William Cochrane, pastor of Zion Presbyterian Church, Brantford, dates his birth in Paisley, Scotland, February 9, 1832, his parents being William and Mary (McMillan) Cochrane. The family is from Ayrshire, and descended from Thomas Cochrane, of the Dundonald branch, afterwards Earl of Dundonald or Lord Cochrane. The mother of our subject was from the Island of Arran, Scotland. He attended the parish schools of his native town until twelve years old, when he was placed in a bookstore, where he remained between ten and eleven years. So great was his thirst for knowledge during the latter part of that period, that he gave all his leisure time to study, taking up the classics, and going from Paisley to Glasgow University to recite, starting at 5 o’clock in the morning.
When Mr. Cochrane was in his 23rd year, two gentlemen in Cincinnati, Ohio, of the name of Brown, hearing of the efforts which he was making to secure an education, wrote to him and offered to aid him, if he would come to the United States. With a glad and grateful heart, he complied with their request; entered the classes of Hanover College, Indiana, and was graduated B.A. in 1857. He immediately entered the Princeton (N. J.) Theological Seminary; pursued his studies there for two years under Rev. Dr. Hodge, Alexander, and other very able instructors; was licensed by the Presbytery of Madison, Indiana, in February, 1859, and was settled as pastor of the Scottish Presbyterian Church at Jersey City, N. J., on the 7th of the next June, so continuing for three years.
In May, 1862, Dr. Cochrane was settled over Zion Church, and has served this people with all faithfulness for eighteen years. During this long period he has had repeated calls to churches in other and much larger cities to Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago, but he feels the duty impressed upon him to remain in Canada, and does so. In so doing he has great encouragement in his work at Brantford. When he settled here, Zion Church numbered a little less than 150 members; now they exceed 600.
In addition to this pastoral work, Dr. Cochrane has been President of the Young Ladies’ College of Brantford, since it was started in 1874, teaching the more advanced classes in some of the higher branches. For nine years he has filled the office of Clerk of the Synod of Hamilton and London, and recently resigned the Clerkship of the Presbytery of Paris, which he held for fourteen years. For ten years he has been Convener of the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, Canada; has been President for eight years of the Brantford Mechanics Institute, and fully identifies himself with educational and literary enterprises, as well as religious, thus making himself of very great service to the public.
In 1864, his Alma Mater conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts, and in 1875 the degree of Doctor of Divinity, he having the offer of the latter degree from another college at the same time.
Dr. Cochrane is an indefatigable worker, especially with his pen. Within the last five years he has published three volumes of his sermons, which have been well received on the part of the public,
The Heavenly Vision, “Christ and Christian Life,” and ” Warning and Welcome.” As a writer he is clear, terse and vigorous; and his published sermons, while totally devoid of the ornate in style, possess many of the literary graces of the polished scholar, and deserve more than a hasty perusal. In addition to these three volumes, he has also published several papers in Canadian and American periodicals.
Dr. Cochrane is a popular preacher in the best sense of the term. Though a speaker of great readiness and fluency, his sermons are prepared with extreme care, and, as a rule, written 32 in full. He uses his notes very little in the pulpit, and his delivery is animated and impressive. His arrangement is logical, his style clear, his positions are well taken, and his illustrations are often vivid and striking. Thoroughly despising sensationalism and clap trap of all kinds, Dr. Cochrane preaches the gospel in its simplicity and purity; and, by his clear exposition of truth and earnest appeals to the heart and conscience, seldom fails to make a good impression upon his hearers.
Dr. Cochrane was first married July 24, 1860, to Miss Mary Neilson Houstoun, of Paisley, Scotland, she dying January 8, 1871, leaving a son and a daughter; and the second time, October 2, 1873, to Miss Jennette Elizabeth Balmer, of Oakville, Out.