Project Canterbury

Handbooks of English Church Expansion

Western Canada

By L. Norman Tucker

Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1907.

Chapter II. History (Secular)

IN order to form a clear idea of the work of the Church in the Canadian West, it will be necessary to know something of the more secular aspects of the country, and of the agencies that have helped to bring it to its present condition.

I. The Hudson's Bay Company

First among these secular agencies, in point of time, if not of importance, must be placed the Hudson's Bay Company, whose history is a remarkable illustration of the capacity of the English race to play the important part in the world's affairs to which it has been called. The Company was the means of maintaining British influence for a century and a half over a region two thousand miles square; and to it is mainly due the fact that that region is British to-day.

[7] It was the activity of the French explorers, in the interest of the fur trade and of missionary enterprise, that led to the formation of the Hudson's Bay Company. Lake Superior was first heard of by the French in 1615. It was visited by two Jesuit missionaries in 1641. Twenty-five years later two Frenchmen--Radisson and de Groseillers--made their way to Hudson Bay through Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River, and at a later date took their ships through Hudson Straits under the auspices of the English Crown. This led directly, in 1670, to the incorporation of the Company, of which the first Governor was Prince Rupert, whose name, given originally to the whole region, has survived, in Church nomenclature, in the Diocese and Province of Rupert's Land.

The original grant was of all lands whose waters flowed into Hudson Bay, with power to make and execute laws, to raise and employ armed forces. Till the conquest of Canada in 1759, the Company had no competitors in the vast territory under its sway; but in 1773 a rival arose in the North-West Company, whose opposition became so keen that it led to the widespread demoralization of the Indians through the [7/8] use of alcohol, and eventually brought both Companies to the brink of ruin. In 1821 they were amalgamated under the name of the old Company.

Early in the nineteenth century the Company had secured the right of exclusive trading in the country west of the Rocky Mountains. It explored the Fraser River in 1805, and the Thompson in 1808, and took possession of the Columbia in 1821. It kept up one hundred and sixty stations and employed three thousand men. It was the only source from which supplies could be secured, and the only market where goods could be disposed of. The beaver skin was the unit of exchange, till in 1825 a currency was introduced, known as Hudson's Bay blankets. Its treatment of the Indians was uniformly just and humane, and was repaid by universal confidence and loyalty. It made Indian wars impossible, and even in the two rebellions of 1869 and 1885 scarcely any of the Indians could be induced to take up arms. Though for more than a century it did nothing for the spiritual welfare of the Indians, since the establishment of Missions in 1820 it has been of the greatest assistance to the missionaries. Its [8/9] posts usually became the stations of the Church. Its boats were the chief means of transportation for the missionary and his goods; and it is not too much to say that Missions in the far North would have been impossible without the Hudson's Bay Company. What Roman roads and Roman law were to the Apostles, that the Hudson's Bay Company was to the Indian missionaries.

But by degrees it lost its hold on the country. In 1845 it was compelled to give up the Oregon region and the Columbia River by the treaty between England and the United States. In 1858 it was forced to give up Vancouver Island and British Columbia by the organization of those regions into a Crown Colony. In 1869 it sold its territorial rights to the Canadian Government for £300,000, retaining one-twentieth of the land in the fertile belt; and since that time it has been merely a trading company. But while its trade has been a fruitful source of profit to its shareholders, the Company has left an indelible mark on the history of the country. In the words of Lord Strathcona, who enjoyed a life-long connection with the Company, and was for a time its governor--"It explored a vast territory and [9/10] prepared the way for its settlement and colonization; it stimulated trade in the East; it opened up the West; it consolidated the unity of the Dominion; it provided an outlet on the Atlantic and the Pacific; and created a new Imperial highway to Australasia, Japan, and China."

II. Early Explorers

It would scarcely be just to omit all mention of the daring explorers who were the first to bring the remotest parts of the country to the knowledge of the world; the first to navigate its rivers, to climb its mountains, to explore its unknown wastes and to open it up first to trade, then to missionary enterprise, and lastly to settlement. Those brave pioneers attached their names to many of its physical features; their fame should be cherished as a priceless possession; in a very real sense they were the forerunners of the messengers of CHRIST.

