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The Missionary

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Mission to

Bissell Centre


During the 1890s immigrants from Ukraine, Galicia and Austria came to western Canada in large numbers. In 1901 the Methodist Church established a committee with the express purpose of ministering to the foreigners of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. Reverend Charles H. Lawford, M.D., was appointed missionary to the immigrants at Pakan, the community where in 1863 George McDougall had established a mission to the Cree people of the area. The Aboriginal people had withdrawn to the reserves established in 1876 by Treaty 6. Now, over twenty-five years later, the population of the area consists predominantly of Métis people and immigrant homesteaders.

Dr. Charles H. Lawford
Dr. Lawford arrived around the year 1903. He later married Alice Smith.
Dr. Lawford was both a Methodist minister and a physician. His noteworthy work stems in large part form the combination of care for body and soul of the people in the area. According to Dr. Lawford medical work was "...the one thing used of God to prevent us from being defeated in our efforts to gain entrance to the people."

While Dr. Lawford attended the sick, his wife taught Sunday School and looked after the social work. She distributed clothing, provided by the Mission Board in Toronto, to the needy in the district.

In 1907 the construction of the George McDougall Hospital began. When ten years later the railway reached Smoky Lake the hospital was moved into town. Dr. Lawford retired as hospital superintendent and opened a drug store and medical office.

The Methodist Mission "Wahstao"
The Wahstao Mission was founded in 1904 by Miss Reta Edmonds and Miss Jessie Munro in 1904 to serve the Ukrainian women and children of the area. The mission was located about fifteen miles east of Pakan and started small, with a day school and Sunday school, the women began to operate a boarding school in 1907 for students living in the more remote areas.

The Methodist Mission "Kolokreeka"
As the Wahstao mission grew, a need was felt for a mission closer to Smoky Lake. Two missionaries from Wahstao, Edith Weekly and Ella McLean, hired a building crew, oversaw the building and took the builders under their wing:

"Miss Weekes and Miss Maclean were hardworking missionaries and were kindness "embodified" ! During the building period, Frank and I, had to eat bread. So the ladies came from Wahstao, the other Mission House 15 miles distant, and brought us Home Baked bread. Ah what bread ! . However it had a very peculiar effect on me for I fell in love with Miss Weekes."

Funded with help of the Women's Missionary Society, the Kolokreeka mission featured a pump and bathroom, luxuries not found on many homesteads. In 1920 the mission welcomed students who attended high school in town.


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