DURING the seven years of gradual improvement at the Grand Rapids, of which we spoke in the preceding chapter, Mr. Jones continued diligently to labour in his Master's service, both at the Upper Settlement and at the Middle Church [Before called "Image Plains"], and the blessing of God rested on his work. But this portion of the field of labour had so nearly lost its direct missionary character, and was passing so almost entirely into a pastoral charge, that we shall in future refrain from any regular account of it, and only refer occasionally to some of its details. Before we leave it we will give a few particulars which will interest our readers.
One of these was the accession to the Mission of a most valuable labourer in Mrs. Jones, who accompanied her husband, in 1829, on his return from a visit he paid to his native land. Mr. Jones was thus relieved from all secular and domestic cares, which as the household, including the schools, amounted to seventy or eighty persons, were neither few nor light. Mrs. Jones also laid herself out in every way for the temporal and spiritual benefit of all around her; and soon after her arrival established a boarding-school for the daughters of the higher classes of the Company's agents, who had hitherto been without any opportunity of education. In this school she met with some trials and much encouragement; two instances of the latter are recorded by the Bishop of Montreal in his Journal, p. 25.
But it is the Indian boys' school that belongs more to our present subject, that school which Mr. West had established, and to the future effects of which he had looked forward with so much hope; and here also, though there were some disappointments, there was much, very much, that must have fulfilled his most sanguine expectations. We shall select a few of the cases which present, more or less, some peculiar features.
In the year 1825 Governor Simpson paid a visit to the country west of the Rocky Mountains, where he found the Indians in some respects similar, but in others very superior, to their brethren on the nearer side. The country was rich and productive, the people were bold and warlike, divided into tribes, and very jealous of encroachment from their neighbours, although well disposed and friendly to the few Europeans scattered here and there among them at the Company's posts. They dwell in villages, and are very indolent, yet those on the coast, particularly the Cheenock tribe in the neighbourhood of Fort Vancouver, carry on a brisk trade with the neighbouring nations, especially in slaves.
Slavery on the shores of the Pacific presents even a more fearful aspect than on those of the Atlantic; for although the principal riches of the chiefs consist in the number of their slaves, any act of disobedience is punished with instant death; and frequently several of these poor creatures are offered up on the grave of their master.
The appearance of the Western Indians is less prepossessing than that of their brethren on the east of the rocky barrier: their complexion is not so dark, and they have even a tinge of red in their cheeks; but their black hair hanging over their shoulders, their high cheek-bones, their artificially flattened foreheads, with their large fiery eyes starting as it were from their sockets, give them an almost unearthly expression. In winter those who can obtain articles of European clothing choose it in preference to their own, but in summer they wear no clothing at all. They are very eager for information, especially on matters of religion; and when Governor Simpson spoke to them on the subject, he found them not only favourably disposed, but earnestly desirous of having teachers sent to them, to lead them into the knowledge of the "Master of Life."
This report awakened increased interest in the heart of Mr. Jones for these remote tribes; he earnestly longed that a Mission might be established among them, and in the contemplation of this exclaims in one of his letters:--
"I hail the prospect of a Mission beyond the Rocky Mountains with emotions of the liveliest joy. The exertions of the Eastern and Western hemispheres seem hastening to a collision. The North-West American Missionary may soon, perhaps, stand on the summit of these mountains, and stretch forth his hands towards the waters of the Southern Sea and hail his brother-labourers in the Islands."
Eager as Mr. Jones's hopes then were, he would not have ventured to anticipate the scene not long since witnessed in the Cathedral of Canterbury, when two Bishops, the one for China, the other for Rupert's Land, stood side by side, so soon to part, the one for the East, the other for the Western hemisphere--the waves of the North Pacific alone separating, or rather uniting, their respective dioceses; and their next meeting, perchance, to be on Vancouver's Island, or some other spot in that mighty ocean. [May 29th, 1849.]
But to return from this digression to the Indian school.
The chiefs of these Western Indians, on the banks of the Columbia, had given an earnest of their sincerity in desiring religious knowledge, by entrusting two of their sons to Governor Simpson to be brought up at the Mission School. The autumn of 1885 saw them safely lodged there, and their general conduct was so good, and their progress in Scriptural knowledge so satisfactory, that before Mr. Jones's visit to England in 1828 he baptized them by the names of Kootamey and Spoyan Garry.
During his absence Mr. Cockran was perplexed by their expressing an earnest wish to visit their own country. He greatly feared that the love of home and kindred would induce them to remain; and he knew that as yet their knowledge was too limited, and their principles too unestablished, for them to become fitting guides to their own people. However, he offered no opposition, but committed them in faith and prayer to Him who thus far had led them.
To his great joy they returned in the course of a few months, bringing with them five other boys, four of whom were also sons of chiefs, but of different tribes, and speaking dialects so unlike, that their only intercourse was by signs.
