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Twenty Years on the Saskatchewan, N.W. Canada
Chapter XI. The First Bishop of Saskatchewan


IN memory of those early years of my work at Edmonton, I wish to make a kindly record of several persons whom I then knew, who are now dead. The first is Colonel James Stewart, who was formerly well known in Manitoba. His decease took place at the Hermitage. He was originally a native of Quebec, and his father was a judge there. In early life he entered the Hudson Bay service, and travelled over the most northern districts. He also joined the search expedition under Dr. Rae to discover relics of Sir J. Franklin. He was a brave and kindly man, and the true friend of every one.

Also I remember, very tenderly, William Lenny, the blacksmith, a man of just mind and of a beautiful spirit, who was once my churchwarden. He made, and presented to the church, our first stove, with the necessary pipes, and placed them in position--a gift of love which I valued highly. He was born in the Orkney Isles, and I buried his body at Edmonton. But the most notable person I knew in my work was the Right Reverend John McLean, the first Bishop of Saskatchewan. Of this noble and energetic Bishop, a well-informed correspondent writes as follows:

'When the history of the Church of England in Canada is written, it will have many a noble life to record, many a deed of devotion, and many a lifelong self-sacrifice, worthy of Apostolic times. It is impossible to over-estimate the permanent influence of those who lay the foundation of Church work in the various dependencies of the Colonial Empire, or British Colonies. In the natural course of events the men themselves pass away, but "their works do follow them." The history of the Church in Saskatchewan will ever be associated with the name of Dr. John McLean, first Bishop of Saskatchewan, who was born at Portsoy, Scotland, November 17, 1828. He graduated at the University of King's College, Aberdeen; was ordained deacon August 1, 1858; priest, December 15, 1858, by Dr. Cronyn, first Bishop of Huron. He became Archdeacon of Assiniboia, 1866; was consecrated Bishop of Saskatchewan, May 3, 1874; and died November 7, 1886.

'Several eventful years have now rolled by since Bishop McLean passed to his well-earned rest--a man of noble devotion, ceaseless energy, and untiring perseverance. It may perhaps be difficult to find a Bishop so fitted in every way to guide and build up the work of a Church, amid the ever-changing scenes and peculiar requirements of Western life; a man of boundless enthusiasm, full of hope for the future, well expressing the genius of the "Western pioneer's faith" in the land of "illimitable possibilities."'

'At an early period in the history of North-West Canada, the foundation and corner-stone of missionary work was laid in the Red River Settlement. On St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1865, Dr. Machray was consecrated as the second Bishop of Rupert's Land, the consecrators being Archbishop Longley, of Canterbury; Bishop Tait, of London; Bishop Harold Browne, of Ely; Bishop Suther, of Aberdeen; and Bishop Anderson, the first Bishop of Rupert's Land. The diocese of Rupert's Land then contained some two millions of square miles. Beginning at the height near Port Arthur, it extended westward to the snow-capped summits of the Rocky Mountains, southward to the boundary line which divides the United States from Canada, and northward without any defined limit. When the Bishop of Rupert's Land reached the Red River Settlement, after taking a survey of his work, he determined to resuscitate the college begun by his predecessor, and to establish a strong centre of educational influence in connection with the church. He offered the wardenship of his new college and the archdeaconry of Assiniboia to his class-mate and college companion, the Rev. John McLean, M.A., who was at that time connected with St. Paul's Cathedral, London, Ontario, Canada West. The Bishop of Rupert's Land, now Primate of Canada, in his charge to the Synod in 1887, thus speaks of his friend:

'"There is to myself personally, and I am sure to the members of former Synods, one great blank on this occasion. We miss the late able and energetic Bishop of Saskatchewan. The friend of my youth, whom I brought here to stand by my side, and with whom I shared the cares of the early years of my episcopate, he is naturally sorely missed by myself. For his own diocese his labours were abundant. The completed endowment of his see will ever remain an enduring monument of his worth. But such were his great and varied gifts, his readiness of utterance, and his unceasing devotion, that his death is a great loss to our province."

'The Rev. Mr. Wigram, the hon. secretary of the great Church Missionary Society, spoke thus of him in his sermon before the Synod:

'"When I left home last October, I looked forward with keen pleasure to being welcomed in Saskatchewan by Bishop McLean, that man of force and action who energized others by his own vigour, and knew difficulties simply as things to be overcome."

'A year or two passed quietly away in college work, and in the organization of the first parish in the embryo city of Winnipeg, Holy Trinity, of which the Archdeacon was Rector.

'It was in the last days of Hudson Bay rule, and political and stirring changes were at hand; the North-West territories were transferred to Canada, but Canadian rule was not established without bloodshed and difficulty. Archdeacon McLean was faithful at his post during these days of trouble and political unrest; we find him beside the prisoner, and those who were condemned to death.

