In a letter from Benjamin Sinclair to colleague William
Mason, March 1851, Sinclair reveals his discouragement in his
isolation. He would return "home" to Norway House in fall of
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.
A passage from a letter by James Witaskimakan, a Cree Christian at
Pigeon Lake, to William Mason in 1849, sheds light on Sinclair's
problems at Pigeon Lake. While he was considered a good man, he was not an
ordained missionary trained to preach and instruct religiously:
I have seen where you are, Mr. Mason . . . be
forward and send him who will preach. Although we listen to Benjamin as he
preaches to us, but he come short to tell us all that is good, though he
The same sentiment is echoed in this excerpt from a letter written to
William Mason the same year by Joseph, James Witaskimakan's
One thing I wish to tell you here where we are that
we are very miserable though we hear of the Gospel from Ben whom you sent
to tell us the Gospel but there are yet a great many of my friends who are
still doing those things which the Lord has forbidden . . . it can
possibly be done that two or three who can preach but Benjamin is all
alone, he is not remiss, there are many who are willing and a good many
cultivate the ground. I do not think that we will yet be thrown away. Mr.
Mason I salute you all . . . tell them at Fish River where James has been,
that I am his brother-in-law. I am Joseph.
Hutchinson, Gerald. The Roots of the Province: Alberta's First 50
Years and 100 Years of Christian Service. Telfordville: The United
Church of Canada, 1955.