HILLS, George




Author Tags: 1850-1900, Early B.C., Literary Landmarks, Missionaries, Religion

LITERARY LANDMARK: Christ Church Cathedral, 930 Burdett Avenue, Victoria.

Tall, grave and dignified Bishop George Hills, the first Bishop of British Columbia, was once described as "the very model of an Anglican prelate." He was also a literate man who became one of the first authors of B.C., publishing an account of his travels in his new diocese in 1861. Hills compiled statistics on Aboriginals of British Columbia, their gender and languages, and examined 100 catechists at William Duncan's mission at Metlakahtla. Having travelled around the province in the spring and summer of 1860, he published his 74-page account in England. Hills served in Victoria, from 1859 until his retirement in 1892, primarily at Christ Church Cathedral.

Born at Agthorne, near Dover, on June 26, 1816, Hills was ordained in 1840 and served as a Vicar of Greater Yarmouth for eleven years before being offered a position as Bishop of British Columbia. Hills was initially hesitant about accepting the appointment. It was certainly a risky career move, as Colonial bishops were barred from serving in the United Kingdom after having served overseas. Despite his apprehensions, Hills accepted the appointment and, in 1859, was consecrated at Westminster Abbey as the first Bishop of British Columbia, responsible for the Church of England in both colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

Arriving in Esquimalt in 1860, Hillsí new diocese, which was handsomely endowed with 15,000 pounds from the wealthy Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts, covered an area larger than France and Spain combined, yet the town of Victoria, which he visited shortly after disembarking from his ship, had no sidewalks and all its houses were built of wood. Hills laid the cornerstone for Holy Trinity Church in New Westminster on May 22, 1860, then commenced his provincial tour with Rev. John Sheepshanks. One of his other recruits, Rev. A.C. Garrett, operated a Church of England school for Aboriginal children in Victoria.

One of the earliest challenges met by Hills concerned the segregation of Blacks in church. Hills was critical of segregation and wrote a letter to the British newspapers on the subject, railing against Reverend Matthew Macfie, a minister who opened his own chapel to accommodate a pro-segregationist crowd of white American immigrants.

In the summer of 1862 Hills visited the Cariboo and was later placed in charge of the Victoria Diocese that included all of B.C. until 1879, after which the dioceses of New Westminster and Caledonia were formed. The B.C. Archives contain several of his sermons and letters in which he was particularly disparaging of Roman Catholicism.

Hills' volatile doctrinal dispute with the former Hudson's Bay Company chaplain Edward Cridge, who refused Hills entry to his cathedral in Victoria, led to a court case between the two men in 1874. Chief Justice Sir Matthew Begbie granted an injunction to forbid Cridge from continuing as a Church of England clergyman, whereupon Cridge joined the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1875, built a new cathedral and presided as Bishop Cridge. Hills returned to England in 1892 and died at Parham vicarage in Suffolk on December 10, 1895.

With an MA in historical geography from Simon Fraser University, Pennsylvania-born Roberta L. Bagshaw edited No Better Land: The 1860 Diaries of the Anglican Colonial Bishop George Hills (Sono Nis Press, 1996). Bagshaw's graduate work and published articles chiefly relate to Bishop Hills and the influence of the Church of England on white settlement in British Columbia. The book covers concentrates on the year 1860 when Hills left Oregon on January 4 and arrived at Esquimalt on January 6. He had travelled 8,750 miles from Southampton in 50 days. The book has been sold at the Synod and Parish offices of Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria as a fundraising initiative. Hills was consecrated as a Bishop at Westminster Abbey before he set sail for Victoria. In 1929, the wrought iron Chancel rail from Westminster Abbey was presented to Christ Church Church Cathedral in Victoria by the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey. It is now situated behind the high Alter of the Victoria Cathedral. In commemoration of the Cathedral's 150th anniversary, the diocese sold copies of Glory in Glass, with sixty pages of colour photos and descriptions of every window in the Cathedral. It was privately published as a gift to the Cathedral.

BOOKS:

Hills, George. A Tour in British Columbia (London: Clay Printers, 1861)

Bagshaw, Roberta L. No Better Land: The 1860 Diaries of the Anglican Colonial Bishop George Hills (Sono Nis Press, 1996).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015]

Journal Excerpts
(1861-1863)


from www.royalengineers.ca
Bishop Hills wrote:

"Feb 2 1861. - The offer of a passage in the Grappler to the disputed Island of San Juan found me on my Horse this morning at 8 o' clock or soon after, on a very muddy road to Esquimalt harbour. The gun boat was weighing anchor when I hailed her and we were soon away. A few hours more and I was comfortably housed in the Quarters of Captain Bazelgetti commanding the detachment of 80 marines in the very snug and very beautiful cove at the north part of the Island.

