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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 7. Canon William Newton at Edmonton--Rev. John Hines and Chief Ahtakakoop--Sandy Lake

In the meantime the Church had made a small beginning in the Northern part of Alberta at Fort Edmonton. After Bishop McLean's consecration in England in 1874, he returned to Canada to undertake his new work. On his way to his Diocese he stopped in Montreal to speak to the Provincial Synod of Canada which was at that time in session. In the course of his address, he made an appeal for two missionaries for the Diocese of Saskatchewan. One of the men who answered his appeal was the Reverend William Newton who had served in the Diocese of Toronto in the District of Muskoka, and was then probably serving in a rural parish further South. To him belongs the credit of establishing the work in Edmonton.

The earliest missionary work in the Edmonton area was undertaken by the Methodist Church, first by the Reverend Robert Rundle, and then later Thomas Woolsey and Henry Steinhauer, both of whom had arrived in 1855. In 1863 the Reverend George McDougall arrived with his family at Edmonton. Mr. McDougall--and his son, John, in later years--left a wonderful memorial of missionary work throughout the whole area of Northern Alberta. In 1871 the Reverend George McDougall built the first church outside the gates of Fort Edmonton, and the foundations of Christian teaching were well and truly laid by him in the settlement which consisted of the Hudson's Bay Post, the Traders and the Indians. It was into this situation that Mr. Newton arrived on September 28th, 1875 after a journey from Ontario lasting five months.

Canon Newton has left an excellent record, both of his work and also of his experience in reaching Edmonton on leaving Ontario. The book entitled Twenty Years on the Saskatchewan was published in Toronto in 1897. He describes his departure from Collingwood, Ontario, on the South point of the Georgian Bay with a favorite horse, a light buckboard and an English orphan boy as his servant and companion. He travelled up by steamer to Port Arthur and then began the long and arduous journey overland to his ultimate destination at Edmonton.

The ice was in the lakes and created difficulty for the boat when they left Collingwood, and it was the end of May before Newton reached the Prairies around Winnipeg. Two additional horses were purchased, provisions were obtained and the preparations for the journey across the plains took considerable time before he eventually left Winnipeg, travelling slowly from day to day. Three weeks were spent at Fort Carlton on the journey and Newton speaks very kindly of the hospitality that he enjoyed there. He had already had many experiences, some of which were hazardous and dangerous, but it was not until after leaving Fort Carlton that he began to run into bands of Indians. Some of these were not too happy at the arrival of this white man, and his first encounter with this kind of attitude occurred at Fort Pitt. Such was his faith and his courtesy that he was given safe conduct, where another man might well have encountered serious difficulty. His own friendliness produced a similar response among the Indians, and he was able to hold short services with them along the way. So it was that his persistence finally brought him to his destination and he looked about him with some apprehension after the many experiences that he had had reaching there. He records in his book that on his arrival he "found very few residents, [23/24] and these were nearly all servants of the Hudson's Bay Company. Nine miles from the Fort were the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Catholics had at that time a church inside the Fort itself. Within sight of the Fort were also a Methodist Chapel and a Parsonage. The leading people at the Fort were Methodists, and very zealous Methodists too. They did not often attend our services, nor did they encourage their servants to attend. At first, on looking around me, I asked myself what I was to do."

As a complete stranger arriving in a country where the culture and the people were just as strange to him as he was to many of them, the difficulties that lay before him are difficult to imagine. He had no house, no church, and no friends; but it was not long before Newton began to gather all these things together. His strong Christian faith, his courage and dogged persistence won through as a pioneer, in spite of the fact that both his book and also the knowledge that he had a Doctor's degree in Philosophy, suggest that he was more the student than the pioneer type. He travelled assiduously among the people settled on the banks of the Saskatchewan, and as time passed definite centres of church life began to appear. Chief among them was the congregation of All Saints Church, Edmonton, later to become the Cathedral when Edmonton itself became a separate Diocese. A small log church was built at Poplar Lake and created the parish of St. George's at Fort Saskatchewan. He travelled as far South as the Red Deer River, began work at Innisfail, and after the arrival of Reverend Charles Cunningham in Edmonton in 1891 he gave himself up to the work of travelling missionary, ministering to an area which extended as far as Beaver Lake to the East, Sturgeon River to the North, with the main centres being at Belmont, Clover Bar and Fort Saskatchewan. Appointed a Canon of the Diocese of Saskatchewan in 1883, he continued to serve nobly for a total of 23 years in the Edmonton district before retiring to Victoria, B.C. where he died in February 1910.

