Memorable Manitobans: Robert Benjamin McElheran (1877-1939)
Born at London, Ontario on 1 February 1877, son of R. M. McElheran (?-1921), he left school and went to work at the age of 12. He came to Winnipeg in 1894 and worked selling subscriptions to the Farmer’s Advocate newspaper. A lay member of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, he was charged by Octave Fortin, the church rector, to establish a mission on what, at that time, was the city outskirts near Sherbrook Street. Through his involvement in the operation of St. Matthew’s Mission, he became interested in the clerical life. He quit his job in 1900 and took five years of religious training at Wycliff College in London, Ontario, graduating with degrees in Arts and Theology.
McElheran returned to Winnipeg in 1905 to build up St. Matthew’s into one of the largest Anglican congregations in Canada. The small initial mission building was replaced by a more substantial brick structure in 1913 and the nearby Livinia Avenue was renamed St. Matthews Avenue. He rose in the church hierarchy so that, by the time of his departure from Winnipeg in 1930, he held the position of Archdeacon.
On 9 June 1908, he married Irene Beatrice Brock (1879-1955), daughter of Jeffry Hall Brock. He was a founding member of the Advisory Board to The Winnipeg Foundation, in 1921. He left the city in 1926 to take up a position in Vancouver, British Columbia, later becoming Principal of Wycliff College in 1930. He returned for a visit during the 25th anniversary of St. Matthew’s Church in 1938.
He died following a lengthy illness on 12 August 1939.
Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1916 Canada census, Ancestry.
“R. M. M'Elheran, father of archdeacon, dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 February 1921, page 12.
“Winnipeg citizens pay tribute to M’Elheran,” Manitoba Free Press, 20 June 1930.
“Widow of Canon dies at 76 years,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 October 1955.
“Winnipeg street is named for Anglican church” by Harry Shave, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 April 1967.
We thank Helen McElheran Martin for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 12 February 2021