Project Canterbury

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]

8. Some of the Influences on, and the Friendships in the Life of Canon Matheson

By Mrs. E. K. Matheson.

On being asked to write a chapter concerning some of the influences on my husband's life and of his friendships, I would hesitate to do so were it not for the large share he took in those epochal days in Saskatchewan when that province was in the making. No one could live for over forty-nine years in an absolutely new country and be actively engaged in its development, without leaving some footprints on its sands of time. His devotion to the Diocese of Saskatchewan and the West from his earliest days here has been most loyal and sincere. From the 26th August, 1877, when he arrived at Fort Carlton, he has never wavered in his affection for this diocese. In the early years of the present century he was twice offered the position of Archdeacon in other Dioceses an honor which might have tempted some men, but he quietly declined and no one except his wife knew of the offers or saw the letters which came.

Edward K. Matheson left Headingly, near Winnipeg, on July 9th, 1877, with the Rev. J. A. Mackay and his family. Other members of the party were Mr. T. Clarke (now Canon Clarke, at Melfort) Mr. David Stranger and his two daughters. Also James Bird and his wife who came out to help in the building, etc., for Mr. Mackay. It was a regular caravan, for there were two light wagons, each drawn by one horse and nine carts each drawn by an ox. Mr. Mackay walked beside the democrat that his family were in, holding the reins and driving. Jimmy Bird and his wife with their outfit filled the other wagon. My husband walked all the wav.

His first work was as a missionary teacher at Snake Plain Reserve and during the long winter evenings he studied by the light of the fire which burned brightly in the old-fashioned Indian fireplace.

During the first two years when he taught at Snake Plain and Sandy Lake Missions the Rev. and Mrs. J. Hines were his warm and helpful friends, and helped the young missionary teacher to lay solid foundations for his work in after life. He has always held them in grateful remembrance for their sincere friendship to him at that time.

In 1879 when he entered Emmanuel College to read for Holy Orders he not only had his studies there but taught a day school at the same time. So nights as well as days were very fully occupied. It was by no means easy but the young student teacher had a longed for goal in view and was determined to reach it--and he did. After his ordination he was tutor in Emmanuel College for two years.

He won the prize given by the Hon. David Laird who was the first Lieut.-Governor of the North-West Territories. The presentation page says: "It is awarded to the Rev. Edward Matheson at the end of his College Course of three years, for obtaining the highest number of honor marks at the final examinations each year." This is signed by the Bishop of Saskatchewan, April 28, 1882.

When nine years of age his father died. He was a man of extreme neatness, very methodical and painstaking in all his work. His mantle fell upon his son who inherited all these qualities.

His mother had a wonderful influence and was a great inspiration to him. She was of a deeply spiritual and devotional nature and her example and teaching bore fruit in the life of her son who desired to give his life to the ministry, although at the time he came to Saskatchewan his desire had not taken root, but it did so soon after. At the time of his ordination his mother had the great joy of being present at the service.

He was always most deeply interested in and faithful to his charges. This has been evidenced many times during his long illness by the very numerous letters and messages from his former parishioners and Sunday School scholars. His quiet life of goodness and wholehearted service for Christ has left a lasting impression on many lives. His friendship and love for these good people has never burned low but is as steadfast as ever. He is a man who has a marvellous gift for friendship and his friendships are always life long. He is of a kindly and charitable disposition and no one has ever heard him speak in unkindly terms of anyone. He is as true as steel to his friends.

It was Mr. Matheson's privilege to work with men of remarkable gifts when he first came to Saskatchewan. Bishop McLean had much to do with the moulding of his character, as he helped train him for the ministry. Bishop McLean was a man peculiarly fitted for the times. In fact, he seemed to be carved out for just such pioneering statesmanship as fell to his lot. He was a man of wide and far-seeing vision and built for the future. He was also a wise and faithful Bishop and he left a very deep and profound impression on the life of the young clergyman, one which has never faded in the long years that have intervened since the sad and untimely death of the first Bishop of Saskatchewan. Archdeacon Mackay who brought him out as a missionary teacher had also a powerful influence on his life. He, too, was one of his professors at Emmanuel College and for 47 years his true and steadfast friend and one who had much to do with the whole of his active ministry. There was a very deep and understanding friendship between them which grew with the long years of close intercourse, while his love and esteem was a golden cord which bound us all together in that fellowship and friendship which comes but seldom into the lives of men. In all important things as long as Canon Matheson was able to carry on he consulted Archdeacon Mackay. In fact when failing strength made work difficult and he wished to resign the Archdeacon begged him to keep on for another year as his close and intimate knowledge of the work and his guiding hand was much needed in this corner of the Diocese. The Archdeacon was commissary of the Diocese at the time. As Bishop Newnham had resigned the Archdeacon could not give the oversight he desired to the work in all parts of this vast Diocese.

It seemed fitting when the Archdeacon's course was almost run that his former pupil and friend should be the one who committed the Archdeacon into God's gracious care and keeping although he had to get out of a sick bed to do it.