The hopes that Mr. Jones had formed of Kootamey's future usefulness were blasted soon after his return. During his absence he had received some serious injury by a, fall, from which he never recovered, and after much suffering he died on Easter Monday, 1830; though not till he had given good evidence of his being a child of God, washed in the blood of the Lamb. Mr. Jones, while watching by his bedside, was much affected by hearing him frequently, in his delirium, imagine himself to be with his father, anxiously endeavouring to instruct him in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
His friend, Spogan Garry, continued at the school till 1832, when he returned to his own people. He was well instructed in divine truth, and although Mr. Jones saw in him no evidence of a change of heart, he hoped that his residence among his friends might at all events awaken in them a spirit of inquiry.
He heard nothing of him for several years, till, in 1836, he found by a letter from Mr. Finlayson, the gentleman in charge of Fort Vancouver, that he spent great part of his time in instructing his people, who were so anxious to hear him that they brought presents of various kinds, and indeed seem to have maintained him in Indian abundance.
To Mr. Jones's surprise and gratification, he also found from the same letter that during the visit of Spogan Garry and Kootamey in 1828, these two lads took great pains in instructing their friends in as much as they themselves knew of the truths of the Bible; that they were listened to with the greatest attention; that they prevailed on some of them to observe the Sabbath-day; and that this little band on the banks of the Columbia had remained faithful to their young teachers, and still continued to keep the Lord's day holy.
The anxiety of these poor people for instruction was so great, that Mr. Finlayson speaks of his having been told that at the time the Government expresses were expected to pass Colville House, they would send messengers to inquire if any "new doctrines had arrived."
"I had myself," he says, "a striking instance of this spirit of inquiry among them. I had one day taken my station on an elevated spot near the Kettle Fall, not far from Colville House, that I might overlook the men who were carrying the baggage, and was occasionally glancing at a book in my hand, when my attention was attracted by the voice of a man who was approaching me, and haranguing me with increasing animation as he drew nearer and nearer, while with passionate gestures he pointed alternately to the sun and to the book in my hand. I knew not his language, but I could evidently gather from his action that he thought I could give him information on religious subjects. I could only answer him by signs, and, afraid of conveying erroneous impressions, I made him understand that Spogan Garry was at Colville. He repeated the name two or three times, as if to satisfy himself that he had caught my meaning, and darted off towards the place with the rapidity of lightning. I am convinced that a man of piety, who knew something of the language of these poor people, and devoted himself to their instruction, would soon obtain an unbounded influence over them, and might expect a rich and abundant harvest, I do not know any part of America where the natives could be so easily instructed as on the banks of the Columbia.
"Here then," adds Mr. Jones, "are regions far beyond us in total darkness, stretching out their hands towards us; and yet we cannot meet them. There is, it is true, in this vast wilderness, a small vineyard; there are three roofs pointing to heaven, and their congregations singing together the triumphs of the cross; but what is this? [Upper and Middle Churches and Grand Rapids.] It is but the oasis of the desert, scarcely enough to relieve the sickening eye of the beholder as he surveys the immense region of darkness and of misery."
It was about this time (1836) that the Americans established a Mission in this distant wilderness,--the Rev. J. Lee was stationed on the Wallamattee, Dr. Whitman at Walla Walla, and the Rev. H. Spalding at Koskooska (or Sabnon River), 150 miles higher up the Columbia. They found the chiefs and people very friendly; Mrs. Spalding had no difficulty in collecting 150 children of various ages for her school; and as soon as Mr. Spalding was able to give them a little religious instruction, he found them so eager on the subject that they would sometimes spend whole nights in imparting to others what they themselves had learnt from him.
We learn from other sources that the Americans were induced to establish this Mission by a deputation of Indians, sent to St. Louis from this western country to inquire more particulars about the religion of the "white men," and to request that teachers might be sent; and there seems little or no doubt that the message came from some of those very people who had been awakened to a concern for their souls by the visit or these two youths, or perhaps more recently by Spogan Garry's residence among them.
This persuasion is confirmed by a letter from one of the Missionaries to Mr. Jones in 1837, in which he mentions his surprise on his first going among them at finding a large body of "Spogan Indians" in some degree enlightened as to religious truth, and adds that they had an efficient interpreter, who had been educated at Red River (doubtless Spogan Garry himself), and that he had enjoyed with them "a real Bethel in the woods."
