Project Canterbury

The Journal of the Bishop of Montreal, during a Visit to the Church Missionary Society's North-West America Mission.

By George Jehoshaphat Mountain

London: Seeleys, 1849.

Letter II. Proceedings at the Red-River Settlement

Arrival at the Red River--Indian Church and Settlement.

Quebec, Dec. 2, 1844.


MY Letter to you of the 20th of last month concluded with a statement of my arrival at the Indian Settlement, forming the lower extremity of the Red River Colony, on Sunday morning the 23rd of June. It was about 9 o'clock, and within half an hour of the time for the commencement of Divine Service. The sight which greeted me was such as never can be forgotten by myself or my companions; and the recollection will always be coupled with feelings of devout thankfulness to God, and warm [42/43] appreciation of the blessings dispensed by the Church Missionary Society. After travelling for upward of a month through an inhospitable wilderness, and casually encountering, at intervals, such specimens of the Heathen savage as I have described, we came at once, and without any intermediate gradation in the aspect of things, upon the Establishment formed upon the low margin of the river, for the same race of people in their Christian state; and there, on the morning of the Lord's own blessed day, we saw them gathering already around their pastor, who was before his door; their children collecting in the same manner, with their books in their hands, all decently clothed from head to foot: a repose and steadiness in their deportment, at least the seeming indications of a high and control ling influence upon their characters and hearts. Around were their humble dwellings, with the commencement of farms, and cattle grazing in the meadows; the neat modest Parsonage, or Mission-house, with its garden attached to it; and the simple [43/44] but decent Church, with the School-house as its appendage, forming the leading objects in the picture, and carrying, upon the face of them, the promise of blessing. We were amply rewarded for all the toils and exposure of the night. I have said that the scene could never be forgotten either by my companions or myself. My Chaplain naturally felt as I did upon the occasion; but it may not perhaps be wholly beneath notice that my servant, an Englishman, to whom everything in this journey was new, told me afterwards, that he could hardly command his tears. Nor was it an unpleasing or worthless testimony that was rendered by one of our old voyageurs to the actual merits of the Mission, when, addressing this man, he said, "There are your Christian Indians"--the speaker being a French Canadian Roman Catholic--"it would be very well if all the Whites were as good as they are." We were greeted by good Mr. Smithurst at the water's edge, and after having refreshed ourselves and robed under his roof, we proceeded to the Church. There [44/45] were perhaps 250 Indians present, composing the whole Congregation. Nothing can be more reverential and solemn than the demeanour and bearing of these people in public worship. Their costume has a hybrid kind of character, partly European, partly Indian, the former predominating among the men. The women, for the most part, still wear the blanket, or else a piece of dark cloth, thrown over the head, with the hair parted smoothly in front, and leggings from the knee downward. They all wear moccasins; which indeed are worn by the Missionaries, and almost all the European population of the Colony. The Morning Service is performed in English; but the Lessons are rendered into the Indian tongue by the interpreter, a Half-breed Schoolmaster, who stands beneath the Clergyman. [Mr. Joseph Cook, since dead. Vide p. 15 of the "Church Missionary Record" for January 1849.] The same man rendered my sermon, sentence by sentence. The [45/46] Evening Service is performed in the Indian language, which Mr. Smithurst has so far mastered as to use it where he is familiar with what he has to say; but the Lessons are read and rendered as in the morning. It was followed by a sermon, which I again delivered, the interpreter doing his part as before. About two-thirds of the congregation are said to understand a plain and simple address in English; and, as far as this Settlement is concerned, the time, I conceive, is fast coming when no other will be required. But far and wide, let it be hoped, will there be occasion for carrying divine instruction, within the Territory, to "men of other tongues."

Mr. Smithurst, as the Society is perhaps aware, has made great progress in the preparation of a Grammar of the Cree language, being that which is spoken by the great body of the Indian converts under the Society's care. It appears to be exceedingly complicated, abounding in moods and tenses, and exhibiting a great variety of inflections. The Quarterly Review, however, in No. [46/47] CXLVIII., Article "Forster on Arabia," speaks thus--

"The multiplied inflections (as they are improperly considered) of the Americans and Esquimaux, are plainly the contrivances of rude nations; who, instead of using the simple and beautiful method of the Oriental nations, modified the relations of verbs and nouns, by the addition, in each instance, of whole words, which at length came to be statedly added in each change of mood or tense or case, but always unabbreviated; which is one reason why their words present such an uncouth and polysyllabic appearance to the eye: their supposed terminations being, in fact, no more part of the words which they modify, than the auxiliary particles are in English."

I do not profess myself qualified to pronounce with what correctness these remarks may be found applicable to the Cree language.

The singing is conducted chiefly by the children of the School. I visited the Sunday-school, held in the School-house, and found [47/48] a large attendance. The number of children on the list is 153: it will possibly appear fanciful; but I could not help thinking of the precise correspondence of the number which these fishers of men had here gathered in, with that of the miraculous draft of fishes, when the net was cast by the command of Christ--John xxi. 11. After the Evening Service, Mr. Smithurst made the most advanced children read to me in the Bible, and examined them not only in the Catechism, but in the Thirty-nine Articles. I do confess that I was much disposed to question the profitableness, to subjects of such a class, of this last-mentioned portion of the instruction bestowed upon them; and, taking an example, I asked Mr. Smithurst what those Indian youths and girls would understand by the Twenty-first Article: what conceptions they would attach to General Councils, and their just subordination to Sovereign Princes. I proposed the question, however, rather in the form of inquiry than of objection; and Mr. Smithurst satisfied me at once upon this [48/49] point by explaining that the Indians are quite familiar with Councils and solemn deliberations on their own affairs in the Tribes--that they are easily led to transfer this idea to the affairs of the Church--and that, having also a pre-possession in favour of the authority of Chiefs, and a strong feeling of dutiful respect for their "Great Mother" the Queen, who, they are made to understand, protects the Church and conforms to its system, they have no difficulty in connecting the notion of a reference to her pleasure--or that of a Sovereign generally--with the deliberative proceedings of the Church of God. From all that I could gather, the Crees appear to be distinguished as a thinking and intelligent Tribe. There is a sprinkling of Sauteux in Mr. Smithurst's Congregation.

