The Life of Jeremiah Johnston: Part X

It was Thursday July 20, 1898, described by Missionary Rodgers as a most beautiful morning after a rain. The atmosphere was very clear, and the rippling water of the Rainy River near the Sault Rapids sparkled in the sunlight. Mr. Rodgers enjoyed his morning dip without the mosquitoes devouring him the moment he came out of the water. It again started to rain and lasted most of the day, Mr. Rodgers helped Jeremiah mend his grindstone and while they worked Jeremiah told him a story about Tom Overcome. When Jeremiah first came to the area he accompanied Archdeacon Phair to Tom’s house and the Archdeacon asked Jeremiah to read the Bible and then to sing a hymn, Jeremiah did not like to do this as it was not his custom to sing unless the Indians wished it. Afterwards the Archdeacon talked a great deal through Jeremiah as an interpreter. Tom replied, “you two men know a great deal and I am only a poor Indian, now supposing I should go to your house and beat my tom-tom and dance my dance and go on in my ways would you like it? Now that you have had your say here let me tell you never to enter my house again until I ask you.” Afterwards he did all he could to annoy Jeremiah, driving his sleigh with bells past the Church on Sunday morning to get firewood thus distracting the attention of the people. Jeremiah felt that he must talk to him, but he did not want to enter his home until invited. One day they met on the road, Tom said he was busy, Jeremiah responded by saying “so am I,” but that he wanted a word with him. Jeremiah told him “you need not think you can annoy me by what you are doing, it makes no difference to me but in working Sunday’s you are displeasing God who alone can bless you and make you happy,” Tom replied by iterating “that is only the white man’s way,” but Jeremiah talked on with Tom listening. At last, Tom said, “you speak the truth, many a time I have cut my foot or hand because I was working on Sunday.” Still, even after their chat he did not come to Church although Jeremiah thought he got closer to him. Sometime later Jeremiah heard that Tom was going to take his wife and baby on a long journey in the winter to visit the American Indians. Jeremiah felt very strongly about the danger of this he pleaded with Tom not to go, he seemed to hesitate, but his wife was anxious, they went, she died on the journey and the day after the babe starved to death. When Tom returned, he came and shook hands with Jeremiah and could scarcely speak, he said, “I have often thought of your words which were the truth.” Tom never did enter the Church and the medicine men did all they could to keep him away.

The day cleared and Mr. Rogers and Jeremiah sailed and paddled four miles down the river to the Boucherville Post Office and there found his first letter, it rained as they were leaving so they waited a little while and eventually worked hard to get back home as they rowed against both wind and current with dark with light breaking through them.

On Friday July 21st Missionary Rodgers left on the Kenora at 8:00 AM, he described the morning as dull, but clouds added to the river scene, a little cottage perfectly reflected on the still water, it’s memory lived on. Mr. Rodgers was on his way to crossing The Big Traverse entering the Islands of Lake of the Woods.

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