In 1851, the Church Missionary Society in England decided to establish a mission at Moose Factory Island on James Bay. This location was one of the first Hudson’s Bay Company posts in its new territory of Rupert’s Land and was also the oldest English settlement in Ontario, dating from 1671. A Wesleyan Methodist mission had previously operated for seven years at this site but was vacated in 1847. To fill the void, the HBC petitioned the CMS for a new resident missionary.

Image from school. Item P7538-969John Horden, an Anglican schoolmaster from Exeter, was recruited and, accompanied by his new wife Elizabeth, reached Moose Factory in summer 1851. He was ordained the following year and quickly re-established the mission, creating an Indian boarding school in 1855 and mission day schools at Fort Albany and Rupert House, which were other important out-stations on James Bay. Consecrated in 1872 as the First Bishop of the New Diocese of Moosonee, the Right Rev. JohnHorden maintained a strong connection with the Moose Fort (Moose Factory) school until his death in 1893. The diocesan headquarters was also situated at Moose Factory during his tenure and that of his successor, Bishop Jervois A. Newnham who also was closely associated with education of native children at this mission. Expansion and rebuilding of the residential school and later mission hospital occurred several times over the century since John Horden’s arrival.

Most of the students enrolled at the residential school were drawn from the Swampy Cree (Omushkegowuk) settlements along the western James Bay coast and rivers near the Bay. Until the arrival of the railway from the south in 1932, the Moose Factory Mission and School were entirely reliant on the HBC for its major stocks of food and other needed goods. Limited subsistence farming (root vegetables) was carried out at Moose Fort, a practice common at most other Anglican residential schools. HBC supply ships from Montreal or St. John’s called usually once a year and the company’s local coastal steamers were used to transport many of the students to and from their communities on James Bay.

Milestones

  • 1855 Rev. John Horden establishes mission school at Moose Factory for native children who are “boarded out” in the local community. Two students are enrolled this year, four in 1856, and eight in 1857, all supported directly by the Church Missionary Society.
  • ca.1860 New residential school building erected; students are housed in dormitory. Space is soon insufficient and many children are turned away or boarded out.
  • 1905 Third Bishop of Moosonee, George Holmes, moves to Chapleau and converts his vacated Moose Factory residence to a residential school to be named “Bishop’s School,” officially opened September 5th. Government is obligated to pay annual grant under terms of newly signed Treaty 9 affecting the James Bay Crees.
  • 1914 Bishop’s School destroyed by fire.
  • 1916 New and larger Moose Fort School built and later expanded.
  • 1923 School taken over by MSCC’s Indian and Eskimo School Commission.
  • 1938 Replacement building, named Bishop Horden Memorial School, opens with capacity for 100 pupils. In return for church paying entire cost of facility, government agrees to pay $200 per capita grant, the highest among Anglican schools. Bishop Newnham Hospital opens adjacent to the school, replacing smaller log building established ca.1900.
  • 1947 Operating losses prompt Church to consider closing school but prestige of long standing Anglican presence in the area and existence of local competing Roman Catholic mission make plans for closing moot. By 1947, residential school students could no longer travel on HBC vessels, forcing the Church to operate its own smaller boats in James Bay with greater risk of accidents.
  • 1951 Government purchases residential school building.
  • 1953 New building, soon named Horden Hall, opens with authorized enrolment of 250, replacing earlier (1938) structure. Catchment area expands to include children drawn from native settlements east of James Bay, especially the Mistasinni area Crees.
  • 1950s-1960s Most graduate students (grade 8) from Horden Hall, who are eligible to receive high school education, are boarded at Shingwauk Hostel and attend local public schools in Sault Ste. Marie. Elementary classes at Horden Hall are gradually phased out as students attend the expanded Moose Factory Island Public School.
  • 1962 Fall enrolment is 246 children, with the majority being under the age of twelve.
  • 1963 Authorized enrolment reduced to 210 in September, coincident with opening of the new La Tuque Residential School which takes in former Horden Hall children from Quebec. Enrolment will fluctuate widely during 1960s as more children stay home to attend new day schools opened at their reserves. Students from Rupert’s House, Quebec are now sent to Fort George School
  • 1964 Horden Hall serves as a hostel only, as all residents (elementary school age) attend local public school.
  • 1969 Apr.1 Government takes over operation of hostel. Most former Anglican staff transfer to federal payroll.

Compiled by General Synod Archives, September 23, 2008.