The Church was shut up, after all was over, by an old Indian acting as a sort of Sexton, who had formerly been a noted Sorcerer or Medicine in his Tribe. [This old man died in peace on the 31st of July 1845. An account of his last illness and death is given in p. 280 of the "Church Missionary Record" for December 1846.]

[50] The day, altogether, was one of extraordinary interest; and if the scenes which it presented could have been witnessed by those who are called upon to support the Society at home, and, still more, if they could have had the opportunity of contrasting them with the exhibitions of poor, dirty, and degraded Heathens, half, or wholly naked, or perhaps decked out with the most fantastic absurdity, who were to be seen on the way, a powerful accession of force would have been gained for the appeal to their charity.

Arrival, at the Indian Settlement, of the Missionaries from the higher Stations.

On Monday morning, the 24th, the Rev. Messrs. Cockran and Cowley, to whom information of my arrival had been conveyed, came down, from their Stations up [50/51] the river, to meet me; and, in conference with them and Mr. Smithurst, I laid down the whole plan of my operations, and settled the distribution of my time and labour among the different Churches during my stay. This day, which was the Festival of St. John the Baptist, was spent still in the Indian Settlement, and the offices of the Church, which call to mind the preaching in the wilderness, were certainly not inappropriate with reference to our situation. We had a service in the evening, which was fully attended by the Indians, and my Chaplain, the Rev. P. J. Maning, preached to them through the interpreter. The confirmation was reserved for my return to the Settlement, on my homeward way.

We walked, in the course of this day, over the Mission Farm, which constitutes, in fact, a branch of the Society's Establishment for the improvement of the Indians, since it is the model for their own agricultural operations; and for this reason, as again in the case of Mr. Cockran at the Rapids, has been an object upon which the [51/52] Missionary has bestowed some closeness of personal attention. In all respects it is truly gratifying to observe how the condition and the habits of the Indian are bettered by the exertions made, under the auspices of the Society, in his behalf.

Departure to visit the other Churches.

On the 25th, we put ourselves in motion to visit the Missionaries up the river, and, having crossed it, rode up with Mr. Smithurst to Mr. Cockran's charge at the Rapids, calling, on our way, at the Lower Fort. I was mounted upon a horse of the Indian breed, an animal, however, of very peaceable and quiet--not to say dull--inclinations. My companions had English or American steeds. It had been settled that I should pass two more Sundays in the Colony, and a couple of days or so beyond. [I use this term which is known to be fully authorized in preference to Settlement, just here, in speaking of the Establishments formed at the Red River, because I have occasion to use the word Settlement in descilbing the Establishment formed specially for the Indians.] I had thus [52/53] about a fortnight now before me, and it was necessary, under all the circumstances of the case, to turn this time to the best possible account, and to do all that God might enable me to do to give effect to this first Episcopal visit. I shall not trouble the Society with the detail of our proceedings, day by day, as noted in my Journal; but the summary of them is as follows--and what makes them worth recording is, that having placed myself at the disposal of the Clergy, who made a great number of appointments for me, I found all their arrangements most fully responded to by the people, of every class, and a marked and lively interest manifested throughout, in all the ministrations which were afforded.


1. With reference to the Confirmations, [53/54] after some services at the different Churches, between which we kept passing backwards and forwards, with sermons introductory in part to the administration of the rite, the Candidates themselves met me by classes at the Lower or Rapids' Church--which is sadly too small for the Congregation and in whole bodies at the other Churches, to receive some familiar instruction and exhortation in preparation for the assumption of their vows. This I based chiefly upon the Catechism, and upon the main heads of the sponsorial engagements. It was not that I meant to take the task of preparation out of the hands of the Clergy, nor that I conceived any preparation sufficient which could be gone through in so short a space of time: it was merely a help and a winding up before the actual assumption of the vows, and reception of blessing from the Church; and it originated in my having said long before, by letter, that as so many uncertainties must attach to the execution of my purpose, and that thence a special and direct preparation made by the Clergy [54/55] might be liable to be followed by a disappointment, in that case very undesirable, I would, if it should be their wish, render any assistance in my power, after my arrival, in fitting the Candidates to present themselves. Nothing new was required in the way of examination: they are so constantly under the training, and so followed by the anxious and watchful eye, of the shepherds set over them, that the amount of their religious proficiency, as well as the tenor of their ordinary deportment, was perfectly well known beforehand. In fact the Clergy know them as a father knows his children, and they know whom to admit and whom to debar, while other cases hung in the balance and were decided after being made the subjects of consideration, perhaps of some necessary allowance, with some particular charge, and the exaction of some particular promises. I had here an opportunity of seeing the great influence of the Clergy, and the willing acquiescence of the people; proceeding, not from any artfully-acquired authority, or determined [55/56] establishment of an imperious ascendancy; but, as I verily believe, from the faithful devotedness of the men employed in the Mission; from the concern which they have manifested for the souls of those committed to them; from the power of those holy truths which they have pressed upon the acceptance of sinful man; and from the general benefits, also, which, in the most conspicuous manner, have flowed from the formation of the Mission in the Colony.

