St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Quebec City
More About Our History
Alexander Spark

Alexander Spark The third minister of the congregation and the first to occupy the church building erected in 1810 was Alexander Spark. He was born in Scotland in 1762, graduated from the University of Aberdeen, served as teacher in Quebec for a few years, and then shortly after returning from Scotland, where he had gone for his theological education, he became the minister of St. Andrew's Church. Initially he assisted the second minister, George Henry and took over as sole minister on his death in 1795. Alexander Spark was a member of the moderate party in the Church of Scotland and for a time was the only representative of that party in Canada. As such, a study of his life is especially interesting in that it helps to answer the question "What was a moderate?"

Sometimes the moderates went too far in their rejection of orthodox religious belief and some even embraced deism, the idea that God did indeed create the universe but apart from that, in this world he did not do very much. But Spark was no deist and even preached against this idea. The moderate party in some ways clearly was an extension of the Scottish Enlightenment into the sphere of religion, and Spark's views do not seem very different from that of most main-line ministers of today.

Spark's tombstoneSome evangelical members of his church became dissatisfied with his style of theology and left to form another congregation. The London Missionary Society eventually sent them a minister, Clark Bentom, who criticized Spark on three grounds: he questioned his Trinitarian orthodoxy, his open communion and his lack of hell fire preaching.

In spite of this, a study of his life reveals a much-loved man of God, consistently dedicated to the good of his congregation and tireless in his service to the church. He rarely took holidays and assisted his parishioners in many ways, including in one instance, editing the Quebec Magazine and later the Quebec Gazette when the owner died and his young son was not able to carry on.

Spark read English, Greek and Hebrew and also spoke French. His scholarship was recognised when Aberdeen University granted him a Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) in the year 1804.

To read Spark's tomb stone, click on the image above for an enlargement.

The above information comes entirely from an essay by D. James Lambert of Quebec City who wrote the entry on Spark in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography as well as an additional more lengthy study made available to the congregation at the time of the 225th anniversary in the ministry of the Rev. Lyle Sams. An essay by Dr. Lambert on Alexander Spark can also be found in Called to witness, Volume three, published by the committee in history, 1991.

View the dictionary entry on Spark.

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John Cook

John CookThe most famous minister of St. Andrew's Church, Quebec City was John Cook. He was born in Scotland in 1805, married in 1837 and died in Quebec in 1892. He was minister here from 1836 until 1883.

The list of his accomplishments is remarkable making him easily one of our denomination's most prominent ministers in the 19th century and perhaps also one of the most important people in the country in that time. Not only did he serve a flourishing congregation here for over 40 years, but he was also Principal of Morrin College, an arts and theological college of our church, established immediately adjacent to the manse of St. Andrew's, first Moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1875 when the four branches of Presbyterianism in Canada united, and both a founder and a Principal of what became Queen's University.

It is hard to believe that Queen's University in part came into being through a decision made at a meeting in Quebec City in 1839, but in fact such is the case. In Stanford Reid's essay on Cook in Enkindled By the Word (Presbyterian publications, 1966) we read that "In November 1839, at a meeting held in Quebec, Mr. Cook moved and Dr. Joseph Morrin seconded a motion that a committee be set up to raise money for this purpose. As a result of these and parallel efforts throughout the Canadas, Queen's College opened its doors in Kingston, Ont. in 1842, with the Rev. Dr. Liddell as its first principal. But the college had a long uphill struggle ahead."

John Cook postage stampCook was also known as a broad-minded Christian deeply concerned about others. The street the church is on may have been named after him because of his connections with Morrin College, Queen's University, and as first Moderator. But just as likely it was because of the affection in which he was held by the entire city. When devastating fires struck the city, Cook was in the forefront of helping the destitute. His was a compassionate, loving Christianity that endeared him to many.

A book of his sermons was published in the year 1888. An essay about him is referred to above. Also, the reader is referred to the article about him in The Canadian Dictionary of Biography, volume 12, pages 210-212.

For more information see The Canadian Dictionary of Biography and search under John Cook.

John Cook street sign

If you want to go further in trying to understand the role of the Presbyterian Church in Quebec City in the early 19th Century you will be fascinated to read about Daniel Wilkie, John Mure and Joseph Morrin.

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Daniel Wilkie

Born 1777 in Scotland ---Died 1851 in Quebec

An early educator in Quebec City, trained as a minister in Scotland, licensed but not ordained. After Alexander Spark died it was Wilkie who filled the pulpit until the new minister, James Harkness, arrived. Wilkie, like Spark, was a moderate. He assisted Spark and was an elder in the congregation. When Wilkie supplied after Spark's death he donated his salary to Spark's widow.

For more information see The Canadian Dictionary of Biography and search under Daniel Wilkie.

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John Mure

John Mure in the 1790's was a merchant, active in trans-atlantic trade. He was involved in fur trade, timber and shipping. In 1809 he bought a good part of a Quebec City suburb, St. Roch, and in 1811 even donated the land on which today still stands the impressive St. Roch Church. In 1819 he and John Greenshields were delegated to find a successor to Spark. They chose James Harkness. The church here still possesses the document guaranteeing Mr. Harkness' stipend (300 pounds per annum). Mure died in 1819 in Glasgow, leaving behind a large legacy of money along with 2.400 bottles of wine!

For more information see The Canadian Dictionary of Biography and search under John Mure.

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Joseph Morrin
Born in Scotland in 1794, married in 1817 in Quebec, died 1861 in Quebec

We have already met Dr. Morrin in our brief note on John Cook. He was present at the meeting in 1839 and seconded the motion that eventually led to the establishment of Queen's University. However, he is also remembered as a very prominent doctor in Quebec City, a former mayor, and as a generous donor to a college in Quebec City that existed from 1862 until 1902 and that was named after him.

As a doctor he helped found the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Lower Canada, as well as the medical school that was the predecessor to the faculty of medicine at Laval University. In addition he helped found the asylum at Beauport, a suburb of Quebec City.

He served as mayor in 1855 and then again from 1857-1858 and campaigned tirelessly for the recognition of Quebec City as capital of Canada.

Stanford Reid's essay on Cook, cited above, refers to "the establishment of Morrin College in Quebec City on the basis of a gift of property and money worth some $50,000 by Joseph Morrin. In 1862 the college opened to train men in liberal arts, but especially for the ministry of the Kirk in Canada and Rev. John Cook became it's first principal." Reid fails to observe the fact ----remarkable for its time---that the College also admitted women.

For more information see The Canadian Dictionary of Biography and search under Joseph Morrin.

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Quebec City, Canada