History Corner: Horseback Preacher in 1902

As a student minister in1902, Rob McKay’s summer job was to be an itinerant representative of the Presbyterian Church in the wilds of the then North West Territories, now east-central Saskatchewan. Obtaining a horse from his uncle at Round Lake, Rob set off for Kamsack and Swan River area. Although he often had to ask for a place to stay overnight, in those days it was a fair exchange, a bed and a meal in return for news of the Canadian heartland of southern Ontario. And swimming your horse across a river in flood was all in a day’s work.

In “the gentle adventurer”, a modest 70-page book by Robert’s daughter Margaret Taylor, the reader hears of Robert’s challenges of travelling by horseback through the Yorkton region in the summers of 1902 and 1903. His job was to visit settlements, camps and houses, to demonstrate a Christian outlook and to provide advice, support and even perform funeral service.

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In addition to referencing his family heritage and school years, the book describes Robert’s years (1896-1897) as a teacher at the Round Lake residential school. Also described are Robert’s adventures during the summer of 1906, again as an itinerant preacher, along the Skeena River in north-western British Columbia, following the route of the proposed Grand Trunk Pacific railroad, visiting mining and surveyors’ camps. Travelling by pony, by stern-wheeler, barge or foot, Robert gladly performed Christian worship services to those who showed their need.

After marriage and starting his family in Ontario, Robert later accepted the call to be minister of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert, also serving there as chaplain of the penitentiary during the Depression years.

A limited number of copies of “the gentle adventurer” are available at no cost by writing to Robert’s grandson, Ken Taylor, 1045 Varsity Estates Place NW, Calgary, AB. T3B3X5

We thank Ken Taylor for donating a copy of the book The Gentle Adventurer to our Archives and writing this book report. It is always of interest to me to read travel stories in western Canada during the years of early settlement.

Contact Terri Lefebvre Prince,
Heritage Researcher,
City of Yorkton Archives,
Box 400, 37 Third Avenue North
Yorkton, Sask. S3N 2W3

© Copyright Yorkton This Week


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