These engagements were followed, of course, by the Confirmations themselves, upon each of which occasions full service was performed. At the Lower Church, there were two Confirmations held on the Sunday, on account of its contracted dimensions. In the morning, 192 women and girls were confirmed: in the evening, 150 men and youths. This last was again the precise number of persons confirmed at the Middle Church, when both sexes were admitted together. And it was very remarkable, that this was also the exact number confirmed on the day following at [56/57] the Upper Church. Two hundred, and something over, were confirmed at the Indian Church on my return to it. I find that the total of the Confirmations is noted to have been 846 persons in the Red-River Colony. It would have been about a thousand; but for the unavoidable absence of some of the subjects for the rite, either in the buffalo-hunting in the Prairies, or with the boats sent to Hudson's Bay. The great body of the population at the Rapids consists of Half-breeds, a term comprehending every shade of mixed blood among the Natives: at the Middle and Upper Churches there is a greater infusion of Europeans: in all the Congregations there is a proportion of pure Indians, and that at the Indian Church--as before stated--is, with some exceptions, a pure Indian body. The Half-breeds are called by the French métifs, or familiarly bois-brûlés. The origin of this latter term I do not well know; but I have heard it traced to a fancied resemblance of this darker race, as compared with their European fathers, to [57/58] the burnt standing trunks which are very commonly seen upon the skirts of their native forests, where the ravages of fire have taken effect. In clearing new land for settlement, it is well known that one of the processes is performed by burning; but in the wildest depths of continuous forest, along the line of uninhabited country through which we passed, nothing is more common than to see considerable tracts through which the fire has run, and in which the landscape is thence grievously disfigured. The fires left by the Indians, or by the voyageurs where they have camped for the night, or stopped to dress their meals, may easily, in dry and windy weather, communicate with the neighbouring trees, and spread extensively along the woods. Our own fires, in one or two in stances, ran up some kind of resinous fir, and quickly produced a fierce and brilliant blaze. Even the droppings of a lighted pipe may, in some places, come in contact with the materials of an incipient conflagration in the forest. Part of the Portage [58/59] called the Savanne was on fire when we passed through it. In one way or other, therefore, bois-brûlé is a very familiar object in the eyes of those who are conversant with the wilds of North America. But this is a complete digression.

In was truly a very interesting spectacle to behold the Churches filled, on all the different occasions connected with the confirmations, as well as at the public services on other days, by a people brought under the yoke of the Gospel, many of whom had been originally heathens, and the great body of whom had Indian blood in their veins; and the effect was indescribably heightened by the deep attention with which they listened, and the devout reverence with which they knelt to receive the imposition of hands the comfortable hope shedding its ray over the solemnity, that they did in sincerity dedicate themselves to Christ. I was much struck at one of the preparatory meetings in Mr. Cockran's immediate charge--where, as I have said, the Candidates came by divisions--by the [59/60] perfectly correct and serious deportment of about seventy young girls, some of them still were School-children, who were brought together without mothers, or matrons, or elders of any kind, to put them under restraint; and I could not help thinking that it would have been difficult to collect the same number of such subjects in an European community, who would have preserved, as these girls did, an inviolate reverence even in the vacant intervals before and after service, and during the calling over of the names from a list which Mr. Cockran held in his hand. At the close of the instruction given to each of the different classes, he desired that all would stand up who were willing to undertake the vows. There was only one instance of any demur: this was in the case of a woman who had had quarrels with her husband, and with whom Mr. Cockran did not feel satisfied. He had taken means to explain to her what was expected from her in certain points of conjugal duty, and she did not, when it came to the point, seem prepared to act up to this [60/61] expectation. But the poor creature was the only one present of a distinct Tribe, for whose language there was a difficulty, at the moment, in finding an interpreter; and I do believe that she was misunderstood.

There is a remarkable modesty and reserve in the whole deportment of the Indian women--partly, no doubt, attributable to the absolute subjection of the sex, in the aboriginal state of the Tribes. In most of the young people, of both sexes, but in a more marked degree among the females, I found a great diffidence and shyness, unaccompanied, however, by a particle of that sullenness of mood sometimes observable in persons whom it is difficult to draw out.

I must not be understood to mean, that, in all these pleasing pictures, the old Adam does not any where lurk in disguise, or to express an unqualified hope that, among those who voluntarily re-enrolled themselves as soldiers of the cross, there will not be instances of mortifying inconsistency, perhaps of unhappy defection: the Indians have strong passions, and are liable to be [61/62] thrown into circumstances unfavourable to the maintenance of holiness; but, allowing for the necessary intermixture of tares with the wheat, I believe that the congregations of the Church at the Red River may be called exemplary, and that the Church has taken root in the place with the fairest auguries of a continuance and increase of blessed fruits of a practical kind.


2. With reference to the Ordinations, it was no small satisfaction to be enabled, upon the spot, to add one to the number of labourers in this remote corner of the vineyard; and subsequently, during my stay, to admit to the grade of Priesthood, both him and another whom it so happened that I had myself ordained Deacon, in Canada, rather more than three years before. These gentlemen were, of course, duly examined, and their testimonials were presented to me, made out in due form. Mr. M'Allum, who was to be appointed Assistant Chaplain [62/63] to the Company, with the understanding that he should succeed to the appointment of Chaplain, had also a full recommendation from Governor Sir George Simpson. His Si Quis was read on St. Peter's day, the only opportunity which was afforded for it, upon occasion of divine service held in the Middle Church, in the presence of an exceedingly good Congregation. It was in that Church that he was ordained Deacon, on Sunday the 30th of June, and that both the gentlemen were ordained Priests on the Sunday following, being my last at the Red River. I trust that both will be found "workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth," and doing, in all respects, "the work of evangelists." It is a great point gained, that the services at the Red-River Churches should be so provided for as to admit of sparing a Clergyman from thence for another Station in the Territory. I long to hear of the Rev. J. Hunter's arrival, and of a favourable issue to the litigation respecting Mr. Leith's bequest. Little as are these additions, [63/64] compared with the demands of the enormous country which lies open to evangelization, it is a comfort to think of any fresh movement made--the augury, let it be devoutly hoped, of far more extended operations.

