Hellmuth, Isaac. The fact that the subject of this sketch was one of the three Hebrew Christian Bishops  of the last century—Bishops Alexander and Schereschewsky being the other two—invests his life and memory with a special interest for all workers for Israel.
Whilst Alexander spent his life in actively seeking “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in various lands of their dispersion, and Schereschewsky the “other sheep” of the Redeemer’s fold in the heathen Empire of China, Bishop Hellmuth’s career was mainly associated with the promotion of the spiritual and intellectual interests of the sons and daughters of the Greater Britain beyond the seas.
Isaac Hellmuth was born at Warsaw, Poland, on December 14th, 1820. [His father’s name was Hirsch or Hirschmann, but this Hellmuth changed as a mark of the painful separation he experienced when he became a believer in Yeshua. He took his mother’s name, Hellmuth]. He was from early childhood instructed and trained “according to the perfect manner of the law of his fathers,” in Rabbinical schools of high repute, where he acquired great proficiency in Biblical and Talmudical learning. His parents gave him a thorough religious and secular education. He was sent at the age of sixteen to the University of Breslau, where he continued with success his studies in classical and Oriental literature.
At that time Dr. S. Neumann, a Hebrew Christian, and a missionary of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, was stationed at Breslau. Being also a professor at that University, he was more especially brought into contact with learned Jews and students, over whom he exercised great influence. It was through him that young Hellmuth had his attention drawn to Christianity. In 1841 he came to England, and was baptized in All Saints’ Church,  Liverpool, by the Rev. H. S. Joseph, a missionary of the same Society. Isaac had two brothers. When he was baptized his father cut him out of his will altogether. But, on his father’s death, his two brothers, although they themselves remained Jews, generously restored to their Christian brother his share of their father’s property.
[Isaac Hellmuth refused to talk about his early life, at least publicly, because he found the memory too painful. He attended rabbinical schools and was apparently expected to become a rabbi like his father.]
After remaining some three years in England, studying English theology under Hugh McNeile, Haldane Stewart and others, Hellmuth left for Canada in 1844, taking with him commendatory letters from many eminent clergymen, including one from Dr. Sumner, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. Hellmuth’s ministerial life was principally spent in Canada, where he had a distinguished career, for many particulars of which we are indebted to “Bishops of the Day,” which particulars were most likely furnished by himself.
Hellmuth was ordained both deacon and priest in 1846 by Dr. Mountain, Bishop of Quebec. He received the Lambeth degree of D.D. in 1853, and the honorary degrees of D.C.L. from Trinity College, Toronto, and D.D. from the University of Lennoxville in 1854. He spent eight years as rector of Sherbrooke, Quebec, and as professor of Hebrew and Rabbinical Literature at Bishop’s College, Lennoxville, of which institution he was also vice-principal. His views were strongly Evangelical. He resigned his posts in Quebec on being made general superintendent of the Colonial and Continental Church Society in British North America.
The Bishop of Huron, Dr. Cronyn, had been much troubled  about Provost Whitaker, of Trinity College, Toronto, whose teaching he considered unsound, although the other Bishops of the province, on being referred to, upheld it. The Bishop, not satisfied, decided to establish at London, Ontario, a college more under his own control. This resulted in the formation and partial endowment of Huron College, which was opened in 1863 under the presidency of Dr. Hellmuth, who was also made archdeacon of Huron. His educational enthusiasm led him to start a college for boys, called Hellmuth Boys’ College. Recalling his efforts in its behalf, he said: “Twice I visited England to plead its cause, and through the liberal gifts of friends in the mother land, the grounds and buildings for the Divinity College were secured. Amongst the benefactors of this College, one valued friend, the Rev. Alfred Peache, endowed the Divinity chair with the munificent sum of £5,000 sterling.
“Huron College faithfully fulfilled its trust and served its designed end. Over one hundred devoted ministers of Christ’s Gospel have been trained within its walls, the majority of whom are labouring with success in our own Diocese, while the remainder have been called to occupy prominent positions in various other parts of our Dominion.”
In 1867 Dr. Hellmuth was made rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Dean of Huron. He used his large private means unsparingly in advancing the cause of higher education. In 1869 he launched the Hellmuth Ladies’ College.
The venerable Canon Christopher, rector of St.  Aldate’s Church, Oxford, thus alludes to this institution:—”He found that Canadian Protestants were sending their daughters to convent schools, because they did not know of any good Protestant ladies’ school. He established an excellent school for young ladies near his own house. I addressed nearly a hundred young ladies in this school in 1872. Some of these had to travel twelve days and nights from their homes to their school, in the absence of a railway from British Columbia.”
