes of loyalists in the Bay of Quinte area. His attempt to settle there was frustrated by the Mecklenburg land board, which turned down his petition for land “for want of due Proofs,” despite McCarty’s claims of persecution and imprisonment in the Hudson valley area for his loyalty to the crown. His preaching and personality had a polarizing effect in the townships west of Kingston. The Reverend John Stuart*, who sat on the land board with Neil McLean and Richard Cartwright*, considered McCarty “an illiterate Irishman . . . a Man of an infamous private Character,” and noted, “I think we shall be able to banish him for Crimes of a henious Nature.” On the other hand, 41 residents of the area signed a petition that he “continue with us,” recommending his sobriety, honesty, piety, and religion.

In April 1790 McCarty was arrested and tried on charges of being a vagabond, impostor, and disturber of the peace. The Court of Quarter Sessions, held on 13 and 14 April at Kingston and presided over by Cartwright, McLean, and Archibald McDonell*, ordered McCarty to leave the district. He apparently left but came back, for on 13 July he was again tried and ordered deported to Oswego, N.Y. He was never seen alive again, and accounts of his death have varied from starvation on an island, which seems probable, to murder, based on the discovery of a stabbed body.

Though McCarty had no official connection with the Methodists, his loyalist followers were largely of that faith and he had the Methodist style and emphasis. He has thus been claimed by Methodist historians as a martyr. Formally organized in 1785 in the United States, the Methodists were a new and unknown denomination, generally scorned by members of older churches as being enthusiasts and dissenters. Nathanael Burwash* later described this derisive attitude as “a spirit of arrogant enmity towards the Methodist body” and claimed that “the extreme instance” of it was McCarty’s death “through the action of the civil authorities at Kingston.” At least two other dissident preachers were in the Kingston area at the time and did not meet such hostility. A teacher in Adolphustown by the name of Lyons had preached the Methodist message without opposition, and William Losee*, a deacon of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States who had arrived just before McCarty’s trial, was able to form lasting Methodist societies which included many of McCarty’s supporters.

Other writers have defended the integrity of the court’s decision, pointing out that even a grand jury had been consulted on the final verdict and that at least one of the judges at his second trial, Robert Clark*, was or soon became a Methodist. Yet with his loyalty questioned and his request for land refused, McCarty was indeed a rootless wanderer in a post-war era suspicious of opportunists and unproven newcomers.

Four years after McCarty’s death, his widow married John McDougall of Ernestown. Some of McCarty’s children settled in the Cobourg area, and his youngest son John became one of the original trustees of Upper Canada Academy, the forerunner of Victoria University.

J. William Lamb

PAC, RG 1, L3, 281, 3232 A; L4, 7, p.30; RG 31, A1, 1851 census, Hamilton Township (mfm. at PAO). PAO, RG 1, C-IV, Hamilton Township papers, concession 5, lot 15; RG 21, A, Assessment rolls: Northumberland and Durham counties, Hamilton Township, 1808–15. United Counties of Northumberland and Durham Surrogate Court (Cobourg, Ont.), no. 1251, will of John McCarty, 4 Dec. 1877 (mfm. at PAO). Kingston before War of 1812 (Preston), 156–63. “Marriage register of St John’s Church, Ernest Town, no.2,” OH, I (1899), 20. PAO Report, 1904. Encyclopedia Canadiana, VI, 236. Illustrated historical atlas of the counties of Northumberland and Durham (Toronto, 1878). H. C. Burleigh, “The fate of McCarthy the martyr” (mimeograph, 1974) (copy at United Loyalists’ Assoc. of Canada, Toronto). G. F. Playter, The history of Methodism in Canada . . . (Toronto, 1862), 18. Thomas Webster, History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (Hamilton, Ont., 1870), 36–39. W. S. Herrington, “The trial of Charles Justin McCarty,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XXI (1927), sect.{{ii}}, 63–70. C. B. Sissons, “The martyrdom of McCarty – fact or myth?” Canadian Journal of Religious Thought (Toronto), IV (1927), 12–18.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

J. William Lamb, “McCARTY, CHARLES JUSTIN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 27, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccarty_charles_justin_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccarty_charles_justin_4E.html
Author of Article: J. William Lamb
Title of Article: McCARTY, CHARLES JUSTIN
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: August 27, 2014