OUR chief object throughout this little volume has been to lay before the friends of Missions as intelligent and connected a view as we could, of the work of God in this interesting field, not only that they may be led to glorify the power of His grace, but also that they may be able the better to follow up its future history, as it will be recorded in the periodical publications of the Church Missionary Society. ["Church Missionary Intelligencer," "Record," "Gleaner," and "Juvenile Instructor," all published monthly, and in the Annual Report.]
For this reason we are unwilling to leave the subject without giving, as far as possible, the actual present state of the whole Mission; some of the present chapter will, therefore, be occupied in a kind of summary of the different stations; and we must crave the indulgence of our readers if, on this account, they find it more unconnected and less interesting than some of the preceding ones.
Before, however, we enter upon this, we must give some account of Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, and their progress to their newly-assigned district of English River, in the far north-west; and that we may do so the more satisfactorily, we will return to the time of their departure from the Red River. [The district of English River is computed to be 600 miles in length and 400 in breadth, covering a larger portion of the earth's surface than England, Scotland, and Ireland united. It includes the stations of Lac la Ronge and Ile de la Crosse.]
They had remained during the winter and spring of 1849-50 at the Lower Fort; Mr. Hunt rendering valuable help to Mr. James at the Rapids, Mrs. Hunt assisting in the education of some young women, and both of them diligently engaged in learning the language. They had much enjoyed these nine months of retirement and Christian intercourse; but the rivers were now open, and they would not delay their departure.
Their friends at the Red River had left nothing undone that affectionate anxiety could suggest, to lessen the annoyances of the voyage, or to remove some of the difficulties of their first settling.
A large boat had been prepared for their personal accommodation, with an. awning of oilskin to shelter them from rain or heat. They were well supplied with the usually provided stores for such occasions. A few articles of necessary furniture, tools, locks, hinges, window-frames, glass, &c. formed part of their cargo; to which were added provisions for themselves and their crews for the two months' voyage; clothes, flour, pemican, and all other articles of food for themselves for the next fifteen months; besides blankets, warm clothing, and flour, for the destitute Indians by whom they would be surrounded.
The numerous presents they received were very gratifying to them; among other things, the congregation at the Rapids presented them with 50 cwt. of flour for distribution among the Indians, promising them the same supply annually till they should he able to raise it for themselves. One poor woman sent them a couple of fowls, another two dozen of eggs, a young girl brought a pair of Indian shoes, while one man begged their acceptance of a basket of salt, which, strange as the present would seem to us, was no inconsiderable gift, where English salt is rare and expensive, and is sold at 16s. the bushel.
It was a lovely day, when, on the 6th of June, their friends pressed round them on the river-side to bid them farewell, and to wish them every blessing; and they entered the canoe which was to bear them into the distant wilderness, far away from every English friend and from all civilised society. The parting could not be otherwise than solemn and affecting, as, with feelings of deep emotion, they turned to take a last look at friends and scenes endeared to them by many happy hours. But it was no look of lingering regret or of sorrowful misgiving; they had counted the cost, they felt they were called to that distant sphere, they knew they should find a people whose hearts the Lord had prepared, and they rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer" trials "for His name."
It was a great comfort to them to have the company of the Bishop for the first half of the way; his cheerfulness and ever-ready kindness encouraged their spirits and beguiled many a weary hour, and as long as they were with him, they felt they had not parted from every friend.
We shall not attempt any description of their route to Norway House, but cannot quite pass by one little incident, which must have served in some degree to initiate our Missionaries into their future wilderness life. As they were passing up Lake Winnipeg a violent thunderstorm obliged them to run the boats into a little bay, where they landed, pitched their tents, and remained a few hours, till the weather allowed them to proceed. While there, an infant was brought to be baptized. Where its parents came from, or how they happened to be on the spot at the time, we are not told; probably some Christian Indians, on their way from one or other of the Company's posts, had seen the boats of our travellers, and finding there was a "praying-master" among them, availed themselves of the unexpected opportunity.
