PORTER, JAMES, Congregational clergyman and educator; b. at Highgate (in London), Eng., 16 May 1812; d. at Toronto, Ont., 18 April 1874.
James Porter studied in London at University College and at Coward Theological School, graduating in 1836. In the same year he married Agnes Dryden, by whom he had several children, and entered the ministry of the Independent (Congregational) Church, serving in Lancashire, Dorsetshire, and Devonshire successively.
In 1843 he was called by Dr Henry Wilkes* of Montreal, the superintendent of missions for Canada East and Canada West for the Colonial (later Commonwealth) Missionary Society, to the oldest church of that society in New Brunswick, that of Sheffield. After nine years in Sheffield he became the superintendent of education for the colony. A year and a half later, in 1853, he left this post to found a newspaper in Saint John, the Saint John Free Press. When that failed in 1854 he went back to preaching, lecturing, and writing, particularly for the temperance cause. He supplied the Congregational church in Windsor, Canada West, for six months, but returned to Saint John and again vacillated between the ministry and secular work. In 1857 he received a call from the London Congregational Church, Canada West, and moved there with his family. A year later, in June 1858, he became superintendent of public schools for the city of Toronto, succeeding George Anthony Barber.
As superintendent (later inspector), Porter was responsible for examining prospective teachers, and for the appointment and inspection of teachers. He also oversaw the curriculum of the schools and their erection and maintenance. He retained the post until his death, 16 years later, and saw his charge grow from 35 teachers and 2,500 pupils to 65 teachers and 8,500 pupils. Many innovations in the curriculum were made, including the introduction of music, drawing, the military cadet system, and night classes. He remained a minister in the Congregational Church, worshipping in Zion Church, Toronto, and later in Bond Street Church.
He was a devoted and “a sound and accurate scholar,” sensitive to the task of his teachers and with a high regard for the responsibilities of public office. He won the esteem and respect of all. His obituary contains this fine tribute: “He was a scholar, a Christian and a gentleman.”
Canadian Independent (London; Toronto), XX (1874), 352–54. Harbinger (Montreal), II (1842),181. Toronto, Local Superintendent of Public Schools, Reports, 1859–70; Inspector of Public Schools, Reports, 1871–74. Middleton, Municipality of Toronto, I, 541–43.