First among them must be mentioned the intrepid French travellers, who, through the inland waters, found their way to Hudson Bay, and who explored the country drained by the Red River, the Assiniboine and the Saskatchewan, as far as [10/11] the Rocky Mountains. For nearly one hundred years the Hudson's Bay Company confined its energies to the regions contiguous to Hudson Bay; but the rivalry of the North-West Company drove it further afield and compelled it to go in search of the fur trade. In 1769, Samuel Hearne, of the Hudson's Bay Company, called the Mungo Park of Canada, after two unsuccessful attempts, went overland from Hudson Bay to Great Slave Lake, and thence by the Copper Mine River to the Arctic Sea. In 1779 Alexander Mackenzie, of the North-West Company, followed the river that bears his name from Great Slave Lake to its mouth in the Arctic Ocean; and in 1793 he accomplished the overland journey from the Peace River to the Pacific. In 1805 Simon Fraser achieved the astonishing feat of tracing the course of the Fraser River, in a canoe, from its source in the Rockies to its mouth in the Gulf of Georgia. In 1820 Sir John Franklin wintered at Fort Enterprise, north of Great Slave Lake, descended the Copper Aline River in the summer of 1821, followed the Arctic coast eastward 600 miles, ascended the Hood River, and, amid sufferings unspeakable, returned overland to Fort Enterprise. In 1825 the same intrepid explorer [11/12] descended the Mackenzie River, and followed the Arctic coast westward 374 miles to Return Inlet. From 1833 to 1835 Captain Back descended the river that bears his name, after incredible hardships, while the thermometer at times registered seventy degrees below zero. From 1837 to 1839 Dease and Simpson descended the Mackenzie River, advanced 2OO miles beyond Return Inlet to Point Barrow, and returned to winter at Great Bear Lake; then, descending the Copper Mine River, they followed the Arctic coast eastward to Coronation Gulf, and through the Back River made their way to Fort Confidence. In 1845, Franklin determined to prove that the North-West Passage was navigable all the way to Behring Sea, sailed from England in the ships "Erebus" and "Terror," with a picked crew of 138 men, and perished by hunger off the shores of King William Island. Many times did Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, perform the three months' journey from Lachine to the Pacific; up the Ottawa and the French Rivers; across Lake Huron and Lake Superior; up the Kaministiquia and down the Winnipeg; across Lake Winnipeg and up the Saskatchewan and the Peace Rivers; across the [12/13] height of land and down the Columbia--a distance of some six thousand miles. Equally memorable, in the annals of the Church, is the journey of Bishop Mountain, in a canoe, from Montreal to the Red River in 1844; while the travels of Bishop Bompas, which are related elsewhere, are probably unsurpassed in the history of the world. When it is borne in mind that these journeys were undertaken through unexplored and in many cases desolate regions, either on foot or in canoes, without roads and without commissariat, it may not unfairly be said that for courage and endurance, for fatigue and suffering, these expeditions through the great lone land equal anything that may be chronicled in the realm of adventure.

III. The Canadian Pacific Railway

The Canadian Pacific Railway is the fulfilment of a dream that for ages had haunted the slumbers of Europe. When the French explorers were arrested in their westward course by the rapids near Montreal, they called the place Lachine, because they thought it was the gateway to the Celestial Empire. And the long list of daring [13/14] seamen whose names are so gloriously associated with the search for the North-West Passage, from Henry Hudson to Sir John Franklin, were one and all actuated by the hope and ambition to find the shortest route to the storied regions--

"Where the gorgeous East, with richest hand,
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold."

When a railway was built across the continent, and the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans were joined together by bands of steel, the real North-West Passage was discovered and the fabulous wealth of Asia opened up, as never before, to the enterprise of British merchants.

