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ANSLEY (Annesley), AMOS, Church of England clergyman; baptized 25 Jan. 1801 in Kingston, Upper Canada, seventh child of Amos Ansley and Christina (Christian) McMichael; m. 1826 Harriet Kirkpatrick Henderson, and they had four sons and two daughters; d. 1837 in Montreal.

Amos Ansley’s father, a loyalist from New York, settled in the Cataraqui (Kingston) district, where his skills as a carpenter-builder helped him play an active role in the young community. Amos was educated at the University of Edinburgh and graduated am on 14 Jan. 1822. Stationed at Hull in Lower Canada and March Township in Upper Canada as a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, he was ordained deacon in 1824. In 1826 he was priested by Bishop Charles James Stewart of Quebec. His responsibilities extended to some 14 townships on both sides of the Ottawa River. Hull and March were the two principal concentrations of settlement: the village of Hull had begun at the start of the century through the economic initiatives of the American lumberman, Philemon Wright; the March settlement, in contrast, was a military community where a group of retired officers and merchants tried to preserve and cultivate British social and cultural values in the wilderness of the Ottawa valley [see Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey*]. Ansley was active in both areas. In addition to performing the various offices – baptisms, marriages, and burials – that marked the life of an Anglican missionary, the young clergyman also helped to complete St James’ Church at Hull and St Mary’s at March, and took an especially active role in the promotion of schools and libraries.

The construction of the Rideau Canal [see John By] added to Ansley’s duties. Although Bytown (Ottawa) was not an official part of his district, he none the less assumed responsibility for the rapidly expanding population of workers, lumbermen, and military officials who were drawn to the area. The general growth of the region, in fact, led Bishop Stewart to petition the SPG to divide the missionary station. In 1829 March became a separate charge, and Ansley was left with the Lower Canadian side of the river.

This relief did not, unfortunately, betoken a prosperous future for Ansley and his family. In 1831 the bishop transferred him to Berthier-en-Haut (Berthierville) because “some untoward circumstances” had undermined his authority among his parishioners. He left Hull in 1832 but new fields did not produce the desired result. In 1834 Stewart was obliged to suspend him on account of his “habits of intemperance.” At this point, Ansley seems to have suffered as well from what his wife described as an inherited “state of mental derangement.” He wandered off into the United States, leaving her and their children destitute. He later returned to Montreal and died there in 1837. His wife remained extremely hard pressed to provide for their family.

The missionary reports that Ansley submitted to the SPG reveal a hard-working and dedicated priest – his bishop spoke highly of the “great diligence” with which he approached his work. His published sermon presents a man with a rational and orthodox intelligence, indeed with a sense of refinement that might seem incongruous with the emerging commercial character of the Ottawa valley. Although problems cut short his career, they were of a type that was not uncommon among missionaries who had to confront the privations of living on the very edge of Anglican civilization. While Ansley’s story might not conform to the heroic tales popularized by the religious press in the Victorian era, it does reveal – in both its successes and failures – an important dimension of missionary life in the early decades of the 19th century.

William Westfall

Amos Ansley is the author of A sermon preached at the opening of StMary’s Church, township of March, Upper-Canada . . . (Montreal, 1828).

RHL, USPG Arch., C/CAN/Que., folders 368, 370, 384. Univ. of Edinburgh Library, Special Coll. Dept., Graduation roll, 1822; Matriculation reg., 1818–22. K. M. Bindon, “Kingston: a social history, 1785–1830” (phd thesis, Queen’s Univ., Kingston, Ont., 1979). M. S. Cross, “The dark druidical groves; the lumber community and the commercial frontier in British North America, to 1854” (phd thesis, Univ. of Toronto, 1968). H. A. Davidson, “Our Ansley family” . . . (Jenkintown, Pa., 1933). H. P. Hill, History of Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, 1832–1932 (Ottawa, 1932). E. G. May and W. H. Millen, History of the parish of Hull, Que., . . . 1823–1923 (Ottawa, 1923). C. F. Pascoe, Two hundred years of the S.P.G. . . . (2v., London, 1901). B. S. Elliott, “‘The famous township of Hull’: image and aspirations of a pioneer Quebec community,” SH, 12 (1979): 339–67.

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Cite This Article

William Westfall, “ANSLEY, AMOS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ansley_amos_7E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ansley_amos_7E.html
Author of Article:   William Westfall
Title of Article:   ANSLEY, AMOS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1988
Year of revision:   1988
Access Date:   February 24, 2024