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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 6. The railway reaches Regina--Diocese of Assiniboia (Qu'Appelle)--Bishop Anson--Beginnings of the Church in Alberta

In 1879, the year that Emmanuel College was opened, a newly elected Conservative Government took office in Ottawa. As a result of their actions, a new tariff policy was instituted, and in the following year the Canadian Pacific Railway Contract was presented to Parliament. In December of 1881 the Government borrowed an idea from the previous Liberal Government and passed regulations providing for the creation of Colonization Companies. These three measures had been enunciated by John A. Macdonald in his national policy in 1878 in an endeavor to foster the development of the new agricultural frontier in the Canadian West.

As a result of this legislation, considerable activity took place particularly in Eastern Canada, where companies grew up intent on profiting by investment in lands in the West. Undoubtedly speculation played a considerable part in the plans of many, but on the other hand many young men at this time were being attracted to the United States where greater opportunities appeared to be offered to them in agriculture than in the more settled parts of Ontario. Consequently a boom developed and the contracts for the Railway were undertaken, with the result that the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Regina in August 1882. Settlers had come in ahead of the Railway and the Southern part of Saskatchewan was rapidly becoming a new promised land in the minds of many. As has been pointed out, the earliest settlements were in the North, Prince Albert being the first, because of the fact that the original modes of transportation had taken advantage of the waterways. It was by this means that the explorers, the fur traders and the early settlers had reached Saskatchewan by way of Hudson Bay and down Lake Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan River. By the time of the Nisbett Settlement in Prince Albert, overland trekking from Winnipeg had become increasingly common and this continued until the advent of the Railway. The coming of the Railway, and the influx of settlers, combined to bring about the creation of a new Diocese in Southern Saskatchewan. Bishop McLean, in describing the boundaries of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, stated that the Southern boundary was the United States border. This conveys the impression that the Southern part of Saskatchewan was entirely within the boundaries of the original Diocese. The records show, however, that the Eastern area of Southern Saskatchewan was still within the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rupert's Land.

The present writer has never seen an explanation of this fact, but light may be thrown upon this situation by reference to a map published by the Church Missionary Society showing the boundaries of the Diocese prior to the establishment of the Diocese of Assiniboia as the new Diocese in the South was at first called. This map shows that the Diocese of Rupert's Land had as its Western boundary a line travelling Southwest just below Nelson Lake House, passing West of Devon Mission and Cumberland House and also West of Qu'Appelle and the Touchwood Hills. This indicates quite clearly that the original Saskatchewan Diocesan boundaries did not include the South Eastern portion of the Province. A later map, published by the Canadian Church after the division in 1884, shows the Diocese of Assiniboia with its boundaries coterminous on the East and West with the boundaries of the present Province of Saskatchewan. Work in the Qu'Appelle Lakes region was reported to have been begun as early as 1842 by the Reverend James [19/20] Settee before going to La Ronge. Other missionaries followed, including Charles Pratt who established a school in the vicinity of Fort Qu'Appelle in 1865. The Reverend Thomas Cook was appointed missionary at Fort Ellice in 1862.

As a consequence of the influx of settlers in the South, Bishop Machray wrote to the Colonial and Continental Church Society in October 1880 requesting help to cope with the rapidly expanding work of the Church in the South-Eastern area of Saskatchewan. In 1883 the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.) had missionaries working through Southern Manitoba as far as Virden and Broadview, where some services had been held by the Reverend J. P. Sargeant who had made his headquarters at Brandon. In 1884 we find Mr. Sargent opening a church at Moose Jaw, and the Reverend Alfred Osborn sent out by the S.P.G. to commence work in the same general area. Osborn settled in Regina where a church dedicated to St. Paul was erected on the site of the present Cathedral Church.

In response to Bishop Machray's appeal, Canon Anson who was Rector of the Parish of Woolwich offered to come to Canada to dedicate himself to the missionary work of the Church in the North West. He was the third son of the first Earl of Lichfield, and had been educated at Eton and Oxford, and was ordained by the Bishop of Lichfield in 1864.

In the Autumn of 1883 Cannon Anson visited Canada, meeting Bishop Machray, and endeavoured to gain some knowledge of the work which was to occupy him. Bishop Machray appointed him as his Commissary in organizing missions and in the general superintendence of the Diocese of Assiniboia. On his return to England he described the work and mentioned the considerable population increasing along the Railway, mentioning places like Mooso-min, Whitewood, Broadview, Indian Head, Qu'Appelle, Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Medicine Hat. He then began to establish an organization to support a new Diocese as well as funds to carry on the necessary work. In the meantime, the decision was made that Assiniboia should become a Diocese and that a Bishop consequently was necessary. Just as Canon Anson was preparing to leave England for Canada, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged him to accept the office of Bishop of the new Diocese which Canon Anson was reluctant to do. However, his sense of dedication was such that he did not feel that he could refuse, and he was consequently consecrated Bishop before he left, and returned to Canada with one Priest and three laymen, two of whom were subsequently ordained.

It is to be noted that the authority for the appointment of a Bishop came from the Province of Rupert's Land Synod when the message from the House of Bishops was delivered as follows: "Whereas the Bishops of Rupert's Land and Saskatchewan have consented to a separation from the Dioceses of such portions of their respective Dioceses as lie within the district of Assiniboia in the North-West Territories as defined by the Dominion Parliament and set forth in a map under date March 15, 1883, therefore the Provincial Synod hereby confirms the Province of Assiniboia into a Diocese to be known at present as the Diocese of Assiniboia."

Bishop Anson held the first Synod of the Diocese in September 1884, and at that Synod it was decided to petition the Provincial Synod for permission to change the name from Assiniboia to that of Qu'Appelle. This decision had been reached by the clergy of the Diocese upon the invitation of the Bishop, who offered them the choice of the former name and also Regina and Qu'Appelle. A special meeting of the Provincial Synod in 1884, after considerable debate gave its approval to the change of name.

Like Bishop McLean, Bishop Anson was a far-sighted man and was probably years ahead of his time. In 1885 he purchased a section of land at [20/21 Qu'Appelle and moved his headquarters there, building his own residence and also a college for theological students. This was also a home for agricultural students who were taught principles of farming. In addition, a band of laymen formed a brotherhood to do whatever work they could and in any capacity in which the Bishop cared to employ them. The Bishop's idea was that the farm with its pupils who paid fees should be a source of income for the support of the theological students. Conditions at the time, particularly crop failures, militated against the success of these schemes.

The Bishop's concern for education was also indicated by the erection of a school for about 40 boys. The inability of the clergyman appointed as principal to arrive, due to illness, unfortunately delayed its opening for two years. Bishop Anson was one of the first Bishops to organize an annual Synod in the Diocese and, on these occasions, he frequently challenged the opinions of the day with questions which were not only pertinent then but have been pertinent ever since. One of the situations which he thought absurd was the use of the name Church of England in Canada, and it was not until many years later that the Anglican Church of Canada finally came to the conclusion that he was right.

Bishop Anson resigned the Diocese and returned to England in 1892 and was succeeded by Bishop Burn. So it was that the Diocese of Saskatchewan severed its official relationship with those parishes which had been shared with the Diocese of Rupert's Land in the South of the Province.

Meanwhile, similar growth and expansion was taking place in the area of Southern Alberta. Bishop McLean in his charge to Synod in 1882 records the fact that there were at that time sixteen clergy on the Diocesan list beside the Bishop. Of these, five were in the Alberta area including the Reverend William Newton at Edmonton and missionaries at the Blood Reserve, Fort Macleod, a mission to the Black Feet, and a missionary to the Piegan Indian Reserve at Fort Macleod, as well as a missionary to white settlers. In 1879 Bishop McLean had appointed the Reverend George McKay, later Archdeacon George McKay, to minister to the settlers at Fort Macleod and to begin a mission to the Piegan tribe of Indians. The following year the Reverend Samuel Trivett, C.M.S. missionary who had been at the Stanley Mission for three years, was also sent to Southern Alberta by the Bishop to open a mission to the Blood Indians. In July 1883 the Reverend J. W. Tims arrived from England to undertake work to which he had been appointed by the Bishop to the Blackfoot Indians, North of the mission then occupied by Mr. Trivett.

