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 XXII. A Wedding

We in England, when we wish to see a clergyman have but two or three miles at the most to travel and can usually find him at any given time, can but little understand the hardships which have often to be undergone by others, seeking his services, in distant lands. Not unfrequently a distance of thirty or forty miles has to be travelled before the place at which the nearest clergyman resides can be reached.

Then, if he happens to be away from home visiting some of the distant stations of his mission, there may be days of waiting and anxious delay, and on some occasions it may be necessary to dispatch a second and more urgent messenger. In England, too, it is usual to give reasonable notice before a clergyman is expected to perform the marriage ceremony. In by far the greater number of instances in Canada no banns are published, but a license is procured from the nearest magistrate, or other person authorized to issue them, on the production of which the local clergyman proceeds to unite the happy pair.

Hence a clergyman is often called upon to officiate without previous warning, and that sometimes at the most unusual and inconvenient hours. But even [150/151] when this is not the case much delay and anxiety are often caused by the great distances that have sometimes to be travelled.

It may be interesting to give an account of a wedding taken by the Rev. J. H. McLeod, the clergyman in charge of Gore Bay. Not long ago Mr. McLeod promised to officiate at Meldrum Bay, a distance of sixty-five miles, by road, from Gore Bay. The time allowed to reach this spot was nearly two days, and as the wedding took place on the Tuesday, the missionary left his house on the Monday morning; the time of year was late winter, the snow was already beginning to disappear from some parts of the ground, and the ice was thin and worn by the heavy rains. The vehicle used was a sleigh drawn by two strong young ponies, and well indeed was it that they were strong, for the first ten miles of their journey led over very bad roads, the surface of which was rough bare ground, with no snow on which the sleigh might run.

When the missionary approached the ice matters did not improve much, for at about half a mile from the shore the surface of the ice was found to be covered with water to the depth of a foot. Having heard that the ice was safe, Mr. McLeod decided to venture across it, although a gale of wind which was blowing at the time made the passage still more disagreeable. After a drive of twenty miles during which three dangerous cracks in the ice had to be [151/152] crossed, the shore was happily reached, and a further drive of three miles on land brought the missionary to the house of a friend where he had arranged to halt and spend the night.

Here he met with a very kind reception, and after partaking of refreshments, he set out on foot to visit a place about three miles distant, accompanied by the son of his host, where he baptised several children. He had hoped to hold a service in the neighbourhood, but this had to be abandoned as the roads were nearly impassable. In the evening he walked back to his friend's house, which was reached only with difficulty owing to the darkness and the soft state of the road.

Nor even moon nor stars display,
Through the dark shade, one guiding ray
To show the perils of the way. Robert Southey.

It was necessary to make an early start on the following morning as the missionary had still a long drive before him. The snow, which was soft before was rendered still softer by a steady downfall of rain during the night. However, after an early breakfast, a start was made notwithstanding the rain which was still falling, for when the object of a journey is a wedding, it would never do to disappoint the young people.

For the first thirteen miles the road was extremely rough, indeed it would have been a hard matter to find its equal, even in the Muskoka district or [152/153] the Rocky Mountains. It had been decided to travel the whole distance by the road, but when Sheshewanese Bay was reached, Mr. McLeod changed his mind and determined to risk the twenty miles' drive on the ice to Meldrum Bay: once on the ice again the ponies advanced at a good pace and the travelling was fair, with the exception of a few cracks in the ice.

Shortly after rounding the last point going into Meldrum Bay, some five miles distant, the sleigh was sighted by some of the expectant and anxious people, who soon announced, to the great delight of all, and especially of the young people about to be married, that the missionary was coming. In about half an hour's time after rounding the point, Mr. McLeod arrived at his destination, none the worse for his long and fatiguing journey. He was warmly welcomed by the people of the village, and his ponies were taken to a comfortable stable where they were well fed and cared for.

At five o'clock in the evening the marriage ceremony was performed. Afterwards a most excellent dinner was provided to about eighty guests. The tables were then cleared and many games and amusements indulged in by the younger people. The next day, Wednesday, the missionary visited in the village and immediate neighbourhood and baptized a child. In the evening another wedding took place and amusements kept up until a late hour, [153/154] brought what was quite a festive time at Meldrum Bay to a close.

On Thursday Mr. McLeod made an early start for Gore Bay having decided to run the risk of the ice all the way down rather than attempt the roads. He reached home in the afternoon having made a short stop at Cape Robert's Lighthouse. The ponies went willingly, and no accident or misfortune befel them or their driver on the way. The whole population of Gore Bay were unanimous in welcoming their clergyman home again and congratulating him on his safe return. Some said they would not have undertaken that journey for fifty dollars, and others asserted that on no consideration would they have been induced to expose themselves to such risk. A few days after Mr. McLeod's return, a team of horses and a team of four dogs were drowned on this same route.

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