George McLeod Ross seems to have immigrated to Lower Canada as an adult and established himself in Montreal as a tutor. In 1824 the Church of England ministers in that town recommended him as a candidate for holy orders; he was ordained deacon on 10 March 1827 and priest on 31 May 1828 by the bishop of Quebec, Charles James Stewart*. It is thought that he studied theology with the rector of Christ Church in Montreal, John Bethune*, who became his brother-in-law when he married Edith Hallowell, the sister of Bethune’s wife, Elizabeth. Two days after being made a deacon, Ross had been appointed to St George’s Church in Drummondville, a charge left vacant when the Reverend Samuel Simpson Wood* departed; on 29 Jan. 1829 he was granted the title of rector, which he retained until his death. This post, indeed, was one of three in the diocese which offered lifetime appointments, Quebec and Hatley being the others. The letters patent declared that he would be recognized as though he were rector of a parish in England, but the young minister faced a dismal situation: a fire had gutted virtually the whole village in 1826, scarcely ten years after it had been founded, and the destitute and heterogeneous population could look after only its own needs. Living in poor accommodation a long way from his unfinished church, Ross had to travel not only the wretched roads of Grantham and Wickham townships, his own parish territory, but also those of Durham, Melbourne, Shipton, Kingsey, Wendover, and Simpson townships, and even of the adjacent seigneuries of Courval, Rivière-David, and Baie-du-Febvre. The life of a missionary was hard; however, he was affiliated with the powerful Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which paid most of his salary, some income being added in later years from the clergy reserves fund.
Despite these difficult conditions, Ross devoted himself whole-heartedly to his pastoral duties, visiting the faithful twice a year and celebrating church services at more than one place on Sundays and holy days. Bishop George Jehoshaphat Mountain*, to whom he submitted detailed reports on his ministry, noted his strict adherence to liturgical form. Ross gave constant attention to the education of his parishioners. An accredited visitor to the schools of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, he regularly corresponded with the authorities, relating mainly the set-backs he had encountered. He particularly dreaded the influence of the Roman Catholics, and deplored the apathy that had led to the discontinuation of a Sunday school which had had such promising beginnings in 1830. As a result of his efforts to bring instruction to the people of the region, Arthur William Buller*, who had been charged by Lord Durham [Lambton*] to inquire into education in Lower Canada, consulted him in 1838. Ross gave permission in 1845 for his presbytery to be used as a school since the village school was tumbling down. He also encouraged the circulation of books, particularly the Bible and the catechism, to such an extent that he ran into debt. He set up a library for his parishioners in 1851, offering them a hundred or so “carefully chosen” volumes, as well as some of his own books.
Ross was able to persuade influential people in Drummondville and the surrounding region to help consolidate and improve the parish’s patrimony. On several occasions Frederick George Heriot*, Robert Nugent Watts, and William Sheppard* gave money, land, and material for the buildings and cemetery. In April 1839, having collected £230 through a subscription campaign in England, and gifts of land from local farmers, Ross undertook to erect a church at Kingsey. He wrote to Mountain, his bishop, in 1842 that despite a number of difficulties he had managed to assemble funds to build another one at Lower Durham (L’Avenir). Well aware of the fluctuations in the region’s economy and sensitive to his parishioners’ financial difficulties, he willingly let them contribute according to their means, often in the form of manual labour. Shortly before his death, work began at Drummondville on the fine stone building of St George’s Church, which is still standing.
During his 28 years as minister at Drummondville, George McLeod Ross managed to avoid the religious controversies that might have arisen in this pluralistic environment, contenting himself with the thought that the Catholics respected the Protestants even “if they do not exactly love us.” As well, he seems to have maintained friendly relations with Abbé François-Onésime Belcourt of Drummondville, who visited him during his last illness. He lived quietly through the heroic pioneering era and left an enduring legacy. He was succeeded by a son, William Moray Ross, who served in the parish for a few years.
ANQ-M, CE1-63, 2 mars 1829. Arch. de l’évêché de Nicolet (Nicolet, Qué.), Cartable Saint-Frédéric. BE, Drummond (Drummondville), reg. district Nicolet, I, no.1; reg. B, 2, no.1221. ÉÉC-Q, 28; 50; 99: 101. USPG, C/CAN/Que., IV, 36: f.404; E/Que./1845–46; 1854–55; Journal of SPG, 38: 146–50, 221–23. A. R. Kelley, “The Quebec Diocesan Archives: a description of the collection of historical records of the Church of England in the Diocese of Quebec,” ANQ Rapport, 1946–47: 179–298. [J.-C. Langelier], Liste des terrains concédés par la couronne dans la province de Québec de 1763 au 31 décembre 1890 (Québec, 1891). R.-G. Boulianne, “The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning: the correspondence, 1820–1829; a historical and analytical study”