Dr. Hellmuth was chosen on July 19, 1871, by a large majority of the diocesan synod to be Bishop Coadjutor of Huron, with the title of Bishop of Norfolk and the right of succession. Dr. Cronyn died in the following September, and Dr. Hellmuth became Bishop of Huron. He had been consecrated in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Ontario, on August 24, 1871. In 1877 the Bishop formed a scheme for a Western University in connexion with Huron College, subscribing no less than 10,000 dollars towards it. In the following year he attended the Lambeth Conference, and took confirmations for the Bishop of London in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. He came to England again, in 1880, to obtain funds for the Western University, which was opened on October 5, 1881, with a medical faculty in connexion with it. By 1881 the Bishop’s exertions had proved so successful that the S.P.G. aid was no longer required, and the diocese could rely on its own resources.
During the Bishop’s episcopate, which lasted from 1871 to 1883, great progress was made in every department  of diocesan work. The number of livings increased from 34 to 65; the number of churches from 149 to 207; and the clergy from 92 to 135. The Sunday schools rose from 110 to 166; and the communicants from 4,390 to 8,910. Dr. Langtrey, in his “Colonial Church Histories,” says that the Bishop “devoted himself with great earnestness to his work, and soon became very popular throughout the country.” The Rev. Dr. Hurst, a resident of twenty years in Huron, thus referred to the Bishop’s labours:—”I can speak from personal knowledge of his liberality, zeal, and self-denying efforts to make his diocese an active mission field, and a model for higher Christian education—much at his own personal expense—in both of which God greatly blessed his instrumentality. His indefatigable and successful labours have been acknowledged by all parties in the Church.”
The Bishop resigned the see of Huron in 1883 under somewhat peculiar circumstances. The Bishop of Ripon (Dr. Bickersteth) desired to have Dr. Hellmuth appointed his Suffragan under the Act of Henry VIII. Dr. Hellmuth, being informed that his title was to be Bishop of Hull, and that the letters patent could not be executed till he had resigned the see of Huron, formally resigned that see on March 29, 1883.
In his last charge, delivered before the Synod of  the Diocese, the Bishop’s broad and loving sympathies found vent in the following expressions:—”I am fully persuaded, as I said on a former occasion, that the glory of the Church is her assimilation to Christ. And never will her usefulness and her splendour reach their meridian until the love of a common Saviour shall bind together every heart and unite every hand. Envy, jealousy, evil surmisings and uncharitableness can only tend to weaken and scatter the resources of the Church and palsy her exertions; but, when through the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, arm shall be linked to arm, and heart to heart, and prayer to prayer,—when to love and serve Christ, and to anticipate heaven, and to save immortal souls,—when these shall be the grand and all absorbing terms of Christian communion,—oh, then, what a firm and powerful phalanx shall go forth from the Church of the living God against the powers of darkness and the enemies of men! For this oneness of aim I would again repeat, Pray, strive and labour.”
The news of the Bishop’s resignation was received with great regret throughout the Dominion, and a service of plate was presented to him with an address from the standing committee of the diocese.
On March 21, 1883, the Bishop of Ripon issued a Pastoral to his diocese, in which he formally announced the Royal assent to the appointment of Dr. Hellmuth as Bishop Suffragan of Hull. In the following May, nearly two months after Dr. Hellmuth’s resignation of the see of Huron, the law officers of the Crown discovered that the Act of Henry VIII. did not apply to  any one already in Episcopal orders, and that therefore Dr. Hellmuth could not become Bishop Suffragan of Hull. Bishop Hellmuth, who was thus placed in an extremely anomalous position, appealed to the then Governor-General of Canada, Lord Lorne (the present Duke of Argyll), who made representations to Mr. Gladstone, at that time the Prime Minister. In reply, Mr. Gladstone pointed out that the Bishop of Ripon still intended to avail himself of Dr. Hellmuth’s services as his Assistant Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor. Bishop Hellmuth then took up his work in the diocese of Ripon as Assistant Bishop, although the position was obviously very different from what he had been led to expect when he resigned the see of Huron. With the consent of Bishop Bickersteth, further representations were made to Mr. Gladstone, who replied expressing regret for the error which had been committed. By the death of Bishop Bickersteth, in 1884, Dr. Hellmuth’s position became still more trying, for his commission as Bishop Coadjutor ceased, and he made another appeal to Mr. Gladstone for some suitable preferment, but without success. He was rector and rural dean of Bridlington from 1885 to 1891, and perpetual curate of Bessingby from 1888 to 1891. In the latter year the Colonial and Continental Church Society gave him the chaplaincy of Holy Trinity, Pau, which he held for six years. He was subsequently rector of Compton-Pauncefoot, Somerset, from 1897 to 1899, when he retired owing to failing health. He passed away within two years, on May 28, 1901, at the advanced age of eighty-one. 
Bishop Hellmuth was the author of “The Biblical Thesaurus” (1884), a literal translation and critical analysis of every word in the original languages of the Old Testament, with explanatory notes and appendices; and “The Divine Dispensation,” a critical commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. Amongst his minor contributions to literature may be mentioned two articles in “The Everlasting Nation”; one on “The Authenticity and Genuineness of the Pentateuch,” (1867) and the other on “The Spirit of Prophecy,” a luminous paper on the allusions in the Old Testament to the Messiah of his race.
The Bishop married, first, Catherine, daughter of the late General Thomas Evans, C.B., who died in 1884, and secondly, in 1886, Mary Louisa, second daughter of Admiral the Hon. Arthur Duncombe, son of the first Baron Feversham, and widow of the Hon. Ashley Carr Glyn, son of the first Baron Wolverton.
The Bishop, as was natural, ever evinced hearty and unbounded interest in the spiritual welfare of his brethren according to the flesh, and on many occasions advocated, from pulpit and platform, their claims to the Gospel. In the work of the London Jews’ Society he was especially interested. Towards the end of his life he frequently presided over the meetings of its Committee, amongst whom he was ever a persona grata. His solid learning, acquaintance with the languages and modes of thought of his own people, sound common sense, wise and prudent counsels, as well as his urbanity and courtesy, made him an ideal chairman. He had unlimited sympathy with those engaged in what he regarded as a great and important work, for he could enter fully into its arduous character and numerous difficulties. Many a time did he pay a friendly visit to the Society’s House,—a delightful interlude in official routine—to encourage and to sympathize; on one occasion narrating the thrilling story of how, in early youth, he had found Him whom his soul loved. The Bishop’s sterling qualities of heart and mind, his confiding nature and buoyant temperament, and his bright and happy face, always infused sunshine wherever he went.
One who knew him writes:—”We cannot forego one personal word in grateful appreciation and loving remembrance of the charming personality of one, whom, during the latter period of his long and honoured life, we were privileged to call our friend. To know him was indeed to love him as well as to honour and esteem. His sweet and gentle nature, his amiable disposition, his beautiful character, his fatherly attitude, and his unfailing tenderness and sympathy, have indelibly associated him in our mind with the beloved disciple St. John, whose last words would have been natural indeed upon his lips, ‘Little children, love one another.'”
Reflection: Hellmuth’s life and ministry were marked with battles and controversy which Bernstein smoothes over in his account. But he was a pioneer, a visionary, a man of broad interests, an educationalist’s mind, and a spirit of endeavour, exploration and ambition. It is easy to see a combination of personal characteristics that resulted from his background, the traumatic experience of his family’s reception of his faith, and a desire to make his mark in the public arena. Yet God knows us better than we know ourselves, and asks that we use the gifts he has given us in the service of others, and to His glory. Hellmuth did so in abundance, and his legacy has endured and left its mark on University education in Canada to this day. He even has a page on Twitter!
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the faith of Isaac Hellmuth, and the fruit his endeavours. Thank you that you are the God who works all things together for good to those who love you and that nothing can separate us from your love. Help us to show the dedication to vision and its achievement that Isaac Hellmuth showed, and may we too rejoice in what you accomplish of your purposes through the little we have to give. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
By: Fr. William Cliff, BA’89, MDiv’92 – Wednesday, August 6, 2003
It is the rare soul in any age that can look to the future and see potential; what can be, rather than the problems, trials and obstacles that stand in the way of a great idea. The Right Reverend Isaac Hellmuth, second Bishop of the Diocese of Huron, was such a man. A thoroughgoing evangelical Anglican Christian unwilling to compromise his religious principles, Hellmuth understood the Church’s duty to education and the development of the whole person. And while the execution of his plans often left people disgruntled and angry (for uncompromising prelates rarely garner universal admiration), his legacy is a tribute to his remarkable powers of persuasion – the cajoling, begging, threatening, wheeling and dealing required to convince the people of his day that London needed a university.
