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ANDERSON, DAVID, Church of England priest and bishop; b. 10 Feb. 1814 in London, England, the only son of Captain Archibald Anderson; m. 1841 Miss Marsden, and they had three sons; d. 5 Nov. 1885 at Clifton (now part of Bristol), England.

David Anderson was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he graduated with a ba in 1836 and ma in 1838 (later receiving a bd and in 1849 a dd honoris causa). His academic career, however, was not outstanding. His attempt to win a fellowship at Exeter was such a strain that five days before his examination he collapsed from “nervous exhaustion.” Instead he was forced, rather reluctantly, into the only other “respectable” calling – the church.

It was probably at Oxford that Anderson came to the attention of John Bird Sumner, the bishop of Chester. Sumner ordained him deacon at Clapham (now part of London) in 1837, and priest at Durham on 8 July 1838. Anderson’s first charge was to Liverpool where he remained until 1841 when he was appointed vice-principal of St Bees College in the diocese of Carlisle. In 1847 Anderson became perpetual curate of All Saints’ Church, Derby. When Sumner was raised to the see of Canterbury, it was not unexpected that he should offer his friend and protégé the recently established diocese of Rupert’s Land, and on 29 May 1849 Sumner consecrated Anderson its first bishop. The diocese, which encompassed all of the enormous tract of land designated as Rupert’s Land in the charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was endowed by the estate of James Leith* and by the HBC. In addition to financial assistance, the latter provided a house and land at the Red River Settlement (Man.) for the bishop.

Anderson’s incumbency was marked by religious and social controversy, resulting largely from the tensions which plagued the community. The settlement, moreover, could not support the aspirations of its sons and many succumbed to the beckoning of the open plains, alcohol, or the supposedly richer life in Canada and in the southern republic. Even upon his arrival at Red River, via York Factory (Man.), in October 1849 the bishop found himself involved in a rather hot debate with the settlement’s Presbyterians. This group, remnants of the efforts of Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] to settle Scottish crofters on the plains early in the 19th century, thought they had too long suffered the ministrations of the clergy of the Church of England. After years of dispirited searching, the Presbyterians finally secured the services of a clergyman of their persuasion, John Black, who arrived in September 1851. Although they left the Anglican Upper Church (later St John’s Church) peacefully, the Presbyterians demanded both compensation for their interest in the pews in which they had sat for some 20 years and the right to continue to bury their dead, according to Presbyterian practice, in the churchyard of St John’s. The bishop, however, announced that he intended to make St John’s his cathedral and to consecrate its graveyard, an act which would have prevented burial other than by Anglican practice. The resulting debate was so acrimonious that the London committee of the HBC, which governed Rupert’s Land, had to intercede, and it advised the bishop to accommodate the Presbyterians. Although the bishop complied, his relations with them, the most prosperous element in Red River, were never to be improved. So bitter were his feelings that he refused the Presbyterian congregation the use of St John’s while their church was under construction, declined all assistance from them after the great flood of 1852, and prevented Presbyterian students from attending his school.

Anderson did attempt to provide leadership in the years of discontent that followed his arrival in the settlement. He was a prime figure in the temperance movement, and he was at the forefront of the agitation to secure some change in Red River’s constitutional status, arguing that the inhabitants of the settlement should have some direct involvement in their own government. One strategy, suggested by the Reverend Griffith Owen Corbett* and the Reverend John Chapman, was for the settlement to become a crown colony and the bishop supported this idea by signing a petition to the Colonial Office in 1862. A more radical movement led by William Kennedy, Donald Gunn*, and James Ross* advocated annexation to Canada. When the fight between the two groups became bitter and their opposition to the HBC apparent, Anderson withdrew from the agitation.

The situation was further complicated in 1862 when the Sioux threatened the settlement [see Tatanka-najin*]. The Council of Assiniboia, of which the bishop was a prominent member, petitioned the Colonial Office for troops. But those pressing for a change in the political status of the settlement saw the petition as an insidious plot by a malevolent council dominated by the HBC to crush their movement. Then in December 1862, the Reverend Mr Corbett, who had opposed the request, was jailed for allegedly attempting an abortion on his maidservant; she, gossip had it, was pregnant with his child. Supporters of reform again argued that the charge was another HBC conspiracy, this time to get rid of the parson, a sympathizer. Anderson, who had initially advised Corbett to flee the settlement, held his own investigation and concurred with the finding of the court that Corbett was guilty [see James Hunter]. In turn Anderson was condemned as an agent of the company conspiracy and his relations with his parishioners, always distant at best, were strained.

Anderson’s problems in Red River were due in large part to his inability to control his divided and contentious clergy. His most prickly subordinate was the Reverend William Cockran* who had been in Red River since 1825 and had substantial influence in the settlement. Cockran also exerted considerable influence over Anderson and pressed the vacillating bishop to approve missions at Beaver Creek and at Portage la Prairie. It was also Cockran who in 1851 secured the resignation of the Reverend John Smithurst* because of allegations, unsubstantiated, of improprieties. Cockran and his considerable clerical and lay following considered themselves the settlement’s watch-dogs against popery, Presbyterianism, and the native clergy, and managed to drag Anderson through an unending mire of contention and controversy.

In spite of these problems Anderson did have some successes. He placed the church on a firm footing and nurtured the roots of a creditable educational system. In 1849 there had been five Church of England clerics in Rupert’s Land supported primarily by one missionary society in London, the Church Missionary Society; by 1864 there were 22, supported by the CMS, the Colonial and Continental Church Society, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. Anderson was not able, however, to spread these clergy throughout Rupert’s Land. In spite of short forays and the establishment of a few small missions the majority remained at Red River; HBC governor Sir George Simpson* had observed that the settlement had more clerics per person than any other part of the British empire. Although this concentration of clergy was due in part to Anderson’s reluctance to press the HBC for further assistance, he was in fact too embroiled in events at Red River to direct his attention to the interior. He travelled only infrequently during his episcopacy, including visits to Moose Factory (Ont.) and Fort Albany (Ont.) in 1852, 1855, and 1860, and to the English River district (Ont.) in 1859.

