OUR missionary party consisted of the recently consecrated and recently married Bishop of Athabasca and his bride, two other newly married men and their brides, one clergyman and his wife returning to their work in Manitoba, plus their family, and a single lady who had arranged to travel under the Bishop's escort as far as Winnipeg. This lady was going out to her brother, who was about to be ordained for work in Manitoba, but her object was to assist in a boarding-school for the daughters of the Hudson Bay Company's officers. At the end of her first year in the country she became the principal and proprietress of the said school. Another member of the party was a son of a member of the C.M.S. Committee; he was going out to learn farming with friends who lived about fifty miles west of Winnipeg; and the only other member of the party to be accounted for was the recorder of these facts. We all met at Liverpool on the morning of the 12th of May, 1874, and embarked in the afternoon on the S.S. China. The boat was an ancient one, and I rather think this was the last trip she made across the Atlantic. I have crossed the same ocean eight times, but this, my first voyage, was by far the roughest I have ever experienced: we were twelve days in reaching New Jersey from Liverpool. The first few hours out from Liverpool, the deck and also the dining-saloon literally teemed with animation, but the agitated condition of St. George's Channel very soon changed the condition of things, and many faces that were beaming with joyous excitement and hopeful anticipation the first afternoon on board, were, alas! not seen again until we sighted land on the opposite shore. Personally, I, as well as the other young man, did not suffer much inconvenience after the second day. The Bishop was not much affected by the motion of the vessel, but the two newly married men and their brides had a very wretched time; their wives were so ill they could not bear the sight of the water, and so had to keep in their cabins most of the way across, whereas their husbands could not endure the closeness of the cabins, and so had to keep on deck, even to the extent of eating and sleeping there. Mrs. Bompas, who appeared very fragile, endured the voyage fairly well, and, in order to pass the time profitably, the Bishop, who had a slight knowledge of several Indian languages, undertook to instruct us in the language of the people we were going to work amongst. Unfortunately the two young men just mentioned were too indisposed for much study, and so the Bishop's class consisted of Mrs. Bompas and myself, and suffice it to say that, in addition to being able to read a little, we committed to memory the Lord's Prayer--Mrs. Bompas in the language of the Beaver Indians, and I in the language of the Cree Indians--by the time we left the China. We arrived at New Jersey on a Sunday, in time for morning service, and the Bishop preached in the evening. After the long rough passage it did seem pleasant and I did enjoy the services, so much so that I promised then and there that the first Church I might be privileged to build I would call St. Mark's, after the name of the little church in which we had worshipped that day. This promise I faithfully kept, as will be seen later on.
We next prepared for our long railway journey. The Bishop decided to hasten through by express, as he was afraid he and his party might miss the brigade of inland boats going to the far North, and so have to wait in Manitoba until the next year, and he booked our tickets accordingly. But an unpremeditated event took place which frustrated this plan, which I will here relate. The railway lines were very rough in those long ago days, and the stations were few and far between owing to the sparsely-settled condition of the Western states at that time, and the trains moved along so very slowly that we called them accommodation trains. The trains appeared to stop to let passengers get off and on when and where it suited them, when not a vestige of a station appeared in sight. Sometimes it would stop at what seemed to be a country village, and a commercial traveller would step off, and the conductor would hold the train until the man of the grip negotiated his business; this done, he would return and the train would again move on. I thought it very extraordinary at the time, and at times I must say I felt rather nervous lest we should be run into by a train coming after us, but when I found out that only two trains passed over the line daily, the information acted like a narcotic on my nerves. I have in after years been accommodated in a similar way two thousand miles farther north-west than we were then. After we had journeyed for about four hours by the express we stopped at a station and all got off to exercise ourselves on the platform. One of our party inquired how long the train would remain before resuming its journey, but no one seemed to know just how long, but certainly it would not go on without due notice being given. Consequently one of the recently-married men and his wife and the single lady went rather far afield in their perambulations, when, to our dismay, without even the slightest warning, the train moved on. We, who were standing by, had only just time to swing ourselves on to the last car; when inside the car, we began to count up our flock, and found three were missing; on going to the tail end of the car and looking back, we saw our missing ones running after us, gesticulating frantically for the train to stop. The Bishop pulled the connection-line till he broke it, but the train did not stop, and we realised that our friends were left behind. Our first thoughts were of our friends, wondering what they would do under the circumstances; we doubted whether they had any money, and we were positively sure they had no tickets, for the tickets for all the party were in the Bishop's care, and the next place the express was booked to stop at was forty miles farther on, and we could not communicate with them until our train reached the next stopping-place; we afterwards learnt that our male friend who was left behind became very excited, and very indignant with the officials, and demanded to be sent on by a special train at the Company's expense! The railway officials, however, did not appear to be very much impressed, and they certainly could not think of sending them on, even by the next ordinary train, without producing their tickets to show they were entitled to be carried forward, and this the reader knows they were unable to do, hence I must leave you to imagine the predicament they were in. The next question we asked ourselves was, what shall we do? and after a brief discussion we decided that the only thing to be done was to get off at the next station and wire back to the station-master at the station where our friends were left behind, telling him that we had their tickets, and ask to have them sent on by the first train coming our way, and then we made up our minds to wait their arrival as patiently as we could. During the six hours we had to wait for the next train, we had ample time to make enquiries about the running of the trains, and you may imagine the feelings of the Bishop when we discovered that the express trains going west only ran on every alternate day. This meant that we should have to wait two days for the express, or else go on by the next "accommodation train" which would bring our friends to us. After waiting about half a day the next train arrived, bringing with it the absent members of our party, and it goes without saying that they had a good deal to tell us about their recent experiences, but, as is so often the case, it was "the other fellow's fault," and not theirs that they were left behind. We now had the choice of either going on with this slow train, or remaining where we were and waiting for the next express. To remain stationary was more than our anxious Bishop could endure, and so we went on. There was very poor sleeping accommodation on this slow train, and most of us took what rest we could lolling in our seats during the night. The next day we felt very weary, especially the ladies, and the Bishop was prevailed upon to spend the next night off the train. The train stopped at a small place late in the afternoon, and we all got off, stayed the night at an hotel and waited for the next express, which came along early in the day. I should state here that the slow train invariably stopped a considerable length of time at every station, and it soon became the habit of the passengers on board to get off the train and indulge in a little stroll, and those of our party proved no exception to the rule. Our ladies used to indulge in a little landscape sketching or fancy needlework, which of course necessitated the unpacking of certain cases to get access to the materials required. They required also a wrap or coat, in some cases an umbrella if the sun was shining brightly, and, as they became greatly interested in their work, they grew oblivious to all else around them until the bell on the engine signalled the time for "All aboard." The result was that it frequently happened that one or the other, in their rush to get on the train, left something behind, and it was lost; sometimes it would be the sketch that they had made, at other times it would be a shawl or an umbrella, and, alas! sometimes they could not remember having taken off the train the special articles that were missing, and this put those who had never left the train in a very uncomfortable position, and it was obvious that something would have to be done to prevent the loss of our stuff, so I and the other single man of the party, who had no special care or pleasure to engage our attention, decided to place ourselves at the service of the whole party, for the purpose of protecting our property--for be it understood that, in the race to get off the train, people did not always take with them what specially belonged to themselves; and this is what we did. We inaugurated a sort of baggage department, and as the trains in those long-ago days were not overcrowded, the porter on the train allowed us the two end seats on which to place our goods. We then insisted upon every member of the party tying up his or her loose articles into a parcel, or parcels, and, when this was done, we pinned a ticket to each parcel with the number and name of the owner upon it, giving the owners a corresponding ticket. Then, when anyone wanted an article or parcel, they presented their ticket, and we removed the number and handed them what they wanted, and when the parcel was returned we gave them back the number as a guarantee that we held that particular article. It was to their interest to keep the receipt whilst we held the parcel, as it became ours to demand it from them when we parted with it. For instance, if anyone should lose a parcel, and at the same time be under the impression that it was lost whilst under our care, if we held the original ticket and its duplicate it was a proof that the owners had received it from us, and then we were exonerated from further blame. I do not know how it is now, but at the time of which I am writing English travellers were at once recognised in the U.S.A. by the number of small parcels and loose articles they carried about with them. The Americans, when travelling, generally had one great box, a sort of "hold-all," and all their encumbrances were placed in it; this was very convenient, and it saved a lot of trouble when changes had to be made, and the risk from loss was diminished.
The fourth day out from New York we reached the end of the railway track, which terminated at a small place inside the American territory; the place was situated on the banks of the Red River, and the only steam connection with Winnipeg at that time was by boat down the river. Trains did not run into Manitoba until four years after the time of which I am now writing. We arrived at the terminus of the line early on a Sunday morning, and for the first time we witnessed the doings in a frontier town on a Sabbath day. It was difficult to realise that it was the day of rest, as business seemed to be going on just the same as on any other day, and for the first time we saw how the Americans did their flitting, that is, when they wished to remove their house, as well as their furniture, to another part of the settlement. On this particular Sunday we saw two families engaged in this work, and it was done in this way. The houses were made of wood--the foundation pieces consisted of squared timbers, which extended the whole length of the house; the building had been raised by placing jack-screws under these foundation logs, which were turned until round logs could be placed underneath the foundation pieces. This done, the screws were reversed and the house lowered down so as to rest upon the rollers. Then a deep trench was dug in the road as far in front as the block and tackle would reach, a heavy log with a chain around it was placed in the trench, and then the hole was filled up, thus burying the log, which, by the way, is called "the dead man." A rope was tied round the house, and this was connected with the chain projecting from the dead man by means of the blocks and tackle. When all t was in readiness, oxen were hooked on to the end of the hauling line, and the strain began. When the rope became taut, the round logs under the house would begin to turn; the house, thus moving, was generally supported by three or more logs, and as each log was passed over, it was taken in hand by a number of men and removed to the front of the house to do duty as before. This method was repeated again and again, until finally the house reached its new position; no furniture had to be removed, the people occupied the house just the same as if it were stationary, the meals were cooked and eaten in the house, and the smoke continued to come out of the chimney-pot like any other inhabited house; it was quite a novelty to us at the time, but since then I have seen scores of houses removed in a similar way.
On the following day we succeeded in getting all our things on board the river boat, and in the evening we started on our journey towards Winnipeg. The little boat had, in addition to her own cargo, two large barges to take along; either one had more tons of freight on board than the boat herself. The distance from the end of the line to Winnipeg by the river was about two hundred miles, but it took us until the following Sunday morning to reach there; the reason for taking so long I will now explain. The Red River is very crooked and not very wide, and as the method adopted for taking down the barges was by tying them one on each side of the steamboat, and as at every bend in the river the current passes along the opposite shore, the channel becomes very narrow, and in trying to navigate this narrow channel, one or the other of the barges would get aground, and this would cause us much delay, and sometimes damage to the boats, and sometimes hours would be spent before we succeeded in getting them afloat again. In order to avoid this hindrance, the captain decided to put a small crew of men on each of the barges, and send them adrift after sunset, with instructions to float with the stream all night, until we overtook them the next day. The steamboat could not run in the darkness, so we tied up along the shore until daybreak next morning. Of course we all hoped for a few hours good running before we again had to take the barges in tow; we were, however, doomed to meet with disappointment, for when we came to the second or third bend in the river, we used to find one or other of the barges aground, and, as often as not, the crew would be asleep; and the previous day's experience had to be gone through again. We passengers had good reason for believing that the crews purposely did not try to avoid the shallows in the river, for two reasons: first, it was not to their advantage to make a quick trip, as they were day hands; and, secondly, they preferred to sleep quietly through the night to straining their eyes in the darkness, and exhausting their strength in pulling on their oars to keep their craft in mid-stream. It was upon such occasions as these, that is, when we overtook the barges, that we experienced some of the most blood-curdling phrases that it is possible to imagine. One morning I and my bachelor friend were early on deck when we saw the whole crew assembled on the fore part of the vessel, and some one standing in an elevated position, gesticulating and shouting, until he appeared choked with excitement, and all that we could understand was "Jesus Christ this and Jesus Christ that," and we naturally concluded that we had a Methodist parson on board, and that he was in the act of addressing the crew. We at once reported to the Bishop, and the whole of our party who were presentable at that early hour came on deck to share in the showers of blessing; but, alas! we were not long in discovering our mistake, as it turned out to be the mate of the boat, who was abusing all hands for the slow progress we were making. It was something fearful to listen to the dreadful expressions with which the name of the Saviour was associated. I have often heard since then both by Americans and Canadians that sacred name used in the most frivolous as well as in the most abusive talk. There seems to be very little reverence on the American continent for that Name which we are told is above every other Name; it is a daily experience to hear men of education and position, as well as those of the labouring class, using that Name in ways such as these: "Is that so?" or "Indeed!" As a sort of exclamation they will say "Jesus Christ!" And again when they mean, "You have made a mistake and you will have to bear the consequence," they will say, "Jesus Christ, you'll catch it in the lug." No wonder, then, that the Duke of Connaught, on one of his trips through the West, is reported to have said in one of his speeches that, at the rate slang was being introduced into the Canadian vocabulary, the English language would soon lose its identity. But, to return to my subject. After a dreary passage of a week we arrived in the early morning at the landing-stage near "Old Fort Garry," at the junction of the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers. It was a singular coincidence that we should arrive at the end of our ocean journey on a Sunday morning, and the following Sunday morning we arrived at our railway destination, and the next Sunday morning terminated our river trip. It was raining at the time we arrived, and we feared our goods would become soaked if they were put ashore, as there did not appear to be any shed to shelter them, but when the captain assured us that the cargo would not be discharged until Monday morning, we were to a certain extent reconciled. The Bishop, knowing more about the ways of the country as regards Sunday observance, asked me and my companion to remain by the stuff and report to them at the hotel if our goods were being put ashore, so that a conveyance might be sent for them, and having delivered these instructions, the whole party made their way to what was, I think, the only hotel in Winnipeg at the time. About half an hour after the party had left us, the order was given to unload the boat, and very soon all our goods were on the river bank, exposed to whatever weather might come; my companion conveyed the news to the Bishop, and I remained keeping watch over the goods. In course of time my friend returned with two reports; first, that the express van was coming for our goods; and, second, that the road beat everything he had ever seen for slosh--it was just one puddle from beginning to end. After waiting another half an hour we observed one of our party coming; he was riding in what proved to be "a Red River hay frame," a sort of loosely-made rack placed on an axle and a pair of wheels; the whole conveyance was made of wood, not a particle of iron was used in its construction, and this extraordinary vehicle was drawn by an ox. When they got within speaking distance, I asked my missionary brother how much longer the express would be before it arrived. "Why," he said, "they call this thing the express here, and we have been more than half an hour in getting here from the hotel, which is about a mile away, but how long it will take to get back with a load is something I do not care to anticipate, the condition of the road is so dreadful."
We all helped to load the "express van" with our boxes, etc., and then started for the hotel. It was only a start, in fact the whole journey consisted of a succession of fresh attempts; sometimes the poor beast would sink in the mire up to its stomach and need helping up again, and the wheels of the cart had the appearance of being carved out of a solid piece of clay. This is how we began, continued, and ended our journey from the boat to the hotel: the teamster walked beside the ox, leading it with one hand and pressing on the shaft with the other, to keep the cart from tipping up, the load being heaviest behind, and we three walked up to our knees in mud and water behind the cart, lifting and pushing and helping the ox along. I have often thought since, that we should have made a capital picture for Punch with this inscription underneath: "Missionaries arriving in the West."
Anyone who knows Winnipeg to-day will find it hard to recognise from the description just given that the Main Street and the road referred to are one and the same.
Having related some of my own experiences of my first Sunday in Winnipeg, I will now tell a few of the happenings to the rest of the party who had taken up their quarters at the hotel. The arrival of such a large party of English people at the time of which I am writing, was in itself enough to cause a little excitement in the town, and especially so in the hotel at which the Bishop had applied for quarters. There was only one sitting-room in the building, and this had been hired by a young Englishman, who had arrived in Winnipeg about a week before us, and had engaged the room in which to receive his own particular guests. When the Bishop and the rest of the party entered the hotel, this young gentleman was absent, and so they were ushered into this room, the proprietor omitting to tell them that the room had been rented to another. After an hour or so, the rightful tenant arrived, and without any hesitation opened the door and entered the room, and I will leave you to imagine his surprise when he saw such a large company in possession of his room, and he at once showed signs of a retreat, but the Bishop's wife (who, as every one knows who has had the pleasure of her acquaintance, was a most kind and affable person, a type of a true English lady) came at once to the rescue and pleaded with him to stay, assuring him that he would be quite welcome to share the room with them. He did accept the invitation and stayed for a little while, and when he took his departure he left no impression behind that our party were the intruders and not he. The proprietor, I believe, apologised to the young gentleman for what he had done, at the same time pleading extenuating circumstances, and he in return not only assured the proprietor that he had played the part of a gentleman, but gave him permission to place the room at the disposal of the Bishop and party as long as they might require it. This same gentleman's name appears over one of the largest wholesale stores in Winnipeg at the present time.
