McKINNON (M’Kinnon, MacKinnon), WILLIAM CHARLES, editor, author, and Methodist clergyman; b. 19 April 1828 at Sydney, N.S., the son of John McKinnon and named for his grandfather, William McKinnon*, loyalist and provincial secretary of Cape Breton; m. a Miss Crane, and they had two children; d. 26 March 1862 at Shelburne, N.S.
By 1844, at age 16, William Charles McKinnon had written several poems. That year he published a long work, entitled The battle of the Nile; a poem, in four cantos, which a modern writer has described as “an exercise in youthful colonial patriotism.” He was also intensely interested in all branches of science, studying astronomy, navigation, and, particularly, geology, which became a lifelong interest. He began a work on ornithology, but it was unfinished at his death.
In 1846 he commenced publishing at Sydney what was then Cape Breton’s only newspaper, the Cape Breton Spectator (later renamed the Times and Cape Breton Spectator). When this paper ceased publication in 1850 McKinnon issued the Commercial Herald for a few months. His political interests were liberal and he was attracted to republican views to such an extent that friends were alienated and financial support was withdrawn from his newspaper enterprise. He went to Boston in 1851, where he wrote briefly for magazines. Ill health caused his return to Canada in 1852.
His writing continued throughout this period. In 1850 he had published St. Castine; a legend of Cape-Breton, and in 1851, Frances, or Pirate Cove. His book St. George: or, the Canadian League, a tale published in 1852, was inspired by the “recent late rebellion” and was dedicated to Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton “by his humble and ardent admirer.”
Shortly after the publication of St. George he was strongly attracted to the Methodist ministry, and undertook studies directed by Robert E. Crane on the Sydney circuit. He first preached at Bedeque, P.E.I., in 1853, then at Guysborough and Canso, N.S., in 1855, Bedeque again in 1856, and Middle Musquodoboit, N.S., in 1857. In 1857 he was ordained at Sackville, N.B., and became a minister at Shelburne, N.S., in 1861. There he died the following year at age 34.
McKinnon held strong views on many subjects. In addition to his early republicanism, which he later regretted, he waged fanatic pulpit and newspaper battles against Roman Catholics, Calvinists, and Baptists alike. In his more positive defence of the Methodist faith, he wrote clearly and effectively, and was a popular lecturer and newspaper correspondent.
W. C. McKinnon, The battle of the Nile; a poem, in, four cantos (Sydney, N.S., 1844); The divine sovereignty; a sermon . . . (Halifax, 1861); Frances, or Pirate Cove; a legend of Cape Breton ([Halifax], 1851); The papacy: the sacrifice of the Mass . . . (Halifax, 1859); St. Castine; a legend of Cape-Breton ([Sydney, N.S.], 1850); St. George: or, the Canadian League (2v., Halifax, 1852). Wesleyan Methodist Church, Eastern British America Conference, Minutes (Halifax), 1862. Provincial Wesleyan (Halifax), 3 Feb., 10 March 1859; 21 March, 5 Sept. 1860; 2, 16 April, 18 June 1862. Cornish, Cyclopaedia of Methodism, I, 392. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary, 471. T. W. Smith, History of the Methodist Church within the territories embraced in the late conference of Eastern British America . . . (2v., Halifax, 1877–90), II, 198. D. C. Harvey, “Newspapers of Nova Scotia, 1840–1867,” CHR, XXVI (1945), 292.