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Fort EdmontonNorth America was not Thomas Woolsey's first choice for a mission. He had initially planned trips to Australia and South Africa, however neither came to fruition. In fact, both ships that he would have taken to these mission sites sank. These early disappointments and disasters did not deter Woolsey, however, and in 1852 he answered a call from Reverend John Ryerson to proceed to Canada. He then spent three years in the rural circuits of Upper Canada before being assigned to Fort Edmonton in 1855.

Peter ErasmusAt Fort Edmonton Woolsey discovered that he had no official status and, as such, was not encouraged to stay. Instead, he focused his efforts on rebuilding the mission site at Pigeon Lake, established earlier by Robert Rundle, and on working in the Aboriginal community. The Pigeon Lake mission was not suited for winter residence so he stayed at Fort Edmonton, spending much of his time there teaching children, regardless of their religious background. 

Buffalo HuntBy 1858 Woolsey was convinced that the Pigeon Lake site was unsuitable for a mission: it was situated between, yet too far away from Stoney, Cree, and Blackfoot communities; as buffalo were becoming scarce, violence in the area was erupting with increasing frequency; and the poor soil conditions and early frosts made agriculture difficult. Woolsey, therefore, chose instead to be a roving missionary. The rigours of this plan had dire consequences on his health, however, and on more than one occasion he was nursed back to health by local medicine men, in spite of his skepticism about their methods.

Woolsey established the Smoking (Smoky) Lake Mission by 1861 when, upon the orders of  George McDougall, the mission was moved to the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Woolsey remained at the new Victoria  Mission for a short while, but was forced to leave in 1864 because of  his failing health. He would not return.

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