Cat No.: CA0276-P1:The Rev. William Proudfoot was sent, as a missionary, to Canada by a branch of the Presbyterian church in Scotland in 1832. From the time of his appointment he kept a journal, or daily diary, of his activities, his impressions, and of the events in his daily life. This included both professional and secular matters and also seems to have filled the role of account book, as well as his personal reminder. It was from this journal, or more correctly from the collection of many individual volumes of this journal, plus a collection of draft and received letters as well as other family mementos, that Miss Harriet Priddis extracted and recorded this fascinating insight into the life of one of the earliest settlers in the London, Middlesex area of Ontario. I should hasten to add though, that the geographical area covered by this account extends well beyond that area as it starts in Scotland and includes records of many of Rev. Proudfoot’s excursions along the St. Lawrence waterway and into several other parts of what we now call Ontario (then Upper Canada or Canada West.)
Harriet Priddis was given access to the papers by the Proudfoot family and it seemed to have been her plan to extract and copy passages which contained significant historical and genealogical information, publishing them as a series of papers to be presented to the London and Middlesex Historical Society, an organization in which she was a leading light. Unfortunately she died before the third collection was ready and it was only through the intervention of Fred. Landon that the third collection was finally presented. In his introduction to the third episode Mr Landon writes about further episodes but we have not been able to find any evidence of any further publications of Proudfoot extracts by this organization.
The chronology of the three episodes present here is a little complicated and appears to cover the same period twice, although there is no repetition of material. Parts one and three are actually contiguous and cover the period from 25 June 1832 when Rev William Proudfoot was tasked with his mission until 16 March 1833 when he was settling into his permanent “living.” Part 2 covers a period from 28 January 1833 through 14 September 1834 but seems to be limited to a few entries describing various major trips the Rev. undertook, plus it is concluded with some extracts from the account book of Mary Proudfoot during her setting up of a day and boarding school in the village of London under the sponsorship of her father.
As one might expect there is a good deal of theological discussion in the journal but the extracts seem to have been primarily chosen with a view to illustrating the people and places which the Rev. Proudfoot encountered in his day to day work. This work called for him to travel a good deal, and by virtue of the period of the record there are some interesting insights into the difficulties, and indeed the benefits, of travel during the winter season. Another benefit to the genealogist of this choice of extracts is that the names of a great number of early settlers are recorded, and not only those who were active in the Presbyterian church as he frequently came into contact with members of other churches and indeed with notably “secular” individuals. Of particular note is the listing of the families who are sponsoring the formation of his ministry in London.
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