The Life History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, 1847

Chapter IX

In the summer following my mother’s death (1830,) I was converted. The following are the circumstances connected with my conversion. My father and I attended a camp meeting near the town of Colbourne. On our way from Rice Lake, to the meeting, my father held me by the hand, as I accompanied him through the woods. Several times he prayed with me, and encouraged me to seek religion at this camp meeting. We had to walk thirty miles under a hot sun, in order to reach the place of destination. Multitudes of Indians, and a large concourse of whites from various places, were on the ground when we arrived. In the evening, one of the white preachers (Wright, I believe was his name,) spoke; his text was, “For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand.” He spoke in English, and as he closed each sentence, an Indian preacher gave its interpretation. He spoke of the plain and good road to heaven; of the characters that were walking in it; he then spoke of the bad place, the judgment, and the coming of a Saviour. I now began to feel as if I should die; I felt very sick in my heart. Never had I felt so before; I was deeply distressed, and knew not the cause. I resolved to go and prostrate myself at the mourner’s bench, as soon as an opportunity offered. We were now invited to approach. I went to the bench and knelt down by the roots of a large tree. But how could I pray? I did not understand how to pray; and besides, I thought that the Great Spirit was too great to listen to the words of a poor Indian boy. What added to my misery was, that it had rained in torrents about three quarters of an hour, and I was soaking wet. The thunder was appalling, and the lightning terrific. I then tried again to pray, but I was not able. I did not know what words to use. My father then prayed with and for me. Many were praising God, all around me. The storm now ceased, and nearly all the lights had been extinguished by the rain. I still groaned and agonized over my sins. I was so agitated and alarmed that I knew not which way to turn in order to get relief. I was like a wounded bird, fluttering for its life. Presently and suddenly, I saw in my mind, something approaching; it was like a small but brilliant torch; it appeared to pass through the leaves of the trees. My poor body became so enfeebled that I fell; my heart trembled. The small brilliant light came near to me, and fell upon my head, and then ran all over and through me, just as if water had been copiously poured out upon me. I knew not how long I had lain after my fall; but when I recovered, my head was in a puddle of water, in a small ditch. I arose; and O! how happy I was! I felt us light as a feather. I clapped my hands, and exclaimed in English, “Glory to Jesus.” I looked around for my father, and saw him. I told him that I had found “Jesus.” He embraced me and kissed me; I threw myself into his arms. I felt as strong as a lion, yet as humble as a poor Indian boy saved by grace, by grace alone. During that night I did not sleep. The next morning, my cousin, George Shawney, and myself, went out into the woods to sing and pray. As I looked at the trees, the hills, and the vallies, 0 how beautiful they all appeared! I looked upon them, as it were, with new eyes and new thoughts. Amidst the smiles of creation, the birds sang sweetly, as they flew from tree to tree. We sang

“Jesus the name that charms our fears.”

O how sweet the recollections of that day! “Jesus all the day long was my joy and my song.” Several hundred were converted during this meeting. Many of the Indians were reluctant to leave the camp ground when the meeting was broken up. When we reached our homes at Rice Lake, every thing seemed to me as if it wore a different aspect; every thing was clothed with beauty. Before this, I had only begun to spell and read. I now resumed my studies with a new and different relish. Often, when alone, I prayed that God would help me to qualify myself to teach others how to read the word of God; this circumstance I had not told to any one. On Sabbath mornings I read a chapter in the New Testament, which had been translated for my father, before we went to meeting.

During this summer, one of our chiefs, John Sunday, with several others, departed from Rice Lake, for the west, with a design to preach to the Ojebwas. When they returned, they told us that the Indians were very eager to hear the word of God, and that many had been converted. John Sunday informed us of a certain Indian, who was so much opposed to the meetings, that he confined his wife and children to one of the islands, to prevent her attending them. But this poor was so anxious to obey God in attendance on worship, that she was in the habit of fording the river every night, and carrying her children on her back. Her husband was afterwards converted. He mentioned also an instance of an Indian who brought his medicine sack with him to the meeting, but on being converted, he scattered its contents to the four winds of heaven. These sacks were held very sacred among the Indians. He spoke likewise of the conversion of many chiefs, and of the flocks of children anxious to hear the word of God. He left such an impression on my mind, that often, while alone, I prayed that God might send me to instruct the children in the truths of religion.

