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- Missionary Work Among The Ojebway Indians - 30/34 -
After this I had to go down to Toronto to attend to diocesan matters, and was away about two months, going through the Muskoka district, and being present in Montreal when the Provincial Synod met, and our new Bishop, Dr. Sullivan, was unanimously elected.
When I returned to the Shingwauk things looked brighter; the sick room was empty, and every one seemed more cheery. But our hopes were doomed to be disappointed. I had only been home three days when my dear boy, William Sahgucheway, the captain of our school, was taken suddenly ill with inflammation, and a day or two later we were in the greatest alarm about him. I felt about him as I had about Frederick--that surely his life would be spared to us, he of all others was the one whom we looked to as the pride and hope of our Institution; he was nineteen years of age, and was looking forward and preparing for the ministry. But it was not to be. God had called him, and eight days after he was taken ill and died. In the next chapter I shall give a little account of his life.
Three days after William was buried, the bodies of our late dear Bishop and Mrs. Fauquier arrived in charge of two of their sons, it having been their expressed wish to be buried in our little cemetery with our Indian children. On Monday, the 22nd, the long funeral cortege moved slowly to the cemetery. There was a large gathering of people both from the Canadian and American sides--people of all classes and creeds. First, the clergy in their surplices, then the Indian boys, two and two, one of them, who had been supported by the late Bishop, carrying a banner with the words, "He rests from his labours;" then came the hearse bearing the late Bishop's remains, with four horses, all draped, and the Wawanosh girls followed, one of them bearing a banner with the words, "She is not dead, but sleepeth;" then the hearse, and members of the family and other mourners--a long mournful procession. A vault had been prepared, and the coffins, covered with flowers, were laid within it, and the latter part of the Burial Service read. Thus the good, kind-hearted, self-sacrificing Bishop, the first Bishop of this wild Missionary diocese, and his afflicted yet devoted wife, who had laboured so earnestly for the welfare of the Indians during the latter part of their lives, were now laid side by side in the Indian cemetery to await the joyful resurrection to eternal life.
The very next grave to the Bishop's was that of Frederick, the Neepigon boy.
Before the summer holidays commenced, the cemetery gate had once more to be opened and the earth once more to be turned, for another boy, Simon Altman, from Walpole Island, was dead. This was the fifth boy who had died during the winter, not from any malignant disease or fever, but from various causes, and seven bodies in all had been committed to the silent dust. For a time we were afraid that the saddening effect of so many deaths would lead to a complete break up of our work, as the Indians are of course very superstitious and might be afraid to send any more of their children to us.
Next autumn our number at both the Homes was very much reduced, still we were able to keep on, and now our pupils are once more steadily on the increase.
William Sahgucheway was born on the Indian Reserve of Walpole Island about the year 1862, the exact date is not known. His father and mother both died eight or ten years ago, and since then he had lived with an uncle and aunt, of both of whom he was very fond. He had two younger brothers, but no sisters. One of the brothers, Elijah, was a pupil with William at the Shingwauk Home for two or three years. He left when the Home was temporarily closed in the spring of 1880, and before it had re-opened he had been called home to his Saviour. William felt the death of his little brother very deeply. In a letter dated June 4th he says, "Last Sunday my brother Elijah died: but now he is with Jesus and the angels. This text he had in his Bible. 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord' (Rev. xiv. 13); and also the Bible was dated May 30th, 1879. This is important to me, like if it were telling me how he died and when he died."
William Sahgucheway came first to the Shingwauk Home on the 17th of June, 1875. I had paid a visit to Walpole Island that summer, and William was one who, in company with five or six other children, came back with me to Sault Ste. Marie. He was at that time a bright, intelligent looking lad of twelve or thirteen years of age, and being an orphan, he was made rather a special favourite from the first; the attachment grew, and soon the boy learned to look upon me as his father, and always commenced his letters "My dear Noosa" (father) when writing to me. William like the other boys in the Institution, was supported by the contributions of Sunday school children, and it was quite hoped that he would at no distant day have become a student at Huron Theological College.
William's Indian name was "Wahsashkung"--shining light. A most appropriate name, for his presence always seemed to bring light and happiness; he was always so cheerful, so ready to help, so self- denying; grown people and little children were equally his friends. We always regarded that verse in Matt. v. as specially his verse,--"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
William accompanied me on many of my travels. He was with me on the shores of Lake Neepigon in 1878, when that pagan tribe was discovered, who for thirty years had been waiting for a Missionary to come to them. He befriended the pagan boy, Ningwinnena, and taught him to pray and love his Saviour. And when the poor boy died at Christian, six months after entering the Institution, William was among those who knelt at his bedside and watched his last expiring breath. In 1879 William accompanied me to England, and while there wrote a little journal of his travels, extracts from which were published. Wherever he went he made friends, and many white people on both sides of the Atlantic will long remember his bright, intelligent face, his gentle voice, and kind obliging manner.
