Normal 0 false false false Read More

In 1892, Isaac Stringer responded to Bishop Reeve's call for missionaries to go work among the Inuit of the Mackenzie Delta region. In those days the journey from Toronto to Fort McPherson, Stringer's destination for his first Arctic assignment, was an arduous one that took 2 months and required numerous modes of transportation.

Day 1: May 16, 1892

Travel Type: Train

Isaac Stringer's journey to the North began on May 16, 1892. Accompanied by William Day Reeve, the Bishop of Mackenzie River Diocese and Thomas Jabez Marsh, a lay missionary, they boarded a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train in Toronto, Ontario for the first leg of their trip.

Day 3: May 18, 1892
The CPR locomotive traversed the Canadian prairies on its way to Calgary, Alberta.

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white photo of Union Station in Toronto

Union Station in Toronto, circa 1885.

Old Log Church Museum

NAC PA-146822
© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white sketch of the interior of a railway sleeping car

Interior of Canadian Pacific Railway Sleeping Car

Glenbow Archives
© Glenbow Archives

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Read More

DAY 6: May 21, 1892
In less than one week, Stringer and his companions arrived at Calgary.

Day 8: May 23, 1892
The missionaries transferred to the newly constructed Calgary and Edmonton Railway for the train ride north to Edmonton.

Day 10: May 25, 1892
Edmonton marked the end of the steel rails. From here, 2,000 miles of winding trails and torturous streams lay ahead. Before leaving Edmonton, Stringer purchased a year's worth of supplies from the Hudson's Bay Company. He also sent telegrams to friends and family, as communication beyond this point would be limited.

Day 12: May 27, 1892
On May 27, the missionaries departed for Athabasca Landing, 96 miles north of Edmonton. They travelled on freight wagons heavily laden with provisions and alternated between riding in or walking beside the wagons. The wagons provided a very precarious and jolting means of transportation; so the walk was much preferred to the ride.

Day 16: May 31, 1892
Four days after leaving Edmonton the missionaries arrived at Athabasca Landing, the Hudson's Bay Company main distribution point for supplies bound for northern posts. From this point forward all rivers flow north.

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white photo of Athabasca Landing

Athabasca Landing and the road back to Edmonton

Glenbow Archives
c. 1899
© Glenbow Archives

Normal 0 false false false Read More

Day 17: June 1, 1892
On June 1, the missionaries boarded the steamer Athabasca, for the 165 mile trip down the Athabasca River to Grand Rapids. Towing boats filled with freight, the Athabasca left early the next morning. Nine miles into the journey, a heavy rainstorm forced the captain to head to shore. At times the rain was so heavy that the ship's roof began to leak and some passengers found themselves sleeping in pools of water. Stringer noted "…Mr. Livoch slept on the dining room table which he declared was the only dry spot on board…"

After 10 days, the storm relented and the Athabasca resumed her journey.

Day 20: June 4, 1892
The Athabasca arrived at Grand Rapids on June 4. Appropriately named, Grand Rapids was situated on a long narrow island that divided the river into two wild rushing streams. Forty-five boatmen were needed to transfer the cargo to scows and to pilot the boats to the head of the island. The cargo was then transferred to the foot of the island by way of a primitive tramway built by the Hudson's Bay Company.

Day 30: June 14, 1892
On June 14, they left Grand Rapids for Fort MacMurray, 90 miles down the Athabasca River. Seven open boats and a crew of 6 oarsmen carried the missionaries and a ton of freight on to Fort MacMurray.

Day 31: June 15, 1892
The next day, the missionaries reached the Cascade where the water dropped 6 feet. To navigate this part of the river, the boats had to be partially unloaded and the cargo transferred to shore. Despite these precautions, 3 boats were damaged and needed repairs. This delayed the journey for 36 hours.

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white photo of Polling up the Grand Rapids

Polling up the Grand Rapids

Glenbow Archives
c. 1899
© Glenbow Archives

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Read More

Day 32: June 16, 1892
On June 16, very late in the day, they reached Fort MacMurray. Here they boarded the steamer Grahame en route to Smith’s Landing.

Day 35: June 19, 1892
By June 19, the Grahame was caught in a storm at the mouth of the Athabasca River. Even though Fort Chipewyan was only two hours away, it was too stormy to cross Lake Athabasca.

Day 38: June 22, 1892
Three days later, the storm subsided and the Grahame reached Fort Chipewyan at 11 o’clock on the evening of June 22.

