The missionary who had arrived in Sault Ste. Marie in 1832, establishing St. John’s Mission to the Ojibway, was Reverend William McMurray (1810-1894). McMurray quickly set to work preaching, teaching, and making plans with the Band. Earning the respect and the admiration of Chief Shingwauk and others, McMurray, Augustine wrote, ‘took Ogenebugokwa [“Woman of the Wild Rose,” Charlotte Johnston 1806-1878], one of our nation, for his wife.’
Initial success in building the first ‘Teaching Wigwam’ and farm, complete with livestock and gardens, as well as in providing lumber for houses, was abruptly followed by stagnation and failure. Government support waned after 1834, and promised houses remained unbuilt. Francis Bond Head (1793-1875), Colborne’s successor, supported an Indian policy of removal rather than integration. In 1838, despairing over broken promises and failure of the mission, McMurray and Ogenebugokwa left the Sault, and Shingwauk permanently relocated his Band ten miles downstream to Garden River.
For the next sixteen years, with Church support weak and incidental, the Band struggled against illegal settler incursions and Government inaction. Finally, in 1849, Chief Shingwauk and Batchewana Chief Nebenagoching (1808-1899) led an armed party to Mica Bay on Lake Superior’s east coast and, in defence of Anishinaabe territorial sovereignty, expelled an illegal mining settlement. Their arrest and acquittal forced the Government to recognize Indigenous Land Rights and negotiate the Robinson Treaties of 1850, the first of Canada’s ‘industrial’ treaties. Upon Shingwauk’s death in March 1854, his son Augustine became Chief.
Chief Shingwauk’s passing in 1854 affected his Band profoundly. However, meeting the newly appointed missionary, the Reverend James Chance (1829-1897), a few months before his death, had raised their hopes for the future. Anticipating the prospect of renewed development, new Chief Augustine Shingwauk heartily welcomed Chance and his bride Hannah Foulkes (1824-1906) to their Garden River honeymoon in 1855.
The Chances threw themselves into community development and, along with having their own family, matched the Band’s tireless efforts to build a ‘modern’ community that combined seasonal and sedentary life styles and traditional Anishinaabe and European ways. They established a church, rectory, Teaching Wigwam, dock, gardens and farms with livestock, and a gristmill. When the Reverend Edward F. Wilson (1844-1915) from Sarnia Mission arrived at Garden River in 1869 to visit the Chances, he was most impressed with what had been accomplished. Yet, just as the Band was gaining critical momentum toward bringing its plans to fruition, the Chances were re-posted, repeating the dispiriting pattern of previous development attempts. In 1871 came the unsettling news of their redeployment to Grand River, without any provision for their replacement.
Rev. Wilson and his wife Fanny Spooner (1840-1926) relocated from their missionary post in Sarnia to Garden River in 1871 and immediately organized a second Teaching Wigwam fundraising tour, this time to England with Chief Buhkwujjenene. The Band “agreed to sell an ox, which belonged to them in common, to assist in defraying his expenses.” Buhkwujjenene’s extensive travels and meetings throughout England with the Wilsons were both revealing and rewarding. Having seen great riches and great poverty, upon his return “he pointed to his little log cottage and said that was better than all the great houses in England.” With funds raised through both tours, the first ‘Shingwauk Industrial Home’, a large two-story wooden structure, opened at Garden River on September 22, 1873.
Six days later disaster struck. A suspicious fire consumed the Home, taking with it the Wilson’s fourth child, Mabel Laurie. Subsequent appeals for funding saw the opening, in 1875, of a new Shingwauk Home, constructed of fire-resistant stone masonry, on this current site in Sault Ste. Marie. Its founders, the Wilsons, Shingwauks, and the first Bishop of the new Missionary Diocese of Algoma, Frederick Dawson Fauquier (1817-1881), and his wife Sarah Burrowes [Burroughs] (d. 1881) proved a strong and cohesive team. So successful were their fundraising efforts that Wilson quickly expanded the industrial education program, building the Wawanosh Home for girls in 1877 and the Neepigon Mission in 1881. Addressing concerns for the educational needs of Plains Anishinaabe, especially after the second Riel Métis and First Nations uprising in 1885, Wilson focused his efforts westward, opening the Washakada and Kasota Homes in Elkhorn, Manitoba, over 1888-89, and commencing construction of a Home at Medicine Hat, Assiniboia, in 1891.