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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XLVII - The Methodist Church in Saskatchewan


Beginnings of Methodism in the West—Work of Rev. Jas. Evans— Rev. Messrs. Bundle, Barnlev, Brooking-Hurlburt, Salt and Steinheur—The Famous Missionary Party of i860: the Youngs, Campbells and McDougalls—Heroism of Christian Indians in Smallpox Plague of 1870—Effects of Building of the C. P. R.— Rev. Alex. Sutherland—Rev. Messrs. Maclean, Lawson, Bridgem'an, and Williams—Methodist Colonies—Founding of Methodism in Regina and Other Towns—Effect of the Rebellion of 1885—Loyalty of Tribes Under Methodist Care— Subsequent Development of Methodist Church—Regina College.

Throughout Saskatchewan and Western Canada in general the representatives of Methodism have ever been among the most valuable pioneers in all departments of progress. Apart from innumerable Methodist laymen who have wrought effectively in the public interest, there has been a noble army of self-sacrificing missionaries, whose heroic achievements justify the admiration and pride not only of the members of the church they represented, but of all public spirited Canadians.

In the year 1840 the Wesleyan Missionary Society of England sent into the Hudson's Bay Company's territories a group of missionaries whose services in the cause of Christianity proved especially notable. The superintendent in charge of this little company was the Rev. James Evans, who had already been engaged for some time in the work of Christian missions among the Indian tribes of Upper Canada.

With his family, Mr. Evans travelled from the head of Lake Superior to Norway House by canoe. His library and other household effects it was necessary to ship to London from which point they crossed the ocean in a Hudson's Bay Company's vessel bound for York Factory; thence they were carried in open boats some five hundred miles farther. To go from Ontario to Rossville Mission, Norway House, they had been transported about twelve thousand miles!

James Evans was the originator of the famous system of Cree syllabic characters which, with minor variations and improvements, has been adopted for use among the Indians of very many tribes widely distributed over America. This system of writing was based on a simple form of phonetic shorthand and is so simple that an Indian of fair intelligence can in a fortnight learn to read anything in his own tongue. Mr. Evans made his first type from lead procured from tea-chests, carving the letters with his own pocket knife! His ink was made from soot and the first paper used was simply birchbark. The inventor had even to make his own press, but no difficulties could discourage him, so success was ultimately achieved.

The Wesleyan Missionary Society heard of his invention and at once saw its profound importance. Types were accordingly cast in London, and, together with a good press and plenty of paper, were forwarded to the Rossville Mission. Later on the work was taken in charge by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Through the instrumentality of Mr. Evans' invention it became possible for missionaries to place in the hands of the nomadic tribes portions of the Christian Scriptures and copies of hymns and other religious literature. These the Indians were able to read for themselves and to take with them when they withdrew far beyond the immediate reach of the missionaries' personal efforts.

The same indefatigable energy and originality of method which enabled James Evans to carry into successful execution his project for placing Christian literature within the reach of the barbarous tribes of the West stood him in equally good stead in other respects. Few Canadian missionaries have accomplished a work so important and lasting and have left behind them such a tradition of unfailing helpfulness and heroism.

Intimately associated with Mr. Evans in his pioneer missionary enterprises were the Rev. Messrs. Rundle and Barnley. Fourteen years after they and Evans had penetrated the Far West, the Indian Missions in the Territories were transferred from the English Wesleyan Church to the Wesleyan Church of Canada. In that year we note among their laborers the Rev. Robert Brooking, who, previous to coming to Canada, had served as a missionary in Ashantee, then stationed at Oxford House. His co-worker at Norway House was the Rev. Thos. Hurlburt, then a young man of twenty-five. Both of these gentlemen labored among the Indians for very many years. At Lac la Pluie and Edmonton, respectively, Methodism was represented by native missionaries, Allen Salt and Henry Steinheur.

The last named missionary, when but a child, miserable, poverty-stricken and pagan, had been befriended bv the Rev. Wm. Chase, of Rice Lake, Ontario. The lad developed a very decided musical talent and was associated with an Indian choir, which for a time travelled under the supervision of Mr. Chase. A gentleman by the name of Henry Steinheur was much attracted to Mr. Chase's protege and, on condition that the lad would assume his benefactor's name, undertook the expense of securing him a first-class education. The young Indian gladly accepted this condition and was educated at Victoria College, Cobourg.

