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Past and Present
The Father of Canadian Missions

This was a title by which the venerable and Reverend William Case, otherwise known as “Elder Case,” was distinguished for many years before his death. It may seem too broad a title to some, in view of what was achieved by some who preceded him in the Province as Methodist Itinerants— such as Losee, Dunham, Coleman, Wooster, Jewel, Sawyer, Bangs, and others—in so far as the evangelization of the whites was concerned; also in view of the labors, at some periods and in several places, of ministers of other branches of the Church of Christ. Yet, when we remember that Case entered the Province so early as 1805, and that he continued to labor in it, with the exception of six years, unremittingly down to the day of his death; and that he was almost the first Missionary to the extreme western part of the Province; and when we take into account^ that he projected, fostered, and clung to the last to the Indian Missions ; and that the last mentioned Missions have been almost exclusively connected with the Wesleyan Methodist Church, we must see that the cognomen might pass without much explanation or modification.

Were we to write his life, we should probably divide it into— His Pre-Aboriginal Efforts ; and his Indian Missionary Career. And what a fruitful subject to one familiar with the political and religious history of Canada, would be the Life and Times of the Bev. Willtam Case. “ Case and his Coadjutors,” might be its title. He would be a fine central figure, standing out from the rest, while grouped around him might stand the whole array of Canadian Methodist worthies, lay as well as clerical, from one end of the Province to the other, and from eighteen hundred and• Jive, to eighteen hundred and fifty-five. Strange that his friends have found no person competent and willing to undertake it.

In the absence of such a life, we furnish a slight memorial. Like the novelists, we begin in the middle—namely, at the time we first saw him, in 1824, when he must have been about forty-four years of age. I had heard my mother speak of “Elder Case” approvingly, as “a very mild man.” This was to contradistinguish him from the great majority of Methodist preachers of that day, who were in general very boisterous and particularly so “Elder Ryan,” his coadjutor in the Eldership of the Province ; the subject of our last picture, who, as we have seen, was a Boanerges. At length we saw him for ourself. The writer had set out a few months before to seek and serve God; had joined the Methodist Church, and at the time referred to, was attending a prayer meeting in the house of a Mr. C-, when a tall, somewhat slender,

round-faced, pleasant countenanced stranger, genteel looking, in very clerical garb, entered the room; and at the request ot the more active of the only two class-leaders then in the town, conducted the meeting. All the older members pressed around him to shake hands, and were most pleasantly received. The youngest member, who stood behind the rest, was led forward by his leader “to speak to the Elder.” He smilingly re marked to our considerate friend, “I see you have som& young members.” That boy afterwards learned that the good Elder had given his leader a special charge concerning him—predicting by the way, that he would yet preach the Gospel. He took a great interest in young men; and devised measures to bring them forward, often unknown to them, so as not to elate them too much at first. He was the director of the rising ministry of the Methodist Church in Canada before she had a College in which to train them ; and he was the friend of that Institution from the moment it was projected to the day of his death, watching its progress and doings with the most lively interest. He would sometimes talk about “his boys” in the pulpit in a way that set the young aspirants to usefulness, and to weeping around him. Little children, too, he loved, and took a great interest in their schools. On this account, he was a^welcome visitant in the various families whose hospitality he ^enjoyed. The little Indian children, even, would literally pluck his clothes, “to share the good man’s smile.” Nor did they fail in their object. He would often pursue these tawny little ones, and catching them would kiss them with all the fondness imaginable."

