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Manitoba Memories
Leaves from my Life in the Prairie Province, 1868-1884, by Rev. George Young, D.D., Founder of Methodist Missions in the Red River Settlement (1897)


Many a book has been published for which no good reason could be assigned, but this book is not of that class. Many manuscripts might have been consigned by publishers to the waste-basket or the flames and the world have been none the poorer but to have withheld these “Manitoba Memories” from the public would have been a distinct and serious loss. Methodists would have lost some pages of inspiring autobiography, as well as the story of the planting of Methodism in the great North-West; Christians who can rise above the low level of denominational shibboleths would have lost the profit which comes from studying the movements of other divisions of the Lord’s army than their own; patriots would have lost the record of some of the most stirring scenes in the founding of our Western Empire ; and coming historians of both Church and State would have lost a veritable mine of materials of the highest value.

Only a single chapter is devoted to the author’s autobiography, but the glimpses it affords of his early life serve the good purpose of bringing the reader into sympathy with the man and his work. From this starting point we follow him with sympathetic interest through the valedictory services at Toronto, before setting out with his companions for their distant mission fields ; the long and toilsome journey over the hundreds of miles of unsettled prairie that intervened between St. Cloud and Fort Garry; the difficulties which beset his early ministry, growing in part out of the sparseness of population, the long distances between the settlements, the scarcity and cost of supplies, and, last but not least, the bigotry of some who claimed a monopoly of religious teaching, poorly qualified though they might be to supply it. But all these were successively overcome, and the reader cannot fail to rejoice in the success which ultimately crowned the labors of this devoted missionary and those who succeeded him in the work.

The part of these “ Memories ” which will most deeply stir the hearts of loyal Canadians, irrespective of name or party, is that which covers the revolt of the half-breeds under Louis Riel in 1869. In this book we have a simple narrative of the facts, recorded by an eye-witness whose well-known reputation for integrity, veracity and uprightness precludes any suspicion of unfairness. The narrative in its simplicity, directness, circumstantial details and evident freedom from mere partizan bias, bears the stamp of truthfulness upon its face, and the future historian will find in it materials which he can use with unhesitating confidence. The beginning of the troubles; the persistent attempts of Riel to fan the passions of the ignorant halfbreeds (which a word from the Hierarchy could have checked, had it been spoken); the seizure of Fort Garry and the imprisonment of loyal Canadians; the escape of some and the recapture of part of them; the climax of crime and cruelty in the cold-blooded murder of Thomas Scott; the enforced exodus of the loyal element until order was restored by the triumphal entry of the forces under . General Wolseley—all these occurrences are detailed with simple but graphic power, and supply information of intense interest and permanent value.

Following the stirring chapters on the Riel rebellion, the author turns again to the peaceful scenes of missionary labor and the planting of the Methodist Church. “The First Manitoba Missionary Conference,” when Drs. Pun-shon and Wood, and John Macdonald, Esq., (all of whom have since joined the “great majority”) met the missionaries of the North-West, is sketched chiefly in the language of contemporaneous records, and Dr. Lachlan Taylor’s journey through the “Great Lone Land” is given in the words of the Doctor’s own journal and report. The history of the early educational movement is an interesting chapter, and so is that which details two dissimilar missionary journeys in 1874 and 1875. The second of these journeys was in the winter season, through an uninhabited wilderness, and gave our author some experience of the toils and hardships of missionaries in the far North. But to follow the remaining chapters in detail would exceed the limits properly assigned to an Introduction, and I must refer the reader to the book itself for further information.

A work such as was done by George Young and his associates in the North-West does not bulk very large in the public eye at the time. Theirs was emphatically the work of laying foundations, and this is a work which has to be done quietly, and, for the most part, out of sight; but its importance to the superstructure to be built thereupon cannot be overstated. That these men planned wisely and built solidly, the results abundantly testify. Not often is it given to pioneers to see the full fruit of their labors; but it is matter of profound satisfaction that the man who, under God, planted the seeds of Methodism in the Prairie Province, has lived to see and help to gather the wonderful harvest that sprang from his sowing. Some men have monuments in dead marble, reared long after they have passed away; George Young has his monument today in the living Methodism of the great North-West.

Methodist Mission Rooms,
Toronto, May 10th, 1897.

Manitoba Memories (pdf)

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