A Blupete Biography Page

Charles Inglis [Time Line]

His course in life could not have been predicted. He began as "the orphaned youngest son of an Irish cleric without connections and a university education."1 He left England as a young man to go to America and was to take up teaching school in Pennsylvania. His industry and personality so impressed his clerical acquaintances that he returned to England with impressive recommendations which led to his ordination, after which, he returned to America. Charles Inglis gradually raised himself as a leader of the Anglican church, and was, on the eve of the America Revolution, in a prestigious position at New York city. With the breakout of the revolution, Inglis, loyal to the crown as all good Anglicans were, was to line himself up against the revolutionaries and was to write in opposition to the growing movement. At the conclusion of the revolution, Inglis left New York and made his way to England where he was to receive an appointment as the first Anglican Bishop whose diocese was outside of Britain. With his headquarters at Halifax, Inglis worked tirelessly for the Anglican church and established in these early times of settlement, churches throughout Nova Scotia, and, was to be credited with being the founder of the oldest overseas English University and boys' residential school.

Charles Inglis was born at Glencolumbkille, in County Donegal, Ireland in the year 1734.2 He was the third son of the Rev. Archibald Inglis. When but at the age of eleven, Charles's father died; it seems he was then brought under his older brother's wing. His older brother, Richard, had been educated at Trinity College, Dublin; and, indeed, had succeeded his father as rector of Glencolumbkille. As for young Charles: he was going to have to be content being tutored in Richard's study.3 Charles, no matter he was to never attend university, was well directed in his reading and he obtained a solid grounding in the classics.

At the age of twenty, Charles, as mentioned in our opening paragraph, came to America to teach. He taught at a school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After four years of teaching, in June of 1758, Charles took a ship for England and was shortly thereafter ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church. Having received an appointment as a "missionary" at Dover, Pennsylvania (a community now located in Delaware) he took up his duties there during the summer of 1759. It was there at Dover (he was to spent six years there) that Charles Inglis was to marry, in 1764, Mary Vining. In no time she was pregnant with twins; and then a sorrowful event: Mary died during labour and so did the twins.

The Revolutionary Years:
In December of 1765, now age 31, Charles Inglis took up new work as the assistant in Trinity parish, New York. In 1773, Charles Inglis married for a second time: Margaret Crooke. Between the years 1774 and 1777, four children were born to the couple, all, it would appear at New York.
4 These were years of great turmoil in America; though New York had to be one of the better places for a loyalist family, as the place was under British military rule up to the last of it, when, in 1783, it was evacuated. The revolutionaries, like all revolutionaries, were keen on upsetting the entire structure at the top, and, certainly, that structure included the clergy. I quote Inglis' biographer, Reginald Harris: "... churches were burnt, libraries destroyed, organs broken to pieces; men were dragged through mire and dirt, hunted into the woods, thrown into prison, threatened with death, and driven into banishment ..." Vroom wrote5: "some [clerics] have been carried off to distant parts, others cast into jail, some fled to save their lives, some were pulled out of their reading desks in the middle of the service, some had their houses plundered and desks broken open, and went through other sufferings and indignities."

As for Inglis: he had more to fear from the revolutionary courts then the run of the mill cleric, for he had determined to take an active role in opposing the forces of revolution. It will be recalled that Thomas Paine, then in America, wrote his Common Sense, a pamphlet that was published and widely circulated and which elegantly promoted the notion that it was common sense to support the colonies in their fight with England. Common Sense was to have a powerful effect on the minds of the American colonists. Inglis was to write of it: "It was one of the most virulent, artful, and pernicious Pamphlets I ever met with, and perhaps the Wit of man could not devise one better calculated to do Mischief." Inglis took it upon himself to write an answer, "At the Risque, not only of my Liberty, but also of my Life." While at New York, Inglis was not in fact at much risk as the British were in full control of the place, though before General Howe's arrival in September of 1776, Inglis house "was plundered of everything."6

Charles Inglis carried on doing his church work through the war years, until, as we have already mentioned, New York was evacuated at the conclusion of the war in 1783. Just a year prior to him leaving with the other loyalists, a double tragedy was to fall to him. In January of 1782, his oldest son, Charles, at the tender age of eight was to die; followed in September with the death of his wife, Margaret. Then, as we read in Harris' work: "He took his two children, Margaret [age eight] and John [age six], with him to England, leaving Anne [age seven] in the care of her great-uncle Thomas Ellison. His furniture and library he sent to Nova Scotia in the care of David Seabury who went to Annapolis Royal."