'Gunn's History states:

'"As soon as Major Boulton was safe within the walls of Fort Garry, he was placed in irons, a court-martial was held, he was found guilty of treason against the Provisional Government, and sentenced to be shot at noon the next day; but at the intercession of the Lord Bishop of Rupert's Land, Archdeacon McLean, and, in short, of every influential man among the English, and I have been told also at the earnest entreaty of the Catholic clergy, the execution was delayed till midnight of Saturday, the igth. Ricl, apparently, kept his determination to have Major Boulton shot up to ten o'clock on Saturday night, two hours before the execution was to have taken place, and Archdeacon McLean had spent nearly twenty-four hours with Major Boulton, administered the Sacrament to him, and prepared him to meet his fate. At length Kiel yielded to the entreaties of Mr. Smith (now Sir Donald Smith), and agreed to spare Boultori's life. He immediately proceeded to the prison, and intimated to Archdeacon McLean that he, Kiel, had been induced to spare Major Boulton's life, and had further promised that, immediately on the meeting of the Council, which was shortly to be elected, the whole of the prisoners would be released, requesting the Archdeacon at the same time to explain these circumstances to Major Boulton and the other prisoners."

'Major Boulton is now a distinguished member of the Senate of Canada.

'Archdeacon McLean was requested, by the Dominion Government, to take a tour through the older provinces, and lecture on the North-West. His glowing description of the Western prairies, his enthusiastic faith in the future of North-West Canada, was of great service in exciting an interest in Manitoba and the North-West, and in directing the attention of the Canadian public to the boundless capabilities of this Western El Dorado.

'During this tour he collected a large sum of money for St. John's College, Winnipeg. Manitoba and the Territories now entered Confederation. The prospects of settlement and development of the North - West necessitated the reorganization of Church work. The huge diocese of Rupert's Land was divided. Bishop Horden was appointed to Moosonee, Bishop Bompas to the Mackenzie River, and Dr. McLean was consecrated by Royal mandate at Lambeth, May 3, 1874, to the bishopric of Saskatchewan.

'One might well have hesitated before undertaking a work of such difficulty. In more modern times, when a Bishop is appointed, he usually reaps the benefit of the labour of his predecessor: he finds endowment for his support secured, Church work organized, and Church institutions established. But such was not the case with Bishop McLean. Everything had to be begun de novo. There was no episcopal endowment. There were just two missionaries in his vast jurisdiction, extending from the Rocky Mountains to Lake Winnipeg. The year after his consecration one of the two missionaries died. There were other difficulties to contend with. There were no railroads in those days. The Bishop had to undertake the journey of five hundred miles with dog-cariole in mid-winter in order to reach his diocese, camping each night in the snow, with no friendly shelter save the canopy of heaven. The thought of one day reaching Saskatchewan in a " Pulman " was not even within the reach of the wildest flight of imagination. The very idea of a sleeper, and the ubiquitous porter, would have been considered the inauguration of an episcopal millennium. In his first journey the Bishop travelled two thousand miles with the thermometer often registering 40 below zero.

'In 1878 the Bishop visited England with the intention of raising further funds for the bishopric endowment and for other objects. It may here be stated that the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel most kindly and generously allowed the Bishop two hundred pounds per annum, to enable him to carry on his work, and they continued this as long as the Bishop required it. Although many tried to dissuade the Bishop from attempting to collect funds, owing to the very great depression prevalent at that time, he was not daunted, and the enthusiasm of his words, and the single-heartedness of his devotion, soon made him many friends and supporters, and he returned to his diocese with a considerable part of the necessary episcopal endowment funds, for missionary and educational work, and for building. He made his headquarters at Prince Albert. Emmanuel College was built, and opened in 1879, as the first institution for higher education in the diocese. Several of the missionaries of the North-West were trained there. The Bishop took part in the college work as the Professor of Divinity. The Bishop had an Act passed, by the Dominion Parliament, for establishing a University of Saskatchewan, and no doubt he would have secured funds for endowing it had he lived. His great desire was to have an educated clergy. In his last address to the Synod, on August 4, 1886, he said:

'"I earnestly hope that the clergy will try to follow the advice now given. I think it right to state that I am so strongly impressed with the importance of encouraging steady and systematic study in those branches that tend to equip a clergyman for thoroughly discharging the duties of his office, and so convinced that those who are content with just study enough to pass the examination for Holy Orders cannot really fulfil their functions thoroughly, that, while God spares me as Bishop, I shall make this consideration a very influential one in determining questions of promotion, as far as these questions lie within my influence."

'In the same address the Bishop thus spoke of Emmanuel College:

'"The college is also becoming the mainstay of the diocese for the supply of clergy for the settlements. Already four out of the six most important towns in the diocese have, as their clergymen, men who received their training at the institution, and these are working to my entire satisfaction, while several less-prominent posts are most worthily filled by its former students."

'It perhaps should be stated that the Bishop was approached on the subject of accepting one of the older dioceses of Eastern Canada; but he was faithful to his Western diocese.

'The Bishop was in the town of Prince Albert during the rebellion of 1885. No one who was in Prince Albert during those days of danger and anxiety will ever forget the Bishop's sermon on the Sunday after the Duck Lake fight. The North-West Mounted Police and the local militia were drawn up in the square. The Bishop took his stand under the flagstaff in the centre, and, in words of patriotic eloquence, spoke of the noble citizens of Prince Albert who had fallen in the Duck Lake field of battle, of the glorious traditions of British law and justice, and of his faith in the permanent stability of the Canadian Dominion.

