This year marks the 15th decade of Baptist work in Western Canada. This newsletter marks the
beginning, next week marks the contribution, the following week the opportunity.
I dedicate this first newsletter by using the ancient, perhaps archaic, language used by Rev. Dr.
Colin, Campbell McLaurin (who says we don’t have ethnic roots with a name like that).
To the noble band of Baptist Missionaries of the four Western Provinces, who in the
English, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Hungarian, Czecho-Slovakian, Russian,
Ukrainian and Cree languages have carried their message everywhere throughout the
Provinces, enduring the hardships of Pioneer life, letting neither inclement weather
nor well-nigh impassable trails hinder them from keeping their appointments at distant
points, and who have occupied the most important place and have done the effective
work of all sharing in this great enterprise,
To the small churches which have co-operated with the missionaries in sending the Light
of the Gospel into the surrounding darkness from their isolated positions.
Note in the dedication the number of languages used; add today Mandarin and Cantonese to
name a few.
We have had such fits and starts to our work (sometimes more fits than starts). The first
recorded Baptists that I can find were not organized in a meeting but were present more the less in
Victoria, British Columbia in the late 1850’s, and were from an Afro-American background. The second
contact was the scouting mission in 1869 of Davidson and Baldwin of Ingersoll, Ontario. Our real start is
the first meetings recorded in the story that comes from McLaurin’s book, Pioneering in Western
Welcome to our 15th decade of ministry; looking forward to the beginning of the countdown to 150.
The Beginning in Manitoba, 1873-1883
Winnipeg, formerly Fort Garry, the capital of the new Province of Manitoba in 1873, had a population
of six hundred. All the buildings were log or frame, except one small drugstore, constructed of brick.
The town was on the banks of the Red River, at the junction of the Assiniboine River. There were no
sidewalks; the clay and mud had a world-wide reputation for depth and adhesiveness. Many are the
stories told of wagons sinking almost out of sight on the main street. For many miles around Winnipeg
the country was absolutely flat, and only a few feet about water level, when the Red River and the
Assiniboine were in full flood.
The Sunday after Mr. McDonald reached Winnipeg, he arranged for a service to be held in a school
house, which was very badly located. He preached to a fairly large company of strangers who seemed
responsive to his message. He requested that if there were any who were identified with a Baptist
church, he would like to meet them at the close of the service. He announced that he was a Baptist
minister, sent by the Baptists of Ontario, to do missionary work in Manitoba. To his disappointment,
every one left the room, but he waited for a few moments before leaving. A man and his wife came
back to see him. They said, “We are not Baptists; we are Presbyterians, but we were so much helped
by your sermon that we had to come back and tell you and wish you success.” Then he made a request
of them: “Would you allow me to have a prayer-meeting in your home on Wednesday night?” They
replied, “We would be really pleased if you would.” All praying people who could be found were invited.
This was the first regular prayer-meeting held in Winnipeg, and in time became quite a centre of
He then found the lone Baptist of the district, W. R. Dick, who lived about twelve miles out of the city
where he had a saw-mill. Mr. Dick became a strong supporter of the church and the Baptist Mission in
Manitoba, as the subsequent story will reveal.
“Pioneering in Western Canada: A story of the Baptists” – Rev. C. C. McLaurin, D.D.