Pic­tou’s moun­taineer­ing min­is­ter

The News (New Glasgow) - - PICTOU COUNTY - John Ash­ton

This Pic­tou-born Pres­by­te­rian min­is­ter was called “one of the most en­thu­si­as­tic moun­tain climbers in Canada” and was in­stru­men­tal in form­ing one of the first am­a­teur moun­taineer­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions in our na­tion.

The Alpine Club of Canada to­day “is the lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion in Canada de­voted to climb­ing, moun­tain cul­ture, and is­sues re­lated to alpine pur­suits and ecol­ogy. It is also the Cana­dian reg­u­la­tory or­ga­ni­za­tion for climb­ing com­pe­ti­tions, sanc­tion­ing lo­cal, re­gional and na­tional events, and as­sem­bling, coach­ing and sup­port­ing the na­tional team.”

Rev. James Chalmers Herd­man was born in the manse of St. An­drew’s Pres­by­te­rian Church to par­ents Rev. An­drew W. Herd­man and El­iz­a­beth Walker of Scot­land in the year 1855. The young James was heav­ily in­flu­enced by his fa­ther to be­come a min­is­ter.

“His de­sire to fol­low re­li­gion was formed early in child­hood and strength­ened with years. Sto­ries of his youth­ful piety and sen­si­tive moral na­ture were plen­ti­ful in those days in Pic­tou. His par­ents fre­quently found him alone in his room in the dark, knelling be­side his bed speak­ing to God in prayer. Fond of out­door games, he would only en­gage in clean sport and would refuse to play if bad lan­guage was used by any of his com­pan­ions. This early, prin­ci­pled be­lief would carry on through his en­tire life and would ben­e­fit any per­son, group or con­gre­ga­tion that the Rev. Dr. James Herd­man was in­volved with.

“Be­cause of a slight speech im­ped­i­ment, his fa­ther tried to dis­suade” James from con­tin­u­ing in a min­istry ca­reer and en­cour­aged him to en­ter on a busi­ness vo­ca­tion. James’ “heart was set on be­ing a min­is­ter and pleaded with his fa­ther to give con­sent. Rev. An­drew Herd­man stated, “only if you gain a bursary within a rea­son­able time pe­riod.” This task seemed im­pos­si­ble, but through sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion and obe­di­ence “set him­self to work to this end, and with great joy when, to the sur­prise of all, he stood first in the list of com­peti­tors.”

And off to Dal­housie Univer­sity for his bach­e­lor of arts and then onto Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity in Scot­land where he ob­tained his master of arts and bach­e­lor of di­vin­ity. “He was a fa­vorite with his fel­low stu­dents and when he was leav­ing for home, they gave a din­ner in his hon­our.”

“On his re­turn to Pic­tou he preached for his fa­ther at St. An­drew’s Church, was less than 21, to­gether with the ma­tu­rity of him, made a deep im­pres­sion in his na­tive town.”

In 1878, James Herd­man was called to Camp­bell­ton, N.B., where he was or­dained and mar­ried Wilmina Louden of Bathurst. While

in New Brunswick, Rev. Herd­man was known to reg­u­larly visit back woods lum­ber camps “in or­der to preach and ad­min­is­ter ord­nances to those out of the way.” In 1885 he and his be­gin­ning fam­ily moved to Cal­gary, Alta., where Rev. Herd­man be­came min­is­ter of the newly formed Pres­bytery and help or­ga­nize the fledg­ling Knox Pres­by­te­rian Church “just af­ter the tur­moil of the North­west Re­bel­lion.” He would re­main at this post for 30 years.

Be­cause of his well-liked dis­po­si­tion and hard work ethic, Rev. James Herd­man would have great in­flu­ence on West­ern Canada. He helped found and or­ga­nize the West­ern Canada His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. In 1901 “un­der the lead­er­ship of Rev. Herd­man, lay men and women turned their at­ten­tion to the un­der-priv­i­leged and of­ten mis­un­der­stood mem­bers of the early Chi­nese com­mu­nity. The re­sult was the es­tab­lish­ment of the Chi­nese Pres­by­te­rian Church (later the Chi­nese United Church). He also helped cre­ate and es­tab­lish West­ern Canada Col­lege, Cal­gary.

Rev. Herd­man would also have a brush with the famed out­law The Sun­dance Kid (Harry Longabaugh) and an even­tual mem­ber of the no­to­ri­ous Butch Cas­sidy’s Wild Bunch. In the early 1890s, The Sun­dance Kid was on the run from au­thor­i­ties in United States and ended up in Al­berta, where he stood as best man at a wed­ding. The young cou­ple were

mar­ried by Rev. Herd­man.

