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 XXI. Among Lumbermen

During the winter Mr. Frost took a tour for a fortnight to the distant parts of his mission. Leaving Sheguiandah early one morning, he started for Killarney, travelling over the ice which was fairly good, with the exception of numerous cracks. Sometimes it was necessary for him to get out of his sleigh and try the ice with an axe to see where it was best to cross the track, since on some ice there are spaces of open water concealed by a drift of snow and sufficiently large to engulf both missionary and horse. On arriving at Killarney he called on those who were members of the church and held small gatherings for prayer and reading.

A pleasant drive of twenty-three miles brought the missionary to Beaverstone, where he was well received. Arriving in the evening he met several of his old friends, who were collected together at the office, and in an adjoining shanty he discovered an old man who had been the first to greet him when he visited the camp many years before. There was one young man, who had recently come out from England, and who had met with an accident which confined him to the camp for two or three days. [143/144] The missionary was much interested in him, and had many opportunities of conversing with him, and giving him advice which might be useful to him in his new and untried life. Mr. Frost was encouraged by the success of the service which he held in this camp, but disappointed in the singing, scarcely anyone being able to join with him in the hymns.

On leaving Beaverstone the missionary travelled ten miles through the woods to his next destination, Bad River. The journey was agreeable and the landscape varied. Part of the woods consisted of dense groves of pine and spruce; then came a grove of fine white birches, their shining silvery bark forming a striking contrast to the dense pine woods just passed. The missionary was disappointed on reaching Bad River to find that an old friend whom he had known for many years was not at the camp. His children, however, were very attentive and endeavoured to make up for their father's absence.

The clerk in charge made the necessary arrangements, and the usual service was held; a great contrast in respect to the singing to that held at the last camp visited. Here the men joined heartily and actually possessed hymn books of their own. Mr. Frost slept in the office, and next day pushed on to Beaver Meadow Camp.

On the way, he saw from the stains in the snow, that some hunter had been killing deer and had [144/145] dragged their carcases over the snow; there were some wolves also in the neighbourhood, but fortunately they did not attack him. When he arrived the men were working in the woods, but in the evening they came into the camp and attended the services, Afterwards Mr. Frost showed some views from a magic lantern which he had with him. The cook in this camp was a native of England and it was pleasant to see how keenly interested he was in the affairs of the old country.

McDonald's Camp, the next visited, was entirely different to the others. It was built on a swamp of tameracks; the company was larger and more varied; the men were of many different nationalities, and of diverse occupations before they came to the woods. One had been a sailor, and had met the manager of the camp in Toronto, and had taken work in the woods not knowing at all what it was like. The missionary was especially interested in some English people who were thinking of settling on a farm in the north-west of Canada. The foreman and his wife and family with many others were present at the service, and so much interest was evinced that Mr. Frost was prevailed on to stay over Sunday and give them a Sunday morning service.

On Sunday afternoon the missionary drove to the depot at Beaverstone and held a service there. He then proceeded to Collin's Inlet, being advised not to take his horse, as the ice in the channel was not [145/146] sufficiently strong to bear one. A couple of dogs were used to draw the sleigh, and the journey was accomplished in safety. Here he spent the night, and next morning returned to the dep6t for his horse. But the rain had come on, and the water in the river had risen to such a degree that the dogs were almost swimming. The sleigh was abandoned, and the missionary made his way along the bank, plunging through the deep snow.

The journey through the woods to Point Gromline was not so unpleasant, and Mr. Frost was warmly welcomed by the Indians who live in that village. The houses here are rather better than the general run of Indian cabins, some indeed being quite superior. The missionary first went to see an old friend whose name was John Kahgahgum. John conducted Mr. Frost to his father's house where he said there was a better place to put the horse. Here the missionary was very comfortably lodged, and in the evening preached to the Indians in their own tongue.

The following day was very wet, so the missionary was obliged to stay in the village for yet another day, in the meantime visiting from house to house. The Indians promised to make him a handsome pair of beaded mocassins, as an acknowledgment of the appreciation with which they received his visits.

The missionary then returned to Collin's Inlet and was there informed that the men at Gray's Lake would be glad to have a visit from him. So he set [146/149] out for that place, accompanied by one of his Indian friends on the most difficult parts of the route, and afterwards making his way through the woods alone. The travelling was very bad because the thaw had raised the water in the rivers and marshes making it very difficult to get along. The water in places reached up to the horse's flank.

At length he arrived at his destination, and was well received; the master of the camp exerting himself to make the service a success. Most of the men here carne from Eastern Ontario, close on the borders of Quebec. The missionary was so pleased with the success of this visit that he determined to go on to the next camp at Long Lake.

During the night a slight frost congealed the water in a marsh through which he had to pass on the way to Long Lake. But the ice was not sufficiently strong to bear the horse, and every step it broke through, and for over a mile the poor creature had to wade through a mixture of ice and water. Consequently when the camp was reached the animal was nearly exhausted with the cold and fatigue. The men in the camp were prevented from working owing to the floods, so service was commenced early in the evening.

Next morning Mr. Frost returned towards Collin's Inlet which he reached after a long and troublesome journey. On his way to Sheguiandah he visited Manitowaning and held a service in that place as well as a celebration of the Holy Communion.

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