Fonds MSS 063 - John M. King fonds

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John M. King fonds

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  • Textual record
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1.8 m of textual records.
1 album: 39 photographs.

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Biographical history

John M. King was born in Yitholm, Scotland in 1829. While still quite young, he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh where he studied mathematics, philosophy, and theology graduating with an M.A. in 1856. After furthering his theological studies at the University of Halle in Germany, he came to Canada to take up Presbyterian ministries in Galt, Ingersoll, Columbus and Whitby, Ontario (then known as Canada West). He was appointed minister of Gould Street in 1863, which then became St. James Square Church in Toronto in 1879. In 1873, King married Janet Macpherson Skinner, who operated with her sister a school for young women. In 1882, King received the degree of D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) from Knox College.

While serving as moderator of the General Assembly in 1883, he accepted the position of first principal and professor of theology at Manitoba College in Winnipeg, forerunner of the University of Winnipeg. In 1886, King's wife and son died. King made a memorial window for his wife in the convocation hall of Manitoba College (the window was later moved to Bryce Hall). King lived in Winnipeg until his death in 1899. He was widely-known and highly regarded as a leading Presbyterian theologian, educator and administrator. His daughter, Helen, married the Reverend Charles William Gordon (Ralph Connor). For more information, please see Box 14, folder 12.

Custodial history

The fonds was donated to University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections by the King family in 1989.

Scope and content

The fonds contains over 1,000 handwritten, 19th century letters from family members and friends, a selection of an equally large number of his original sermons, a large selection of his biblical commentaries and lecture notes, a few photographs, and a fewer number of materials on the early development of Manitoba College.

Each of the 1,435 handwritten letters was written in the nineteenth century, dating from an 1822 letter from Rev. King's father to an older son, to a letter dated 1900 written shortly after King's death in 1899. Of these, 431 of the letters are in King's own hand, mostly written to his wife and family between 1874 and 1886. The rest are from family members and a large number of friends and professional acquaintances including a score of fellow Presbyterian ministers from Scotland, the United States and eastern Canada, including a number of the leading theologians of the day (such as Henry Calderwood, William Craven, William Kerr, James Parlane, and others), and leaders in the Winnipeg community of the early 1880s and 1890s who worked with King in developing Manitoba College (George Bryce and Daniel W. Gordon). His family correspondence includes letters not only from wife and children but also from his son-in-law, Charles William Gordon (Ralph Connor).

In conjunction with King's sermons and lectures, the papers provide a good primary resource to understand the theological currents of the times, for example, Biblical criticism, the rising social gospel, and liberal theology. The letters contain descriptions of early Winnipeg and Western Canada as King took up his calling in Manitoba in 1883. The letters also include descriptions of his travels throughout Canada and the United States and discuss matters such as the U.S. Civil War, Canadian elections, and small town life.

The fonds also includes over one thousand handwritten sermons preached between 1865 and 1889. Professor Gordon Harland, a retired professor of Religion here at the University of Manitoba, transcribed several of King's most often-delivered sermons.

A small photograph collection (PC 82), mainly of family and students, is also included.

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This collection is organized into 7 series.
Correspondence 1822-1899
Sermons 1847-1885
Lectures/Notes/Commentaries 1853-1896 and n.d.
Administrative Records 1884-1888 and n.d.
Personal Records 1873-1875 and n.d.
Publications 1843-1920 and n.d.
Photograph Collection, [187-?]-1885 and n.d.

The collection arrived in little or no order. Consequently it was decided to arrange the collection by major groupings, beginning with the correspondence, then sermons, discourses, and lastly, personal items and his publications. The correspondence was sub-ordered by family letters, special event letters and ministerial and friendship letters. Sermons were kept in the sequential order in which they arrived. Some re-ordering was required for the lectures and commentaries. The exegetical studies were re-arranged according to Biblical order. The collection contains some six or more published pamphlets of his sermons or essays, but whether or not this is a complete collection of his works is not known.

Other sub-groupings of manuscripts include his personal essays, a very few administrative records of early Manitoba College including, however, the original Bank book, some of Rev. King's own personal and financial records, a scrapbook and various dedications to him, and, lastly, essays and sermons by Rev. King which were printed and circulated during his lifetime.

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  • English

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There are no restrictions on this material.

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A finding aid can be downloaded from the fonds-level description by clicking on the “Download’ link under “Finding Aid” on the right hand side of the screen.

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Inventory prepared by Heinz Kattenfeld and Richard E. Bennett (1992). Finding aid encoded by Julianna Trivers (June 2002). Revised by N. Courrier (November 2018). Revised by M. Horodyski (December 2019).

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