Be this as it may, the whole scene was wild and peculiar. Sabina, a female servant whom Mrs. Hunt had brought with her from Red River, held a bason filled with water, which served as a font; one of the men held an umbrella over Mr. Hunt to shade him from the sun, which had gleamed out with scorching heat; the father, mother, and godparents of the child presented it for baptism; the crews of the boats gathered round; and there in the open air, on the shores of that mighty lake, with its pine-clad islands and its picturesque rocks, the little Indian "Catherine" was received into the fold of Christ's church, and was signed "with the sign of the Cross, in token that," wherever her future lot should be cast, "she should not be ashamed to confess Christ crucified."
The party were much refreshed by a quiet Sunday they passed at Norway House; and then, setting out again, they crossed the Lake and soon entered the Sasketchewan River. Their next Sunday was spent at the "Great Falls" upon this river, when, spreading the sails of their boats between two trees, they had divine service under the welcome shade. Their own crews, and some Red River Indians who happened to be there, made quite a congregation; and here, in the midst of wood and water, they enjoyed our beautiful Liturgy. [The Missionaries in their solitary stations often speak of the great comfort they find in our Liturgy, linking them, as it were, with so many of God's people in distant lands.]
As we have mentioned in the preceding chapter, they arrived, in company with the Bishop, at Cumberland Pas on Saturday, June 29, and found their short visit there very refreshing after the fatigues of the last three weeks.
It must have been almost like leaving home again when they quitted the Pas, and left behind them the last spot of civilisation and Christian society. But they well knew that,
"Of the brooks upon the way
We may taste, but not delay;
Nor must our high emprize be for love of such forsworn.''
[From an unpublished poem by the late Dr. Arnold.]
And so, after two days of rest and pleasant intercourse, they bade adieu to their kind friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hunter; and, strengthened and encouraged by the earnest, affectionate prayers of their "dear and valued Bishop," set out again on the 1st or 2d of July, accompanied by Abraham and Paul, and kindly supplied by Mr. Hunter with a stock of fresh provisions for the way.
And now began the most difficult and trying portion of the voyage. Except on Sundays, when Mr. Hunt insisted on resting for the whole day, they generally started at three o'clock in the morning, and seldom stopped till seven or eight in the evening. As they advanced into the interior, the country became more rocky and mountainous, and, consequently, the "portages" were more frequent and the rowing more difficult. At every rapid the heavy-laden boats were to be unloaded and loaded again; and, even when thus emptied, it required skill and indefatigable labour to drag them up the stream, and through the foaming waters, over rocks and beds of shingle, or to carry them along the steep and rocky banks. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Hunt had to scramble over stones and stumps of trees, or to make their way through the thickly-woven underwood, till they could join the boat again.
To a lady, the hardships experienced must have been very great; but Mrs. Hunt, like the rest of the sister-band of Missionaries in Rupert's Land, was largely endued with that true feminine courage, which, though it will not invite toil, or hardship, or suffering, yet does not shrink from them when they come, and meets them with cheerful, uncomplaining, "high-enduring strength."
Nothing strikes an English person more than the loneliness of these wilds. Our travellers passed many days without seeing a human being, save their own boats' crew; and often, during the long hours they passed sitting at the stern of their little vessel, nothing was heard to break the deep silence except the song of some unknown bird, the sound of the rippling waters, or the measured splash of oars.
Thus passed days and weeks; they had left the Pas on the 1st or 2d of July, and it was now the 26th. The river Saskatchewan had long been left behind, and for more than a fortnight they had been ascending one of its tributary streams. They had arrived at the Frog Portage, where, quitting the stream altogether, the boats and their cargoes were dragged over rough and rugged ground for half-a-quarter of a mile to the Rapid River; and they were now within one short day's journey of the Company's post, and not quite two from the place of their destination. Here it had been arranged that Indians from Lac la Ronge should meet them with canoes, and convey them the remainder of the way: but they were much disappointed to find, on their arrival at the appointed spot, that the people, tired of waiting, had all gone back, except three men with one small canoe.