Day 39: June 23, 1892
Now behind schedule, the Grahame made a quick stop at Fort Chipewyan. The Grahame then proceeded down the Slave River to Smith’s Landing, only to be delayed once again when the steamer hit a sand bar. The missionaries reached Smith’s Landing at noon on June 23, where they said goodbye to the relative comforts of water travel.

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white photo of The HBCo Steamer Grahame at Fort McMurray

The HBCo Steamer Grahame at Fort McMurray.

Glenbow Archives
c. 1899
© Glenbow Archives

Normal 0 false false false Read More

Day 39: June 23, 1892
Due to rapids on the Slave River, the missionaries were forced to make an 18 mile portage. Before they could set out for Fort Smith, their belongings were transferred to 7 ox carts. They travelled at night when it was much cooler. However, 8 hours of travel on very rough roads and millions of vicious mosquitoes, made the journey unbearable.

Day 40: June 24, 1892
On June 24, at one o’clock in the morning they reached Fort Smith on the Slave River. The missionaries were forced to wait 10 days for the steamer Wrigley that was en route from Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River. Stringer recalled, "It is not known when it will come as it is icebound on the other side of Great Slave Lake."

If the anxious anticipation of the Wrigley’s arrival wasn’t torture enough, Stringer described the torment they suffered from the mosquitoes.

"I can’t describe how bad they are…they swarm around one in thousands…on my hands and parts of my face I can count ten or fifteen bites to the square inch…When we go down to the flats it [the sound] is almost like a band playing."

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white photo of Fort Smith

Fort Smith

Glenbow Archives
© Glenbow Archives

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Read More

Day 49: July 3, 1892
On Sunday, July 3, the missionaries boarded the Wrigley for the last 1300 miles of their journey. They still had many stops and hardships to endure before they would reach their destination of Fort McPherson on the Peel River.

Day 52: July 6, 1892
From Fort Resolution, the Wrigley travelled across the bottom of Great Slave Lake to Fort Providence on the Mackenzie River.

Day 55: July 9, 1892
On July 9, The Wrigley arrived at Fort Simpson. Though the missionaries’ stay was short, the small community of Fort Simpson made quite an impression on Stringer. He remarked…

"It is the metropolis of the north. Why, it is quite a city even if it does not have many inhabitants…There is something about life here that I can’t describe. The people do not live as one might suppose, in desolation and misery. They have all they really need at this time of the year, anyway, and on a small scale there is as much fashion and especially gossip as in places with greater pretensions."

Day 56: July 10, 1892
The Wrigley continued on its journey down the Mackenzie River making brief stops at tiny outposts such as Fort Wrigley to collect and drop off passengers and freight. The steamer travelled about 13 miles per hour. Stringer expressed his thoughts about the Wrigley "… though it was a small boat and not convenient for passengers, she was made well."

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Painting of Fort Simpson

Oil Painting of Fort Smith

Gordon Lockerby
c. 1857
© Glenbow Archives

Normal 0 false false false Read More

Day 57: July 11, 1982
On July 11, the Wrigley arrived at Fort Norman located at the confluence of the Mackenzie River and Great Bear Lake.

Day 58: July 12, 1892
The journey to Fort Good Hope proved uneventful and the Wrigley arrived one day later on July 12.

Day 59: July 13, 1892
On July 13, the Wrigley arrived at the Arctic Circle. A day’s travel from Fort McPherson, Stringer remarked about the impending end of his journey…

"I will be sorry that the trip is over as I have enjoyed it very much but I am glad to get at my work."

Day 60: July 14, 1892
Sixty days after he began his journey, Isaac Stringer finally arrived at Fort McPherson on July 14, 1892. Before he had time to unpack his belongings and contemplate his new situation, Stringer was informed that should he hope to get letters to his family in time for Christmas, he must write them now so they could be sent back on the Wrigley which was leaving in 48 hours. He remarked "…the last link between home and me", as he watched the Wrigley depart.

So began Stringer’s missionary career. For the next 3 years, he ministered to the Inuit population from his base at Fort McPherson. In 1896, after a short furlough in Ontario, he returned to the North this time to Herschel Island with his childhood sweetheart and new bride, Sadie.

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Black and white photo of Fort MacPherson

Fort MacPherson

HBCo Archives
c. 1892
MMMN 82/565 #1
© HBCo Archives

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify a variety of reasons that led to the exploration of the Canadian North;
  • Identify the difficulties encountered when living in the Great North;
  • Explain the possible repercussions of those difficulties;
  • Analyze the relationships between Aboriginals and Europeans that led to many explorations;
  • Analyze the desire to spread the Christian faith in Canada and the results obtained, as well as the links and relationships that this created with indigenous peoples.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans