WHEN I left the Pas Mission in 1902 I came to England for a six months' rest before entering upon my new sphere of labour.
The new district assigned to me was called the Prince Albert District and comprised a number of Indian reservations. I made my home near the town of Prince Albert, as this was the most central point. The nearest reserve was sixteen miles away and is known as St. James' Mission. (The chief dressed in European clothes and wearing medals is the chief of this reserve.)
Lower down the river and about fifty miles from Prince Albert was the Fort-a-la-Corne Mission and ten miles south of this was another reserve called South Fort-a-la-Corne.
This latter reserve was practically untouched when I took charge, but owing to the good Hand of our God upon us I was able to open a day-school and carry on missionary work at this place without any financial help from the diocese and practically all the Indians had abandoned heathenism and embraced Christianity when I retired from the field--thanks to the faithful assistance given by the resident school teacher and the catechists who visited the Mission from Fort-a-la-Corne.
North of Prince Albert and twenty-two miles distant was the Sturgeon Lake Reserve, this band of Indians constituted the last stronghold of heathenism in my new district.
Ten miles north of this last place was the "Noy Reserve," and seventy-five miles still farther north was the "Montreal Lake Reservation." The latter place was only visited occasionally by me and all the Indians there as well as on the New Reserve were professing Christians, having originally belonged to the Stanley Mission.
About seventy miles west of Prince Albert was the Sandy Lake Mission, which again came under my supervision, as only a deacon was in charge, and twenty-five miles farther on was the White Fish Lake band of whom I have already spoken. It will be remembered that this is the place where I pitched my tent the first winter I spent in the country, 1874-5. It is at this Mission that one of my first pupils at Sandy Lake is stationed, holding the dual capacity of school teacher and catechist. It is needless to say that many faces I formerly knew were no longer to be seen, a glance over the burial ground explained the reason; still, there were many left who remembered me and these were glad to see me again.
As the country lying between the reserves was rapidly filling up with white settlers, many of whom received no pastoral attention, I used to arrange for services as I passed out, to be held on my return journeys, and many baptisms were performed as well as celebrations of the Holy Communion.
Some pages back I led my readers to anticipate a few remarks about certain discoveries I had made in going among the English families who had homesteaded in the Saskatchewan.
These were that a number of English people had left the Homeland unbaptised and yet they considered themselves earnest church people. There seemed to be a growing idea among them that baptism was not an essential rite, but when I explained to them that some significance was to be attached to baptism is evident from our Saviour's own words: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," and no true Christian can persuade himself that Christ would issue a meaningless command or Impose an unnecessary task on His Disciples.
The result was many were baptised by me and expressed their gladness at having had the truth brought home to them.
I found ample scope in my new field of labour for my mechanical skill, as churches and mission-houses were needed in many places, and in the providence of God, and with the help of friends at home, and with what help the Indians were able to give, we built three new churches and two mission-houses without being very much of a financial burden to the diocese.
As the work in my new district was very similar to that already explained in former pages of this book, it does not seem necessary to go into much detail here further than a few references to Sturgeon Lake, which I considered, demanded the major portion of my attention.
There was no church at Sturgeon Lake, so I used to visit the Indians in their houses and read God's Word to them there, and speak to them about the love of God as manifested in the gift of His Son. The result of this was, quite a number of people, though heathen, used to attend and in course of time certain of them would follow me from house to house to hear more of the good news, some of them travelling as much as seven miles and often the houses were too small to receive all those who wished to attend. Now was my time to speak about a church, and for the first time in twenty-five years they gave their consent for a church to be erected on their reserve. It should be stated here that although a considerable amount of missionary effort had been spent on this reservation both by our own church, the Presbyterians and the Roman Catholics there was only one baptised Indian family when I took charge, the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians having already ceased their efforts among them.
So once again I set myself the task of building a church. In due course it was completed and I drove the Bishop out to perform the opening ceremony. The church was only calculated to hold seventy-five people comfortably, but on this occasion one hundred and ten managed to crowd into it whilst many others congregated outside around the windows and near the door.
Seventeen were confirmed and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered. The Government built a day-school six miles from the church and when visiting that part of the reserve I conducted services in it, and I have known as many as eighty at one service to attend.
My health and that of my wife suffered much from our fourteen years' service at the Pas Mission owing to the excessive and multiplicity of the work we were called upon to do there, and our infirmities increasing with the advance of time, we felt bound, after thirty-seven years of active work, to resign our labours, with the hope that the few remaining years our Gracious Father might be pleased to grant us here should be passed in quiet rest.
Still, one felt sorry to have to sever old connections and to live apart from one's spiritual children, and it is on this account I have been led, in the preceding pages, to write this incomplete record of our work during our missionary career. But the pleasure it has given me in resurrecting old faces, names and incidents is worth the trouble and time it has taken, and I can only hope, and pray that many of those into whose hands this record of facts may come may be led by the Spirit of our God to devote his or her services to the missionary cause, and that much blessing on their efforts may be vouchsafed, and at the great Harvest Home gathering we may all be there bringing our sheaves with us.
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge my indebtedness to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge for four useful grants to help me complete four of my largest churches.