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John Strachan, Anglican clergyman, bishop, and educator, was born on 12 April 1778 at Aberdeen, Scotland, and died on 1 November 1867 in Toronto, Ontario. He attended Aberdeen Grammar School and King's College, Aberdeen, but turned to teaching after his father died in 1794. In the fall of 1796 Strachan returned to Aberdeen and graduated with an A.M. in March 1797. In 1799 Strachan accepted a teaching position in Upper Canada, arriving at Kingston on 31 December.
He began tutoring the children of prominent townspeople, including those of Richard Cartwright. In 1803 Bishop Jacob Mountain ordained Strachan as a deacon, and he became a
priest in 1804. He was given the mission at Cornwall, where he soon began taking students and set up a school. In 1807 he married Ann Wood McGill, the widow of Andrew McGill, a member of a prominent Montreal mercantile family, and they had nine children, James McGill, Elizabeth (died in infancy), George Cartwright, Elizabeth Mary, John, Alexander Wood, two daughters who died in infancy, and Agnes (who died at 16).
In 1811 Strachan received an honorary D.D. from the University of Aberdeen (in 1829 he received an LL.D. from St Andrews University). The same year, he advised James McGill of
Montreal to leave his extensive property to the cause of education; provisions were made that led to the founding of McGill University. Also in 1811, Strachan was offered the rectorship of York (Toronto) and the chaplaincy of the garrison and of the Legislative Council.
Strachan arrived at York in June 1812, just as the United States and Great Britain were going to war, and he played a pivotal role during two successful invasions by U.S. forces, negotiating the terms of capitulation. He was made an honorary member of the Executive Council in 1815 and then served as a regular member from 1817 to 1836 and as a member of the Legislative Council from 1820 to 1841. In 1822 Strachan, who was headmaster of the York Grammar School, became president of the newly established General Board of Education. Interested in establishing a university in Upper Canada, Strachan travelled to England in 1826 and in 1827, when he obtained a royal charter for the University of King's College. Strachan was appointed archdeacon of York in 1827.
In 1839 the Diocese of Quebec was split and Strachan became bishop of the new Diocese of Toronto. After many difficulties King's College was finally opened in 1843. However, the Church of England's influence on the new university had been reduced well in advance of the opening, and in 1842 Strachan, foreseeing future difficulties, had founded the Diocesan Theological Institution at Cobourg for the training of clergy. In 1848 he resigned as president of King's College, which was secularized and brought under government control the following year, becoming the University of Toronto on 1 January 1850. Strachan then set about to found an Anglican university and after another trip to England to raise funds and obtain a charter, the cornerstone of the University of Trinity College was laid on 30 April 1851. Classes began in January 1852. Strachan accepted the election of a coadjutor bishop in 1866. He died the following year.
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Associated material: Other records relating to John Strachan exist at the Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese of Toronto, and at the Archives of Ontario.
Related material: Other records relating to John Strachan can be found in the A.N. Bethune fonds, F2022. See also photograph P2646.