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MILLIGAN, GEORGE SEATON, Methodist clergyman, teacher, and educational administrator; b. 3 Feb. 1828 in Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, Scotland; m. first 8 Jan. 1852 Margaret Amelia Burpee (d. 1864) in Burton, N.B.; m. secondly 27 Sept. 1865 Sarah Elizabeth Jordan in Woodstock, N.B.; there were two sons and one daughter; d. 23 Jan. 1902 in St John’s.

With his parents, Presbyterians, George S. Milligan emigrated from the small town of Thornhill to New Brunswick in 1842. Already soundly educated in Scotland, he found work as a teacher in a public school in Nashwaak (Durham Bridge) at the age of 15, but exchanged this position for private tutorial work a year later. In 1845 he was engaged as an assistant master of classics and mathematics at the Wesleyan Academy in Sackville; he left in 1847 to assume charge of the grammar school at Sheffield, where he remained for seven years. Having embarked on a course of studies at King’s College, Fredericton, he completed an honours degree in January 1852 and an ma two years later.

At this point Milligan received the Methodist call and, though now married, was admitted to the ministry on probation. He then went on to a series of circuit appointments, occasionally interrupted by ill health and by further teaching positions, in many parts of what is now Atlantic Canada: Burton, N.B. (1854–56); Pownal, P.E.I. (1856–57); River John, N.S. (1857–60); Guysborough, N.S. (1860–62); Woodstock, N.B. (1864–67); Brunswick Street in Halifax (1867–70); Charlottetown (1870–71); Saint John, N.B. (1871–72); and St John’s (1872–75). For a short period in the 1860s Milligan was professor of Latin at the newly opened Mount Allison Wesleyan College, and as late as 1878 he was tempted by the office of principal of Mount Allison ladies’ academy. But three years earlier he had taken up the position of superintendent of the Methodist schools in Newfoundland, a responsibility that he was to hold with unremitting diligence and energy for the remainder of his career.

The Newfoundland denominational system of education (which would be entrenched with great care in the Terms of Union between Canada and the province in 1949) had emerged by fits and starts, and sometimes half unintentionally, over several decades between 1836 and 1874. Through acts of the assembly legislators attempted to devise methods of accommodating the religious differences in society and to establish the administrative structures necessary to ensure an equitable division of the colonial budget for education. In 1874 a decisive step was taken with the creation of a “troika” system, a tripartite division of educational control through the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist denominations. Meticulous in his command of administrative detail, energetic in his travels to all parts of the colony where Methodist schools had been established, and tactful in his relations with his fellow superintendents, Milligan proved himself an exceptionally able and far-seeing man. The annual reports which he and his colleagues were required to submit repeatedly define, as the historian of education in Newfoundland, Frederick W. Rowe, observes, many of the advancements that were to take place after 1900. During Milligan’s superintendency, changes were made to improve the quality of teachers through district training programs, certification by examining boards, and salary bonuses, and there were marked curriculum reforms. Among the latter was the introduction of the study of Newfoundland itself. Special textbooks were commissioned from such authorities as James Patrick Howley*, whose Geography of Newfoundland . . . appeared in 1876, and Moses Harvey, who prepared a Text-book of Newfoundland history, for the use of schools and academies, first published in 1885.

With his own strong sense of the importance of higher education, Milligan also took a deep interest in the success of the St John’s Wesleyan Academy and its successor the Methodist College and in fostering their connections with sister institutions in the Maritime provinces and elsewhere through the introduction of the University of London senior matriculation examinations. He was an invaluable member of Methodist boards and executive committees, and there was no aspect of education in Newfoundland which escaped his attention.

In addition to these steady labours, Milligan lent his energy to the affairs of the Methodist Church: he served as president of the Newfoundland Conference four times (1874, 1878, 1884, and 1894). He was awarded the degree of dd honoris causa by Mount Allison Wesleyan College in 1883 and an lld by the University of New Brunswick in 1900. With Canon William Pilot*, superintendent of Church of England schools, he wrote the Newfoundland section of Educational systems of the chief colonies of the British empire . . . (London, 1901). George Milligan was a man of wide reading and accurate scholarship, and a writer of fluent, vigorous prose.

G. M. Story

UCC, Newfoundland Conference Arch. (St John’s), G. S. Milligan papers. Daily News (St John’s), 24, 28 Jan. 1902. Evening Telegram (St John’s), 24 Jan. 1902. Biblio. of Nfld (O’Dea and Alexander), nos.836, 945a–b. A century of Methodism in StJohn’s, Newfoundland, 1815–1915, ed. J. W. Nichols (St John’s, [1915]). Collegian ([St John’s]), 1960: 65–84. D. W. Johnson, History of Methodism in Eastern British America . . . ([Sackville, N.B.], n.d.). Reid, Mount Allison, vol. 1. F. W. Rowe, The development of education in Newfoundland (Toronto, 1964), esp. c.11.

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G. M. Story, “MILLIGAN, GEORGE SEATON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 22, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/milligan_george_seaton_13E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/milligan_george_seaton_13E.html
Author of Article:   G. M. Story
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   September 22, 2023