Cayouse Halket was the name of another boy at the Indian school, who had come thither from beyond the Rocky Mountains. He was a pleasing, thoughtful lad, and gave promise of future usefulness. He visited his friends on the Columbia River in 1834, but not being able to reconcile himself to their mode of life he returned to reside with Mr. Cockran, to whom he made himself very useful in various ways. He was always diligent in his work, and passed his leisure time in reading the Bible or some religious book. Mr. Cockran thought very highly of him in every way, and among other things employed him in endeavouring to teach the Saulteaux Indians at the Lower Encampment (of whom we shall hereafter have occasion to speak) to cultivate the ground; and although, after working hard for them all the day, they would behave insolently to him, and even refuse to give him any food, yet we hear of no complaints from him, nor of any unwillingness to continue his labours for them.
After having been with Mr. Cockran about two years he began to droop, and his watchful friend, finding from the doctor there was no specific disease, feared he must be under the influence of that peculiar complaint incident to young Indians who apply themselves to the arts of civilised life, and which the Indians themselves call "thinking long." The patient loses his strength and spirits without any apparent cause; medical aid is of no avail; no endeavours to amuse or rouse him have any effect, and he gradually sinks into the grave without any specific disease.
It was too surely the case with poor Cayouse. Mr. Cockran used every means to avert the danger, he made him his almost constant companion, and sent him to visit various friends in the neighbourhood. But it was all in vain, nothing succeeded in restoring his strength, or in removing the strong impressions of approaching death. He lingered for some weeks, and suddenly died when on a visit to one of his friends. "Pious, obedient, and faithful," Mr. Cockran deeply felt his loss.
Another of these Indian scholars was Colon Leslie, an Esquimaux from Fort Churchill. He had learnt reading, writing, and arithmetic; and the school being at this time removed to the Grand Rapids, he was there taught husbandry and carpenters' work. He was a very promising youth, and Mr. Cockran looked forward to his being very useful at the Indian Village; but in the spring of 1835 his health declined, and he was soon after attacked with influenza, which was at that time very prevalent in the colony. During his illness he gave satisfactory evidence of being taught of God.
At one time he was in great concern for his own soul, and for the spiritual state of his parents, who were still at Fort Churchill. He wrestled earnestly in prayer to God for them and for himself, and on one occasion, when the distress of his mind was very great, he sent for Mr. Cockran in the night, when the following conversation passed between them:--
Mr. Cockran: "Leslie, what is it that so distresses you?" Leslie: "Sir, I am thinking about my poor parents; they have never heard that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners: what "will become of them if they never hear of Him! Oh, write to them, and tell them that Christ will save them from everlasting punishment if they believe in Him." Mr. Cockran replied: "Write yourself, that will be much better; for if I write they will say it is I that speak, not you." "I cannot write," he exclaimed; "see how my hands shake!" "Why," asked Mr. Cockran, "have you not written to them long ago?" His answer is very affecting: "I did not then think of the value of my soul; it is only since I began to feel myself a miserable sinner, and to pray in earnest for mercy to myself, that I have become anxious about them. When I saw the wickedness of my own heart, and felt there was no hope for me but through Christ, then the miserable state of my parents came to my mind. What will they do if they never hear of Christ?"
After this the poor fellow appeared to be recovering, but one day when Mr. Cockran was writing in his study, the servant ran in to say that Leslie was suddenly taken worse, and before he could reach the sick room the ransomed spirit had fled.
The history of Jack Spense has appeared more than once in the publications of the Church Missionary Society, but the lustre of divine grace in this poor Indian youth shone so brightly as his life drew near its close, that our "bow of heaven" would be incomplete without some short record of him.
He was a native of Port Nelson River, and had come to Red River in 1824, where he was received into the Indian school, and remained in it for several years. We are not told what became of him after he left school, though probably he was employed in some inferior capacity in the Company's service. In the summer of 1836 Mr. Jones heard that he had returned to the neighbourhood, and was very ill. He went immediately to see him and found 'him dying of consumption, and in the lowest state of poverty and destitution. He was with two old Indians in a small birch-rind hut, with nothing but a few fern-leaves under him, and an old blanket over him, which was in a condition not to be described. As soon as Mr. Jones had recovered from his astonishment he expressed his surprise at seeing him in this state, and his regret that he had not sooner known about him. The poor boy replied,--
"It is very little I want now, and these poor people get it for me; but I should like something softer to lie upon, as my bones are very sore."
Mr. Jones then inquired as to the state of his mind: to which he answered that he was very happy; that JESUS CHRIST, the Lord of glory, had died to save him, and that he had perfect confidence in Him. Observing a small Bible under the corner of his blanket, Mr. Jones said, "Jack, you have a friend there; I am glad to see that: I hope you find good from it." Weak as the poor fellow was, he raised himself on his elbow, held it in his almost skeleton hand, while a smile played on his countenance as he said,--
"This, sir, is my dear friend. You gave it to me when we all went down to live at Mr. Cockran's. For a long time I have read it much, and often thought of what it told me. Last year I went to see my sister across Lake Winnepeg" (about 200 miles off) "where I remained two months. When I was halfway back through the lake, I remembered that I had left my Bible behind me: I directly turned round, and was nine days by myself tossing to and fro in the canoe before I could reach the place: but I found my friend, and determined I would not part, with it again; and ever since that it has been near my breast. And I thought I should have it buried with me, but I have thought since that I had better give it to you when I am gone, and it may do some one else good."
