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The Life of James Robertson

THE year 1881 will be remembered by Western Canadians as long as an old timer survives to recount the wild tales of those wild days. The country was possessed of a spirit of adventure. Land fever, the germs of which lie in every human heart, had smitten the peoples into whose ears had come the rumour of the wheat lands of Western Canada. For three years, ever since the railway had made the West easily accessible, this rumour had spread till in the townships of Eastern Canada the sturdy farmer and his sons had caught a vision of wide stretches of waving wheat reaching to the horizon, and, selling their narrow fields, they had "struck" the Western trail. Into the remote and secluded hamlets of the home countries, too, across the sea, this rumour of land had made its way, and falling upon the ears of the land-hungry among these sorely be-taxed and be-feud folk, had set a fever burning in their bones till they sold all and sailed for the far away West. And, small wonder, for here was land, rich and deep and free to all who cared to "take it up," land without feu or rental, with no shadow of overlord or factor or rent-racker to fall across it, land free as God’s free air. No wonder the peoples went mad. But, alas! out of this fever greed would make gain, for however land may be free from the hand of God, by man’s hand are burdens soon laid upon it. Hence, men began traffic in land, till for the poor man none was available but such as lay far from civilization.

And so west and south and north the land-seekers thronged the back trails, disappearing over the rim of the prairie and forgotten—but not by all. Fathers and mothers could not forget their sons, and the great mother Church, too, remembered her children with longing, and with a sense of responsibility more or less deep. Hence, the Superintendent of Western Missions.

His was even then a field of "magnificent distances." For though the settlements lay for the most part within a radius of two hundred miles from Winnipeg, from the far hinterland there came tales of little settlements and lonely homesteaders beyond touch of their Church, and now and then a cry from some distant outpost for help, as from far-off Edmonton, nine hundred miles away. None too soon had the Manitoba Presbytery overtured the Venerable the General Assembly for a man to be given the task of finding out and of caring for these lonely settlers, and none too soon that august body, charged with the spiritual shepherding of nearly a thousand families that were known to be strewn far and wide over a thousand miles of prairie, had, set apart a man to be eyes and ears and hands to the Church on behalf of these her far-strewn children, who, in their hunger for land and treasure, were sorely tempted to forget that better country and the treasure that will not pass away. But to find them out and to bring them under the Church’s care was a task which seemed to the Committee in Toronto almost beyond their resources to accomplish. The treasury was empty, labourers could not be had, and the Church as a whole was all but indifferent, because only vaguely aware of the facts.

To this as a first duty, therefore, the new Superintendent set himself, to get to know the facts himself, and then to get his Church to know them. For he had this faith, that having clear knowledge of these facts, at once terrible and inspiring, the Church could not rest indifferent to them. And throughout the whole course of his superintendency this twofold duty he kept steadily in mind and ever strove to fulfill, to know the facts and to make his Church know them.

Given a work to do, the Superintendent was not the man to delay its doing. And so, in less than a week after he has entered upon his office, we find him on the trail. On the 24th of July of this year, 1881, the Presbytery dissolved the tie that bound him to Knox Church, and on July 29th we have him writing to his wife from Dominion City: "I am making my first official visit as Superintendent of Missions to this place to-day." Dominion City is in a tangle and is discouraged, and it is significant of all his future service that his first bit of work is to compose difficulties and to cheer on the discouraged. From Dominion City he proceeds to Morris, where he conducts service on the Sabbath day, returning to Winnipeg the day after. "I do not know what course I shall take after that," he writes. "I am now inclined to visit the Little Saskatchewan country first. Things are in a bad state there, I fear." It will always be so. Where things are in a bad state, there will this Superintendent be found.