For years before confederation, British and Canadian patriots and statesmen had dreamed of a railway extending from sea to sea. In 1851, Joseph Howe, of Nova Scotia, said: "I believe that many in this room will live to hear the whistle of the steam-engine in the passes of the Rocky Mountains, and make the journey from Halifax to the Pacific in five or six days." In 1857, Chief Justice Draper, before the British House of Commons, said: "I hope to see, or at least that my children will see, a railway wholly in British territory, from the Atlantic to the [14/15] Pacific Oceans." And in 1858, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton referred to the railway as "that great viaduct by which we hope some day to connect the harbours of Vancouver with the Gulf of S. Lawrence." But by practical men this was generally considered to be a mere Utopian fancy. This dream of patriots and statesmen, this Utopian fancy of practical men, became a living reality, when, on November 27, 1885, Lord Strathcona, in the Rocky Mountains, drove the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Obviously a transcontinental railway was one of the essential conditions of the unification of the Canadian Dominion. Accordingly, when British Columbia entered the Confederation in 1871, it did so on the express stipulation that such a railway should be built. But the project was so large, and the burdens it entailed so heavy, that almost insuperable difficulties stood in the way--Parliamentary, financial and physical. But Canadian pluck and enterprise succeeded in overcoming them all. The contract for the building of the road was given out in 1881. Mountains were either climbed or tunnelled; precipices were either skirted or bridged; and the first through [15/16] train to the Pacific Ocean left Montreal on June 28, 1886.

But the railway passed, most of the way, through an uninhabited wilderness. It had to create a population as well as a traffic. It therefore opened branch lines in every direction, connecting with the American systems or opening new districts to the enterprise of the settler. It placed a fleet of steamers on the great lakes, and built hotels and elevators at the most important points. And the results have been that it attracted an ever-increasing number of tourists, and made the hidden beauties of lake and mountain known to the world; it made possible the development of the mining industry of Kootenay and the fruit ranches of Okanagan; it laid the foundation of the greatness of Vancouver and Winnipeg, and brought countless smaller towns and villages into existence; it opened the boundless prairies of the interior to the immigration of the world, and, by bringing in settlers at the rate of nearly a quarter of a million per annum, is building up a nation in the West. Some idea may be formed of the vastness of its operations from the fact that it employs 74,000 men with a monthly pay roll of [16/17] $3,700,000, and that it provides an income, directly or indirectly, to one-fifteenth of the people of the country. The prodigious developments that have followed in its wake have necessitated the building of two other transcontinental railways. And its crowning achievement has been the placing of a line of ocean steamers on the Pacific and the Atlantic, by which it has developed a large trade with other portions of the Empire and of the world. It has thus become not only one of the main pillars of the Canadian national life, but also one of the great Imperial highways, and one of the chief links in the chain of Imperial unity.

IV. The Red River Settlement

The first attempt at colonization in the North-West was made in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. The extreme remoteness and isolation of the region, the difficulties of the journey, and the dangers from inexperience, cold, famine, the Indians, and, worst of all, the machinations of unfriendly and unscrupulous white men, mark the settlement of the Red River district as almost unique in the history of colonization. To [17/18] Lord Selkirk, who was an enlightened patriot and philanthropist, it seemed, early in the nineteenth century, that emigration was the remedy for the troubles of the poor of the British Islands. Accordingly he purchased a large tract of land on the Red River and undertook to convey thither a number of emigrants from Scotland. In 1811 he sent out the first contingent, about seventy of whom reached their destination in the summer of 1812, discontented, wearied and well-nigh despairing; for they had been sixty-one days at sea, they had spent the winter on the inhospitable shores of Hudson Bay, and they had travelled eight hundred miles inland by a wild and dangerous route. Fifteen or twenty more reached the Red River in the following year, to find that three-quarters of the first settlers had left the country. One hundred more were sent out in 1814 from Kildonan, in Sutherlandshire. The trials of the new country proved to be even more severe than those of the journey. But the patience and fortitude of the settlers gradually overcame all difficulties; and the Red River settlement became the first and most heroic incident in the colonization of Manitoba and the North-West.

