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Canon E. K. Matheson, D.D.
Saskatchewan's First Graduate

Being a History of the Development of the Church of
England in North-Western Saskatchewan

[no place: no publisher, no date, but
[Battleford: Canadian North-West Historical Society, 1927]

6. Notes on the Life of Bishop McLean
by Canon Matheson

These notes are taken from the life account of Bishop McLean, written by Canon E. K. Matheson and found in "Leaders of the Canadian Church," 1920, edited by Canon Heeney.

When Bishop Machray came out to Fort Garry in 1865 as Bishop of Rupert's Land, and set himself to the task of reorganising St. John's College and the work of the church generally, he at once decided to call to his aid the Rev. John McLean, who had been the friend of his boyhood, his old schoolmate and a fellow-student at College. Mr. McLean immediately responded to this call. He came to the Red River settlement in September, 1866, and on his arrival there was appointed Rector of St. John's Cathedral, and Archdeacon of Assiniboia. Subsequently he became Professor of Divinity and Warden of St. John's College, positions he filled for another period of eight years. We get a little insight into his life during that period by noting what the present Archbishop of Rupert's Land said of him: "The best and most inspiring teacher I ever sat under; arousing in his pupils a keen competition and keeping it up. He used the old Scotch method of teaching classics, making his pupils commit hundreds and thousands of lines of Latin and Greek verse to memory. He was excellent in teaching Latin and Greek prose composition. He had no special mathematical bent, but was a most successful teacher in that subject too. I shall never forget what I owe him on account of the way he taught me to preach, and especially to deliver my sermons. He committed all his own sermons to memory and delivered them verbatim. I have taken up in the stall of St. John's Cathedral, the manuscript of his sermon and have followed the manuscript while he delivered the sermon word for word--a remarkable feat of memory." The Bishop himself used to say that he could write a sermon, deliver it, put the manuscript away for five or ten years, then take it, and after reading it over once, could deliver it practically word for word without the manuscript. So logical and methodical was his mind, so impressionable and retentive his memory. Notwithstanding this great gift, he was always very careful and painstaking in the preparation of his sermons. He rarely used a manuscript in the pulpit, except on very special occasions when his sermon was wanted for publication. While engaged at St. John's he organised the congregation of Holy Trinity Parish, and had a small church built. He lived to take part in the ceremony of laying the corner stone of the present magnificent stone edifice in 1883, making a remark able speech on that occasion.

When the Diocese of Saskatchewan was set apart in 1872, the choice of a suitable man for the position at once fell upon "Archdeacon McLean," and he was duly consecrated in Canter bury Cathedral on the third of May, 1874. The territory entrusted to him comprised about 700,000 square miles.

On one occasion a person asked him: "Where is the Diocese of Saskatchewan, and how large is it?" He said: "The Diocese of Saskatchewan is in Western Canada; it is bounded on the east by the Province of Manitoba, on the West by the Province of British Columbia at the summit of the Rocky Mountains, on the south by the International boundary line between Canada and the United States, and on the north by the Aurora Borealis and world without end."

He remained in England during that summer collecting funds for the work of the church in his new Diocese, and during the following winter be paid his first Episcopal visit. He came up by what was called "The Lake Route," Lakes Manitoba and Cumberland, via Fort a la Corne, as far as the Prince Albert settlement, arriving there by dog train about the end of February, 1875. He secured some land for a church site in the settlement, and made arrangements for the building of St. Mary's Church, the first church erected in this Diocese for settlers. He went out to the pine forest, where he found a number of churchmen doing voluntary work, hewing the logs for the building--for in those clays we had no saw mills or dressed lumber. He called the men together, spoke a few words of encouragement to them, and knelt down with them in the snow--for it was in the depth of winter--and there commended them and their work to the blessing of God.

The old log church still stands, a mile or two west of the present city of Prince Albert, and the Bishop's body lies buried under the shadow of its walls.