What was to be done? The boats' crews who had brought them hitherto, worn out and dispirited with the length and difficulties of the way, refused to go further, and nothing remained but for Mr. Hunt to get into the Lac la Ronge canoe, and proceed to the Fort to endeavour to obtain assistance. There was no room in it for Mrs. Hunt or her maid, and although it required some little faith and courage, she cheerfully consented to remain behind in the boat till Mr. Hunt's return, which could not be till the middle of the following day. Situated as she was, alone among so many Indians, we can well understand that the present of a moose-chop from one of the crew was no unwelcome token of good-will; and, commending herself and Sabina to the care of Him, "who never slumbereth nor sleepeth," they both "laid them down in peace, and rose again, for the Lord sustained them."
At four o'clock in the morning they were summoned to leave the boat, and walking some little distance to a tent that was pitched for them, where they enjoyed a refreshing beverage of wild gooseberries boiled in water, they quietly awaited the return of Mr. Hunt.
He brought back the required help, and before nightfall they reached the eastern shore of Lac la Ronge, where they found a kind and hospitable welcome from Mr. Lewis, the gentleman in charge of the Company's post there. The next day was Sunday, and Mr. Hunt was glad of the opportunity of holding divine service. On Monday, July 29, they left the fort early, and crossing the lake, arrived at Mr. Settee's dwelling in the course of the afternoon, "our clothes and provisions," writes our Missionary, "nearly in the same condition as those the Gibeonites brought with them to Joshua; but here we are, and most heartily we thank God for it." Two rooms had been prepared for themselves and their servant, and here they were to pass the eight months of the ensuing winter.
Their first impressions on arriving at the lake were anything but favourable as to its fitness for a permanent residence. Nothing was to be seen but rocks and water, except that here and there a little soil had drifted into the chasms, and afforded a precarious nourishment to a few trees. At one part the granite rocks had once been covered with herbage; but twelve years before, a prairie fire had swept over them, and no trace of vegetation now remained.
As they approached the Missionary station, however, the aspect of things rather improved. Mr. Settee had succeeded in finding a spot where the granite rock had given place to a cold, damp clay, covered in some places with vegetable mould to the depth of five or six inches. It was thick with underwood, among which were found the wild gooseberry, raspberry, strawberry, and cranberry. Many pines, poplars, and birches, grew there also; and Mr. Hunt was encouraged to hope, that by clearing and draining, the land might eventually be made capable of cultivation. This would, however, require a long time and much labour; and till then they must depend for their supplies of flour, potatoes, &c., on the settlement at Red River. [Should cultivation prove impracticable, the station will, probably, be removed to Green Lake, another of the outposts of Ile de la Crosse, and a more promising spot.] Of animal food they were likely, during great part of the year, to find a good supply on the spot. The moose-deer are often plentiful in the neighbourhood; ducks and geese may also be procured; and, in their season, there would be pheasants and grouse.
At the time of our Missionaries' arrival there were not more than ten Indians at the place; but they hoped soon to see a larger number assembled from their distant grounds.
The appearance of the children was very miserable, and excited the compassion of Mrs. Hunt; but as her last letter was written only on the day after her arrival, she had not then been able to form any definite plan. A schoolroom had been begun, but was not finished, there being no parchment at hand for the windows; and for some time past, Mr. Settee had been so entirely occupied in his other duties, that the school had been suspended.
The temporal condition of the poor Indians in this wilderness seems to be most wretched, and their sufferings during the winter are sometimes fearful. Mr. Hunt relates the eases of no fewer than seventeen individuals whom Mr. Settee had, during the preceding winter of 1849-50, been the means of saving from destruction, Mild from becoming a prey to the hungry wolves that roam throughout these howling wastes. Some particulars of these will interest our readers:--
"On January 26, 1850, an Indian arrived at Mr. Settee's in a state of almost starvation. Food was given him, and, while eagerly eating it, he fell backward from exhaustion, and was only just able to say that he had thrown away his family,--moaning, that he had left them so worn out with cold and hunger that they could go no further. Abraham happened to be .just then at the station, and with his characteristic zeal and energy set out in search of them, though the only traces he had of them were the footsteps of the man on the moss and snow. He walked all that night, all the next day, and following night. The cold was severe, the walking in the snow fatiguing; but he would not give up the search. At last he found them--a woman, two young men, and three children--huddled together in the snow, but still alive. He lighted a fire, made broth of some fish he had brought with him, and carefully led them with this till they were sufficiently revived to return with him."