The Church was crowded to excess at both Ordinations: in fact, upon the second occasion, not only was the aisle and the vestibule crammed, after the occupation of every sitting in the pews; but there were people standing on the outside at the open windows. I was assisted in the ceremony by Mr. Cockran, Mr. Smithurst, and my own Chaplain. My servant, with a gown and staff, acted as verger.

Number of Services, and Attendance of the People.

We spent, altogether, seventeen days at the Red-River Colony, exclusive of the day of our departure; and, during this sojourn, I had the satisfaction, in ministering among the Congregations, to preach to them, [64/65] after full and regular service in the Churches, thirteen times, besides five occasions upon which I more familiarly addressed the Candidates for Confirmation, in the preparatory meetings which I have mentioned. My Chaplain, who assisted more or less in all the services, also preached upon three occasions, and I believe with very favourable effect. We thus met the people, in different bodies, though repeating our ministrations often among the same, twenty-one times in all, and they never failed to shew a forwardness of mind to attend us. The largest Congregation at any of the public services probably amounted to full 500 persons: the smallest did not fall short of 200. The large share which I took myself in preaching was dictated by a desire, felt on all hands, that the people should be brought in contact as much as possible with the Episcopal functions; which, with very few exceptions, were wholly new to them all.

[66] Reasons for not proceeding to Cumberland. Having accomplished the visit to the Red River, and finding myself fairly in the Territory, I should have proceeded, at whatever hazard of certain inconveniences, of different kinds, which would have followed from my detention, to visit the Station of Mr. Budd, the Catechist at Cumber land, had I found that there would be any object gained by my doing so. But the Missionaries wholly dissuaded me from the enterprise, upon the ground that the Indians would be away, at that particular season, from the spot. I saw a long letter from Mr. Budd to Mr. Smithurst, who, as the Society are aware, periodically visits the Station. It was creditable, and interesting as a specimen of the performance of a pure Indian educated in the Society's Schools in the Territory. I think it is in some measure to be regretted, although it may seem but a true, that European surnames have been given to the baptized Indians. The retention of their original [66/67] names, with the Christian name as a prefix in each case, would have served as a constant mark and memento of their having been gathered, with their posterity as a consequence, into the bosom of the Church of God from a state of heathenism; and wherever an individual is made prominent as a Clergyman, a Catechist, or a School master, or a helper, in any way, of the cause, an increased interest would be communicated to the report of his proceedings at home--as in the case of some Oriental converts--if he were noticed under his Indian appellation.

Rough Sketch of the Colony or Settlement of the Red River.

The Colony or Settlement of the Red River--respecting the origin, formation, and early history of which it is quite superfluous that I should say anything here be yond a passing remark, that it affords a wonderfully striking example of good brought by the hand of God out of evil [67/68] extends upwards of fifty miles, taking its commencing point at the Indian Church, and pursuing it to either of its terminations above the junction of the Assiniboin, or Stone River, with the stream which gives name to the Colony. From what circum stance the stream itself derives the name is one of those points respecting which Grammatici certant--if the investigators in this case may be so described--et adhuc sub judice lis est. It has been stated to some of the Missionaries, that the Red Lake, with which it is connected, lying within the limits of the United States, is so called from having been dyed, in a memorable battle among the Indians, with human blood, and that the name has naturally communicated itself to the River. But I have been assured, by some well-informed persons, that it is derived from a reddish earth in the higher parts of the River, which gives a tinge to the waters. There are small and obscure rivers in Canada bearing also the name of La Rivière Rouge. In that part of it which flows through the [68/69] Colony, the River is of a dull appearance, by no means remarkable for clearness, and partaking of the colour of common clay. The Roman-Catholic Settlement, which is perfectly distinct from the Protestant, commences just at the point where the two rivers meet, and runs up each of them for a considerable distance.

The country is all level, forming, in fact, the commencement of the Prairies; but it was, in part at least, well wooded upon the banks of the river when the Settlement was formed. [A very fine grove of oaks is remembered upon a now naked point, at the mouth of the Assiniboin, the site of what is called the Old Fort, near the modern structures which have supplied its place. Sugar-maples were also known in the neighbourhood.] In passing down by water from the Forts to the Indian Settlement, you find it still over-hung in places by well-grown and handsome trees, principally elms, springing from rich green banks, fringed by a full and rounded foliage of shrubs, and these garnished by the intermixture, in vast profusion, [69/70] of wild roses in bloom, when we saw them. There is an equal profusion of large yellow specimens of the Lady's Slipper--Cypripedium flavescens--scattered over the even surface of the plain above and below the Lower Fort, and in the same neighbour hood there are other wild flowers, which make a considerable show. This part of the plain is checquered by a small growth of trees and bushes: higher up, as you approach the Upper Church, you have to your right a boundless and open expanse of level green. The country having this character, an overflow of the waters must of course, if it once take place, extend itself far and wide without check, and there was a memorable inundation about eighteen years ago, in which it could not certainly be said that the people drove their cattle altos visere montes; but they had recourse, both for themselves and their cattle, to whatever trifling eminence was within their reach: and, from the manner in which they still refer to this visitation, they would be supposed to be a race of still-surviving [70/71] antediluvians, since they speak familiarly of things which happened a year before the flood, or just at the time of the flood, and so forth. The open level country extends, in one direction, all the way to St. Peter's on the Missouri, and you may drive a waggon without impediment for hundreds of miles till you reach that place, where you fall at once into a line of American steamers, and have every facility of travelling onwards to any part of the United States or to Canada. This is the route by which Mr. Thomas Simpson, the unfortunate but gifted discoverer of the Arctic passage, was proceeding homeward when he met with his death--an occurrence shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. The Roman-Catholic Bishop of the Red River, also, has gone to Europe by that route. It is necessary, however, that the traveller should be one of a sufficiently strong and well-armed party, the vast open wilds which are to be passed being frequented by Tribes of a fierce character.

