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The Reverend Samuel Trivett
First Angelican Missionary
With The Blood Indians

Chief Mountain Country pages 185 - 188
by the Rev. Rodney Andrews,
B.A., B.Th., Rector of St. Paul's Church
Cardston, Alberta

Samuel Trivett came to the Blood Reserve in 1880. Before he left in 1891 he suffered hardship, sorrow and joy. He worked very hard under difficult circumstances and laid the foundation for many years of Anglican work which still goes on today.

We are indebted to the Very Rev. D. J. Carter of Calgary. Dean Carter published a book in 1974 entitled "Samuel Trivett-Missionary with the Blood Indians," which paints a delightful picture of this dedicated missionary .

Samuel Trivett was born in England on April 6, 1852, and was expected to follow in his father's footsteps of winemaking or tea-blending. As a young man Trivett met Bishop Bompas who was working in northern Canada and Samuel was inspired to become a missionary to the Canadian Indians. He headed off for college at Islington near London to train for the Ministry. His father was furious and apparently gave his son a sum of money and disowned him. It seems that Sam used most of this money to establish the Anglican mission on the Blood Reserve.

In 1878 Trivett was ordained and he and his wife left England by ship to New York, then by train to Fargo, Dakota, and then by steamer via the Red River to Winnipeg. He was appointed Anglican minister at Stanley in northern Saskatchewan. The young couple left Winnipeg by steamer on Lake Winnipeg and then transferred to river boats on the Churchill River.

The Trivetts arrived at Stanley (which is still an isolated community in 1978) before freezeup and built a house. The Indians would come 10 or 12 miles every Saturday by canoe or dog team in order to worship on Sundays. Trivett was learning the Cree language, teaching the children and building up his mission.

In September of 1879 his 27 year old wife died in childbirth. Trivett himself conducted the funeral service in Stanley Church. There were 300 Indians present. Six men acted as pallbearers and they sang "Safe in the Arms of Jesus" in Cree as she was buried.

Trivett carried on until the autumn of 1880 when he was transferred to the "Blood Reserve, Belly River, Fort Macleod." Trivett found 800 Bloods here and conducted two services a Sunday in the school and sometimes a third in a tent two miles away. His congregations were mostly children with 10 to 20 adults, mostly men, including the Head Chief. On weekdays Trivett taught school and worked at learning the Blackfoot language. He built a school building on the Blood Reserve-there were 29 children in attendance. The missionary lived in a sod shanty with a dirt floor.

In the fall of 1882 Trivett was given a schoolmaster for the Reserve-but he had to travel to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to pick him up! Sam was unable to ford the Red Deer River due to a flood so he found a place near Empress (northeast of Medicine Hat) where there was a ferry. The Ferryman did not come for him so Trivett's man "swam" the river on horseback and came back in a dugout for Trivett. They built a raft to carry the buggy and the horses swam the flooded river. Trivett found that the ferryman had a broken wrist. With a lady holding the man and with Trivett's man pulling on the hand, Trivett set the broken wrist!

When they got to Prince Albert Trivett met his schoolmaster, the Rev. H. Bourne, and Trivett preached at his ordination. Winter was coming and they soon started back to the Blood Reserve. Mr. Bourne had his wife and small children, so they travelled slowly. They had to camp out for three days in a snowstorm and had to burn some of the Bourne's furniture to keep warm. They finally reached Fort Macleod in October. The winter of 1882-1883 was very severe. The Bournes lived in Trivett's bedroom while he enlarged the house to make room for them.

The same winter must have been difficult for Trivett in yet another, more personal sense. The Mounted Police Letterbooks of Fort Macleod record that on December 22, 1882 Cpl. De Renzie brought in an Indian from the Blood Reserve on a charge of attempting to shoot the Rev. Mr. Trivett. On January 13, 1883 the Indian brought in on a charge of attempting to shoot the Rev. Mr. Trivett was bound over to keep the peace for six months. One of the chiefs went his bail. By 1886 Cpl. De Renzie who made this arrest had mustered out of the Mounted Police and was homesteading on Lees Creek southwest of Cardston.

Trivett had been out from England and had worked with the Indians at Stanley and the Blood Reserve for five years. He had been widowed for 31/2 years and he began to correspond with a lady in England who agreed to marry him. He asked the missionary society if he could go back to England-and if he could build a separate new house. Sam writes that the lady was fully suited to be a missionary wife and that he had decided to remarry. Trivett was very anxious-he ends his letter "PS-Please write as early as possible as to my visiting England." During 1883 the CPR had reached Gleichen and Calgary so it would be much easier to get to England by train and boat. While Mr. Trivett was anxiously waiting for permission to leave the Blood Reserve for four months to go to England to be married he made the first translation of any part of the Bible into Blackfoot- the Ten Commandments. One evening as he waited a message arrived that his fiancee had died. Trivett decided to stay on and work on the Blood Reserve-his school and services were well attended. He had become an expert carpenter, and continued to build the Anglican mission. A school equipped with benches, desks and a stable were erected and he even put a floor in his own house after two years on a dirt floor.

Trivett began to work at Pincher Creek as well-the settlers there built a Church which was opened in 1884. It is still used today and is the oldest Anglican Church in southern Alberta. Trivett kept up his work on the Blood Reserve, assisted by Rev. H. Bourne as schoolmaster. He travelled back and forth to Pincher Creek, 46 miles away. He worked that winter learning the Blackfoot language. One day he came to the Lower Camp on the Reserve for a service and was caught in a blizzard. Trivett wrapped his face in a bag and let his horse find the way home. The horse took him within 400 yards of home-he suffered frostbite but that afternoon he took a service at the mission and baptized two children.

