Since the War, the settled population has been increasing. During the last few years it has been visited in the summer vacation by a clergyman representing the Fellowship of the West (an Anglican Society formed in Eastern Canada) and by Miss Eva Hasell during her tour with one of her Sunday School Vans. The latter appealed for someone to live there and undertake religious work especially among the children. In September 1929, Miss Monica Storrs went out to work under a license from the Bishop.
During her first year she lived with an English lady upon who had fallen all the voluntary nursing and medical work in a large area, 60 miles at least from the nearest doctor. On her arrival, Miss Storrs started three regular Sunday Schools (involving a round of over 20 miles) which she carried on throughout her time there. Weekdays were spent in visiting, and in the school dinner hour — the only practicable time — she established groups of Scouts, Cubs and Guides. Slow work, especially in the winter in one-roomed schools also occupied by the other scholars and the teacher and usually fitted with fixed desks forbidding much movement. Regular services were also held in the schools, but not unnaturally many settlers who had been left so long without the regular ministrations of the church had come to the conclusion that they could get along without religion. Often the newcomers were too much taken up in the struggle for existence to attend to things spiritual.
During this winter, a Roman Catholic Priest arrived to minister to the members of his Communion. Otherwise, Miss Storrs was responsible for all the religious work, until the summer vacation brought a United Church Student to look up his flock and another welcome visit of the Fellowship of the West. Cannon Proctor, 60 miles away south of the River, had his hands occupied with his own vast district.
Meanwhile, in England, Bishop Rix started an appeal to build a Church Hall at Baldonnel, in memory of Dean Storrs, while the Fellowship of the West undertook to find a clergyman to reside North of the Peace, and to guarantee his stipend for a certain number of years. Money from various sources (including the C. & C.C.S.) was collected towards a Church at Fort St. John.
Of the consecration of these two Churches and the ordination to the priesthood of the Rev. G. Wolfendale you will have read in the October number.
Miss Storrs spent the winter of 1930-31 in England, (Miss Muriel Haslam taking her place at Fort St. John, and in April I went out with her. When I left in October she was established with Miss Haslam and Miss Cecilia Goodenough in her own house built between the two main centres of work, which are eight miles apart.
It was indeed a time of great development. The railway was already only 60 miles away, a hospital was being built and staffed by a Roman Catholic Sisterhood and over a dozen fresh schools were springing up in the outlying districts to satisfy the needs of an increasing population.
I should think that every European nation could have found its representative in this area, and it seemed the exception rather than the rule that husband and wife would be compatriots. But as most of the families had come from other parts of Canada or from the United States, their Canadian was fluent if a trifle bewildering to follow sometimes. All seemed content, however, to have found themselves under the British flag and to watch their children growing up as Canadians.
Many families, ruined by failure of crops elsewhere, were beginning again under pioneer conditions with a courage, cheerfulness and indifference to present hardship and a hope for the future that compelled the most sincere admiration. We felt most deeply for those middle-aged women who had lost the nice homes they had built up elsewhere. Whenever our welcome at first was rather grudging, we found it to be due to a sense of shame at having to entertain guests in such primitive conditions. Our hostess generally took much comfort from learning that we lived in a log-house ourselves from which even the bark had not been peeled. Self-respect was usually finally established by a hurried burrowing in boxes from which in great triumph were produced tea serviettes for our use.
We were sorry, too, for girls just growing up who had known the interests and companionship of a high school education, and now found themselves miles from congenial neighbours with nothing urgent to occupy their time. However, patrols of Guides have been started in the outlying districts, and have been eagerly joined. I know of one girl who is quite prepared to cross a river and make her way through a forest trail, of which 10 miles can be continuous mud and swamp to reach a school 20 miles away for a Guide meeting.
North British Columbia News, April 1932