He was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland and became a Methodist at the age of 14. In 1819 he emigrated with his brother to Saint John, New Brunswick, where he was persuaded to become a candidate for the Methodist ministry. In 1820 he was appointed an assistant at St. David's in New Brunswick by the Nova Scotia District and in 1825 was admitted as a Methodist minister.
He earned an M.A. degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut in 1836 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity (D.D.) degree from the same institution in 1847. In 1836 he was appointed the first principal of Upper Canada Academy in Coburg, which became Victoria College in 1841. He remained at the school until 1840.
From 1841 to 1843 he served the Methodist church in Toronto, Kingston and Montreal. In 1849 he was appointed acting president of the Canada Methodist Conference and in 1851 became president. At his retirement in 1870 he had been chairman of the newly formed Western District and led to the formation of the Methodist Conference of Eastern British America and served as its president from 1856 to 1861 and 1867 to 1868. He had also been chairman of the Prince Edward Island District and chairman of the Saint John District.
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