Memorable Manitobans: James Wilfred Melvin (1877-1965)
Born at Teeswater, Ontario on 16 December 1877, son of Thomas Melvin and Eliza Ford, he was educated at county schools and Walkerton Collegiate. From 1896 to 1899, he taught school in Ontario before coming to Manitoba in 1899. He attended Wesley College and worked within the Methodist Conference including postings to mission churches at Maryland Street Methodist Church (1902-1904), along with postings in Norwood (1904-?) and at Carnduff (Saskatchewan), Whitewater, and Eden. He graduated with BA (1905) and BD degrees and was ordained in 1908. He then performed pastoral duties at Rainy River, Ontario (1908-1909), after which he returned to Wesley College as a Matriculation Department lecturer. He took a sabbatical from his college duties in 1912-1913 for postgraduate studies in New Testament literature, comparative religion, and philosophy at the University of Chicago. In September 1913, he succeeded Fred W. Clark as Registrar of Wesley College (1913-1916).
In May 1916, he enlisted for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and went overseas as a Lieutenant with the 203rd Battalion. He worked as a Signalling Officer and Chaplain with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and helped to organize educational work in Canadian hospitals and casualty clearing stations in France. Following demobilization in July 1919, he return to Winnipeg and resigned from Wesley College in September 1919. He worked with Thomas G. Breen of the Breen Motor Company before returning to Pastor duties at Napinka Union Church (1921-1923), Virden Union Church (1923-1925), Grace United Church (1925-1928) at Portage la Prairie, and Wesley United Church at Lethbridge, Alberta (1928-?). Around 1932, he moved to British Columbia and retired from active ministry in 1948.
On 26 March 1913, he married Edith Elizabeth Breen (1880-1967), daughter of Richard Breen, at Winnipeg and they subsequently had two sons: Wilfred Breen Melvin (c1914-?) and James Thomas Melvin (c1920-?). He was a member of the Masons and IOOF. His recreations included curling and golf.
He died at Vancouver, British Columbia on 21 March 1965.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, 1911. C. W. Parker, editor. Canadian Press Association, Vancouver.
Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Society,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 March 1913, page 9.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
Page revised: 29 October 2017
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