On Friday, the 31st of July, 1874, the foundation stone of the new Shingwauk Home was laid by the Earl of Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada.
It was fortunate that his Excellency had planned a trip to the Upper Lakes just at this very time. Two days before his arrival a telegram was received from Col. Cumberland, Provincial A.D.C. who was accompanying his lordship–“I have his Excellency’s commands to say that it will give him much pleasure to lay the corner-stone of your School on his arrival, which will probably be Friday afternoon.” All now was bustle and excitement, and great preparations were made; triumphal arches erected, flag-poles put up and flags hoisted, and a cold collation prepared in the carpenter’s shop, which was the only building at present erected. The ladies of Sault Ste. Marie most liberally gave us every assistance, and the “spread” of good things was complimented by the Governor-General, who remarked that he had never before seen a luncheon so tastefully laid out in Canada.
On Friday, at 1 p.m., the steamship _Chicora_, which had been chartered by the vice-regal party, drew up at the Sault dock. The leading inhabitants of the place welcomed his Excellency on landing, and presented him with a loyal address, to which he made a suitable reply. During the procession a salute was fired by a company of volunteers. The guns were two handsome brass field pieces, strongly mounted, bearing the date 1776. An old Highlander who accompanied the party remarked, “Captain Wilson’s guns are twa sma’ pieces, but they make a tremendous noise;” and certainly the reports, as they followed each other with the utmost regularity, justified the remark.
After some introductions to the Governor-General, he and Lady Dufferin embarked for the Shingwauk Home. They were followed by quite a fleet of other boats, and in due time all landed at our own newly-made dock. Here we met the distinguished party, and accompanied them to the site of the new buildings. Our Bishop being away, the responsibility of the occasion all rested on myself. After a short service, conducted by the two visiting clergymen, Lord Dufferin advanced and gave us the following address:–
“It is with great pleasure that I have taken an humble part in the interesting ceremony of to-day. I am always glad to have an opportunity of showing the sympathy which I feel and the interest which I take in the welfare of our Indian fellow-subjects. We are bound to remember that we are under the very gravest obligations toward them, and that the white race, in entering their country and requiring them to change their aboriginal mode of life, incurs the duty of providing for their future welfare and of taking care that in no respect whatsoever are their circumstances deteriorated by changes which are thus superinduced. It must also be remembered that, although we ourselves have the advantage of living under Parliamentary institutions, and that the humblest person in the land is able to feel that his representative is in a position to plead his cause and watch over his interests in the High Court of the Parliament of the Dominion, for obvious reasons these advantages have not yet been extended to the Indian population. On that account, therefore, if on no other, we are bound to be very solicitous in our endeavours to advance civilization, to settle the country, and to bring it under cultivation, that we do them no wrong or injury. I must say that no better or surer method could be adopted to secure those results than that which we have now assembled to inaugurate. It is very evident that so great a change as that from the wild life of the hunter to the occupation of the cultivator could scarcely be effected at all, unless those who are thus invited to alter all their habits of thought and life are educated with that intent. For this purpose it is obviously the best method to lay hold of the younger generation, by instructing them in the arts and habits of civilized life, and to put them in a position to join with us on equal terms in our endeavour to build up this great country, so that the various races may be united by common interests and in a common cause. I am happy to think that with this intent there is further joined the interest of religion, which is even a greater and stronger means of cementing the hearts of men together than that of patriotism. But when the two are united and combined, as they are upon this occasion, it is impossible but to anticipate the happiest and most successful results. I can assure you, Mr. Wilson, on behalf of those (and there are, perhaps, many more than you can imagine) who take a deep interest in this work, and on behalf of your Indian friends, that you deserve our heartiest and warmest sympathy. I can only conclude these imperfect observations by saying, on behalf of Lady Dufferin and myself, that we both wish this Institution and those engaged in promoting it all the success that they themselves could desire.”
At the close of this address, I, in a few words, tendered my grateful thanks for the honour his Lordship and Lady Dufferin had conferred on us by paying us this visit and laying the foundation stone of our Institution, and then we repaired for luncheon to the carpenter’s shop, which was ornamented with flowers and scarlet bunting.
All passed off most agreeably, and there were many hearty cheers when the little steamboat crossed the great river under a salute to deposit her noble freight on the other side.
Twenty men were at work at the foundations of the new Home the day after this visit, and all went forward with vigour. It may be well here briefly to describe the general plan and appearance of the building. The main building has a frontage of 75 feet, facing the river; it is built of stone, and is three stories high; there was a wing at the eastern extremity, and other additions have been added since; the original cost of the building was 7000 dollars, and the additions have made it worth about 3000 dollars more. At first all was swamp and stumps, but the earth taken from the excavations helped to fill up the low spots, and in time, after considerable labour, the place began to look quite presentable, and a picket fence was put up along the roadway in front. On the side nearest the river were the carpenters cottage and shop (in one), which have already been mentioned, on the right, and on the left another cottage of the same dimensions, intended at first for an infirmary, but afterwards used as a laundry. These two cottages were quickly erected at a cost of about 600 dollars each, and were found very useful while the larger building was gradually rising into existence; indeed, we were enabled, by making use of these cottages, to re-open the Institution in a small way that very same autumn.