After The Fire.

Late in the afternoon Dr. King, of the American side, arrived. He was very kind and did all he could both for my suffering wife and our sick child; there seemed but little hope that the latter would live, in her weak state the shock had been too great. After tea I went over to see my poor Indian children. All were lacking in clothing more or less. Jimmy Greenbird, who ran into Frosts’ room after the fire began and saved his coat for him, was rolled up in a counterpane. Little Nancy, eleven years old, had her hand to her head and looked ill. She said, “My brain pains me.” She seemed inclined to faint, so I took her in my arms and gave her some restorative. All night our little Laurie was very ill, and Mrs. Wilson never slept at all. Next day, Monday, the Indians held a council to hear from me what I proposed to do. They asked me whether I felt “weak or strong about it,” whether I would collect money to re-build again, or whether I should give up the Mission. I reminded them of what I had said in the church. I could only wait on God till I saw my way. Some of them said it was unfair to ask me just now when the calamity was but just over, and my wife and child sick; it would be better for them to set to work and try and repair the damages and leave me more time to think: they then talked of putting up a house at once for our school-master, as he would remain and take my place this winter. Old Chief Little Pine, spoke very nicely; addressing me, he said, “The destruction of these buildings and property is not loss. Were you to lose your wife and children it would be loss, for they cannot be replaced. I have just lost a son, and I know what that is.” Our friends at the Sault were most kind and sympathising; they sent us a portmanteau full of clothing and food.

One more sad event has to be recorded. Tuesday was a clear cold morning, and the stars were still shining brightly, undimmed as yet by the streaks of dawn in the East, as I wended my way to the church. I was going to toll the bell, for our little daughter Laurie was dead. The soft morning star beamed down upon me as in pity; all was quiet, all looked calm, serene, and peaceful,–the silence only broken by the deep tolling of the bell. The little coffin had to be made in haste, and was only just ready in time, for the steamship _Cumberland_ arrived at 10 a.m. My wife was carried on a mattress down to the steamer. The boat could only stay a short time. The servants and the other children were already on board. I gently lifted my child into her last narrow bed, then Cryer and I carried it on board with our hats off. Frost remained behind to take charge of the Mission temporarily. The Indian children who had come from a distance were left with him and the Matron until we could decide what to do. The captain and officers were very kind. When we got to Bruce Mines, I went up to a store to buy a great coat and other necessaries. My wife was still in her dressing gown, being too ill to dress. We had special prayer on board for fine weather, the captain and others joining with us. On reaching Collingwood, we were most kindly received by Dr. and Mrs. Lett. They were greatly distressed to hear of our sad misfortune, and my wife was carried up with the greatest care to their house. They gave up their own bedroom to her on account of its being warm and comfortable, and would not hear of our going elsewhere. Late in the evening a vehicle was engaged, and Dr. Lett, my two little boys, and myself went together to the cemetery which is some distance off–taking the little coffin with us. It was too late to read from the Service-book, but Dr. Lett repeated some portions of the service from memory, and our little girl’s body was committed to the ground–“earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,–in sure and certain hope of the glorious resurrection.”

The telegram announcing our disaster was received at my father’s house in England at 8 p.m. Oct. 1st, three days after it happened, and a reply expressing much sympathy was immediately telegraphed to us. A week later came a letter saying that L250 had already been subscribed towards the rebuilding: this simply in response to the telegram. Very great sympathy was aroused, and letters came pouring in from kind friends both in England and in Canada. By Oct. 16th the “fire fund” in England had reached 1518, and this before any letters with details had arrived. Our friends up to that time knew only that “all was burnt down.” They were anxiously expecting letters, and hoped to hear that we had at least saved some of our personal property. The following are extracts from some of the earliest letters received in response to the first detailed tidings of our calamity. “Your letter, giving the details of that terrible escape and your great anxiety, only reached us yesterday morning (Oct. 22). It made our hearts bleed for you. But how comforting to know that you were kept in peace, even amid _such_ sorrow. I knew you would be helped and comforted, as God’s children always are, when their need is the greatest. And now our fears and longings have been greatly relieved by the short telegram which arrived at 4 a.m. to-day. We do indeed rejoice and thank God with you for this great mercy. After your sad account of your dear wife and her falls in escaping we feared much for her, but what a joy to have another living babe in place of the sweet little one whom the Good Shepherd has folded in His own arms…. How mysterious it seems that everything, just when completed, should thus in a moment have been destroyed; and then, just when the fire came, that the children should have been so ill: but if trials like these do make us cling the more to the Mighty One shall it not be well?… L550 is now in hand for you, and more keeps coming in.”

Another writes:–“I cannot say how we all felt for you in your great trial, such an overwhelming, overpowering misfortune; and then your darling child’s death too, it all seems to have come upon you like an avalanche. Well, you have the best comfort. I came upon such a nice verse for you this morning, ‘David encouraged himself in the Lord, his God.'”

On the 30th October, a large packing case and bale were despatched from England containing full supplies of clothing and house requisites, books, &c., and many handsome presents from our kind and sympathizing friends.

But besides all this help from England we received also very much sympathy and a great deal of substantial help from our friends in Canada. The very first contribution I received towards rebuilding was from the Methodist minister of the Sault, although I had never made his acquaintance or spoken to him. One lady sold a diamond ring from her finger and sent us the proceeds, and many others helped liberally. Dr. Lett was indefatigable in his exertions for us. The following is from our dear Bishop, who had been elected only a few weeks before the fire occurred and was not yet consecrated.

“My dear Mr. Wilson,–I have only to-day been able to ascertain with any probable certainty where I could hope that a letter, conveying my deep and heartfelt sympathy with you and yours under the late severe visitation which Our Heavenly Father, doubtless for wise and good purposes, has seen fit to bring upon you, might find you…. I feel assured that you have gone to the right quarter for comfort and support in the trying hour; and that so doing you have experienced the faithfulness of Him, who hath promised that He will never leave nor forsake such as trust in Him, and have been comforted. If, in the midst of all your cares, you can find time to send me a line, first to tell how your dear partner is–whom I pray may be spared to you–as well as how you are yourself, and then what your plans for the future are, I shall indeed feel greatly obliged. Such trials as these must not discourage us, but rather quicken our exertions and stimulate our zeal. Praying that you may be strengthened and supported in this your hour of need, and realize that it is _good to be afflicted_, believe me to remain your affectionate and sympathizing brother in the Lord, F. D. FAUQUIER.”


Collection:
Wilson, Rev. Edward F. Missionary Work Among the Ojebway Indians. London: Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1886.

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