It may come as a shock that our modern secular university was born of the church, born of the theological arguments that marked 19th-century Canada. The Church of Ireland influenced heavily the new Diocese of Huron, founded in 1857, and it had a fiery, Irish-born Evangelical bishop at its head – London pioneer Benjamin Cronyn. He decided a theological college should be founded in London to ensure there would be enough priests for the Church of England in his diocese who were trained according to his evangelical opinions. The college would stand in opposition to many “high-church” principles being taught at Trinity College in Toronto. Thus, Huron College was founded in 1863 – after Bishop Cronyn had found in Isaac Hellmuth the right man to head up this new endeavour.
Isaac Hellmuth was a rare combination even in 19th-century circles. Born in Poland of Jewish parents, his father was a rabbi and Hellmuth himself trained to be a rabbi. While being educated at the University of Breslau, his religious convictions changed in conversation with missionaries from the Lutheran Church and the Church of England. Disowned by his father for his conversion, Hellmuth took his mother’s name and moved to England. To this day, his father’s name remains unknown.
Arriving in Canada in 1845 and looking for a future within the Church of England, Hellmuth found his life’s work, beginning in Sherbrooke, Quebec, as Rector of the parish and as a professor of Hebrew for the fledgling Bishop’s University in nearby Lennoxville. Respected as a lecturer and a professor, he was also proficient in raising funds for Bishop’s, generating £1,000 one summer on a fundraising tour. Hellmuth’s single mindedness assisted him in his fundraising activities, but it also cost him in goodwill; following a dispute with other faculty members (the details of which are unknown), he resigned his chair at the university, and later his rectorship in Sherbrooke, to become General Secretary of the Colonial Church and School Society of London, overseeing their work in British North America.
It was during his travels for the Church and School Society that Hellmuth met and became friends with Benjamin Cronyn – who had a problem. Cronyn wanted clergy for his diocese, and he wanted his own college to train them. But he wanted teaching that he felt he could trust from a professor he agreed with, and he needed someone who had the connections and the ability to raise the funds to found a school. All these needs came together and were met in Isaac Hellmuth.
So in 1861, Hellmuth set off for England to raise funds for this new college and once again found himself embroiled in controversy. He was accused of casting aspersions on Bishop’s University, and much ill will was fostered in the religious press in both Canada and the U.K. when Hellmuth was accused by Bishop Fulford of much wheeling and dealing and enriching of himself. Hellmuth fired back that he had no recourse to the ecclesiastical courts to have his reputation restored as the one who was his accuser was also the judge: the Bishop. The controversy finally died down when Bishop Fulford refused to be drawn into any further discussion. To one Alfred Peache, a priest of the Church of England and another man of uncompromising Evangelical convictions (who would later become Western’s chancellor), this was enough to prove Hellmuth’s point and so he endowed the new Huron College with £5,000 of his own money. As proficient at begging as lecturing, Hellmuth soon had raised enough funds to open and operate the College.
He was hired as a professor of Rabbinical studies and Old Testament and named Huron’s first Principal, where a primary part of his job was to raise funds for the College in England and promote the cause of Evangelical Anglicans in Upper Canada. Money was always short but enough men were ordained that the fledgling Diocese began to grow, as did the College.
In 1871, Hellmuth was elected as Benjamin Cronyn’s successor thus becoming Bishop of the Diocese whose clergy he had been training since 1863 – while also continuing to be a lightning rod for controversy. Repeatedly, he butted heads with those who might oppose him in any great or small work. But it is in the founding of the Western University of London, Ontario, that we clearly meet the visionary and the single-minded, uncompromising prelate.
To understand Western’s founding, one has to return to an age where the accepted colonial policy of the day was to have just one strong university serve all students of the region in Toronto. Whether it was begun as an idea of the faculty and alumni of Huron College or his own idea, Hellmuth saw that a university also needed to be founded in London, so he pledged $10,000 of his own money and whatever else he could do to procure a charter for the new school. The London community was not unanimous in believing that a local university was a necessary thing, and the papers were filled with letters to the editor both in support of and in opposition to the idea. The enabling legislation met stiff resistance, but wove its way through committees of the legislature – no doubt assisted by the fact that Hellmuth was married to the sister-in-law of the Minister of Education. The bill granting a charter for Western was eventually authorized in 1878, but only after an impassioned speech by Premier Oliver Mowat.