Captain B. was at the American camp 12 miles off as the gun boat passed the Southern part of the Island and came off immediately, reaching this soon after our arrival. He describes the American officers as in a state of great excitement, not knowing what to do - Captain Pickett is a Southern, others of his officers are Northerners. They had a feud the other day but this is made up again. They expect the Dissolution of the Union - know not what will become of them. One of their troubles is arrear of pay and inability to get even U.S. treasury Bills cashed. No one has confidence enough or patriotism enough to venture to cash even the Government Bills upon Washington. The same fate awaited the U.S. Revenue Ship Massachussetts the other day at their own coal mine Bellingham Bay. The Colliery people refused to supply the coals except for cash and refused a Government Bill. The officers at the American camp San Juan are very friendly and intimate with the British Officers and they are frequently at each other's quarters.

This evening at 1/2 past 7 I had a gathering of the men and the Crew of the Grappler in a good sized Room - the new Mess Room. We began with a Hymn which I led and they heartily responded. Then the Litany. Then another Hymn. I then read Daniel 6 and discourced upon the circumstances and character and prophesy of Daniel. There was much attention. We concluded with the Evening Hymn. The threat of the Den of Lions caused me to speak of death and its fear. I was enabled to illustrate the subject by an account of a young Serjeant (Campbell) of the 49th Foot killed in the Trenches in the Crimea. He was a brave soldier and a true soldier of Jesus Christ. He needed not to fear death. No doubt Daniel and he knew each other in Heaven. I saw tears in the eyes of several and trust an impression was left of a lasting sort. May God grant it.

I found streched upon his bed (in the Hospital of San Juan) a young man in a very apparently precarious state. He was however better. He had had fever. He was a Roman Catholic. He told me he never prayed. He could not read. I asked him if he had any objection to my reading God's word to him. "Oh no, I should like it, sir." I read and explained Col. 3. He was very attentive. I showed him how Christ was our life and He alone is our all prevailing intercession and let him set his affection on things above.

The Dinner at the Mess today proved the value of the island so far as support life is concerned. There was excellent MUTTON fed upon the downs and shapes around. VENISON which is always to be had for a walk in the early morning. SALMON and a rich small member of the tribe called OULACHAN in size between a smelt and a herring caught in the bay of the settlement and DUCKS shot nearby - all produced on the Island.

The difficulty of getting their pay and the refusal of merchants to cash treasury Bills makes the American Officers very anxious. They say they fully expect next month to be paid. Troops if six months in arrears of pay may disband themselves. "Here am I,", says Captain Pickett, "of 18 years standing, having served my Country so long, to be cast adrift!".

Feb. 3 Sunday - A lovely morning, clear sky and bright sun. The beautiful scenery, the placid lake like bay and well ordered quarters of the settlement were the pleasing view from my window.

In the morning ay 1/2 past 10 we had a goodly number of Royal marines and Crew of the Grappler. I read the Morning prayer. We sang three Hymns and chanted the venite, Te deum, Jubilate and the glorias. I preached from that most comprehensive passage Titus 2 11-14.

In the afternoon after visiting and ministring to the patients in the Hospital I met a portion of the seamen and soldiers for a Scripture Exposition. We sang two Hymns and I read several prayers and then took for our subject the Soldiers of the New testament, the Four Centurions, The Guards of the Synagogue, The centurion on Duty at the Lion, Cornelius and Julius, the soldiers at the Crucifixion and the soldiers who guarded the Apostle Paul in Rome. Many interesting lessons were to be derived from this investigation and those present took an evident interest which may God have blessed to their Souls.

In the evening at 7 the Evening Prayer was solemnized. We sung three Hymns, chanted the Name Divinities and the Magnificat. I preached upon the Circumstances of the Crucifixion from the Text "and sitting down they watched Him there". Matt 28. 36 considering and commenting upon the things those soldiers did see and hear as they watched the Lord. I perform the whole three services the days work was not light. Yet it was most cheering to my spirit to be able to then gather these neglected Souls of Britain together and speak to them of Jesus and their salvation. By these four services and sermons last night and today I trust a forcible amount of truth has been left with them and that the seed of the Divine Word thus cast abroad may be blessed by fruits many fold to the glory of our good and Merciful God and the saving of souls.

