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]

Introduction, by Bishop Newnham

It is with much pleasure that I accept the privilege of writing the Introduction to a series of papers on the life and times of Canon E. K. Matheson, D.D., "Saskatchewan's First Graduate."

At the same time, I hesitated a little, fearing I might not do justice to the subject. It is merely an "Introduction" and it must be a mere "sketch" because it was comparatively late, both in Canon Matheson's work and my own, that I came into close personal touch, and because I am out of reach of all records of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, and my memory of details and dates is poor.

We have been told that it is a waste of time to "Gild refined gold, and paint the lily." My dear friend and comrade of some years, Canon E. K. Matheson, may not resemble a "lily" but many of us recognise the "refined gold" in him, and therefore as needing no gilding by me, or any other artificer. It may, more over, be proper and unavoidable in sketching our subject to draw attention to the gold existing in it. When you read the other articles on the life and history of Canon E. K. Matheson, you will not fail to observe the "lily" whiteness of the blameless life, and the "gold" shown in his observance of the Golden Rule, "to do to others as you would that they would do to you."

I first met Rev. E. K. Matheson, as he then was, at the happy and cordial reception given me at my entry into the diocese as its bishop. This was on the 28th July, 1904, at Saskatoon, then a very small place in size, hardly a village. There were not many clergy in the diocese, and of these only a few could be present. E. K. Matheson was the first clergyman to shake hands with me, as the train which brought Archdeacon J. MacKay was late, while Mr. Matheson had trusted to his faithful old horse.

At the head of the clergy, an object of reverence and affection from all, was Venerable Archdeacon John MacKay, whose name must constantly occur in any history of work among the Cree Indians of the Western Plains. Venerable Archdeacon MacKay ranks among the Charter Members and the earliest Professor and Teachers of Emmanuel College. Rev. E. K. Matheson was one of his earliest pupils, and doubtless the devotion to the welfare of the Indians and the sing1e and devout spirit of Rev. E. K. Matheson received both its inspiration and example from Archdeacon J. MacKay.

Immediately after my first Sunday at Prince Albert I was again in close touch with E. K. Matheson at Battleford. After holding a service in St. George's Church, I spent the afternoon in the Indian Industrial School. I may remind you that travel in 1904-5 in Saskatchewan was very different from travel in 1927. There were no railways anywhere north and west of Saskatoon and Prince Albert. My visit to Battleford required first a very uncomfortable night journey by train from Prince Albert to Saskatoon, and then a two-days' drive to Battleford, with a much-disturbed night in the "Stopping Place" half-way. Mr. Matheson was then Principal of the Indian Industrial School, having been appointed some time before I came to the diocese. If it be difficult to serve two masters, it must be worse when there are three. Mr. Matheson had to satisfy: (1) the Indian Department, Ottawa; (2) The Church or Synod of the diocese; (3) the parents of the pupils.

When I visited the School in August, 1904, the condition of the institution was good. He had a full complement of pupils and a large and efficient staff, including. I think, farm, carpenter and perhaps blacksmith instructors.

The atmosphere or tone of the school was that of a happy family. This family, however, was apt to be suddenly and temporarily increased, rather to the disturbance of order and class room, by uninvited and hardly desired visits of some of the parents from neighboring Reservations. The good state of the school and pupils was partly due, undoubtedly, to the kindly fellowship between members of the staff and their loyalty to the Principal and Matron. I think it was even more due to this lady herself, "Matron" was, I think, her title, Miss E. Shepphird, the valuable "right-hand" of the Principal, and later on, almost his "both hands" as wife, partner and colleague.

Here I must be allowed to digress a little to lay a wreath at the feet of Mrs. E. K. Matheson, even though the wreath be hastily woven, and inadequate for the commemoration of all that she has been and done for the Indians, the diocese, the W.A. and for Canon Matheson, himself.

As "Matron," as zealous worker in many ways among the Indians, as member of the local branch of the W.A., as Diocesan W.A. President, as helper of Canon Matheson in his varied missionary undertakings, as his wife and sympathetic companion, and later, when Providence called him aside from active service, as his tireless, ever hopeful and encouraging nurse, I cannot adequately set down her value.

My first visit to Battleford school, in August of 1904, was followed by many other visits. I had also many other opportunities for close intercourse with Canon Matheson in his own fields of work, and in the Executive Committee and Synod, and I ever found him quietly, without fuss or ostentation, doing faithfully whatever work the Church asked him to do. In those days, before the advent of the railway, I had to make long journeys in democrat or buggy to beyond Lloydminster and to Onion Lake. On some of these journeys Canon Matheson was my companion and charioteer; and frequently my adviser in work which was new to me. These various duties he performed to my great satisfaction and, I hope, to his own. I have known faster horses than his, and charioteers who used the whip more freely, but his horses were kept in good condition, to a good old age, and we always reached our destination sound in body and mind, not over-tired even if not quite to the hour fixed. I think that he and the Rev. D. D. Macdonald drove me on my first visit to Lloydminster, August, 1904. But, as a grand reception had been prepared for me there, I was transferred some ten miles short of Lloydminster, to another buggy with a smart driver and two fast stepping horses, and accompanied by a mounted escort of ten or twelve men, headed by Rev. G. E. Lloyd, Chaplain of the Britannia Colony, afterwards Archdeacon Lloyd, later Bishop of Saskatchewan. Some years later, in June, 1914, the Indian Department decided to close the Battleford Industrial School, and the question before Rev. E. K. Matheson and myself was what field of work I could offer him and he could accept. After consultation with Archdeacon Mackay, I decided that as he was so experienced in the needs and conditions of work among the Indians he should under take the supervision of that work in the large district between Battleford and Onion Lake, including Red Pheasant's, Pound maker's, Thunderchild's, Little Pine and Sweet Grass Reservation. and later on, the Reservations transferred to the North Bank of the Saskatchewan River. He was at first Rural Dean of Carlton and later of Battleford for nearly 40 years altogether, until the end of 1922.

In 1912, in view of his position and his earnest and faithful work, I appointed him a Canon of the Pro-Cathedral, St. Alban's, the first Canon I had appointed since I came to the diocese. This carried no financial reward and imposed no special duty, but it implied a more intimate position in the Council of the Bishop and was the only way in which the Bishop could mark his appreciation of a long course of faithful ministry.

For some years after this Canon Matheson continued to carry n the supervision of these Indian Missions and that supervision included frequently visiting those that had no resident clergyman, and giving them their Sunday services. This required him to be frequently away from home and its comforts, which his failing health required, though Mrs. Matheson accompanied him as often as possible.

Before I left the Diocese, in 1921, his state of health had become so poor and his physical powers so diminished, that he was sometimes unable to undertake such a journey. But as far as mind and body permitted he continued to take great interest in the work and in the Indians; and it was a real grief to him that the flesh could not do what the Spirit willed. It was a time of constant anxiety to his loving wife and it was only her careful and watchful nursing, her courage and determination, and her wise and loving companionship that has, under God, prolonged his stay among us. He finally and formally retired from the work in January, 1923.

In the history of the Church in Saskatchewan, especially as concerns the Indians, E. K. Matheson's name and work will hold an honored place along with that of Mrs. E. K. Matheson. Ever since I left the diocese, as long as he could write, I have received from him the kindest, affectionate letters; and when he could no longer guide his pen, he has written by the hand of his wife.

It is good to have known him well, and to have been associated with him. It is a joy to remember him, and an incentive to consider his example.

Bishop of Saskatchewan. 1904-21.

Project Canterbury