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SHORT, ROBERT QUIRK, Church of England clergyman; b. c. 1759 at Withycombe Hall, Somerset, England, son of John Short; d. 31 Jan. 1827 in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada.

Robert Quirk Short entered the University of Oxford in 1778 and was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1783 and a priest on 30 Sept. 1787. He served as a curate in the diocese of Bath and Wells, where he apparently gave satisfaction. He married Mary Wood, and by 1796 they had seven children. That spring the Shorts emigrated to New York, but plans to purchase land there failed and in the fall they moved to Kingston, Upper Canada.

In March 1798 Short wrote to the bishop of Quebec, Jacob Mountain, requesting a pastoral charge in the diocese. Mountain was not impressed by the letter, concluding that Short was a man who lacked both education and sense, qualities the bishop prized in clergymen. He decided to await references from England and asked his commissary in Upper Canada, John Stuart*, to observe Short. Stuart concluded that Short’s quick temper and harsh language made him unsuitable for appointment. Meanwhile, Short, who had been preaching and practising medicine in Kingston, had fallen into desperate financial straits, and by the autumn of 1799 he could afford neither food nor fuel. Mountain provided some firewood and sent a personal gift of ten pounds. In November his pity for the Short family and his difficulty in obtaining qualified priests from England led him to accept Short as a missionary. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which would have to pay part of the salary, objected on the basis of Stuart’s opinion that Short was unsuitable, but Mountain’s need for priests prevailed.

Short was dispatched with a stipend of £200 to Saint-Armand, a seigneury along the Rivière Richelieu which had experienced significant English-speaking settlement after the American revolution. His stay was brief; in 1801 he was appointed with the same stipend to Trois-Rivières, in succession to Jehosaphat Mountain*. Short depicted to the bishop a small, struggling Anglican community of which fewer than 20 adults regularly attended Sunday services, held in the former Recollet chapel. Fifteen years after his appointment he reported that the congregation was still unable to contribute “a single farthing” to his living. In 1820 it was yet without chalice or flagon, and could afford to build neither a church nor a parsonage. There was no glebe land and there had been no donations for the poor. Short also served as chaplain to the troops garrisoned in the town.

Stuart’s reservations about Short were confirmed to some extent at Trois-Rivières. Several conflicts with his parishioners reached the ears of the bishop; the parish clerk complained of Short’s refusal to bury a dissenter’s child, and one member of the congregation described the curate’s fees as “extortion,” bringing down on Short a severe reprimand from Mountain. Archdeacon George Jehoshaphat Mountain* reproached Short for the success of the Methodists in Trois-Rivières. On the other hand, according to the historian Benjamin Sulte* several inhabitants of the town later recalled Short’s being “well-informed, obliging, a good conversationalist, active, and a man of the world,” a social favourite of the leading families of Trois-Rivières, including the Antrobuses, the Bells, and the Harts. Indeed Short promoted the election of Ezekiel Hart* to the House of Assembly in 1807, and in 1811 he came to the defence of Benjamin Hart*, whom Colonel Thomas Coffin* wished to exclude from the militia, ostensibly on the ground of his Jewish religion. Short accepted good-naturedly the decoration of his old horse with paint and odd accoutrements by the town’s young men, led by Charles Richard Ogden*. Somewhat of an eccentric, a quality that did not endear him to his bishop, Short once convened his friends for a demonstration of flight in a machine of his invention, during which he narrowly escaped severe injury.

On 15 Aug. 1823 Trois-Rivières was erected by letters patent into a parish, and Short was appointed its rector. That year the government provided funds for the conversion of the Recollet chapel into a church and for the purchase of a parsonage, consisting of that part of the Recollet monastery being used as a court-house and jail. In the fall of 1823 Short moved into what had been the jail, and in 1826 the renovated chapel was opened for services. Short’s last eight years were troubled by illness, and on several occasions the parish requested an assistant, which it finally received in November 1826 in the person of Francis Evans*. Short died in 1827 at age 68 and was succeeded as rector by Samuel Simpson Wood*; Evans assumed the charge of the parish until Wood’s induction in 1829.

Robin B. Burns

ACC-Q, 70; 74, 23 July 1801; 87, 15 April, 21 Oct. 1806; 107: 1. ANQ-MBF, CE1-50, 3 févr. 1827. Montreal Gazette, 5 Feb. 1827. Quebec Gazette, 25 April 1816. A. E. E. Legge, The Anglican Church in Three Rivers, Quebec, 1768–1956 ([Russell, Ont.], 1956). T. R. Millman, Jacob Mountain; The life of the Right Reverend, the Honourable Charles James Stewart, D.D., Oxon., second Anglican bishop of Quebec (London, Ont., 1953). Benjamin Sulte, Mélanges historiques . . . , ed. Gérard Malchelosse (21v., Montréal, 1918–34), 21: 56–61.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Robin B. Burns, “SHORT, ROBERT QUIRK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/short_robert_quirk_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/short_robert_quirk_6E.html
Author of Article: Robin B. Burns
Title of Article: SHORT, ROBERT QUIRK
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: October 25, 2014