Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: James Robertson (1839-1902)


Born at Dull, Scotland on 24 April 1839, third child of James and Christina Robertson, his family came to Canada in 1855 and settled in the township of East Oxford. After passing a teacher’s examination he taught school near Woodstock. After two and a half years he secured a school at Inneskip where he taught from 1859 to 1863. He matriculated at the University of Toronto in 1863. He joined the University Corps of the Queen’s Own Rifles and took part in the Fenian raid in 1866. He entered the seminary at Princeton as a student in theology for the session 1866-1867, and in the autumn of 1868 he enrolled in Union Theological Seminary of New York.

In 1869, he returned to Canada and was ordained and inducted into the pastoral charge of Norwich, a small village in the province of Ontario. In 1874, he became pastor of Knox Church, Winnipeg. He was active in Manitoba College and helped found the University of Manitoba. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society. He received the appointment of superintendent of missions for the Presbyterian Church in Western Canada in 1881, devoting his energies to building churches and staffing them with ministers. In 1888 he was made a D.D. of the Presbyterian College of Montreal, and in 1895 he was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

On 23 September 1869, he married Mary Anne Cowing, daughter of John Cowing of Inneskip, Canada West. They had five children.

He died at Toronto on 4 January 1902 but was buried in the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery. He is commemorated by Robertson Street in Winnipeg and Robertson Memorial Presbyterian Church.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Robertson Memorial Presbyterian Church (648 Burrows Avenue, Winnipeg)

The Life of James Robertson by C. W. Gordon (Ralph Connor), 1908.

“James Robertson and Presbyterian Church Extension in Manitoba and the North West, 1866-1902” by Catherine Macdonald in Prairie Spirit: Perspectives on the Heritage of the United Church of Canada in the West, edited by D. L. Butcher et al. (1985), pages 85-99.

James Robertson, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIII, 880-81.


Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 1 October 2018

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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