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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 VIII. The Evangeline

It is not intended to give a history or lengthy account of the "Evangeline," but in passing it may be mentioned that formerly she was used as a pleasure yacht, and owned by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Doubtless in those days she was a bright and elegant vessel fitted and equipped in a manner worthy of her royal owner, and would be the object of many an admiring glance when riding at anchor off Cowes. At this time she was called the "Zenobia," and when offered for sale was purchased by the English supporters of the diocese of Algoma for the use of the Bishop.

And here we fancy some one saying: "What a luxury." But was it a luxury? Was it not rather necessity that prompted the purchase? In the vast diocese of Algoma there are dwellers who can only be reached by some such means as a private vessel for the Bishop. People who live in isolated fishing stations and lighthouses; Indian villages and lumber camps; many places that in those days were connected by no ordinary line of steamers, or other means of transit, and many places that have still no regular communication with the more important towns.

[60] Manitoulin Island alone has a very extensive coastline, much indented, and is surrounded by an enormous number of small islands. Then, again, scattered about at various points on the shores of the great lakes or inland seas, are groups of men far removed from religious privileges. There are the tribes of Ojibway Indians, diminished greatly in number it is true, but still the representatives of those who in former times were the rightful owners of the land, and who now have allotted to them by Government certain districts called reserves. All these could not be regularly visited by their episcopal head, were he not provided with some suitable vessel. And then as to luxury: well let us see. Fare: ordinarily, canned meat and boiled potatoes, varied occasionally by a roast joint brought on board from home, before weighing anchor. Bed: a hair cushion, as soft and yielding as the cabin floor. Weather: what Providence sends; now calm and sunshine, and again rain, hail and wind, with nothing to shelter the episcopal pilot--who never leaves the wheel--save an ample tarpaulin. Such is the luxurious life on board the "Evangeline." The Bishop never complains; should others?

But to return to the "Zenobia." After her purchase she was shipped from Liverpool and ten years ago safely reached the diocese. Then arose the question of re-naming her. Many names were suggested, and one of the Bishop's little daughters [60/61] said, "call her the "Evangeline," because she will carry the Gospel." The idea was considered, and it was decided to call her by that name. Thus the pleasure yacht, under her new name, became the means of hastening forward the work of the diocese, and of conveying the Bishop to many almost inaccessible spots inhabited by settlers and native Indians.

The "Evangeline" also carries a large number of magazines, which are distributed at various points along the route. These are made up into good-sized parcels, securely tied up, so that when slipped from the side of the "Evangeline" into any passing boats, none of the contents fall out. Each parcel contains about thirty periodicals, and sometimes there are forty such parcels stored on the roof of the saloon, protected by a tarpaulin, waiting to be disposed of.

On one occasion as the "Evangeline" was steaming past a lighthouse in Lake George the Bishop said, "I wonder the people at that light-house content themselves with making signals, and do not row off to meet us." He then directed the deck-hand to take the boat and carry them a bundle of papers. He returned in about half-an-hour's time and reported that the men were away from home for a few hours, and the women at the lighthouse could not leave their charge to row out to meet them, but were most anxious that they should not pass without leaving them something to read. So delighted were they at receiving the papers that they gathered the [61/62] few flowers that were growing in their little garden and sent them to the Bishop.

At another time, during the very hot weather, his Lordship was distributing papers amongst the men in some timber yards. These were so glad to get the bundles of literature that they gave him some ice, by means of which, in conjunction with an old box and some saw-dust, it was possible to form a primitive ice-house on board the "Evangeline."

These bundles of reading matter are much appreciated by all. Isolated dwellers will be on the look-out for the mission steamer for weeks, until at length they are rewarded by sighting her, and are cheered by a kindly message from the Bishop and the welcome parcel of magazines. And should any alteration take place in the coast line, such as the shifting of a rock, care is taken by the dwellers in the immediate neighbourhood to be even more diligent in their look-out so as to warn the Bishop of it; for in these unfrequented waters such matters do not obtain sufficient notice for him to be apprised of his danger.

But shifting rocks are not the only source of danger. To say nothing of the frequent and sudden storms, there is the danger of running into sunken trees which, having blown down in a storm, are carried by the rushing waters far out into the lakes and in time become water-logged. Then there is the ever-present danger from saw-logs, coming down the river in drives; [62/63] and if the steamer is not anchored outside the boom, there is serious danger that her sides may be crushed by the pressure of the logs against them. Still greater is the danger to a vessel if a jam has broken within two or three miles of her. But perhaps some of my readers are wondering what a "drive," a "boom," and a "jam" may be.

A "drive" is a large number of logs (trunks of trees) that have been cut down in the bush during the winter and are being carried down by the strong current of the river--swollen by the melted snows of winter--to the mills. Imagine to yourself thousands of such logs, from twelve to thirty feet in length and two or three feet in diameter, tossed about like so many matches. You will readily understand how poor a chance of escape would the "Evangeline" have, were she to find herself in the midst of such a floating timber yard, particularly if the wind were high and drove the logs against the sides.

A "boom" is a number of tree trunks joined end to end, by means of iron chains; and the logs thus joined sometimes measure over half a mile in length. This is used to enclose the floating logs lest they should either go beyond the mill, or pass the river's mouth and be lost in the lake. Should a vessel anchor within a "boom" and logs begin to pour in unexpectedly as they often do, there is no other course but to unfasten the boom and get outside. This is attended with great danger to the men [63/64] engaged in unfastening the chains, for should one of them slip off the boom, the logs would either crush him or close over him and he would be drowned.

A "jam" is a collection of logs crowded together at some point of the river, causing a block. This generally occurs where the river is narrow or shallow. Falls and rapids are also frequent causes of jams. First a few logs are stopped, and gradually the number increases as those behind are hindered in their progress. Then the drivers (the men whose duty it is to see that all the logs duly pass down the river) have to break the jam. They spring from log to log, deafened by the noise of the rapids, and blinded by the foam; and when the log that was first jammed has been discovered, they work away with pike and cant-hook till they succeed in getting a chain round it. A team of horses is then attached to the chain and the log pulled out. This has the same effect on a jam as the removal of the keystone would have on an arch; consequently the whole jam will collapse, and all the logs rush madly down the river. It is terribly dangerous work, and each season many brave men lose their life, while engaged at it.

Who shall say that men placed so frequently in such a perilous position do not need the anxious care of a missionary; lest, in their active and dangerous life, higher things should be forgotten, and death [64/65] snatch them from this world unprepared for the next? It is perhaps unnecessary to say that Mr. Frost is as earnest in his ministrations to those who in his district are engaged in work of this kind as to any other members of his flock. But to return to the "Evangeline." During her ten years on Canadian waters she has had many trips, and been found invaluable. Time and again she has carried the Bishop, and rendered it possible for him to visit parts of the diocese that must otherwise have been left without his supervision.

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