'In the autumn after the rebellion the Synod met. It was the Bishop's last Synod, and in his address he said:

'"Since we last met I have been able to visit, and hold Confirmation, in every mission in the diocese but one, and this will be shortly visited. In the great majority of cases I have made at least two visits to each mission."

'After the Synod was over, although he was not in good health, he started on a long visitation of the diocese. In his diary he writes as follows:

'"Monday, August 16.--Left home with Hume."

'"Tuesday, 24th.--Reached Calgary."

'On the 29th he received a telegram telling of the birth of his son, but sent word that he must push on for Edmonton, as his work must not be neglected, and he would return as soon as possible.

'"Sunday, September 5.--Confirmation in All Saints' Church, Edmonton.

'"Monday, September 6.--I did not feel well to-day, but started on our return journey. On going down the hill near the fort we met a cart, and, there being no room to pass, our waggon was upset, and we were all thrown out. We, however, proceeded on our journey soon after; but I became seriously ill, and after proceeding five miles we returned to Edmonton, where I lay for three weeks at the Ross Hotel under medical charge. I became very ill and very weak; I sent back our team to Calgary on the second day. By the doctor's advice I had a large skiff built by the Hudson Bay Company, with the stern part covered with canvas like a tent. Two men were engaged to conduct it to Prince Albert, a distance of six hundred miles by water. We reached Fort Pitt on Thursday, October 7, exactly eight days from Edmonton, which we left on September 29. Hume gave great help in working the skiff, and was most kind and attentive to me, both at the hotel and in the skiff. I continued very weak until we reached Fort Pitt. During the last two days I have been feeling much better, and am now writing up this note-book in the wood on the river bank, where we have taken refuge from a cold head-wind. Our progress is slow; we may have snow and ice in a day or two. I think of going overland from Battleford."

'The Bishop was so ill when he reached Battleford that he was obliged to remain in the skiff, and his son Hume feared that he would not live until he reached Prince Albert. The weather was bitterly cold, ice having begun to form on the river; however, the men worked very hard, assisted by Hume, a lad of fifteen, who did all he could for his beloved father, whom he described as so sweet and patient in all his pain and weakness. He was constantly singing to himself during the weary hours of night. This dear son, Hume Blake, died at Athabasca Landing, May 16, 1893, in his twenty-second year.

'After the Bishop's return home he rallied considerably for a few days, but he was too much weakened by the hardships of the journey. Fever set in; he was delirious at times, but even in his wanderings his beloved diocese occupied his thoughts, and at times he imagined himself conducting meetings with his clergy.

'On Saturday afternoon, November 6, he spoke in the most eloquent manner of the future of the diocese; then he kissed all his loved ones, and shook hands with others who were with him. As the sun was setting, he asked his daughter, Mrs. Flett, to help him to sit up, and had the blinds drawn up so that he could see the sunset; then he said:

'"Do bring lights; it is growing very dark."

'From that time he spoke but little, but appeared to be in a sort of stupor, from which he was roused to take stimulants. About 5 a.m. on Sunday morning his wife was standing beside him, and he said to her: "My lips are getting so stiff;" and then he kissed her, with loving words of all they had been to each other. He did not speak coherently after that, but became unconscious, and remained so, surrounded by all his family, until 12 a.m., when he fell asleep like a little child.

'He is buried outside the chancel window in St. Mary's Cemetery. His monument bears the following inscription:

'"Entered into the rest of Paradise, November 7, 1886, John McLean, first Bishop of Saskatchewan, in his 58th year.

'"I believe in the Communion of Saints."

'Bishop McLean did much for Prince Albert. In addition to the fine buildings on the college property, he raised money to maintain and carry on the work. Then he lived in Prince Albert, and helped it in every way that he could. Bishop McLean only enjoyed the full interest of the Bishopric Endowment Fund for a short time before his death. The Bishop devoted an hour each day, when at home, to reading the Service for Consecration of a Bishop, and in seeking strength and help to live up to, and in every way to be faithful to, the vows which he had taken. He often said he felt appalled when he thought of the immense responsibility of his office.

'So lived, and so passed away, this great and good man, who has been sorely missed by the Saskatchewan and Calgary dioceses, especially in their efforts to overcome the financial difficulties that are incident to all new Church work in countries where there are no endowments for religion, and the people are too poor to do much for Church support. Such dioceses require exceptional men, and Bishop McLean was an exceptional man. For his diocese of Saskatchewan the Bishop raised, clear of all expenses, the following funds:

Bishopric Endowment Fund 73,140.26 Dollars
Divinity Chair, Emmanuel College 10,023.42
Louise Scholarship 340.00
W. McKay Scholarship 700.00

Clergy Endowment Fund:
(a) General 4,000.00
(b) Stanley Mission 260.00
(c) Devon Mission 884.22


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