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Pioneer Work in Algoma

By Eda Green

London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1915.

Chapter IV. How the Church Came.

IN 1793 a bishop was consecrated for Quebec, to relieve the Bishop of Nova Scotia of the charge of the whole of Lower and Upper Canada. This responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the whole Dominion rested on the Bishops of Quebec till 1839, when the see of Toronto was formed for Upper Canada. In 1803 there were only four clergymen in the whole of that district, and in 1838 Bishop Mountain of Quebec wrote as follows to the Government: 'A lamentable proportion of the Church of England population are destitute of any provision for their religious wants, and I state my deliberate belief that the retention of the province as a portion of the British Empire depends more upon the means taken to provide and perpetuate a sufficient establishment of pious and well-qualified clergymen of the Church than upon any other measure whatever within the power of the Government.'

Six years earlier, in 1832, Sir John Colborne, afterwards Lord Seaton, the godly Governor of Upper Canada, had taken thought for the Indians. He sent for Mr. McMurray, a young man of twenty-two then reading for Holy Orders, and told him he was to go to the Algoma district, and make his headquarters at Sault Ste. Marie. The place was marked on no map, and the Governor could give no instructions how to get there, except that Mr. McMurray had best go to Detroit and then 'ask his way.' This he did, and, being paddled the last part of the way in a canoe, he reached his destination in thirty days. Now it takes eighteen hours. He found the whole country one vast forest, and had to lodge with the agents of the Hudson Bay Company, from whom he received much kindness, in their trading station at the Sault.

The first thing to be done was to assemble a council of Indians and to tell them of the Governor's thought for them. The old chief Shingwauk, dignified and fluent of speech, first presented the missionary with the pipe of peace as a token of good-will, and then said, 'We desire first to know whether you can give us any assurance that you have been sent by our Great White Father.' The chief and his band of warriors had fought for King George III under General Brock, and had received a large silver medal with the head of an Indian leaning on the King's breast, to denote that the native tribes were borne on the heart of their sovereign. Mr. McMurray had his credentials ready, sealed with the seal of the province; and having compared them with his own medal, and being satisfied, the chief proceeded with his oration, rolling out the long melodious words. Time is nothing to the Indian, he cannot be hurried; one word may contain forty letters and a man's name may be a whole sentence. One chief, for instance, was called 'Eagle with a spread tail, sitting on a stone,' shortened, however, for common use, into 'Sitting Eagle.'

Before the council met, Mr. McMurray had learnt that the Indians were given to drink, and when they had assembled he said: 'Your Great White Father will be very sorry to hear that his children are given to intoxication; as long as they take the "fire-water" his efforts will be almost useless.' Then the old chief answered with dignity and justice: 'My fathers never knew how to cultivate the land, my fathers never knew how to build mills, my fathers never knew how to extract the devil's broth out of the grain, you make it and bring it to us, and you blame us for drinking it.'

In spite of this protest the Indians were very anxious to have the Mission. Two bands came from a distance of over four hundred miles to be instructed in the Great Spirit's book--their name for the Bible--and to be baptised. A rumour of the teaching had reached them, and they had come to see the 'Black Coat' and to ask him about the Good Tidings. A church was built, and Chief Shingwauk and his two children were amongst those baptised. Some of them were received by the Governor at Toronto, and he gave the chief a flag which might wave over his wigwam every Sunday.

Unfortunately Sir John Colborne's successor withdrew all support and Mr. McMurray had to leave his work. But the disappointed chief did not let go his faith. During the long years when they were left alone, he regularly each Sunday hoisted the Union Jack and assembled the people to read what they could of the Bible and to sing the hymns they had been taught. In 1839 the Rev. F. O'Meara went to live among the Indians, teaching those at the Sault and on the Manitoulin Island. He translated into Ojibway the greater part of the Prayer Book, the New Testament, the Psalms; also a small collection of psalms and hymns. With the help of the Rev. F. Jacobs, he began in 1857 to translate the Old Testament. Of this Mr. Jacobs completed the Pentateuch, Proverbs, and Isaiah, before his death seven years later at Manitowaning.

The Ojibway language is agglutinative, or, as it is sometimes called, polysynthetic, because so many words are joined, or 'glued' together. Kummogokdonattootammoctileaongaunnonash, ('catechism') must have needed a whole glue-pot!

The Indians of the Sault returned to an old settlement at Garden River; and when Mr. O'Meara could no longer live with them, they bravely resisted the efforts of the Romanists and Nonconformists to win them, and again met together each Sunday to pray the Great Spirit to look with the eye of pity upon them and to send some one to teach them out of the Good Book 'our Black Coats used to speak to us about.'