At approximately the same time that Newton was beginning the work of the Anglican Church at Edmonton, a similarly unique ministry was unfolding approximately 50 miles West of Prince Albert. On August 13th, 1874 John Hines arrived at Big White Fish Lake. Like Newton, Hines has left a fascinating account of his experience from the time of his birth in England in 1850 until he concluded his ministry in the Prince Albert district in 1911.

His book entitled The Red Indians of the Plains was published in London, England in 1915 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. It not only shows the development of the mission work among the Indians for which he is responsible, but adds considerably to our knowledge and understanding of the culture and the life that existed in Saskatchewan in the early years of the settlement of the West.

John Hines' father was a gentleman farmer, in the sense that he owned considerable property, but he was as busily employed on the farm as those persons that he employed for the purpose. John Hines states that from the time he was sixteen until he turned twenty-one, he worked daily on the farm like an ordinary laborer. He learned the art of stacking and piling to perfection and thoroughly understood the management of cattle, and as a proof of his efficiency in the art of husbandry set a high standard in the all England Plowing Match in which he and his brother later competed.

His spiritual experience was such that he felt called to the vocation of the ministry, but being unable to undertake university training because of the expense involved, he applied for admission to the Church Missionary Training Institution at Reading, for which he was accepted as a student in 1873. He tells us that prior to undertaking his studies he had become so interested in preaching as a result of his work as a layman in the local parish, that often, when plowing in the fields, he would take a text and commence [24/25] preaching a sermon to an imaginary congregation and, strange to say, he frequently imagined he was pleading with a nation of heathen to accept Christ. Hines' appointment to work in Northern Saskatchewan came through the influence of the Reverend W. C. Bompas who spoke to the C.M.S. committee about the needs of the North West, when he came home to be consecrated Bishop of Athabasca. He told the committee that in all the distance of country over which he had travelled some 1800 miles on snowshoes, that the buffalo and other large animals were rapidly becoming exterminated and suggested that if any of their students, besides having other necessary qualifications for the work, had also a knowledge of agriculture, they would do well to occupy this field. He explained how, that by starting a model farm, the Indians would be attracted to it and, owing to the growing scarcity of buffalo, would turn their attention to agriculture. Then schools could be started for the children, and a regular system of religious instruction could be carried on for all. The Society saw the wisdom of the Bishop's remarks and Hines' natural qualifications for such a post immediately suggested that he be considered.

On May 12th, 1874 Hines embarked at Liverpool for his trip to Canada, accompanied by the newly consecrated and recently married Bishop Bompas and his bride, with one or two other clergy coming to Canada. After a long and rough passage across the ocean, they arrived at New Jersey on a Sunday, in time for morning service, and the Bishop preached in the same church in the evening. Hines records that after the long, rough passage it did seem pleasant and he did enjoy the services, so much so that he promised then and there that the first church he might be privileged to build he would call St. Mark's after the name of the little church in which they had worshipped that day. This was the origin of the naming of the church at Sandy Lake. They travelled by rail through the United States until they reached the banks of the Red River where a steamer took them to Winnipeg. Hines' knowledge of his needs indicated that his supplies must include a considerable amount of merchandise not normally contained in a missionary's baggage. He purchased not only clothing, food and groceries but a plow, a harrow, seeds, an outfit of carpenter's tools including a pit saw, and a grindstone. In addition, he bought oxen and carts with harness to freight these things out, hoping that the oxen would help afterwards in plowing and cultivating the ground as well as for hauling logs from the bush to a place where he might erect a house and school and church. Recognizing the need of a reliable person to act both as guide and interpreter, he appealed to the missionary in charge of St. Peter's Mission at Red River and was given the services of an Indian to accompany him and help along the way. On his journey he came to Fort Ellice and here a young man named George McKay was enlisted to act as interpreter and teach day school when they found the site for their mission. George McKay had spent some time in St. John's College at Winnipeg, and he was destined to become Archdeacon of Alberta not too many years afterwards.

Like Newton, their journey across the Plains was full of events which proved sometimes ha2ardous and disturbing, sometimes such as to amuse and entertain the travellers. They had been recommended to try the area at Green Lake as a possible site for the mission, but their experience there proved that all the missionary work that was being undertaken was in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, and the prospect of competing with this established mission did not seem too promising. Consequently they returned South to Big White Fish Lake where they had left their supplies. Here they built a storehouse for their supplies and a house for themselves in which to spend the winter, during which time they could find some [25/26] permanent site in which to establish the proposed mission. It was here some weeks later that John Hines met a man who was to be his blood brother. He describes the situation as follows:

"One Sunday afternoon my two companions and I were sitting outside the door of our little house when David exclaimed 'I see two Indians coming towards us on horseback and they appear to me to be strangers, and in a short time they were off their horses and shaking hands with us. They proved to be father and son and I thought I never saw a finer built man than the elder of the two. He stood over six feet high and was well proportioned; the other was a youth of about sixteen Summers."

