Project Canterbury

John Horden: Missionary Bishop
A Life on the Shores of Hudson's Bay

By the Rev. A. R. Buckland, M.A.

London: The Sunday School Union, no date.

Chapter VI. Out-stations

A Canoe Journey--Fighting the Ice--Simple Worshippers--Indian Liberality--Missionary and Mechanic--The Decay of Heathenism.

HORDEN now began a series of missionary journeys, longer than any he had hitherto attempted. In May 1868 he started for a post called Brunswick House, which lies far to the south-east, near Lake Superior. The journey, made by canoe, lasted eleven days. The river was full of ice, and the travellers were several times in serious danger. Horden spent nine days amongst the Indians at Brunswick House, and then turned home again: A few days were spent at Moose, and then he was away once more; this time heading to the north-east to Rupert's House. There he found some three or four hundred Indians, many of whom had known and practised the worst evils of heathenism, but who were now honest Christian people. Two Sundays were spent at Rupert's House; then the missionary turned due north along the coast of James' Bay (the southern extension of Hudson's Bay), travelling by canoe to Fort George, doing the two hundred miles in four days and a half. Here he had pleasant intercourse with another body of' Christian Indians under a native teacher.

Only a few days could be spent at Fort George, after which passage was taken by a schooner to go still farther north. Their destination was Great Whale River, but the journey threatened to be disastrous. Horden himself thus pictures the experiences of this journey:--

"We get half-way, then, as the vessel cannot move forward, I leave it, and, accompanied by two native sailors, proceed in a small boat. Two days bring us to an encampment of Indians. I now leave my boat and enter a canoe, having with me Keshkumash, his wife, and their young son; two other canoes, each containing a man and his wife, keep us company. We have to work in earnest. Sometimes we go along fast; then we were in the midst of ice, and could not move at all; again we were chopping a passage for the canoes with our axes; and then, when we could do nothing else, we carried it over the rocks and set it down where the ice was not so closely packed.

"After two days and a half of this we came to a standstill, and I determined to go on foot. I took one Indian with me, and we set off. Our walk was over high, bare hills; rivers ran through several of the valleys, these we waded."

Arrived at last at his destination, there were heathen Indians to deal with, some of whom received his message, whilst some did not. But Horden had not yet reached his farthest point north, and there fore pushed on to Little Whale River, where he was amongst the Eskimo. Then, and not till then, did he return south.

In 1870 came another series of long journeys, marked by so much hardship that Horden's health suffered. He left Moose in June, and travelled up the river to New Brunswick, having for his companions during a part of the time some Indians, who, before they knew a white missionary, had learned from a Christian Indian how to worship God. Their way was very simple. One gave out the verse of a hymn; another repeated a text of Scripture; then came more of the hymn, and then more texts. After this they knelt, and some half a dozen began to pray all at once. The heathen observers found opportunity to speak, and one explained that he had been favoured with a visit from a spirit, which declared that it would withdraw its protection from his children if he gave them up for Christian teaching.

From New Brunswick Horden went on to the south-east, to a station called Matawakumma There the Indians were decreasing in numbers, but not in their love for Christ. For amongst them Horden made what he called "the largest comparative collection I have ever made in my life, no less than £8, 2s. 8d." The liberality of these little scattered communities was indeed remarkable. If they could not give in coin they could in kind.

One collection from an Indian congregation produced fifty-eight beavers, then equal to a sum of £8, 14s. When Horden was building a school at Moose, they gave part of their aid in labour, and worked to the value of £20. Before Horden returned a second time to England, he had built five churches, not one of which could have been raised without the hearty co-operation of the Christian Indians. That in the building of them he had reason again and again to be thankful for the early training which made him a good artisan, is plain enough from his letters. But, like Mackay, he knew that he could be serving God just as well when working with hammer and chisel as when praying with a little group of Indians encamped for the night by some swift stream, or preaching in one of the churches raised in part by his own labour, or when brightening with the sure promises of God the deathbed of some believing Indian.

But a new responsibility was about to fall on Horden, and, in preparation for this, he went to England in 1872.

When be left Moose, heathenism was almost extinct there. Twelve native teachers, trained by him, were ministering to their brethren; and the number of declared Christians in his district was estimated at 1625.

Project Canterbury