I am sorry that you have not come to preach to our
friends, but now I am in sure hope that someone will come this summer . .
. You are tired in taking care of my cattle. I am not yet tired but I wish
to go home this summer. I fail too much . . . but then I have collected
400 house logs.
- Letter from Benjamin Sinclair to William Mason, 1851
Benjamin Sinclair was an enigmatic figure.
Métis from the area near Norway House (the precise date of his birth is
unknown), he was among the first people to hear
Robert Rundle preach in 1840.
At Norway House, Sinclair worked for the superintendent of the British
Wesleyan mission, James Evans, as a translator until
Evan's departure in 1846. The problems and scandal that surrounded Evans
leaving of Norway
House evidently soured Sinclair's opinion of him, and he is quoted as stating, "that Evans was a bad man."
When Rundle wrote Sinclair from Fort Edmonton and asked
him to help establish a new mission-the first Protestant mission
outside the fort-Sinclair came. In 1847 he
travelled to Pigeon Lake with
his 17-year-old wife, Margaret Collins, and two-year-old son, Ephraim. To
the mission he brought
experience in growing crops, whipsawing lumber and knowledge of the Bible
and the Cree syllabic system of reading and writing. When Rundle left the region in
1848, Sinclair remained and continued to labour at the Pigeon Lake Mission. Between Rundle's departure and the arrival of Thomas Woolsey
and Henry Bird Steinhauer in 1855, Sinclair was the sole Methodist
west of Norway House. In 1851, having received no further assistance, he left
Pigeon Lake and eventually continued his work at Lac La Biche, where he
started a school.
In 1855 when Thomas Woolsey and Henry
Steinhauer arrived in the West, Sinclair remained in Lac La Biche
until he was offered the opportunity to establish a new mission to the Cree people
away from Hudson's Bay Company posts.
Sinclair accompanied Steinhauer to Whitefish Lake and
helped him to establish a mission there in 1858. Sinclair continued to
play an active role in the community life at Whitefish Lake, where he
remained until his death from influenza in 1884-both Sinclair and Steinhauer
died during the local influenza outbreak and the two men that established the Whitefish
buried together in the same grave.
Hutchinson, Gerald. The Roots of the Province: Alberta's First 50 Years
and 100 Years of Christian Service. Telfordville: The United Church of