The Manitoulin is an island about a hundred miles long, almost parallel to, and not far distant from, the north shore of Lake Huron, and the largest island in the world in fresh water. Captain Anderson, a Government agent who had the good of the Indians at heart, saw how they were deteriorating under the influence of advancing civilisation. He determined to try an experiment by removing some of the Ottahwahs and Ojibways (two tribes of the Algonquins) to the Manitoulin, where they could be watched over. In 1836 Captain Anderson, with the Rev. C Brough and a schoolmaster, began to form a settlement. They had begun to teach a number of scholars when, as at the Sault, they were stopped by the change of Governors. The next year, however, Captain Anderson was allowed to finish his buildings and he gathered together his helpers again, with a surgeon in addition.

They all arrived in a snow-storm at the end of October, looking forward to warmth and shelter from the terrible weather, and to a good mission-house as the centre for their work through the winter. They found warmth, indeed, but not such as they expected; as they drew near their journey's end they saw a light through the driving snow--the light of the new mission buildings on fire!

For the present, the missionary could only travel about, winter though it was, trying to make friends with the Indians in their various settlements on the island and on the north shore of the mainland. After four years the Rev. C. Brough was succeeded by Mr. O'Meara. 'It is impossible,' he writes, 'unless one has taken these journeyings, to have a just idea of what they are. It is not the intensity of the cold on the frozen lakes that taxes one most; it is not the snowdrifts that form the worst part of them: that comes when these are past and the missionary has to seat himself on the ground by the wigwam fire; the filth and vermin which surround him are enough to make him long for the next day's journey, however severe the weather may be.'

In this way some ground was gained; for in 1842, when the Bishop of Toronto went so far west on a confirmation tour, he found that one of his canoes was manned by Christian Indians from the Manitoulin, for which, like St. Paul, he thanked God and took courage.

His visit was well-timed, as 6,000 of the scattered tribes were just then gathered on the island to receive the clothing and provisions that the Government, which had taken their land, annually dealt out to them. Nothing could exceed the peace and order of the great assembly. Whilst imbued with a certain sense of dignity, as the original possessors of the soil, they were all perfectly docile and civil, and the Bishop was almost overcome with what seemed to him the bright promise of that day. In the midst of this multitude there was a band of Christians with whom he had a hearty service; over forty Indians were confirmed, and the sound of their deep sonorous voices was very touching. The sight of those faithful few, amidst the thousands of their pagan brethren, made those present feel how much they might do for the future of their race if only they used the grace given them for the glory of God and for the good of their neighbour.

Two years later Mr. O'Meara was able to report that the Indians were beginning to grasp the Christian idea of marriage, that they were anxious to have their children educated and to raise their women from the conditions with which they had hitherto been contented, to give up idolatry and their medicine men. They were also learning to see that the implacable hatred and revenge which to the Indian were virtues, were not really such at all.

So, though it was a day of small things, the leaven worked in the children of the forest, and all was being made ready for that other day, thirty years later, when the Canadian Church should take upon itself the care of the many Indians and the few settlers who peopled the land of the Algonquins.

This came in 1873, when, the history of S.P.G. tells us, the Bishopric of Toronto, till then extending for 1,100 miles west of that city, was relieved of the northern part of this unwieldy jurisdiction by the creation of the Diocese of Algoma. The district so set apart consisted then principally of Indian Reserves, but now contains a population of nearly 150,000 White people, of whom nine-tenths are emigrants, or descendants of emigrants, from the Mother Country.

We have to remember that when Canada was taken by Great Britain from the French, the only Church existing there was the Roman Catholic. Her priests had ministered to the French settlers, and her Jesuit missionaries had endured unspeakable tortures and death in their labours to convert the Indians. From the French Government the Church had secured very rich endowments, and under the change of flag the undisturbed possession of all her property was guaranteed to her. Much of this consisted of land in Montreal, which, as the city developed, became more and more valuable, so that the Roman Church in Canada has now the power of great wealth, and is able at once to plant a church and priest in new settlements, to establish her own schools (both for primary and higher education), and to influence the young and the sick by the ministry of her Sisters in convents, schools, and hospitals. Naturally, in Quebec, the vast majority of the population are Romanists; and with the advantages mentioned above we can hardly wonder that, even in the English-speaking province of Ontario, nearly one quarter of the people belong to them.

Under George III certain waste lands were given as an endowment for the 'Protestant' Church; but claims made on these by the Presbyterians and other bodies led to the confiscation of these Clergy Reserves in 1855. The clergy unanimously agreed to commute their life interest. The sum resulting, however, was very small, and so, practically, the Church in Canada has had to provide for the whole of her own needs year by year.

