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Key Number: HS 18198
Site Name: Ralph Connor Memorial Church
Other Names:
Site Type: 1603 - Religious: Church, Cathedral or Chapel


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
24 10 5

Address: 617-621 - 8 Street
Number: 17-21
Street: 8
Avenue: 6
Town: Canmore
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Storeys: 1 1/2
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Medium Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Skirting Board
Boxed Eaves
Towers, Steeples and Domes: Other
Exterior: Enclosed gable, roofed front entry with gothic inspired windows flanking door, small open bellcast hip-roofed belfry with bell and finial, small window lights with lead dividers, 6' frieze board, boxed eaves, 6' skirting board.
Interior: N/A
Environment: 3 town lots. Located on a residential street in Canmore.
Condition: Good. 20 FEB 1985. In excellent condition and well maintained.
Alterations: Hall expansion-u-shaped, court yard circa 1982, moved its width west and 8 feet forward onto new foundation.


Construction: Construction Date:
Approximate date of construction - 1890
Usage: Usage Date:
Presbterian Mission
United Church
Ralph Connor Memorial Church
Owner: Owner Date:
United Church of Canada
Architect: Rev. Charles William Gordon
Builder: Rev. Charles William Gordon
Craftsman: N/A
History: Reverend Charles William Gordons pen name, Ralph Connor. Over 3 million copies of his books sold before 1940.
1888 - Presbyterian Mission started on this site.
1890-1891 - church built.
1893 - Rev. Gordon left this church and Canmore.
1925 - it became a United church.
1942 - renamed Ralph Connor Memorial Church.
One of the first Presbytian Missions in Southern Alberta. It has been in continuous use since its construction.
* * *
Historical Importance:
Ralph Connor United Church was originally a Presbyterian mission building, the mission having been established in 1888. It was one of the first Presbterian Missions in Southern Alberta. The Rev. Charles William Gordon, the second Presbyterian missionary in the area, collected money and materials and built the present church in 1890-91.
It is the oldest church building still in use in Canmore. After leaving Canmore in 1893, Rev. Gordon, using the pseudonym 'Ralph Connor', achieved international fame as a novelist, and his Canmore experiences formed the basis of his earliest books. (His novels sold 3,000,000 copies before 1940). Using his fame to further his beliefs, Connor was instrumental in the formation of the United Church in 1925.
Architectural Importance:
Ralph Connor Church is one of the oldest surviving examples of classic mission style architecture. In excellent condition, it is representative of the early Presbyterian missions in Southern Alberta.
* * *
A Biographical Sketch of Ralph Connor (Charles M. Gordon) - based on his autobiography - 'Postscript to Adventure'
Born in 1860 in Glengarry County, Ontario, Charles W. Gordon spent his early years in this primitive Geolic-speaking frontier town where his father, Rev. Donald Gordon, a stern Scottish Presbyterian preacher, was responsible for the Indianlands Pastoral Charge. One of seven children his character was greatly shaped by his mother Mary Robertson Gordon, the daughter of a cultured and influential family from Sherbrooke, Quebec who had turned down an invitation to become Headmistress at Mt. Holyoke College for her role as a minister's wife in backwoods Ontario.
Educated at the University of Toronto where he graduated with honors in Classics and English in 1883 and at Knox college where he completed his theological training in 1887, Charles W. Gordon spent two years teaching and a year of special studies in Edinburgh, Scotland before taking his first pastoral charge in the Upper Bow River Valley near Banff, Alberta. While in Banff, he founded and built the Presbyterian Church in Canmore. Four years later, in 1894, he was called to St.
Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg, where he preached for the remainder of his ministry. It was while at St. Stephen's that he wrote his first novel, 'Black Rock', which was based on his experiences in the Canadian Rockies. From that moment until his death in 1937, Charles W. Gordon (using his pen-name, Ralph Connor) produced a continuous flow of Canadian literature - approximately 30 books in all. His writings were very popular right from the beginning, not only in Canada, but also in the United States and in Europe.
In 1914, at the age of 54 years, he was appointed Chaplain of the 43rd Cameron Highlanders and spent two years with them on the front lines during World War I. During 1917, he was called back to Canada by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, to make a speaking tour of canadian cities with the hopes that he could convey the gravity of the situation to the Canadian people whose interest in the war had deteriorated. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to the United States as a diplomatic emissary representing Great Britain and Canada to present the Allied view of the War. During this mission he spoke with President Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and various leaders of the financial, political and religious community in the United States.
Within a few months, the United States had committed itself to the Allied Cause.
After the war, Dr. Gordon returned to his duties at St. Stephen's where he immediately became embroiled in the problems of demobilization, the resulting unemployment and the rise of labour unions. During this time he served as the chairman of the Manitoba Council of Industry, negotiating labour disputes. In 1921 he was elected Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Always interested in movements which promote unity, Dr. Gordon was an active proponent of the United Church of Canada, the World Council of Churches and the League of Nations in Geneva.
On October 31, 1938...Charles Gordon died. His contributions to Canadian life, literature and history have been all but forgotten.
Besides a church named in his honour and some volumes bearing his pen-name, Ralph Connor, there is very little to remind us today of this great Canadian.
* * *
Draft Release Edmonton, Alberta
Mary J. LeMessurier, Minister of Culture, announced today that Ralph Connor Memorial United Church in Canmore has been designated a Provincial Historic Resource.
This bilding is an important part of the history of the Presbyterian Church in Alberta. It was constructed in 1890-91, two years after the establishment of a Presbyterian Mission in Canmore - the first mission station established by this church in Southern Alberta.
The construction of this building was the result of the effortrs of Charles William Gordon. This was his first pastoral charge. Gordon remained in Canmore until 1894 when he was called to St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Winnipeg, where he remained for the remainder of his ministry. Gordon eventurally became a major figure in Canadian literature under the pen name of Ralph Connor. The church at Canmore was renamed in his honor. His fist novel, Black Rock, was based on his experiences in the Canadian Rockies. During his literary career Connor wrote thirty books.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Record Information: Record Information Date:
WANG 1990/01/01


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0750
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