By the first of the year, 1784, Charles was in England and during the next two years he was to make the right impressions with the right people such that he was, in the summer of 1787, consecrated at Lambeth Palace as a Bishop by the Archbishop of Canterbury and he was thus to begin his Episcopacy of "Nova Scotia and its dependencies," which of course in those days included New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

During August of 1787, Bishop Inglis together with Margaret [age twelve] and John [age ten] with all of their family effects set sail from Gravesend on the ship Lion (Capt. Murphy). The passage over the broad Atlantic was to take seven weeks; the family reached Halifax on October the 15th. Though he might have chosen to reside elsewhere, Inglis decided to make Halifax his headquarters. As Inglis was to observe, it was "only there can the leading personages be met." He rented a house owned by Michael Wallace which was situated at the corner of Water and Wallace Streets (Wallace St. these days is known as Bishop Street).

For the continuing preservation of the Church of England in Nova Scotia, Bishop Inglis arrived just in the nick of time. "The state of religion in this province," as Inglis was to write, "is truly deplorable ... Ignorance and lukewarmness on the one hand, fanticism and irreligion on the other. ... The inhabitants divided into many sects, and carried away by a variety of Enthusiasts that under take to preach to them."8

King's College:
Under Inglis' enthusiastic leadership a number of churches were erected throughout his diocese. Through the years from 1790 to 1797 churches were consecrated by him from Fredericton (Christ Church) to Preston (St. John's).
9 But likely the most noteworthy accomplishment of Bishop Inglis' career here in Nova Scotia was the establishment of King's College. King's College was intended to be set up "with an immediate view to the education of candidates for the ministry of the church." As early as 1783, "A plan of Religious and Literary Institution for the Province of Nova Scotia" was struck by a convention of clergymen at New York in 1783; it was determined that "a public seminary, academy or college ... be instituted at the most central part of the province (we suppose Windsor) consisting at first of a public grammar school for classical and other branches of education conducted by a teacher of approved abilities, temper, judgment and sound morals, professing the principles and living in the communion of the Church of England." In 1787 a resolution was passed by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly based on the 1783 report leading support to the plan that an exemplary Clergyman of the established Church be found and placed at the head of the school, and that sums of money be allowed to pay this headmaster and for the "hiring a proper house in the neighbourhood of Windsor. The general management of the Academy was to be overseen by a committee consisting of the Lieutenant-Governor (Parr), the Bishop (Inglis), the President of the Council and the Speaker of the House of Assembly. The Academy was formally opened on Saturday, November the first in 1788. The Academy started with twenty pupils. Pupils were not to be under the age of eight years and the tuition for the year was to be £4 for the classical school and £3 for the English school. King's Collegiate School was to be "the oldest residential school for boys in the Overseas Empire." In 1791, Bishop Inglis laid the corner stone for a new building which stood until its destruction by fire in 1920. Building delays were experienced for lack of funds, but the British Government came through with additional funds so that the school was to finally be opened in October of 1795. Inglis was to write that "about 150 youths of Nova Scotia and from New Brunswick and Canada have been admitted."10

In 1789, the Bishop purchased a large tract of land in the Annapolis Valley, and there, about a mile west of present day Auburn he built his home, "Clermont." Through the years, 1796 to 1808, it was to be his full time residence. After 1808, he was to just spend his summers at Clermont. The Bishop took a great interest in his orchard at "Clermont," particularly in a product for which the Annapolis Valley has become famous: apples. He propagated several varieties, one which today bears his name "Bishop's Pippin," known also as the "Bellefleur" or "Yellow Bellefleur."11

His son-in-law, Sir Brenton Halliburton, in later years, was to describe Bishop Inglis, as follows:

"In respect to his personal appearance, his countenance was intelligent, his figure light and active, his manners were those of a gentleman of the old school, dignified but not formal.
In society he was cheerful and communicative, and on proper occasion, displayed his conversational powers with energy. But though deeply read, he had no tinge of pedantry. Although he mixed freely and pleasantly in Society, his library (and he had an excellent one) was his home in which he spent most of his hours."
In 1816, Bishop Inglis died; his remains were buried under the chancel of St. Paul's at Halifax.


§Born Glencolumbkille, County Donegal.
§Migrates to America.
§Becomes Master of Free School, Lancaster, Pa.
§Ordained and appointed to Dover Mission, Delaware.
§Marries Mary Vining.
§Mary dies within the year.
§Elected assistant at Trinity Church, New York.
§Obtains M.A. from King's College, New York.
§Obtains M.A. from Oxford.
§Appointed a governor of King's College, New York.
§Made acting President, King's College, New York.
§Marries Margaret Crooke.
§Birth of son, Charles.
§Writes a series of letters in New York Gazette, signed "A New York Farmer."
§Birth of daughter, Margaret.
American Revolution breaks out.
§March: Boston is evacuated.
§Birth of daughter, Anne.
§September: Gen. Howe occupies New York.
§Birth of son, John.
§Honourary degree, Oxford.
§October: Surrender at Yorktown.
§Death of 8 year old son, Charles.
§September: Death of wife Margaret.
§November: New York is evacuated.
§January: Arrives at London.
§Selected as Bishop of Nova Scotia.
§August: Sails for Nova Scotia.
§October: Arrives at Halifax.
§July to September: Makes first tour through territory (Annapolis, St. John, etc.)
§November: Academy at Windsor, opened.
§May: Embarks for Quebec.
§August: Returns to Halifax.
§September: Tours Annapolis Valley.
§Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution.
§June: Tours Amherst and Sackville.
§August: Tours Shelburne and Lunenburg. (Consecrating church at Shelburne.)
§Fall: Tours Annapolis Valley. (Inglis consecrates church at Aylesford, St Mary's.)
§Paine answers Burke with his work, The Rights of Man.
§Constitution Act sets up new provinces in Canada.
§Inglis consecrates a number of churches, including: Christ Church, Granville; St. Lukes, Annapolis; Trinity, Digby.
§November: Death of Gov. John Parr.
§May 14th: Sir John Wentworth sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia; he remained so for the next sixteen years, until 1808.
§Tours: Windsor and Fredericton via Digby.
§September: Massacres in Paris.
§England and France are moving towards war.
§The courts deport transport dissenters to Botany Bay, part of the larger government effort to prosecute editors, nonconformists and radicals; most all of whom are now arguing for Parliamentary reform.
§Inglis consecrates St. Paul's Church, Lr. Granville.
§Consecrates St. George's Church, Parrsboro.
§Inglis consecrates Christ Church, Fredericton.
§May 10: Duke of Kent, having been appointed Commander of the garrison at Halifax, arrives from St. Kitts.
§Navel mutinies between April and June at Spithead and the Nore.
§July: Marriage of daughter, Anne to Rev. George Pidgeon, rector of Fredericton.
§May 17: Duke of Kent was made Commander in Chief of British forces in North America.
§Sep 6: The Duke of Kent returns to Halifax in "the Arethusa, capt. Wooley, 43 days from England. As she came up the harbour, royal salutes were fired from the batteries and from the ships of war, whose yards were manned ..."
§September: Marriage of daughter, Margaret to Brenton Halliburton.
§Aug: Duke of Kent leaves Halifax for England for the last time.
§Birth of grandaughter, Margaret Halliburton.
§September: Son, John goes to England.
§December: Ordains son, John as deacon at St. Mary's, Aylesford. (As priest, the following June.)
§August: Marriage of son, John to Elizabeth Cochran (father Thomas).
§Birth of granddaughter, Susannah Halliburton.
§June-July: Tours Sydney, Main-a-dieu and Louisbourg.
§July: Son, John goes to England, returning May 7th, 1807.
§Visits Liverpool.
§Wentworth retires as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.
§October: Inglis is appointed to Council.
§Death at "Clermont" Aylesford.

