John Stuart (1740-1811) was born in Paxton Township (near Harrisburg) Pennsylvania. He received his BA in 1763 and an MA in 1770 from the College of Philadelphia. Although his family adhered to the Presbyterian faith, he became an Anglican and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1770. In 1771, he was appointed a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and began his duties with the Mohawk First Nation (Indians/natives) at Fort Hunter, New York, where he conducted divine services and opened an Indian school. Here he met Joseph Brant, who collaborated with him in the translation of St. Mark's Gospel into Mohawk. In 1775, he married Jane Okill and they had eight children, most of whom became prominent citizens of Upper Canada during the next century.
As the American Revolution progressed, he came under suspicion for his loyal British sympathies. In 1777, his own property and his church were plundered by the rebels and he was confined on parole in Schenectady. Finally, in 1781, he was able to leave the area and made an arduous journey, with his wife and three young children, to St. John's (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Quebec. He was commissioned a chaplain in the 2nd Battalion of the Kings Royal Regiment of New York, and opened a school in Montreal. Here he resided until 1785 when he moved to Cataraqui (Kingston), where he became the first Anglican missionary in the Western Settlements, rector of St. George's Anglican Church, which was constructed in 1792, and master of the first school in the Cataraqui area. He continued his interest in the welfare of the Mohawk Indians and visited their settlements at the Bay of Quinte and on the Grand River. Other missionary trips were undertaken around Kingston and as far away as the Niagara and the Cornwall areas. In 1792, he was appointed chaplain of the Legislative Council.
Reverend George Okill Stuart (1776-1862): Rev. John Stuart’s eldest son, and Rector of St. James Church, York (Toronto), 1800-1812; as well as school master; thereafter, rector at Kingston after his father’s passing; archdeacon of York in 1821 and of Kingston, 1839; married Lucy Brooks, daughter of the late Governor of Massachusetts, John Brooks.
Bishop William White (1747-1836) was born in Philadelphia and married Mary Harrison in 1773. During the American Revolution, he held the following titles: Chaplain of the Continental Congress, 1777-79, and Rector of Christ and St. Peter’s churches in Philadelphia. At this time of war, he wrote the pamphlet, The Case of the Episcopal Church in the United States Considered, tackling the question, could there be an American Episcopal church without episcopacy. Known as the primary architect of the constitution and canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church, he also became the first Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia (1787-1836), among many other things. From the correspondence, it appears he and John Stuart were good friends.
The Papers (1778-1833) contain the correspondence written by Reverend John Stuart to his friend Bishop William White in Philadelphia (1778-1806, 1811), and to his son James Stuart, who at the time of these letters had finished his law studies and would become Solicitor-General of Lower Canada, (1801-1809); correspondence received by Rev. Stuart’s son James from Rev. John Strachan, and family members: Rev. George Okill Stuart, Andrew, Jane, John, George Okill Stuart II, and a letter from Mrs. John Stuart, (1800-33); and family correspondence received by Mary Robertson, the mother of James Stuart’s wife, Elizabeth, and mostly from her husband, Alexander Robertson, (1792-1832). Topics covered in John Stuart's papers, for example, highlight a father who took his duty seriously to ensure a good future for his children and include: family - education, finances, duty to children, health, and property; as well as personal reflections on a life lived, for example his experience of having to leave America as a loyalist during the American Revolution; and local history with snippets of his community at Kingston and the Mohawk native/indigenous community Stuart serviced, etc.
Detailed Description of Contents
The collection in organized into the following three seriesSeries A,contains the letters of Rev. John Stuart to Rector, thereafter, Bishop William White covering the years 1778-1806, plus Stuart’s will (1811) at the end of the letters. The period during the American Revolution see the following subject matters contained in Stuart’s letters: 1. family financial matters relating mostly to property in America, he gives White discretionary powers to act in his interest; and 2. His circumstances, generally, and his concerns, as well as, his reasons for leaving America. For the next 2 years, while he is in Montreal, the main topics concern: 1. financial matters pertaining to property and family affairs in America; 2. his sentiments pertaining to his upcoming move to Cataraqui, and his impressions of Cataraqui after a visit; 3. his religious opinion on White’s pamphlet; and 4. his situation in Montreal.
After his move to Cataraqui (Kingston) in 1785, the main topics covered include: 1. children – education, work, aspirations and prospects for, his duty toward them; 2. family finances, much of it dealing with decisions made with his children in mind, for example, professional appointments accepted; 3. personal reflections of contentment, with explanations of decisions made; and 4. family health dealing with fevers and agu, etc., references also the epidemic in Philadelphia and concern for Mr. White. To a lesser degree are the following topics: local immigration, crops, impressions of Bishop Charles Inglis, description of the village and church of the Mohawk native/indigenous people upon a visitation, government and opinion on, for example, emigration schemes; the state of his land ownership, and land speculation. Also included, separately at the end of the letters, is his will dated 1811.
Series B, includes the correspondence of James Stuart for the years 1800-1833. He was the third son of John Stuart and Jane Okill, who became chief justice of Lower Canada. The letters received by James are arranged by correspondent, and contain the following:
- Rev. John Stuart (father), 1801-1809 (pp 104-258)
- Rev. George Okill Stuart, 1802-20 (pp 259-277)
- Rev. John Strachan, 1803-11 (pp 278-296)
- Andrew Stuart, 1800-33 (pp 297-367)
- Jane Stuart (Mrs. John Stuart), 1817 (pp 368-9)
- Jane Stuart, 1813-14 (pp 370-81)
- John Stuart, 1804 (pp 382-85)
- George Okill Stuart II, 1832 (pp 386-89)
Series C, is a small collection of letters received by Mary Robertson, James Stuart's mother-in-law. The letters were most likely acquired by her daughter, Lady Elizabeth Stuart, after her mother's death, 1792-1832.The correspondence received contains the following: letters from her husband, 1792-96; three social notes from her brother-in-law, P. Robertson, 1806; and a letter from her daughter Elizabeth, James Stuart’s wife, 1832, describing a visit to London, England.