For almost half a century this modest and talented missionary devoted himself to preaching the Gospel among his own people, spending the last years of his missionary career among the Crees and Stoneys at White Fish Lake and elsewhere in Saskatchewan. At one of these stations, Mr. Steinheur came upon a prayer-meeting, though the Indians here had been without a missionary for some time. They were praying for "one like Rundle" to be sent to them. Air. Steinheur had come to the encampment supposing it to be a pagan settlement, and one can imagine with what emotion he heard this appeal being addressed to Heaven. It need hardly be added that Mr. Steinheur answered the call.

Among the other notable missionaries in the Far North West one must mention Rev. Egerton Ryerson Young, who, in i860, left a flourishing congregation in Hamilton, Ontario, to go to Norway House. He was accompanied by his heroic wife, to whose unfailing co-operation much of the success of his ministry was due. With him there came into the West the Rev. George Young, with his wife and son, bound for the Red River Settlement, there to establish Methodism; the Rev. Peter Campbell, with his wife and family, on their way to a still more distant prairie mission, and a number of teachers and others. The party was under the guidance of the Rev. George McDougall, the veteran missionary of the Saskatchewan Valley.' From St. Paul's the missionary caravan advanced by prairie schooner toward the scenes of their future activities. In a preceding chapter we have told of how the possession of a British flag protected this little party from any violence at the hands of the dreaded Sioux. At Fort Garry Mr. E. R. Young and his family separated from their companions to proceed to Norway House in a Hudson Bay open boat. The story of the work of Air. and Mrs. Young is told with effective simplicity in their book, entitled By Canoe and Dog-Train. The territory entrusted to Mr. Young was of great size, and his missionary journeys called for unfailing heroism.

In 1870, it will be remembered, that the North West was visited by a terrible plague of small-pox, and that in consequence, all communication between Manitoba and the infected regions was forbidden. This meant much real suffering and privation, especially among isolated missionaries and other white men in the interior, and the Christian Indians of Air. Young's mission heroically organized a brigade of boats to take supplies up the Saskatchewan for the relief of those in want. There were twenty boats in all, manned by a hundred and sixty volunteers. They realized to the full the danger of themselves contracting the loathsome disease, of which the whole Indian population stood in unspeakable terror. Nevertheless they rowed hundreds of miles up the Saskatchewan, passing, here and there, deserted camps and settlements that indicated all too clearly the terrible ravages of the disease. The heroic party successfully distributed their supplies without any direct intercourse with the people of the plains, and returned in safety to their homes, after a journey of two months and a half. The captain of the party, who, needless to say, was a Christian, had so spent himself to secure the rapid and safe return of his companions that his own health was ruined so that he died shortly afterwards. The name of this humble imitator of the Good Samaritan was Samuel Tapanekis; it should be remembered with honour by the people of Saskatchewan.

Five years after Mr. Young was stationed at Xorwav House, he received instructions from his ecclesiastical superiors to press further into the interior and establish a new mission among the Saulteaux. Circumstances rendered it necessary for Mrs. Young and the children to set out in an open boat several weeks before Mr. Young could leave Norway House. It was July and the heat was terrific. Mrs. Young's little daughter was overcome by the heat, and, far away from help or earthly consolation, the sorrowing mother was called upon to see her little one die. Truly, those who have borne the Gospel into the remoter regions of our country have paid the price at which the crown of heroism is purchased.

Methodism, in what is now the Province of Saskatchewan, began with the spectacle of such missionaries to the Indians crossing the plains from Fort Garry to Edmonton. The seer-like qualities of George McDougall were sufficient to impress the distinguished members of the Sanford Fleming expedition, when that pioneer missionary accompanied their party in 1872. On that memorable journey, so faithfully recorded in Principal Grant's Ocean to Ocean, Mr. McDougall, with his knowledge of the fertility and vastness of the land, foresaw the great procession from realms beyond the sea, and prophesied the building of an empire in the West, where millions of prosperous and contented citizens would find a home.