Whilst doing this, Eastern Canada, as we have said, volunteered to support her 'missionary child' Algoma. In 1873, though the area was vast--800 miles long by 150 miles in width--the population was sparse, and could be reached by a small number of clergy; but as the country opened up and White settlers flocked in, many of them without capital, to take up free grants of Government land, the task outstripped the powers of the older dioceses. To cope in any degree with the work, it was absolutely essential to have more clergy, and the Bishops of Algoma were compelled to appeal to the great societies of the Mother Church--the Society for Promoting of Christian Knowledge, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Colonial and Continental Church Society. They responded generously and for some time gave over £1,000 a year to the diocese. In 1889 the beginning of further organised help and support was made by founding the Algoma Association, whose workers have always been entirely voluntary, for the object of gathering into unity of prayer and work the scattered links of interest in Algoma which existed in various parts of England. But with all this, and grants from the Domestic and Foreign Mission Board and the Women's Auxiliary in Canada, as the work grew, some £2,000 a year more was required, which the Bishop had to raise as best he could. This amount was by no means always forthcoming, and the task involved an expenditure of time, labour, and anxiety which seriously added to the sum total of his already arduous work.

Something must now be said of the three gifted bishops who have been the chief pastors of Algoma. The first was the Rev. F. D. Fauquier. Born in Malta and educated at Coburg College, he had held two Canadian incumbencies and was therefore accustomed to the climate and the ways of the people when, at the age of fifty-six, he was consecrated at Toronto, on the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, as pioneer bishop of the new diocese. In his formal report to the Provincial Synod of 1877, a pathetic passage records his surprise and dismay on finding 'that not only had no provision been made for carrying on mission work in his diocese, but that it was to be his business to collect whatever funds might be required for that purpose.' This work, described by Dr. Sullivan as that of a 'mitred mendicant,' has been ever since the painful lot of the Bishops of Algoma. Until 1870 there had been at Sault Ste. Marie a building used for teaching during the week, and on Sundays as the only place of worship--one Sunday by the Church of England missionary and the next by a Methodist; but when Bishop Fauquier chose this place, being on the line of the great lakes, as his headquarters, he found a small stone church, now enlarged and used as St. Luke's pro-Cathedral. There were then no railways in the diocese; in the summer there were a few steamers, but these only put in at the larger places, and to reach his scattered flock the Bishop had unceasingly to walk or drive through the forest, or to journey by canoe, until a small yacht was provided. In this he could visit the shores of Lake Superior; and in 1878, going up the River Nepigon, after five days' canoeing he came on a band of pagan Indians. With them was a chief who came to the Bishop and said: 'My father's name was Muhnedooshans. He was chief thirty years ago or more, when the chiefs were called together to Sault Ste. Marie that we might make a treaty in view of surrendering our lands to the Queen. The Great White Chief said to my father that he would send us an English "Black Coat" to teach us. So every year my father waited for the English teacher to come. He waited on and on, and at last he died, a pagan. His parting words to us were that we should still wait, and that when the "Black Coat" came we should receive him well, and ask him to open a school for our children to be taught. We now welcome you as the teacher our father told us to look for.' The reproachful pathos of the chief's lament was set forth in the following lines:--


Was it a promise that the White Chief gave
So many years ago, that he would send
A teacher to point out the way of life
And tell the dear old Story of the Cross?
Was it a promise? So the Red man deemed,
And yet, not yet I the promise is redeemed.

Through all the changes of those thirty years,
That promise echoes sadly, calming first
That bounding pulse of manhood, chastening all
The joys and triumphs of a savage life.
Looking from steadfast eyes, whose sorrow dumb
Mocked the brave words--'Wait: he is sure to come!'

But is he sure to come? Through blinding tears
I hear a voice that asks, 'Where is the soul
I came on earth to save? thy brother's soul?
The soul that hungered after righteousness?
Red man and White, I died from sin to free;
Could none be found to bring that soul to Me?'

'Am I my brother's keeper?' I would plead,
But that I dare not; for I know full well
That glorious gospel was not given to us
For selfish hoarding, but in solemn trust,
That by the White man through the expectant world
The banner of the Cross might be unfurled.

Ere I turn back to my vain selfish life,
Again I hear that loving pleading Voice--
'Is there not joy in heaven o'er one redeemed?
And these have waited, and have watched so long!
Work while 'tis called to-day. For work undone,
There will be time to weep when night is come.'

Peace, vain regret! I leave the wasted past
Beneath the Cross. My loving Lord, than I
More merciful, only let me press on
To speed the message while it yet is day,
And tell the Red man that the night is past
And he they long have looked for comes at last!

Surely the old man, who from no fault of his own died a pagan, will receive the Master's blessing promised to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness!

