Chalmers McPherson, minister and educator, was born in Thorold, Ontario, Canada, a few miles from Niagara Falls, on January 20, 1850. When he was five years old his father died, whereupon his mother took her two children to Kentucky and taught school. After attending his mother's school, McPherson received his formal education at Georgetown College in Kentucky, Asbury (now DePaul) University in Indiana, and Eastman's Commercial College in New York. He returned to Mount Vernon, Kentucky, to teach school, studied law, and while in his twenties received a license to practice law in Kentucky. After four years at Burksville he was ordained a minister of the Disciples of Christ at Mount Vernon, and in June 1877 he began preaching in Burksville, supplementing his income with what he earned from teaching to support himself and his wife, Ella (Sheegog) of Nashville, whom he married on April 20, 1875. The couple had four children.
In 1879 McPherson accepted a position as pastor of the Christian church in Waxahachie, Texas, where he remained for the next twenty years and established an area-wide reputation for both his church service and his efforts to establish a Christian college for area residents. McPherson devoted much of his time to the new Disciples of Christ school Add-Ran College, which he served as a trustee twice, 1884–87 and 1889–1907. He also was a founding member of the Texas Christian Missionary Society, established in 1886. From 1899 to 1904 he served as a minister in Fort Worth. He returned to Waxahachie in 1904 and left in 1908 to become endowment secretary for Texas Christian University, the successor of Add-Ran College. He resigned from his position in 1912 but continued to serve as university lecturer on the Bible, a position he began in 1911. In 1914 he received an appointment as professor of New Testament studies at the university's newly established Brite College of the Bible.
McPherson served as a correspondent for the Gospel Advocate of Nashville, Tennessee, and for the Christian Standard of Cincinnati, Ohio. He also was an editor of the Christian Courier on seven different occasions. In 1920 he published a history of his denomination, Disciples of Christ of Texas. Two years later he served as president of the Texas Christian Convention held in Fort Worth. On September 26, 1927, he died at Fort Worth, where he was buried.