Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Past and Present
“Father Magraw"


We write the name as it was 'pronounced. It was spelt Macgrath, but the former is more euphonious. Who of the ministers, who have travelled north of the Rideau since the settlement of that country, have not seen or heard favorable mention of Magraw? He was “not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet,” gentle reader, of whom we write, but an humble shoemaker who had spent many years of his early life in the army, in which, after several years of daring wickedness, he had, through the iustrumentality of Methodism, become converted to God. He maintained his integrity in that trying position, and under the pressure for many years of a domestic annoyance of no ordinary character. He was one of the military settlers who first colonized the town of Perth, where he constituted one of the early supporters, as he continued an abiding friend of Methodism till the day of his death. He was known and loved by our venerable Case, by our respected Co-delegate, and especially by the discerning, amiable, and now sainted Metcalf. Ere this, these two friends have hailed each other on the banks of eternal deliverance.

It is strange that a man so well known and beloved, ajid so very useful as Father Magraw, should have never had one line published about him in our connexional journal or anywhere else! Yet so it was. A man whose life, if he had had a biographer as pains-taking and able, would have deserved to have been placed by the side of the “Village Blacksmith,” the “Wall’s-End Miner,” “William Carvosso,” and “Father Reeves.” The writer has neither the time nor materials for such a work. All he can pretend to will be a few recollections of one, whose name is yet like ointment poured forth among all classes in that part of the country in which he lived.

It was a drizzling, mizzling, rainy afternoon in the autumn of 1830, that we crossed the Rideau Lake at Oliver’s Ferry, passed through the intervening woods, and at length found ourselves at the head of the circuit to which we had been newly appointed—“the gude town o' Pairth.” And we are compelled to say, that to the “new preacher,” a boy of twenty-one, it looked uninviting enough. We put our horse in the stable of an inn; walked round by the chapel—a dilapidated old building, made of round logs, some thirty feet by twenty-five in dimensions—and went to hunt up the leader of the only class in town. He proved to be the hero of my story, Father Magraw ; and the cordial reception I got at his hands, and the simplicity, the faith and love that beamed in his countenance and appeared in his every word and act cheered my desponding heart and made me feel myself at home at once. From that day till the hour of his death, the writer felt it an honor and a privilege to rank Magraw among the number of his friends. Magraw was an instance of the moral influence that may be wielded, and the good that may be done by simple-minded goodness alone. He was a man of only ordinary education—he was poor—(he was too unworldly and too liberal to be otherwise)—and he was a man of no great powers of mind. He was rather shallow and devoid of penetration naturally than otherwise. But he was amiable, zealous for God and souls, and reliant on divine help and guidance; and he was usually directed aright. He was not afraid to speak for his Master in any place or company; and the confidence that was reposed in his integrity and the respect that was felt for his character, caused him always to be listened to with attention. For several years the Methodists had service only once on the Sabbath, and that in the evening. This allowed Magraw to accept the situation of Clerk and Precentor in the Episcopalian Church, whose service was held in the early part of the day. He was very catholic spirited; and having no great scrupulosity about matters of form and ceremony, he felt no hesitancy about accepting this appointment and retaining it for several years. Indeed, he made it a post of considerable usefulness, frequently pressing the parson himself on matters of religion till he had him in tears. He felt himself invested with some authority to restrain what he thought wrong in the house of God; and actually pulled the ears, on one occasion, of a respectable barrister, to recall him from the irreverence of laughing in Church. And the bold act of this privileged, though eccentric servant of God, passed off with impunity! He was so zealous for God that he entered no house on any occasion without recommending religion. And when on business with some of the most aristocratic families, he has been known to introduce religion and to close with prayer,-—a privilege which none of them ever denied him. He was a constant visitor of the sick; and there was such a sweetness and unction attending his visits that they were in frequent requisition, from the damp cell of the malefactor in the jail, to the bedside of persons of the highest respectability. An instance is well remembered in Perth of a dying lady, who would see no other spiritual adviser in her last moments, but the humble shoemaker; and though the fashionable sneered, her learned and intelligent husband, though not a religious man, promptly complied with her preferences. She died happy. It is not too much to say that there was a time when Magraw visited more sick than any clergyman in the town. I had almost said, than all the clergymen in the town. Many of the wicked who made sport of him while in health sent for him when sick. A very profane young man of a respectable family was heard one day by a gentleman of my acquaintance making himself very merry with the religious peculiarities of “brother Magraw,” as he derisively termed him. The gentleman told him he “ might see the day when he would be glad to have Magraw pray by the side of his dying bed.” He passionately swore he “would rather die and be damned than submit to be prayed for by Old Magraw.” That young man brought himself to a premature grave by habits of dissipation. But happily he did not verify his presumptuous boast: in his last lingering illness he gratefully accepted the counsel and prayers of this once despised follower of Christ. It is believed there was hope in the sinner’s death.

Magraw was a model Class Leader; punctual, lively, affectionate, and one who assiduously pursued the declining and absentees in the most alluring manner. He sometimes went a number of miles, and met other classes with profitable effect,

In the early part of his time he went near and far to camp-meetings; and thereby became extensively known to the pious. He was never out of a revival spirit, but ever ready to help on so good a work. He was an active agent in the revival in the time of the Bev. Messrs. Metcalf and Waldron,—the revival to which the first Perth camp-meeting gave rise—and the seasons of refreshing and accession in the time of the Rev, James Currie. Some who are or were able ministers of the word in our own connection enjoyed his fostering friendship when young such as the lamented George Poole, R. Jones, A. Adams, Harper, Lockhead, and others.

Though not possessed of any powers of argument, yet his simplicity and piety always brought him off “first best,” whenever attacked by others. When any person started any point of speculative theology, Magraw would generally answer by asking if they were converted! One day a hyper-Calvinist, who was very disputatious, and supposed to be very clever, insisted on discussing some of the points at issue between him and the Methodists, when Magraw, finding that he could not get out of it, proposed that they should engage in prayer before they began; and then dropping on his knees he poured out such a subduing prayer as left his antagonist, when he had done, no heart for disputing. By faith and prayer he often cut the Gordian knot which he could not otherwise untie.

We have already said he was a “privileged character.” This appears from the endurance of that in him which, by many persons, would not have been borne in another. Audible indications of religious emotion are usually very unacceptable to irreligious persons, who generally make them a subject of ridicule. But responding, shouting when he was happy, or approving the sentiments of a sermon aloud, were looked for as a matter of course and as perfectly consistent and allowable in Magraw.

We have said he was catholic spirited, and perhaps no man was ever more esteemed and loved out of his own communion. He was ready to help wherever he could be useful; and his services were always acceptable. He^rendered himself of signal use in the revival in the Presbyterian Church under the pastoral care of the llev. T. C. Wilson ; and was greatly esteemed by that servant of Christ. That gentleman’s successor, the Rev. Mr. Bain, stated publicly at the funeral of Magraw, that the “community had suffered a loss,” and that he felt that “he himself had suffered a great loss in the death of his pious friend.” The reader may be informed that at the funeral of Magraw, all the Protestant clergymen of the town, but the High Church, were present; and the mournful event brought more persons together than were ever convened at the burial of any other man, however conspicuous, in the district. His death was gloriously happy, and his memory honored.

“The pains of life are past,
Labor and sorrow cease;
And life’s long warfare closed at last,
His soul is found in peace.
Soldier of Christ, well done!
Praise be thy new employ;
And while eternal ages run,
Rest in thy Saviour’s joy.”


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast