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Mission to Rupert's Land

From The Colonial Church Chronicle and Missionary Journal, Vol. IV (January, 1851) pages 247-252.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of Melanesia, 2007


Wrawby Vicarage, Glandford Brigg,
Nov. 25, 1850.

SIR,--I send you some particulars relating to the Mission in Rupert's Land, which, if you think sufficiently interesting to your readers, perhaps you will have the kindness to insert in the Colonial Church Chronicle. As the Mission was founded by my father when he was Chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company, it is natural that I should feel deeply interested in its progress; and I can hardly doubt but that the following circumstances will also prove of great interest to all who read your Chronicle. One thing, the great importance of Native agency, will be clearly proved.

I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,


[248] In order that the following letter, lately received from Mr. Henry Budd, a native schoolmaster in Rupert's Land, may be read with the greater interest, it is necessary to state a few circumstances relating to his personal history.

In the year 1820, the Rev. John West went out from England as Chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company, being the first Clergyman employed by them in that capacity. His instructions were to reside at the Red River Settlement, as the Chaplain of the Company; and at the same time he was to avail himself of any openings that might occur for the instruction and religious benefit of the native Indians of that remote region. Upon landing at York Fort, in Hudson's Bay, he visited several native Indians. What then happened will be best related in an extract from his own Journal:--

"I was told of difficulties, and some spoke of impossibilities, in the way of teaching them Christianity, or the first rudiments of settled and civilized life; but with a combination of opposing circumstances, I determined not to be intimidated, nor to 'confer with flesh and blood,' but to put my hand immediately to the plough, in the attempt to break in upon this heathen wilderness. If little hope could be cherished of the adult Indian in his wandering and unsettled habits of life, it appeared to me that a wide and most extensive field presented itself for cultivation in the instruction of the native children. With the aid of an interpreter I spoke to an Indian, called Withaweecapoo, about taking two of his boys to the Red River Colony with me to educate and maintain. He yielded to my request; and I shall never forget the affectionate manner in which he brought the eldest boy in his arms, and placed him in the canoe, on the morning of my departure from York Factory. His two wives accompanied him to the water's edge: and while they stood gazing on us, as the canoe was paddled from the shore, I considered that I bore a pledge from the Indian, that many more children might be found, if an establishment were formed by British Christian sympathy and liberality for their education and support."

Here was the first little beginning, which even now is remarkably bringing forth good fruit. These two little boys were indeed the pledge of a future harvest. They were baptized with the names of James Hope and Henry Budd.

Mr. West resided about three years at the Red River; he succeeded in building, partly with his own hands, a Church and School, which are now replaced by more substantial ones. Many Indian children were sent to the school, some from chiefs at a distance perhaps of 1,000 miles. The Indian boys Mr. West instructed chiefly himself, although he had brought a schoolmaster with him. In course of time Henry Budd had improved so 248/249] greatly in learning, &c. that he was employed as a Catechist and schoolmaster; and in the year 1840 he began his labours in that capacity at Cumberland station, where there was a favourable opening for another Mission to the native Indians, about 500 miles from Red River. Here Henry Budd laboured with great zeal for two years amongst his native countrymen, the Cree Indians.

When the station had been in existence for two years, the Rev. J. Smithurst, the Missionary at the Red River, was anxious to visit it, with a view to strengthen Mr. Budd's hands, and to baptize such as might be ready to receive that sacrament. This desire was increased by his receiving a request, through Mr. Budd, from the Indians of that district, earnestly desiring him to visit them. As the journey occupied twenty-six days, Mr. Smithurst's joy may be imagined, when the guide made the pleasing announcement, "Mr. Budd's place is just behind that point of wood." A few minutes brought him within sight of the Infant Mission establishment, which he thus describes:--"The school-house in the centre, Mr. Budd's house on the south side, and the children's house on the north, appeared respectable buildings, and struck me as reflecting very great credit on Mr. Budd's industry. Our boat was soon observed, and the children flocked down to the beach to welcome our arrival. Their appearance was highly satisfactory, considering the short time which has intervened since they were taken from their native woods. Notwithstanding the unfavourable circumstances under which we arrived, and a deluge of rain, the first impression upon my mind was so pleasing, that I quite forgot the tediousness of twenty-six days' travelling through a solitary wilderness."

The school was found to contain thirty-one Indian children, all neat and clean; on examination it appeared that they had made very good progress in learning. There were but few adult Indians at the station when Mr. Smithurst arrived, as they were necessarily absent at a fishing-place about a day's journey off, but he was informed that they would not fail to reach the station on Saturday, according to their regular custom. Accordingly on that day he writes:--

In the afternoon, a whole fleet of canoes made their appearance, and formed a most pleasing scene. The party, consisting of from sixty to seventy persons, pitched their tents alongside the Mission establishment, in order to attend the services of the Lord's-Day. This was, indeed, one of the most cheering sights I ever witnessed, and called forth feelings of the deepest gratitude to God."

Up to a late hour on Saturday evening, Mr. Smithurst was [249/250] engaged in examining the candidates for Baptism individually. He reported the result of the examination as "highly satisfactory."

The next day, June 26th, 1842, was a memorable day in the annals of this Mission. Mr. Smithurst had the privilege of admitting into the Church of Christ, by Baptism, eighty-five Indians, of whom thirty-eight were adults, and the remaining forty-seven their children.

Such was the progress made by Mr. Henry Budd at Cumberland in 1842. There he continued his labours for the period of ten years altogether, an ordained Missionary having been resident there with him during the latter part of that period.

The most interesting progress has indeed been now made, both there and throughout the Mission in Rupert's Land: so much so, that a Bishop was sent out in the year 1849 to reside at Red River. Accounts have already been received from the Bishop. He has visited Cumberland station, and has been so well pleased with all that he has seen there, that he has taken Mr. Henry Budd with him to the Red River that he might prepare him for receiving Holy Orders. It was intended that Mr. Henry Budd should receive Holy Orders at this Christmas just passed. The Bishop in a late letter begged the prayers of us all on that day for this first fruit of the North American Indians.

When it is considered that Rupert's Land is as large as Russia, inhabited by many tribes of Indians, who seem peculiarly open to instruction, nothing, perhaps, can exaggerate the importance of the Mission at Red River, situated as it is, almost in the very heart of Rupert's Land, 1,200 miles from one coast of America, and 2,500 from the other. But without a nature Ministry the attempt appears hopeless.

Mr. Henry Budd will, after his ordination, proceed to organize another Mission among the Indians. If an establishment were formed at Red River for the training of a native Ministry, we might hope to see many whole tribes soon brought into the fold of Christ our Saviour. This, it is believed, it is the intention of the Bishop to form.

The following letter has lately been received from Mr. Henry Budd. It is addressed to the Rev. Henry Budd, Rector of White Roothing, Essex; after whom, in memory of the warm interest taken by him in the Red River Mission, Mr. West baptized that native Indian.

"Red River Academy, Aug. 3d, 1860.

"REV. AND DEAR SIR,--The time is now come round when I usually think of you, and I cannot let this favourable [250/251] opportunity pass without sending you a memorial of my remembrance of you, though it is only in the shape of a letter. You will easily see by the date that I am now at Red River, with the Bishop. The Bishop of Rupert's Land has made a Missionary tour to the Cumberland Station, and has consecrated our church there, the burying-ground also; confirmed us, and 110 of our Christian Indians. I cannot tell you how much I rejoiced to see him, and I bless God that He has in mercy sent such a man as the Bishop is, to my country. I have come here with him from Cumberland, and arrived here with him on the 22d of last month. I left Mr. and Mrs. Hunter both in good health, and my family too were in good health when I left them. I have brought my oldest boy (Henry) with me to the Bishop's school. He is a stout boy, very willing to learn, and he knows a good deal too in English; and the Bishop is to see what he is to make of him.

"After reading and studying Divinity for a season, with a view to Ordination, then, please God, I go back again to my family and my people at Cumberland; and after assisting the Rev. Mr. Hunter with the Indian translations in Cree, of the Scriptures, for a season or two, then, please God, I will go on further to the interior, and encounter, through God's grace, the strongholds of Satan, and endeavour, through the grace of God, to bring my poor deluded countrymen to the knowledge of the truth. I always think that it is time that I should do something, while in perfect health and strength, to make manifest my gratitude and love to that God, who, I can truly say, has been so good to me all my life; and also as being the only way I can show my gratitude to our good Society, in being the instrument, under God, of instructing me, and bringing me to a true knowledge of Christ and His great salvation. For I fancy I have done but little yet for Christ. What signifies the little I have already done at Cumberland in establishing the Mission there? Methinks it is only but a handful to what I ought to do. And yet it has cost me ten years of incessant labour, through thick and thin, through good report and evil report: But by the grace of God alone, we have succeeded in our object in a great measure. Our church, which is a very neat one, is just about being finished; which we expect will accommodate our congregation at Cumberland for twenty years to come. A substantial and very neat parsonage is quite completed, and a new large school-house is being erected, so that Station is about, finished, and we must now turn our thoughts about establishing another further on. May God give us grace to go and be His is faithful ambassadors in beseeching the heathen in 'Christ's stead to be reconciled to God!' and may He still own and bless my [251/252] poor labours to the glory of His grace. It is not without a sense of my own insufficiency, weakness, and many infirmities, that I look forward to what is before me. I have often alleged my own unworthiness of being promoted a step higher in the Church of God; but our good Society [(1) It is right to add that this Mission in Rupert's Land has been supported chiefly by the Church Missionary Society. There are now 7 Missionary stations, 17 schools, 602 scholars, 464 communicants, and 1,649 attendants on public worship.] in England, our good Bishop here, and all the Clergy in this country, seem unanimously to recommend it. Let me ask you to pray for me, that should it please God that I take the Ordination vows upon me, I may be faithful in discharging my own conscience, and also in dispensing faithfully the word of life to my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. With regard to my family, of which you kindly requested me to give you information, we have now at Cumberland Station one little boy, named John. He reads in any part of the Scriptures, repeats the Church Catechism quite perfectly, says the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England very well, knows his arithmetical tables, and writes a little. Our oldest boy (Henry) is here, at the Bishop's school. He is just at his twelfth year, 9th of this month: he of course knows more than his brother John, and is of a far stronger constitution: and we have also four little girls; the eldest reads the Bible well, and can repeat the Catechism perfectly; Elizabeth, the next, reads the miracles of our Saviour.

"Give my respectful regards to all your children. May God be your support in your declining years, and your exceeding great reward hereafter!

"I am, dear Rev. Sir,
"Your humble Servant,

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