MILNER, CHRISTOPHER, Church of England priest and missionary, b. 28 Feb. 1787 at Hawxwell, Yorkshire, Eng.; d. 2 Nov. 1877 at Sackville, N.B.
Christopher Milner was ordained a Church of England deacon on 20 Dec. 1812 by Brownlow North, bishop of Winchester, and immediately appointed curate at Binstead, Isle of Wight. He was raised to the priesthood in the following year by George Henry Law, bishop of Chester. Late in 1817 he was accepted as a missionary by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and was sent to Halifax where he arrived with his family on 18 May 1818. At the request of the governor, Lord Dalhousie [George Ramsay*], and with the approval of Bishop Robert Stanser*, he took charge of the collegiate school in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in June 1818.
In May 1820 Milner was appointed missionary at Sackville, New Brunswick, and, upon arrival, found himself the only Church of England missionary between Sussex Vale and Halifax. Making his headquarters at Fort Cumberland until a parsonage was built at Westcock in 1824, he served congregations at Amherst, Dorchester, Shediac, and several other settlements. Wherever he could find a congregation, Milner encouraged the people to build churches and schools. The church at Fort Cumberland, which had fallen into ruin through disuse, was rebuilt by March 1821, and a church and school were built at Shediac in 1822. He also encouraged the establishment of new schools under the Madras system which enabled one schoolmaster to teach a large number of children by employing the advanced students as “pupil teachers.”
In 1836 he became missionary at Westfield, N.B., and also took charge at Petersville and Greenwich until those parishes obtained resident ministers. Here, as elsewhere, he exhorted the people to build churches, taking an axe into his own hands and felling the first tree when he felt the congregation was moving too slowly. The churches constructed at Oke Point, Greenwich, and Nerpesis were a result of his endeavours.
The Reverend Mr Milner was an energetic and vigorous clergyman, who covered his large mission on foot, on horseback, and by rowboat. It was reported to the SPG that “[he] often rowed himself, in storms when no person would venture with him.” Another report told how Milner’s horse got its foot caught in the ice while crossing a river. The missionary freed his mount by cutting a hole with his pocket knife, but “his hands and arms . . . were completely frozen, like solid masses of ice, to his elbows, and were with great difficulty recovered by immersion in spirits.” He often preached as many as four times on a given Sunday at points many miles apart. In July 1859, while rowing from Greenwich to Westfield after morning service, he suffered a sunstroke which completely incapacitated him and forced his retirement from the ministry after 42 years of service.
USPG, Journal of SPG, 31, letters of John Inglis, 19 May, 21 June 1818; 32, p.319, 19 May 1820; C/CAN/NS, letter of Christopher Milner, 7 Sept. 1824. G. H. Lee, An historical sketch of the first fifty years of the Church of England in the province of New Brunswick (1783–1883) (Saint John, N.B., 1880), 122. W. C. Milner, History of Sackville, New Brunswick (Sackville, N.B., 1934), 63–64. Pascoe, Two hundred years of the S.P.G., 867.