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Original title:  The Most Rev. J.A. Richardson (1907-1938)

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RICHARDSON, JOHN ANDREW, farmer, teacher, and Church of England clergyman and archbishop; b. 30 Oct. 1868 in Warwick, England, son of John Richardson and Mary Watkins; m. 16 June 1897 Dora Lillian Fortin in Winnipeg, and they had one son and four daughters; d. 7 Oct. 1938 in Fredericton.

John Andrew Richardson’s childhood was marred by the death of his mother at an early age. His father was an Anglican high-church clergyman and chaplain of Warwick’s prison. After gaining his early education at the town’s historic grammar school, John Andrew, at his father’s suggestion, emigrated to western Canada in 1888. He farmed in Manitoba before attending St John’s College, an Anglican institution that was part of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. There he earned, in 1895, a ba with first-class honours in mental and moral science, and an ma three years later. He was ordained deacon in 1895 and priest in 1896. Richardson was also appointed to a mastership at the college, and while teaching he assisted in the missionary work of Holy Trinity Church. When Archdeacon Octave Fortin established St Luke’s Church in Fort Rouge (Winnipeg) in 1897, Richardson, who married Fortin’s daughter that year, became its first rector.

A tall, athletic man with a keen sense of humour and what was often described as a “golden voice,” Richardson would become known as a great orator. In early 1899 the archbishop of Rupert’s Land, Robert Machray*, sent him to the Maritimes to raise money for churches in western Canada. While on tour Richardson addressed several churches in Saint John and conducted a children’s mission. (The Reverend Cecil Caldbeck Owen of Holy Trinity said of him that “perhaps his greatest strength lies in his particular gift with children.”) Impressed by his preaching ability, the parish of Trinity Church in Saint John nominated Richardson to become its new rector. He took up his duties in August and became active in the community, displaying an evangelical enthusiasm for ameliorating society that may have been nurtured during his years in Winnipeg, a centre of the Social Gospel movement [see Frederic Beal Du Val*]. In 1901, while serving as president of the New Brunswick chapter of the Lord’s Day Alliance, he petitioned the provincial government to enforce the Profanation of the Lord’s Day Act. An advocate of temperance, he urged stricter administration of the provincial Liquor License Act. He opposed gambling, advocated prison reform, and protested against overcrowding in the city’s jail. When testifying before a 1905 commission of inquiry whose members included reformer Emma Sophia Fiske [Skinner*], Richardson criticized the grim conditions in local cotton mills and stressed the need for laws to regulate factory work and child labour. Working to improve the lives of young people, he supported campaigns for compulsory education, kindergartens, and public playgrounds. His efforts earned him a reputation, according to the Daily Gleaner, as “a broad minded, zealous worker for good.”

Richardson’s rise in the hierarchy of the church was meteoric. In 1902 Bishop Hollingworth Tully Kingdon appointed him canon at Fredericton’s Christ Church Cathedral, and four years later, after Kingdon’s health declined, Richardson was elected bishop coadjutor. The diocese thereby gained a popular preacher, strongly supported by the laity, who possessed a keen desire to enlarge the church’s work by first improving the condition of people. Upon his consecration in Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral on 30 Nov. 1906, a month after his 38th birthday, he became the youngest Anglican bishop in the dominion. On 6 Feb. 1908, following Kingdon’s death the previous October, Richardson was enthroned bishop of Fredericton in the city’s cathedral. Honours overseas followed: in June that year, while attending the Lambeth Conference, he preached before Edward VII in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and in 1910 he represented the Canadian church at the king’s funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. During his career he also preached at Salisbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and he received honorary dds from the University of Manitoba and King’s College, Windsor, N.S., and a dcl from Bishop’s College, Lennoxville (Sherbrooke), Que.

Richardson’s long term of office would cover a period of immense change, during which World War I and the Great Depression radically altered the socio-economic fabric of Canadian society and the Maritimes suffered economic decline. He took over a diocese whose first bishop, John Medley*, a supporter of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement, had instilled into it the conservative, high-church values of Tractarianism. Richardson sought to convert his flock to a more socially conscious Christianity. In 1908 he helped found and became chairman of the New Brunswick affiliate of the Moral and Social Reform Council of Canada [see John George Shearer*], which was convened in Saint John to promote improvement by education, legislation, or administrative action. The next year he chaired the affiliate’s Church of England unit, which supported prison reform, advocated for women and children’s welfare, and opposed gambling and intemperance. The work of such institutions became an important part of diocesan policy.