In these early days the efforts of the missionaries were confined chiefly to the evangelization of the aborigines, though regular services were held among the white people congregated at the Hudson's Bay Company's posts, and the forts of the Mounted Police. While crossing the plains, religious services were held at every convenient place where a small congregation could be gathered, and at some of these points there grew up in later years, from these beginnings, large and important churches.

With the projection of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the tours of exploration through the northern part of the Territories, a few settlers came from Ontario and located along the proposed route, chiefly in the Prince Albert and Battleford districts; and among these were some members of the denomination who did not wait for the pioneer missionaries to shepherd the

flock, but held services in the log shanties, thus maintaining the faith of their fathers. During the summer of 1880 the Rev. Dr. Alexander Sutherland, General Missionary Secretary, made a tour of inspection of the Indian missions of the West-travelling through the United States and up the Missouri River, then driving across the plains to Edmonton and beyond boating down the Saskatchewan to Prince Albert, and travelling onwards with a team of ponies to Winnipeg. Services were held at Battleford in the school house, and at Prince Albert a number of Methodists were found located,—one hundred or more. Many of these were visited at their homes, and services were held on Sunday morning in a vacant store and in the evening 111 the Presbyterian Church. The people requested that a Methodist minister be sent them as there were sufficient to make a considerable congregation.

The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the plains in 1882 brought a new aspect of life and its conditions, as with the large companies of men in the construction camps, there was special need of religious oversight. Moreover, settlers began to come into the Territories in greater numbers and villages and towns sprang up at the railway centres as sources of supplies. The Rev. Thos. Lawson, Rev. Wellington Bridgeman and Rev. Clement Williams were stationed at Brandon, and the march of railway workers and settlers made a thrilling appeal to their minds, so that they started on missionary tours covering vast distances, and going as far west as Moose Jaw. So wide were the distances covered and so pressing was the work that during the year the missionary trio laboured in more than twenty-five preaching places.

The following year was a period of colonization, several colonies being established in the Territories as we have seen elsewhere. One of these was the Primitive Methodist Colony at Pheasant Forks, north of Wolseley, under the leadership of the Rev. Win. Bee, of Toronto, who induced a number of Primitive Methodists from Ontario and England to settle in the district. Another was the Temperance Colony at Saskatoon, organized by John N. Lake, Esq., of Toronto, who had formerly been a Methodist minister, but had been compelled to retire on account of ill-health. Several missions were begun which subsequently developed into strong and wealthy congregations. When the first settlers arrived, and a few wooden shacks had been erected in Moosomin, some enterprising laymen, including Messrs. J. R. Neff, Oliver Neff, E. W. Early and others, met in one of the stores to consult about holding services, with the result that a church was organized and a minister secured in the person of the Rev. Moses Dimmick. By the time of the union of the various Methodist bodies, 1884, a regular service had been established. Three years later a comfortable parsonage was erected under the supervision of the Rev. T. B. Wilson; and in 1SS9 a handsome and commodious church was built during the pastorate of the Rev. T. W. Davies.

In 1883, that year of beginnings, Broadview, as a railway divisional point, offered inducements for the establishment of a mission, and the Rev. J. H. L. Joslyn was appointed, his field of operations taking him a short distance northward to the Cree Indian reserve, and in other directions as far as his time and strength permitted. There was no limit to possible expansion and personal enthusiasm sometimes carried the missionary far beyond the powers of endurance.

At Qu'Appelle, the Rev. Thos. Lawson, with a young man as assistant missionary, continued his extensive trips across the plains as he had done during the previous year from Brandon. The Qu'Appelle Valley beyond the Fort was sufficiently attractive to become now the home of numerous settlers, and the building of the railroad made it possible for many more to come into the district. This enthusiastic and intrepid missionary laid the foundations of Methodism in the Qu'Appelle district, and the territories covered by his extensive mission included centres that developed into strong and healthy congregations. It was a period of expansion, when settlers had to be sought out, and it required men of vision and practical wisdom to seize the strategic points as missionary centres, to be held and manned by their successors. Qu'Appelle was an important place as headquarters for an energetic missionary, and Thos. Lawson sallied forth as an explorer to establish outposts of Christianity and civilization, while he built up a solid cause in the town itself.