The news of our arrival reached the Bishop of Rupert's Land, who resided about three miles north of the hotel, and immediately after morning service his lordship paid us a visit of welcome. The only seat in the room that seemed suitable for our metropolitan was an arm-chair that was placed in the extreme corner of the room, and this was at once pointed out for his acceptance. The Bishop immediately seated himself in the chair, but considering himself too much isolated from the party, he rose up and lifting the chair from behind, came more into the middle of the room, and was in the act of seating himself when the chair fell over and the Bishop with it, turning a complete somersault in his transit. The first feeling was one of fear, as no one perceived at once the cause of the disaster, some thought that the Bishop had fainted and fallen, and perhaps had injured himself, but their fears were very soon removed, for his lordship jumped up again and assured those present that he was not in the least hurt. But what was it that had caused the catastrophe? An examination was held, which resulted in clearly demonstrating two facts, first, the cause of the fall, second, why the chair had occupied a place in the room so near to the corner: it was minus the two hind legs, and had been placed near the corner for support. This is only another illustration of the standard of luxury to be found in a Winnipeg hotel at that time. The hotel was a two-story building with bare wooden walls, and no carpets on the floor, the upstairs floor along the corridor was very uneven, and to attempt to walk it after dusk was about as difficult as walking on the deck of a ship when a heavy sea is rolling. Notwithstanding the lack of comfort, etc., to be found in such an hotel, it was thought by our Bishop to be too luxurious for missionaries, and having found an empty house in a side street, which he was able to rent for a very small sum, we were requested to take up our residence there. We each purchased our own bedding for the journey out, and a cooking stove for the use of the married couple at the end of the journey. These were all brought into requisition in our new apartments; we slept on the floor of the house, we purchased and cooked our own food, and, will you believe it? we ate it--yes, we ate it. The next few weeks were busy ones; two of our party were ordained in St. John's Church, with a third, the brother of the single lady of our party. He, with one of our party, were to work in the diocese of Rupert's Land, and the other was to work with Bishop Bompas in his diocese in the far north.
Soon after this event our party was broken up, the Bishop and his wife and the married man just ordained and his wife started for their distant field of labour by water. The route taken was down the Red River, and across Lake Winnipeg, then up the Saskatchewan River to Cumberland Lake, thence to Isle a la Crosse via Pelican Narrows and the English River, and so on by river and lake to the Peace River country.
Before the other missionary and I started for the West, he (being an ordained man) was asked to take service on the Sunday at a place called St. Andrew's on the Red River, a few miles below Winnipeg. He had already bought a horse and trap for his journey out, and for use in the mission field, and so proposed driving out with his wife to the place named, but alas! he had not gone far before his horse became mired, and, do what he could, he could not succeed in getting the horse on his feet again, so he had to leave it there with his wife sitting in the rig, and make his way to the nearest farm-house for assistance, and, if my memory does not fail me, he was unable to keep his appointment, and so turned back to Winnipeg. This, too, happened on a Sunday and on Main Street, a little below St. John's; the same journey is traversed now by electric cars.
My journey lay westward across the prairie, and as my destination was about seven hundred miles distant from Winnipeg, the nearest market town in those days, I had to purchase largely. My outfit consisted of clothing, food, groceries, cooking utensils, etc., also a plough, a harrow, certain kinds of seeds, also an outfit of carpenter's tools, including a pit saw and grindstone. I had to purchase oxen and carts with harness, etc., to freight these things out; the oxen to help afterwards in ploughing and cultivating the ground as well as for hauling the logs from the bush to the place where I might erect a house, school and church. Another important thing before starting west was to engage a reliable Indian to accompany me out and help in whatever kind of work I might find for him to do. The missionary in charge of St. Peter's Mission on the Red River had selected a good man for me, and he proved to be proficient with the axe and pit saw, as well as with the scythe and plough.
Our tents were pitched on the prairie outside the town, and not far from the place where the C.P.R. station now stands, and here we collected our possessions. When everything was in readiness for starting, we commenced our long, weary tramp across the plains. We broke camp about 10 a.m., and we camped that evening again still on the prairie, but where the Clarendon Hotel now stands. It took us from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to accomplish this distance, at the farthest not more than one and a half miles, such being the condition of Main Street and Portage Avenue at that time. The third day out we pitched our tents at a village called Headingley, twelve miles from Winnipeg, and three days more we arrived at Portage-la-prairie, thus accomplishing a distance of sixty miles in six days. The same place is reached from Winnipeg now in two hours by the C.P.R. In those days we had to wade through "slews" and ford f rivers, there being no bridges, and seldom a ferry. When one encountered a stream too deep to ford, a raft had to be made by taking the wheels off the carts, and binding them together with poles and rope. The bodies of the carts were then placed on the top of this raft and the goods placed on the carts. One of the party would first swim the river on horseback with a line, which was used from both sides in pulling the raft back and fore, until everything was landed on the farther side (the farther side from home), and then the raft was taken to pieces and the wheels were placed in their rightful positions, and there was nothing left to show how the river had been crossed. It seemed as though one had annihilated the ship to prevent the faint-hearted from returning home again.
After leaving Portage-la-prairie, the land became more undulating and the soil lighter and drier, though in the valleys it was still wet enough, and the streams we encountered were even wider and deeper. In addition to the oxen and carts, I had a horse and light wagon which carried my tent, bedding and food for the journey, and other odds and ends of things which were liable to be in constant requisition. I invariably went first with this conveyance to gauge the pace. We had twelve carts in all, but some of them were loaded with stuff belonging to the Bishop's party. We arrived in Winnipeg too late to make the connection with the annual brigade of boats which take on the northern freight; the Bishop was afraid we should be too late, and it was this that made him so anxious when we met with delays en route; he was able, however, by engaging a smaller boat and crew, and leaving behind the bulk of his things, to catch up with the brigade at Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan River. The Bishop's goods had to be taken overland by me to Green Lake, the extreme end of land communication at that time, and stored there in the Hudson Bay Company's care, in readiness to be taken on the next summer as soon as navigation was open.
I picked up a young man, a native of the country, at a place called Fort Ellis; he had spent some years in the Bishop of Rupert's Land's school at Winnipeg, and he was to act as my interpreter and teach day school, when we found Indians willing to have their children taught.
He and I used to take it in turns, riding and driving my wagon; the one not driving had to walk along with the oxen and carts and become responsible for the management of four. There were, as I have said, twelve carts and my wagon in the brigade, and three of us were responsible for the management of the carts. I, or my interpreter, had charge of four the Indian from St. Peter's Mission had charge of four, and a half-breed, who was also engaged at Winnipeg by Archdeacon Cowley, had charge of the other four. This half-breed was really engaged to be servant to the Archdeacon, and to accompany him home on his return journey, but on a long trip like this every one makes himself generally useful.