While in Prince Albert settlement, on the occasion of his first visit, he stayed at the Hudson's Bay Company's post, the guest of the officer in charge, Mr. Philip Turner, until the middle of April, when he started back accompanied by Mr. Thomas McKay as far as Winnipeg, on his way to the east, for the purpose of securing some more missionaries for the work in view. He came back to Prince Albert in the following September, and soon made arrangements for a more extended visit to other points of his large Diocese. He held his first ordination in St. Mary's Church (then recently built), on the ninth of January, 1877, when Mr. John Hines was admitted to the Diaconate. Here let me quote from a letter written by Mr. Hines some years afterwards in connection with a part of the work and plans of that winter:

"The Bishop and Reverend (afterwards the Venerable Archdeacon) John Mackay, drove out to Sandy Lake to visit my new mission and to discuss plans for the future. Mr. McKay used his train of "husky dogs," while the Bishop was conveyed by John Turner in a carriole or toboggan, drawn by a horse. The main object of that visit was to discuss plans looking to the inauguration of a Diocesan Training School, which resulted some three years later in the founding and organising of Emmanuel College. The initial step taken at that meeting was to request the Church Missionary Society of England to allow Mr. Mackay to be transferred from the Stanley Mission and to take up his residence at Prince Albert for the purpose of assisting in the tutorial work in the newly proposed Educational Institution. And so it came to pass that the first committee meeting of the Church Missionary Society ever held west of Winnipeg was held in my little log hut at the Sandy Lake Mission Station, which was established in 1874." This piece of information, not hitherto published, helps to reveal to us the man with a vision, while this humble meeting of "the three Johns" in the little log hut, the "lowly thatched cottage," marked the beginning of a far-reaching epoch in the educational and missionary history of the Diocese.

The Bishop paid a visit to the Stanley Mission during the winter of 1875-6, travelling by dog-train all the way, via Montreal Lake, etc. The following winter (1876-7) he went as far west as Edmonton. Here he secured land for a church site, and made arrangements for the immediate erection of a church building, which was soon afterwards erected and became the forerunner of the present Pro-Cathedral of All Saints in the city of Edmonton.

Winter travelling in Saskatchewan in those days was not altogether a picnic. There was not a foot of railway line anywhere near the Diocese, nor anywhere in Western Canada for that matter. Travellers in winter had to make their camp in the hush and their bed in the snow, many miles distant from any human habitation; the only roof was the star-studded sky, while the cold might be reckoned by anything clown to fifty below zero. They could not lie in bed until the house got warm in the morning, but had to rise up in the intense cold of the early hours, drink down an hurriedly-made cup of hot tea, get ready and travel on again, repeating the programme day after day until they arrived at one or other of the Hudson's Bay Company posts, where missionaries were always sure of a cordial welcome. Of course, summer travelling was usually a delightful outing. So when Bishop McLean made his first and second Episcopal visitations in his Diocese, he did not travel in a Pullman car, but in a toboggan drawn by husky dogs, "a through train," if you choose, to Edmonton, the conductor, trainman and engineer on that occasion being the present Venerable Archdeacon John A. Mackay, who also looked after the dining car and its comforts.

In addressing missionary meetings afterwards and giving a description of these journeys, the Bishop would sometimes tell his audience that "he travelled all the way on snowshoes." Quite true! but as he afterwards explained to his hearers, he was sitting on them as they were tucked away under him in the bottom of his toboggan, an extra pair carried along in case of need.

The Bishop has given us in the following words, a graphic pen picture of his field as it was when he first came to it: "The Diocese was a vast area containing about 30,000 Indians, with a few settlements of white people. There were no endowments, no missionaries, no churches, everything had to be begun as far as the Church of England was concerned."

There was, however, one ordained missionary, the Reverend J. A. MacKay, now Archdeacon, and he was stationed away out at Stanley, on the Churchill river. Mr. John Hines, then a Lay Missionary of the Church Missionary Society, but afterwards ordained, had recently been stationed at Sandy Lake, about sixty miles north-west of Prince Albert. And there was also one native Deacon by the name of Luke Caldwell, stationed at Fort a la Corne. When Bishop McLean wrote to his friend, Bishop Machray, appealing for some helpers--even some Lay Readers--he thought it well to support his appeal by quoting the words of St. Paul to Timothy "Only Luke is with me."

