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Rundle, Robert

During the 1840s the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was becoming very concerned about the state of the missions that served their outposts. George Simpson, the Hudson’s Bay Company governor at the time, had become convinced that both the Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy in Rupert’s Land were beyond company control. As a result, he began to limit their activities in this region and, as an alternative began to recruit and place the more conciliatory Methodist Ministers across Rupert’s Land. Robert Rundle was one of four Methodists invited by the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish missions in this area.

Born in Mylor, England in 1811, Robert Rundle was introduced to the church at an early age, heavily influenced by both his grandfather, a Methodist lay minister, and his uncle, a Reverend. In 1837 he entered a business school, only to choose the ministry at the end of two years of University study. After only two months of theological training he was offered a missionary posting for the Hudson's Bay Company's Saskatchewan District. In 1840 Rundle left England for North America with two other missionaries and, by October of that year, found himself at Fort Edmonton after a rather arduous trip across country.

For the next 8 years, Rundle spent the majority of his time traveling throughout the province, carrying his Methodist message to the people at various places. His travels took him as far north as Lesser Slave Lake and Fort Assiniboine, as far south as Big Hill Springs, deep in Blackfoot territory near present-day Cochrane, Alberta and even as far east as forts Pitt and Carlton. It was through his ambitious travels that he was able to study Cree, aided by his travelling companion and interpreter William Rowand. During his mission out west Rundle befriended many Métis, Cree and Assiniboines and he seemed to have developed cordial relations with most Hudson’s Bay Company officials. When the Hudson’s Bay Company began pressuring him to establish mission schools however, he did not immediately comply. Though he spent some time looking for an appropriate site to establish the mission school, he never actually completed his task. Tragically, in 1847 Reverend Rundle took a bad fall from his horse, seriously injuring his arm. When his arm did not heal properly, without obtaining permission from either the Hudson’s Bay Company or the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, he returned home to England to seek proper medical attention. Despite all his hard work in Rupert’s Land and the many friends he left behind, he never returned to the west and remained in England until his death in 1887.

To learn more about the Fur Traders, Missionaries and Explorers of Alberta's early history, visit Alberta: How the West was Young: Biographies.

Robert and Mary

Robert and Mary

Portrait of Reverend Robert T. Rundle

Portrait of Reverend Robert T. Rundle