My next sight of him, after the occasion referred to, was two years later, when he and the Hey. Thomas Madden chanced to be together in the pulpit of the Old Framed Meeting-House—two of the strong men of that day. Case preached 011 “Justification by Faith,” the most doctrinal sermon I ever heard him deliver; and Madden followed with an address in further elucidation of the subject. I thought I had never heard anything so satisfactory. Madden was the clearer in exposition and more methodical in arrangement; but Case was more declamatory and persuasive. Up to this period he had been very popular as a preacher ; he became less so after he got absorbed in the Indian work, and some brighter luminaries arose to transcend him. Case in the pulpit appeared to the greatest advantage before eighteen hundred and twenty-five, lie did not excel in exposition, nor in doctrinal preaching, but in treating historical subjects—the destruction of Sodom and the case of Zaecheus, for instance—in preaching on relative duties and family religion; in portraying domestic scenes; and in a pathetic sort of declamation, to which his musical voice, his ready utterance, and tearful eyes, all lent their assistance. The intonations of his voice were not unlike those of the Indians, which we always thought gave his address a peculiar persuasiveness to them.

Our subject was born in 1780—converted in 1803—received his first appointment to Canada in 1805. He continued in this Province till 1807, when he spent one year in the United States. He returned in 1808, and continued till 1810. Then, after five years spent on the other side of the lines, he returned and continued in Canada till the day of his death. He was seventeen years a Travelling Chairman, or Presiding Elder of various districts; four years the President of the Conference and Superintendent of the whole work; and the rest of his time till within a year or two of his death, exclusively devoted to the Indian work, as Missionary, Superintendent of Translations, and Principal of Alderville Industrial Institute.

In his relation as the “Father of the Indian Missions” it will become us particularly to speak of him. But before doing so, we must glance at the characteristics of his career among the whites. His early ministry, by the testimony of all who knew him at that time, was distinguished by activity, tenderness, and prudence. It is said that after preaching one of his persuasive sermons, he would sing one of those delightful solos, which he knew so well how to manage. Then when the young people were all enchained, he would walk around the room, take each by the hand, or, throwing his arms around the neck of the young men, he would beseech them to be reconciled to God. It was by such means he promoted the great revival in the West in 1808, when the voice of prayer and praise was heard by day and night in the houses and barns, in the fields and woods, all over the country. By his singing he found his way on some occasions into the families of genteel Romanists, to whose children (in one instance a young lady in dying circumstances) he, in that gentle way, communicated the knowledge of Christ. Music was his own solace, as well as the means of charming others. He told us, that in one of his long, solitary, bush rides, on a close, sultry day, when the feathered songsters were mute and all nature seemed to lie in a state of torpor, he was quite disposed to feel dejected; when he stopt, descended from his horse, selected the branch of a tree that would “ peel,” and made a whistle, with which he remounted and began to play : his own spirits were revived, his horse seemed livelier, all the birds began to sing, and he went on his way rejoicing. He was an early riser; and in later years, when greater refinement obtained, we have known him to rise before the genteel family with whom he was sojourning were astir, and call them to see the glories of a rising sun, and to inhale the balmy breath of morn, by stealing to the piano and thumbing slowly off some simple, plaintive air.

He was “instant in season, and out of season.” Onee when pursuing his way on the beach of one of our great Canadian Lakes, the only passible road at the early day when the event transpired, he met at a narrow pass a solitary man—stopped him, and spoke to him of salvation till he began to weep, then he proposed prayer—alighted from his horse, and wrestled in earnest intercession in his behalf till God in mercy set his soul at liberty. The two embraced each other, and went on their opposite ways rejoicing, perhaps never to meet till they met in heaven. Of his boldness and adroitness in causing his horse to swim the Niagara River, to avoid the embargo, when he wished to reach his circuit in the West, all our readers have learned from his Jubilee Sermon.

Case, though he had none of the sternness and authority of Ryan, and perhaps was less methodical than he, was nevertheless a real general. The submission which others gained by awakening fear, he gained by exciting Jove. He was a shrewd, though silent observer of character; and knew how to put the right man in the right place. Many of these men were superior to himself in point of talent. When the battle for our public rights had to be fought, he did not draw the pen himself (although no contemptible writer) but put forth one of the youngest men in the connexion as its champion, because he knew he was the best qualified of any in the body for the task. At his Quarterly Meetings he sometimes employed the stationed minister to preach in his stead, when he thought he was qualified to make a better impression on the augmented congregation than himself. If he had circulars to write, he knew what good copyist to put his hand on to do it for him. We remember his coming into the school we were attending in 1828, and engaging our teacher to write out for each preacher in his district a draft of circular which he left; the decision of the American General Conference on our application to be separated from that body.