A fortnight later, another family--Henry Bear, his wife, and child--arrived at the missionary dwelling. They were wasted with cold and hunger, having eaten nothing for seven days; but by kind and judicious treatment their lives were preserved, though the infant continued very unhealthy. [The Indians have great power of abstinence, and it is said that some have been known to fast for ten days together.]
Before the month of February had closed, two half-famished women made their appearance, and stated that their husbands and three children were perishing in the snow from want of food. An Indian, who was suffering greatly from a wound in his neck, set off in search of them, and after five days brought them all safely to this house of mercy.
Mr. Hunt adds,--
"One more tale of pity for the Dorcases of our Society. Among the children whom I found here, boarded, clothed, and educated at the Society's expense, are four, whose history I must relate.
"One day, Mr. Settee saw a canoe on the lake, drifting towards the station; it was nearly filled with water, and a young child was attempting to paddle it with a stick. As he watched it, three other little heads appeared. He went to it as it neared the shore, and recognised the children whose mother he had buried not long before. He found from them that their father had taken them ashore, and after striking a light and giving it to the eldest, laid down, as they supposed, to sleep. But he slept so long that they were frightened: they called to him, but he did not answer; they pushed him, but he did not stir; so they got into the boat and came away. Mr. Settee went immediately in search of the poor man, and found him dead upon the shore. He buried the body, and took the children to his own house."
More widely separated as Mr. and Mrs. Hunt are from all civilised and social intercourse than, any of their fellow-labourers, they seem to claim our peculiar sympathy and interest. [If any friends are disposed to assist this station, or any other in Rupert's Land, by presents of warm clothing for the people, or of articles for the use of the schools and for rewards, they will be most thankfully received; and, if sent to the Church Missionary House, Salisbury Square, by the middle of May, will be forwarded by the ships of the same season. Those sent to Mr. and Mrs. Hunt will not, however, probably reach them for fourteen months, as they will have to remain during the winter at Norway House.] Roughly estimated, their distance from Cumberland is above 400 miles, and not less than 800 from Red River; yet if they have the presence of their God and Saviour abiding in their hearts, and if they are permitted to form another oasis of Christianity and civilisation in that moral desert, they will not feel the loneliness of their position, but will rejoice in Him who maketh "the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."
Before we leave the neighbourhood of Lac la Ronge, we must recall to our readers the still more distant station of Ile de la Crosse, to which, they will remember, James Beardy proceeded, when his place at Lac la Ronge was supplied by Mr. Settee. [Ten days' journey beyond Lac la Ronge.] We have not any very recent particulars from it; the last we have heard of it was a visit Mr. Settee paid in the winter of 1849-50. There were at that time not many Indians there, but the few he saw were in a very promising state of mind.
An interesting incident occurred on his journey thither. Observing a great smoke at some little distance, he made towards the spot, and found one man and four women, with several children, sitting on the ground in great grief. They were mourning over the loss of a brother, to whom they were strongly attached, and seemed inconsolable. Mr. Settee spoke to them of Him who is "the Resurrection and the Life;" and their softened hearts were so interested that they begged him to remain with them a little while and tell them more. He did so: the rest of the day and the greatest part of the night were passed in telling them of Him who came into the world to save sinners; and when he left them on the following morning to pursue his journey, they promised to await his return at the same spot. On his way back, a fortnight after, he found them still there. He again remained a day and a night with them, and taught them the Lord's Prayer and two hymns. They seemed seriously impressed, and declared their intention of relinquishing their heathen practices, of no longer worshipping wood and stone, and of coming to his school.
We hope the next accounts will tell us more of these poor people.