He was often interrupted by his cough, and when he had finished, sunk down exhausted with the effort of speaking. Mr. Jones read and prayed with him, the hut scarcely allowing him room to kneel upright. It was an affecting and a memorable scene, as the evening sun poured its rays through the holes in the bark with which the hut was covered, and lighted up the countenance of the dying youth. Mr. Jones lost no time in supplying him with every comfort he needed, but his time was come, and in a few days after this conversation he was taken from sin and suffering, and his remains were laid among the "clods of the valley, there to await the sound of the trumpet that shall summon the dead from their graves."
Of many of the companions of these youths we have no record whatever, but of others who are still alive, and are permitted to labour in the LORD'S vineyard, we shall have more to say hereafter. We will therefore now return to the more general affairs of the Mission, and mention that during this period most of the Indians who had been converted by the instrumentality of Mr. Jones had left the Upper Settlement and joined their friends at the Indian Village.
The year 1836 was one of deep and varied trial. Towards the end of August, just as the crops were ripening, a severe frost destroyed all the garden seeds and seriously injured the corn and potatoes; the buffalo-hunters, too, returned once more with empty carts; and though the Missionaries had a sufficient store from the produce of the preceding year to prevent their anticipating for themselves and their families the same actual want of food which they had experienced ten years before, yet they felt for their suffering people, knowing that all the self-denial they could exercise would avail but little to relieve the wants of so many.
"Those," they say, "who have their wants supplied from a regular market, replenished with abundance of home and foreign produce, cannot fully feel how severe this calamity is to us. Separated from civilized society by thousands of miles of trackless wastes, surrounded by savage and improvident tribes, who never think of supplying a want till it is felt,--when the produce of our own industry fails, where can we look for help?"
But this was not the only privation to which our Missionaries were subjected in this trying year.
The boats had, as usual, started early in June for York Fort, to take up the furs collected during the winter at the different posts, and to bring back the accustomed supplies from England. The return of these boats was always looked forward to with intense interest.
"When we have passed," writes Mr. Cockran to the Secretary, "a long winter in solitude, and mixed only with barbarians, or with half-civilized men, who have no European feelings or habits, seeing everything and every person about us so different from all we have been accustomed to, we can scarcely persuade ourselves that we are part of the human family. But when we receive our supplies and letters from England, and realize from the tenderness of their expressions that our friends there sympathize with us, and pray for us, we are reminded of our union with the Church of God. Our souls revive, our strength is renewed, we take our harps from the willows and tune them again to notes of praise."
We can well picture to ourselves the anxious hopes and fears that would occupy the minds of our friends as the usual time of the return of the boats drew near; but now day after day passed, and still no boats appeared--week after week, and still no boats. At length they arrived, but it was only to say that, after waiting as long as it was safe to do so, on account of the rivers being closed by ice, they had returned empty, for that no ships had reached York Fort. It subsequently appeared that the vessels, after having been entangled by icebergs at the entrance of the bay, had neared the shore much later than usual, but before they could be unloaded had been driven off by contrary winds, and after encountering tremendous storms, were obliged to return with their cargoes to England. The mail-bags had, however, with difficulty been put ashore; and, after a delay of some weeks, the Missionaries had the unexpected joy of getting their letters, though they had to wait another year for the supply of all their other wants. They were in consequence reduced to great straits; but, says Mr. Cockran, "We have our Bible left!"
The health, too, of both Mr. Jones and Mr. Cockran had suffered considerably from the climate and from their indefatigable labours, and during the earlier part of this year they were several times laid low with attacks of serious illness.
But neither the destructive frosts of the summer nor the disappointed hopes of the autumn, nor even the partial failure of health, could touch the little missionary band so keenly as the almost sudden death of Mrs. Jones, in October of the same eventful year.
Gentle and unassuming, full of peace and love to God and man, she had won the hearts of all, while her quiet energy enabled her to conduct the whole affairs of the missionary establishment without throwing any part of the burden on her husband. Never did the death of any Missionary's wife leave a greater blank in the sphere she occupied, nor was there ever a deeper and more affectionate sorrow manifested than by the numbers who attended her funeral. All felt they had lost a mother, but Mr. Jones, now left with five small children, was almost overwhelmed; and though, in the midst of his distress, he could say from his heart, "Good is the Lord, and I can still trust Him," yet he found the care of his children, of the schools, and congregations, too much for his enfeebled health; and, in August 1838, bade adieu to the scenes of his joys, and sorrows, and labours, for the last fifteen years.