The Story of Reverend George John Rawkin Salter

Early in 2019, the Lambton County Archives acquired a transcript by Reverend George John Rawkin Salter taken under oath on September 20th 1887. The transcript, regarding a dispute between Alexander Vidal and the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Huron, shares valuable insight to the life of Rev. Salter in Sarnia including the Vidal family and St. Georges Church in Sarnia.

Who is Reverend Salter?

Rev Salter was born in Devon England on May 26th, 1815 to Reverend John Salter and Dinah Adams (some reports mention a Dinah Pinhey).

He received a formal education after entering Christ Church April 17th, 1833 at the age of 17. Salter obtained his BA in 1837 then went on to complete his Masters of Arts at Oxford. He was ordained as clergyman of the Church England in 1848.

Coming to Canada and St. Georges Church

His journey brought him to Upper Canada in 1847 where he was appointed missionary by Bishop Strachan of the foundry whose diocese had the whole of Upper Canada seated under his authority. Rev. Salter was missionary in the Township of Moore and parts adjacent. As such, he held services in Sarnia once every three weeks at a time when there was no building of the Church of England. In 1849, Captain Richard E. Vidal erected St. George’s church at his own expense on a small one acre parcel on the north side of London Road. Rev. Salter was the first to hold church services here.

“It was called St. Georges, I believe, in honor of myself.” – Rev. Salter

Capt. Vidal furnished the church with pews, an altar, and the bell which was given by Mr. Townsend but possibly paid for by Capt. Vidal’s estate. During Capt. Vidal’s life he refrained to give the church to the bishop since he wanted to keep control of the church in his hands. He tended to all the maintenance and repairs and always had the church open and ready for Rev. Salter’s service. Capt. Vidal controlled the building and took charge of the collections.

” Capt. Vidal always had during his time the keys of the church. I lived 7 miles away and when I got there the church was always ready for service.” – Rev. Salter

Capt. Vidal used to make the collections each year and add it to the pew rents or give it as wine to the clergymen. Any remaining collections would go back to the church for general purposes such as a widows orphan fund or as gratuity to Rev. Salter.

Marrying Maria Vidal and Capt. Richard Vidals Death

In Rev. Salter’s words;

” When I asked him (Capt. Vidal) from time to time to give this property to the church he persistently refused and said in a joking way perhaps at some time I will give it to Maria, my wife. ”

In August of 1850, Reverend Salter married Capt. Vidal’s sixth child and first born daughter Maria Charlotte Vidal. She gave birth to at least thirteen children and they lived in Sarnia until 1869 before moving to Brantford.

The Church nor the adjoining grounds were consecrated at the time of Captain Vidal’s death in 1854 but after in around 1858 by Bishop Ben Cronyn. Up until Vidal’s death, Rev. Salter occupied there on sufferance being allowed to preach as often as he liked.

“I still preached with the church at the time of his death. I was not incumbent to the church as it was a private building. I was in intimate and confidential terms with Capt. Vidal during this perish. I married his daughter. He died in my arms.” – Rev. Salter

After Capt. Vidal’s death and before the consecration of the church, Rev. Salter continued to be a missionary of the church, holding services as he did formerly. After the church was consecrated, Rev. Salter remained incumbent of the church until almost 1870 when he took a new post in Brantford.

Rev. Salter passed on October 3rd 1889. Less than two months later his wife passed after a brief illness.

Fun Note: Late March 1867 the first telegram sent from England to Sarnia was addressed to Reverend Salter informing him of the sad news of his eldest sisters death in the days previous.


Lambton County Archives- 4B Salter

Lambton County Archives-  4B Salter Testimony


Find a Grave- Rev. George John Ranking Salter


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