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James Robert Robertson

(1872 – 1932) -courtesy Linday Elms James Robert Robertson was born in Cold Springs, near Cobourg, Ontario on March 19, 1872. He was one of eight children born to Frank and Mary Robertson. In 1880 the family moved to Meadow Lea, about thirty miles west of Winnipeg. He went to a little school barely large enough to exist, however, James and his brother George, missed a lot of schooling in order to help on the farm. At the age of fourteen he joined the Church and began preparing himself for the ministry. When he turned eighteen he returned to Public School and at nineteen he went to Manitoba College (University of Winnipeg), from which he graduated in 1897 with a Bachelor of Art degree. Two years in-between were spent working for financial reasons. In the autumn of 1899 he graduated top of his class in Theology from Manitoba College, however, his second year was at Knox College in Toronto. On December 19, 1899 he was ordained by the Presbytery of Kootenay in Grand Forks, B.C. In March 1900 he was called and inducted and stayed in Grand Forks until October 1905. In 1901 he was united in marriage to Christina Muir. The new Knox Church in Revelstoke called him and he settled there for four years from 1905 until October 1909. That month he went to St. Andrew’s Church in Nanaimo and was there until January 1913. He was then called to the pastorate of St. David’s Church in South Vancouver and for fourteen and a half years he was the faithful pastor of the congregation. His final pastorate (1927) was Trafalger Road Unity Church, afterwards known as St. James’ United Church in Kitsilano, which eventually became the Trinity United Church in the 1990’s. James Robertson had been appointed by Conference to the charge of Salt Spring Island, but on Sunday, June 26, 1932 he collapsed in his pulpit after having preached a farewell sermon. Robertson was only sixty years old. Since James Robert Robertson’s student days in Manitoba the years were one long record of service. Even his recreations were of the strenuous kind. His work towards his Bachelor of Divinty degree, which he received in 1906, was regarded as a hobby rather than as an assigned task. On the climbing front, Robertson was a charter member of the Alpine Club of Canada in 1906 and attended the club’s first annual camp at Yoho making ascents of Mount Burgess and Mount Vice President. At this camp Arthur Wheeler, the ACC President and founder, had made it a requirement that for anyone to become an active member of the ACC it was necessary to undertake an ascent of Mount Vice President. Robertson’s ascents during the camp were made in the company of the Swiss Guide Edward Feuz Jr. The following year Robertson, again using the assistance of Edward Feuz Jr. as guide, made the first ascent (June 11, 1907) of Mount Begbie near Revelstoke with Reverend Doctor J. Herdman (ACC Vice President) and Rupert W. Haggen. In January of 1909, Robertson and several other local members of the ACC invited Arthur Wheeler to Revelstoke to give a presentation on mountaineering and the Alpine Club of Canada, and during his visit Wheeler accepted the role of Honorary President of the newly formed Revelstoke Mountaineering Club of which Robertson was the first President. This RMC was not considered in competition with the ACC but it was hoped to be a recruiting ground for the Alpine Club. Three years later in August 1912 while living in Nanaimo, and through his acquaintance with Arthur Wheeler, Robertson joined a party led by Edward Wheeler to Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. This party of nine made the first ascent of the picturesque Strathcona Matterhorn, the second highest peak on the island, which they christened Elkhorn. However, it is as a preacher, and a pastor that Reverend James Robertson will be best remembered. Thoughtful and stimulating in the pulpit, untiring in pastoral visitation, diligent in secretarial and committee work of the Church Courts, in his own quiet persistent way he made a real contribution to Church life in Western Canada. The following is a list of some of Reverend James Robertson’s achievements: Moderator of Synod B.C. 1922–1923 President of Vancouver General Ministerial Association, 1922-1923 Secretary since 1914 of the Pacific Coast Theological Conference President for ten years of the Social Service Council of South Vancouver Member elect of the First General Council of the United Church of Canada Secretary of the Provincial Joint Church Union Committee Secretary of Presbyterian Church Union Committee Secretary of Board of Control of the Redemptive Home Member of Synod’s and Presbytery’s Committees on Home Missions, and Social Service Member of Synod’s General Interests’ Committee Sources: J.R Robertson. “Alpine Club of Canada – The First Annual Camp Held in the Yoho Valley.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (July 21, 1906) p. 2. J.R. Robertson. “The Climb of Mt. Burgess.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (July 28, 1906) p. 2-3. J.R. Robertson. “The Climb of Mount Vice President.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (August 11, 1906) p. 2-3. J.R. Robertson. “Through Yoho Park.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (September 22, 1906) p. 2. J.R. Robertson. “Ascent of Mt. Begbie – A Graphic Description of the Successful Scaling of Revelstoke’s Most Picturesque and Highest Peak.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (June 19, 1907) p. 1. “Canadian Alpine Club – President A.O. Wheeler Gives Interesting Address – Revelstoke Mountaineering Club Organized.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (January 9, 1909) p. 1. “Local Alpine Club – Revelstoke Mountaineering Club Organized.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (January 9, 1909) p. 1. “Address and Presentation – From Knox Church Congregation to Their Popular Pastor.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (October 13, 1909) p. 1. “Mountaineering Club – Elect New President. Propose Construction of New Trail.” The Mail-Herald [Revelstoke, B.C.] (October 20, 1909) p. 1. Wheeler, A.O. “The Alpine Club of Canada in Strathcona Park.” The Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 5. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1913. p. 82-95. Wheeler, E.O. “Mount Elkhorn, Strathcona Park.” The Canadian Alpine Journal. Vol. 5. The Alpine Club of Canada. Banff, Alberta. 1913. p. 44-48.