In order to get a glimpse of the spiritual progress of the work during the first eight years of his Episcopate, let us note what he said in his charge to the first Synod he convened in August, 1882: "It may be interesting to compare the state of our missions now with what it was when the Diocese was organised in 1874. Then we had only two clergymen, one at Stanley Mission, English River, and one at the Nepowewin Mission. We have now sixteen clergy on the list of the Diocese besides the Bishop. We have also ten catechists and school masters, while the number of our mission stations is twenty-nine." We may note here that four years later, in his charge to the last Synod over which he presided in August, 1886, he spoke of having then twenty-two clergy and seven catechists in charge of mission stations--"So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed." The preacher at that Synod spoke of the number of missions amongst both whites and Indians in the different parts of the Diocese, extending from the Rocky Mountains on the west to Lake Winnipeg on the east, and said: "Educational institutions have also been established. By the prayerful and incessant efforts of our good and energetic Bishop, several schools have been erected and are in use in different parts of the Diocese, and Emmanuel College has also been built and established within a few minutes' walk of where we are now met together. It has done a good work in the Diocese for both the white and the red man, and many of our missions among both are now supplied with pastors and teachers who were trained in it for that purpose. The success of the past gives us hope for the future. God has acknowledged and blessed the efforts that have been made. He has "lifted up the light of His countenance, and caused His face to shine upon us."

Bishop McLean was a man of large ideas; he attempted great things for God; he expected great things, from God, and he was not disappointed; he acted in the living present, heart within and God overhead, but he always planned and worked with his eye on the future. I may best illustrate this by quoting the words of his immediate successor, the present Bishop of Calgary. In his charge to the first Synod over which he presided in Prince Albert in 1889, he said: "Bishop McLean had large ideas and very ardent hopes as to the position and usefulness of Emmanuel College. He intended to establish a training school for Blackfoot students at Calgary as a branch of it. The college was to be the nucleus of the University of Saskatchewan, the statute for which was passed by the Dominion Parliament in 1883 (twenty-two years before Saskatchewan became a province) and shortly before his death he made provision for examinations in theological subjects with a view to granting the title of Licentiate in Theology by Emmanuel College, and for reading for the Degree of Bachelor of Divinity of the University. These ideas I have not seen my way to attempt to carry out. In my judgment they are in advance of the requirements of the country, and with the concurrence of leading clergy and laity with whom I took counsel on the occasion of my first visit to Prince Albert, they are, for the present, in abeyance. Several leading gentlemen have most kindly consented to act as members of a College Council which I have called into existence, the Bishop being ex officio president, and it is my most earnest wish and prayer that with their kind co-operation and the sympathy and support of all its old friends, and the Diocese at large, Emmanuel College may prove what Bishop McLean meant it to be--an important and vigorous centre of higher education in connection with the Church."

Which one of us today would say that these ideas are in advance of the requirements of the country? The present condition of the country, the needs of the Church, the position, aims and ambitions of Emmanuel College in Prince Albert to which we may add the establishment of schools in the Diocese of Calgary, amply justify the large ideas and the far-reaching vision of Bishop McLean. In his charge to his first Synod, held at Prince Albert in the year 1882, he said in connection with this subject: "The need for trained native help was felt to be so pressing that I attempted soon after I came to the Diocese to carry on the work of training at Prince Albert, but I soon saw that no real good could be done without the establishment of a regular and permanent Diocesan institution." And so was born the idea of what was afterwards to be known as Emmanuel College, for he said further on: "The origin of Emmanuel College was in the sense of need I entertained for a trained band of interpreters, schoolmasters, catechists and pastors, who would be familiar with the language and modes of thought of the people, etc." But, as we have seen, the plan was afterwards greatly enlarged. I have heard him telling a story to illustrate this need. It was that of a missionary who was addressing a band of Indians through the medium of an untrained interpreter. The missionary began his address with the words: "Children of the Forest, etc." Bishop McLean, laughingly, said that the poetic effect of this fine phrase was rudely destroyed by the untrained interpreter, who flattened it out by translating it: "Little men among the big sticks."