He decides that his first missionary tour shall be in the Little Saskatchewan country, but before he leaves the city there is a difficulty to be met which concerns his fellow-workers in the West. Their fields have fallen into arrears of salary till there is due the somewhat serious amount of $1,789.67. With the Convener of the Assembly’s Home Mission Committee upon the spot, the moment is favourable for settlement, and so a conference is held, and it is agreed that the missionaries shall lose $568. 00, the Manitoba Presbytery shall raise $761.67, and the remaining $500 the Convener undertakes on behalf of the Eastern Committee. So, in the month of August, with the slate clean, the Superintendent with his new horse and buckboard, into which he packs his new tent and camp outfit, sets off for the Little Saskatchewan country.

The 20th of August finds him in Brandon, from which he writes to his wife:

"My DEAR WIFE :— "By the heading of this you will see that I have reached the city of Brandon at last. My last to you was, I think (I am passing so quickly, though, I almost forget), from Milford. I went up to Lang’s Valley and arranged for service there, and finding I could not cross the Souris without some risk, I concluded to return to Milford and cross by the ferry. I then came to Mair’s Landing and stayed there all night. Yesterday morning I struck out for the Brandon Hills, about eleven miles out, and called at Killam’s. After finding out all the Presbyterians in that neighbourhood, I came over to Bertram’s, about two miles, and had the horse fed and got dinner for myself. It was raining some, but not much. I started away and called at Mr. Chapman’s. They were busy shocking up some wheat. Moving on, I called at one house and found three women; explained to them the object of my visit and inquired as to the possible injury R— might do us in the course he has chosen to adopt." B— is a disgruntled missionary who, being unequal to the task of shepherding the flock, determines to have his rightful share of the fleece as compensation; a natural enough desire, but one wholly repellent to the soul of the Superintendent and disastrous to the work he has in hand. "I found his influence is little. He has disgusted many by his selfish and secular course. I found, moreover, that the Nova Scotians who came over with him to the south side of the Assiniboine are few in number. Proceeding on my way, I came to his house, and they asked me to stay to tea. I accepted the offer and left soon after. I ascertained from him that there were several Presbyterians to the west and north of the Brandon Hills. Got the names of all he knew. Got him to give me a statement of his claim for expenses. It is rather flimsy, but it is better paid. He got $150 from the people, and claims $300 more for expenses.

"After leaving his house, went on my way to Brandon after dark, and a dark, murky, rainy night it was. Had to cross about four hundred acres of breaking. When I got there, went with my horse to a stable and had him looked after. Went up to Mrs. Douglas’ house and found that she could not accommodate me. Concluded to tent. Her young fellows offered to help me to pitch tent and get hay. Got to work and soon had things snug and comfortable, and was soon asleep. This morning I got up betimes and looked out—foggy it all looked and a heavy odour of skunk was in the air. Got breakfast and found horse all right. Stay here tomorrow and go to Grand Valley and Boggy Creek. Am in excellent health and enjoy trip very much."

Thus filling his note-book with statistics of all kinds, he pursues his way, going still north and west, everywhere discovering lost and strayed sheep of the Presbyterian fold, and everywhere leaving behind him something in the way of organization for their shepherding and much good hope and comfort. A letter, dated four days later, finds him still further north and west of Bran-don. Having left Rapid City behind him, he writes as follows:

"You see I have made another stage in my tour. I sent you a letter from Brandon in the morning. The attendance at Brandon was about sixty. The service was held in an unfinished house. In the afternoon, I preached at Grand Valley, about three miles down the river. The building was a rude shanty. The gaps between the boards were large and the place was airy. There was no floor, not even a door, except a board nailed across to keep cattle out. Birds had come in freely during the week evidently, and left traces of their presence on the desk. There was an attendance of about sixty-five. At the close of the service in both places I explained to the people the state of our Mission fund and got committee appointed and to work. Got back to Brandon by dusk and found about seventy teams crossing the ferry from the north to the south side of the Assiniboine loaded with railroad plant and oats. It is too bad that there should be such utter disregard of the Sabbath and its claims.

