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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 XV. Delays

Towards the end of the month of November Mr. Frost left home and paid a prolonged visit to the most distant parts of his mission. It had not been his intention to stay from home such a length of time when he first started on his journey, but bad weather and other causes detained him on the route. Many hindrances had occurred to prevent his taking this journey earlier in the autumn, and he had been obliged to postpone it from week to week.

When at length an opportunity presented itself and he was able to leave Sheguiandah, he embarked on a steamboat for the first part of his journey, fearing to venture in his own boat as the weather was very rough. At the first place where the steamer called, Mr. Frost was detained two days; he made good use of this time, visiting amongst the inhabitants. Then he secured a passage in the steamer for the next village, where he stayed several days, visiting during the day-time, and holding services in the schoolhouse every evening. He was invited to visit the day school and was glad to take this opportunity of addressing the children.

On Sunday morning he held a service and in the afternoon he rowed down to a shanty where several [104/105] men were living and gave them a service. He was enabled to do this owing to the kindness of a friend in lending him a skiff. In the evening he visited a camp in the neighbourhood and held a service. This camp was about two miles distant from the village and was approached by a road through the woods, so muddy and soft as to be almost impassable. Along this road the missionary advanced as best he could, the heavy rain beating on his face, and greatly adding to his discomfort. Still he persevered and it proved to be a most timely visit to the camp, for the men had had no opportunity of meeting together for public worship since they left for the "limit" some weeks before.

And what is a "limit"? asks the reader. We will explain. It is a tract of land often many miles square, on which the employer of the men has obtained from the government the sole right to cut the pine or other trees designated in his license. About September (the season regulating the movements to a great extent) the men leave the mills, which are generally situated near the mouths of the rivers or on the lakes, and journey, either up the course of the river or along the shore of the lake as the case may be, until they come to the "limit." Here they are joined by other men, representatives of many different nations often meeting in the same camp. Here through the long dreary months of winter they are housed either in shanties or camps. [105/106] At break of day they are up and off to their labours, and until sundown may be heard the clear ring of the axe as it bites into the trees; and ever and anon a thundering crash as some lord of the forest bends its lofty crest and falls prostrate upon the earth. The work is hard, fearfully hard, the days are long and monotonous; Sunday is too often little different from other days to men in such isolation, except that they do no work. And were it not for the fact that usually a number of godly men may be found among them, Sunday would soon become not only a day of unholy rest, but one which would bring untold harm both to the men themselves, and also to those who reside anywhere near a camp. O how they need the ministrations of the Church, and what opportunity for sowing the seed of eternal life is here. Mr. Frost was not the man to let such a chance pass by unheeded. That night, first by a service and afterwards by individual counsel he did his utmost for their spiritual welfare. He shared one of the most comfortable bunks for the night, and the next morning, after breakfasting with the men, he retraced his steps to the village.

The next place visited was on the banks of a small river, whose current was too swift for the skiff, so the missionary walked along the river bank till he reached the village. After making a short stay here he pushed on to an Indian village which was approached by a road on which the water stood knee deep in [106/107] places. He lost his way several times, for it is difficult to follow a trail over rocks and through water; however, he reached the village at last and held a service there both in the afternoon, and again in the evening. The church was well filled with Indians, and after the service was over, several came to the missionary and enquired after their friends who lived in the neighbourhood of Sheguiandah. Some Indians were present who came from a place far back in the bush beyond the height of land.

On the following morning Mr. Frost retraced his steps and found that the depth of water on the road had been increased by a fall of snow during the night. His next station was reached by hard rowing against a strong wind, but not before he had been delayed two days on the route by bad weather. In consequence of this delay he lost the steamboat by which he had hoped to return to Sheguiandah. Unfortunately, just before the next steamer called at the village, the frost set in, and the captain, fearing he might meet with some accident or be frozen in, abandoned the voyage. So Mr. Frost was compelled to make his way home to Sheguiandah, partly by canoe and partly by crossing the ice where it was of sufficient thickness.

In due time Christmas returned and was honoured in the Mission in the usual manner; bright, hearty services and Christmas tree entertainments. During the winter Mr. Frost occupied much of his time in [107/108] going from camp to camp holding services and generally administering to the denizens of the forest.

At length the frost began to yield to the increasing heat of the sun, and the Indians prepared for their usual camping out in the sugar bush. Easter came, and those Indians who were temporarily living in the sugar bush flocked back to Sheguiandah to be present at the services. On Easter Day there was an early celebration of the Holy Communion at seven o'clock, attended by a large number of communicants. The next service began at nine o'clock. A large congregation listened to the missionary's sermon on the subject of the Resurrection with deep attention, and joined in heartily singing the joyous Easter hymns. During this service an interesting ceremony took place. The old Chief Manitowahsing was presented with a license from the Bishop of Algoma authorising him to act as lay reader and catechist in the mission. The next day the chief wrote the following letter to the Bishop:

"Great Black Coat,--

I will try to teach and help my people, acting on the authority which you give to me in the license, if the Saviour help me. It is in His strength that we are strong. Also it was for no small reason that I asked from you your seal. It was seriously, for the sake of the truth. I would like to ask you to intercede for me with the Lord, that I may be strengthened for this work. I am not such a good [108/109] scholar as some are, yet I trust that I know the truth in my heart. I send my greetings in the Lord Jesus.--I am your obedient servant,

Arthur Manitowahsing."

At St. Peter's Church, Sheguiandah, there was a celebration of the Holy Communion and a sermon at eleven o'clock. A good congregation assembled, but the number of communicants was not so large as at the early service. At the Indian church, Sucker Creek, service was held at three o'clock in the afternoon, and in the evening a large congregation met at Little Current.

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