A good description of life and travel in mid-century HBC territory, by an amiable parson.
p. 116: A few days after my arrival, the Council ‘resolved’ that I should winter at Norway House; so next day, in accordance with the resolution of that august assembly, I took up my quarters in the clerks’ room, and took possession of the books and papers.
p. 117, at Norway House: Mr Russ is reading the “Penny Cyclopædia” in the Hall (was the winter mess-room is called), and I am writing in the dingy little office in the shade, which looks pigstyish in appearance without, but is warm and snug within.
p. 134: In due time I arrived at the parsonage, where I spent a pleasant afternoon in sauntering about the village, and admiring the rapidity and ease with which the Indian children could read and write the Indian language by means of a syllabic alphabet invented by their clergyman. The same gentleman [Mr. Evans of Rossville] afterwards made a set of leaden types, with no other instrument than a penknife, and printed a great many hymns in the Indian language.
p. 159-60; Ballantyne spent two years at York Factory, and he describes his life in Bachelor’s Hall there: During winter we breakfasted usually at nine o’clock, then sat down to the desk till one, when we dined. After dinner we resumed our pens till six, when we had tea, and then wrote again till eight, after which we either amused ourselves with books (of which we had a few), kicked up a row, or, putting on our snowshoes, went off to pay a moonlight visit to our traps.
p. 218-19: There is nothing more distressing and annoying than being wind-bound in these wild and uninhabited regions. One has no amusement except reading, or promenading about the shores of the lake. Now, although this may be very delightful to a person of a romantic disposition, it was any thing but agreeable to us, as the season was pretty far advanced, and the voyage long; besides, I had no gun, having parted with mine before leaving Norway House, and no books had been brought, as we did not calculate upon being wind-bound.
p. 220-21, held up by a storm on Lake Winnipeg: Saturday [August] 30th—In the morning we found that the wind had again risen, so as to prevent our leaving the encampment.. This detention is really very tiresome. We have no amusement except reading a few uninteresting books, eating without appetite, and sleeping inordinately. Oh that I were possessed of the Arabian Nights’ mat, which transported its owner withersoever he listed!
It is now four days since we pitched our tents on this vile pint. How long we may still remain is yet to be seen.
p. 312: The almost total absence of religion of any kind among these unhappy natives, is truly melancholy. The very name of our blessed Saviour is almost unknown by the hundreds of Indians who inhabit the vast forests of North America [this he writes of the Gulf of St. Lawrence region]…. There are not, I believe, more than a dozen or so of Protestant clergymen over the whole wide northern continent.
For at least a century these North American Indians have hunted for the white men, and poured annually into Britain a copious stream of wealth. Surely it is the duty of Christian Britain, in return, to send out faithful servants of God to preach the gospel of our Lord throughout the land.