We were now well settled into our Indian home at Sarnia and my work was clearly defined. The Sarnia Reserve was our head-quarters. Here there were some 400 Indians, and at Kettle Point, thirty miles away, were about 100 more. The out-stations were to be New Credit, Saugeen, and Cape Croker, which places together contained about 1150 Indians. The idea was to place a catechist at each of these distant settlements, and for me to visit them twice or three times in the year. With the view of providing catechists suitable for the work I was authorized by the Church Missionary Society to receive and educate some young men; and within a few months after we had taken up our residence on the Reserve I commenced to teach two young Indians, named Wilson Jacobs and William Henry, with the view of their becoming catechists.
The great event of the summer was a visit we received from the Bishop of Huron and Mrs. Cronyn. The fact that twenty-five persons were confirmed, and that forty-five came forward afterwards to receive the Holy Communion, will show that our work among these poor Indians had already made some progress. Among the candidates for confirmation was poor old Quasind, who came up bare-footed, a great-grandfather, and, I suppose, about ninety years of age. In the evening our own child, Archibald Edward, was christened during the time of Divine service by the Bishop.
The following day we had appointed to have a gathering of Indians, a sort of social party, to meet the Bishop. When morning broke, however, rain was pouring in torrents, and a picnic on the grass became altogether out of the question. So, after early dinner, our hall was cleared, and the business of cutting up bread-and-butter and cake and preparing the tea began. Two or three Indian women had made their appearance, and were soon hard at work with merry faces and busy hands. About 6 p.m. the Indians began to arrive, and by half-past seven sixty had collected. Tea being ready, we called in as many as we could pack into our hall; others sat in the passage or on cordwood piles outside; then each had a cup and saucer given him, and baskets full of bread-and-butter, buns, and cake, and tea were carried round, and all ate their fill.
The hall table was covered with books, illustrated magazines, maps, &c., and as soon as the Indians had finished tea they took up these and amused themselves with the pictures. There was a draught-board also, which engrossed the attention of some of the young men, many of them being very clever in playing the game. An old Indian, generally known as “the Doctor,” caused great merriment by singing one or two old Indian songs in that peculiar tone of voice which only an Indian can command. The great event of the evening was the conferring of an Indian name on our little boy, only a few months old. The task was delegated to old Shesheet. The old man came forward with his usual radiant face, and after a few prefatory remarks, expressing his great pleasure in meeting the Bishop and Mrs. Cronyn, he took “the pale-faced babe” into his arms and conferred upon it the name of “Tecumseh,” a great warrior who many years ago fell in battle fighting under the British flag. After I had thanked the Indians for making my little boy one of themselves, the Bishop rose and gave a very nice address, which Wagimah interpreted. He told them how anxious he had been to see these, his Indian brothers and sisters, ever since he had heard of their becoming members of the Church of their great mother the Queen. He was very pleased indeed to see them, and so was his “squaw,” who had come with him, and he wished them every prosperity and happiness and the blessing of God on the Mission. Before parting we sang a hymn, and then closed with prayer and the blessing. The Bishop and Mrs. Cronyn stood up at the end of the hall and shook hands with the Indians one by one as they passed out.
In accordance with the instructions I had received from the C.M.S., I made arrangements as soon as practicable for placing a catechist in charge of the Kettle Point Mission, and about this time gave up employing an interpreter, as his services would be no longer needed, and I had now a good stock of sermons written in Indian which I could use at my Sunday services. Before long, John Jacobs, the young native student already mentioned, and who, after satisfactorily passing his course at the Theological College, was ordained in July 1869, took up his abode at Kettle Point as my assistant Missionary. Besides preaching on the Sunday, he taught school during the week, so that his time was well occupied.
It was just about this time that I had a severe attack of fever, which for the time quite prostrated me, and my medical adviser ordered me to go away for a few weeks’ rest and change of air. So Mr. Jacobs came to take my place at Sarnia and with two of his sisters occupied the Mission-house during our absence. After spending a week with friends in Toronto, we thought we would explore a more northern region, and visit Mr. Chance’s Mission at Garden River, which we had often beard of, so we took train to Collingwood, and were soon on our way up the lakes in the beautiful steamboat _Chicora_.
Thus was God gradually opening the way for us, and preparing for us a larger and more important sphere of work.
It was on this visit to Garden River that I first felt drawn in spirit towards the Indians of the Lake Superior region, that there first entered into my mind the idea of an institution for training the young Indians, and that I first made the acquaintance of the old Indian chief, Augustin Shingwauk.