The next controversy arose after the Huron College alumni agreed to purchase the defunct Hellmuth Boys College, which would later stand in good stead when Huron College was made the Faculty of Divinity of the new university. The fact that in acquiring Huron College (and with it the old Hellmuth Boys School), the University also gained a fully equipped building while the Bishop unloaded a piece of real estate he was keen to be free of, and that he also managed to become chancellor of the University at the same time, caused some tongue-wagging in letters to The London Free Press. But, as usual, Hellmuth’s detractors were met with facts as put forth by his keenest supporters, and the controversy passed.
Modern graduates of Western tend to be unaware their alma mater was originally a church university and that its first Faculties were Divinity and Medicine, which operated side by side in the same building. Its first teachers were clergymen of the Church of England, and its first chancellors were the Bishops of Huron. In fact, in the beginning the Faculty of Arts closed down for a time, which seems a long way away from the massive institution of learning, with some 190,000 alumni from 130 countries around the world, that has grown from its church roots. Hellmuth worked tirelessly to see that the fledgling university survived. However, consistent with his pattern, he didn’t manage to retire and leave his life’s work without a controversy.
Hellmuth tendered his resignation very suddenly in 1883 after procuring for himself a position in England. The Bishop of Ripon had appointed him Suffragan Bishop (Assistant Bishop without right of succession) in the Diocese of Ripon, and Queen Victoria had assented to the appointment. With a farewell to the Synod and Western, he left for England and was immediately embroiled in another administrative controversy, this time through no fault of his own. The letters appointing him to assist the Bishop of Ripon were ruled invalid and his title and responsibilities had to be changed. Another misfortune befell Hellmuth when his wife, Maria, died. It was during this time that he resigned as Western’s chancellor and turned his attention to caring for the parish of Bridlington, where he died in 1901 and was buried in the priory churchyard.
Like many great men, Isaac Hellmuth suffered personally for his drive and ambition. But the overarching legacy of his career was that the vision he had for education, his desire to develop this part of the world, and the university he dreamed of, all came to fruition. Hanging in the Great Hall is the portrait of the little man from Poland dressed as a prelate of the Church of England. He still presides over our University from his painted vantage point, as his legacy has grown beyond even his own vision, beyond even what he could, as the scriptures say, “ask or imagine.”
And, if you look closely, he is smiling.
Bill Cliff is a Chaplain at Huron University College. He is grateful for the work of A.H.Crowfoot’s Biography of Hellmuth “This Dreamer,” and J.J.Talman’s 1963 history of the founding of Huron College, and the late John Gwynne-Timothy’s 1978 history of Western. Thanks also to Diana Coates in the Diocese of Huron Archives at Huron University College, Jan Van Fleet of the University Secretariat, and The Reverend Dr. Douglas Leighton of the History Department of Huron University College.
HELLMUTH, ISAAC, Church of England clergyman, bishop, and educator; b. into a Jewish family near Warsaw, probably on 14 Dec. 1817; m. first 12 Jan. 1847 Catherine Maria Evans, daughter of Thomas Evans*, in Montreal, and they had three children; m. secondly 22 June 1886 Mary Louisa Glyn, née Duncombe, in England; d. 28 May 1901 in Weston-super-Mare, England.
Isaac Hellmuth refused to talk about his early life, at least publicly, because he found the memory too painful. He attended rabbinical schools and was apparently expected to become a rabbi like his father. The family moved to Berlin in the early 1830s and Hellmuth entered the university at Breslau (Wrocław, Poland). There, under the influence of a missionary of the Society for the Conversion of the Jews, he became a Christian. That decision resulted in such a complete break with his family that he was induced to assume his mother’s family name; his original surname remains unknown.
Hellmuth emigrated to England in 1842, and for two years he lived in Liverpool at a home giving refuge to Jews contemplating conversion to Christianity. He was baptized in October and later confirmed as a member of the Church of England. By 1844 he had decided to enter the ministry. The churchmanship of the clergy in Liverpool was notoriously low, and even before he had any formal theological training he adopted the extreme evangelical Protestant position he was to hold all of his life. He also perfected his command of English while at Liverpool and began to build up the network of influential friends and acquaintances, both lay and clerical, that he would call upon for assistance in the future.
In late 1844 Hellmuth was sent to the diocese of Toronto, by “some friends in England,” according to John Strachan*, so that he might work among German-speaking settlers. He began to prepare for ordination under the direction of Alexander Neil Bethune* at the Diocesan Theological Institution in Cobourg, Upper Canada, but in the autumn of 1845, with Strachan’s permission, he transferred to Bishop’s College in Lennoxville, Lower Canada. He was ordained deacon on 1 May 1846 and priest on 21 September in Quebec by George Jehoshaphat Mountain*.
