Rev. Alexander Macnab, Rector of the Parish of Darlington, is a son of Colonel Simon Fraser Macnab, many years a Government official in Canada, and grandson of Dr. James Macnab, who was surgeon of a Regiment of United Empire Loyalists, and who died in Canada in 1780; and was born at Belleville, County of Hastings, January 26, 1812, his father’s family being one of the first to settle in that Town. Our subject is a nephew of Captain Alexander Macnab, for whom he was named, and whose name appears on the early plans of York (Toronto), and who, at the Battle of Waterloo, was on the Staff, as aide-de-camp to Sir Thomas Picton the only native Canadian, probably, who was slain in that world renowned contest., or that took any part in it. This branch of the Macnab family is also remotely related to the Chief Macnab who, some time after the breaking up of the clan, emigrated to Canada, and had his home at the Chats on the Ottawa River, the emigrant Laird making poor headway in trying to transplant the ancient customs of the Highlanders to Canadian soil. The branch of the Macnab family, to which our subject belongs, came from Perthshire, Scotland, when the clan broke up, and settled in the American Colonies before the Revolution, and fought bravely for the Crown.
Our subject was educated privately, his tutor being the late Rev. John Grier, M.A., subsequently Rector of Belleville; intended for the legal profession, he studied Law under J. H. Sampson, Barrister, Belleville, but relinquished it for the pursuit of Literature and Theology; was appointed President of Victoria College, and while in that position acted under appointment of the Governor-General, Lord Metcalfe, as Superintendent of Education for Canada West. When at the head of that University, he received from Union College, Schenectady, N. Y., the honorary title of Doctor of Divinity. During his Presidency, that Institution, it is believed, had the honor of first conferring degrees in the Arts in Canada West. Soon after resigning that position, Dr. Macnab received his ordination at the hands of Lord Bishop Strachan, at which time March, 1850 he was appointed Assistant to Rev. Alexander Neil Bethune, then Rector at Cobourg, and later Bishop of Toronto; subsequently had charge of the Rice Lake parish, with his home at Cobourg, and in the beginning of 1852 was presented to the Rectories of Clarke and Darlington. When the parish was divided he remained Rector of Darlington, and still holds that position, his home being in the Town of Bowmanville. As a preacher, Dr. Macnab is plain and practical, clear and logical, and has great skill in clinching an argument. His discourses are sound and Scriptural, rather than showy, his great aim being to convince the reason and to convict the heart, rather than please the fancy. As a pastor he is very attentive to the sick and the afflicted, and has the warm esteem of the community generally.
Since a resident of Bowmanville, Dr. Macnab has been of great service to the community outside his church work, in which he has been quite successful. He was for many years a member and chairman of the Board of School Trustees, and also Superintendent of the Town Schools, being assiduous in his endeavors to build up and improve the system of public instruction.
In 1858, Dr. Macnab made a trip to Great Britain, in company with his kinsman, Sir Allan N. Macnab, and ten years later (1868), occurred one of the most delightful episodes in his life a second visit to England, and its attending incidents. We have already mentioned the name of his uncle, Captain Alexander Macnab, who fought and died at Waterloo, and who was captain in the 2nd Battalion, 30th Regiment, when he received his mortal wound. He died before the medals for the surviving heroes of that eventful battle were struck, and, contrary to the army regulations, in his case a medal was struck for the dead. When Dr. Macnab reached the Old World, and news spread abroad of his relation to the brave Captain Macnab, and that he was the rightful heir to the medal, the officials in the War Office caused his uncle’s medal to be restruck, and it was presented to the Doctor by the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Cambridge, in person. This fact we gather from “Toronto of Old,” an interesting volume by Henry Scadding, D.D. The writer of this sketch has seen the medal here spoken of, and which Dr. Macnab treasures as a precious memento of his heroic uncle, and an invaluable heirloom in the family. In addition to the medal, the Chelsea Hospital Commissioners, consisting of certain Members of the Cabinet and veteran field officers notwithstanding an Act passed fifty years ago canceling all claims for prize money finding a considerable sum lying to the credit of Captain Macnab, paid the amount over to his representative, Dr. Macnab. One motive which prompted such an unheard of act was, very likely, the loyalty of the Macnabs during the American Revolution. In 1876, Dr. Macnab and his son, Rev. A. W. Macnab, being in England, applied to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral for permission to place in the crypt of that Cathedral a mural tablet to the memory of their uncle, and the Chapter gladly gave such permission, and the tablet has since been placed near the tomb of the deceased officer’s chief, General Sir Thomas Picton, who fell on the same occasion the memorable 18th of June, 1815. While absent on leave from this country, in 1868-9, for the benefit of his health, Dr. Macnab visited numerous parishes in England as a Deputation from the “Ven. Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,” and, in 1872, was also its Chaplain at Cologne, in Prussia.
The wife of Dr. Macnab was Miss Eliza Dougall, daughter of James Dougall, Esq., an early settler at Picton, Upper Canada, married in May, 1832. They have had six children, two of them, Helen and Harriet, dying quite young, and two others later in life. Mary, the eldest daughter, married Frederick Roche, Esq., many years in the Crown Land Department of Canada, and died in England, in February, 1870. Allan Napier, the elder son, a namesake and godson of Sir Allan Napier Macnab, of Hamilton, had received a thorough education at Trinity College, Toronto, and was in holy orders, a minister at Hamilton, when he was drowned by accident at Montreal, in August, 1872, in his 25th year. His death was not only especially painful to the family and large circle of friends, but was a sad loss to the Church and seemingly to the world, for he was a young man of much promise. Matilda, the younger daughter, is the wife of John Carter, Esq., of Toronto. Alexander Wellesley, the only son living, was educated at the Bowmanville Grammar School, and Huron College, London, was ordained by the Bishop of Toronto, and appointed as Curate to the Rev. Henry Holland, B.A., Rector of St. Catharines, where he labored nearly three years with great acceptance; and, three or four years ago resigned his curacy and visited England. There he was engaged on deputation work for the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and was also one of its Chaplains on the Continent. Near the close of 1878, he returned to Canada, and became incumbent of St. Barnabas Church, St. Catharines. He is an interesting lecturer as well as able preacher.