Biography of Right Rev. Isaac Hellmuth, D. D., D. C. L.

Isaac Hellmuth, Bishop of Huron, and founder of the Hellmuth Colleges, was born near Warsaw, Poland, December 14, 1817. He is of Jewish extraction; was educated at the University of Breslau; in 1841, having abandoned the faith of his family, made a public profession of Christianity, and three years later, as we learn from the Clerical Guide and Churchman’s Directory, he came to Canada, ” bearing the highest commendations from many eminent men, including the Most Reverend Dr. Sumner, Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Our subject was ordained Deacon in 1846, and the same year Priest, by the Bishop of Quebec; served for eight years as one of the Professors in the University of Bishop’s College, Lennoxville, and Incumbent of St. Peter’s, Sherbrooke; was afterwards General Superintendent for the Colonial and Continental Church Society in British America, and was successively Archdeacon and Dean of Huron, and Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, settling in this city in 1862. In 1871 he was elected by the Synod, as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Huron, with the title of Bishop of Norfolk, and was consecrated in London by the Most Reverend, the Metropolitan of Canada, assisted by the Bishops of Toronto, Ontario, Ohio and Michigan. On the decease in the same year, of the Right Rev. Dr. Cronyn, he became Bishop of Huron.

Bishop Hellmuth has written a work on the Authenticity of the Pentateuch; one on The Divine Dispensations, and we believe, a few other works; but his grandest labors, since settling in London, have been educational.

He, together with his predecessor, Bishop Cronyn, established the Huron Theological College, opened in 1863; built the Hellmuth Boys’ College, in 1865; the Hellmuth Ladies’ College, in 1869, and at the time of writing is engaged in establishing the Western University, to which he has himself contributed the generous sum of $10,000. Of these institutions the Ladies’ College deserves especial notice, it being one of the best schools of the kind in the Dominion of Canada. It was opened on the 23rd of September, 1869, the Governor-General and Prince Arthur being present and making speeches, the school being inaugurated by His Royal Highness. It is located upon high lands, on the banks of the Thames, and one and a half miles north of the city, on a 140 acre lot, a portion of which is fitted up and improved with great taste. Nature and Art combined have made it one of the most lovely and inviting retreats for study of which we have any knowledge in the Dominion.

The curriculum embraces a broad range of studies, and the teachers in the several branches are selected from the old world as well as new, and with particular reference to their fitness and competency. The French teacher, for illustration, is a gentleman of the highest attainments speaks the most elegant French, and preaches in French every Sunday in the little chapel, adjoining the college building. The language spoken in this college is French, and every effort is made to perfect the pupils in this and every other language or branch taught.

The educational work of Bishop Hellmuth has had a refining influence outside his schools; the whole community feels it; the thinking people of London and vicinity realized it, and hence the heartiness and liberality with which they patronize his schools. “The Western University,” says a writer in the London Daily Advertiser of June 1, 1878, “will probably be the crowning work of the Bishop of Huron’s life. The children yet unborn are they from whom the words of thankfulness and praise will come for days of toil and anxious thought passed in successfully founding the Institution. With all the advantages which London possesses as the centre of a territory large enough for a kingdom, success would appear to the layman to be a certainty. The philanthropist, when a Bishop, expects and receives opposition, let the plans be ever so wisely made. A united Church and the good will of public spirited men should be sufficient to counteract the obstruction of the malevolent. Men of enlarged and cosmopolitan views will find much to approve in so well devised a plan for education.

A learned man, familiar with many languages, the Bishop can at all times find refuge in his books, but the daily life of his Lordship is that of a laborious worker in the vineyard he has selected.”

The same writer then speaks of “Norwood House,” the palatial home of the Bishop:

“Norwood House overlooks the Thames and is approached by an avenue artistically arranged so that none of the beauties of the place whether formed by nature or the design of the Bishop, may escape the eye. The house and grounds are surrounded by forest foliage and shady beech trees. The terrace and lawn well cared for show to the visitor that this is the home of a gentleman as well as the spiritual head of a great church and a great diocese. It is said to require courage to take into the country the habits of refinement and intellectual tastes of an English gentleman. His Lordship, though a foreigner, has done this; and the visitor, whether a missionary returning from the backwoods, or humble or wealthy parishioner, is cheered and encouraged with that proper display of taste and culture sought for and within reach of the educated and successful. The safest of many good influences are those centering around a home causing it ever to be in cheerful and pleasant remembrance. The hospitalities of Norwood House are presided over by an accomplished hostess. Nowhere in Canada are life long acquaintances formed in a more pleasing manner than at the At Homes and Reunions of the Bishop of Huron and Mrs. Hellmuth. The Church has from the beginning been one of the greatest of all checks upon communism. Those precepts indicating a community of goods were addressed to a spiritual brotherhood united by the bonds of a holy faith and not to citizens for their guidance. The career of the Bishop of Huron since happily he came to Western Ontario has not been unobserved by laymen. The pioneers had done their work; sufficient wealth had accumulated to create that longing for intellectual culture and refinement in the family circle, to possess which is so pleasing a feature and so encouraging a symptom in the successful emigrant. The country had outgrown bush and back road ethics, and some one to speak with authority was supplied providentially to aid in the reformation. The presence of a Bishop with the ordinary influences for good appertaining to the office would alone be an immediate cause of improvement, but with a trained intellect capable of organizing as well as grasping the requirements of a new community, added to a wonderful activity both of mind and body, the Bishop of Huron at once became a valuable instructor and guide to those who did not come as well as to those who came and heard. The improved tone in the society of London, the high character of its merchants and professional men, the financial repute of its various monetary institutions, may be the result of accident. Rather let these beneficent changes be attributed to the construction of new churches by every denomination and creed, by the various schools and academies opened for higher education, emulative of the great work introduced by the Protestant Bishop, and by the natural consequence of these reforms. The imitators of His Lordship throughout Canada are evidences of the value and importance of a system of education in advance of that supplied in the Government Free Schools.

The Government left religious training possible. The Bishop made it a reality. The Church of England has never been feared as a proselytizing church, and its atmosphere of repose is attractive if not convincing to all having a tendency to religious thought.”

In 1847 Bishop Hellmuth married Catharine, daughter of General Thomas Evans of the British Army, and they have two sons and one daughter. The elder son, Isidore, is a graduate, with honors, of Trinity College, Cambridge, England, and a barrister in Toronto; Gustavus is a banker in London, Ontario; and Bertha, the wife of Captain Glancy, of the Royal Engineers, British Army.



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