A good administrator, Richardson reorganized church groups and improved the finances of the diocese, whose membership would rise from 23,238 in 1907 to 35,167 in 1938. After a lightning strike in July 1911 started a fire that destroyed the cathedral’s spire, melted the bells, and ruined the organ, he successfully raised funds to repair the damage, which was estimated at $100,000. He supported King’s College (which moved to Halifax in 1923), the Rothesay Collegiate School [see George Exton Lloyd] near Saint John, and the Church of England Institute [see Charles William Vernon] in Saint John. Believing that the church was most effective “at the point of childhood,” he strengthened the work of Sunday schools, and in the mid 1920s endorsed the Anglican Young People’s Association.

Richardson, whose well-educated wife may have influenced his views, valued the work of churchwomen. Until his appointment as bishop, the church put women only in subordinate positions despite the fact that, as Richardson informed the 1918 synod, they “largely filled the churches and did the real work.” In 1903 he had encouraged Trinity to establish the first parochial branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary to the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada, and in his first charge to synod as bishop he supported an amendment to the Sunday-school canon that made it lawful for the standing committee on Sunday schools to add members of either sex. In 1919 a provincial act allowed Anglican parishes to grant women the right to vote at parish meetings.

Richardson strongly favoured the country’s involvement in World War I. He encouraged enlistment in the Canadian Expeditionary Force to help meet Prime Minister Sir Robert Laird Borden’s goal of recruiting 500,000 men, declaring, “It is a holy war we are waging.” Convinced that “intoxicating liquor” was “a menace to the strength and safety of the State more deadly than any Teuton terror,” he became a spokesman for the New Brunswick Temperance Alliance and urged the members of synod to support the provincial act imposing Prohibition in 1917. That year the Canadian house of bishops sent him overseas, where he spent several months touring military camps, interviewing chaplains [see John Macpherson Almond], and visiting soldiers. The experience inspired him to advocate closer ties between the church and its laymen, and led in 1925 to the establishment of the Diocesan Laymen’s Association.

The economic hardships of the Great Depression were intensified in 1932 by the discovery that lawyer John Alexander Machray had misappropriated about $759,000 from the church. Clarendon Lamb Worrell, then primate of Canada, worked unceasingly to redeem the loss. When he died two years later, Richardson succeeded him as metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Canada, was elected president of the house of bishops, and was enthroned first archbishop of Fredericton in the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. He was already in poor health, however, and died of aplastic anaemia on 7 Oct. 1938, a month after being devastated by the premature death of his only son, Wilfrid Randolph. Thousands attended Richardson’s funeral. Derwyn Trevor Owen*, primate of Canada, recalled in his eulogy that “he was helpful, cheerful, genial, optimistic and always trying to clear away difficulties.” Survived by his wife and four daughters, Richardson was buried in the cathedral close, beneath the east window, beside Bishop Medley.

John Andrew Richardson’s charismatic personality invigorated the Church of England in the Maritimes, especially in his early years. A practical and moderate man who remarked in 1906 that “in religious life extremes are almost always a mistake,” he guided his diocese through a period of profound change and managed to steer a course that did not radically alter its Tractarian character. In 1940, during the dedication of a memorial to Richardson in Smiths Cove (the site of his family’s summer home), his friend and fellow clergyman Alfred Henchman Crowfoot said of him: “From a keen evangelical he developed into a strong Churchman. Yet his conviction that the Catholic position was sound, never robbed him of his Evangelical fervour.”

Gillian Liebenberg

Primary sources relating to John Andrew Richardson are found mainly in PANB. Records from his years at Trinity Church in Saint John include MC 223, D-SJ-1B (Saint John Deanery minutes, 1880–1913); MC 223, MC 1926, MS 2 (F17999) (Trinity Church, Saint John, vestry minutes), H, vol.8 (in particular, copy of letter from the Reverend Cecil C. Owen, 3 July 1899) and vol.9; MC 223, S5-A-7B-1a (Trinity Church, Saint John, WA minutes, 1903–1910); MC 223, S5A-16D, C20; and MC 1926, MS3 (F21539) (Trinity Church, Saint John, annual reports, 1897–1908). More sources for this period of his career are found in RS9 (Executive Council), Richardson to Hon. L. J. Tweedie, 28 March and 23 Aug. 1901; and RS250 (Records of the commission to investigate the necessity of a factory act (1905), B1 (Evidence taken before factory commission), 16 March 1905.