In the spring of 1880, when I was dangerously ill and my life despaired of, William was one of the few Indian boys who were privileged to come to my bedside, and the only one who was allowed to take turn in watching beside me at night; for whenever there was anything to be done requiring special effort or care, it was always William who was wanted, and William who was ready.
About three years before this time the dear boy became truly in earnest about religion, and dedicated his life to the Saviour. From his earliest boyhood he would appear to have been a child of grace, avoiding what was bad, with a desire to follow what was pure and good; but with nearly all followers of Christ there is probably some period in life which may be looked back to when the seeds of truth began more distinctly to germinate in the soul, and that blessed union with the Saviour, which is the joy of all true believers, was for the first time perhaps fully realized and felt. It was on the 23rd March, 1877, that this dear boy, William, after a long earnest talk, knelt down beside me and yielded his heart to the Saviour: "Tabaningayun Jesus, kemeenin ninda noongoom suh tebekuk, kuhnuhga kayahhe che tebanindezosewaun keen dush chetebanemeyun"--"Lord Jesus, I give my heart to Thee this night, no longer to belong to myself, but to belong to Thee." I gave him a Bible the same evening, and it became his most valued treasure; on the first leaf is the verse, "Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out," and on the last leaf, "God is love."
I always tried to impress on those who had dedicated themselves to the Saviour's service, that they should prove the fact of their union with Christ by working for Him and bearing fruit to the glory of His name. William seemed to be especially impressed with this, and rarely a week passed without his trying to exercise some influence for good among his companions. Many are the boys now in the Institution who can trace their first serious thoughts on their spiritual condition to his intercourse with them. In January, 1878, a boys' prayer meeting was commenced weekly, and continued almost without interruption, except during holidays. The boys met on Wednesday evenings after prayers-- quite by themselves--one read a portion of Scripture in his own language, and others offered a few words of simple prayer. It was due to William and one or two like-minded companions that these little gatherings were kept together, and there can be little doubt that much blessing resulted.
William used latterly to take notes of the sermons which he heard on Sundays.
And now we come to the last scenes of the dear boy's life here on earth.
I had been away on a tour through the other dioceses, and William, as captain of the school, had additional duties devolving upon him during the principal's absence. He had charge of the clothing store and had to give out clothing each week to the boys, and perform other duties requiring care and attention. The bodies of the late Bishop Fauquier and Mrs. Fauquier were expected shortly to arrive for interment in the Shingwauk cemetery, and preparations had to be made for this; the road to the cemetery, which was blocked in places by large boulders and old pine stumps, had to be cleared and levelled. William, of course, was called into service for this--no one could clear a road through a rough tract of land better than he. He was busy preparing for the spring examinations, and very anxious to be victor; but books were laid aside without a murmur, and he shouldered his pickaxe and shovel, and in company with two or three other big boys set cheerfully and heartily to work. It seemed strange that his last work on earth should be preparing this road to the cemetery along which his own body would be carried before those of the Bishop and Mrs. Fauquier arrived. That hard work, with taking a chill, was probably in some measure the cause of his death. He seemed very well on the Friday, the day on which I returned home, and joined the boys in offering a hearty welcome, but the following Sunday he seemed to be ailing, and on Monday, although he had come down to lessons, and was setting to work, he was trembling and scarcely able to stand. I recommended him to return to his room to bed, which he at once did, but it was very soon evident that a serious illness was setting in. An Indian woman was engaged to nurse him, and the doctor from the Sault attended him. For the first few days no great alarm was felt, and the pain seemed to in some measure subdued. No one would allow himself to imagine that death was so near. It was not until Friday evening, the 12th, that a decided change for the worse set in. He became very low and weak, with a slight tendency to delirium. We were all very anxious, and the Indian boys took turns watching at his bedside. On Sunday afternoon ten or twelve of the boys came up to his room for prayer. William, though very weak, and only able to say a few words at a time, asked permission to speak to them, and he spoke very earnestly for six or seven minutes in his own language; then we knelt and prayed--prayed with great earnestness that God, if it were His holy will, would permit our dear boy to recover. All Monday he was very ill. Our hopes were sinking. It scarcely seemed possible that the dear boy could live more than another day or two. We had much earnest prayer at his bedside, and the faintest signs of improvement were eagerly looked for. He was quite resigned to God's will, wishing to recover if it were his Father's will, or ready to die if the call had come. In the
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