Project Canterbury

Or, Five Years of Church Work among Ojibway Indians and Lumbermen, resident upon that Island or in its Vicinity.

By Harold Nelson Burden

London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1895.

Chapter VII. An Ice Accident

During March Mr. Frost was actively engaged in his work at Beaverstone. Gromline Point, Collin's Inlet and other places in the neighbourhood. He held a service at Killarney, which the whole population of the place attended. On the following day he again held a service at a place about twenty miles distant, which he had last visited about six months before. During that period there had been no services, but the children had attended the Sunday School with great regularity. Mr. Frost remained here over Sunday, and both the morning and evening services were well attended. On leaving this place he travelled through the bush in a northerly direction, and visited a shanty in the neighbourhood of Lake Penage. Here his congregation consisted of twenty-three persons of several different nationalities. All were glad to see him, and to have an opportunity of joining in the service. One young man had recently left his home in England, and it was a pleasure to the missionary to converse with one whose memories of that country were so fresh. The next day he went to a shanty where the majority of the inmates were Frenchmen. Although they doubtless failed to [52/53] understand much of the service, they listened very attentively, and, it is to be hoped, received benefit from it.

After leaving this shanty Mr. Frost met with an accident; yet he can say with David "I was in trouble and He helped me." A heavy fall of snow the previous night had caused him to be longer than usual on the road. Towards noon he had reached the river and was driving through a channel between rocks, when his horse suddenly dropped through the ice. No one was at hand to help him in his trouble, so unaided he set about rescuing the unfortunate horse. The first thing to be done was to free it of the sleigh; in many places the missionary had to cut the harness, being unable to unfasten it. Then he fastened the reins round the animal's neck and pulled with all his strength. The poor creature, numbed with the cold, seemed both unable and unwilling to help itself. But at length it began to struggle, and then Mr. Frost succeeded in getting the fore feet on to the ice, and by dragging it on to its side, finally landed it on firm ice. Then he led it back, leaving the sleigh and part of the harness at the scene of the mishap.

But before he had reached the shore, the ice again gave way. This time he was almost inclined to abandon the horse, being unable to extricate its legs from a crack in the ice. However, after many useless attempts he succeeded, and in the course of an hour [53/54] it was lodged in a comfortable stable, much wounded, and unfit to work for some time. So Mr. Frost was compelled to pursue his journey on foot, with his dog drawing his rugs, overcoat and satchel.

Nor was Mr. Frost the only one who met with an accident on the ice at this time. The day proved to be a fatal one to a team of horses working at another river. Here the teams had for days been at work hauling logs and placing them upon the ice, and each day some thirty to forty loads had been safely drawn over a lumber road, which for two or three miles ran across a small lake. The last load for the day had been safely deposited, and the teams were on their way back to the camp for the night.

The last team, having nothing behind it but the sleigh, empty, save that the driver was as usual riding thereon, had reached to within three or four times its own length of the shore, when the ice, which before had safely carried ton upon ton, now suddenly gave way, and both horses and driver were without warning immersed. The drivers of the other teams, hearing their comrade's cry for help, at once came to his assistance. Nothing could been seen of the horses beyond their heads, and one of them seemed quite unable to move. The weight of the sleigh was doubtless keeping the horses down, and probably the poor animals' legs had become entangled in the chains and harness.

Every means was used to help the poor creatures, [54/55] but without avail; the ice was so unsafe around them, that they were reached only with difficulty and great danger. Not even the whole of the chains from the other teams served to make a sufficiently long cable to reach from the unfortunate team to a spot were a footing for the other horses could be obtained. Thus they were unable to put a chain round the necks of the horses that were immersed, and pull them out by main force. The water was terribly cold, and in half-an-hour death had released the poor animals from their sufferings. The driver himself (who was the owner of the horses) had a very narrow escape from drowning, and his exposure caused him a severe illness. These horses were the whole of the poor fellow's capital, the result of many years of hard work and self-denial.

Thus Mr. Frost proceeded on his journey, and completed his tour on foot. On the evening following the accident to his horse, he arrived in the neighbourhood of the Beaverstone River. At noon next day he addressed a few persons at the depot, and in the evening held a service in the neighbourhood of Bad River. During the day he walked a distance of twelve miles, through the bush and on the river. He next went to see the Indians at Point Gromline and held a service at a very clean and respectable Indian house. At this place he baptised the widow of a former chief, who was known by the name of Ahmiticoegors. She had been a Pagan all her life, [55/56] and had recently been converted to Christianity. Her brother has been a Christian for many years, and at his house there are family prayers regularly both morning and evening.

Mr. Frost visited all the Indians at Point Gromline, and in the evening returned to the depot. The following day was Sunday, and a large congregation attended the morning service, many Indians being present. There was a second service for the Indians in the afternoon, at the close of which the missionary returned to the place where he had left his horse. He found it somewhat better, so determined in the morning to start on his journey to Sheguiandah. After travelling only a few miles, it was evident that the horse could go no further. Mr. Frost was accordingly compelled to give it a few days' rest; after which he proceeded to Killarney, going at the rate of about two miles an hour At Killarney he stayed the night and next day reached his home without further accident.

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