Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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MCCURDY, JAMES FREDERICK, native son; scholar and author; b. Chatham, 18 Feb 1847, s/o John McCurdy and Catherine Thomson; brother of John McCurdy Jr; m. 1881, Isabella Russell, of Dalhousie, N.B.; d. Toronto, 30 Mar 1935.

J. Frederick McCurdy received most of his elementary and secondary instruction at the County Grammar School from James Millar, whom he considered to be "ignorant," and for whom he felt only contempt. He spent his final year studying at the Presbyterian Academy under William Crocket, for whom he had boundless admiration. He then took the arts program at the University of New Brunswick (BA 1866), at the conclusion of which he served a fifteen-month term as principal of the grammar school at Dalhousie, N.B.

McCurdy was schooled for the ministry and in advanced theological and oriental studies at Princeton University (PhD 1878). He was named to the Princeton faculty but resigned when his acceptance of Darwinism and his 'modernist' interpretations of the Bible were attacked. In the period 1882-84 he did postgraduate study at the universities of Leipzig and Göttingen in Germany. After his return he supplied for a time in his father's former pulpit at St John's in Chatham. In acerbic letters which he wrote to the Union Advocate during this interval on the controversy over the introduction of the Canada Temperance Act he showed that he was not one to suffer fools gladly.

From 1885 until his retirement in 1914 McCurdy was a senior member of faculty of University College, Toronto, where, to quote Prof. John S. Moir, "he made biblical studies an important and popular discipline in a secular university and trained a generation of outstanding scholars." For this reason he has been called the "father of biblical studies in Canada." He was honored by the University of New Brunswick in 1894 with an LLD, and his monumental three-volume work entitled History. Prophesy, and the Monuments (1894-1901) earned him international standing as a scholar. The award-winning Canadian novelist Gwethalyn Graham and her older sister Isabel LeBourdais, who wrote The Trial of Steven Truscott (1966), were granddaughters.

Note re. later publication - after entry on James Thomson.


[b] church records [m] Telegraph 4 Aug 1881 [d] Can. Encycl. / Advocate 4 Mar 1885 (for example); Ganong Collection (scrapbook #3); Leader 16 Dec 1965, 14 Apr 1966; Morgan (CM&W) 1912; McCurdy Genealogy