Our trip across the great prairies was rather disappointing; we had expected to see wild animals of the larger kinds, such as the buffalo, certain kinds of deer, wolves, foxes and an occasional bear, but all these were conspicuous by their absence; but the absence of animals of the larger kind was amply made up for by mosquitoes, which were beyond description, both as regards number and viciousness, and they greatly tormented both man and beast. I kept my head enveloped in a sort of bag, made of gauze, and my hands were shielded by a pair of leather gauntlet gloves, yet in spite of these the mosquitoes found access to my wrists, and stung T me so much that I was unable to button the wristbands of my shirt. They say, and I have proved the saying to be true, that after the first or second season in the country one is not so much affected by the sting of the mosquito. I have been bitten almost as badly many times since, but it was only an occasional one that seemed to leave poison behind it, and cause irritation. It was bad enough for us, but it was much worse for the poor animals, who had no artificial device with which to defend themselves. They did not seem to mind the mosquitoes so much when they were travelling, but as soon as we halted for meals, and during the night, the poor creatures became frantic, the only way we could hope to get them to stand quietly until we got their harness off, was to send on one of our party to look out for good pasture and good I water, and then gather what dry wood could be found or buffalo bones, and pile them in a heap and set fire to it, covering it up with green stuff so as to make as much smoke as possible--called by the people in the west a "smudge"--and when we came along with the carts, to lead the oxen right into the smoke, and then they would stand quiet. The mosquito, though fearless at other times, becomes a coward when he encounters smoke, and invariably seeks shelter in the deep grass around. But let no one imagine that he will not reappear when the smoke has gone; his disappearance is only stratagem on his part--a sort of lying in ambush with one eye on his prey, and as soon as the smoke becomes less, the signal is given for advance, and the solitary hum of one or two becomes the perfect buzz of millions. All night long these smudges have to be kept up to keep the animals near the camp, for they can only leave the smoke for a few minutes at a time to graze, and then rush back to the smoke again, and if the fire has burnt low, and there is no smoke, they take to wandering, and often hours are lost in searching for them the next morning. Two or three of our cattle had a loud sounding bell strapped round their necks, and with the constant swing of the head in the effort to shake off the flies, the bells would be kept constantly ringing, and long before the whereabouts of the animals could be seen, we could locate them by the sound of the bell. On our way out we frequently came across the carcass of a dead ox which had belonged to some freighters in advance of us; the cause of the death of the ox was suffocation, caused by the swarms of mosquitoes and sandflies that entered its throat through its nostrils and mouth. Since the country has become settled, and to a certain extent drained, these pests have largely disappeared.
As we were proceeding along the Qu'appelle Valley, the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly, when to our astonishment, a sort of gloom came over the face of the earth, which resembled the evening twilight; at first we were at a loss to account for the strange phenomenon, but the Archdeacon, who usually occupied the rear position, called out for us to stop, and then pointing up towards the sun, told us to look in that direction. We did so, and what a sight met our gaze! There appeared to be a tremendous snowstorm going on in the heavens above us, and it was so dense that the sun's light could scarcely penetrate it; the Archdeacon and the natives knew what it was, but we who were fresh from England did not know, but that my readers may not unnecessarily be kept in suspense, I will tell them the cause without further delay. The darkness was caused by a flight of grasshoppers passing between the earth and the sun, and their gauzy wings had the appearance of large flakes of snow. They were flying in the direction of Winnipeg, or the "Settlement" as the country was then called, being the only part of the great West that was being settled at that time, and those of our party whose homes were in the settlement were very much concerned. Manitoba had been visited twice before by a similar scourge, and the products of the whole country had been literally devoured by these pests, and the Archdeacon said if the swarm that we beheld should alight again in the Province of Manitoba it would certainly mean ruin to the country, as many had lost everything they possessed during the previous plagues. A year or two before we arrived, the grasshoppers were so numerous in the settled parts around Winnipeg, that after eating everything green they began to devour one another, and the dead had to be carted away from people's houses and the streets where their carcasses were lying in heaps from one to two feet deep.
We camped that evening at the H. B. Company's trading post, and just as we reached there the grasshoppers were beginning to descend, and it was with difficulty that both our cattle and ourselves could make headway against them, it was as painful as meeting a terrific hailstorm. We eventually drove into the Company's compound and unharnessed our oxen, and we were cautioned not to leave any of our harness or anything else outside, but to put everything inside the Company's warehouse. After tea the officer in charge took us round his little farm to show us his potatoes and a field of oats, which certainly did give promise of a good crop; but alas! the next morning there was scarcely a vestige of green left in the field, everything had been eaten up in one night by that ancient plague.
The following day, when we were making ready for a fresh start, I discovered that I had left my carpet bag in the bottom of my wagon by mistake, and although the bag was still intact, the leather handles were nearly all eaten away by the locusts. We afterwards learned that when these grasshoppers rose again they took a south-westerly direction, and did not visit Manitoba, but perished somewhere on the plains of Nebraska. It is said that after the grasshoppers have deposited their eggs, most of them die the same year. The eggs are generally deposited on the hardest and most exposed ground, and left there to be hatched out by the sun the next summer, and those who have watched their habits closely say, that as soon as the young grasshoppers are hatched, it can be told which direction they will take when they are large enough to fly. It is said that as soon as the young are able to move, they begin to hop in the direction they, by instinct, intend to fly, and when they are full-grown and well able to fly they will wait days for a favourable wind to aid them in their flight, and thus, they are literally carried along upon the wings of the wind. The migratory grasshoppers have never been known to cross the North Saskatchewan River in sufficient numbers to do any harm, but I have seen all garden stuff devoured at the Pas Mission by the grasshoppers indigenous to that part of the country. On our arrival at Touchwood Hills, we parted with the other married missionary, whose ordination took place in Winnipeg. He had been sent out to take charge of the Mission work in that district, which had been begun some years before by a native evangelist. After this event we met with nothing else of sufficient moment to relate here, until we reached the South Saskatchewan River, and for the sake of comparison, let me say, that we were eight weeks in accomplishing the journey from Winnipeg; the same distance is now traversed in twenty-two hours by the C.P.R.--another illustration of how the North-West territories have developed since I first went out.
