George Jehoshaphat Mountain
George Jehoshaphat Mountain, son of Rev. Jacob Mountain and Elizabeth Mildred Wale Kentish, was a clergyman and Bishop of the Church of England. He was also a poet and an educator. He was born in Norfolk, England on 27 July 1789, and died 6 January 1863 in Quebec due to congestion of the lungs; he was seventy-four. Mountain’s family was of French heritage. When he was four his father took a position in Quebec. Their arrival there in 1793 was significant in the development of the Church of England in Canada (A Memoir 9-23).
Mountain was tutored at home for many years by Rev. Matthew Field, who lived with the Mountain family. Under Field’s instruction, Mountain acquired knowledge of literature and became very enthusiastic about poetry, a passion that would last for the duration of his life. At the age of thirteen he wrote a small poem about Canada:
Mid the grandeur of men
And the wonders of Nature and art
For the wildness of nature again
A sigh shall be felt in the heart. (A Memoir 16)
In 1805, Mountain and his older brother Jacob went back to England to complete their educations. Mountain studied under Rev. Monro, then at Cambridge Trinity College. He studied math and classics, graduating without honors in 1810. In 1811 he returned to Quebec. He informed his father that he had decided to join the priesthood, and he became a student under the Bishop’s tutelage.
In 1814, it was rumoured that a clergyman was needed in either Fredericton or Saint John, New Brunswick. Mountain’s father, now Bishop of Quebec, wrote a letter to the Bishop of Nova Scotia recommending his son for the position. He wrote: “I must, in justice, say of my son, that he is a young man of learning and ability, of sound principles and exemplary conduct, and already much considered as a preacher here” (A Memoir 27). The young Mountain was immediately told to make preparations for his journey to Fredericton. Before leaving, he was married to Mary Hume. They remained married for forty-seven years. The couple arrived in Fredericton on 20 October 1814 (A Memoir 23-41).
Mountain threw himself into his work in Fredericton. He showed much care for his people, rich or poor, and stayed active in their lives. He also placed considerable importance on education. One of his “lasting contributions was the establishment of a local branch of society for promoting Christian Knowledge, through which the foundation of an educational system was established” (Marston).
Mountain only remained in Fredericton for three years. He gave his last sermon on St. Peter’s Day. The purpose of the sermon was to tell his followers that God would be watching over and shielding them from harm. Years later Mountain would reminisce about the special bond he had with his first flock, hoping to return one day. While his youngest brother was in Fredericton many years later he wrote to George of the continued affection of his flock: “Your memory is universally respected and cherished, and the people sometimes disturb me by their unqualified preference of you to all rectors past, present and future” (A Memoir 37).
Mountain accomplished much during his life, but perhaps his greatest contribution was to the betterment of Canada’s education system. Education had been a personal interest and the promotion of it was very important to him. When Mountain went to Quebec from New Brunswick in 1817 he established a system of “National Schools.” The purpose was to educate children who could not afford to attend private grammar schools (Marston).
Mountain also played important roles in McGill and Bishop’s universities. In 1824 he became the first Principal of McGill University and Professor of Divinity. He held jobs there until 1835, helping McGill become an established degree granting university (Marston).
Mountain had a more personal involvement with Bishop’s. His goal was to obtain new clergy for his expanding diocese, which he set himself to accomplish by educating divinity students at Bishop’s. Mountain also worked tirelessly to obtain the Royal Charter that would allow Bishop’s to grant degrees. In 1853, through his efforts, the university was able to give out degrees of divinity, law, and medicine (Marston).
Mountain spent a great deal of his free time writing poetry. Typical of his time, he would often write about nature, and was known to be especially passionate in his descriptions of a God-infused world. This is shown in his poem “The Rose of the Wilderness”: “What doest thou here, fair rose, on rocky shore / Opening thy pure and scented brest to blush...” (Songs of the Wilderness 11). As a preacher, he saw God in the organic world, using his poetry to illustrate what he believed to be divine creation:
Let them lead on to God- by number, He
By weight, by measure all things form’d at first;
By Him the day returns, by Him the Sea
Flows and flows back, the flowers and foliage
Burst. (“The Rose of the Wilderness” 16-4)
Mountain celebrated the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, observing His hand in all things, from the rising sun to the blooming flower to the flowing tides.
He even wrote of nature’s small aggravations as gifts from God, as in the poem titled “Mosquitoes”:
Among the plagues on earth which God has sent
Of lighter torment, is the plague of flies:
Not as of Egypt once the punishment,
Yet such, sometimes, as feeble patience tries. (99)
Instead of writing negatively about the bug, he chose to connect it to God's creations, a lesson, no doubt, to his parishioners.
George Jehoshaphat Mountain is remembered for his work as priest and Bishop, as powerful speaker and romantic poet. In Fredericton and Quebec his influence was especially important in education.
Maxwell Taylor, Winter 2012
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Medley, John, and George J. Mountain. A Charge to the Clergy of the Diocese, by John, Bishop of Fredericton, at His Third Triennial Visitation Holden in Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton, 1853. Fredericton, NB: Royal Gazette Office Queen's Printer, 1853.
