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George McDougall

Portrait of George MacDougall

George McDougall was of Highland Scots descent, the son of a non-commissioned Royal Navy officer but was raised primarily in Canada. McDougall had little formal education but was instead schooled in pioneer values and hard work that would become very useful to him in later mission life. In 1842 he married Elizabeth Chantler and together they had eight children, including son John who would eventually follow in his Pakan United Church father's footsteps becoming a highly regarded Methodist missionary himself. Although George McDougall was a farmer he converted to the Methodist faith, strongly influenced by a local Methodist Lay Minister, Peter White. He spent time at several missions in Ontario before moving his family west in 1862 where they established Victoria mission on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan river. His duty in this area was to reinforce and further the work of Reverend Robert Rundle who had returned to England after a bad riding accident. In his work he would be aided by Reverend Henry Steinhauer and Thomas Woolsey. Together the three missionaries worked to help George McDougall's gravesite at the Morley Mission integrate the native populations into a more European way of life focused on settlement and agriculture. The years in which McDougall ministered at Fort Victoria were some of the most turbulent in Canadian prairie history. The time period between 1869, when the Hudson's Bay Company began transferring its lands, to the acquisition of the land by the government through a series of treaties, and the arrival of the North-West Mounted Police in 1874 were very unstable. The buffalo were moving south and visibly diminishing, erratic weather patterns caused successive crop failures and diseases were sweeping the prairies, wiping out large populations indiscriminately. During this restless period McDougall served not only as minister, but teacher, local administrator and even as doctor, building a hospital at Victoria to help the masses of his flock afflicted with smallpox during the epidemic of 1870-71.

the McDougall Church on the Morley ReservationIn 1871 George McDougall moved to Fort Edmonton to found a new mission in an area that had, until that time, been heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church under the auspices of Father Lacombe. In 1873, with the help of his son John, he also built a mission at Morley, in the foothills, that was in close proximity to both the Stoney and Blackfoot tribes.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy was his advocacy for and commitment to helping the native populations through the very difficult period of transformation that saw the encroachment and settlement of the white man. He helped the dominion government to persuade the natives to remain at peace during the North West Rebellion and travelled the McDougall church on the Morley Reservation extensively to communicate to the Indians the intentions of the government, explaining the treaty process an encouraging them to express their opinions and exact their demands. He promoted education, agriculture and became a health care provider and counselor to many. Upon his death during a buffalo hunt in 1876, a strong stabilizing influence among the Indians and Métis of the prairies as well as a trusted mediator was lost.

Gravestones of George McDougall's daughters

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