The winter of 1882 was a sad time. There was great mortality all through the country, and our Homes did not escape.
Our kind friend, Mrs. Fauquier, who, though a constant invalid, had done very much to promote the interests and welfare of our Girls’ Home, was called away to the Heavenly Rest on the 4th of November, 1881. During the last few years of her life she had made the Wawanosh Home her special care, her work for Christ. Those girls were always in her thoughts: she it was who devised their uniform dress of blue serge trimmed with scarlet, and got friends in England to supply them; she chose the furniture for the Home and fitted the lady superintendent’s rooms so prettily and tastefully. Many were the kind words of counsel that the girls received from her, and it used to be her delight to have them to visit her in the afternoon at the See House.
Only a month had passed after we heard of Mrs. Fauquier’s death,–she died in New York,–when the appalling tidings reached us that the Bishop, too, was gone. He had died suddenly in Toronto on December 7th. In the same mail bag which brought the sad news was a letter to me from him, written only an hour or two before he died.
“The sad void,” he wrote, “which my dear wife’s departure hence has made seems to grow wider and deeper; and it seems difficult to settle down to work as of old. I must try to realize more fully than I have done in the past what a blessing her presence for more than thirty years has been. How true it is that we seldom appreciate our blessings and privileges until they are taken from us.”
The church at Sault Ste. Marie was draped with black the following Sunday, and the Indian children of the Homes wore black scarves in token of respect for him who had had their welfare so much at heart.
The next death was that of our carpenter’s wife: she had been ailing all through the previous autumn, and died January 2nd.
Then three days later we lost one of the Indian boys, a little fellow named Charlie Penahsewa, who had only been with as a few months. We buried him the next day in our little cemetery at 7 p.m. The boys carried torches.
Several other boys were at this time in the sick room, two or three also of the Wawanosh girls were ill, and the doctor was to and fro at both the Homes.
Poor little Beaconsfield, one of the Michipicotin boys who had been baptized at the same time as Frederick, was among the sick. His only name when he first came to us, nearly five years before, was Chegauns (little man close by); he was a little wild pagan boy, but with soft eyes and gentle disposition, like Frederick, and was very quick to learn. A kind lady in Kingston undertook his support, and took great interest in him, and at her wish we named him “Benjamin Beaconsfield.” We had every reason to hope and believe that there was a work of grace in his heart. The little fellow had a tender conscience, and would come and tell me if he had been playing on Sunday or had told an untruth, and would ask me to pray for him. Another boy in the sick room was little Peter, Peterans as we called him [ans at the end of a word makes its diminutive]; he was a grandchild of my old friend, widow Quakegwah, at Sarnia. We sent him and another little fellow who was ailing to the Wawanosh, for change of air and more careful nursing. But it was all in vain. Beaconsfield died on the 16th of January, and little Peter died at the Wawanosh on the 8th of February. They were both buried in our little cemetery.
After this I had to go down to Toronto to attend to diocesan matters, and was away about two months, going through the Muskoka district, and being present in Montreal when the Provincial Synod met, and our new Bishop, Dr. Sullivan, was unanimously elected.
When I returned to the Shingwauk things looked brighter; the sick room was empty, and every one seemed more cheery. But our hopes were doomed to be disappointed. I had only been home three days when my dear boy, William Sahgucheway, the captain of our school, was taken suddenly ill with inflammation, and a day or two later we were in the greatest alarm about him. I felt about him as I had about Frederick–that surely his life would be spared to us, he of all others was the one whom we looked to as the pride and hope of our Institution; he was nineteen years of age, and was looking forward and preparing for the ministry. But it was not to be. God had called him, and eight days after he was taken ill and died. In the next chapter I shall give a little account of his life.
Three days after William was buried, the bodies of our late dear Bishop and Mrs. Fauquier arrived in charge of two of their sons, it having been their expressed wish to be buried in our little cemetery with our Indian children. On Monday, the 22nd, the long funeral cortege moved slowly to the cemetery. There was a large gathering of people both from the Canadian and American sides–people of all classes and creeds. First, the clergy in their surplices, then the Indian boys, two and two, one of them, who had been supported by the late Bishop, carrying a banner with the words, “He rests from his labours;” then came the hearse bearing the late Bishop’s remains, with four horses, all draped, and the Wawanosh girls followed, one of them bearing a banner with the words, “She is not dead, but sleepeth;” then the hearse, and members of the family and other mourners–a long mournful procession. A vault had been prepared, and the coffins, covered with flowers, were laid within it, and the latter part of the Burial Service read. Thus the good, kind-hearted, self-sacrificing Bishop, the first Bishop of this wild Missionary diocese, and his afflicted yet devoted wife, who had laboured so earnestly for the welfare of the Indians during the latter part of their lives, were now laid side by side in the Indian cemetery to await the joyful resurrection to eternal life.
The very next grave to the Bishop’s was that of Frederick, the Neepigon boy.
Before the summer holidays commenced, the cemetery gate had once more to be opened and the earth once more to be turned, for another boy, Simon Altman, from Walpole Island, was dead. This was the fifth boy who had died during the winter, not from any malignant disease or fever, but from various causes, and seven bodies in all had been committed to the silent dust. For a time we were afraid that the saddening effect of so many deaths would lead to a complete break up of our work, as the Indians are of course very superstitious and might be afraid to send any more of their children to us.
Next autumn our number at both the Homes was very much reduced, still we were able to keep on, and now our pupils are once more steadily on the increase.