Hellmuth’s education provided him with an additional opportunity. Strachan referred to him as a “very superior Hebrew scholar” and in the summer of 1846 Mountain appointed him professor of Hebrew and rabbinical literature at Bishop’s College. He was also given charge of the mission at Sherbrooke. He became rector in 1849 and, having married in 1847, appeared to be settling into a life of teaching and ministering. It did not, however, last long. A quarrel, the origin of which is obscure, with Henry Hopper Miles*, also professor at Bishop’s, seriously disrupted the college until Hellmuth resigned in November 1853. As he left Bishop’s, he was awarded in 1854 an honorary dd (he had received a Lambethdd the previous year). He also resigned as rector at Sherbrooke and advised Mountain that he was returning to England.
On 1 Oct. 1854 Hellmuth became organizing secretary in London for the Colonial Church and School Society, which provided support for clergy, lay missionaries, catechists, and teachers throughout the British empire. Initially his work, consisting largely of fund-raising, was confined to Britain. Within six months, however, in response to urgent appeals from British North America, Hellmuth was asked to return as general superintendent and to extend the society’s concerns. His departure was delayed but by summer 1856 he had taken up residence in Quebec City. With something of the administrative responsibility of a bishop, he worked to establish branches of the society, visited and encouraged those it employed, and prepared an annual report which he sent to London for publication. In 1860 he oversaw 31 clergymen and 70 lay men and women in eight dioceses stretching from southwestern Upper Canada to the outports of Newfoundland.
Of all the people Hellmuth met through the society, none would have a greater impact on his life than Benjamin Cronyn*, president of the branch in London, Upper Canada. They appear to have met for the first time in 1856 when Hellmuth visited London to prepare a report on the growing population of fugitive slaves in the area. In 1859, after Cronyn had become bishop of Huron, they undertook a visit to the newly Protestant congregation of the Roman Catholic apostate CharlesChiniquy* in Illinois. Perhaps the most telling evidence of their close association is that between 1857 and 1861 13 of the 31 clergy supported by the society had been located in Huron; all of them, no doubt, were thoroughly evangelical in orientation.
Pleading exhaustion from overwork, Hellmuth resigned his position in March 1861. He was almost immediately appointed archdeacon of Huron and bishop’s commissary by Cronyn, who was working to establish a college to prepare evangelical clergy for his diocese. The college would require a considerable amount of money, but because its existence involved a repudiation of Trinity College in Toronto, the prospects for support from Canadian churchmen were limited. What was needed was access to the deep pockets of British evangelicals, which Hellmuth possessed through his extensive contacts. Moreover, he had his own financial resources. His wife’s family was wealthy and he was able to afford frequent transatlantic journeys and long sojourns in Britain. He contributed handsomely to his church throughout his career, and he would serve as rector of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and as bishop without a salary, at least through part of his terms. He had already demonstrated in 1849 his abilities as a fund-raiser when he returned from a visit to his wife’s relations in England with a donation of £1,000 to Bishop’s College.
To raise funds for the college Hellmuth travelled to England in 1861 and 1862. His foraging may have been eased by a controversy that resulted from a speech he made in England in which he deplored the dearth of evangelical clergy in the Canadian church. Bishop Francis Fulford* of Montreal sprang to the defence in three pastoral letters. However, an English clergyman, Alfred Peache, noted in November 1862 that “Dr. Fulford complains of your statement [but] has only given painful and conclusive evidence of its substantive truth.” (Fulford had distrusted Hellmuth since 1850–51 when Thomas Evans had offered financial assistance for the construction of a church for the German-speaking people of Montreal with Hellmuth as the first incumbent, a proposal Fulford had refused.) Hellmuth raised about £23,000 for the college, as well as an endowment of £5,000 from Peache to provide a salary for the principal and professor of divinity. Patronage of the “Peache chair” was to be kept in England, apparently on Hellmuth’s recommendation, in order to ensure that the incumbents would be thoroughly evangelical, and the first person appointed was Hellrnuth himself. He took up his new positions when Huron College opened its doors in 1863.
