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An Historical Sketch of the Diocese of Saskatchewan of the Anglican Church of Canada

By W. F. Payton, Archdeacon Emeritus

Prince Albert: The Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan, 1974.

Chapter 3. Early life of Henry Budd--His ministry at the Cumberland Mission and Nepowewin--The Isbister Settlement

On June 22nd, 1840 Henry Budd, accompanied by his wife and mother, left the Red River Settlement for Cumberland House. Since his arrival with the Reverend John West, Budd had been nurtured in the Christian faith by the Church and had been educated at the C.M.S. School. Proving to be an apt pupil, at the completion of his education, he had been employed by the Hudson's Bay Company which he served with great success. However, in 1837 he was invited by the Church to teach a school in the settlement in order to utilize his proven ability to communicate with his fellow Indians. Once again he proved so successful in this undertaking that the Church felt that his ability was such that he could undertake even more important work by combining his teaching school with the evangelistic work of a catechist. For some time the C.M.S. had been hoping to send an ordained man to begin Evangelism among the Indians in the areas lying outside the Red River Settlement. Lacking the necessary funds, however, it was finally decided at the Settlement that this work could be undertaken by using the obvious talents of Henry Budd.

It was determined to set up this first Mission Centre at Cumberland House which was the first inland post of the Hudson's Bay Company and was founded in 1774. After spending a short time at the post, Budd came to the conclusion that it was not the most suitable place for undertaking either a school or a mission. After some thought and investigation, he moved East down the river to the place which we know today as The Pas. Here were the remains of the old French Fort Pascoyac. Here also was a settlement of Indians similar to the one which Reverend James Nisbett found when he chose the site of Prince Albert. It was a place where the Indians gathered at the conclusion of the fishing and hunting season, while waiting for the trapping season to open with the advent of Winter. Such a site, in the opinion of Henry Budd, appeared to offer greater possibilities for a permanent location for the type of work which he had been commissioned to undertake.

The venture proved to be an immediate success. The Natives helped to build a log house for Henry Budd and his family, which included a large room that could be used either as a schoolroom or a meeting place. Within two months, Henry Budd had gathered around him a group of 35 persons who would meet with him on Sundays, 24 of these being children who also came to him to be both educated and instructed in the Christian faith.

Reports of his success were so encouraging that in 1842 the Reverend John Smithurst was sent to the new mission to baptize those who had been prepared by Budd himself. At this baptism he was able to admit into the Church 38 adults and 44 children. His description of the settlement is a most enthusiastic one, consisting as it did by this time of a schoolhouse in the centre, with Mr. Budd's house on the South side, and the children's house on the North. Smithurst remarked that the buildings appeared most respectable, and reflected great credit on Mr. Budd's industry, considering the limited means which had been placed at his disposal. The houses were placed near the river with clearings, some fenced for garden, and others presenting a neat lawn-like appearance. In addition to the baptisms taken by Mr. Smithurst in the morning and afternoon of June 26th, the marriage of 13 couples followed on the day before his departure to Red River. As [6/7] a result of his visit, the claims of what was still called the Cumberland House Mission were presented to the C.M.S. for their attention in the hope that a missionary might be sent to further consolidate the work which Henry Budd had begun with such great success.

The first word of the Christian Gospel came into the territory which we now know as Saskatchewan as a direct result of the humble and dedicated efforts of Henry Budd at the Cumberland Mission. In those days communication among the Native people was made possible because of the visiting of Indians from one area to another as a result of relationships and friendships which had grown up over the years. It was by this means that Saskatchewan Indians were able to participate in the services conducted by Henry Budd, and bring back word of the Christian Gospel to the Indians in the Northern area of Saskatchewan. This was to result, as we shall see, in the establishment of the Lac La Ronge-Stanley Mission, thus bringing the Church for the first time within the boundaries of the present province of Saskatchewan.

Following the urgent request of the Reverend John Smithurst to the Church Missionary Society, the Reverend James Hunter left England to take charge of the Mission which had been established by Henry Budd. For a time he was assisted by Budd in the work of the Mission, and was no doubt able to afford him valuable help in understanding what was to Hunter a new country and a new people. In the meantime, Bishop David Anderson had been made the first Bishop of Rupert's Land and left England for his diocese in 1849. Before leaving, he had been given strong recommendations by the C.M.S. to consider the ordination of such candidates for the Ministry as Henry Budd and James Settee. These men, by the contribution that they had made and the ability that they had shown, were in the opinion of the C.M.S. well able to begin a Native Ministry which would be of extreme value both to the Church and to the people among whom they would serve. Bishop Anderson, himself, visited the Mission at the end of June 1850, services being held in the new Church then open for service. It is described as being 63 feet long and 27 feet wide, and when one considers what existed ten years previously when Henry Budd arrived there, together with the isolated area and the limitations of supplies, it is a remarkable tribute to the industry and the courage both of Henry Budd and also of James Hunter. The Bishop's visit lasted over a week and included services of confirmation and Holy Communion, together with the preparation and examination of the candidates. On Monday, July 8th, the Bishop, after due preparation, returned to Red River, being accompanied by Henry Budd and his eldest son and also the eldest son of James Settee, who was by this time the Indian catechist at Lac La Ronge. These Native men went with the Bishop to undertake studies with a view to their ordination, in line not only with the hopes of the Church in Rupert's Land but also with the strongest support and encouragement from the C.M.S. in England.