There is one little incident which took place whilst we were encamped on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. It was on a Sunday, and several others like ourselves were observing the day as one of rest; a retired officer of the H. B. Company who had made up his mind to settle in the neighbourhood of what is now the city of Prince Albert, was among the party. He had been to Winnipeg for a year's supply of goods, and had taken a Saskatchewan Indian with him to help with his carts, and as this retired officer intended doing a little fur trading on his own account, his outfit was rather extensive; for instance, he had several cwts. of lump sugar on his carts. On this particular Sunday, the Indian referred to was observed openly sitting on the top of his master's carts filling his pockets with sugar; some one drew his master's attention to the fact, and he at once demanded of the Indian his reason for stealing his sugar. The Indian denied the charge, and he even went so far as to affirm that he had no intention of stealing the sugar or using it against his master's will. "Then," said his master, "explain your action, for your pockets are filled with my sugar." "I know it," said the Indian, "but I took it openly, I did not take it when it was dark, and when I did not expect to be seen, therefore I did not steal it. I knew you could see me, and if you objected to what I was doing, all you had to do was to express your mind to me on the subject, and I would at once have left the sugar alone, but as you did not interfere sooner, I concluded you did not object, and so I kept on taking the sugar until, as you see, my pockets are all full.
It was unnecessary to prolong the hearing of the case, as it was evident from the Indian's point of view he had done nothing wrong, and all that seemed necessary was to explain that the white man looked at such actions from a different standpoint, and he was cautioned not to be too familiar with other people's property in the future.
I made a note of this at the time, as it gave me a lesson in helping me to understand the mind and method of reasoning of the Indian; this Indian in after years became one of my converts, and a full member of the church at White Fish Lake.
I have inferred that some of the freighters did not observe the Sabbath, but travelled and worked the same on a Sunday as on any other day, and perhaps some of my readers will say, "Why not? There were no churches in the Saskatchewan wilderness for them to attend, therefore what object was there for wasting a day by spending it aimlessly on the trail"--and I have no doubt they really think that this kind of argument is unanswerable, and therefore culminating. But let us see what answer can be given from facts which prove absolutely that the great Lawgiver, in making provision for animal nature, as well as human, knew what was best.
Whilst we were in Winnipeg, a man with ten horses and carts was engaged to take out to the Saskatchewan goods belonging to other missionaries who were labouring in Bishop Bompas' diocese, and we asked this man to wait a few days for us, so that we might all travel together. We pointed out that it would be to our advantage to travel with him, as he, being from the Saskatchewan, knew the trail thoroughly and the best places for camping en route, but we pleaded in vain. The excuse he gave was, that he was in a hurry, that he had horses and would travel so much faster than we with oxen, and besides we should want to rest on the Sunday, whereas he could not afford to waste the day, and so he left us behind. As things turned out we did not leave Winnipeg for two weeks, so that the freighter had a fortnight's start of us. We observed the Sabbath rest all the way across the prairies, and the oxen as well as ourselves appeared to benefit by so doing. The Sunday we were resting near the banks of the South Saskatchewan we observed some one landing goods on the opposite shore, and we also noticed that the horses appeared to be unable to pull their loads up the opposite bank, and a great deal of shouting and cruel whipping was resorted to, and finally other animals had to be used to help take up the loaded carts. The next day we not only crossed the river safely with all our stuff, but actually succeeded in reaching Fort Carlton on the North Saskatchewan River twenty miles farther on, and to our surprise, we found that the man we saw in difficulty was the freighter who did not believe in giving his cattle rest on the day appointed by the Author and Giver of life and strength, but thought he knew better, but our appearance at the end of that journey so soon after him proved he was wrong. We had gained a fortnight on him during the journey, and our slow oxen were as fresh apparently as the day we started, whereas his horses needed a longer rest and more care than I am afraid they were likely to receive before they could be rightly considered to be fit for work again.
We spent a couple of days at Fort Carlton, the head-quarters of the H. B. Company's trading business in the interior, and during this short stay, I had an introduction to the Plain Crees, the very people I had come to benefit. They certainly did look a wild set of people, they spent the whole of the night beating their drums and singing, beginning soon after sunset and continuing until daybreak, but as I shall speak about their customs later on, there is no necessity to do so now. The officer in charge of the H. B. Company's business in the Saskatchewan resided at Carlton, and he at once satisfied me that he was my friend and well-wisher, and not once during the fourteen years we were neighbours (only fifty miles apart) had I reason to think of him otherwise than my friend.
As I was designated to Green Lake, I had still one hundred and forty miles further to travel, and notwithstanding the roads were the worst we had yet experienced, being through large forests of spruce and poplar, we accomplished the journey in six days actual travelling. The third day out from Carlton being a Sunday, the animals had their usual rest and this accounts for the excellent time we made the last half of the journey. The ground over which we travelled was very wet and soft, being largely composed of decayed vegetation, and the wheels of the carts would sometimes sink in the mire up to the axle. Frequently a wheel would come up suddenly against the root of a tree, and this would cause the poor ox to swing round and almost fall down, and when by a superb effort he managed to recover his foothold and wrench the wheel over the root, the cart being elevated on one side would almost turn over, and then when the wheel fell, so to speak, over the root, it not only made a deeper hole in the rut than usual, but frequently the rebound of the cart caused it to turn over, and one shaft striking the ox on the legs, and the other high up on its opposite side, it was thrown off its feet and fell over with the cart, and all the contents of the cart became scattered in the woods.