We must now return to the Bishop and Mr. Budd, whom we left on their way from Cumberland to the Red River.
Mr. Budd remained for several months at the Upper Settlement, pursuing his studies under the kind care of the Bishop, and winning the approbation and affection of the Missionaries and the people, till, on December 22, after a strict and very satisfactory examination, he was admitted to holy orders.
Mr. Chapman and Mr. Taylor, the latter of whom had lately arrived, were ordained priests at the same time; and, under date of January 1851, the Bishop, speaking of this ordination, writes:--
"December 22d will long be remembered by us all, and also the Missionary Meeting of January 3d. The ordination, December 22d, was throughout a most solemn and impressive service. All the clergy were present, except Mr. Hunter and Mr. Hunt; Mr. Cowley having arrived the previous afternoon. Many were present from all the different congregations, and St. Andrew's church was filled to overflowing. The sight on the river was beautiful; there might have been two hundred carioles passing to the house of God. The number within the walls was about eleven hundred; and the number of communicants at the conclusion was nearly three hundred. All the clergy present took some part in the service. Mr. Budd read the Gospel, Matt. ix. 36; a very suitable one from his lips.
"I felt much the solemn responsibility and high privilege of ordaining the first native minister; and I believe all present shared in the feeling."
Our newly-ordained Missionary read prayers on Christmas Day for the first time, and preached in Indian in the afternoon, from the words, "The dayspring from on high hath visited us;" and in consequence of the urgent request of the people at the Rapids, he preached there also in Indian on Monday, December 30. There were at least five hundred persons present, and, as most of the people there are either Indians or half-breeds, he was well understood. Among them were many Indians from the neighbourhood, who still reject the Gospel; they appeared absorbed in what they heard, and kept their eyes steadily fixed on Mr. Budd. One of his hearers was his own mother; her countenance expressing every emotion which might be supposed to fill the heart of a Christian Indian mother at thus witnessing her son as the first "ambassador for Christ" from among her own people. Mr. James adds,--'I listened and gazed, and thanked God for what I saw and heard."
Mr. Budd preached also at the Indian Village, and at the Upper Settlement; and so strong was the feeling towards him on the part of his fellow Indians throughout the colony, that it was difficult to convince them that his sphere of duty lay far distant. Those of the Middle Church district, when they found he must leave them, agreed together to promise him assistance in his new station, wherever it might be; and engaged, as soon as the spring was sufficiently advanced, to send him eighty bushels of corn, sixty yards of printed cloth, and 3l. or 4l. in money. "This was not only a delightful proof of their good feeling, but will prove a substantial help to him."
On January 6, 1851, he left the Red River, proceeding to Partridge Crop in company with Mr. Cowley, from whence he was to travel the rest of the way on foot to Cumberland, to remain for the present with Mr. Hunter, and soon, it was hoped, to form a permanent settlement at Moose Lake. The Bishop speaks of him with affectionate kindness, and with earnest desires for the fulness of the Divine blessing upon him and upon his work.
May he indeed follow him whose honoured name he bears, as he has followed Christ! But we must not forget that, as the first clergyman of the Church of England from among his own countrymen, he will be exposed to peculiar temptations, and will especially need the prayers of the people of God, that Satan may not get an advantage over him.
And now, shortly to sum up the present state of our Mission in Rupert's Laud.
The Bishop, beloved and respected by all, resides at the Upper Settlement, where, in addition to his other duties, he interests himself in the education of the youths in the seminary; intending, if so permitted in the providence of God, at some future time to establish a college where young men maybe prepared for ordination. Mr. Cockran is also at the Upper Settlement, as chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company; still active, energetic, and with a heart as devoted as ever to the work of his Lord and Saviour.
The Middle Church is prospering under the charge of Mr. Chapman; and Mr. James still lives in the hearts of his people at the Rapids, though the state of Mrs. James's health will, it is feared, oblige them soon to pay a visit to England.
Mr. Smithurst remains at the Indian Village; a slight cloud, that for a moment hung over some of the people there, has passed away, and all again is bright.