While the preliminary work of Emmanuel College had been carried on for some time previously by Bishop McLean alone, and in his own study, the work of erecting the buildings was begun in 1879, and in that same year, on the first day of November, All Saints' Day, the College was formally opened with divine service in St. Mary's Church, although the main building was not ready for occupation until the following year. We had no stately mansions in those days, so we luxuriated in log huts. Bishop McLean's log residence and the little log schoolhouse nearby were used as classrooms, another log building some distance away was utilized as a tutor's residence, while a fourth one served as the residence for the other tutor, and as a dormitory and dining-room for the students. Of the two tutors then appointed, one is happily still with us, the Venerable Archdeacon Mackay. It was here, under the Bishop himself, who was an excellent scholar, a born teacher, and an experienced and enthusiastic professor, that the first high school work of the North-West Territories was done.

When the Bishop announced the name by which the College was to be known he said he had chosen the name "Emmanuel" after much thought and prayer, and he hoped it would not be merely a name but a reality--"God with us"--to guide and bless in all the work of the college for His own glory. That prayer has been heard, and we may rest assured that the answer to it will be continued just as long as the same spirit prevails in the Council of the College.

Notwithstanding the great extent of territory embraced in his Diocese, he made it his business to visit all the mission stations at certain intervals, from Lake Winnipeg in the north-east to Fort Macleod and the foothills of the Rockies in the south-west, and it was while on one of his long journeys in the interests of the work that he met with the injury that caused his early death. He left Prince Albert soon after the meeting of his last Diocesan Synod in the month of August, 1886, for the purpose of visiting the missions in the western portion of his Diocese, going as far as Calgary and Edmonton. Having finished his work there, he prepared for the return journey homeward. As he and those with him in the "democrat" wagon were going down the steep hill at Edmonton, the horses became unmanageable, plunging about until they overturned the vehicle. The Bishop was thrown out violently, sustaining very severe internal injuries. He was taken back into the Fort, where he received all possible care and treatment. It became apparent after some days that the injuries were of a nature that might terminate fatally. The Bishop, knowing this, determined to make a final effort to reach his home in Prince Albert., where his family resided. To drive over land was out of the question, as he could not possibly stand the jolting of the wagon for a distance of some five hundred miles, and there was no railway nearer than two hundred miles to either Edmonton or Prince Albert. Only one possible way remained, and that was to float down the North Saskatchewan River, which flows past both places. It was decided to make the attempt. A small boat was procured and fitted up so that a bed for the Bishop could be made in it. Thus equipped, and in company with one of his sons and two hired men, the Bishop embarked and started on his five hundred mile voyage clown the river on his last journey. It was the month of October. The days were not very warm and the nights were cold. The Bishop suffered considerable discomfort on the voyage, especially owing to his enfeebled condition, but the feeling that each evening they were a day's march nearer home helped to buoy him up. They travelled early and late, a lonely voyage without a settlement to vary the monotony until they reached Battleford, two-thirds of the journey accomplished. Here they procured some necessary comforts and supplies and resumed the voyage. In due time they arrived at the landing place in Prince Albert. With a thankful heart and expressions of sincere gratitude to God, the Bishop was quickly conveyed to the care and comfort of his own house--home once more for a short while. The best medical advice available was procured. All was done for him that human love and kindness could do, but it soon became evident that the injuries he had received, aggravated as they were by the cold and discomforts of the voyage down the river at that time of year, were more than even his rugged constitution could combat successfully; and although he appeared to rally somewhat at the first, he gradually became weaker until at length God called him to his long home, and that valiant soldier and servant of Christ laid aside his armour on Sunday morning, the seventh of November, 1886, at the early age of fifty-eight years. His death was mourned throughout the length and breadth of Canada wherever his merits, name and work were known. In his own immediate Diocese, the feeling of both the clergy and laity was: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof." The feeling of the Church in Western Canada was voiced by the late Archbishop Machray, then Metropolitan of Rupert's Land, when, addressing the Provincial Synod in 1887, he said: "Such were his great and varied gifts, readiness of utterance and unceasing devotion, that his death is a great loss to our whole Ecclesiastical Province."

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