He also worked under Bishop Pinkham from 1886-1904, and had the very warmest regard for him. From 1904-21 he carried on his work under Bishop Newnham, for whom he had the most sincere affection and highest regard and had many long years of happy service under him. Bishop Newnham was a true "Father in-God" to him. We treasure as one of our most precious possessions the friendship of Bishop and Mrs. Newnham.

In 1922 the present Bishop of Saskatchewan was consecrated but at this time my husband's health failed so rapidly that at the end of the year he was obliged to resign. Bishop Lloyd has shown him every kindness and consideration in his long illness. It was a great sorrow to give up the work he so dearly loved and one not easily borne, a grief too deep for words but no one has ever heard a murmur and the cross has been bravely borne.

One of the strong influences has been his deep and abiding friendship with his cousin, Archbishop Matheson, of Rupert's Land. He has looked to him for advice in all the larger things which have come into his life and his affection for the Archbishop is of true Scotch intensity. In fact it was the Archbishop, then a young clergyman, on the threshold of his career of wide usefulness, who first recommended his young cousin to the Rev. J. A. Mackay. He always followed the life and work of his cousin with kindly interest and gave him true and affectionate regard as well as much wise counsel.

My husband was Rural Dean of Carlton and later of Battleford Deanery for nearly forty years. For only one year out of that long period was he not in charge of a Deanery. I am quite sure during those long years that the members of the Deanery never looked to him in vain for an understanding sympathy in their work. If a service could be rendered to them at any time it was gladly and quietly done. He was a staunch friend to all. Amongst former and present members of the Deanery he has many highly valued friends whose kind messages of cheer and occasional visits are very bright spots in the invalid's life. In all these long years of illness the Rev. I. I. Jones, of North Battleford, has rarely failed to visit him weekly and bring not only kindly sympathy and affection but a breeze from the outside world. The rector of St. George's, the Rev. John Rance, is also a kindly and welcome visitor who tells him all the church news.

It was B. K. Matheson's privilege and honor to be the first clergyman in the then Diocese of Saskatchewan to organise the first Woman's Organisation in the Church of England, at Lethbridge, in 1886, during the time of his incumbency of that Parish. It was called "St. Monica's Guild," as the Parish Church which was built during his two years at Lethbridge was called St. Augustine's. Two years later he organised "St. George's Guild" in St. George's Church, Battleford, where he was incumbent. This was the second Woman's Society in what is now the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

After fourteen years in white work it was Archdeacon Mackay who placed him in charge of the Industrial School at Battleford in 1895, and he was principal of it for nearly twenty years, until the time that it was closed. This was when Bishop Newnham and Archdeacon Mackay decided to try Improved Day Schools and establish a Residential School at The Pas, Manitoba. The Archdeacon had long wished for a boarding school there so the children could be in school during the winter while their parents were away hunting and trapping.

The respect and esteem in which he is held by the old boys and girls of the school is sufficient to show what Canon Matheson's work was amongst them. In his long illness they come to see him showing real affection, much sympathy and sorrow for him. He is still their adviser and sympathetic friend. Some of the happiest times of his life are when ex-pupils and other Indian friends come and kneel in fervent, earnest prayer for him. By some be is affectionately called, "Father Friend." The love of the ex-pupils for the old school was shown by the remark of one of the girls in the autumn of 1914, "This has been a sad, sad year, two terrible things have happened, this dreadful war and the closing of the dear, old school." The training in loyal citizen ship in the school was demonstrated when the war broke out for over forty of our old boys went overseas to fight for truth and justice. Three sleep in France and Flanders and one in England, while two won the military medal.

In connection with the work of the school, my husband formed a very real friendship with the Hon. David Laird, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who was a most conscientious friend to the Indians. He was a Scotch Canadian of the highest integrity, a stalwart in principle from which nothing would induce him to waver. Mr. Laird spent a fortnight with us at one time when he had not been well and enjoyed his visit to what had been the old government house and assembly rooms. He was often in a reminiscent mood and told much of his life and work when he was the first Lieut.-Governor of the North West Territories and Battleford the first capital. He was a sincere friend.

During the long years of Canon Matheson's church life he never missed a Diocesan Synod or even a session of one. It was his good fortune to be a delegate at the Conference on "Consolidation of the Church of England in Canada." This Conferences was held in Winnipeg in 1890. He was also a delegate to every Provincial Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert's Land and several times a delegate to the General Synod. There was one meeting of the Provincial Synod he was unable to attend. In these various Synods it was his privilege to meet many notable men, among others the late Archbishop Machray who was the first Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. Like Bishop McLean he was a great statesman and built for posterity doing it wisely and well. At these Synods and Conferences of the Church Canon Matheson met many with whom pleasant and profitable intercourse was held and also lasting friendships made.

Although much enfeebled from long illness, his interest is as keen as ever in all the events of the day. All church happenings are eagerly listened to and every bit of news pertaining to the work of the diocese as well as the church abroad is as "cold water to a thirsty soul." This is only a brief outline of influences and friendships, for there are many dear friends in Canada whose friendship will always be a real joy and a highly valued possession.

Project Canterbury