I joined my father’s class meeting; and as often as possible I attended school during the period of two years. In June, 1834, our white missionary, Daniel McMullen, received a letter from the Rev. Wm. Case, in which it was stated that a letter had been sent to him by the Rev. John Clark, who was then the Superintendent of the missions on Lake Superior. The Superintendent requested that two native preachers and two native teachers should be sent to him. John Johnson and I were told that we were to accompany Brothers John Taunchey and Caubage to Lake Superior, to aid Brother Clark.

Brother Caubage, and my cousin Johnson, took their departure. John Taunchey hesitated about going, because I was undecided, and my father felt unwilling at first to let me go.

One day I determined to leave the village so as to avoid going to Lake Superior; I hunted along the River Trent, hoping that John Taunchey would be gone before my return; I felt very unwilling to go. I was absent over two weeks; they were the longest two weeks I had ever experienced. Yet the whole time I felt dissatisfied; something seemed to whisper to me, “George, go home, and go to Lake Superior with your uncle John Taunchey.” I returned to the village. The first person I saw, informed me that my uncle was waiting for me, and that my father had left it to me to decide whether to go or to stay. Here I was; the missionaries came, and said, “George, your father has left it with you to go or stay. It is your duty to go; John is waiting, and to-day you must conclude.” Our school mistress, Miss Pinney, came and reasoned with me. I recollected, too, that I had prayed that God might prepare me to be useful to my brethren; and now, that I had some good reason to think that my prayers had been heard, and still to refuse to go, would perhaps be acting in opposition to the indications of God. I wept and prayed; but O! that night of struggle! I could not sleep. In the morning, I said to my father, “ I have concluded to go; prepare me for my journey.” That morning we were prepared; and on the 16th of July, 1834, about noon, we were on the shore. The canoe was ready; many of the Indians prayed with us on the beach. After shaking hands with my father and the rest, we bid farewell to all we loved so tenderly. We went on board the steamboat Great Britain at Cobourg, and arrived at Toronto the next day. On the 19th of July, we saw at Toronto, on the top of one of the houses, Mr. William Lyon McKenzie, who created so much trouble in Canada in the years 1837 and 1838. He was then in the height of his popularity. He was placed upon the top of a house by his friends, in company with another lawyer, with a large gold medal around his neck. There was a large concourse of his friends who had come from Hamilton for the express purpose of seeing and cheering him. On the 20th July, we left in the stage for Holland Landing; here we remained two days, for the want of a conveyance to the Snake Island Mission. At this island we tarried the whole of the Sabbath with the Indians; and had some glorious meetings. They conveyed us to the Narrows Mission. In crossing from Narrows to Cold Water Mission, we were obliged to carry our trunks on our backs. About 11 o’clock we met two runaway horses on the road to Narrows. We caught them, tied our trunks on their backs, and lead them back to Cold Water. Thus we were relieved of our heavy loads.

On Wednesday, the 26th July, we went from Cold Water Mission to Pane-ta-wa-go-shene, where we saw a great number of Ojebwas from Lake Superior, Ottowas, Menomenese, &c. Here we fell in with John Sunday, Frazer, and others, who were engaged in instructing the Indians in this vicinity.

An opportunity occurred now to go to Sault St. Marie, where the Rev. John Clark resided. We were out of provisions several times. By fishing and shooting gulls on our way, we were enabled to reach the Sault, where we met Brother Clark, John Caubage, and cousin Johnson; this took place, I believe, on the 24th of August. We stayed here about two weeks, preparing to go to the Aunce, the Ke-wa-we-non Mission. During our delay in this place, the Rev. Messrs. Chandler and Bourne (the latter a member of the Illinois Conference) arrived. Brother Chandler has since died. My cousin, H. P. Chase, was Brother Clark’s interpreter. The Indians were comfortable in their new houses. We held meeting with them several nights.

Pah-we-ting with its fisheries. Thomas Shaw, a warm and open hearted half-bred Frenchman, was in the habit of scooping out of the rapids, twenty or thirty fine white fish, and boiling them for his friends.


Icon for the Public Domain license

This work (The Life History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, 1847 by George Copway) is free of known copyright restrictions.