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One of the self educated and eminently successful clergymen of Ontario, is James Elliott, D.D., a native of Kingscourt, County of Cavan, Ireland, dating his birth October 12th, 1819. His father, David Elliott, and a man of powerful mind, a farmer, preached the gospel largely, and not without rich fruits, through the silent eloquence of a godly life. His mother, whose maiden name was Martha Young, was also a very pious woman, an Elizabeth and a Zacharias. In 1812 the whole family came to Canadathe pious members bringing their religion with them and settled on a farm in the township of Fitzroy, thirty miles west of Ottawa, where our subject farmed until about twenty years of age, devoting, meantime, all his spare time to his education. The last part of his school privileges was enjoyed in the old country, the backwoods of Ontario being unfavorable for mental culture, so far as it regards institutions of learning, forty and fifty years ago. James had an older brother, Thomas Elliott, many years a school teacher, who was a classical scholar, and rendered much valuable assistance to our subject.
Dr. Elliott was converted when only twelve years of age, and in prayer meetings, class meetings, and other religious gatherings, early showed power of mind, in the rough, of no inferior order, and which, with a little polishing, would be likely to become of great service to the world. He was encouraged to exercise his gifts, and in spite of much innate modesty and conspicuous bashfulness, was early pushed forward into the itinerant work, commencing on the old Richmond Circuit, near Ottawa, 1841. He gave seven years to such thinly populated circuits as L’Orignal, Matilda and Kemptville, and was three years at Prescott, five at Hamilton, six at Quebec, three at Montreal, three at London, and three at Kingston, being stationed at Brockville in 1877.
While at Hamilton, in 1854, he lost the wife of his early manhood, who was Miss Harriet Flynn, of L’Orignal, married in 1844. She and one of her two children died of cholera, and were buried on the same day, in the same grave, the funeral being delayed for three hours, with the expectation every moment that the husband and father would also die.
Dr. Elliott went from Hamilton to Quebec as secretary of the Canada Conference; and was appointed to the chairmanship of that district, an office which he has held in different districts, to the present time. In 1866 he was nominated president of the Canada Conference, and appointed by the British Conference, taking the presidential chair the next year, and discharging the duties of that office, we are told by a writer in the Canada Methodist Magazine, March, 1875, “with remarkable efficiency.” He has since been President twice of the Montreal Conference. The writer just quoted says of Dr. Elliott, that “he owes his standing to the safety of his judgment, the weight of his character, and his efficiency as a preacher. He is not a declaimer nor critically expository, but his preaching is original, sage, and satisfying. He is entirely devoid of finesse, and never condescends to any device for eliciting popular favor. If there are any circuits that desire smooth things to be prophesied to them, they are not likely to send for Rev. James Elliott; but if any circuit should get into complications, and require a strong, steady hand to hold the reins, there are a great many churches that our subject would be asked for.”
He received the title of Doctor of Divinity from the authorities of Victoria College, in 1876, but we doubt if he feels any more learned, or wise or self important. The honor was as unexpected as unsolicited. Although he has seen his three score years, and has been a very hard worker, he has great physical force and unabated mental vigor, steadily pressing on in his arduous labors, a stranger to “blue Mondays.” For his pastoral “vacation” he may wait till the next world. Such a faithful worker must enjoy with especial zest, the “rest” which remains “for the people of God.”
The present wife of the Doctor was Lydia Jane Maley, of Kemptville, daughter of Thomas Maley. They were married in 1856, and have four children. He has one child living by the first wife, whose father was from Vermont, and was a relative by marriage of the celebrated painter, Benjamin West.