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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 XVIII. Burnt Out

One afternoon in January, 1893, Mr. Frost visited Conlon's camp. In the evening he gave the men working there a sermon, and they in return gave him a bunk for the night. On the following day he spent the whole of the forenoon at the camp amongst the men, who numbered about eighty souls. Here, besides holding the service, the missionary distributed a large number of papers and magazines. After the midday meal he left for another camp, where he proceeded to do as at Conlon's.

On March the Second, Mr. Frost left home to visit the Indians on Spanish river, and as he had to pass near Conlon's camp again he took the opportunity of paying the men another visit. They were delighted to see him, and after supper the cook himself proposed to clear up the common dining room and to arrange it for service. When he had done so a large number of the men who attended the service on the former occasion eagerly took advantage of this second opportunity of worshipping God, leaving their own quarters immediately after the signal agreed upon was given. They hastened to the room that had been prepared, and most earnestly took part in the [124/125] responses and listened with deep attention to Mr. Frost's address. The missionary again spent the night at the camp, and the next morning proceeded on his journey to minister to the Indians at Spanish River.

By the end of the month Holy Week had returned, and Mr. Frost was very busy holding services each day. On Good Friday and Easter Day the same number of services were held as in former years. Then the roads began to give way, and for a time the missionary had to confine his efforts to narrower limits. However, early in May he was once more able to get further afield.

This month was to bring the mission and its missionary a great trouble, for on the morning of Thursday, May 18th, his house was destroyed by fire. Early that morning the Indians at Sheguiandah were awakened by the lurid light of flames leaping forth from one of the houses in the village. Rushing to the spot they found the missionary's dwelling in flames.

Mr. Frost and his wife were both away at the time but the Indians made every effort to save as much of his property as was possible. Part of the furniture out of one of the rooms on the ground floor was all that could be rescued; all the rest was burnt, and the house reduced to ashes.

The house had only been built a few months before and the requirements of the insurance companies had not yet been complied with, so that [125/126] neither the building itself nor its contents were insured. Hence with the exception of the furniture mentioned, the missionary not only lost his house, but everything else, save that which he had with him at the time. Thus both to himself and to his people the accident was most disastrous, all the more distressing as the Parsonage was built after much self-denying effort both on the part of the missionary and the Indians who had helped in its erection.

In a few days Mr. Frost returned home, only to find that the cruel fire had destroyed his home. Overwhelming as this disaster was, yet he was not discouraged, but took up his quarters in a house about a mile or so away on the other side of the Sheguiandah Bay. Here he was within sight of his old house and the Indian village he loved so much. His new abode was a very old house, much dilapidated; but owing to the kindness of friends and to the Women's Auxiliary, it was furnished with a fair amount of comfort, and here the summer and winter months were spent. The Bishop did not think it would be wise to commence rebuilding the Parsonage till sufficient money was in hand for its completion lest the work should come to a standstill for want of funds.

Meanwhile the work of the mission was carried on just as before. One of the missionary's vehicles was burnt, but he was able to buy another to replace it. The four services each Sunday were held with the [126/127] same regularity, although his being at a greater distance from the churches made the undertaking more difficult for the missionary. However, the new abode on the bay afforded a good moorage for Mr. Frost's boat, of which during the summer he made good use, frequently visiting the Indian villages on the mainland. But these trips were not without their difficulties and disappointments.

Once when visiting one of these villages, a lake some two miles in length had to be crossed. Being unable to use his sail boat, Mr. Frost borrowed a large heavy canoe, and with the help of an Indian, carried it for some distance to the edge of the lake. After paddling a few yards great was the disappointment felt by him when the canoe began to fill rapidly with water, and turning immediately, Mr. Frost had barely time to reach the shore before being swamped.

However he discovered an old punt which carried him safely over the lake, and, after great difficulties in finding his way through the bush and over the rocks, he at length reached the village. Here the Indians gave him a good supper, after which a hearty service was held in the church which was attended by a large congregation.

Sometimes great disappointment is caused when, after a long and troublesome journey, the missionary finds the village almost deserted; yet while the Indians are so wandering in their habits and mode of [127/128] life, this can hardly be prevented. Although often disappointed in this way, the missionary has many opportunities of ministering, for if not at the villages, the Indians are to be found at different places of encampment in the neighbourhood, where there are often several families assembled together. The Indians now make better boats than formerly, and a large number have tents which are an improvement upon the old birch-bark wigwams.

The weather which had hitherto been beautiful, now changed, and many times in the course of his duties was Mr. Frost compelled to face wind, and rain, and storms. Frequently would he arrive at some camp after a toilsome journey drenched by the rain, and then he would have to sit by the camp fire partly clothed while the rest of his things were drying on the stakes above the fire. But when they were dried there would usually be an excellent supper provided, and often a comfortable night's rest was obtainable.

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