"Was in time to hear part of a sermon from Professor Burwash of Victoria University, Cobourg. Went out on Monday to Elton, about twelve or thirteen miles, to a station of Mr. Hyde’s. Quite a number assembled there and I preached and organized committees and gave directions. I returned home aud went to call on a minister, Mr. F—, who is settled at Grand Valley, but who does not come to church. I found him at home, but his residence was rude and uncomfortable. He had some men harvesting for him and a neighbour woman cooking. The place was very uninviting. Had a long talk with him and a service with him and men, and found that he made the excuse of poverty the plea for non-attendance on ordinances.

"Drove to Brandon, and, after putting horse away, went through the town to find out who lived in it. Nobody appears to know anybody else there. They speak to each other, but do not know each other’s names. Went to one store and found a man taking in some goods that had been exposed all day at the door. I asked whose store it was, thinking him a clerk. He scratched his head and said, ‘Well, I don’t know what his name is. We call him Johnny.’

"Next morning did the rest of Brandon and found out who the Presbyterians are. Gave a list to Mr. Ferries and told him to visit them all and any others coming in. It will never do to have him stationed out so far. If he is to be minister there he must reside in the town." Mr. Ferries is, doubtless, on a homestead, seeking to establish for himself and his family a home, a laudable enough idea, but inconsistent with the best results for "the Cause," hence the Superintendent will have him change his base. The Cause is first; all else, however worthy, is second. "Took steps also for a place in which to worship all winter. Nobody there has any means, and all are too busy with their own affairs to do anything except they are urged. Mr. F— has not the confidence either. Fear I must return in a short time there. Nothing was done in either place for winter supply. Left Brandon and travelled to Rapid City, twenty or twenty-five miles. Left there to come to Mr. Smith’s."

At this point he is upon the borderland of civilization, but still he presses his way into the then unknown territory, till he reaches the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post at Fort Ellis, from which he writes the following note to his wife:

"I arrived here last evening at sunset and held service with the men at the Fort. Mr. McDonald is absent at Grand Valley. Mrs. McDonald did much to make me comfortable. Mr. Hodnett came up with me. He goes back this morning, and I go alone to Shell River, thirtyfive miles distant. There is a good trail, the day is fine, and I have no fear. There was frost here last night, the first of the season. The scenery here is very fine. Next year I must bring you West here to see snatches of scenery that have pleased me much. The country here differs much from what we have in Eastern Manitoba."

By September 27th he is on his return journey, working his way back towards Winnipeg where he has to meet his Presbytery with his Report. Arriving at Gladstone, he writes to his wife as follows, anxious to keep in touch with her as best as he can:

"You see I am coming nearer the borders of civilization. I am now within forty miles or so of the cars, and that distance can be travelled in a day.

"I left Salisbury on the morning of yesterday and drove to the Beautiful Plains country. For a time the land looked well, although it is somewhat light.

"We reached McGregor Station about three o’clock, and saw quite a number of people about the door. The house was full of very respectable people and I found that there were eight children to be baptized. After service we discussed Church matters and had fifty or sixty dollars subscribed on the spot for Mr. Stewart’s salary. The McGregors are from near our place and knew my father’s people. Stayed all night. I knew we should be among the beasts at Ephesus at night, but I was resigned. They were all very kind—not the beasts—but one could see at once that the whole place must be full of ." This was a condition of things almost universally prevalent at that time in stopping places throughout the West, and one it was almost impossible to prevent, but none the less trying for that. Many a night will he be driven from his bed before "the beasts" have done with him. "Such were my thoughts, and I was not disappointed. My arms and neck had plenty of pink marks with a dark spot in the centre as I washed myself this morning. This morning they took us out after breakfast to see the garden, and it was a fine sight.

