Lonesome life of prairie missionary

Settlers were few and far between on the parish of an Anglican missionary that stretched across 100 miles of prairie in southern Alberta. An Alberta settler’s log cabin in 1898. Glenbow Archives NA614-21.


A young Anglican missionary, 14 months out from England, talks to a Regina Standard reporter about the challenges of his parish, a prairie wilderness that extends from Calgary to the American border, September 11, 1891.

“My parish is 100 miles long and forty miles wide, and at least once a year I am expected to visit every person in it,” he says in the interview. “It is a pretty hard life, and sometimes I wish I were in old England again.”

Under a broad-brimmed, black felt hat, he spends much of his time in his saddle, visiting his few parishioners. He lives alone in a one-room shack with a leaky roof and dines largely on tinned meat. “Sometimes a hunter or an Indian gives me a bit of game, which is quite a treat.”

Few of the settlers in his big parish are Anglicans. “I often travel 10 miles to keep an appointment to preach, and not a soul comes out. Two weeks ago I travelled 18 miles, and only two men came to the meeting house. They said that as no one else had come it wasn’t worth while for me to preach, and so they went away.” His biggest audience was 100 people for a funeral. He had hoped to supplement his $500 a year salary with wedding fees, but had not yet had a wedding to perform.

Still, he was determined to stick it out, hopeful of better times to come.

“Ranchmen are coming into the country, and its population before many years will be much greater than it is now. I shall not then pine, as I do now, for human society, and as I get better acquainted and little churches are started, my list of friends will increase, and I shall find missionary work more pleasant.”




— Canada @ 150 —


Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 072

One thought on “Lonesome life of prairie missionary

  1. Stephen Leacock, Canada’s most famous humourist, claimed that writing is easy. Just put on paper what is in your mind. But getting it in your mind—that’s the rub. Getting the start for your item is often the hardest part, and sometimes takes much more than 15 minutes. Journalists call it the lead, or sometimes “led.” Once you have the lead, you’ve broken the log jam. If I have a lengthy or difficult item to write, I find the best way to get it in my mind, is to go for a walk. Adam Smith is said to have composed most of “The Wealth of Nations” while walking the streets of Glasgow. My comments have non-fiction writing in mind. Fiction usually starts out in a quite different way. Hope this helps.

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