Eugene Stock, author of a classic history of the Church Missionary Society, records that the happiest event in the first year or so of Bishop Anderson's episcopate in the West was the ordination of the first Indian Clergyman. On December 22nd, 1850 Henry Budd was ordained a Deacon in the Church of God by Bishop Anderson in St. Andrews Church, Red River, in the presence of over 1100 people, including his own mother. Stock tells us that in preparation for this great event, the Bishop had read with him several standard English theological works and Budd passed a satisfactory examination. Hertry Budd preached his first sermon in Cree in the same church on Christmas Day, taking as his text St. Luke 1.78 "The day-spring from on high hath visited us". Surely his mother must have been deeply mindful of the many gifts that she had received in return for her gift of her son to John West in 1820. To see him ordained and to hear him preach as he did, must have [7/8] brought to her heart a feeling of great thanksgiving that God had not only led them into the strength of the Christian faith but had enabled them to become instruments of that faith.

After his ordination, Henry Budd returned to the mission at The Pas where he assisted Mr. Hunter and began translations from English to Cree of various parts of the Bible and the Prayer Book. On June 10th, 1852 Henry Budd was ordained Priest and given a further mission at what was then known as Nepowewin. This mission today is known to us as Fort a la Corne from its proximity to the French Fort which was built by Chevalier LaCorne just prior to the closing down of the French fur trade in the West.

On his arrival in this new mission, Henry Budd at first encountered the opposition of the Chief known as Old Mansuk. However, with his experience and his strong Christian faith, the effects of his ministry were shown when the Chief himself became his first candidate for baptism on New Years Day in 1854. For some 15 years Budd laboured at Nepowewin, with the exception of a short time spent at The Pas in 1854.

It was while Budd was stationed at what we know as the Fort a la Corne Mission that he ministered to what was the first Prince Albert settlement. Canon E. K. Matheson, in a paper read to the members of the Rural Deanery of Battleford at Meota in August 1917, recorded that the first and oldest settlement in Saskatchewan began by Mr. James Isbister in 1862 on June 3rd. This was the Isbister settlement. Canon Matheson stated that he received the information from the man himself, the first white person to settle there and build a home for himself and his family. He worked amongst the Indians as a schoolteacher and lay reader in different parts of the diocese for many years, and was a member of the Battleford Rural Deanery for some time while he taught on the Stoney Reserve.

This was four years prior to the coming of the Nisbett settlement which officially opened the history of Prince Albert. But during these four years we have a link between the missionary activity which began at the Red River settlement and which was working its way through the Cumberland or Devon Mission at The Pas, and also by this time at Lac La Ronge. We find that Henry Budd's zeal and energy caused him to visit wherever he felt that his ministry could be useful. The original registers that he used at the Nepowewin Mission are still deposited in the Synod Office in Prince Albert and bear two records which relate to this earliest history of Prince Albert. On January 1st, 1859 at the Nepowewin Mission he records that he married James Isbister, age 26, bachelor, interpreter of the Hudson's Bay Company, and Margaret Bear, spinster, age 17. The residence of both is given as Fort Carlton, and Isbister's father is noted as being John, the postmaster. The bride's father was William Bear, a servant of Hudson's Bay Company. The second record is one made by Henry Budd of the baptism of Margaret Isbister, daughter of James and Margaret, and this baptism was held at the Isbister Settlement in December 1863. It is clear, therefore, that Budd was not satisfied with merely staying at the Fort a la Corne Mission but visited Fort Carlton, the Isbister Settlement and any other area where Indians or settlers were who could have any possible claim on his ministrations.

It was during his ministry there that he encountered one of the tragedies of his life and ministry, when a typhoid epidemic struck the settlement and he was bereaved successively of his oldest son, who had also been ordained to the ministry, and then shortly afterwards his wife and daughter. His letters and reports at this time convey something of the agony and grief of such an experience, which included that of laying to rest not only many members of the Indian Band but also those of his own family. He records the depth of feelings and also the strength of his own faith in facing such a tremendous [8/9] loss and being compelled to go forward in his work, comforting others when he was in great need of comfort himself.

In 1867 Henry Budd returned to his old home at The Pas and there he remained until his death. Throughout those years he was able to continue his strong leadership and his organizing ability in the building up of the Mission which he had begun many years before. After his death he was buried in the cemetery beside the old Church, and his grave is surmounted by a white marble slab surmounted in turn by a Celtic Cross and this stone was restored as recently as 1930 by one of his many descendants

So passed from the scene a native of great genius, great spiritual depth and one whose example still lingers in the lives of all who have heard of known of the life that he lived.

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