After sharing a meal together and smoking the pipe of peace, the Indian reminded Hines that they had met briefly in passing, when Hines had been making his way North from Fort Carlton. The Indian was Chief Ahtakakoop, translated as 'Starblanket'. He went on to say that when he reached Carlton he learned that Hines was a 'praying master' and explained that for several years he had been asking for a missionary to come and teach his band the Christian faith. To date he had had no success in spite of many promises, and he had been searching for John Hines in the hope that he might undertake to do this.

It was Hines' turn then to explain to him that he came not only to teach the Christian faith but also to help the Indians by teaching them to cultivate the ground and raise food and cattle from it in order to take the place of the buffalo when they no longer became obtainable. As a consequence of the friendship which was formed between John Hines and Chief Ahtakakoop, the missionary arranged to visit the Indian band at the place which Starblanket felt would meet the needs of the native settlement that Hines had described. Here he told him there were extensive hay marshes, plenty of big trees for building purposes and a lake where the people could catch fish. The place where they met was then called the Assissippi River which we know today as the Shell River. The location that was chosen by mutual consent was that area which we know today as the Hines Mission at Sandy Lake. Hines arranged to visit the Indians every two weeks during the winter and, as soon as the snow had melted and they were able to use their carts, they promised to abandon their site at Big White Fish Lake and settle with the Indians at the place that they had appointed. In May 1875 the change was made and Hines and the Chief, together with the Indians, set about plowing the ground, planting potatoes and a garden, and preparing buildings for homes and storage purposes. For fourteen years John Hines remained at the Sandy Lake Mission, and so close was the friendship between himself and the Chief, and so solid did he lay the foundation of Christian faith, and teach the methods of farming, that today the high standards of enlightenment both in the Christian faith as well as in education and family life and in agriculture, are still a tribute to the remarkable achievement of this great missionary of the past.

Chief Mistawasis (Big Child), a cousin of Ahtakakoop, also brought some of his band to the same locality and settled near Sandy Lake on what is known today as Mistawasis Reserve. The following Summer, John Hines was somewhat disturbed when George McKay visited Prince Albert and while there met the Bishop. Since he had been a student of the Bishop while Warden at St. John's College, the Bishop enquired as to what he was doing in Saskatchewan, and immediately took the opportunity of appointing him catechist in charge of the church people in Prince Albert. Since Hines needed him, not only as an interpreter in helping to learn the language, but also to teach the day school, this action of the Bishop rather disturbed the plans and routine of the Sandy Lake Mission. Hines himself went to Prince Albert to see the [26/27] Bishop that Summer and in return for George McKay was given the services of another young native, but his qualifications were considerably inferior, and at the same time a course of studies was arranged for John Hines with a view to ordination in the following Spring.

The next Winter an incident took place which is significant from the point of view of developments in Prince Albert. The Bishop visited John Hines, accompanied by Reverend J. A. Mackay, and the three together held the first Church Missionary Society Conference in Saskatchewan. It was held in the little single-room house of Mr. Hines, and the object of the conference was to inaugurate Emmanuel College for the training of native youths for the dual work of teachers and pastors, and the initial step was to ask the C.M.S. to sanction the removal of their missionary, Reverend J. A. Mackay, from Stanley Mission to Prince Albert to help teach divinity to the native students. Thus it was in the little house at Sandy Lake that the first official action was taken for the erection of Emmanuel College, the recommendations to the C.M.S. being duly approved in the course of time.

On January 9th, 1876 John Hines was ordained a Deacon in the church by Bishop McLean in St. Mary's Church, Prince Albert. Hines had the opportunity of preaching the sermon at his own ordination, and preached from the text in the Epistle to Timothy "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who hath enabled me for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry". This was the first ordination held by the Bishop since his consecration in 1874.

It is significant to note in passing, that the introduction of Christianity to the Indians in this Diocese was usually as a result of their own urgent request to be taught the Christian faith. This was true of Henry Budd and others like him, who were given to John West for the purpose of being brought up in the Christian faith and receiving the white man's education. The Indians at La Ronge, as well as those under the leadership of Starblanket and Big Child, all were taught the Christian faith because of their insistence upon learning the truths which they recognized as being characteristic of the white man's religion. In those cases where this was not perhaps the case, such as Nepowewin and the Devon Mission, Christianity was brought to the Indians by members of their own race who wished to share with them the joy and the happiness that Christianity had brought to their own lives.

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