Archdeacon Tims, in his record of the beginnings of the work in Southern Alberta, says that Indians at that time formed the majority of the population. Calgary and Edmonton were forts, one of the North-West Mounted Police and the other of the Hudson's Bay Company; Lethbridge was non-existent and Gleichen was known as the 12th siding West of Medicine Hat. The other towns between Fort Macleod and Edmonton, and along the line of the C.P.R. from Medicine Hat to the summit of the Rockies, had not been born.

Reverend S. Trivett, not satisfied with the extensive travel and work in his capacity as missionary to the Blood Reserve, also was conducting services at Fort Macleod and at Pincher Creek--some 30 miles distant.

Work in Calgary began as early as October of 1883 when seven members of the Church met informally around a stove in a general store in Calgary, and drew up a letter addressed to Mr. Tims at Blackfoot Crossing, asking that they might have the benefit of the Church's services occasionally in Calgary. Mr. Tims began fortnightly services there, and the first regular service was held in the orderly room of the old barracks in November. He records that there was a good turnout of members of the North-West Mounted Police, [21/22] led by Inspector Sam Steel. Seats were improvised by using nail kegs upon which planks were placed. Services continued until Easter 1884 when over 80 persons were present. Following the service, a business meeting was held and a committee of seven appointed to look out for a suitable building site, solicit subscriptions and report to a general meeting of members on April 22nd.

Word had gone forth to the Bishop of these developments, plans and specifications for a church building were prepared, and word was received from the Bishop that the Reverend E. Paske Smith of Oxford would arrive in time to take up his duties on Whitsunday. Mr. Smith arrived in Calgary on Saturday, May 24th, 1884, and with his wife and child took up residence in Calgary.

The new church, called the Church of the Redeemer, was opened for service on August 2nd, 1884 and on Sunday, October 12th of that year the first ordination took place in Calgary when the Reverend J. W. Tims was ordained Priest and the assisting clergy were the Reverend E. Paske Smith and Reverend S. Trivett. It is interesting to note that the parish of the Church of the Redeemer became self-supporting in the Fall of 1887. Thus it was the first self-supporting parish in the original Diocese of Saskatchewan.

On August 10th, 1884, a church building was opened at Pincher Creek and this became a centre for missionary effort for the surrounding district. In 1885 a church was built at Fish Creek, later called Midnapore. When this church had been built, Mr. Smith left the town of Calgary and built a house mid-way between Calgary and Midnapore in order to be conveniently located for encouragement and development of the work at both places.

That same year Bishop McLean had planned to go to Lethbridge to consider development of the work there but was prevented due to transportation problems and his place was taken by Archdeacon Tims and Mr. Hilton. A service and meeting were held in Lethbridge in the dining room of the hotel in the absence of the Bishop. Mr. Tims states that cigar boxes were piled up on the table to make a reading desk and that there was a fair number of people assembled. Mr. Tims was asked by the Bishop to conduct services at Lethbridge, but he demurred because of the distance and time involved. Consequently the Reverend E. K. Matheson was sent to be the first missionary in charge of the Lethbridge settlement, and remained until the Church was built, returning to Prince Albert in 1888 and was succeeded at Lethbridge by the Reverend J. Pritchard, formerly of Battleford.

Mr. Tims' church, St. Andrew's, was built in Gleichen in 1886 and opened with the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories present. Dedicated in 1887 by Bishop Pinkham, it was the first church to be dedicated in the Diocese of Calgary.

Reverend E. Paske Smith continued in charge of Calgary as S.P.G. Missionary until 1887. In addition to this he drove to High River and Red Deer River and other places that were convenient for his attention.

These developments paved the way for the next sub-division of the Diocese of Saskatchewan after the death of Bishop McLean, and the arrival of Bishop Pinkham as his successor.

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