When the Governors of McGill College needed a learned man to oversee their newly established institution, they turned to respected theologian, scholar, and preacher George Jehoshaphat Mountain.
An Englishman by birth, Mountain came to Quebec as a child in 1793, when his father was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Quebec. At sixteen, Mountain returned to England where he graduated with a BA and later a Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College, Cambridge. He returned to Canada in 1811l. Mountain was ordained as a Deacon in 1812, and by 1814 he had been admitted to priest’s orders. In the following years he worked in Quebec and New Brunswick, and in 1821 he was named archdeacon of Lower Canada.
George Mountain never took the easy road. He made long, tedious and often dangerous journeys into the interior of a wild and unsettled country, often going as far as the north-west territory, the Magdalen Islands, the shores of Labrador, and Rupert's Land, some 3,600 miles away in an Indian canoe.
Having attained a position of seniority among the clergy of Upper and Lower Canada over a short span of time, Mountain was seen as a trusted candidate to lead McGill University in 1824. Mountain was named principal of the college and professor of divinity, installed in a ceremony on June 29th, 1829, in James McGill’s Burnside estate home. Under Mountain’s guidance McGill became an established, degree-granting corporation, and James McGill’s bequest was secure for generations to come.
On 14 Feb. 1836 Archdeacon Mountain was consecrated as the third bishop of Montreal. In 1843, Mountain was also instrumental in the founding of Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. Aside from his support for education, Mountain’s social service efforts and community work won him great admiration, especially his devoted labour during the cholera and ship fever epidemics in 1832 and 1847. He worked in the hospitals and jails of Quebec City, and was heavily involved in local asylums, orphanages, and poorhouses.