The activity dearest to Anderson’s heart was education. Shortly after his arrival in Red River he had purchased the Red River Academy from the estate of its former proprietor, the Reverend John Macallum*. Anderson renamed the academy St John’s Collegiate School, introduced a rigorous course of classical studies, modern languages, and mathematics, and began a library which by 1855 numbered 800 volumes. The school, also a seminary, provided a thorough education and managed to send two scholars to the University of Cambridge and one to the University of Toronto, as well as eight priests to interior missions. In 1855 Anderson turned over management of the college to Thomas Cochrane, William Cockran’s son. Because of intemperate drinking habits, however, Thomas Cochrane was not popular in the community. His unpopularity, combined with easy access for the settlement’s youth to American boarding-schools and an increasing dislike of the Church of England in the settlement, forced the closing of the school in 1859.

It must have been with some relief that Anderson quit Red River in 1864. The Corbett affair had rendered his position in the settlement untenable and he chose to retire to the serenity of Clifton, England. Here he could be close to his three sons who were in English boarding-schools. But his interest in Red River continued. As vicar of Clifton, and after 1866 as chancellor of St Paul’s, London, he worked assiduously for the diocese of Rupert’s Land collecting funds and speaking whenever asked. After a lengthy and debilitating illness, he died in 1885, leaving his sons a total of £674 10s.

Frits Pannekoek

David Anderson was the author of Britain’s answer to the nations: a missionary sermon, preached in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, on Sunday, May 3, 1857 (London, 1857); A charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Rupert’s Land, at his primary visitation (London, 1851); A charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Rupert’s Land, at his triennial visitation in July and December, 1853 (London, 1854); A charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Rupert’s Land, at his triennial visitation, May 29, 1856 (London, 1856); A charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Rupert’s Land, in StJohn’s Church, Red River, at his triennial visitation, January 6, 1860 (London, 1860); Children instead of fathers: a Christmas ordination sermon, preached at St. John’s Church, Red River, on Sunday, December 25, 1853 (London, 1854); The gospel in the regions beyond: a sermon preached in Lambeth Church, on Sunday, May 3, 1874, at the consecration of the bishops of Athabasca and Saskatchewan (London, 1874); The heart given to God and the work: an ordination sermon, preached in the Cathedral of Christ Church, Oxford, on Sunday, December 21, 1856 (London, 1857); The net in the bay; or, journal of a visit to Moose and Albany (London, 1854; 2nd ed., London, 1873; repr. [East Ardsley, Eng., and New York], 1967); Notes of the flood at the Red River, 1852 (London, 1852); The seal of apostleship: an ordination sermon preached at St. Andrew’s Church, Red River, on Sunday, December 22, 1850 (London, 1851); The truth and the conscience: an ordination sermon, preached at StAndrew’s Church, Red River, on Sunday, July 21, 1861 (London, 1861); The winner of souls: a New-Year ordination sermon, preached at Saint John’s Church, Red River, on Tuesday, January 1, 1856 (London, 1856).

CMS Arch., C, C.1, Rupert’s Land inward, David Anderson to Henry Venn, 24 Jan. 1850. PAM, HBCA, A.11/96: f.339d; D.4/50: 64; D.5/30: ff.744–46; D.5/34: f.235; D.7/1: f.317; MG 2, C14, nos.29, 32, 33, 43, 56, 120. Somerset House (London), Probate Dept., Will of David Anderson, 7 Jan. 1886. USPG, E, 11, W. H. Taylor report, 12 Nov. 1862, pp.443–46. G.B., Parl., House of Commons paper, 1857, Report from the select committee on the HBC. William Knight, Memoir of Henry Venn, B.D., prebendary of StPaul’s, and honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society (new ed., London, 1882). “Memorial of the late Bishop Anderson, of Clifton,” Gloucestershire Notes and Queries (London), 3 (1887): 603–4. Nor’Wester, 1859–69. Boon, Anglican Church. W. J. Fraser, “A history of St. John’s College, Winnipeg” (ma thesis, Univ. of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 1966). Frits Pannekoek, “A probe into the demographic structure of nineteenth century Red River,” Essays on western history: in honour of Lewis Gwynne Thomas, ed. L. H. Thomas (Edmonton, 1976), 81–95; “Protestant agricultural missions in the Canadian west to 1870” (ma thesis, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, 1970). C. F. Pascoe, Two hundred years of the S.P.G.: an historical account of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1701–1900 . . . (2v., London, 1901). Eugene Stock, The history of the Church Missionary Society, its environment, its men and its work (4v., London, 1899–1916). M. P. Wilkinson, “The episcopate of the Right Reverend David Anderson, D.D., first lord bishop of Rupert’s Land, 1849–1864” (ma thesis, Univ. of Manitoba, 1950). T. C. B. Boon, “The archdeacon and the governor: William Cockran and George Simpson at the Red River colony, 1825–65,” Beaver, outfit 298 (spring 1968): 41–49. Frits Pannekoek, “The Rev. Griffiths Owen Corbett and the Red River civil war of 1869–70,” CHR, 57 (1976): 133–49.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Frits Pannekoek, “ANDERSON, DAVID,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 31, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/anderson_david_11E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/anderson_david_11E.html
Author of Article: Frits Pannekoek
Title of Article: ANDERSON, DAVID
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1982
Year of revision: 1982
Access Date: October 31, 2014