Rundle's Mission National Historic Site of Canada
(© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 2005.)
Township Road 474A, Thorsby, Alberta
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1847 to 1847
1840 to 1840
Event, Person, Organization:
Reverend Robert Terrill Rundle
John and Abigail McDougall
Hudson’s Bay Company
Pigeon Lake Mission
Benjamin and Margaret Sinclair Provincial Historic Site
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: Thorsby, Alberta
In 1840, Robert Terrill Rundle, a Wesleyan minister supported by the Hudson’s Bay Company, began the first mission to the Aboriginal people of the Western Plains. Visiting the region, he met with First Nations such as the Nehiyawak (Plains Cree) and the Nakoda (Stoney), and learned local languages and customs. For those who adopted Christianity, he taught hymns and performed baptisms and marriages, and in 1847, he chose this site to build a permanent mission house and to encourage agriculture. After an injury, Rundle returned to England in 1848, but Aboriginal leaders and succeeding missionaries maintained the mission until 1906.
*Note: This designation has been identified for review. A review can be triggered for one of the following reasons - outdated language or terminology, absence of a significant layer of history, factual errors, controversial beliefs and behaviour, or significant new knowledge.
Description of Historic Place
Rundle’s Mission National Historic Site of Canada is located on the north shore of Pigeon Lake, in Alberta. Associated with Reverend Robert Terrill Rundle, the Wesleyan chaplain to the Hudson’s Bay Company, the site was selected in 1847 for the establishment of a permanent mission. While there are no visible resources of the original mission, archaeological testing has revealed evidence associated with early mission buildings, including remains of houses, an artesian well and possible pre-contact resources. Official recognition refers to the original site of the mission.
Rundle’s Mission was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1928 because: in 1840, Robert Terrill Rundle, a Wesleyan chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company, began the first mission to the First Nations of the Western Plains; and, in 1847, he built a mission house to foster Aboriginal education and agriculture.
In 1840, Reverend Robert Terrill Rundle was one of four Wesleyan Methodists invited by the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish missions in Rupert’s Land. When Rundle arrived at Edmonton, he was the first missionary of any faith to serve in the prairie region between the Pacific Ocean and Norway House, in Manitoba.
Reverend Rundle traveled extensively throughout the area for several years before attempting to establish a permanent mission. In 1847, he selected a site on Pigeon Lake that became the first Protestant mission in the prairies. After Rundle was forced to leave the west due to ill health, responsibility for developing the site, known as ‘Mission Beach,’ belonged to Benjamin Sinclair, a lay preacher, and his wife, who managed the mission for the next few years until leaving for Notre Dame des Victoires / Lac La Biche Mission. The mission was briefly re-established in the mid-1850s, but was unsuccessful until almost a decade later when a permanent mission was created by John and Abigail McDougall, which operated until 1906.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, October 1965, October 2007.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include: its siting on the north shore of Pigeon Lake in Alberta; its remote, wooded setting overlooking the lake; the evidence associated with the early mission buildings, including the remains of Benjamin Sinclair’s house, a large cellar depression, the possible foundation from the Mission House, the artesian well, buildings built by Aboriginal families, as well as other depressions, middens and mounds; the location, extent and materials of above and below ground archaeological artifacts and remains relating to the site’s use as a mission and the work of Robert Terrill Rundle; the viewplanes to and from the mission site and the lake.
Rundle’s Mission was designated a national historic site because:
• in 1840, Robert Terrill Rundle, a Wesleyan chaplain to the Hudson’s Bay Company, began the first mission to the First Nations of the Western Plains; and,
• in 1847, he built a mission house to foster Aboriginal education and agriculture.
Source: HSMBC, SDC minutes, October 2007