Mountain, Armine W, and George J. Mountain. A Memoir of George Jehoshaphat Mountain, D.D., D.C.L., Late Bishop of Quebec. Montreal: J. Lovell, 1866.
Mountain, George J. “A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Quebec, by George J. Mountain, D.D., Lord Bishop of Montreal, (Administering that Diocese), at His Primary
Visitation, Completed in 1838.” N.p.: n.p., 1839.
---. “A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of Quebec: In the Cathedral Church of Quebec at the Triennial Visitation in 1845.” N.p.: n.p.: 1845.
---. The Duty of the Christian Minister in Following Christ: The Sermon Preached at an Ordination of Priests and Deacons, Held by the Provisional Bishop of New-York, in Trinity Church, New-York, on the Third Sunday After Trinity, July 2, 1854. New York: D. Dana, Jr., 1854.
---. “A Fast-Day Sermon Upon the Day Appointed in the Province of Canada, by Proclamation of the Governor General, for the Public Humiliation Before God, on Account of the Troubles and Calamaties in India: Preached to the Cathedral Congregation of Quebec.” N.p.: n.p.:,1857.
---. “The Foundation and Constitution of the Christian Ministry and the General Outline of the Ministerial Character and Duties: Considered in an Ordination Sermon Preached in the Cathedral Church of Quebec, on Sunday, 30th July 1826.” Quebec: n.p., 1826.
---. The House of the Lord God: Two Sermons Preached in Fredericton Cathedral: One on the Evening of the Day of Its Consecration, Wednesday, 31st August, 1853, and the Other on the Morning of the Sunday Following. Fredericton, NB: J. Simpson, 1853.
---. The Journal of the Bishop of Montreal: During a Visit to the Church Missionary Society's North-West America Mission, to Which Is Added, by the Secretaries, an Appendix, Giving an Account of the Formation of the Mission, and Its Progress to the Present Time. London: Seeley, Burnside, and Seeley, 1845.
---. A Journal of Visitation in a Portion of the Diocese of Québec by the Lord Bishop of Montreal, in 1846. Church in the Colonies 18. London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1847.
---. “A Letter to Mr. S.C. Blyth Occasioned by the Recent Publication of the Narrative of His Conversion to the Romish Faith: In Four Parts.” N.p.: n.p.: 1822.
---. “Mosquitoes.” Songs of the Wilderness: Being a Collection of Poems. London: F. & J. Rivington, 1846. 99.
---. “Pastoral Charge of the Lord Bishop of Montreal on Secret Societies.” N.p.: n.p.: 1846.
---. “A Pastoral Letter to Be Distributed Where It May Be Found Necessary Among the Parishioners of Quebec.” Quebec: n.p., 1840.
---. “A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and Laity of the Diocese of Quebec: Upon the Question of Affording the Use of Churches and Chapels of the Church of England for the Purposes of Dissenting Worship.” N.p.: n.p., 1845.
---. The Responsibilities of Englishmen in the Colonies of the British Empire: A Sermon Preached in the Cathedral Church of Quebec Before the St. George's Society of That City on the 23d April, 1847. Québec: J.C. Fisher, 1847.
---. “The Rose of the Wilderness.” Songs of the Wilderness: Being a Collection of Poems. London: F. & J. Rivington, 1846. 11- 29.
---. “A Sermon on the Education of the Poor, the Duty of Diffusing the Gospel, and More Important, on the Importance of Family Religion: Preached Before the Diocesan Committee of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in the Cathedral Church of Quebec in the 24th February, 1822 Upon Occasion of the Annual Collection.” N.p.: n.p., 1822.
---. “A Sermon Preached Before the First Provincial Synod of Canada, on Tuesday, 10 September, 1861 in Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal.” N.p.: n.p., 1861.
---. A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of Fredericton, on the 14th January, 1816: Upon Occasion of a Collection Made in Aid of the Waterloo Subscriptions. Fredericton, NB: n.p., 1816.
---. Sermons. London: Bell and Daldy, 1865.
---. Songs of the Wilderness: Being a Collection of Poems, Written in Some Different Parts of the Territory of the Hudson's Bay Company, and in the Wilds of Canada, on the Route to That Territory in the Spring and Summer of 1844; Interspersed with Some Illustrative Notes. London: F. & J. Rivington, 1846.
---. “The Spiritual Improvement of the Annual Observances of the Church, in Their Series: A Sermon Preached in the Cathedral Church of Quebec on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Co-Inciding, Upon the Occasion, With the Festival of the Annunciation, 1855.” Quebec: n.p., 1855.
---. “Thoughts on 'Annexation' in Connection with the Duty and the Interest of Members of the Church of England and as Affecting Some Particular Religious Questions: Intended Originally for Publication as a Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and Laity of the Church of England, in the Diocese of Quebec.” Quebec: n.p., 1849.
---. Visit to the Gaspé Coast. Québec, PQ: Archives de la Province, 1943.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Heeney, Bertal. Leaders of the Canadian Church: Second Series. Toronto: Musson, 1920.
Marston, Monica. “Mountain, George Jehoshaphat.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 9. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1976. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 3 Oct. 2012
Taylor, Fennings. The Last Three Bishops, Appointed by the Crown, for the Anglican Church of Canada. Montreal: J. Lovell, 1869.