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One of the best scholars and ablest sermonizers of his age, connected with the Ontario pulpit, is George Burnfield, a native of the city of Perth, Scotland, his birth being dated February 19, 1845. His father was a mechanic; his mother was a daughter of David Keir, of Bank foot, Scotland, one of the early contractors of that country. In 1855 the family landed in the city of New York, where our subject attended school for a short time, the family removing to Hamilton, Ontario. There young Burnfield continued his studies, first in the public and then in the High School, finishing in the latter, under J. M. Buchan, M.A., and entering the University of Toronto in 1864.
While in college the career of Mr. Burnfield was marked with great brilliancy and success. He took honors in English, Latin and Greek; obtained the scholarship, value $120, for two consecutive years, for Latin and Greek, and also the silver medal in the same department in 1869, when he obtained the degree of B.A. He was also prizeman in Chaldee, Hebrew and Syriac in that University, and has been appointed for four years, by the Senate of that institution, Examiner in Chaldee, Hebrew and Syriac Languages and Literature.
Mr. Burnfield finished his theological course at Knox College, Toronto, being graduated in 1870, and was ordained on the 3rd of January, the following year. During his under graduate course in theology, he was a successful competitor with his classmates and compeers in various departments, obtaining a prize for an essay on the Origin, Nature and Errors of Plymouthism, another for general proficiency in theology and general literature, and still another for English reading.
Mr. Burnfield’s first call was a unanimous one to the Scotch Presbyterian Church, west side, Chicago, as successor to Rev. Dr. Burns, now of Halifax. He declined that call, and was shortly afterward ordained as pastor of a charge in the Presbytery of Barrie. He was afterwards invited to become the pastor of one of the largest and most flourishing rural congregations in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the congregation of Scarboro, in the Presbytery of Toronto; where he remained about three years and then accepted a call from the 1st Presbyterian Church of Brockville, commencing his labors here in 1876. This is the oldest Presbyterian organization in Canada, its date being about 1811 the exact date of the first Sunday school in Upper Canada, it being formed at Brockville.
Soon after Mr. Burnfield settled here, the old house of worship was found to be too small, and in many ways unsuitable for a congregation of the size and position of this one; so he began to agitate the question of rebuilding, and at the time of writing, a stately and elegant stone structure, costing fully $34,000, is nearly ready for dedication. It will seat 1000 people, and is an ornament to the town.
On June 6, 1868, Miss Sara Young, daughter of a prominent architect, of Londonderry, Ireland, was married to Mr. Burnfield.