Another place of early mention is Sandwich, on the St. Clair river, in the extreme west. In 1797 Sandwich was then the chief town of the western district, as Niagara, Kingston, and Cornwall were of the districts lying eastward. At these four points Governor Simcoe, in 1797, hoped to establish grammar schools.
In the memory of people still living, the western portion of "Upper Canada" was a wilderness. The steady flow of immigration, the rapid felling of trees, the hasty building of log houses, the frequent "clearances," the constant smoke from the burning up of "underbrush," the fencing of newly-made fields, the gradual formation of roads, villages, and towns, was a leading characteristic, not many years ago, of this region, now a magnificent territory, with several large towns (four of them cities), farms of the very best quality, and villages numerous.
In 1825 the Hon. and Rev. Charles Stewart, when on an extended missionary tour, visited the Mohawk church. He says: "On my arrival at the Grand river, on the land of the Six Indian Nations, I found that a new village of British inhabitants had sprung up in their neighbourhood. It is Brantford, and is two miles from the Mohawk church." In 1828 Dr. John Strachan, at that time Archdeacon of York, visited Brantford, Burford, Oxford, and the River Thames. He speaks of Sandwich and of Chatham, and of the extensive property owned by Colonel Talbot. It was a feature of this new colony that many gentlemen of the old country, chiefly retired officers from the army and navy, were found living in the wilderness, hoping soon to become a landed gentry - a hope which, owing to the rigorous toil involved in it, was never realized, except in a few cases.
In 1838 Bishop George Jehoshophat Mountain, of Quebec, reported that "in travelling from the town of London (on the Thames, in Middlesex county) to Goderich (then in a very distant region on the banks of Lake Huron), he passed through a tract of country sixty miles in length, in which there was not one clergyman or minister of any denomination." He speaks of the same destitution between "Wodehouse," on Lake Erie (near the town of Simcoe), and St. Thomas (about seventeen miles south of London), a distance of about fifty miles.
In 1842 Bishop Strachan, of Toronto, speaks of visiting the Mohawk church and Tuscarora, where "there are two excellent missionaries, Rev. Adam Elliot and the Rev. Abraham Nelles." In that visitation he mentions Dunwich, Paris, and Galt as mission stations. In 1847 there is the further mention of Westminster (near London), Malahide, Woodstock, Blenheim, Wilmot, Stratford, and Zorra; and also of Owen Sound, far up in the north on the banks of the Georgian Bay; and of Simcoe, in Norfolk county.
Among the many places of this most interesting part of "Upper Canada," it was soon very evident that London was destined to outstrip them all in population and importance. In 1822 the Hon. and Rev. Dr. Stewart speaks of "the very rapid progress in wealth and population of London," where, on Sunday, July 28th, he ministered to a congregation of nearly 250 persons. He earnestly recommended the Society (S.P.G.) to send a missionary to London.
Yet it was ten years before a missionary arrived, and then it was apparently more by accident than design. Of this missionary it becomes us now to speak.