"Made a number of calls this afternoon. To-morrow (D. V.) we go to Blake township, northwest of Gladstone. To-morrow evening there is a tea meeting when they expect to pay off the debt on the church. Friday we go to Pine Creek and Saturday we have a meeting here. Sabbath I preach here in the morning, at Woodside in the afternoon and Westbourne in the evening. Next morning I drive to Portage la Prairie and reach Winnipeg that night. The meeting of Presbytery is the following Wednesday and I must prepare my report of work done and get ready for the meeting in Toronto. I intend to come back to Burnside and preach on October 8th, and see the stations under Mr. McRae’s charge. This will occupy my time for two days or so. I intend to leave for Toronto about Thursday of that week and will try and reach you Saturday, so as to spend Sabbath and Monday there. I am trying to arrange ahead, although it is not easy. I ought to return in time to visit stations south of the Assiniboine before winter."

In this whirlwind manner, preaching, visiting, organizing, crowding his days and his nights full of work, he brings to a close his first missionary tour, having driven his buckboard over 2,000 miles and having conducted nearly 200 meetings of various kinds.

He brought back with him a great wealth of knowledge, exact, and in detail, concerning every village, every settlement and, indeed, every homestead he had visited. The country and its resources, the people, their ancestry, their characteristics, their prospects, their difficulties, too, and their needs, the progress of railway building, the administration of Government, the undeveloped wealth of the country, the educational requirements, on these and other subjects relative to the country and its people, he had gathered interesting, full and accurate information. Into his little black note-book, but still more into his tenacious memory, he had packed this knowledge, and all of it he will use some day, for the good of his people and for the glory of God.

On the 11th of October the Assembly’s Home Mission Committee met in Toronto, and to this Committee the Superintendent presented his first report. That was a distinguished Committee, and it was not without trepidation he met them. He was new to the work and there were great men on that Committee, some of the greatest the Canadian Church has known, among them leaders like Cochrane, King, Warden, Macdonnell, Laing, Taylor. No wonder he is conscious of some tremors. But the day will come when he will stand the peer of any of them. Modestly he presents his report, making light of his labour’s, but making much of the needs of the people he represents, and of the opportunities the field offers. The report is received and considered, and, doubtless, is adopted, though of this there is no record. Nor is there mention of a single word of appreciation by this Committee of the work done by the new Superintendent. But there is demand made of him by this financially exacting and painstaking Committee for a report as to the expenditure of a thousand dollars granted the spring before for exploratory work. This, happily, the Superintendent can give, but only in the merest outline. The Committee, however, with a conscience for trust funds will have no outline report in the matter of expenditure of money. So, with the thanks of his Committee, or without them, the record does not say, but with their demand that he should account rigidly for that thousand dollars, he goes back again to his work, and December finds him again on the trail in Southern Manitoba, where, in company with the newly appointed missionary of Pilot Mound, the Rev. James Farquharson, a man truly after his own heart, he drives over a large section of that country. The following extract from a letter written long afterwards by Dr. Farquharson gives a vivid picture of some of their experiences on that trip:

"Dr. Robertson came to my place December, 1881. He visited the stations now organized as Pilot Mound, crystal City, LaRiviere, and Snowflake. Preaching on the Sabbath at Preston and Pilot Mound, on Monday he held a meeting at Clearwater to see what would be done towards calling a minister. After dinner we started for Cartwright, sixteen miles west.

"I stayed in a shack, the Doctor visiting two families. He came back that night, not having received an invitation to remain at either place he visited over night. We passed a night never to be forgotten by either of us.

"Next morning we went to Mr. LaRiviere’s at Turtle Mountain, a distance of thirty miles, over a bleak prairie. The Doctor preached there and left an appointment for organization on our return. Mr. LaRiviere had treated us with very great kindness. He was a French Canadian. The next morning we drove along the base of the mountains sixteen miles, and had dinner at Mr. Miller’s. Left an appointment for our return; continued west sixteen miles to Mr. Newcome’s and stayed over night, preached and organized there, and baptized some children. Kindly treated by Mr. Newcome, who was Dominion Land Agent.

