Thursday, 18 August 2016

Reverend Charles W. Gordon

Reverend Charles W. Gordon

                Reverend Charles W. Gordon can be considered one of Maxville’s greatest legends for his role as a founding father of early literature in Canada. Under the pen name of “Ralph Connor”, Gordon wrote more than forty books throughout his lifetime.

                Charles W. Gordon was born September 13th, 1860 to Rev. Daniel Gordon and his wife Mary Robertson in St. Elmo Ontario (North of Maxville). Rev. Daniel Gordon was a missionary with the Free Church of Scotland and was responsible for the creation of the current brick ‘Gordon Free Church’. Charles Gordon resided in Glengarry County until the age of ten when his family moved to Harrington in Oxford County, Ontario where his father took up residence within another parish. Gordon then went on to study at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario and graduated Knox College with distinction in 1886. He followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister in 1890.

                After graduation, he moved to Alberta and served many communities around the area of Calgary. He then continued on to a parish in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he remained for the next forty years. In 1915, at the beginning of the Second World War, Gordon became Chaplin of the Cameron Highlanders Battalion. In 1916 he was made a senior Chaplin in the Canadian Forces. Afterwards he became a strong advocate of the union of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches in Canada and a moderator in 1921 Presbyterian General Assembly.

                Though devoted to his faith, Charles Gordon was also an extremely gifted writer. Unfortunately, in the 1890s it was improper for a Presbyterian Minister to pen fiction, thus he decided to publish his works under a pseudonym. At first, he signed his name ‘Cannor’ which was derived from the first syllables of ‘Canadian’ and ‘NorthWest’. A telegraph operator misspelled the name to ‘Connor’ and his editor added Ralph. Thus, Ralph Connor was born. Under this alias, the reverend wrote 43 books, including Black Rock (1898), The Prospectorand The Sky Pilot (1899), which sold over a million copies. Gordon also wrote extensively about his childhood in Glengarry, an incredible feat considering his limited time spent in the county. The Man from Glengarry (1901), The Girl from Glengarry (1933), Glengarry School Days (1902) and Torches through the Bush (1934) are all set in Glengarry and based on its people and culture.

                Gordon’s final book, his personal autobiography was written in his last year, 1937 and was published posthumously after his death October 31st 1937. When Gordon passed away, Canada’s literary world had lost a great icon—he was the first Canadian to become a millionaire through writing and helped to carve out Canada’s early literary landscape. Though Reverend Charles Gordon had left St. Elmo, Glengarry County at a young age, his story proves that no matter where you go, a little piece of Glengarry will always remain with you.
Reverend Charles W. Gordon


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