Six Nation’s Missionaries
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The missionary demands notice as he, above all others, has left his impress on the life and character of the Indian.
The Ven. Archdeacon Nelles may be regarded as the pioneer missionary to the Indian. His work covers half a century, and, though, for some years, he has not been an active worker amongst the Indians, a solicitude for their welfare still actuates him. His province has been rather that of general superintendence of the New England Company’s servants, than one involving much active mingling with the Indians. The association of his name with that time-honored and revered structure, the old Mohawk Church, is his, grandest testimonial to his fruitful labor on the Reserve.
The Rev. Adam Eliot, whose widow still lives in the old missionary home, was a man of a singularly gentle and lovable disposition. In his contact with the Indian, the influence, if haply any could be exerted, was certain to be on the side of the good. He was one who moved about the Reserve with the savor of a quiet and godly life ever cleaving to him, a life, radiating forth, as it were, to circle and embrace others in the folds of its benign influence. He was tender, and unaffected in his piety. His life and work have left their abiding mark on the Indian character.
The Rev. R. J. Roberts was the first missionary who was really a constant resident on the Reserve, and this circumstance, no doubt, assured in larger measure his usefulness. I believe him to have been filled strongly with the missionary spirit, and with ardent zeal for the furthering of his Master’s cause. His poor health always handicapped him, but I feel confident he leaves behind him, in the kind memories of many of his charges, a monument of his work not to be despised.
The Rev. James Chance was one of the old English type of clergyman, cheery, genial, and whole-souled. Had he planned nothing higher than the infusing of some of his own geniality into the Indian nature; and, had his missionary work effected nothing greater than this, his would have been no unworthy part. As the spiritual husbandman, he strove so to break up the fallow ground, that the harvest of souls might be the more bountiful.
I have not referred to the later or present occupants of the mission-field amongst the Indians, as they were, or have been identified for so short a time with them. I would also say, that it is from no denial to them of the achieving of solid, lasting work, that I have not alluded to missionaries outside of the Episcopal body. I have merely made such allusions here as personal contact with the missionaries has enabled me to record.
It may be thought that any work which contemplates the chronicling of the Indian’s history, will be incomplete, which should fail to trace the career of Thayandanagea, or Chief Joseph Brant; or which should, at least, withhold reference to that mighty chieftain. Lest my making no mention of Brant here might be taken as denying to him the possession of those sublime qualities, which have formed the theme for so much of laudatory writing, I make a passing allusion to his life, passing, because his acts and career have engaged the ability and eloquence of so many writers of repute for their due commemoration, that I cannot hope to say anything that should cause further honor or glory to attach to his name.
Brant, above all others of his race, deserves an abiding place in the memories of his countrymen, and he is entitled to be held in enduring remembrance by us also.
In the war waged by Britain against the United States in 1812-15, he allied himself, it is well known, with the British. He bridled license and excess among his people, and strove to add luster to the British arms, by dissuading them from giving rein to any of those practices, nay, by putting his stern interdict on all those practices, into which Indian tribes are so prone to be betrayed, and to which they are frequently incited by merciless chiefs. He posed, indeed, during the war as the apostle of clemency, not as the upholder of the traditional cruelty of the Indian.
He always displayed conspicuous bravery, and was the exponent, in his own person, of that intense and unflinching loyalty, which I verily believe to be bound up with the life of every Indian.
His loyalty was untainted with the slightest suspicion of treachery, another vile characteristic from which he redeemed the Indian nature.
The position of Brant and of Sir Walter Scott, so far as each has left living descendant to uphold his name, is almost analogous, and marks a rather interesting coincidence. The male line in both families is extinct. Sir Walter’s blood runs now only in the daughter of his grand-daughter: two daughters alone of a grand-daughter are living, who own the blood of Brant.
Brant is buried in the graveyard of the old Mohawk Church, a building instinct with memories of the departed might and prowess of the Indian.