"Returned for the night to Mr. Miller’s. The Doctor preached, organized, and baptized. We took a list of members of the Episcopalian and Methodists to present to their own Churches." He is frankly and very keenly a Presbyterian, but he is a gentleman as well, and a Christian, and on his record there is no stain by reason of failure in the Christian courtesy that refuses to take advantage of a sister Church. "Were very kindly treated. Returned to Mr. LaRiviere’s, preached, organized, and remained over night. It was pleasant to see how he would get the confidence of the people. He was simply Mr. Robertson, one of themselves.

"We broke our cutter, and had to buy a jumper from the half-breeds. We fastened the cutter on top of the jumper, and the next morning drove to my place, a distance of fifty miles.

"It was on that tour that Dr. Robertson decided that the number of children for a school should be changed from fourteen to eight. Owing to the amount of railroad land, the country was very thinly settled. As he expressed it—we must meet the educational needs of the children, or the next generation will grow up in ignorance. At the first meeting of the School Board in Winnipeg he brought the matter up and had the number changed from fourteen to eight scholars for a school.

"I have heard Dr. Robertson tell how the vermin he carried with him after that night at Cartwright became so intolerable that when he reached LaRiviere’s little store at what is now Wakopa, he bought a suit of underclothing. When he asked for the clothing, LaRiviere said, ‘What? Did you sleep at the Badger?’ (The early name for Cartwright.)"

A little later the tour of this part of Manitoba was completed, of which Dr. Farquharson writes as follows:

"Again I accompanied him on a tour of visitation for four or five days. He usually addressed two meetings a day, and always one, and drove from ten to twenty miles. We had expected that the meeting on the Friday evening would close the week’s work, so that each of us might return to our place of preaching for the Sabbath; but at the close of the Friday evening meeting we learned that there was a settlement about twelve miles further on, composed largely of Presbyterians, in which there was no service. Immediately our plans were changed, so that Saturday could be spent in the new settlement. That night was spent in ‘a stopping place,’ and Dr. Robertson and I roomed together in a small bedroom off the sitting room. We roomed together, but we slept not, neither did we lie down to rest. A hurried inspection revealed the fact that the bed was preempted by the living pest which a man shakes not off, as in the morning he crawls from under the bed clothing. We determined to keep the fire in the sitting-room going, and so maintain a degree of comfort during the winter night. But some parties, by making a bed beside the sitting-room stove, spoiled our plan and imprisoned us in our room for the night. We walked the floor, we jumped, and, if not very artistically, at least with some vigour, we danced, that the temperature of the body might be maintained at a considerably higher rate than the temperature of the room. The night passed, and so did the breakfast hour, and we started on our twelve-mile drive.

"On arriving at the centre of the settlement, a house for the evening meeting was very cordially placed at our disposal, and we started to drive round the settlement for the purpose of inviting the people to the meeting. Returning, we had supper and awaited the arrival of the congregation.

"In a small dwelling-house with low ceiling, some twenty settlers gathered for the service. What is there in such a meeting place or in such a company to arouse the enthusiasm of the preacher? There would have been nothing surprising if the languor incident to a week of such work and a sleepless night had robbed the address of every particle of life. Yet Dr. Robertson spoke with all the vigour of the man who steps out from his comfortable study to an equally comfortable church and a congregation capable of inspiring enthusiasm for the one service of the day. That night another station was added to Manitoba’s rapidly growing list of preaching stations.

"Early next morning we parted, Dr. Robertson to go west and I east. He would travel at least forty miles that day, probably more."

Nothing appeared to tire him, so, at least, we thought at that time. We found later that the eager, invincible spirit was chafing thin even that sinewy body.

So the winter months find him still on the trail, heedless of frost or blizzard, till the holiday season is upon him, and he writes this touching Christmas letter dated December 26th from Winnipeg, Man.

"Mr DEAR WIFE:— "It is nearly four in the morning and I have not gone to bed yet. I am going west to-morrow, or rather to-day, as far as Big Plains, and 1 am getting things into shape. I have been writing all day and have just got through. Xmas was a quiet day with me this year. Many a time during the day I wondered what you were all doing. I would have given a good deal to have been with you. What did my poor children get for presents this year, and mamma? I could not get anything through the post of any account, and I concluded to get my presents when I went down. How I would have liked to see their pleasant glee and to hear their noises in the morning. But I must do without, this year. I went into several stores on Saturday and envied the folks buying for their children. But after this year I trust to be with you at Xmas. Mr. Hart invited Thomson and myself for midday dinner. We had a swell affair, though no plum pudding. A special dinner was served at the Queens at night. I send you the bill of fare. The place was hung with Chinese lanterns and everything was most tastefully arranged. The waiting, as usual, was abominable, and the dinner was spoiled. The folks succeeded in getting well drunk. I got away after the eating was done. I thought I saw some women who were a little funny after the affair..... . . . I am trying to get up a church building scheme. I enclose a circular so that you can see what it is. It is necessary that something be done. I am promised some aid here, and after canvassing the city I will see what can be done below.

"Knox Church is talking about selling the Church again. They want $100,000, for it. Should they get it I want them to head the list with $10,000."

Christmas is a great family festival with the Robert-sons, but this Christmas is to the father and mother, at least, one of the sad days of the year, for on that day of all days the fact of separation is borne in upon them most heavily. "After this year I trust to be with you at Christmas." How little they knew, and how good they did not know, that once and once only during nineteen years will he eat Christmas dinner with his family. Every year he plans to get home, and every year duty imperatively forbids his indulging his desire. So a letter, and always a telegram, will need to bring the Christmas greetings to wife and children year after year.

Early in March he is touring the East in the interests of the Church and Manse Building Fund, in which business he will persist till the meeting of the General Assembly. To that Assembly he presents his first report as Superintendent of Missions. That report goes far to settle the mind of the Church as to the wisdom of its action in making appointment of a Superintendent of Missions. The report does more. It impresses upon the Church the fact that henceforth, and for some years, there must be serious reckoning with the mission field lying beyond the Lakes. There is something doing in that country, and the Church would do well to take heed thereof. Those buckboard journeys of the Superintendent have been productive of valuable discoveries, 1,000 families, for instance, 900 Presbyterian young men and young women, mostly young men, 900 members in full communion, all of whom, till the Superintendent found them, had escaped the observation of the Church. More than this, the report awakened suspicion that there were still many undiscovered in the byways of the new land. But something had been accomplished for the shepherding of these. No fewer than forty new stations had been planted upon the prairie, and fourteen new congregations had been settled, while, to use his own great phrase, "visibility and permanence" had been given to the cause by the erection of ten new churches. Further, the report makes evident that the appointment of a Superintendent has been financially justified, for by reason of organization and good management there has accrued to the coffers of the Church a gain of $26,000 over last year, and for the Home Mission Fund alone an increase of more than what will pay the Superintendent’s salary.

In that first report we catch two notes that presage a policy in mission and educational administration fraught with large advantage to the West. One, the warning that the abandoning of mission fields during the winter season means serious loss to the Church; the other, the suggestion that for the adequate supply of missionaries for the West there must one day be a Western Theological College. In this warning and in this suggestion we have the germs of the Summer Session, and of the Theological Department of Manitoba College.

But wonderful as had been the development of the country and the expansion of Home Mission operations during the year 1881—1882, when the Superintendent met the General Assembly of 1883 he had a story to tell that made that venerable body sit wide awake. This report for 1883 is perhaps in some senses the greatest paper ever presented to the Presbyterian Church in Canada. It is a striking presentation of startling and inspiring facts and is a masterpiece of logical and incisive reasoning, and it

is worthy of a permanent place in the story of the making of Western Canada. It is the statement, not of a churchman alone interested in the progress of his peculiar denomination. True, he is an official of the Presbyterian Church, but he is more; he is a Canadian, loyal, devoted to his country’s good, and enthusiastically optimistic for the West and pledged to its development. He is a statesman with a statesman’s eye for strategic moments in the national life. He is a man of affairs with instincts for financial returns. But, more than all, he is a man with human sympathies, keenly alive to the trials and struggles of men and women fighting their long lonely fight as pioneers in a new land. The report is worth reading. Here, for instance, is a picture of the West striding on to greatness:

