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In Their Own Voices

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In this excerpt from a letter written in 1838, from Sault Ste. Marie, James Evans writes of his friendly relationship with Hudson's Bay Company employees early in his career. He also describes his hopes for spreading Christianity and reveals some of the tension between the British and American Methodists:

I yesterday crossed the river and called on Mr. Nause, the Factor of the Honorable Hudson Bay Company; we found him, as we found the Agent's where I dated this letter, very obliging, and ready to render us every possible assistance in prosecuting our mission northward. He informs us, as do the principal traders in this vicinity who have traveled through our circuit, that there are abundance of Indians, more on the north shore than on the American side; but they are during the winter scattered on the mountains. However there are many, whom the traders term 'Lake Indians,' who reside all winter near the shores; and we hope to succeed in inducing some of them to serve God, and thus open the way for access to a vast field of labor, and as far as we have learned, every hope of success. You know, however, I am always sanguine, and my hope may arise as much or more from my natural disposition as from faith in the promise of God; however, I am endeavoring to trust his word, which says, 'Lo! I am with you always.' There has gone up the lake this summer, a Mr. Cameron, a Baptist. He sends word down that the Indians are more attentive and anxious to listen to the Gospel than any with whom he had met at any time. He is sent by the American Baptist Board. What a pity the Canadian and British societies cannot supply this region, without the Americans?

This excerpt, from an 1838 letter from James Evans to his wife, shows Evans' cheerfulness and playfulness before his time at Norway House. It also foreshadows some of his health problems, concerning his heart, that would contribute to his death in 1846.

Dear wife and weans,                                            
Here I am, here am I                                        
Now I beg you won't cry                                        
And I'll come by-and-by.                                        

We have been bungling along the lakeshore as far as this place (Goderich) during the last four days; in fact we've been dreadful lazy, but we are just waking up. We have all preserved in good health and spirits, and have no more serious accident than just getting a wetting . . . Here we camped very comfortably, looking southward, and my heart going pitter patter, and indeed it has been rattling against my ribs ever since I started. I feel better this morning. May God bless you all . . . I'm wet as a muskrat, and just starting out with a fair wind.

Adieu! God bless you all! Kiss each other for me.                                                                         
And when I come back                                       
Which will be in a crack                                       
Then you'll each have a smack.                                   

Citation Sources
Hutchinson, Gerald. Unpublished manuscript.

McLean, John. James Evans: Inventor of the Syllabic System of the Cree Language. Toronto: Methodist Missions Rooms, 1890.

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