He was “wise as a serpent, while harmless as a dove.” He never committed himself by a premature disclosure of his own views; but he had a quiet, unintentional sort of way of drawing out the views of others. He showed his self-control in his suppressed laughter. That rule of a “Helper,” “Converse sparingly, and conduct yourself prudently with women,” was oxemplarily observed by him from early youth. This was a great achievement, in view of his youthful beauty, and constant^ exposure to company. He was near, or quite fifty, before he married. In fact, his long journeys and absences from home had nearly ceased before he asked- any lady to share his joys and sorrows. Perhaps no person preserved a more prudent single life than he. Some pleasant things are told of his adroitness in disentangling himself from the attentions of fair candidates for the handsome young preacher’s affections, but we shall not particularize them.

There can be no doubt but that his interest in the Indian WORK became a real passion. The aboriginal tribes which hung on the outskirts of civilization in this Province, especially the Chippewa Indians, were a most degraded and besotted race. Ignorant, indolent, improvident, filthy, drunken, and licentious to the last degree. No one hoped for their amelioration, or thought it possible. But Case, in his frequent journeys through the land, had often anxiously revolved their condition in his mind. When, therefore, Peter Jones, a half-Indian youth, whose vernacular was Chippewa, and who knew something of English, was converted at a Camp-Meeting in eighteen hundred and twenty-three, he broke out with the exclamation—“ Bless God! the door is now opened to the Indian tribes.” And events transpiring in swift succession verified the prophetic character of the remark. There was a coincidenec of three favoring circumstances which proved the work to be providentially commenced. A zealous young man, a local preacher, Seth Crawford, by name, had come from the United States, unauthorized, except by what he thought to be a divine impulse, and commenced a school among the Indians of Grand River. Coincidently with that, the Bev. A. Torry had been appointed a Missionary to the scattered white settlers along that stream. Therefore, when Jones (who now resided with his father near where Crawford had commenced operations,) was converted, and his half sister also, who was a Mohawk, there were experienced and pious men at hand to sympathize with him and to guide and assist him in his efforts for the salvation of his fellow-countrymen, which began at once. The first conversions took place among the Mohawks, among whom was an influential chief, Thomas Davis ; but soon the work broke out among the Chippewas of the Credit, to which tribe, or band, Peter Jones, by his mother, properly belonged. For a time the Indian brethren at the G rand Biver gave them a place among themselves, that they might be near the means of grace and of instruction. This was before their houses were erected on their own reservation at the Credit. And it would have been well if all the converted Indians could have permanently settled together in one place, and a communityship if not a nationality given to them by which their efforts towards civilization and self-improvement might have been more effectually encouraged and brought to some good, productive issue. Even as it was, great and glorious things were achieved. The Bellville, or Kingston Indians caught the flame; and it soon spread to Bice Lake, Mud Lake, Lake Simcoe, Schoogog, Muncey-Town, and St. Clair. No one can imagine, who did not witness it, how these wonders among the Indian tribes thrilled the souls and animated the zeal and faith of the old Methodists of the Province.

Case specially became absorbed in it, so that his attention to the regular work ever after was only secondary. He labored, talked, and prayed for the Indians without weariness. A pleasant story is told of an interview between him and the renowned Bishop George, in the United States, whither Case had gone as was his wont frequently, to beg for his Indian Missions. George said Case was called on to pray; and soon began to pray for the “poor Indians;” “but soon broke down with emotion—recovered himself, and began to pray for the Indians again, till he faltered again—praying for the Indians was alternated with weeping”—“till,” said the Bishop, “he forgot the white-man had a soul at all.” Though still on a district till 1828, his spare time was spent at the missions, or in begging for them. The latter was certainly no sinecure. There were no funds and no organizations for raising them in those days. Missionary meetings sucK as we have now were not thought of for several years. The whole was left to fitful spontaneous effort. Case, like Dr. Coke, went from house to house and solicited aid, both here and in the United States, sometimes striving to enhance the interest by the singing and recitations of a few children from the mission schools. Many of the preachers imitated his efforts. We know that Ferguson, of precious memory did for one.