We had had great experience in such upsets during our trip out from Winnipeg, but this part of the journey was such, that we almost despaired of getting any of our goods safely through. It was fortunate that our loads were lighter at this time than usual, otherwise our difficulties would have been greater. During this part of the journey the Archdeacon and I discussed the unsuitableness of the locality for the work I was supposed to do. In the first place, every day's journey from the Saskatchewan River took us that much further from the Plain Cree Indians, for whose welfare I had been sent out. In addition to this, the soil, though excellent in quality, was too encumbered with wood to permit of much progress being made in farming, as it would take years of labour and a mint of money to put under cultivation a sufficient quantity of land to accommodate the number of Indians I hoped, in God's appointed time, to collect around me. But, as I had been instructed to locate somewhere near the shores of Green Lake, we felt bound to proceed to the end of our journey. The banks of Green Lake are very high, and it is more like a river than a lake, being long and narrow, so we did not perceive our nearness to it until we suddenly came to a very steep descent, and soon we saw through the forest the glimmer of the water below. The Indian name for the lake is "Akwakoopewe--Sakahekun" from the fact that a quantity of green vegetable matter, consisting of very small particles, floats on the surface of the water during the summer months; the particles are so small that it is impossible to strain them all out, yet the quantity is such, that birds can walk on the surface of the lake without coming in contact with the water. This place was the terminus of land communication, and people or goods, destined for the north, had to be conveyed from this point by water. At this, the south end of the lake, the H. B. Company had a fairly large warehouse, in which all goods were stored until re-shipped into boats. These inland boats are each manned by a crew of nine, eight using large oars or "sweeps," as they are called, sixteen feet in length, with which they propel the boat, and one man called the steersman, who guides the boat with a still larger sweep from the stern. This man has charge of the boat, and is, to a certain extent held responsible for any loss or damage to the cargo. A cargo for one of these inland boats is about five tons. After depositing our goods in the warehouse, we took a stroll on the nether shore of the lake, and we discovered a Romish priest, with his own boat and crew just on the point of starting for the north end, where the H. B. Company's business establishments are situated, so we asked him to be good enough to allow myself and interpreter to travel with him in his boat--he gave us permission, not knowing who we were, on the condition that we each took an oar and worked our passage. This we gladly consented to do, and we boarded at once, taking no food with us save a few sweet biscuits that had been given to us before we left Carlton. But as we were going to work we quite expected to be fed, as is the custom of that country, but the treatment we received on this occasion proved to be exceptional. The proprietor of the craft called for a halt about 10 p.m., and all hands went ashore; a fire was kindled, water boiled, and tea brewed, and bread and pemmican were displayed on a canvas cloth, and the priest and his co-religionists sat around the spread and partook of a substantial meal, but I and my companion sat on the stones near the water's edge looking very disconsolate and, I must admit, rather grieved in spirit. When the masters of the situation had finished their meal, we all re-entered the boat and the last half of the journey began. After some very hard pulling, for the boat was only a flat-ended scow, we reached the north end of the lake about midnight, when my interpreter jumped ashore and I followed him, and we made our way through the darkness to the trading post; but alas! all its inmates were sleeping, and not caring to awake them, we walked along the shore of the lake and soon came to a low wooden single-roomed house, and entered without any ceremony (keys and bolts were not used in the country, because not needed before the advent of civilisation) and feeling around in the darkness, we discovered one side of the house was filled with potatoes, and these were covered over with a leather tent, so we decided to sleep on the top of these potatoes, covering ourselves over with a part of the tent. But just then, to our astonishment, a voice came from the floor on the other side of the room. The voice appeared to be a friendly one, though spoken in the Cree language, which, of course, I was not efficient in at the time, and this is what the voice said: "I feel sure some strangers have entered my house," my interpreter assured the voice it was right. The voice said it was sorry it had neither light nor cooked food in the house, but would secure something for us in the morning, and it inquired if we were very hungry. We said "Yes," but were still more tired, and would prefer to sleep just then rather than to eat. The 'voice then took part of its bedding and threw it in our direction, telling us to cover ourselves with it, as the house got cold towards morning. We thanked the voice and soon fell asleep. As soon as it was daylight the family was astir and we found, as well as the man whose voice we had heard in the night, he had a wife and four or five children with him, and all had been sleeping in a row on the floor on the other side of the room. The daylight revealed to us that the house was in a dreadful state of filth and odour, the latter our powers of scent had revealed to us. The potatoes had been carried straight into the house from the garden the day before, and the man had returned late in the evening from his hunt, having captured a bear, and the flesh, entrails and skin, were all lying on the floor not far from where we had been sleeping. Some of this flesh was speedily cooked with some of the potatoes, and we were requested to break our fast. Alas! alas! I had never eaten anything so common and unclean before, and hungry as I was, my stomach refused the meat, and I had to be content with nibbling a few potatoes. If our generous host had possessed even a little salt, I should have done better, but condiments of any description were never used by the natives at that time.
About 8 a.m. we went over to the Company's establishment and found the man in charge, and although he was only a poor French half-breed, he did his best to keep up the Company's reputation for hospitality, and we ate a tremendous meal of fried moose steak and newly-cooked bannock. Oh! how delicious! but what I suffered afterwards, either from being too gluttonous or having too weak a digestive organ, I cannot say which, but for several hours I felt I would never eat again! The meal over, I asked the trader if he could engage a couple of Indians with a canoe for us, as we wanted to see the country on both sides of the lake. He said there would be no difficulty whatever, and promised to have them ready in the course of an hour. He then expressed a wish to know who we were, and the nature of our business, for he rather suspected we represented a rival trading company, but when we told him our true mission, he seemed relieved. Shortly after this, the priest paid a visit to the trader and made inquiries concerning us; the trader told him what our business was, and what he had promised to do for us in the way of providing men and a canoe for our use. Upon hearing this, the priest anathematised us, and threatened him with a similar fate if he dared to assist us in any way, and soon the priest's "Bull" was proclaimed among the French half-breeds and Indians who belonged to that immediate neighbourhood. The result was, that when the time had come for us to start, no one could be found willing to help us in any way. The trader had actually engaged a man and his canoe to take us back to the south end of the lake when we were ready to return, but the priest had even upset this arrangement also. The trader, however, sent us across the lake in one of the Company's canoes, and there we were left, stranded twenty miles from our friends whom we left at the south end of the lake. The half-breeds and Indians, what few there were at Green Lake, were all under the influence of the priest, and as we were being taken over the lake they kept shouting at us, "The bears will eat you, the bears will eat you." It was the season of the year when the she bears were going about with their cubs, and at such times they are constantly on the watch for intruders and always ready to give chase.
My readers must be told that we were unarmed, without food, and had not even an axe with which to defend ourselves.
