LEEMING, RALPH, Church of England clergyman; b. 27 Jan. 1788, Blackburn, Lancashire, Eng.; d. 13 March 1872 at Dundas, Ont.
Ralph Leeming was educated at St Bees College in Cumberland and was ordained in 1812. He served two curacies and an endowed school in the diocese of Rochester, before asking, in 1816, to be sent as a missionary to the diocese of Quebec. His application was welcomed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel: at that time there were but six clergymen of the Church of England in all of Upper and Lower Canada, a situation created in part by the “higher advantages” offered by the older and more settled colony of Nova Scotia.
The SPG in September 1816 appointed Leeming the first resident clergyman of Ancaster Township, a “neat and rising” community of some 1,000 inhabitants (only 200 of whom, by Leeming’s count, were members of the Church of England). The appointment, which reflected the growing promise of the upper colony after the War of 1812, also included “Barton and adjacent parts,” a territory embracing most of what is now Wentworth County at the head of Lake Ontario. Four years after his arrival in the district Leeming married Susan, the daughter of Richard Hatt*, a prominent miller and supporter of the church in the village of Dundas.
Early in 1818, at the urgent request of the Reverend Robert Addison* of Niagara, Leeming broadened his activities by taking over from Addison the duties of serving the Mohawks and other converted members of the Six Nations Confederacy, who occupied lands granted them in 1784 on the Grand River. For nearly ten years Leeming periodically ministered to the spiritual and educational needs of these otherwise neglected Indian communicants. In the fall of 1818 he endowed a school in the Tuscarora village and over the next few years supported the educational work conducted by the SPG among the Mohawks. Following the appointment in 1827 of the Reverend Robert Lugger* by the New England Company as the Iroquois’ resident clergyman, Leeming confined his attention to white communicants in his constituency. By that time, St John’s Church, the headquarters of his mission, had been completed in the village of Ancaster.
In 1830, complaining of failing health, Leeming resigned his charge and sought lighter duties elsewhere. After briefly considering an English parish, he decided to remain with the society and move to a newly organized mission in the township of March, about 14 miles above Bytown (Ottawa) on the Ottawa River. He was appointed in 1833 to another mission in the township of Hamilton, but again ill health forced him after a brief tenure to resign this, his last living. In spite of his physical frailties, however, he lived a long life, travelling extensively for some years and apparently residing latterly in the Ancaster and Dundas area. He died in 1872, having survived both his wife and his missionary brother, the Reverend William Leeming, of Chippawa.
PAC, MG 19, F1 (Claus papers), 12; RG 5, A1, 44; RG 10, A1, 5. USPG, Journal of SPG, 31–37, 40–41. Robert Gourlay, Statistical account of Upper Canada, compiled with a view to a grand system of emigration (2v., London, 1822), I, 389ff. John Howison, Sketches of Upper Canada, domestic, local, and characteristic: to which are added practical details for the information of emigrants of every class; and some recollections of the United States of America (Edinburgh, 1821), 161–64. John West, A journal of a mission to the Indians of the British provinces of New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, and the Mohawks, on the Ouse, or Grand River, Upper Canada (London, 1827), 276–89. Church Herald (Toronto), 21 March, 18 April 1872. Gore Gazette (Ancaster), 3 March, 14 April 1827. “Rev. Ralph Leeming; an address from his parishioners and friends,” Wentworth Hist. Soc., Papers and Records (Hamilton), VIII (1919), 59–61. T. D. J. Farmer, A history of the parish of St John’s Church, Ancaster . . . (Guelph, Ont., 1924), 53–61. W. B. and A. B. Kerr, “The Reverend William Leeming, first rector of Trinity Church, Chippawa,” Ont. Hist., XXXI (1936), 135–54.