Memorable Manitobans: Charles William Gordon [Ralph Connor] (1860-1937)
Cleric, publicist, author.
Born at Indian Lands, Glengarry County, Ontario on 13 September 1860, son of the Reverend Daniel Gordon and Mary Robertson, he was educated at public schools at Athol and Harrington, Ontario (1871), St. Mary’s High School (1879), University of Toronto (1883), Knox College (1887), and the New College, Edinburgh (1887-1888). He took a bicycle tour of Europe in 1888.
Gordon taught school in early life; was Classical Master, Chatham High School, 1887; Master, Upper Canada College, Toronto, 1886-1887. Post Graduate work at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland; travelled as a Missionary in the Canadian Rockies in 1890-94; travelled in the old country as Commissioner for Presbyterian Missions in Canada. In August 1894, he was called to St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church. Was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. President of the Canadian Club of Winnipeg from 1909 to 1910. Overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War in the Chaplain Service. One of Canada’s most popular authors written under the pen name of Ralph Connor, of the following books:
On 28 September 1888, he married Helen Skinner King (1875-1961, daughter of John Mark King) with whom he had seven children: John King Gordon, Mary Robertson Gordon (1902-1948, wife of Humphrey Stephen Carver), Gretta Helen Gordon, Lois Isobel Gordon (1906-2003), Ruth Gordon, Margaret Helen “Marjorie” Gordon (1911-1982, wife of Edward Kenneth Smart), and Alison Iona Gordon (1915-1988, wife of Ronald Cox).
His grand home at 54 West Gate was designed by architect George William Northwood. His recreations included driving, canoeing, and camping. In 1910 he was listed by the Winnipeg Telegram as one of Winnipeg’s 19 millionaires. He received the King George V Jubilee Medal (1935) and an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba (1937).
Scholars study him today less for his craftsmanship than for his attitudes, many of which were quite typical of much of middle-class Anglophone Canada. An ardent imperialist, he was an enthusiastic patriot in the First World War, and undertook many fundraising and speaking tours during the conflict. He was also an early enthusiastic cottager at Lake of the Woods. His autobiography was published as Postscript to Adventure (1938).
He died at Winnipeg on 31 October 1937 and was buried in the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery. His papers are at the Univerity of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
1901 and 1911 Canada censes, Automated Genealogy.
Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1916 Canada census, Ancestry.
“King to honor many Manitoba men and women,” Winnipeg Free Press, 4 May 1935, page 1.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
The Leading Financial, Business & Professional Men of Winnipeg, published by Edwin McCormick, Photographs by T. J. Leatherdale, Compiled and printed by Stone Limited, c1913. [copy available at the Archives of Manitoba]
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
Obituary [Marjorie Smart], Winnipeg Free Press, 25 May 1982, page 69.
Obituary [Alison Cox], Winnipeg Free Press, 9 August 1988, page 31.
We thank Sam Coghlan and Agnes Collins for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 19 December 2020