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Evans, James
1801-1846; e.m. 1827

Born in Hull on 18 January 1801, he emigrated to Canada in 1822 and entered the ministry there. In 1840 the WMMS appointed him General Superintendent of the new mission in the Northwestern Territories, where he worked among the Ojibwa Indians near Lake Huron, and went to some effort in order to print and distribute hymns for them. Not content with developing a syllabic script for the Cree language , for which he drew inspiration from his knowledge of Pitman shorthand and Braille, he attempted to print the characters he had created. He cut matrices from oak, combined lead from musket balls with tin from tea-chest linings to form type metal, and used a fur trader's pelt-press to print on surfaces such as deerskin and birch-bark with ink made from lamp-black and fish oil.

Though at first supported by the Hudson Bay Company, differences arose between them, e.g. over Sunday trading. This and the blame for the death of an Indian brought his Canadian ministry to an end in 1846 and he died suddenly after his return to England. In due course his name was cleared of any blame. He died at Keelby, Lincs on 23 November 1846. His younger brother Dr Ephraim Evans (1803-1892) also served in Canada and was the leader of the pioneer mission to British Columbia in 1858.

Sources

  • G.G. Findlay and W.W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (1921-1924), vol. 1
  • Alison Lewis, 'Bicentenary of Rev. James Evans', in WHS Proceedings, 53 pp.38-41

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Person

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