The Four Churches.

Along the strip of Settlement which occupies, with interruptions, the opposite sides of the river, the four English Churches are situated. The Indian Church is about thirteen miles below the Lower Church at the Rapids; this again is about six from the Middle Church; and the Middle Church about seven from the Upper. The Indian Church is a wooden building, painted white, fifty feet or upwards in length, with a cupola over the entrance. It has square-topped windows, which, so far, give it an unecclesiastical appearance. The Lower Church is also of wood, and of the length of fifty feet. I have already had occasion to mention the great insufficiency of this building, and among other evils thence arising, the School-children are excluded from [72/73] Church. [This is the Church attended by much the largest of any of the Congregations. It will be observed that out of 846 persons confirmed at the four Churches, 342 were confirmed in this.] They have their Sunday exercises in the School-house; but this is not like the habit of "worshipping the Lord in the great congregation," and "paying their vows in the sight of them that fear Him," The Middle Church, which is not quite completed, and which has been built by the unaided exertions of the Congregation, is an edifice of stone, sixty feet long. The Upper Church, which is also of stone, is ten feet longer, and will accommodate 500 persons. About 400, upon one occasion, met me there. It contains some respect able mural monuments: among others, one which was put up in memory of Mrs. Jones, wife of the gentleman who long laboured as a Missionary of the Society, and is affectionately remembered upon the spot. None of the Churches have any sort of architectural pretensions; but the two stone Churches are creditable-looking buildings. Nothing, however, can be more unseemly, more inconvenient, or more at variance with the usages of the Church of England, than the interior arrangements of the Upper [73/74] and Lower Churches, in which there is no communion-table, and no place reserved for it; and in which, when the Communion is administered, the elements are carried from pew to pew. It was very awkward to manage the Confirmations, and would have been far more so to attempt to hold an Ordination, in either of these Churches. This has been one instance of an undue, and I believe a very mis-calculating, concession to some prejudices but very partially existing; and its chief effect, as I apprehend, has been to augment and to perpetuate the difficulties against which it was intended to provide. A change now would be much more marked than the simple introduction of the English mode of fitting up Churches, when the whole establishment of provision for public worship was something entirely new in the place. Nevertheless, I should not at all despair, from what I saw, of over coming, by degrees, and with judicious management, the difficulties, upon this and similar subjects, which do, in some quarters, exist; and it is certain, that the mass of [74/75] the people are pre-disposed cordially to acquiesce in the recommendations of the Clergy, and the rules of the Church. In the mean time, the fullest credit must be given to the motives of those excellent persons who were originally concerned in the erection of the Churches here described, and who themselves anticipated certain objections, or perhaps yielded some points to others with whom they were associated. The Middle Church has a communion-place, with rails in front of it, although it is placed awkwardly in one of the corners. The Indian Church has the holy table in the centre facing the aisle, with the pulpit at one side, and the desk at the other to correspond to it.

The Missionaries.

The labours which Mr. Cockran went through in planting, cherishing, and watching over the Settlement for which this Church was built, have frequently been mentioned to me among the proofs of his [75/76] unwearied devotedness and zeal. The roads at that time between the Lower Fort and the Indian Settlement were desperately bad, and often and often did he pass through them, up and down, in the hottest weather of summer, and in the height of the season for flies and musquitos, which abound in the newly-opened woods, making forced marches to fulfil the duties lying upon him in his more immediate charge, thirteen miles off, and at the same time to establish the Natives, as a great and most happy, but in the first instance most arduous, experiment, in settled habitations, and in a compact civilized community, as tillers of the soil. They had every thing to learn in every way, and they learned every thing from him. They were moulded by his indefatigable hand, and his task was one in which nothing but prayer and faith could carry him through. His conspicuous disinterestedness and his ready beneficence, of which many examples have been mentioned to me by respectable Factors of the Company and other persons, were greatly [76/77] instrumental in advancing his success. He is one, in the fullest sense, willing to spend and to be spent. And I grieve to say that he is, in a measure, spent; for his exertions have visibly impaired his constitution. It must, however, be a great satisfaction to his mind to see how this labour has been prospered, and to witness how admirably the work which he put in train has been followed up by the Missionary now in charge upon the spot. Of the aspect of that charge, as now resting in the hands of Mr. Smithurst, I have before had occasion to speak. The Indians of all ages at tend him every evening in the School-house for religious instruction.

The Missionaries have of course them selves informed the Society of the division of labour established in the Churches above, between Mr. Cockran and Mr. McAllum.

The Schools.

The Schools form another important feature in the operations of the Society. My [77/78] hands were too full, and my time too incessantly taken up, to admit of my bestowing upon them any very close examination. I inspected, in a general way, the School at the Indian Settlement, where I have al ready mentioned the number of Sunday scholars; but I could not do even this when I was at the Lower and Middle Churches. I had some conversation, however, with the teachers, and I am fully under the impression that they do justice to their charge. At the Lower Church, on a Sunday after noon, I delivered an address, at the in stance of Mr. Cockran, to about a hundred children of the Sunday-school, adapted to the level of their capacities.

