Moves to Owen Sound —Makes business connections—Starts for college—Received as a probationer for the ministry—Is appointed to establish a new mission in the far North.
HE was now twenty-one years of age. The same winter George's pioneer spirit prompted him to push on into the wilds of Ontario. On snow-shoes, and pulling his hand sleigh after him, he crossed the Blue Mountains and came to Owen Sound. Here he took up land and formed business connections, and to this place as early as possible the following season he brought his wife.
Their route was from Barrie across to the Nottawasaga river, thence down that stream to Georgian Bay, and along the coast to Owen Sound. At this time there were three houses, consisting of an emigrant shed and government employee buildings. There the writer was born. Here father and mother remained for six years, and may be fairly classed among the first settlers of this part of Ontario. During this period two more boys were born to them, one of whom died in childhood, the other, following in the footsteps of his father, in his turn became a pioneer in the still farther portions of the great North-West, and to-day is a respected citizen of the commonwealth of Alberta.
Father, in connection with his partner in business, built and sailed the Indian Prince, the first vessel sent out from Owen Sound; also later on sailed the Sydenham, and in this vessel took the first load of exports from Owen Sound direct to Toronto. She was laden with maple sugar, potash and grain. About this time father had been licensed as a local preacher by the Rev. John Neelands, the pioneer missionary of that country.
Among the earliest recollections of the writer, is his accompanying his father through the heavy forests to a small settlement in the back country, where the young local preacher conducted service in a shanty. His business at this time took him out among the Indian population frequenting the islands of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, and here no doubt began the life work of the missionary.
Coming in contact with these ignorant and pagan peoples, he tried to impart to them a knowledge of the true God, and already his heart was prompting him to seek his way into the Christian ministry, and thus more fully devote himself to this work of preaching Christ to the aborigines of our country, and, steadily keeping this in view, we find him in the winter of 1848 recording in his journal:
Owen Sound, December 29th, 1848.
We now commend our children and friends to the protection of Providence, and to-morrow morning commence our journey to Victoria College, relying on the protection of that Cod whose we are and whom we desire to serve.
The writer well remembers the next morning, which was stormy. Horse and sleigh are at the door, and presently father and mother having bidden my brother and self good-bye, get into the sleigh and start eastward from Owen Sound to Cobourg, through the boundless forests of old Canada. The object of their journey is that father may attend college. He has been working away through the years, but the difficulties have been great. The migratory and wild life he has led has almost shut him off from any chance to study. But now the opportunity has come, and throwing up his business, he leaves his children with friends, and with his wife enters college. Here we turn to his journal again, and find on record the following:
Victoria College, January 15th, 1849.
Deeply indebted to God for kind friends, and a thousand other manifestations of His mercy and Providence, I would anew dedicate myself to His service, praying for a deeper work of grace.
From another extract we take from his journal, the reader will see that the long-looked-for opportunity for acquirement of an education, by the force of circumstances is nipped almost in the bud. Father barely puts in a term at college.
This morning I leave for Alderville, to enter upon the arduous task of a missionary life, to fill the two-fold offices of preacher and superintendent of the boys of the industrial school. May my grace be proportioned to my day, and by that grace I hope to perform the duties enjoined upon me ; but in every possible way to further that great cause to which I have devoted my life, may the all-wise God make up that which is deficient in me. Amen.
From college he went to Alderville, which was then the seat of a large industrial institution, under the supervision of the Rev. William Case, to whom father became assistant, having a special charge over the boys of the institution.
Here he made himself so useful that very soon almost all the responsibility in connection with the institution devolved upon him, as also prosecuting the adjoining circuit work. Keeping his object before him of becoming a missionary to the aboriginal tribes of the land, he was very much exercised by two things: one, getting into the ministry, a barrier having arisen in the fact of his being a married man; the other, the field wherein most acceptably and successfully to labor.
In the one case, friends in the Conference, notably Elder Case, rallied round him, and he was accepted as probationer; in the other, the growing missionary spirit of the Church found him the field.