Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Featherstone Osler, 'saddlebag jack-of-all-professions' in Upper Canada

My google alerts this week brought up a blog post on Featherstone Lake Osler, 'saddlebag preacher' in Upper Canada by Canadian history blogger Susanna McLeod.

McLeod writes:

...Osler dove into launching the Anglican community in Upper Canada. Establishing his own parish, he also built the family home in the village of Bond Head, 40 miles north of the southwestern edge of Lake Ontario. Osler galloped throughout the territory holding services and encouraging the raising of churches. Visiting distant settlements and parishes on horseback and braving the capricious weather of the four seasons, Osler was known as a “saddlebag preacher,” a designation most often given to the Methodist ministers in Upper Canada. To enhance his important mission, Osler opened a school to train “Bush Clergymen” in the skills required for pioneer religious duties.

( picture of Featherstone Osler, from the William Osler Photo Collection at McGill University Digital Library.)

It caught my eye because I had just been reading about Osler's wearing of several other hats.

As part of my new gig, I have been re-reading Christopher Moore's excellent book, The Law Society of Upper Canada and Ontario's Lawyers, 1797-1997 (yes, I'm a suck-up, but it's really a model of professional/institutional history, comprehensive and very readable.) This is what Chris has to say about Osler:

Most of the farmers of Canada West [Upper Canada after the Union of 1841] simply got along without lawyers, doing what is today considered lawyers' work by themselves or with lay help. they sought advice on legal and other matters from those who had some education and who kept a shelf of books for reference. The sons of Anglican missionary Featherstone Osler became renowned doctors and lawyers, but their father, as the only educated man in his district....was 'general will drawer' to the community and its doctor and dentist as well. (p.103)
So added to his activities as a preacher and teacher referred to above, is Osler the winner of the title of Ontarian jack-of-most-professions? Does he one-up William Warren Baldwin, the doctor-teacher-lawyer-politician? The Canadian Dictionary of Biography also includes militia officer, judge, JP and businessman in the latter's c.v. But I would have to give Osler points for his willingness to get his feet (or his horse's hooves) dirty, something that his fellow C of E clergymen were notoriously loath to do.

Follow @CmedMoore