While the grading of the railway was under way, the Rev. W. J. Hewitt came from Manitoba and after spending several months scouring the Qu'Appelle district, settled in Regina. The embryo city was a village of tents, but he began religious services there and travelled northward through the plains of the Wascana in search of souls. Failing health and the arduous nature of the work compelled him to retire at the close of the ecclesiastical year, and he was followed by the Rev. John Pooley. Fresh impetus was given to the cause of the denomination by the appointment from time to time of scholarly and able ministers whose eloquent sermons and adaptability to ever-changing conditions gave the church standing in the community, and made it a living force for good throughout the district. Rev. George Daniel charmed the people with his eloquence, though he was hampered by a small and very unpretentious frame church; but through his efforts this was removed to Scarth Street, enlarged and repainted, and before he left at the end of a three-years' pastorate, a commodious brick church was begun, and was completed during the term of his successor, the Rev. James M. Harrison. During this early period there were loyal laymen who shared the burdens, and maintained the prestige of the denomination in the capital, in the persons of Messrs. John Dobbin, J. W. Smith, J. J. Young and George Brown, and much of the success of church enterprise is due to these faithful men.

Westward the Methodist pioneers followed the trail, and at Moose Jaw a mission was organized with the Rev. Coleman Bristol, M.A., as minister. He remained one year, during which time he formed a congregation, and was succeeded by the Rev. Clement Williams, a man of scholarly attainments, and an able preacher, who built a frame church; but the people were so poor, and he had pushed the building enterprise so strenuously, that an appeal had to be made to the missionary society to help the minister by a special grant.

The request of Prince Albert for a minister had not been forgotten, and the Rev. Caleb Parker, a gentleman of wide experience and an excellent preacher, became the first to minister to the spiritual needs of the people of the Methodist persuasion.

During the year 1884, Regina mission was divided, and a young man sent to take charge of the Wascana mission, north of the town, which had been a part of the old mission. The Temperance Colony had assumed such proportions that, under its new name of Saskatoon, it was formed into a mission, and the Rev. William Halstead, who bore the reputation of a pioneer in building churches, undertook the task of erecting a church, but the work was so discouraging that he remained for a portion of the year only, and nothing was done toward reorganization for four years, when the Rev. John Peters was sent to take charge.

The year of the second Riel Rebellion, 1885, witnessed some changes in the life of the churches, as the people became unsettled, and the presence of the soldiers served to break the orderly routine of affairs. Prince Albert suffered especially, being the centre of the conflict, and the church was hardly able to hold its own; Regina was in commotion as the seat of the Government of the Territories, and the denomination was represented by but a small congregation, and consequently the cause was retarded; and Moose Jaw declined so much that the church was closed for a year and a half. Despite these depressing circumstances, the work at Qu'Appelle had made such progress, under the efficient care of the Rev. Thos. Lawson, that the mission was divided, and the northern part formed into the Fort Qu'Appelle and Primitive Methodist Colony Mission, with the Rev. Oliver Darwin as missionary.

While the Halfbreeds and some of the Indians were in revolt, it is some satisfaction to know that none of the tribes under the care of the Methodist missionaries joined the rebels, and there is one notable instance of the loyalty of Pekan, the Cree Indian chief, who shot the runner bringing a message from the warlike tribes to his people to unite with them in the rebellion. Having killed the man who was tampering with the loyalty of his tribe, he gave himself up to the General in command of the forces, and he was treated as a loyal subject who had acted in defense of the country.

The Board of Education for the North West Territories was organized in 1886, and the establishment of public schools in the Province opened up a great field of operation for all religious bodies, as these buildings became centres of influence, and were used for holding religious services. The Methodist missionaries utilized the new opportunity, and established congregations in larger numbers, and in more central places, thus consolidating their work. In the following year, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert were without ministers, but new missions were formed at Crescent Lake and York Colony, and at Wolseley, where the Rev. \V. A. Cooke was stationed as the missionary.