Nothing occupied Hellmuth’s attention more than educational questions. He continued his connection with Huron College until 1866 when Cronyn appointed him rector of St Paul’s and dean of Huron. By then, however, Hellmuth was involved in two other major undertakings, the London Collegiate Institute (later known as Hellmuth College) for boys, and Hellmuth Ladies’ College, both residential secondary schools. The former, housed in a pretentious four-storey white brick building, was erected at Hellmuth’s expense in 1865 and could accommodate 150 students and staff in more than 70 rooms. Hellmuth Ladies’ College was constructed in 1867 on an equally grand scale. The schools had no official connection with the church but they were thoroughly Anglican. Hellmuth was sole proprietor of the schools and chaired both boards.
In July 1871 Cronyn arranged for the election of a coadjutor bishop with the right of succession. Hellmuth was chosen on the first ballot, receiving 53 out of 84 clerical votes and 78 out of 132 lay votes, and he was consecrated bishop of Norfolk in August. He became second bishop of Huron after Cronyn died in September. With some 12,000 square miles, the diocese of Huron stretched from Waterloo to Windsor and from Long Point to the Bruce peninsula. It included 13 counties and had a population of about 600,000, of whom upwards of 60,000 were Anglican. Hellmuth threw himself into his new tasks with characteristic energy. Indeed, expanding the reach of the church within his diocese was his initial preoccupation and his addresses to synod until the late 1870s contained pleas for more money for diocesan missions. And his actions matched his words: in 1873, for example, he reported that he had ordained 8 deacons and 5 priests, confirmed 1,498 people, consecrated 9 churches, preached 130 sermons, and delivered 105 other addresses. By 1883 the number of priests in the diocese had increased from 92 to 135 and the number of churches from 149 to 207. Not everything he hoped for was realized. One of his first actions as bishop was to launch a campaign to build a massive new cathedral but only a building known as the chapter house was completed.
After 1877 Hellmuth’s attention focused increasingly on the establishment of a university in London. Besides the obvious advantages for the city and for southwestern Ontario, Hellmuth had two other reasons for his growing enthusiasm. In the first place, Huron College students would be able to attend a university to improve their educational level; in fact, Hellmuth argued that without the advantages offered by a university, divinity students would in future shun the college. His other reason was a result of the fact that he possessed in Hellmuth College a massive white elephant. By 1870 he had spent more than $50,000 on the school and yet its future looked bleak. It attracted few students and not many of them had academic ability or ambition. The rapid expansion of provincial high schools, moreover, indicated a limited future for the institution. With the support of Egerton Ryerson* he tried unsuccessfully between 1873 and 1875 to persuade the provincial government to purchase or rent the college in order to convert it into a normal and model school. A proposal in 1874 that the church assume responsibility for the college came to nothing, probably because there was little advantage in making a large expenditure to acquire an institution in poor health. In 1875 Hellmuth and the other trustees obtained a mortgage of $12,000 on the property, presumably for the consolidation of debt, and in 1877 they increased it to $22,000.
An opportunity for Hellmuth came early in 1877 with the establishment of the Association of the Professors and Alumni of Huron College to promote the founding of a university. At a meeting on 20 February the association, with Hellmuth as patron and member of the board, called for the transfer of Hellmuth’s “pecuniary interest” in the school to the association. At its first meeting on 9 May 1878 the senate of the new Western University of London, Ontario, resolved to purchase the property for $67,000. By March 1879 the university owned Hellmuth College but, with a first mortgage of $22,000 as well as a second for $43,450 held by Hellmuth and the other former trustees, the load proved too heavy. Hellmuth and the other holders of the second mortgage were paid off in the mid 1880s but the holders of the first eventually were forced to foreclose.
Hellmuth was at the centre of Western. He petitioned the Ontario legislature for a charter and, in early 1878, appeared before the house to defend the bill to incorporate it. He was appointed chancellor and chairman of the senate, and was professor of biblical exegesis and criticism and of Hebrew and Chaldee. Above all else he was a fund-raiser. By 1883 he had been to Britain five times to raise money. He made a personal donation of $10,000 and urged the diocese to support Western as an institution of the church. Indeed, most of the financial support it received in these early years came from his efforts.