His lead­er­ship ef­forts did not go un­no­ticed and in 1902 “he was ap­pointed to the po­si­tion of su­per­in­ten­dent of Home Mis­sions for Al­berta and British Columbia. Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to travel the Rocky Moun­tains af­forded Rev. Herd­man to hone his pas­sion of moun­tain climb­ing.

The Cana­dian Rocky Moun­tains have al­ways chal­lenged the ad­ven­tur­ous side of men and women for cen­turies. It was an ob­sta­cle that had to be mas­tered in or­der to join Canada as a na­tion in 1867. In the 1870s sur­veys of the Rock­ies be­gan to find the most af­ford­able and best route to de­velop the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­road to British Columbia, a ges­ture promised by the Sir John A. Mac­don­ald gov­ern­ment. With the con­tin­u­ous work of the Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of Canada the Rock­ies would be mapped and pho­tographed. En­cour­ag­ing great in­ter­est for moun­tain climb­ing tourism in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rev. Herd­man was hooked.

A group of avid moun­taineers formed the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) in 1906. Arthur Wheeler had been try­ing to or­ga­nize a moun­tain climb­ing club in West­ern Canada since 1901. With the en­cour­age­ment of Rev. Herd­man and jour­nal­ist, El­iz­a­beth Parker. The found­ing ACC meet­ing took place in Win­nipeg on March 27 and 28, 1906. Other clubs had been formed in Europe and United States. Un­like or­ga­nized clubs at that time pe­riod, the Cana­dian as­so­ci­a­tion would per­mit women to be­come mem­bers. Mr. Wheeler be­came ACC pres­i­dent, El­iz­a­beth Parker, sec­re­tary, Rev. Herd­man be­came vice-pres­i­dent with Sir San­ford Flem­ing as ACC’s first pa­tron and hon­ourary pres­i­dent.

In­ter­est in the new group quickly grew with mem­ber­ship. In 1907 The ACC pro­duced the first of a con­tin­u­ing news­let­ter called the Cana­dian Alpine Jour­nal. In its in­au­gu­ral is­sue was an ar­ti­cle penned by Rev. James Herd­man called The As­cent of Mt. Ma­coun. To­day the jour­nal is dis­trib­uted all over the world and re­ports on achieve­ments in climb­ing, moun­taineer­ing and ex­plo­ration of moun­tains.

Rev. Herd­man is men­tioned in the jour­nal many times, as well sev­eral books pub­lished on the topic of the Cana­dian Rock­ies and moun­tain climb­ing. Men­tion is also made of the moun­taineer­ing Min­is­ter on sev­eral oc­ca­sions as was one of the first in­di­vid­u­als to con­quer sev­eral of the Rocky Moun­tains.

“Au­gust 14, the Rev. J.C. Herd­man made the first as­cent of Mt. Ma­coun (9,988 feet) and was ac­com­pa­nied by the guide Rdouard Feuz. The trip was made in 13 hours.”

And in 1907 a re­port was given on the first as­cent of Mt. Beg­bie and “was achieved by Rev. Dr. Herd­man, Rev. J.R. Robert­son, Ru­pert Haggen and guide Edouard Feuz.”

Sadly, in 1909 Rev. Herd­man would have to cur­tail his moun­tain climb­ing, as well his re­li­gious du­ties be­cause of sick­ness and passed away on June 7, 1910, at the age of 55 years. Tributes poured in all across Canada and James Short of Knox Church wrote: “Un­fail­ing cour­tesy was one of Rev. Dr. Herd­man’s out­stand­ing qual­i­ties. His ripe schol­ar­ship, well-bal­anced judge­ment, his wis­dom and knowl­edge of peo­ple and af­fairs and his mod­esty all com­bined to make him an ideal coun­sel­lor of peo­ple. His was a life that did much to mould the West.”

Rev. James Chalmers Herd­man was buried at the Old Banff Ceme­tery, nicely nes­tled in the Rocky Moun­tains.

John Ash­ton is a 34-year self-em­ployed his­tor­i­cal au­thor, visual and graphic artist and lives in Bridgeville, Pic­tou County. He may be reached at ash­ton­de­[email protected]­high­speed.com.

CON­TRIB­UTED

The found­ing mem­bers of the Alpine Club of Canada. Pic­tou’s Rev. James Herd­man, front row, hand on watch pocket.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Rev. James Herd­man (cen­tre) with the Pres­by­te­rian Chi­nese Mis­sion of Cal­gary.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Rev. James Chalmers

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