The Boarding School, one of a superior order, close to the Upper Church, having a separate department for each sex--which was originally established under the auspices of the Society, and is now conducted by Mr. Mc Allum, on his own account, with the help of an allowance from the Company--is really a nice establishment, and the premises attached to it have more [78/79] neatness and finish than is common in young and remote settlements. The youths have a separate garden for their own amusement.

I have had many detached opportunities of seeing good fruits produced by these different Schools.

Mr. Mc. Allum's School has fallen off in numbers; but not more, probably, than may be accounted for by the excess of demand for education, in the early stage of its establishment, among that class of persons for whom it was designed; many of the gentlemen of the Company, within the Territory, having been prompted to avail themselves of the opportunity for getting their Half-breed children instructed who had passed the usual age of attending School.

Hospitalities experienced.

During my stay at the Red River, my time, of course, was spent much with the Clergy, and I was largely indebted to their [79/80] hospitable and brotherly attentions; perhaps I should rather say filial, if I should describe accurately the affectionate respect and consideration which they manifested toward the Bishop who came to see them. I passed four or five days, in two different visits, under the roof of Mr. Smithurst. I was received in the same way by Mr. and Mrs. Cockran; but Mr. Mailing was more with them than I was, for, after leaving the Indian Settlement, it was arranged that I should myself take advantage of the hospitality of the gentlemen at the Forts, to make my head-quarters there, although I was also most kindly entertained and lodged for a couple of nights by Mr. and Mrs. Bird--both English persons, who have a very neat little establishment, and a nice farm, near the Middle Church--besides being a guest once or twice at the table of the Rev. A. Cowley, and that of the Rev. J. M'Allum. With these exceptions, my time was divided between the Lower and Upper Forts.

The statement of these particulars may [80/81] appear trivially minute. But all, even the lesser and ordinary demonstrations of kindly feeling which I met with, are valued in my recollection, and I wish to give them a place in the record of my doings at the Red River, that, so far as it may be known, they may be noticed too.

Society of the Red River.

I had, at the Forts, the command of horses for my daily movements, and every accommodation afforded to me within, and every facility abroad, which I could require; all done with the most cheerful kindness in the world. At the Lower Fort, I was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Finlayson, who were in temporary occupation, being en route for La Chine, where Mr. Finlayson had been appointed to the charge of the depôt. He had just retired from the appointment of Governor of Assiniboia, for so the Chief Factor is styled in an instrument with the Company's Seal attached to it--who has charge within the Red River Colony in the [81/82] Territory. He was succeeded by Mr. Christie, who had just taken possession at the Upper Fort, where the residence of the Governor is made. Mrs. Finlayson, a lady from England, is sister to Lady Simpson, and cousin to Sir George. Mr. and Mrs. Christie have a daughter, who had just returned from England, where she had passed some years in completing her education. Mr. Thorn, the Recorder of the Territory, an exceedingly able man, possessing a varied range of information, and deeply engaged, latterly, in biblical studies, has apartments, with his lady and children, within the Lower Fort. There are scattered about the Settlement several respectable retired Factors or Traders of the Company, of whom Mr. Bird is one; some married to European, more to Native wives. At this date, I imagine that in the majority of instances the original connexion has been that of a marriage regularly solemnized. One of the many blessings introduced by the Church Missionary Society into this region, is the correction of those irregularities which, with all their [82/83] long train of mischiefs to the community, flowed from the absence of means for the celebration of matrimony. I was made acquainted with an old gentleman of the name of Bunn, now verging upon that period when the strength of man is "but labour and sorrow," who was the first in the Territory to set the example of marrying the Indian woman who had lived with him as his wife. It is but justice to say that I believe many of the gentlemen, who had formed these connexions, considered themselves as solemnly bound to the women, and only waited for an opportunity to be married. They also recognized and reared the children as their own legitimate representatives.

What I have here stated may give an idea of the society at the Red River. Although the style of the establishments at the Forts is exceedingly plain, and the extreme difficulty of transport, as well as the isolated character and remote situation of the place itself, cause a variety of articles to be dispensed with to which some of the inmates--Mrs. Finlayson, for example--have [83/84] been elsewhere accustomed; yet there is far from a deficiency there to be witnessed, either of comforts or of habits of refinement. Dinners were given at both Forts, in compliment to myself, to which the Clergy, the Recorder, and the Physician, who has an allowance ^from the Company, were invited.

The Forts.

The Forts at the Red River are better entitled to the appellation than the posts which we had seen on the route. The Lower Fort comprehends a square space, I believe, of nearly four acres within the walls; which are built of a white-looking stone found at a particular spot in the banks of the river, and are pierced all round for small arms. At each of the four corners is a small round bastion, pierced for cannon, and surmounted by a pointed and conical roof. Within the enclosure are the dwelling-house, the stores, workshops, and other buildings, detached from each other. The [84/85] Upper Fort is upon the same plan; but the area within the walls is very much smaller. The Forts are about twenty miles apart, the road between them being a dead level the whole way. The Lower Fort is about eight miles above the Indian Church, on the opposite side of the river. The Upper stands at the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboin, nearly facing the principal Roman Catholic Church, and the residence of the Bishop attached to it: he came to see me at the Fort, and I, of course, returned the courtesy of his visit.

The warlike guise of these establishments serves rather as a demonstration of power than an actual military defence, and since their erection, which is much posterior to the junction of the North-West with the Hudson's-Bay Company, and the consequent cessation of such hostilities as had before been witnessed in these wilds, I am not aware that a shot has ever been fired from their walls. There is an old block-house near the Upper Fort; and the buildings close by, which are called the Old Fort, are [85/86] inhabited by a respectable family. The Forts which have been now constructed would afford the means, however, of gathering in the surrounding population in the event of any disturbance, or any irruption from abroad.

The Peltries.