"Last year witnessed a greater advance in the work of our Church in the Northwest than any previous year in its history. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway has given a great impetus to settlement. Large numbers of men find employment in building the road and in procuring ties and timber. The railway affords to settlers a quick and easy method of reaching the fertile lands of the interior, and provides a market for the products of the soil. The Government Railway and Land Companies have also succeeded in directing a considerable portion of the stream of emigration, from Great Britain and the continent of Europe, to the Northwest. Few are aware of how rapidly the country is being settled. Nearly 450 miles of the main line were graded and ironed last season. For 300 miles west of Brandon the road lies through a continuous stretch of good agricultural land. For twelve or fifteen miles on both sides of the line the even numbered sections have been preempted, or entered as homesteads. The railway company, owing to its liberal terms, has also disposed of a good deal of its land contiguous to the line. Large settlements are also found along the left bank of the Qu’Appelle and the right bank of the South Saskatchewan. Southwestern Manitoba has attracted a large number of immigrants, and they have passed westward over the boundary line into the new Province of Assiniboia. For 125 miles west of the Turtle Mountain there is now a continuous settlement. It would be within the mark to say that between eighty and one hundred townships, of thirty-six square miles each, were settled in this quarter alone during the year. In other words, there were two belts settled last season, the one along the railway west of Brandon, about 300 miles in length (as far as from Toronto to Montreal), and from twenty-five to fifty in width; and the other in Southwestern Manitoba, 125 miles in length, and from eighteen to twenty-five miles wide."

And who in all Canada was aware of all this taking place ? And who would look for such facts in a Church report ? The report proceeds: "Much land in the eastern parts of the country, which had been passed over by the fastidious settlers of a few years ago, was also taken up. Settlement is also stretching northward, from Fort Qu’Appelle towards Prince Albert, a number of families having found a home last year in the neighbourhood of the Touchwood Hills. Along the railway, towns and villages are fast springing up, which will soon become important centres of trade. Two years ago, in Brandon there was not a house; now there is a town of 4,000 souls. Steps are taken everywhere to effect municipal organization, and to provide schools and the other requisites of civilized life."

He can speak with authority, for well does he know every municipality. He has driven through them all in his buckboard or cutter. Then like a knife-thrust he pierces the conscience of his Church with this pertinent question, "What is to be done for the spiritual welfare of such centres?" That question he will continue to press, now in one form and now in another, till the Church will take heed. Then, remembering be is addressing himself especially to Presbyterians, he gives them this as food for thought:

"The volume of immigration last season was estimated at between 45,000 and 50,000. As in the past, the newcomers were largely members and adherents of our own Church. The arrivals from England and Scotland were more numerous than in any previous year. They express themselves as pleased with the country and their prospects, and are inviting their relatives and acquaintances to join them. Through the influence of our present population we may confidently expect that for years to come immigration from Ontario and Britain will be largely of the religious complexion of past years. The Presbyterian Church, therefore, should regard as settled the fact that upon her falls largely the responsibility of giving the Gospel to this incoming population."

"Responsibility," that is the word for a Church with a conscience towards God in regard to the country in which by His eternal decree she finds herself placed. She has been attempting to meet this responsibility, and with some success. But the report goes on: "Only occasional supply could be given west of Braudon during the autumn and winter. There were nearly 400 townships in which were to be found thousands of Presbyterians to whom no minister of our Church broke the Bread of Life. During the last six months there were extensive districts in which no minister of any Church conducted religious servjces." And then follows this pregnant word: "If Christian effort is thus stinted in the infancy of the country, permanent injury will be inflicted."