1 "Faithful Missionary: The Young Charles Inglis" by Brian Cuthbertson, NSHS, Vol #42 (1986) p. 104.

2 His parentage was actually Scottish, his great grandfather having been "driven from his church preferments in Glasgow, in 1690." [Charles Inglis, Missionary, Loyalist, Bishop by Reginald V. Harris (Toronto: General Board of Religious Education, 1937), p.7.]

3 Cuthbertson article, op. cit., at p. 100. Cuthbertson was to write a full biography, The First Bishop: A Biography of Charles Inglis (Halifax: Waegwoltic Press, 1987). I have already cited the only other biography that I am familiar with, viz. that written by Harris. Getting detailed information on Charles Inglis is easier then it is for many other historical figures, for, as F. W. Vroom was to write: "Charles Inglis was a most diligent and painstaking correspondent and diarist, and seems to have left almost a complete record of all that he did. Besides the MS. Diary, which covers the whole of his episcopate, there are scores of letters and reports preserved in the offices of the S.P.G. [Society for the Propagation of the Gospel] and in the Library at Lambeth, entering into full particulars of his work from the beginning of his ministry until its close." ("Charles Inglis -- An Appreciation" by F. W. Vroom, NSHS, Vol #22 (1933) at p. 27.) Further, many of the papers of Charles Inglis were published in two Canadian Archival Reports, 1912 and 1913.]

4 The four children were: Charles (1774-1782), Margaret (b.1775), Anne (b.1776) and John (b.1777). Margaret, in 1799, was to marry Brenton Halliburton.

5 Op. cit., at p. 31.

6 Knowing that the arrival of British troops was imminent, the rebels hustled out of the city carrying off everything of value including the church bells. Inglis wrote of it: "On Sunday, the 15th of September [1776], General Howe, with the King's forces, landed on New York Island, four miles above the city; upon which the Rebels abandoned the city ... Early on Monday morning, the 16th, I returned to the City [New York], which exhibited a most melancholy Appearance, being deserted and pillaged." The rebels, we might add, several having "secreted themselves in the Houses, to execute the diabolical Purpose of destroying the City" on the following Saturday, torched the city and the ensuing fire storm continued to rage until it "had swept away nearly all the buildings between Broad Street and the North River almost as high as the City Hall, and from thence all the houses between Broadway and the North River as far as King's College [it was saved]." (Harris, pp. 49-50.)

7 Inglis was not the first choice for the position. Thomas Bradbury Chandler (1726-90; born in Woodstock, Connecticut; a graduate of Yale) was the first choice. Declining, Chandler recommended Inglis. (See Harris at p. 163.)

8 One of these sects, presbyterian and evangelical, that was making significant inroads at this time in Nova Scotia was that known as the "New Lights." The New Lights prescribed to novel doctrines laying claim to superior enlightenment; hence by antithesis, Anglicans were old lights. The appellations of New Lights and of Old Lights (Auld Lichts) seem to have originated in Scotland.

9 See list in Harris' work at pp. 122-3.

10 Vroom wrote, op. cit., at p. 39, on how Inglis was "most anxious that young men should not have to go to the United States where they would be 'liable to imbibe notions of disloyalty.'"

11 On October 29th, 1798, Inglis was to write in his dairy: "Transplanted 32 apple trees in orchard out of the nursery in the North Garden. These trees I raised from seeds of New Town Pippins from New York." (See Vroom, op. cit., at p. 41.)

12 Harris and see Vroom. His portrait, which we have scanned in from an engraving, was painted by Robert Field (1734-1816), the original of which is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Vroom notes, 35, where one of the entries into Inglis' diary reads, "Breakfast between 6 and 7 o'clock, my usual time."


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)