[19] V. Population

It may not be without interest to note the growth of population in the North-West. In 1820 there were about five hundred whites in the Red River settlement. In 1844, including the Indians along the Red River, there were 2,345 souls. In 1865 the settlement counted 1,200 inhabitants; but there was not among them a baker, a butcher, a tailor or a shoemaker. In 1870 there were in Winnipeg seventy houses and 241 inhabitants, and in the whole colony 11,963 souls, of whom the whites numbered 1,565, the Indians 578, the French half-breeds 5,757, the English half-breeds 4,083; the Romanists numbered 6,247, and the non-Romanists 5,716. Of the 1,565 whites 747 were born in the North-West, 294 in Eastern Canada, 69 in the United States, 125 in England, 240 in Scotland, 47 in Ireland, 15 in France, and in the other countries 28. The present population is approximately as follows:---Manitoba, 350,000; Saskatchewan, 250,000; Alberta, 220,000. Total of the three provinces, 820,000.

[20] VI. Immigration

VII. The Mormons

Mormonism is essentially a missionary organization. It is not content to be quiescent and to follow the good old policy, "live and let live." Like all vigorous organizations it seeks room for expansion. Hence it is that the Mormon power migrated from Utah into Canada, and hence it is [20/21] that in Canada it is seeking to strengthen its position by all the means within its reach.

Some 6,000 of these "Latter-day Saints" are now to be found in the southern part of Alberta, an integral part of the army of 600,000 that constitutes the sect the world over. Some time ago they began to invade this exclusive domain of the rancher, and have demonstrated that Southern Alberta is admirably adapted to the production of grain as well as of cattle. And their successful application of simple methods of irrigation has paved the way for the scientific schemes of irrigation on a gigantic scale that promise to convert a large portion of Alberta into a huge grain field.

For purposes of social intercourse they dwell together in small communities. Around Lethbridge they have built up the towns of Cardston, Raymond, Magrath, Stirling and Tabor, as centres of large agricultural districts. They have already begun to send out off-shoots as far as the vicinity of Calgary, where they have built the town of High River, and they have provided room for further expansion by the purchase at $6 per acre of the celebrated Cochrane ranch, consisting of 65,000 acres of the choicest land [21/22] in Southern Alberta. However much a material civilization may have affected the neighbouring people, it has had no perceptible influence on the Mormons. The Church and the school constitute an essential part of the organization of the sect. They not only take an interest in the education of the children, but they provide teachers of their own faith for their schools, and take full advantage of the legal provision that allows a half-hour of religious instruction in the public schools. So, with them Church and school are, as they should be, close allies one of the other. Nor are they adverse to the promotion of their interests by political means. One of their number already is a member of the Legislature of Alberta.

How far their peculiar views on polygamy may assert themselves in the future it is impossible to say, but for the present the Government of the country is keeping a close watch on the strict observance of our rigid marriage laws. Their industry, thrift and intelligence, their gregarious habits and the esprit de corps that prevails among them are sure to give them, in the present political condition of the country, a power out of all proportion to their numbers; and their rapid natural increase is likely to give them, in the [22/23] future, a much larger relative power than they possess to-day. Such an element in the midst of a new country presents a serious problem to the Church and to the State.

VIII. The Galicians

About 100,000 of these settlers, who came from Poland and Austria, are scattered widely through the West; the largest colonies are to be found in Northern Manitoba, Central Saskatchewan, and near Edmonton in Alberta. They are eminently industrious and thrifty, and, as a consequence, are everywhere prosperous. Their past has been one of enforced ignorance and hopeless serfdom. When, twenty years ago, they heard of Canada, they began to emigrate in large numbers, 6,926 having come out in 1905, and 5,626 in 1906. The freedom which they here enjoy to do their work without molestation, and to reap the fruit of their labour, has predisposed them strongly to desire to learn the English language and to become citizens of Canada. Since their advent to the country many have formed themselves into an independent Greek Church, which may be described, in general terms, as combining a Greek [23/24] Church ritual with reformed doctrine. This movement, under the patronage of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, has built thirty-two churches and employs twenty-two ministers. There are forty Galician schools in Manitoba, thirty-six in Saskatchewan, and forty in Alberta. It seems a pity that the Church of England, which has so many points of contact with them, and which is so eminently qualified to meet their special needs, should either have lacked the will or the power to undertake any work in such a hopeful field.

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