I visited the stores, and saw some specimens of the peltries. These consist of four different kinds of bear; about half-a-dozen kinds of fox, of which the silver is the most precious, but of which I was surprised to learn that some different kinds are found in the same litter; beaver; mar tin; otter; wolf; carcajou (the wolverine or glutton, which is much in request as a [86/87] pendent cariole-robe in Canada); fisher; lynx, or loup cervier; musk-rat, of which only the larger specimens are taken; besides the seal from the Pacific, which is there killed with clubs upon the rocks; and the buffalo, of which eight or ten thousand skins, better known by the name of robes, are annually exported from Hudson's Bay. [i. e. As the kinds are denominated by colour. The red, the cross, the silver, and the black, appear to be varieties of colour only, and, as is here said, are found in the same litter. There are, besides these, the blue fox, a smaller blue, found in the Prairies, and a white.] This is not a profitable branch of the trade, although the demand in the North Ameri can Colonies, for which the robes are re-shipped in England, must be immense; since every man within those limits, who owns a horse, has at least one buffalo-robe for his sleigh or cariole. Indians have been known in possession of white buffalo skins; but these are like the black swan of old, and, in the particular instance mentioned to me, the owner refused to part with it for any price, saying that he had given a first-rate horse for it, and that it was a great medicine (charm). An inferior kind of ermine, which I suppose to be the stoat, was formerly one of the exports; [87/88] but this has been discarded as unprofitable, the last consignments not having produced more than two-pence per dozen. [The stoat and the ermine, I believe, are to same animal; the name of ermine being given to it when, in snowy climates, it becomes, like the hare and the ptarmigan, white during the winter months; but it appears to be a coarser variety which is found in the Territory.] I believe I stated, in my last letter, that four kinds of wild swan are found within the Territory; but I spoke from memory, and my notes mention only three, the largest of which has a black, while the others have red bills. The skins are exported on account of the down. The skin of the musk-bull, taken near the Polar Sea, is not an article of trade; although, if the account given by Bewick be correct, it is valuable for more than one purpose.

Some other Statistical Particulars.

The whole population of the Red-River Settlement, according to a Census with [88/89] which I was obligingly furnished, is 5143: of which number 2798 are Roman Catholics, and 2345 are Protestants. No protestant worship, except that of the Church of England, has ever been established among the people. The heads of families are 870; of whom 571 are Indians or Half-breeds, Natives of the Territory; 152 Canadians; 61 Orkneymen; 49 Scotchmen; 22 Englishmen; 5 Irishmen; and 2 Swiss. Wales, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and the United States of America, have each contributed one to the list. There is also one Esquimaux Indian. There are 730 dwelling-houses; 1219 barns or stables; 18 windmills; and 1 watermill. From the level character of the country, it may be conceived that there is not much facility for the operations of the latter kind of construction. There are 821 horses; 749 mares; 107 bulls; 2207 cows; 1580 calves; 1976 pigs; and 3569 sheep. These particulars were taken in March 1843. The soil, which is alluvial, is beyond example rich and productive, and withal so easily [89/90] worked, that although it does not quite come up to the description of the happy islands--reddit ubi Cererem tellus inarata quotannis--there is an instance, as I was assured, of a farm in which the owner, with comparatively slight labour in the preparatory processes, had taken a wheat-crop out of the same land for eighteen successive years--never changing the crop, never manuring the land, and never suffering it to lie fallow--and that the crop was abundant to the last. And with respect to pasture and hay, they are to be had, ad libitum, as nature gives them in the open plains. The Company dispose of their land upon liberal terms, with a front age along the river, and I think the uniform depth of a mile, with an understanding that, till further arrangements take place, another mile is at the disposal of the owner for any benefits which he can derive from it. I speak from memory. It is only a small portion of the farms, next the river, that is ever seen enclosed. The people revel in abundance; but it is all [90/91] for home consumption: they have no outlet, no market for their produce. The liberality of the Company is also evinced in their permitting private traders to import goods in the Company's ships, although they, the Company, have stores of their own within the Forts, in which articles of the same description are for sale. All these articles are brought across from Hudson's Bay, a distance of several hundred miles, in boats; and these boats are drawn across the different Portages upon rollers, or, in some places, carried upon waggons. Hence, those articles which are of a heavy description are charged at a price seemingly out of all proportion to that of many others, which may be obtained at a moderate rate. A common grinding-stone is sold for twenty shillings sterling. The Company, who by their Charter have the privilege of issuing money, transact all their pecuniary concerns in British sterling, which differs considerably, as is well known, from the currency received in the North American Colonies of the Crown. Their [91/92] issue of paper is in three denominations, the highest of which is one pound; and the three are distinguished from each other, for the convenience of the Natives, by the different colours of the ink--red, blue, and black. The boat has been now substituted for the canoe upon all the lines of route on which the operations of the Company are regularly conducted, except on that which leads into Canada. The country in this direction is not of such a nature as to admit of introducing the roller or the waggon upon the Portages. At the Red River, and on Lake Superior, there may be seen, in the service of the Company, small decked sailing-vessels which ply between the posts. The number of bark and wooden canoes, kept for one purpose or other by the inhabitants of the Red River, is 410. In the palmy days of the North-West Company, when the peltries, now sent home by Hudson's Bay, were taken down to be shipped at Montreal, the brigades of canoes amounted sometimes to forty in the season. The [92/93] name of brigade is still given to the two or three loaded canoes which start yearly from La Chine for the Red River; but the voyageur's occupation is almost gone.

The Buffalo Hunt.

