Project Canterbury

The Church on the Prairie

By H. H. Montgomery, D.D.

[London:] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1910.

Chapter VII. The Diocese of Calgary

BISHOP PINKHAM is the first Bishop of Calgary. Formerly his jurisdiction extended over the whole area now divided into the Dioceses of Saskatchewan and Calgary, and the Bishop bore the title of "Saskatchewan". Upon the division of the Diocese the Bishop chose the Calgary portion as his See.

The Canadian Pacific Railway passes westward from Qu'Appelle into Calgary: and it is well to remember that the Diocese of Calgary extends for many hundreds of miles along the Rocky Mountains, from the United States frontier up to a long distance north of the latitude of Edmonton. It is, therefore, a fascinating diocese. There is always the feeling that you may in a short space of time escape from the sea-like plains of the prairie into some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Banff indeed, a world-famous name among tourists, is in the Diocese of Calgary, and it is a self-supporting parish. The Bow River, famous for its swift and clear waters, rises in the heart of the Rockies. Calgary also has many ranches situated on the foot hills of the higher ranges, and strange to say the winters are less cold just because of the proximity of the hills. A warm wind named "the Chinook," [73/74] coming from the south, raises the temperature appreciably on the plains adjacent to the mountains.

But for the most part the work of the Church is precisely the same as that which has been spoken of in Saskatchewan and in Qu'Appelle. The diocese has still great regions where Churchmen dwell but where Church ministrations are not in evidence. It is for this reason that the S.P.G. checked all reductions in their grants and started, instead, a special Western Canada fund. From this fund both Qu'Appelle and Calgary have been granted £6000, in each case to be spread over three years. As in the case of Qu'Appelle so in Calgary, we can tell of a first-rate band of young English clergy who have gone to the rescue of the diocese after the appeal of the Archbishop of Canterbury. We ourselves know of 9 very capable priests, one of them being the Rev. R. D. Stamer, the Rector of Leek, who have been passed through the Board of Examiners.

As in Qu'Appelle so in Calgary, no abnormal methods have been attempted. It is delightful to read how in January, 1907, an urgent appeal was made for twenty-three additional clergy and by 31st December of the same year nineteen had been obtained. Vacant missions were filled up: many new centres were occupied. But in the spring of 1907 further good news was received. Mr. E. H. Riley, M.P., made an offer to the Bishop of a site for a Diocesan Theological Training College. Not only did he give a splendid site, with a view of the Rockies, but he also sacrificed four other lots in order to open a road in front of the [74/75] proposed College, and gave a sum of money towards the building fund, his donation being worth in all £2,000. The college is to be called the "Bishop Pinkham College," and the erection of the buildings is to be pressed on without loss of time.

Some 200 miles north of the city of Calgary and approached by a line of railway we come to a city which has a very great future before it--Edmonton. The city is situated on both sides of the North Saskatchewan River, a splendid position, for the banks are high and magnificently wooded. I have said deliberately that Edmonton occupies both banks. The two sides bear different names, Edmonton and Strathcona, but if an outsider may suggest what is no doubt an impertinence, it would be good for the future of a place which must possess enormous importance if one name covered the whole area of population. The inhabitants have at least -the example of London before them. Railways haste to reach Edmonton from the West passing through the corn lands of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but converging at last on Edmonton. Then they are racing for the same pass in the Rockies, the Yellowhead Pass; after that they race for a new port on the Pacific many hundreds of miles north of Vancouver, Prince Rupert.

I spent a long day in Edmonton and saw much of the country with the aid of a motor car. I looked with special interest on the old Hudson's Bay Company's Fort, planted on a flat by the river and under one of the high banks. It still stands, I suppose, a memorial of the days when Captain Butler called these regions "the [75/76] Great Lone Land" and found no one here but the fur traders and the Indians. No one can understand the history of these lands who does not first read the story of fifty years ago. There are no better books than the journeys of Lord Milton and Dr. Cheadle; The Great Lone Land by Captain Butler, and The Wild North Land by the same author. Captain Butler's books have also this further advantage that they tell graphically the story of the first Riel rebellion in 1869, and take you to the Red River, and introduce you to Fort Garry, and tell of the advance of Wolseley with his force through the Lake of the Woods, and the rivers, only to find Riel fled.

It is not difficult to realise the growing importance of these regions in the future. Indeed it must be simply a question of time before Edmonton becomes the centre of a new diocese, and perhaps of a new State, leaving Calgary the southern regions. The Bishop and his Council are well aware of these great possibilities, and when the right time comes there will be a subdivision. The present number of clergy in the Diocese of Calgary is fifty-four. In the city of Calgary a large and spacious cathedral has been built, and it is well filled, and is certainly none too large for the work it is doing under Dean Paget.

Those who watch the future of Canada with intense interest as Churchmen and Christians are of course deeply interested in all political and agricultural problems in this new dominion, for these vitally affect morals and population. The question of religious instruction in schools is being watched by us. The manner [76/77] again in which, agriculturally, all the eggs begin by being in one basket--to put it generally--makes us apprehensive of sudden reverses to the immigrant. What would be the effect of storms, fire, pests on a gigantic scale, over an area of 1,000 miles by 300 almost all in wheat? I see that one experienced English farmer calls the prevalent occupation not wheat-farming but "wheat-mining". It is also said that in the older districts the fertility of the soil is beginning to show signs of exhaustion. Rotation of crops must be practised: more cattle must be kept. Further, the large ranches are being broken up because these are not bought, but leased lands; and the settler applies for his 160-acre lots everywhere. Some consider that this sized allotment is too small except for a start, and that if a farmer cannot eventually buy the adjoining block he may feel himself seriously hampered. All agree, and I am glad to insert this advice, since it appeals so completely to my own uninstructed observation, that a settler should spend some time in the country before he purchases land. If he is a young, unmarried man let him work for others for a year or two, and patience will be abundantly rewarded.

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