Feb 4 1861 - Fine day. Came away from San Juan. Arrived at Victoria about half past 1.

April 3rd 1861 - reached New Westminster after a good passage at about 1/2 past 8 this morning. Took a ride to Burrard's Inlet with Col. Moody.

I rode with Col. Moody along the North Road, lately finished, to Burrard's Inlet - a distance of about 4 miles. The forest is on all sides the entire way. Two or three clearings have been commenced. Colonel Moody's farm is a good beginning. There is little yet to shew - he has a few acres planted as orchard. The soil is a light sandy brown, being of medium soil. The Road is a great improvement and offers facilities to the Settler of the highest importance. The land near and round the End of Burrard's Inlet is steep and not inviting.

April 4th 1861 - Reverand Sheepshanks is an honorary member of the Mess and also occasionally dines with Colonel Moody

A census has just been taken (April) of the Town, when it has been found there are 290 Persons in New Westminster, of these about 30 are women (not checking female children). At the camp there are about 300 persons.

April 6th 1861 - rain chief part of the day, dined at the Engineers Mess.

April 11th 1861 - Rode out with Colonel Moody, Captain Parsons, and Doctor Seddall on the North Road to Burranrd's Inlet. A Fine day.

After dinner today, Colonel Moody, Rev. Mr. Sheepshanks and Mr. Knipe and myself discussed the subject of Cemetery. The Municipal Council; have received a grant of 20 acres for a future Cemetary. It was considered doubtful if they could consent to set apart a portion for Consecration.

April 12 1861 - Showery. During 1860, 56 inches of rain fell in new Westminster (Captain Parsons informs me).

April 15 1861 - Rode with Colonel Moody along new Road leading from Douglas Street to Lake Creek - Burrard's Inlet - a distance of 13 miles. We passed over an extensive open country of burnt wood land and were the first horsemen that had gone over the whole road.

About midway is the land of Colonel Moody's with a peice of water in which is a considerable and beautiful Beaver Dam. I examined many peices of wood which had been cut by these diligent animals.

April 21 1861 - During my ride with Colonel Moody on the 15th, he told me he hoped I had not forgotten his offer of 100 pounds sterling per year, for Indian Missions. He would continue it as long as he remained in this Country. If he went home, his income would be much reduced and he could not promise to able amongst friends to do that and more.

July 3rd 1861 - Day Fine throughout. The Rev. Mr. Garrett, Mr. o'Reilly and myself started this morning for the Engineer's Camp on the Similkameen Road. This new road leads to Similkameen Rock Auk and the country bordering upon the Boundary Line. It is said the only way from the Fraser to that part of the Colony. From there is a continous range of both gold mining and argicultural land. In this direction will be in all probability the course of the water-oceanic communication. The first seven miles are beoing constructed by Messers Dewdney and Wolrus at 300 pounds per mile. The remainder is in the hands of the Royal Engineers. The line follows the Nicolome to Beaver Lake the summit of the first range. Then down the Simalou to its junction with the Skaget to the Parch Bowl Pass.

We reached the Camp in three hours, a distance of about 16 miles. Here is Bever Lake, so called from the vast operations of those industrious animals everywhere visible. The Lake and rivers abound with excellent trout. I saw several caught in a few minutes with a fly.

Captain Grant and Lieut. Palmer received us with their most courteous hospitality. They dine at the same with the Men, so we sat down at their midday meal and enjoyed a hearty repast. It is interesting to see wonderous change produced in a country by a road. We saw all party of the operation. There was the tangled, rugged, pathless forest. First a large tree would obstruct you and then in working your way you encounter half a dozen more, lying in all direction across, along, over and under it, part rocks and fragments of rocks, holes where some great roots of a fallen tree have dwelt, swamped and all sorts of difficulties hinder movement and sight.

The magic wand of skill and industry has passed over this chaotic mass. You see before you a beautiful road upon which you might canter a coach and from above the light of heaven is diffused, beneath the rocks have been removed and have provided material for a macadamized path way, and the banks have given to the holes and surface a soft covering which would disperse with horse shoes, and the trunks of trees are rolled away into ravines, edge the road or form the beam of picturesque bridges. Before you the vista is that of an English country road. You seem to be nearby some friendly mansion. Around as you pass along new sights of interest have been opened. Magnificent waterfalls, sublime rocks in every garden, glimpses of tight and foaming streams hasting on through winding placed Lakes as such as in Europe civilized men would give much and go far to see.

