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BELL, ANDREW, Presbyterian minister; b. 5 Sept. 1803 in London, eldest child of William Bell and Mary Black; m. first 1 May 1832 Christian Dalziel; m. secondly 21 Nov. 1833 Eliza Thomson, and they had two sons and one daughter; m. thirdly February 1840 Elizabeth Notman, and they had two sons and one daughter; d. 27 Sept. 1856 in L’Orignal, Upper Canada.

Andrew Bell led a peripatetic childhood. His early years were spent in London, and in 1810 his family moved to Scotland, living first in Rothesay and then in a series of temporary homes until 1817 when they emigrated to Perth, Upper Canada.

Brought up in an evangelical Presbyterian atmosphere by his Scottish parents, Andrew decided to follow his father into the ministry. In June 1823, after having received nearly all his education at the hands of his father, he sailed for Scotland to complete his studies. For the next three years he took courses at the University of Glasgow and at the Associate Synod of Scotland’s divinity school. He found, however, that his years in the Canadas had so profoundly altered his outlook that Scotland now seemed an alien environment, and he longed to return to the freer society and clearer skies of Upper Canada. Without completing his theological studies, he returned home in April 1826 and took a post as private tutor to a family at Albion Mills (Hamilton). Still wanting to become a minister, he was taken on trial by members of the United Presbytery of Upper Canada, including William Jenkins*, and was licensed to preach on 25 Sept. 1827 at York (Toronto). Shortly after that he accepted a call to Streetsville (Mississauga) and was ordained on 15 July 1828. While there he embarked on an eight-week missionary tour of the region and prepared a lengthy report of his findings. In 1830 he moved to nearby Toronto Township, retaining the Streetsville charge until 1835 when he resigned it in favour of the Reverend William Rintoul. He married in 1832 for the first time, but his wife, an invalid, died the same year.

Andrew Bell soon became a leading figure in his presbytery which, in 1831, had reorganized itself into the United Synod of Upper Canada. Convinced that Presbyterians would have to unite if they were ever to be a force within provincial society, he pressed his synod to merge with either the Canadian affiliates of the United Associate Synod of the Secession Church, among whom the Reverend William Proudfoot was a leading figure, or with the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the Church of Scotland. When the latter formally proposed union with the United Synod of Upper Canada in 1832, Bell was one of his group’s negotiators. The talks, along with divisions over the validity of accepting government grants, shattered his synod. In the resulting confusion he and three other ministers, including James George*, joined the Presbyterian Church of Canada in 1834. Bell made an important contribution to it as an organizer, rarely proposing motions or leading debates, but sitting on numerous committees and assuming, from 1843 to 1856, the onerous job of clerk, a position he had filled in his former synod as well.

Bell remained with the Presbyterian Church of Canada synod following the disruption of 1844 when several of its members left to form what was popularly called the Free Church [see Robert Burns*]. After the Reverend Mark Young Stark*, minister at Dundas and Ancaster, joined the Free Church, his former congregations issued a joint call to Bell, which he accepted in February 1847. He stayed with them until October 1852 when, seeking a better salary and hoping that a change of environment would benefit his health, he moved to the long-vacant congregations of L’Orignal and Plantagenet.

A congenial colleague and devoted family man, Andrew Bell displayed no signs of his father’s tempestuous personality or religious fervour. He was conscientious in caring for his congregations, and in all his posts he undertook the exhausting missionary tours common in that era. But his real enthusiasm was reserved for his hobby, geology, in which he became highly knowledgeable. In 1854 he served on a select committee of the Legislative Assembly to advise on the work of William Edmond Logan* and the Geological Survey of Canada, which Robert Bell*, his son, was later to direct. At his request, his extensive fossil and mineral collection was given to Queen’s College, Kingston, after his death.

H. J. Bridgman

[Andrew Bell wrote a lucid and well-received “Appendix to letters from Perth” for his father William’s Hints to emigrants; in a series of letters from Upper Canada (Edinburgh, 1824), as well as compiling A collection of such acts of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, in connection with the Church of Scotland, as appear to contain standing laws and rules of the church (Toronto, 1847).

The main sources for his life are QUA, William Bell papers, and the Bell–Williamson correspondence in the Queen’s Univ. letters; PAC, MG 24, H10 (photocopies); and the correspondence of the presbyteries and synods mentioned in the text. Further material is found in PAC, MG 9, D7, 4 and 25, and in Bell’s folder in UCA, Biog. files. Contrary to the entry in Union list of MSS (Maurice), 1: 79, the UCA does not possess Andrew Bell correspondence.  h.j.s.]

      Canadian Christian Examiner, and Presbyterian Magazine (Toronto), 3 (1839): 302–4. Canadian Miscellany; or, the Religious, Literary & Statistical Intelligencer (Montreal), 1 (1828): 111. Croil, Hist. and statistical report (1868), 9, 48, 82, 99–100. Presbyterian, 1 (1848): 5; 5 (1852): 178; 9 (1856): 163, 178. Bathurst Courier, 10 Oct. 1856 [this obituary was written by his father, William Bell]. Christian Guardian, 18 Dec. 1830, 9 May 1832, 4 Dec. 1833. The matriculation albums of the University of Glasgow from 1728 to 1858, comp. W. L. Addison (Glasgow, 1913). Scott et al., Fasti ecclesiœ scoticanæ, vol.7. Gregg, Hist. of Presbyterian Church.

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Cite This Article

H. J. Bridgman, “BELL, ANDREW (1803-56),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 2, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bell_andrew_1803_56_8E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bell_andrew_1803_56_8E.html
Author of Article:   H. J. Bridgman
Title of Article:   BELL, ANDREW (1803-56)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   March 2, 2024