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BLAKE, DOMINICK EDWARD, Church of England clergyman; b. 1806 in Kiltegan (Republic of Ireland), eldest child of the Reverend Dominick Edward Blake and Anne Margaret Hume; m. Louisa Jones, and they had two sons; d. 29 June 1859 in Toronto.

Dominick Edward Blake was of the Anglo-Irish gentry for whom education at Trinity College, Dublin, was customary. In 1823, two years after his father died, he entered the college and remained there until he graduated with a ba in the spring of 1829. Ordained deacon by the archbishop of Tuam on 17 Oct. 1830, he served a curacy at Westport, County Mayo, and became a priest on 20 May 1832. But the arduous work at Westport endangered his health and, in any case, the future was uninviting. That was probably why in the summer of 1832 Blake and his wife joined the rest of the family, including his brother William Hume*, and a number of friends from the university in emigrating to Upper Canada. After being licensed by Bishop Charles James Stewart* he was initially appointed to Caradoc Township in Middlesex County. One year after arriving in the province, however, Blake, accompanied by his wife, mother, and two unmarried sisters, was established in nearby Adelaide, a charge that was to have gone to Benjamin Cronyn*. Blake’s home church, St Anne’s, was built in 1833.

The prospects for an able, young clergyman were much brighter in Upper Canada, but Blake faced a financial problem on his arrival at Adelaide that, as it turned out, remained with him for the rest of his life. In the early 1830s the British government, under mounting pressure in the House of Commons, began to discontinue grants to the colonial church. The result, despite heated protests by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, was that unless local government could make up the deficit, clerical salaries were substantially reduced. Blake was one of the clergy affected, accumulating salary arrears of £840 during his 12 years at Adelaide. Although he seems not to have suffered actual poverty, the loss was serious enough to impel him to mount a lengthy campaign to secure payment. At times his determination embarrassed and annoyed Bishop John Strachan*, and it was without result: the arrears were still unpaid when Blake died.

In 1840, to supplement his income, Blake agreed to supply the SPG with a detailed journal of his missionary activities. The society had found that the appearance of such journals in its annual reports served to maintain public interest in the spiritual welfare of Upper Canada’s British settlers. Because preparing a journal required additional efforts from the clergyman, the society was prepared to pay for it. Blake kept the record for over a year and its entries reveal him as a zealous and conscientious clergyman whose unsparing exertions sometimes reduced him to exhaustion and illness. He was the township’s first Church of England cleric and he found newly settled Anglicans and potential converts scattered over a wide territory. He organized them into four congregations which he visited regularly and, before he left the area, had the satisfaction of seeing each of them erect a church.

By the mid 1840s his efforts began to win recognition. In February 1844 Blake was appointed superintendent of common schools for Adelaide Township. But just as he began his new duties the Reverend George Mortimer* of Trinity Church in Thornhill died and Bishop Strachan offered Blake the opportunity of succeeding him, which he accepted. Thornhill was a settled and thriving community located on Yonge Street north of Toronto. Trinity Church, completed in 1830, was the first of any denomination in the area and in 1840 had had to be enlarged to accommodate the rapidly growing congregation. There he continued to demonstrate that he was, in Strachan’s words, “an excellent clergyman.” Six years later, therefore, when the bishop appointed rural deans as agents of diocesan centralization, Blake was his choice for the Home District. Holding that position through the 1850s, Blake acted as a liaison between Strachan and the other clergy of the area.

The appointment involved him in the administrative details of the diocese as did his participation in the activities of the Church Society, of which he was an enthusiastic member from its beginning. But it was the inauguration of the diocesan synod in the early 1850s that allowed Blake to move closer to the centre of affairs. From the outset he took part in the discussions of synodical business, and his interest and ability were recognized by appointment to the synod’s executive committee when it was organized in 1856. Blake was a member of that body when it drafted a constitution for the diocese and defined for the first time the procedure for episcopal elections. In 1858, again as a member of the executive committee, he produced a controversial paper on clerical discipline, and in the same session of synod it was his amendment that initiated a debate on the diocesan canon concerning parishes. That August he wrote and had printed a statement on the legal position of the Canadian church challenging a report on church canons prepared by a synod committee under James Beaven*.

By the spring of 1859 Blake could look back on more than 25 years of labour for the church in Canada. It was only through the efforts of such men as he that the complex institutions of Europe could be brought intact across the ocean. Perhaps some sense of satisfaction with the part he had played was in his thoughts on the evening of 29 June as he addressed the annual dinner meeting at Trinity College, Toronto. In his speech he referred to the occasion as one of his happiest experiences in several years. After resuming his seat at the head table, he was suddenly overcome by pain and withdrew from the room. Dr James Bovell* was quickly summoned from his place in the hall but he could do nothing. Blake died within minutes.

H. E. Turner

Dominick Edward Blake is the author of A few brief observations upon the report of the committee on canons, &c., &c., addressed to the members of synod (Thornhill, [Ont.], 1858); a copy is among his papers in AO, MU 138, ser. A-3.

AO, MS 35, letter-books, 1839–43, especially p.63 (John Strachan to D. [E.] Blake, 26 Aug. 1840, enclosing letter from the Upper Canada Clergy Soc.); “to societies,” 1839–66; 1844–49; 1854–62; unbound papers, Blake, reports on the Home Rural Deanery, 9 April 1851, 3 June 1858; MU 138, ser.A-3. USPG, C/CAN/folder 370; X7: 489–92, 521–26, 580–93 (mfm. at PAC). Canadian Ecclesiastical Gazette (Toronto), 6 (1859): 89. J. D. Sirr, A memoir of the Honorable and Most Reverend Power Le Poer Trench, last archbishop of Tuam (Dublin, 1845), 773. Church, 3 Jan. 1850. Daily British Whig, 15–17 Sept. 1858. Echo and Protestant Episcopal Recorder (Toronto), 28 July 1859. Globe, 14 Oct. 1853; 3 May 1856; 19 June 1857; 8 June, 1 July 1859; 13 June 1860. Dora Aitken, A history of St. Ann’s Church and Adelaide (n.p., [1967]). D. M. FitzGerald, A chronicle of the parish of Trinity Church, Thornhill, 1830–1955, ed. S. A. R. Wood ([Thornhill?, 1955]). D. M. FitzGerald et al., Thornhill, 1793–1963: the history of an Ontario village (Thornhill, 1964).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

H. E. Turner, “BLAKE, DOMINICK EDWARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 19, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/blake_dominick_edward_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/blake_dominick_edward_8E.html
Author of Article: H. E. Turner
Title of Article: BLAKE, DOMINICK EDWARD
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: April 19, 2014