The tide turned in 18S7 with the appointment of the Rev. John H. Howard to Prince Albert, and Rev. W. C. Bunt to Moose Jaw, and a year afterward Saskatoon had a minister, so that the period of vacancies passed away. The work at these places, however, had not been forgotten, as faithful laymen had maintained the services by assembling the people and preaching, and the fact that they were without ministers developed a spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, and when ministers were appointed the missions were found to have increased in numbers and financial strength.

The Methodist denomination having always a special interest in the native tribes of the Dominion, it was fitting that something should be done for the Sioux Indians, who were refugees in the country, having been implicated in the Minnesota Massacre, of whom there were scattered bands throughout the Territories and in Manitoba. One of these bands roamed in the vicinity of Moose Jaw, but the greatest number, under Chief White Cap, were located on a reserve near Saskatoon, known as Moose Woods Reserve. The Rev. Alfred Andrews, stationed at Qu'Appelle, interviewed the Indian Department on their behalf, and in May, 1889, he drove across the plains to Saskatoon, accompanied by the Rev. W. C. Bunt, and Messrs. Hugh McDougall, and Interpreter Taylor of the Indian Department, the object of the visit to White Cap's band being the establishment of a school and mission. The industrious habits of these red men, and the fact that they had built sixteen log houses, and were anxious to have a school, and assist in the building of it, greatly impressed the visitors. The Government treated the Indians with great liberality, a school being built, and the people being assisted in their farming operations. Air. and Mrs. Tuckcr were sent in charge, and under their guidance the native dances passed away, a new civilization was introduced by the influence of the day school for children, and a night school for adults, where they were taught to read in their own language, besides being given instruction in agriculture, and enjoying the inspiration of Christian religious services.

During the next decade, the progress of the denomination was slow but steady. The settlers were poor, farm help could not be obtained, and some became discouraged and left the province. It was a period of struggle, and the missionaries endured numerous hardships on account of small salaries and the high cost of living, but there were no desertions from the ranks, except through health giving way; and there were no complaints, as the men and women in the small parsonages and large fields were heroic at heart, and knew not that they were making any self-sacrifice. As an illustration of the extent of the average mission, the case of the Rev. Dr. John Maclean, of Winnipeg, may be taken. He was stationed at Moose Jaw from 1889 to 1892, and during the first year, with the assistance of a colleague, he had preaching places outside the town, twelve miles north, twenty miles west, fourteen miles east and south, and five miles south, including eight appointments, preaching three times every Sunday and travelling from thirty to forty miles, with heavy pastoral work during the week. Each of the pioneer missionaries had a like amount of work to do; still they were contented and happy, as they were laying foundations for the future, even though they were unconscious of all that this meant. Despite the hard times, new missions were organized in 1890, at Grenfell, and Pasqua and Caron, and in the years following there came expansion and consolidation by the formation of the denominational districts of Moosomin and Regina.

A new era dawned in 1902, when the tide of immigration turned westward and the American invasion of peace took place. American capitalists bought large tracts of land for settlement, and during the first five months of the year, fifteen thousand Americans came west, while Great Britain furnished for the whole Dominion about six thousand immigrants, and the continent of Europe about eight thousand. Homesteads were rapidly taken up, and the influx of settlers created such a demand for ministers that an appeal had to be made to Great Britain to supply the need, and every year, until the date of writing this volume (1913), the Rev. Dr. James Woodsworth, Senior Superintendent of Missions, made a trip to the Old Country and secured from forty to sixty young ministers to cope with the wave of immigration.

The building of new railroads brought new settlements, enterprising villages and towns, and the consequent rapid growth of the denomination. In order to keep up with the great procession of immigrants, the Senior Superintendent of Missions and Chairmen of Districts travelled continuously over the Province, founding new missions, and two Superintendents of Missions had to be appointed for the West, one of whom, the Rev. Oliver Darwin, still holds the office for the Province of Saskatchewan. Sunday Schools were established at every available point, and Epworth Leagues became an important factor in the spiritual, social, and literary life of the young people, and so rapid was the growth of these institutions that a Field Secretary for Manitoba and Saskatchewan had to be appointed in the person of the Rev. John A. Doyle.