But after all that could be done, the support extended to the laborers—for they well deserved the name, working with their hands to teach the Indians agriculture and the mechanic arts, and to raise food for themselves and families, aud to provide mission houses and chapels—was very slender. Happily they knew how to forage for themselves. A pack enclosed in a blanket, slung on the back by means of what was called a tump-line across the shoulders, and a gun with a small store of powder and shot, constituted an Indian preacher’s outfit. I knew Elder Case to pull the socks off his feet to give to one of these extemporized evangelists, while my own good mother, (peace to her memory I) knit another pair with all possible dispatch to replace them. He adapted himself to the cuisine of the Indians—no trifling achievement by the way—and maintained that no white woman could cook a fish like a squaw.

Case’s calm, quiet, and yet cheerful manner was adapted to the Indian mind. A blustering, driving, direct man, could not succeed with them. But he had a method of administering the most effectual rebuke in a way that would not offend. The most defective part of the converted Indian’s character is—their indolence and want of management The good Elder used to hold at Alderville what he called an “ Inquiry Meeting.” Some scripture character or piece of history was first discussed by the missionary. Then the natives were encouraged to ask questions concerning any point which they had not understood, or about which they wanted more information. This method was found entertaining and instructive. One evening the Patriarch Job was the subject. His case awakened a great deal of curiosity. He was put before them as an example of industry and economy. His great wealth astonished them much. They wished to know again how many sheep he had: and were told “seven thousand.” ’’How many camels?” “Three thousand.” “How many yoke of oxen?” “Five hundred.” “How many she-asses?” And were told, “Five hundred.” “Now,” said Case in conclusion, “Suppose Job should pay you a visit, and walk around among you; and look at the way you farm, and look at your cows, and oxen, and pigs: What do you think he would say?” “Don’t know. What you think he say?” "Well, I think he would shake his head, and say, ‘ This catching musk-rat is a small business’!” The men all dropt their heads. They felt its force. They departed without saying a word, but they were not offended; for it passed into a proverb among them, which they applied to those who neglected agriculture for hunting—“Catching musk-rat is a small business.” Case’s deep interest in the Missions appeared in his amassing a library of books almost wholly restricted to that subject.

Thus have we presumed to record a few of the. incidents of his early career which came to our own knowledge. The rest will be best expressed in the words of the official obituary published in the Minutes of Conference for 1856 :—

“Question IV. What preachers have died since last Conference?* “Answer. “WILLIAM CASE.

“From the autobiographical part of the venerable deceased Minister’s valuable “ Jubilee Sermon” we learn that he was born at Swansea, a town of Massachusetts, on the 27th of August, 1780; and he died, soon after a fall from his horse, at the Wesleyan Indian Mission of Alnwick, in Western Canada, October 19th, 1855,—his departure, which was expected by few persons, universally regretted by his brethren, friends, and the public, though a gracious Providence had permitted him to reach the honored age of seventy-five.

“The eventful period when he assumed the Christian profession is thus briefly stated by him: “After years of religious impressions, and a sinful course, I was converted in 1803.” Under what circumstances this change took place he has not informed us; but of the fact, so necessary to ministerial fitness, satisfaction, and efficiency, there is no doubt; for in every subsequent year, and in all the vicissitudes of an itinerant life, his character was adorned with those features which bespeak a renewed mind, and entire consecration to God. He had not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby he cried Abba, Father; and we believe that spirit was a permanent resident in his soul. At no time was there evidence that the peace he professed was fluctuating, and that the light of his heavenly Father’s countenance had become dim. In his exhibition of the graces of the Holy Spirit there was neither uncertainty nor extravagance; and even to old age

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