Notwithstanding the want of market for their produce, it is the opinion of the Missionaries, confirmed by that of several intelligent gentlemen of the Company with whom I have conversed, that it would be far more for the advantage of the Red-River population to labour uninterruptedly upon their farms, than to pursue, as a large proportion of them do, during the summer, the chace of the buffalo, with all its exciting scenes and ever-shifting alternations, which not only calls them away from their homes and their ordinary labours; but tends to give them a disrelish for habits of steady industry. The time is remembered, when the buffalo was seen at the Red River itself; but the herds have further and further receded, and the hunting parties are [93/94] now known to be drawn sometimes 200 miles from home. The Red River pours forth, as the expeditions have been described to me, about 800 hunters, with a long train of women and children in as many carts: these carts are so arranged, when they stop, as to encircle and fence in the party: if their stop is prolonged, they pitch their tents. The appearance is that of a little army with its camp-followers; and those who are engaged in the warfare, who are all, or almost all, Half-breeds, are among the most fearless, active, and alert of mankind--admirably skilled as marksmen and in horsemanship, and wonderfully adroit and prompt, as well as self-possessed, in their manoeuvres, without which they would, in the mêlée, be perpetually liable to shoot one another. The powder-horn and the fire-bag, in which the shot is carried loose, are slung upon belts crossing each other upon the breast: a ball is put into the mouth, in preparation for loading, and the powder is measured in the hollow of the palm: no wadding is made use of; and [94/95] in this way they load and re-load, fire and fire again, at full speed on horseback. The object of all this preparation, and all these adventures, is not to obtain the furs, or robes--for the hair is short at this sea son, and all the robes are brought in by Indians, who hunt the wood-buffalo in the winter: the Prairie hunters dress the hides for their own use; and, among other purposes, they convert them into the covering of their tents; but the prizes which prompt the expedition are the meat and the tallow. Each cart brings back, upon an average, about ten carcases, reduced to the different preparations of the flesh and fat here described. The women who accompany them prepare the dried meat, which is cut in long slices from the ribs, and make the pemican; which is meat cut from the more fleshy parts, and pounded with a mixture of tallow. By these two processes they have meat in different forms, which is preserved without being salted; but they also make large quantities of tallow separately, which is done up in bags of [95/96] buffalo skins with the hair upon them, in form not unlike a common travelling-bag. Of these the Company takes a large portion off their hands; but more for the sake of affording profit to the people than for that of any benefit to its own trade. They are often improvident and backward in turning to account the resources of their land. The Protestant part of the Settlements ends out far fewer hunters than the Roman Catholic, and is, in all respects, more marked by the steady and correct habits of its population. The late Mr. Simpson, in his lively and remarkably well-written Journal, attributes, if I remember, this difference, which is confessed, to the mercurial temperament of the French, whose blood enters largely into the composition of the Romish population. But I most firmly believe, that the advantage on our side is to be accounted for from the different genius of the two systems of faith; and, what is evidently not separate from this, the assiduous pains taken by our Missionaries to mould the [96/97] people to habits of order, industry, and civilized regularity, in common life. I do not deny, however, that there may be examples in the world of Protestant failure in cases of this nature, as well as of Romish success.

Strength and Dexterity of the Natives.

The Half-breeds, however, in those physical qualities and feats of skill which provoke our admiration, do not appear to have gained upon the Indians whose blood is mixed in their veins. I have been assured, by one of the most respectable Factors, that he has seen an Indian pierce an inch plank with an unbarbed arrow, shot from his bow, the mere wooden point passing through and protruding on the other side. And as an example of dexterity of hand, and correctness of eye, the same Factor told me that he had seen one of these people, I think at a distance of 150 yards, send his arrow clear through a loop-hole in the wall of the Fort, three times out of four.

Hardships and Adventures of European Inhabitants.

The Factors and Traders themselves have many a tale to tell of severe endurance in their own persons, hair-breadth escapes, and perilous exploits. There is one old gentleman in the Settlement, who states, among a variety of other incidents, that he was once reduced, when separated from his party and lost, to seek subsistence by eating live frogs, or fishing for minnow by means of a fragment of the buckle of his hat attached to a hair drawn from his head. There is possibly a little imagination which lends its aid to heighten some of these tales, and I forbear from pursuing them. It may not, however, be uninteresting to mention that we paid a visit to Mr. Ross, one of the survivors of the crew of the Tonquin, who happened to be on shore when she was blown up by her desperate and obstinate Commander. We read the account of that awful catastrophe in Washington Irvine's Astoria, which, with some other [98/99] historical works on the regions frequented by the fur-traders, which I had never read before, were lent to us at some of the Forts to occupy a portion of our long days in the canoe, and to give us opportunity of comparison with our own observation and experience, so far as they went. Mr. Ross is mentioned by name in Irvine's book.

I am ashamed of the length to which this Letter has run in rendering details which have no direct connexion with the great object of my journey. I have selected here and there, from the rough notes of which my Journal is composed, some matters of miscellaneous information, contained in an abbreviated mode of expression, within the compass of a very few short lines, which I thought might diversify and enliven my descriptions, and render them more attractive to general readers--if destined to reach any such--as well as to convey to the Committee more clear and full ideas of the state and characteristic features of the community in its different divisions, and the whole condition of the country, in the [99/100] bearing of these points upon the exertions of the Society. But in doing this, perhaps because I have wanted the skill of compression, I have found my matter expand itself far indeed beyond my own anticipations. And being now--on the 8th of December--under the necessity of closing my Letter, I shall yet once more have to trespass upon a patience on which I have already drawn with some freedom: for there are words which, if it please God, I have yet to utter: there are impressions, produced by "the things which I have seen and heard," which "I cannot but speak"--things which "stirred my spirit within me," and must prompt me to raise one poor feeble voice, that, if nothing more can be done by the Church for the spiritual interests of Prince Rupert's Land, I may at least stand acquitted to my own conscience by having made the appeal.

I am,

Reverend Sir,

Your very faithful humble Servant,


Project Canterbury