Mr. Cowley continues at Manitoba Lake, his health a good deal shaken; but labouring among the still indifferent Indians with the same unwearying love and unmurmuring patience that have always marked his course. His hands have been lately strengthened by the accession of a valuable assistant in Mr. Charles Pratt, a contemporary at the Indian School of Mr. Budd and Mr. Settee, like them a pure Indian, and giving the same promise of future usefulness.
A new station is about to be commenced at Moose Fort, [This must not be mistaken for Moose Lake, near Cumberland] at the head of James's Bay; and the Bishop, in speaking of the many promising openings for Missionary stations, enumerates the following:--York Fort, including Churchill; Fort Alexander, on the River Winnipeg; Fort Pelley, near the Lake; and Swan River, between Manitoba and Cumberland; besides several new out-stations from Cumberland and Lac la Ronge; and Fort Chippewyan in the Athabasca country.
We must pause here, earnestly to lay before our readers the responsibility that lies upon us all, as members of a Church that holds the pure faith of the Gospel, not only of doing all that in us lies to supply the wants of this and our every other mission, but more especially of cultivating an habitual spirit of prayer, that "the Lord of the harvest would send forth labourers into His harvest."
The passage of Scripture at the head of this chapter gives us every encouragement; let us turn to it and recall the events of the last thirty years.
Looking back to the time when the Prince of Darkness held undisputed sway over this whole land, when no ray of light had as yet penetrated an Indian wigwam; and, recalling the first faint gleams that shone round the path of our earliest Missionary, let us contrast with this the present state of things.
It was in September 1830, that Mr. West taught Henry Budd, his first Indian boy, that short and simple prayer--"Great Father, teach me, for Jesus Christ's sake;" and in December 1850, Henry Budd is ordained as a herald of salvation to his countrymen.
On October 4, 1820, the Missionary lifted up his solitary voice, in a room at the Upper Fort, to proclaim publicly, for the first time in Rupert's Land, the glad tidings of great joy for all people. In December 1850, we have seven stations [Viz. Upper and Middle Churches, Rapids, Indian Village, Cumberland, Manitoba, and Lac la Ronge, and churches at the five first] with eight ordained clergymen of the Church of England (at fire of which suitable and substantial churches have been built); at two other places, [Moose Lake and Ile de la Crosse.] native catechists are in charge: and a tenth position is about to be occupied [Moose Fort]; while over the whole is placed a chief pastor, whose earnest desire it is to feed and guide the several flocks according to the word of God. [Nor would we omit the labours of other Societies who entered the field later than our own. The Wesleyans have for many years been very active in the neighbourhood of Norway and Oxford House, and the Americans are still on the west of the Rocky Mountains pursuing their work of love, while the blessing of God rests on the labours of both.]
When we look at the extent of Rupert's Land, we sadly feel how little all this is compared with what is needed; yet surely we may ask--"Has not the bread cast upon the waters been found after many days?"
We must now bring our history to a conclusion, but not till we have introduced a few words from one of the Bishop's letters to the Committee of the Church Missionary Society:--
"Let me," writes his Lordship, "assure your noble President and the Committee that the labours of the Church Missionary Society are most gratefully acknowledged here. All in the settlement feel that they are what they are, as regards their religious hopes and privileges, through your gratuitous exertions. They are sensible, and painfully so, that they can do little to repay you; but they know that you look to something higher and nobler, even to a rich harvest of souls, rescued from the power of Satan through the preaching of the everlasting Gospel. Let me beg, very affectionately, your earnest and continued prayers, that a more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit may attend the preaching of the Word of Truth, through the length and breadth of this mighty land."
And now, what remains but to bless God who has thus planted the bow of His everlasting covenant in those dark regions? May it still spread onward, till the whole continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he spanned by its glorious arch. And should it indeed be that darkness shall once again cover our older world, may ^these Western Churches retain their purity and light, until He come before whose brightness all reflected glory shall be dim; when clouds and darkness, sin and suffering, shall for ever flee away; and when the "city shall have no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God shall lighten it, and the Lamb shall be the light thereof!"
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.