William Macaulay received his early education under John Strachan* at Cornwall and York (Toronto); from 1816 to 1818 he attended Queen’s College, Oxford, but did not take his degree. He was made deacon in London, England, in July 1818 and received priest’s orders from Bishop Jacob Mountain* at Quebec in October 1819. In the latter year he was licensed to Hamilton, now Cobourg, as missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Here he built the first St Peter’s Church and served also in the adjacent townships. He visited England in 1827 and after his return he was appointed to the mission of Hallowell (Picton) in Prince Edward County where he owned property and had begun, in 1825, the building of a brick church, largely at his own expense. He itinerated in the Hallowell area until other missions were established. From 1821 to 1835 he was chaplain to the Legislative Council, succeeding John Strachan in that office.
William Macaulay was closely involved with the management of the clergy reserves. From 1820 he was a member of the Upper Canada Clergy Corporation established to manage the reserves in Upper Canada. His mission of Hallowell was made into a rectory in 1836 and it was endowed with lands from the reserves. When the reserves were secularized in 1854 Macaulay was the only rector whom Strachan could not persuade to enter the commutation scheme, by which the funds received for the reserves would be placed by the bishop in an endowment fund; hence Macaulay received a government stipend until his death.
In 1871 Macaulay left Picton to live in England but he had returned to Picton by 1872 and he remained there in retirement until his death on 2 March 1874. In 1829 he had married Anne Catherine Geddes, who died 20 April 1849. He then married in 1852 Charlotte Sarah Vesconte (who died in 1884) and by his second marriage had two daughters.
William Macaulay’s ambition was to become bishop. In a letter written to his mother, 18 Oct. 1837; his brother, John Macaulay*, then legislative councillor of Upper Canada, wrote frankly and, it appears, accurately of William: “He considers himself overlooked in the Church. He has very aspiring thoughts and a high opinion of himself but has always committed the fatal error of not endeavouring to impress others with a like opinion. . . . He thinks he should be Bishop. I’ll venture to say not another clergyman has concurred in this.” Macaulay’s ambition was never attained, but it often strained his relations with John Strachan even before Strachan’s appointment as bishop in 1839. The close connection of early years between the two men, however, was never entirely broken, and at the bishop’s visitation in Toronto in 1844, Macaulay preached an eloquent sermon, printed in the Church, in the course of which he praised his former preceptor.
Although he was a gifted preacher William Macaulay did not gain wide repute outside the two communities in which he served for over half a century and to which he is said to have given their present names. His obituary notice remarked: “He was a sound and consistent Churchman of the old Anglican type, courteous and genial to all,” and his kindness and generosity is attested to by Frances Stewart [Browne] in Our forest home. He was conservative, punctilious in the performance of duty, closely involved in local affairs, and independent in thought and action.
PAO, Macaulay family papers; D. B. Stevenson papers; John Strachan letter books. Queen’s University Archives, William Macaulay papers. Macaulay published three sermons: The harvest blessing, or a word to prudent men, being a sermon preached . . . August 28th, 1853 (Kingston, n.d.); The portraiture of a true and loyal Orangeman; as sketched in a sermon (Toronto, 1854); A sermon preached . . . on the occasion of the funeral of Mrs. Catherine Wright (Picton, U.C., ).
Scadding, Toronto of old. [Frances Stewart], Our forest home, being extracts from the correspondence of the late Frances Stewart, ed. E. S. Dunlop (2nd ed., Montreal, 1902), 17, 19. [John Strachan], The John Strachan letter book: 1812–1834, ed. G. W. Spragge (Toronto, 1946). Church (Cobourg), 4 Dec. 1841, 28 June 1844. Church Herald (Toronto), 6, 12 March 1874. New Nation (Picton), 7 March 1874. Wilson, Clergy reserves of Upper Canada, 65–67, 69, 154–55.