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Canadian History
William Cochrane


D.D., minister of Zion Church, Brantford, was born in Paisley, Scotland, February, 9th, 1831, his parents being William and Mary Cochrane. His father was born in Dalry, Ayrshire, and the family sprung from the same stock as the renowned seaman, Thomas Cochrane, afterwards Earl of Dundonald, or Lord Cochrane. His mother was from the Island of Arran, Scotland. After attending the parish schools of his native town from the age of four and a half years until twelve, he entered the shop of Murray & Stewart, booksellers and stationers, where he remained between ten and eleven years. He was a youth of indomitable energy, and devoted all his leisure hours to study. So great was his thirst for knowledge during the latter part of that period, that he gave up all his spare time to the study of the classics, and finally entered the University of Glasgow, going from Paisley every morning at 5 o'clock to attend classes. When he was in his twenty-third year, two gentlemen in Cincinnati, who had known him in Paisley when a mere child, and who had heard of his persevering efforts to obtain a higher education, offered him a home and ample means to study for the ministry, on condition that he would come to the United States. Although the proposal was strongly opposed by his pastor, the late Rev. Dr. Wm. Fraser, of the Free Middle Church, Paisley, and other friends - who wished him to enter the ministry in the Scottish Church - he accepted the offer, and after spending a few weeks in Cincinnati, entered the classes of Hanover College, Indiana, in September, 1854, where he graduated with highest honour, and took his degree of B. A. in 1857. During the last year of his course in Hanover, he pursued his theological studies, along with the regular branches of the art course, under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Edwards, professor of Theology in Danville, Kentucky, and recently pastor of the Seventh Church, Cincinnati. Immediately after his graduation, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and pursued his studies there for two years, under the Rev. Drs. Hodge, Alexander, McGill and Green. In February, 1859, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery Church, Jersey City, N. J., on the 7th June, 1859, where he continued for three years. In December, 1861, he paid a visit to his friend, Rev. Dr. John Thomson, then minister of Knox Church, Galt, by whom he was asked to preach in Zion Church, Brantford, which was then vacant, and heavily burdened with a debt that almost threatened its extinction. Immediately afterwards, the congregation sent him a pressing and unanimous call, which he was led seriously to consider, and finally accepted. Inducted into his present charge on the 13th of May, 1862, he has served his people faithfully for nearly twenty-four years. During this long period he has received repeated calls and flattering invitations to wealthy churches, in other and much larger cities than Brantford. Boston, New York, Newburyport, Detroit, Chicago and Toronto, have all endeavoured to have him, but he has firmly resisted the temptation to leave Brantford, and sever the ties that bind him to an attached people. During his ministry in Brantford, the congregation has more than quadrupled in numbers, and has now upwards of 600 members. In addition to his pastoral work, Dr. Cochrane, in 1874, founded the Brantford Young Ladies' College, assisted by other gentlemen in his congregation, and acted as president from its start, until 1880, teaching some of the higher classes during every session. For fifteen years he has filled the office of clerk of the Synod of Hamilton and London, and for fourteen years was clerk of the Presbytery of Paris. For thirteen years he has been convener of the Home Mission Committee of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, an office of great responsibility and labour, and entailing a large amount of travel and correspondence. With all these ecclesiastical burdens, he is at the same time one of the most public-spirited citizens that Brantford contains. He has been for thirteen years president of the Mechanics' Institute, now Free Library, and fully identifies himself with every educational and literary enterprise that has for its object the good of the community and county. Rev. Dr. Cochrane has had his full share of honours from the church he has loved and served so well, and from other quarters. In 1864, he received the degree of M. A. from Hanover College, and again, in 1875 he degree of Doctor of Divinity, having at the same time the offer of the latter honour from another college. In 1869, he represented the Canada Presbyterian Church at the General Assemblies of the Scottish and Irish Churches. In 1873 he was sent as deputy to Manitoba, in connection with college and mission work, and again in 1881. In July, 1882, he was sent as deputy to visit the churches in British Columbia, and at the last General Assembly, held in St. John, N. B. (June, 1882), he was unanimously elected to the highest gift within the church - the moderatorship of the General Assembly. In 1884, Rev. Dr. Cochrane was also appointed one of the deputies to the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance in Belfast. Rev. Dr. Cochrane is an indefatigable worker, on the platform, in Church courts and by his pen; and no clergyman is more frequently called to preach special sermons at anniversaries and on the opening of new churches. As a preacher he is popular in the best sense of the term. Though a speaker of great readiness and fluency, his sermons are prepared with the greatest care, and as a rule written in full. He uses his notes very little in the pulpit; his delivery is forcible, animated and impressive; his arrangement is logical, his style clear, and his illustrations often vivid and striking. Thoroughly despising sensationalism of all kinds, he preaches the gospel in its simplicity and purity, and by his clear exposition of truth and earnest appeals to the heart and conscience, seldom fails to make a deep impression upon his hearers. Within the last few years he has published four volumes of sermons, - "The Heavenly Vision," "Christ and Christian Life, " "Warning and Welcome," and "Future Punishment, or does Death end Probation?"  These volumes admirably stand the crucial test of the closest study. As a writer he is clear, terse and vigorous, and his style, though affecting nothing of the ornate, possesses may of the graces of the polished scholar. In addition to these volumes, he is a frequent writer for the press, and several of his papers have been republished in American periodicals. As a lecturer, were he to respond to all his application, during the winter season he would never be at home. The church in which Rev. Dr. Cochrane statedly ministers is now one of the finest in Ontario. In 1868 the edifice was enlarged by the addition of galleries; in 1876 a handsome organ was added; and this year it has been entirely remodelled and enlarged at a cost of $14,000. Rev. Dr. Cochrane was married July 24th, 1860, to Mary Neilson Houstoun, of Paisley, Scotland, who died January 8th, 1871. In October 2nd, 1873, he was again married to Jennette Elizabeth Balmer, of Oakville, Ontario. His family consists of three boys and a girl, and his eldest son is at present connected with a large commission house in Chicago.


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