During the past decade, Methodism in the Province has maintained its state of efficiency, and has grown in wealth and numerical strength. Small missions have developed into large and wealthy congregations, with commodious and expensive churches, especially at such centres as Regina, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. The conference which formerly embraced a part of Western Ontario and the whole of the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the territory to the far north has been divided, and Saskatchewan has now a conference of its own. With the increase of population, the denomination has kept pace, as in njoi there were 12,028 Methodists, and in 1911 no less than 78,325. In the year 1912 there were seventy-five ordained ministers, and one hundred and twenty-five young men on missions or at college; seventeen new churches were built during the year, and twenty-two new parsonages, while the financial returns show that there was raised for missions, $29,473; Woman's Missionary Society, $6,336; Connexional Funds, $55,864; and the total raised for all purposes amounted to $424,499.

The denomination has always been active in dealing with western problems, the first officers and most of the members of the North West Prohibition Alliance, subsequently merged with the Dominion Alliance, being ministers and laymen belonging to the Methodist Church. In educational matters it has always maintained a keen interest. When the Board of Education for the Territories was organized, Lieutenant-Governor Brown, then a young barrister in Regina, was a member of the Board of Examiners, and associated with him 011 that Board was the Rev. Dr. John Maclean, the first Public School Inspector of Southern Alberta, and afterward a member of the Board of Education. With the call for higher education, there came the answer in the founding of the College at Regina in 1910, with the Rev. Dr. W. W. Andrews as President, and the Rev. Hugh Dobson, B. A., as College Representative in the Field. Two years later, there was a college staff of twelve gentlemen and ladies engaged in three departments, namely, Academic, Commercial and Musical. Dr. Andrews having resigned as President, the Rev. Robert Milliken, B. D„ was appointed to succeed him by the Board of Governors, 1913. The College owns a block in the city, and a site for new buildings, consisting of twenty-two acres on the north side of Lake Wascana, opposite the Parliament Buildings, and has assets worth over half a million dollars. The outlook for a large and important institution is bright, in the number of students in attendance, the ability of the staff, the financial strength, and the loyalty of the denomination.

Whatever concerns the welfare of man was of interest to the ancient citizen of Rome, and that is the attitude assumed by Methodism on the public affairs of the Province. Nothing comes amiss to the true citizen, and no task is too heavy for the real patriot. In the centres of commerce in the towns and cities, from the earliest days till the present time, there have been farmers, merchants and men of industry, whose souls were not so engrossed in their business concerns but that they were awake to the moral and social welfare of the community, and gave freely of their time and wealth for the establishment of institutions, in which everybody ought to be interested. From the teaching profession graduated a large number of doctors, lawyers and politicians, whose denominational preferences have in nowise hampered them in their duties toward the public, but rather have given them a wider outlook, controlled by a sense of justice and love of freedom. In the early clays, journalism was indebted to Methodism for some of its leading editors, as in the case of the Moose Jaw Times, the Regina Leader, Qu'Appelle Progress, Moosomin Spectator, and Regina Standard. The great task of making citizens loyal, intelligent and progressive has been the supreme duty, and remains as an enduring responsibility.

Forty-four years have passed since Rev. Dr. George Young reached Fort Garry and founded the first Methodist Church for the white settlers in the West, and from that date till the present the sons of Wesley have continued the work of pioneering, without counting the cost, but glad of the honour of leading men and women to the best there is in life, and moulding citizens for the nation yet to be. From that lone outpost of empire there has sprung up a great host, all over the western land. In 1902, when there was only one conference west of the great lakes to British Columbia, there were fifteen districts, with 142 ordained ministers, 81 probationers for the ministry, and 49 missionary teachers, and in 1912 there were in Saskatchewan alone, fifteen districts, with about 200 ministers, including probationers for the ministry.

The Jubilee of western Methodism is not far distant, and when that is celebrated, and the record of the years is made, it will be found that the glory of the denomination lies not in statistical returns and census reports, but in the fashioning of the age, the moulding of personal character, the giving of a new vision to men and women, and in real service to God and man. The Church that declares the power of an endless life, and is true to the eternal principles in man, and in revelation, will not labour in vain.


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