During the early part of the winter the Indians at Aundagwahmenekauning had been improving their church, and its better appearance and arrangements certainly repaid them for the labour and care they had bestowed upon the building. When it was first erected about six years previously, it was a rather rough and irregular log structure, yet serviceable and airy. It was exceedingly well ventilated--too much so in fact, for the air used to blow rather freely through the cracks of the gables. But with all its faults and drawbacks it was a great improvement on the old shanty that had for some years previously served as a church. The lancet windows, with their small quantity of stained glass, looked more ecclesiastical than the little square windows of the shanty; and the three-quarter roof was more church-like than the flat roof with which the shanty was covered.
But more important than all these external improvements, the log church was larger and furnished with seats, holy table and pulpit, so that the services could be conducted in a more orderly manner than was possible in the discarded shanty. [84/85] Such was the state of the building, when the Indians commenced the work of improvement. In this state it had continued for several years, for the Indians of Aundagwahmenekauning advance slowly and with caution, and consider undue haste to be undignified. But now at length the work was taken in hand and carried out in a satisfactory manner.
First of all the gables were battened; and next a bell was purchased and hung in a suitable position. The ringing of the bell made it unnecessary for the missionary to blow his horn as he passed through the village to assemble the people for service; which custom had prevailed hitherto. The bell was a great improvement, for it could be heard all over the village, whereas formerly those people who lived beyond the church in the opposite direction to that in which the missionary was approaching, did not hear the horn he blew on his way to church. The next step in the way of improvement involved more labour and expense. A quantity of good match-boarding was procured and the interior of the church very neatly lined. This was a heavy undertaking, and the entire band of Indians for several days worked very diligently until it was completed. When this was finished a small vestry was built, and a new stove placed in the church.
Then, when so much that was really necessary had been done, an organ was added; not new by any means, and slightly out of tune, but for all that a [85/86] useful and much valued addition. The last work of improvement was the boarding of the outside of the church, so that its character of a log building was entirely concealed both inside and out. The appearance was then still further improved by painting the window frames and door.
Christmas at Ogahtneekunaung was a very bright and happy season, as indeed it is at most places; the chief feature of the gaiety was a Christmas tree entertainment which took place in the Schoolhouse. A balsam tree was found and decorated with tapers, and then from its branches were suspended candies and cakes, toys and dolls, which had been sent to the village a few days before.
This was the first Christmas tree ever seen in the place, and was described as a unique affair bearing all manner of fruits. It was a very pretty sight to see the little Indian girls feasting their eyes on the dolls in a sort of rapt ecstasy. But most unfortunately there were more little girls to admire and long for the dolls than dolls to bestow; consequently those who received the coveted prizes were very happy, and the rest were sadly disappointed. One poor woman who was present had several things given to her to take home to her children, who were unable to come. An old man got a coat, another old Indian a warm overcoat, and everyone received a present of some kind. The children feasted on cake and candies, and much useful clothing was distributed amongst them, [86/87] including caps, and socks, frocks, and coats, and many other useful articles.
These gifts were all the more acceptable because some of the Indians were very poor that winter. Their potatoes were frozen in the pit, for the frost had come before the snow which usually protects them; they had been unsuccessful in their autumn fishing, and therefore fish was scarce; and to make matters worse, there were very few partridges and rabbits in the woods, with which they might replenish their stock of provisions.
At Aundagwahmenekauning there was also a Christmas tree, similar to the one at Ogahmeekunaung. "Santa Claus," impersonated by an intelligent young Indian, formed the great feature of the proceedings at Sheguiandah and produced much fun and laughter. At this time many of the older women at Sheguiandah were liberally provided with warm clothing.
Many of the articles distributed were sent to Mr. Frost by the Bishop, who had received them from the "Algoma Association for Prayer and Work in Union with the Diocese of Algoma." This is an association which has branches in London and some of the counties and towns in England, and whose Central Secretary resides at 9, Carlton Road, Ealing, London, W. These workers are, in their own quiet way, doing what they can to forward the church's work in this missionary diocese, and we are sure [87/88] that any of the associates would be glad to give such information as they may possess, should any reader care to ask for it.
The bales containing the clothing were sent to the Diocese from England through the Colonial and Continental Church Society, who in addition to their other and still more substantial aid, kindly paid the freight charges upon them.
What does not the Church in Algoma owe to the great Church Societies in England? The society just mentioned provides a large part of the stipends of a fifth of the clergy of the Diocese. Then there is the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. How largely does that venerable society help in matter of stipends of the clergy, the episcopal endowment fund, and the maintenance of the "Evangeline." Three-fourths of the present number of the clergy are on its list of accredited representatives, drawing their stipends largely from the Society.
Then there is the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Besides their large grant to the Episcopal Endowment Fund, this society is ever ready to respond to petitions for assistance in church building, wherever their eminently reasonable conditions are complied with. There is scarce a church in the whole of the Diocese which, if it does not owe its very existence to that grand society, at all events has received a large grant towards its erection, and, in a word been completed by it. Where again [88/89] would the various Sunday School libraries be without the aid so liberally extended to them by it? To say nothing of the wholesale grants of Bibles, prayer-books and hymn-books, readily voted for the use of steamers plying to and fro on the great inland seas within the Diocese, thus "Casting bread upon the waters" which beyond a doubt will be found again, though it may be in some cases 'After many days.' Verily indeed these societies are rightly called the great nursing mothers of the church. But
Nos............non haec dicere.
Conamur, tenues grandia. Hor. Carm i., 6.