Documentation relating to Richardson’s charges during his episcopate is located in the John Andrew Richardson fonds, MC 223, DB-3-5A-F, 20 A, E, D; MC 223-13-33 (Synod journals, 1906–1940), F19902–4, F20099; MC 223, CA 19 (Christ Church Cathedral, special services), 1908, 1918, 1934, 1940; and MC 223, DB-3-1 (Richardson reg. of the diocese of Fredericton). Sermons by Richardson are held in MC 2350, MS5, and MC 2513, 10. Photographs of Richardson, his family, and places where he lived are kept in the photograph collection, P412, 1–39; a photograph signed by him is located in MC 233, DB-3-17. The PANB also holds a copy of a memorial sermon by A. H. Crowfoot, “A beloved father-in-God …,” in MC 2350, MS6. There is a family oral history at MC 2350, MS1, A–F (Janet McClellan Toole, transcripts of interviews with Richardson’s daughter Mary Sorensen, 18 May 1994 and 17 Sept. 1995); MC 2513 1–10 (transcripts of oral history by Richardson’s granddaughter Dorothea Claridge Murray); and MC 2737, MS1, B1 (transcripts of oral history by Richardson’s grandson John Murray Richardson, 28 April 1998).

The Harriet Irving Library at the Univ. of N.B. (Fredericton) holds the following works by Richardson: Charge delivered to the diocesan synod of Fredericton, on October 1st, 1907, at Saint John, N. B. ([Fredericton, 1907]); Pan-Anglican thank offering: appeal from the bishop and synod to the churchmen of the diocese of Fredericton ([Fredericton], 1908); “Contending for the faith”: a sermon preached by the lord bishop of Fredericton in the chapel of Bishop’s College, Lennoxville, Que., at the annual convocation service, June 23rd, 1910 ([Lennoxville, Que., 1910]); Prohibition endorsed ([Fredericton, 1916]); and The groups movement (Milwaukee, Wis., 1935).

Daily Gleaner (Fredericton), 3 Oct. 1906; 6 Feb. 1908; 11, 12 Oct. 1938; 18 Aug. 1940. Daily Telegraph (Saint John), 26, 28 Aug. 1899; 3 Oct. 1906; 7 Feb. 1908. Observer (Hartland, N.B.), 13 Oct. 1938. St. John Daily Sun (Saint John), 9 July 1902, 7 Nov. 1905. Saint John Globe, 5, 9 July 1902. Sun (Saint John), 6 Feb. 1908. Telegraph-Journal (Saint John), 8, 11 Oct. 1938. Times (London), 10 Oct. 1938. Richard Allen, The social passion: religion and social reform in Canada, 1914–28 (Toronto, 1971; repr. 1990). Philip Carrington, The Anglican Church in Canada: a history (Toronto, 1963). A. L. Fleming, A book of remembrance; or, the history of St. John’s Church, Saint John, New Brunswick (Saint John, 1925). L. N. Harding, Citizens with the saints: a brief history of Anglicanism in New Brunswick (Fredericton, 1994). C. F. Headon, “The influence of the Oxford Movement upon the Church of England in eastern and central Canada, 1840–1900” (phd thesis, McGill Univ., Montreal, 1974). Colin Howell, “The 1900s: industry, urbanization, and reform,” in The Atlantic provinces in confederation, ed. E. R. Forbes and D. A. Muise (Toronto and Fredericton, 1993), 155–91. G. A. W. Liebenberg, “‘Cautious and conservative’: Anglican social policy in New Brunswick, 1906–1918,” Canadian Church Hist. Soc., Journal (Toronto), 41 (1999): 27–55; Guide to use of the synod journals of the diocese of Fredericton, 1890–1990 (Fredericton, 1995). A. G. McIntyre, Our first fifty years, 1903–1953: Woman’s Auxiliary of the Church of England in Canada, Fredericton diocesan board ([Fredericton?, 1953?]). Ian McKay, “The 1910s: the stillborn triumph of progressive reform,” in The Atlantic provinces in confederation, 192–229. J. L. Potter, “The episcopate of Hollingworth Tully Kingdon, second lord bishop of Fredericton” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., 1970). Prominent men of Canada, 1931–32, ed. Ross Hamilton (Montreal, [1932?]). Edward Pulker, We stand on their shoulders: the growth of social concern in Canadian Anglicanism (Toronto, 1986).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gillian Liebenberg, “RICHARDSON, JOHN ANDREW,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 3, 2022, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/richardson_john_andrew_16E.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/richardson_john_andrew_16E.html
Author of Article:   Gillian Liebenberg
Title of Article:   RICHARDSON, JOHN ANDREW
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2021
Year of revision:   2021
Access Date:   December 3, 2022