ARNOLD, WILLIAM, Church of England clergyman; b. 25 Dec. 1804 in Blackrock (Republic of Ireland); m. first probably in 1828 Maria Charlotte O’Hara, granddaughter of Felix O’Hara*, and they had four daughters; m. secondly c. 1842 Ellen Boyle of Gaspé, Canada East, and they had one daughter; d. 25 May 1857 in Gaspé.
William Arnold immigrated to Upper Canada with his parents, who settled near Hamilton. He studied for some time under the direction of two missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the reverends Robert Blakey and John Wilson. On the recommendation of Bishop Jacob Mountain* in 1824, Arnold, the son “of parents very respectable, but much straitened in their means,” received an SPG studentship. Two years later he was summoned to Quebec, ordained deacon, and appointed to the mission of New Carlisle and Paspébiac, with a salary of £100 paid by the SPG. Ordained priest at Quebec on 28 Oct. 1827, Arnold was unable to return immediately to his Baie des Chaleurs mission because of ice conditions and thus ministered to isolated settlements in the Quebec region throughout the winter and early spring.
Not long after his return to Baie des Chaleurs, Arnold married Maria Charlotte O’Hara, a member of a prominent Gaspé family. Some time before November 1828 he wrote to the bishop of Quebec and the SPG requesting that the cure of Gaspé be annexed to his charge so that he could be near his wife who had returned to live with her family because of illness. The SPG replied in January 1829 by transferring him to Gaspé. Arnold’s new mission included the settlements from Grande-Grève to Percé on the northeastern tip of the peninsula and he seems to have endured the difficulties of travelling between the scattered and isolated villages of his charge with patience and fortitude. He was active in promoting education and was a frequent visitor to many small community schools. Although he probably had no formal medical training, he had acquired a reputation as a doctor by bandaging wounds and setting broken bones. By 1835, however, Bishop Charles James Stewart* wrote to the SPG that Arnold had “a permanent rheumatic affection of the thigh and cannot stand the boats and snowshoes” and recommended that “as he believed he could do good work in another place . . . he should be removed before the winter.” No action was taken. Two years later Bishop George Jehoshaphat Mountain* visited him and reported that “poor Mr Arnold contracted at Gaspé a habit of too free indulgence in the use of liquor.” Arnold appears to have left Gaspé under a cloud.
During 1837–38 Arnold served the missions of Lachute and Gore Township. In October of the latter year he began work in the area around Bury and Dudswell in the Eastern Townships, where he took a special interest in Sunday schools and, according to Bishop Mountain, “gained the respect and affection of everybody.” None the less, Mountain also wrote that “poor Mr Arnold . . . became ensnared again at Montreal, on a visit to that City, & so lost himself that he cannot be again employed in the Church.” Mountain seems to have relented, for Arnold was appointed assistant to the Reverend William Devereux Baldwyn at Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu) in late 1839. Arnold was active in this ministry: he served Lachine and La Prairie, established congregations at Sabrevois and L’Acadie, and was military chaplain. However, on 4 March 1840 his wife died and, faced with the prospect of bringing up four young daughters, he requested that he be stationed at the Gaspé mission so that his children could live with their maternal grandmother. Permission was granted and Arnold was at Gaspé by spring 1842.
Shortly after his return, Arnold married Ellen Boyle and settled his family in the home he had built some years previously. In 1844 he applied to the SPG for a post in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania, Australia) but did not go. Instead he ministered to the people of Gaspé for another 13 years. In his reports to the SPG he explained some of the difficulties faced by his parishioners, mainly poor fishermen and their families, who were “charged 150 to 200 per cent above the regular market price for food, clothing & fishing tackle.” They “commence the fishing season overwhelmed with a debt previously contracted, for articles consumed before hand, which the most successful result of their endeavour can scarcely meet.” According to Arnold, as long as the bartering system continued, “the few capitalists” would continue to hold the fishermen “in complete thraldom.”
By the early 1850s the Gaspé mission had increased in size so as to require two ministers. Despite the setbacks of his early career, Arnold continued his ministry until his death, establishing churches and chapels and promoting education. A devoted husband and father, he had also shown concern for both the spiritual and the temporal welfare of his parishioners.
AC, Gaspé (Percé), État civil, Anglicans, Protestant Episcopal Congregation (Gaspé), 26 May 1857. ACC-Q, 52; 105: 26, 36. USPG, C/CAN/Que./folders 368, 370, 420; Journal of SPG, 35: 201–2; 37: 32–33; 38: 351; 40: 318–23. Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 10 June 1857. Millman, Life of Charles James Stewart. E. B. Mills, Remembrance (n. p., ). C.-E. Roy et Lucien Brault, Gaspé depuis Cartier (Québec, 1934).