There was but a very poor trail through the wood, and what indications of a road there might have been in the early summer, were obliterated by the undergrowth of the forest and the only way we could make sure of coming out right at the end was by hugging the shore of the lake as much as possible. This, of course, had its disadvantages too; for instance, the lake being the receptacle of many streams, those streams had to find their outlet through deep gorges, which were thickly covered with entangled brushwood, which offered no slight impediment to our progress. The whole twenty miles was one dense forest of tall trees, etc., and the ground was very uneven, and fallen pine trees intercepted our path, and these had to be circumnavigated in order to get to the other side. To make matters worse, a very severe thunderstorm came on with a downpour of rain as soon as we commenced our journey, and it continued its severity during most of the day; the peals of thunder were something alarming--when in a valley it seemed to be cracking above our heads, and when on a hill it roared like cannon in the valley at our feet. I was wearing at the time a new pair of English knee boots, which, owing to the bad walking, galled my feet very much, and before half the journey was over I became too lame to walk. My interpreter had on his feet a pair of native shoes made of deerskin, and he very kindly lent me these and put on my boots, but he did not wear them long, as his feet were not accustomed to such footgear, and so he walked barefooted the rest of the way. When we got within about two miles of the south end of the lake, we encountered a river, which on account of the wet season had overflowed its bank on our side. The river itself was not more than twenty yards wide, but owing to the present stage of the water it was about one hundred and twenty yards wide, and the overflowed part was so deep that the water came to our waists before we actually reached the edge of the river. The question now was, How shall we cross this stream?
Unfortunately, I could not swim; that is, if I could, I did not know it; and under these circumstances I did not feel inclined to make an attempt. My companion, "though country born," was not very expert in the water; still he felt sure he could succeed in reaching the other side; but that did not make my case any better. The question therefore was, How was I to get to the other side? Of course we thought of a raft, but how could we make a raft without an axe to help us cut down the necessary trees--and this we did not possess. We then walked about the forest in search of a log, that is, the lower end of a tree that had been blown down, and, from years of exposure, had become dry. Eventually we found one, and though very much decayed and eaten by ants, we thought it would serve our purpose; so we rolled it down to the water's edge, and then pushed it on through the dead willows that covered the inundated land, and when we reached the edge of the deep water, we made it fast with a willow. We next made a rough estimate as to the width of the river, and then went in search of some straight dry poles, sufficient to reach across; and these we found inland. They were young spruce trees that had been killed some years before by a forest fire, and had dried as they stood. These were easily broken off, and having divested them of the few branches they possessed we conveyed them to the place where we had anchored our log. Now, our idea was to construct a sort of gate, or swing ferry, one that could be operated both ways by the same stream, and this is how we made it. But I should say here that, during the preliminary stage of our work, we divested ourselves of as many of our clothes as was decent, considering we were being watched by thousands of mosquitoes, and these, with our watches, we placed on the top of a willow bush, so as not to get our timepieces injured by the water. First we placed the log in position, that is, we tied the upper end to a willow bush near to the edge of the river and the current passing by kept it in place. Then we took one of the poles and tied it tightly to the lower end of the log, and another pole to the end of that one, and so on, until we had a sufficient number to reach across the river. Now, in order to be sure that these poles were securely tied together (for my life depended on this part of our engineering skill), we used our braces, stockings, shirts and handkerchiefs, and any other part of our apparel that could, by our combined ingenuity, be utilised for such a purpose. Now, when everything was ready, I stood in the water up to my waist, and occupied the position of a gate-post, and held the last pole in my hands as firmly as I possibly could; then my friend waded upstream until he reached the log, and clutching this with one arm, he "touched the button," or rather broke the willow that held the log ashore, and then, placing his foot against the bush, he pushed the log out into the stream. When the stream caught the log it was just as much as I could do to hold my ground, but I stood firm, and the current pressing the structure on to me, and I not budging an inch, the stream carried the ferry on to the opposite shore. Q.E.D. So far, so good, but I was still on the wrong side of the river. The next thing, therefore, to be done was to get the log back to me, and this we did in the following way. My friend held on to the log when he landed, and I let go my hold of the poles. The result of this can be easily imagined: my friend being the hinge this time, the current took the poles over to his side; this done, he made the log stationary whilst he ran down and caught hold of the end pole, and holding it firmly in hand, as I had done, and moving his arm slightly backwards and forwards, the log gradually left the shore and was caught by the current and so brought back to my side of the river. Now was my opportunity, but please watch the action. I put my arms over the log and pushed out as did my friend before, and soon I was in midstream, when something happened which made my partner shout, and, to be truthful, I believe I made a noise too; but what had happened? Simply this. The strain on the poles this journey was different from what it was when my friend crossed. In the former instance I stood below the pressure, and the greater the pressure the tighter the poles held together, but now, instead of my friend having to press against the stream, he had to hang on to the pole, as I was crossing below him, and so it was that, when the strain became great, there was a sudden hitch in the joints; the poles fortunately did not actually come apart, but it seemed very likely they might do so, and hence our anxiety for the time being; but thanks to providence, I reached land safely, and the first thing we did was to shake hands and congratulate each other upon having both safely landed on the side of the river we desired to be.
But: "Look, George," said I, "see what we have done." "What is that?" said he. "Why, we are here, but our watches and clothes are left on the other side." Well, you can imagine how vexed we were, yet nevertheless we laughed heartily, and fortunately our craft was still intact, and in a short time, and by the old process, George was ferried over, and our belongings were soon in our respective possessions, and we thanked God and took courage, feeling sure we had overcome one of the worst difficulties we were ever likely to encounter.
We were not long after this in reaching our companions, and when the Ven. Archdeacon Cowley saw the state we were in and heard our story, he became very much agitated, and said if he had had the slightest idea of the difficulties that lay in our way, he would not have allowed our going on.
After a good rub down and a change of clothes we were ready for the best food the party could produce, and a good deal of it too. We were more convinced now than ever that Green Lake was not a suitable locality for establishing our new Mission, and my future abode was just as uncertain as it was the day I left England.