By the Spring of 1885 the Rev. Mr. Bourne was settled on the Blood Reserve so young Sam, once widowed and once engaged to a girl who died before their wedding, returned to England. For five years he had had no change-he had been alone except for the first eleven months. In England Trivett, aged 33, stayed with his sister, a Mrs. Barber, and he met a young girl named Catherine Jennings who was living with the local Anglican Rector and his wife and caring for their children. Catherine was an attractive and sensitive young girl and Trivett did not waste any time in trying to make her his wife. One Saturday evening in May he brought her a book and a picture of himself. On Sunday he replaced the Rector at Church and Miss Jennings thought he preached a very nice sermon. On Monday he took her to see his brother-in-law's flowers and on Tuesday he asked her to marry him! Apparently they were married in late May, about three weeks after he first called on her! They sailed the Atlantic and crossed Canada by rail, suffering two railway accidents on the way-a derailment and a collision with a freight train.

Mrs. Trivett was the first wife of an Anglican missionary on the Blood Reserve. She and Sam were well liked by the Indians. They conducted services and distributed clothing to the Indians. The mission was by then located at Big Island (Omoksene) in the Belly River near the north end of the Reserve.

Trivett had a great sense of social justice and a sincere desire to help the Indians in every way. He spoke out against what he considered to be injustices in the way the Government (through the Indian Affairs Department) treated the Indians. In February 1886 two missionaries from this part of the world wrote letters to the Toronto Globe pointing out the poor treatment that Indians were receiving from the Indian Affairs Department. John MacDougall, a famous Methodist minister from Morley and Samuel Trivett of the Blood Reserve were both disgusted with the quality of Indian agents and the offensive way the government officials were treating the Indians. The clergymen realized that many Indian Affairs officials were not competent to hold jobs in the east and were sent out here because they belonged to the political party in power. Later Trivett wrote to charge some Indian agents of immorality. Trivett was not afraid to speak out for social justice, for the demands of God and for the oppressed Indians. Indians were starving and medical problems were great.

Trivett, his private money gone, was also having financial problems. His salary from the Church was five months in arrears. He had a large overdraft and other debts. Hay was $23. a ton in 1890! He wore second hand clothing sent from eastern Canada. In spite of this Trivett was hard at work visiting the Indians, preaching and translating. The girls' residence at the school was nearly completed. Mr. and Mrs. Trivett were people of great faith. When their sons, Wilfred and Alexander, were born on the Blood Reserve, Samuel Trivett wrote his prayer that they might become missionaries of Christ. Eventually both of them were ordained to the Anglican Ministry and became missionaries to China. A daughter was also born on the Reserve.

About this time another school teacher named Hinchliffe arrived at the mission and began to make trouble. Some silly and trivial accusations were levelled at Trivett and the Anglican Bishop, the Right Rev. Cyprian Pinkham, appointed a commission to investigate the matter. The white men who appeared tried to run down the character and ministry of Mr. Trivett, but were not able to offer any proof. Trivett was able to offset all charges. He had strong support from Head Chief Red Crow, Head Chief Thunder Chief, Minor Chief White Calf and Minor Chief Eagle Rib. Red Crow, who signed Treaty No. 7 on behalf of the Bloods and was a highly respected Blood Chief, said "Mr. Trivett has not lied to me and I have not heard of his Iying." The Indians said that Trivett visited all the camps regularly, built most of the buildings at Omoksene Big Island and studied Blackfoot. As an example of the trivial charges made by Trivett's staff, the white men accused Trivett of buying moccasins on Sunday, but the Indians agreed that Trivett, while taking them on Sunday, paid for them another day! He was accused of working on Sunday but it turned out he was removing door hinges when a door wouldn't open!

It is entirely possible that behind the superficial charges levelled at Trivett there was a political reason. The Indians respected Trivett greatly for his stand against the policies of the Indian Affairs Department. Trivett was loved and respected by the Indians on the Reserve but he was troublesome to Indian Affairs who probably wanted him removed from the scene. For example, it was discovered later that the Minister of Indian Affairs had written to the Anglican Bishop in 1887 asking that Trivett be removed.

The Missionary Society in England released Trivett and his ministry on the Blood Reserve ended in 1891- almost 11 years to the day from his arrival. In September, 1891, a Rev. J. Edmonds wrote a letter to an Anglican magazine to say that the Blood Indians were grieved at the prospect of Trivett's departure. Edmonds gave his estimate of Trivett as being: ". . . a valuable missionary. He had done good work among the Indians for 13 years, and it seems a thousand pities that he should be removed now, when he has acquired their language and gained their confidence."' In the Blackfoot language, the Bloods still call Samuel Trivett 'Chief Bird.'

Mrs. Trivett was ill from a rupture. Sam sent her and the children home to England. She was pregnant and prematurely delivered their fourth child on board the ship for England. The family was reunited in Manitoba where the Rev. Mr. Trivett became clergyman of a parish. He went on to parishes in Michigan and by 1896 they had moved to Nova Scotia where he served Maritime parishes. The Trivetts were fine pioneer people and of their five children, three of them spent many years as missionaries in China. Mr. Trivett retired from the active ministry in 1927 and died in 1931 at the age of 79. Mrs. Trivett lived on until 1950 and died at age 92. They are both buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Reverend Samuel Trivett was one of the great religious pioneers of this area. He laid the foundation for Anglican work on the Blood Reserve which has carried on since. Today St. Paul's Anglican Church is a large, active, self-supporting parish. Samuel Trivett, first missionary with the Blood Indians, would be proud if he could visit St. Paul's Church today for he would know that his efforts in the Christian Gospel were not in vain.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup