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Heritage Community Foundation

Fred Stenson

Shirley Serviss


Robert Terrill Rundle has had a poor press. As a Wesleyan on the prairies from 1840 to 1848 he occupied an early and unique position in the history of Canada but has been largely neglected and sometimes disparaged by historians. 

- Gerald Hutchinson, introduction to The Rundle Journals

Gerry HutchinsonWith this opening statement, Gerald Hutchinson identified in the 1970s what has more recently become an important aspect in Canadian history-the view and re-view of the role of the missionaries within the context of change that dominated the 19th century.

   View Gerald Hutchinson speaking about the use of Cree
   syllabic script by missionaries and Aboriginal peoples.
   Watch Now!

Born on a farm in central Alberta, Hutchinson grew up with a social awareness that was nurtured by the political interests of his parents and their friends, his own curiosity, and the life of the community, in particular the church. An interest in Alberta soils led him to attend Olds School of Agriculture, but soon after, in 1936, Gerald answered a call to the ministry, spending four years in the mission fields in Sundre. There, he made the connection between the dismal conditions facing the families, displaced during the dustbowl years of the Great Depression, and the soil conditions that shattered their hopes for starting anew in the central foothills. He also realized the potential of these soils, however. "If ever I am to settle as a minister," Hutchinson said, "it will be here in Central Alberta, to see the story of the Grey Wooded soils and the people who farm there, develop." Consequently, in 1949, the Hutchinson family settled in Telfordville to undertake a pastoral charge.

Once settled, a nearby stretch of land along the northwest shore of Pigeon Lake, called "Mission Beach" aroused George's curiosity-investigation into its story would determine the course of his family's activities for the next 50 years. Gerald and his wife Miriam travelled to the archives of the Wesleyan Missionary Society in London, England, the Hudson's Bay Company archives in Winnipeg, and Universities and Colleges in search of the missionaries who served the central Alberta region 100 years earlier. His biography reads:

 Went with Miriam to London, England, and spent 4 weeks in the British Wesleyan Mission Archives, and were able to secure photo-copies of all correspondence for the years 1840 to 1854, and later to supplement these documents with the HBC records of correspondence of Governor Sir George Simpson, Chief Factor Donald Ross and others.

Rundle's JournalThe letters, reports and journals they found contained the words of familiar people, of friends-these men and women had walked the same lakeshore and byways as the Hutchinsons now did themselves. This personal connection became the inspiration for Gerald's work and in 1977 his thoughts appeared in the introduction to The Rundle Journals.

Since the publication of The Rundle Journals, Gerald Hutchison has continued to explore the era of the missionary, in particular the life and work of James Evans. The rediscovery of Evans' notes on Aboriginal languages and those of other people of the world shed new light on the background and development of the syllabic script. Once regarded as "Evans' Invention," the work of Hutchinson and others reveals the relationship between the development of syllabic script and pre-existing Aboriginal symbols, as well as other ancient modes of writing, in particular those from Asia.

Gerald HutchinsonGerald Hutchinson has collected a large body of research resources that will serve historians for years to come. But, more than that, he has forged the fragments of stories, which he found in the soil, among the people, and between the pages of countless documents, into the story of this province.


Citation Sources
Rundle, Robert Terrill. Edited by Hugh A. Dempsey. The Rundle Journals, 1840-1848. Calgary: Alberta Records Publications Board, Historical Society of Alberta and Glenbow-Alberta Institute, 1977.

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