Bishop Fauquier, always spoken of as the 'saintly,' carried on his work for eight years. He left fourteen clergy where he had found seven, forty-two churches instead of nineteen. There was no residence for the Bishop, but by the munificence of one of his private friends, Bishophurst, a substantial and well-appointed stone building was built as the See House, about a mile from the pro-Cathedral. This is the episcopal residence, though it is more true to say that the Bishop lives on trains, steamers, or canoes, and occasionally visits his home. Bishop Fauquier died very suddenly in Toronto in 1881. He had long known that a heart affection from which he suffered might end thus in a moment, but bravely to the end he bore the heavy burden of his work.

He was succeeded in 1882 by the Rev. Edward Sullivan, the eloquent and popular rector of St. George's, Montreal, who was consecrated on St. Peter's Day, fully realising the sacrifice both of emolument and comparative ease which acceptance of the bishopric involved. The Provincial Synod guaranteed £800 a year as his stipend, and £100 a year for travelling expenses. Towards the upkeep of the yacht Evangeline, S.P.G. contributed £100. By this, by public steamers, over the frozen waters of the Georgian Bay in winter, through the forests in summer, must the Bishop of Algoma ever be travelling.

Yet when he had been elected to the see of the wealthy and attractive Diocese of Huron, Dr. Sullivan telegraphed his refusal in the words, 'Duty to Algoma forbids.' Like Bishop Fauquier, Dr. Sullivan, after twelve years' incessant labour, broke down under the strain. In the hope that he might be able to continue his work he was sent for two or three winters to the Riviera; and there, as well as in England, he endeavoured to obtain help for his diocese, but in 1896 he was compelled to resign and two years later he died--the second bishop who had given his life for Algoma.

During his episcopate the number of churches was almost doubled, and he raised an Episcopal Endowment Fund of £11,000. Besought on all sides by the incoming settlers not to leave them shepherdless, and trusting to his proved power of raising funds, Bishop Sullivan opened many new missions and more than doubled the number of clergy. Owing to his breakdown, he was unable to plead as he intended, and in the course of his two years' illness and absence, a debt amounting to £1,000 accumulated on the Mission Fund.

His successor, consecrated on the Feast of the Epiphany 1897, was the Rev. George Thorneloe, Rector of Sherbrooke, an important parish in the Diocese of Quebec. Born in England, Dr. Thorneloe went out as a boy to Canada with his father, who was a missionary.

'Canadian Men and Women of the Time' says that he had at Bishop's College, Lennoxville, 'an academic career which it is believed has never been surpassed in Canada; took the Mackie Prize for English Essay, the General Nicholls Scholarship in Mathematics, the Mackie Prize a second time, and graduated B.A. with first-class honours, classical honours, the Prince of Wales (King Edward's) medal for classics, and S.P.G. Jubilee Scholar.' At Lennoxville he also led many young men to the ministry, and at Stansted and Sherbrooke proved himself a true spiritual pastor. In an address accompanying the gift of a pectoral cross from his brother clergy they spoke of their knowledge of his devotion and self-sacrifice in the Lord's work, ever spending and being spent; and truly to spend and be spent seems the enduring lot of the Bishops of Algoma.

By the decision of the Synod on the election of Dr. Thorneloe, the whole grant hitherto made to the Bishop was cut off, and the interest of the Endowment Fund, about one half the amount, was henceforward to form the Bishop's stipend.

Three years later, when he was elected coadjutor to the late Archbishop of Ontario, with right of succession to the see, Dr. Thorneloe, like his predecessor, refused to leave the hard work of Algoma for the ease of a well-equipped diocese. Again, in 1909, he withdrew his name the moment he heard he was nominated for election to the Diocese of Toronto. When Archbishop Hamilton resigned the see of Ottawa in 1914, Bishop Thorneloe was three times elected to it by the Synod. After twice refusing, the Bishop, under the pressure, accepted, and a touching scene took place. The Synod rose en masse and sang 'Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,' and after a moment's silence gave three ringing cheers. But the waste places and the scattered sheep of Algoma drew the Bishop's heart with cords of love, and he could not bear the thought of deserting them. The Ottawa Executive Committee, to whom he appealed, refused to listen to his plea to be released: he therefore placed his resignation of Algoma in the hands of the other bishops of the Province, but with a most urgent request from himself and from his clergy that he might be allowed to remain there, to which the bishops acceded. Ottawa is a settled, compact, self-supporting diocese, where there is no difficulty in getting clergy and the Bishop's stipend is £1,000 a year. Yet after eighteen years of the work Bishop Thorneloe insisted on remaining on £500 a year, with the increasing difficulty of getting men, and the never-ending problem of filling vacant places.

Three months later, on St. Peter's Day, 1915, the anniversary of his ordination, the House of Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, unanimously elected Dr. Thorneloe as their Metropolitan. Algoma therefore has now the honour of being the metropolitical see, and Dr. Thorneloe is the Archbishop of Algoma.

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