TOPP, ALEXANDER, Presbyterian clergyman; b. at Sheriffmill, near Elgin, Elgin (now Moray) County, Scotland, 1 April 1814, the second of three sons in a family of six; d. Toronto, Ont., 6 Oct. 1879.
Alexander Topp was educated at Elgin Academy, at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he obtained an am in 1831, and at the divinity faculty of the University of Aberdeen. He was appointed assistant to the minister of the Elgin parish church in 1836 and minister in 1837. He had early identified himself with the evangelical party in the Church of Scotland, and in 1843 he sided with the Free Church movement, leading most of his congregation into the new body. He was active in organizing Free Church congregations in the north of Scotland and, in 1852, he was inducted minister of Free Roxburgh Church in Edinburgh.
Topp received a call to Knox Church, Toronto, and on 16 Sept. 1858 he was inducted its minister. He remained at Knox Church until his death, and his congregation became, under his able leadership, one of the largest Presbyterian churches in Canada. An outstanding Presbyterian leader in Canada, Topp held many high offices in the church. He was elected moderator of the Canada Presbyterian Church in 1868 by unanimous vote. Convener of the committee on union of the Canada Presbyterian Church from 1871 to 1875, he was also secretary of the joint union committee of the four churches which united in 1875 to form the Presbyterian Church in Canada. In 1876 he was elected moderator of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He was also a member of the general assembly committees on French Canadian evangelization, the Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church (Toronto), and foreign missions.
Topp was closely identified with Knox College in Toronto, founded in 1844, and was a member of the board of management for 1859–65 and 1869–79, the chairman of the board 1860–62, 1871–73, and 1877–79, and a member of the senate on several occasions between 1860 and 1875. He took an active interest in the founding of the Presbyterian College in Montreal and of Manitoba College in Winnipeg in 1871.
Interested in benevolent work, Topp served as chairman of the board of management of the Toronto Home for Incurables from its inception in 1874 to 1879, and was a member of the board of management of the House of Industry in Toronto, 1866–70, and of the board of trustees, 1870–79.
Alexander Topp was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity by King’s College, Aberdeen, in 1870. He died in Toronto on 6 Oct. 1879. He had married Jane Mortimer, the widow of John Clark, both natives of Aberdeen, and his only son died in 1853 at age four.
UCA, Minutes of Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, 1844–61; Minutes of Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church, 1861–69; Minutes of the General Assembly of the Canada Presbyterian Church, 1870–75; Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1875–79. Globe (Toronto), 7 Oct. 1879. Knox Presbyterian Church, Annual Report (Toronto), XIII (1880). Presbyterian Record for the Dominion of Canada (Montreal, Toronto), November 1879. Toronto Home for Incurables, Annual Reports (Toronto), 1875–80. Toronto House of Industry, Annual Reports (Toronto), 1869–80. Robert Cowan, Remember your leaders, a sermon occasioned by the death of the Rev. Alexander Topp, D.D. . . . (Elgin, Scotland, 1879). Dent, Canadian portrait gallery, III, 54–55. H. M. Parsons, Biographical sketches and review: First Presbyterian Church in Toronto and Knox Church, 1820–1890 (Toronto, 1890).