YOUNG, GEORGE, Methodist minister and author; b. 31 Dec. 1821 near East Lake, Prince Edward County, Upper Canada, only son of George Young and Mary (Polly) Platt; m. 13 July 1848 Mary Alsy Holmes of Brantford, Upper Canada, and they had one son; d. 1 Aug. 1910 in Toronto.
George Young’s ancestors, United Empire Loyalists, were the first white settlers in Prince Edward County, Upper Canada. Much of his early life was spent on his stepfather’s farm, his father having died before his birth. He received little formal education, but his mother tutored him in the essentials of the Methodist faith. His own conversion occurred in October 1840 after the death of a close friend.
Young attended the Picton Grammar School for a year, was received on trial in June 1842, and was ordained and admitted to full connection with the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada in 1846. For the next 21 years he was to hold a variety of appointments in Upper and Lower Canada.
Young would have completed a career as a competent but undistinguished Methodist minister had it not been for a talk by the Reverend George Millward McDougall* in the autumn of 1867 on the need for missionaries in the northwest. Young resigned his posts as minister of Richmond Street Church, Toronto, chairman of the Toronto district, and superintendent of the circuit to take up the challenge. In May 1868 the reverends Young, Peter Campbell, Egerton Ryerson Young, and their families departed for the west with the Reverend McDougall as their guide. Once there, Young set about establishing the first Methodist mission in the Red River settlement (Man.).
Young’s appointment marked the beginnings of an important shift in Methodist missionary operations in the west, from an emphasis on Indian missions to the establishment of an institutional church serving the needs of settlers. He set up mission stations in several new communities in the colony, and in 1871 he built Grace Church, the first Methodist church in Winnipeg. His parishioners included a cross-section of old Red River fan-filies and Canadians. Two years later he founded the Wesleyan Institute, the first Methodist school in Winnipeg.
During the Red River resistance of 1869–70 Young sympathized with the Canadian party led by John Christian Schultz*, and made clear his opposition to Métis leader Louis Riel*. In his youth he had served as a volunteer in a squadron of dragoons during the rebellion of 1837–38 in Upper Canada and he remained a firm supporter of law and order. At Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg) he ministered to the spiritual needs of Riel’s prisoners, including Thomas Scott*. He pleaded unsuccessfully for Scott’s pardon, was present at his execution in 1870, and later called for the punishment of those connected with the “bloody tragedy.” In early October 1871 he served as chaplain to the volunteer defence force raised in anticipation of a Fenian invasion [see William Bernard O’Donoghue*].
Young had an interlude in eastern Canada from 1876 to mid 1879 and spent it ministering to congregations in the Toronto area. On his return to Manitoba, he settled in Emerson. In 1879 he was awarded an honorary dd from Cornell College, Iowa. After a year’s leave of absence in 1882 he was appointed superintendent of missions for Manitoba and the northwest as well as first president of the Manitoba and North-West Conference of the Methodist Church of Canada. He organized and chaired the conference’s first meeting in Winnipeg in July 1883.
Young retired from the active ministry the following year. Despite his successful work in the west, his roots were in the east, so he returned to Toronto. He had overseen the birth of Methodism in the west and its development into a self-sustaining institutional church. He lacked the religious fervour of the early Methodists and the concern for social issues demonstrated by his successors, but his organizational skills helped the Methodist Church to establish itself in western Canada.
While in retirement Young wrote his memoirs. Published in 1897, Manitoba memories recounts his version of the events of 1869–70 and describes his ministry in Manitoba and Ontario. It is for this work and for his strong stand against Riel, compared with the position of his fellow clergymen, that Young has been chiefly remembered. Manitoba memories would influence the historiography of the Red River resistance until the 1950s.
Christian Guardian, 1840–1910. Manitoba Morning Free Press, 2 Aug. 1910. Alexander Begg, Alexander Begg’s Red River journal and other papers relative to the Red River resistance of 1869–1870, ed. W. L. Morton (Toronto, 1956; repr. New York, 1969). W. H. Brooks, “Methodism in the Canadian west in the nineteenth century”