The problem of mission work in the West is, in the last analysis, a problem of men. Given a sufficient number of missionaries and of the right stamp, and the highest interests of the country will be secure. But not every man will do. So the Superintendent has discovered.

"The minister that will attract and hold these people must commend himself to them as a man and a Christian. With them the office and denomination will avail little; but personal character and pulpit-power much. The lame in intellect, or the limping in education, will have a thin audience." Good men they must be, but they must be well cared for. Hence salaries must be adequate and homes provided. "No Church can afford to starve its pioneers." But though the supply of labourers has been woefully inadequate, the progress of the work has not been inconsiderable. Whereas in 1882 there was reported a gain of forty stations, this year the gain is fifty-one, and fourteen congregations have erected church buildings.

The Superintendent always has an eye to the hardheaded Scots that form the majority of the business men of his Church, and to whom he well knows he must look for the financial support of this great work, and, therefore, he is at pains to make it clear that this Home Mission business is a paying investment. And hence, the report calls attention to the fact that there has been a gain throughout the Presbytery in contributions for the support of the ministry of over $12,000, in contributions for the schemes of the Church, a gain of nearly $2,500 and for all purposes a gain of nearly $40,000. This astonishing result will be in the Superintendent’s hands a mighty lever for the prying open of the money chests of these same business men.

The report closes with an exhaustive estimate of the undeveloped resources of the country in agricultural products, cattle and horses, coal and other minerals. The final words of this report constitute this noble appeal:

"The next few years are to decide largely the religious future of this country. God is calling on us to go in and possess the land. The success vouchsafed to us in the past, the possibilities of the country and the religious wants of its people, should stimulate us, as patriots, as men and Christians, to accomplish what God has given us to do. May God grant that we may discern the signs of the times and in His strength go forward."

The effect upon the Assembly of this great report and of the modest but great speech of the Superintendent is remembered yet by many who were present that day. In that brief hour, it is safe to say, the Church passed into a distinctly new era of Home Mission work. She began to realize somewhat dimly, it is true, that the day of small things had gone, that the time for large measures had come.

It was this Assembly of 1883 that, in response to an overture from Manitoba Presbytery, instituted a Theological Faculty in Manitoba College, and appointed as Principal and Proffessor in Divinity, one of her most distinguished ministers, holding one of the most important charges in the Church.

Seldom has the wisdom of the General Assembly been more signally manifested than in the choice of the Rev. J. M. King, at that time minister of St. James’ Square Church, Toronto, to be Principal of Manitoba College. In a time of serious financial depression throughout the Province, and with the College almost hopelessly in debt, he took charge of its affairs, and before many years had passed was able to report the College free of debt, with its building doubled in size, and with an endowment fund of very considerable magnitude. From the time of his appointment till his death, Manitoba College ranked easily first among the educational institutions in the West.

In the promoting of the overture in Presbytery, and in supporting it before the Assembly, the Superintendent took a leading part. None saw more clearly than he that the moral and intellectual future of the West was bound up with the establishing and equipping of adequate institutions of learning. Throughout its whole history, the Superintendent was a warm friend of the College, and between the Principal and himself there remained unbroken to the end a bond of mutual affection and respect. Their spheres, though distinct, included much common ground, for the progress of the one involved that of the other, and though each of these strong men pushed his own special work with all the intensity of his nature, they each recognized that ultimately the aim of both was the same, namely, the moral and spiritual elevation of Western Canada. There was no more enthusiastic champion of Home Missions than Principal King, and no more staunch friend of the College than the Superintendent of Missions, though the Principal was heard to aver with that grim humour that was his own, "The Superintendent preaches on Manitoba College and takes up a collection for Home Missions."

It was this year, too, that the Manitoba Presbytery presented a memorial to the Assembly praying for the division of the Presbytery into three, and setting forth at length the arrangement desired, with reasons therefore. The Assembly appointed a special committee to deal with the memorial, which committee suggested that the matter be referred to the Assembly’s Home Mission Committee.

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