Hellmuth’s work on behalf of the university had another result, this one unfortunate. In February 1879 two letters appeared in the London Evening Herald which strongly attacked him. The education of the students in Hellmuth Ladies’ College was frivolous, vain, and worldly, it was declared, and Hellmuth College, which had been a burden for the church, would also be so for the university, itself a “monumental folly built upon the neglected ruins of Huron College.” Moreover, Hellmuth demonstrably lacked “Christian zeal and toil” for “spiritual matters.” The writer of the second letter was never discovered but the author of the first was identified as Ellinor Schulte, the wife of Professor John Schulte at Huron College; he was forced to make a grovelling public apology and then was dismissed from his position. Archdeacon John Walker Marsh, a member of the Huron College council who first denied any involvement, admitted, when Schulte was tricked by Hellmuth into implicating him, that he had assisted in the publication of the first letter. The Huron College council expelled Marsh and he took the matter to court. In 1880 John Godfrey Spragge*in the Court of Chancery ruled the council’s expulsion of Marsh illegal. Reinstated, Marsh then immediately resigned. Hellmuth emerged from the affair with his reputation tarnished. Instead of ignoring the letters or responding only to the charges they made, he and the Huron College council had conducted a witch-hunt. Except for the anti-Semitism, it is hard to disagree with the judgement of an unknown contemporary who thought that Marsh had been treated “brutally” by the bishop and the council and that Hellmuth had behaved like a “bully” whose conduct disclosed “an extraordinary combination of Jewish cunning and episcopal tyranny.„
Hellmuth resigned as bishop of Huron in 1883 when a friend, Robert Bickersteth, the bishop of Ripon, England, offered him the position of suffragan without the right of succession. The state of his wife’s health may have induced Hellmuth to accept, but it was, in all probability, the sort of appointment he had always wanted. Although he had performed his duties energetically and conscientiously, it seems clear that the diocese of Huron was not his preferred location. The Hellmuths appear to have visited Britain at every possible opportunity, and their travels included the United States, Cuba, Europe, and the Near East. As early as 1878 and again in 1881 he was a candidate for a position involving the supervision of Anglican churches in Europe; as it turned out, no appointment was made and the fact of his application was not made public. But if Hellmuth had expectations of a lengthy episcopal career in Britain, they were not to be realized. Bickersteth died suddenly in the spring of 1884, just after Hellmuth had begun his new duties. Within a month, Catherine Hellmuth also died.
Hellmuth returned to Huron briefly in 1884 but his Canadian career was over. In 1885 Alfred Peache succeeded him as chancellor of Western. Remarried in 1886, for the remainder of his life Hellmuth held a series of undemanding livings in England which were in the gift of evangelical friends. He retired in 1899 to Weston-super-Mare and died there on 28 May 1901.
In addition to polemical letters and sermons, Hellmuth had published a series of eight lectures delivered in 1865, The divine dispensations and their gradual development (London, [Ont.], 1866), which provides a conventional account, based on the inerrancy of Scripture, of the relationships between God, Moses, the Jews, and Christianity. The first volume (“Genesis”) of what Hellmuth intended to be a translation and analysis of the entire Old Testament, entitled Biblical thesaurus, appeared, also in London, in 1884, but no other volumes were published.
In addition to the works mentioned in the text, Isaac Hellmuth wrote three rebuttals to pastoral letters by Bishop Fulford, A reply to a letter of the Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of Montreal . . . , Reply to a second letter . . . , and Reply to a third letter . . . , all published at Quebec in 1862. Some of Hellmuth’s publications are listed in Canadiana, 1867–1900and the CIHM Reg.; additional works are preserved in the ACC, General Synod Arch., Toronto.
ACC, General Synod Arch., M69-2 (J. P. Francis coll.), Roe family papers, uncredited letter dated 10 July 1880. AO, F 983. Middlesex East Land Registry Office (London, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, City of London, 5: 199; 10: 26–28 (lots 23–27, East Wellington Street) (mfm. at AO). Globe, 12, 14, 26, 28–29 June 1880. Hamilton Spectator, 17 July 1913: 7. Church of England, Diocese of Huron, Journal of the synod(London), 1871–83; Minutes of the synod . . . (London), 1871. Colonial Church and School Soc., Annual report (London, Eng.), 1854/55–1861/62. A. H. Crowfoot, This dreamer; life of Isaac Hellmuth, second bishop of Huron (Vancouver, 1963).DNB. D. C. Masters, Bishop’s University, the first hundred years (Toronto, 1950). J. J. Talman and Ruth Davis Talman, “Western” – 1878–1953: being the history of the origins and development of the University of Western Ontario during its first seventy–five years (London, Ont., 1953). Brian Underwood, Faith at the frontiers: Anglican evangelicals and their countrymen overseas (150 years of the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society) (London, Eng., 1974).
His son, I. F. Hellmuth (1845–1944), was the first champion of what became the Canadian National Tennis Championship, now known as the Canadian Open (tennis) or the Rogers Cup (tennis). Isadore Hellmuth also founded the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club and won the inaugural United States national tennis championship tournament played in 1881 at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club.