The Wawanosh Home.

The spot selected for the Wawanosh Home was rather more than a mile above the village of Saulght five acres of bush land at three pounds an acre as a site for the wawanosh home ten-acre cultivated lot, just opposite, for L60.

Immediately after making the purchase, we took all our boys up there for a “clearing bee;” they hoisted the Union Jack on the site of the new Home, and within a few days had cleared a considerable piece of land and commenced digging the foundations. It was to be a stone building of two storeys high with a frontage of about forty-five feet, and a wing running back, and to cost about L700. During the summer our boys got out all the stone necessary for building, most of it was collected on the Shingwauk land, and they were paid 20 cents a cord for piling it.

We were anxious as soon as possible to get the new Home into operation. After the summer of 1876 no girls returned to the Shingwauk, and we doubled our number of boys. It seemed hard to shut the girls out from the privileges of Christian care and education, and we were naturally desirous of receiving back as soon as possible those whom we had already commenced teaching. For this reason we thought it well at once to make a beginning by erecting the back wing of the Institution first. During the winter stone and sand were hauled, and on the 5th of May, 1877, building operations commenced. We took the contract ourselves. I had a good practical man as carpenter at the Shingwauk, and we got our plans and specifications; then an estimate was made, and after being approved by a third party–a person experienced in such matters–the work began. Mrs. Fauquier, our Bishop’s wife, and two or three other ladies kindly joined with me as a committee to manage the Institution, a lady was engaged as lady Superintendent, a man and wife as gardener and matron, and about the first week in September the girls began to arrive.

We only took ten girls that winter, as we were of course cramped for room.

It was rather uphill work bringing into operation the Wawanosh Home, but difficulties during the progress of a work often have the effect of making it more solid and strong in the end. To induce Sunday Schools and friends to aid us, I divided the estimated cost of the building with its fittings and furniture, into forty-four lots, and a considerable number of these lots were “taken up.” Still we were short of money. When the Spring of 1878 came, all our money for building was gone, and the fund to meet current expenses, even with only ten girls to provide for, was found to be insufficient. It was very discouraging. Sorrowfully I told our lady Superintendent that we must close the Institution for the present,–and sorrowfully I dismissed the girls for their holidays and told them that they must not come back until they heard from me that we were able to receive them.

But God heard our prayers and opened the way for us.

On Sunday Sept. 7th, I had just returned from Garden River where I had been to hold service with the Indians, and on my arrival found a sail-boat lying at our dock. An Indian had come over a hundred miles and had brought five little girls for the Wawanosh Home. Two of them had been with us the winter before and had misunderstood me about coming back, and the other three were new ones,–they all looked so happy and pleased. But their faces fell when I explained to the man our circumstances, that we had closed for want of funds, and could not see our way towards re-opening for the present. The Indian said it seemed very hard to have come such a long distance and then to have to go all the way back again. “Can you not manage to take them,” he said; “I will help you all I can,–I will bring you some barrels of fish in the Fall”

I told the man they could all remain with us that night, and I would let him know what could be done after I had thought it over. I went to see Mrs. Fauquier, and the other ladies came together, and we talked it over and had much earnest prayer. It seemed to us all that it was the hand of God pointing out the way, and that we ought to have faith to go on. The end of it was that we kept those five children; the lady who had had charge of the Home the previous winter most generously agreed to remain for another year at a reduced salary and to do without the services of a matron. And so the Wawanosh Home was open again.

Two weeks later I received a letter from England: “I have good news to tell you. Miss —- wrote a few days ago to ask how much money was wanted to complete the Girls’ Home. We sent her word that the original estimate was L700, and that about L500 had been collected. I to-day received from her a cheque for L350! Of this L100 is her annual subscription, and L250 for the completion of the Home. You will I am sure look on it as God’s gift in answer to the prayer of faith.” The following January a letter came from the Indian Department at Ottawa, saying that the Government had in reply to my request, made a grant of L120 towards the building expenses of the Wawanosh Home, and that this grant would be continued annually, provided there were not less than fifteen girls, towards the maintenance of the Institution.

Thus did Almighty God open the way for us, and clear away all our difficulties. By the middle of the summer of 1879 the building was completed, the ground in front cleared and formed into a garden, with a picket fence and two gates, and a drive up to the front door, and at the back a stable, cow-house, pig-styes, &c.

The cottage on the other side of the road was now occupied by Mrs. Bridge, the laundress, and a year or two later, we built a new laundry.

The new Home was opened on the 19th of August, 1879, and that winter we had fourteen girls.

The following letter from an English lady who visited the Wawanosh Home in the summer of 1880, gives a good idea of the Institution and its surroundings:–

“I drove to see the Indian girls’ Home, and was surprised to find in these wilds such an English stone building, but with the advantage of a nice verandah and green blinds which keep the house cool in summer. The inside of the house I thought very, nice; all the rooms are high and of a good size; a hall, school-room, class-room, and dining-room, and prettily furnished sitting-room for the lady superintendent, a laundry, and good kitchen with a large stove–all these are on the ground floor. Upstairs there is a large dormitory with eight double beds and a smaller one with four beds. These rooms are more airy and give more space to each girl than in many institutions I have seen in England. A small room is set apart for the sick. The lavatory is well fitted up, and everything is clean and neat. The girls do the work partly themselves under the matron, and learn to become servants. The Home has only been fully opened a year, so of course it is still rough round the house, but soon the ground will be laid out. On one side of the house will be the vegetable garden, which the girls will be taught to keep weeded and in order. On the other side of the house the committee intend putting up a gymnasium with money a lady in England has collected: It is a room very much wanted, for, in the winter, with the snow three to four, and sometimes five feet deep, it is impossible to send children out, and if they do not get exercise they would suffer. The room is to be 40 feet by 20, with one end divided off for a meat-house and tool-house; when I say a meat-house I mean a place to keep meat, for they kill cattle and sheep enough for the winter at the beginning of the very cold weather, it freezes hard and keeps well. The gymnasium will, when finished, only cost about 200 dollars. The children look very happy and very little amuses them. I showed them some English village children’s games, and left them delighted.”

There is always a “but,” that is, kind friends are wanted to provide for some of the new girls just come to the Home. If any one would give or collect four shillings a week, that is sufficient to feed a child.

Missions, Ojibway,

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

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