Such was the pleasure afforded was to day in tracing the progress of the transforming industry of this Noble band of British Heros.

A grave by the side of the new road about 17 miles on, told its tale of dangers. Part of the work is the felling of gigantic trees. The felling of such a tree had been nigh concluded. It gave signs of its mighty fall. The men at work instantly retired. It had been laid to fall in one direction right along the road in the rear. On either side of this line there was safety. Some went on one side - one went to the other. This latter just before the tree came down was seen to move away and hasten along the very path into which the tree was to come. He seemed to think he was not safe except out of reach of the height of the tree. hence he hastened in that direction. Alas, ere he reached a point far enough, down came the mighty thing right upon the axeman and must have crushed every bone of his skin.

Another poor fellow is in a precarious state. I visited him. His name is Babbage, the pride of the Corps. He stood some 6 feet 2, well made and of great strength. He was the best axeman and would use a lever which no other man could lift. He was well conducted, never a word had been set against his name in the Regimental books.

A giant tree had been felled. The axemen retired. The tree fell upon another tree and poised a while as though doubtful on which side it would go. Babbage moved so as to be behind and not on the side. Somehow the tree kicked back 12 feet and the poor man was hit and dashed against a rock. It was supposed he was dead. A leg and an Arm were broke with numerous other crushing bruises. His end has been expected every day since. He is today however a little better. I visited him ministerially. He expressed his thankfulness. He regretted he had neglected religion. When at home in Twister, he had attended service always, twice on Sunday. On asking if he could not get some comrade to read the Scripture to him, he mentioned two names, but added, "I fear they are all novel readers." A novel was by his side but no Bible. A comrade had been reading that. Poor hard fare when about to die - a trashing novel.

I visited a second time before leaving. I spoke to the men who were gathered about the Canteen of the Uncertainty of life and their dangers.

Sometimes there is much danger from the wind. Many trees always fall. Not long since there was a great scene of alarm. Men saw monster trees falling around and knew not where to go. All were pale with fright. Some fled to the Lake and went out on it. I saw where their camp had been. Great trees had fallen all around and several into the very camp but strange to say they had fallen between the tents with but a few inches to spare. Where it alluded to this one man pointed out a tree close by lying near the house which had fallen since they were in it.

There are many other dangers from this work. Fragment of Rocks from blasting, lifting enormous weights, exposure, are some other items of danger. Had the day been windy, we should not have had a ride of 35 miles unattended with danger.

July 13th 1861 - Day hot, wind. Rode out to the Engineers Camp - about 20 miles, with Lt. Palmer. The Evening was cool and pleasent. Stayed the night there. Visited the wounded Soldier Babbage on the way.

July 14 1861 Sunday - This morning I performed Service at the Camp. The men were mustered at 9. We had morning prayer. Two Hymns were sung and the Canticles chanted. I preached from Titus 2 11-14. The occassion was interesting. Nothing could be more rough than the scenery round. The mountains were rugged rocks. The huge Pines were hung with moss like grey tresses. As though suddenly opened up to view while mourning their desolation. Huge boulder and slide rocks lying about. A violent torrent came tearing down in so marked a manner over the huge stone of the rocking bed that it has been called the Roaring River. The New Road just completed was a great contrast to everything. The Service was held in a part of this wood in the shade. The men were all in working dress - in shirt sleeves. We had of course no cover but Heavens Canopy. They sang heartily and were attentive.

After Service I set off again on my stud towards Hope, visiting the wounded Soldiers on the way.

September 30 1862 - I was asked to day on behalf of the Sappers to aid in erecting a Church at Sapperton. Corporal Smith told me he was very anxious about the matter himself as he was a churchman and wished to see a Church erected in the Midst of the property belonging to the Sappers which they could call there own. They would purchase 4 acres and have a church, School and Burial ground. I was most glad to encourage them.

Jan 1 1863 - New Years day. This Evening a gathering of the children of the Corps of Engineers with their parents took place in the Camp. There are about 120 children who increase at the yearly rate of 25. A finer and more healthy group never assembled in any country. The Archdeacon announced the Prizes which Col. Moody who presided, distributed. I also addressed them. There was an adjournment afterwards to the Camp Club Room where the Archdeacon gave a lecture on Palestine with the aid of a Magic lantern, concluding with lighter scenes for the pleasure of the young eyes.