9-06: INTRODUCTION TO THE REV. JOHN GOUGH BRICK STORY

By Dorthea Calverley

One of the pleasures of researching Peace River Country history is finding people who give life to the names which, in written records, are of importance but of little interest.

The title "Reverend" with the name of John Gough Brick identifies him as a missionary. Don’t make for yourself a stereotyped mental image of an otherworldly old-time Anglican parson. As a matter of fact, his portrait in MacGregor’s Land of Twelve-Foot Davis would fit easily into a modern photograph album.

His interest in the souls of the Peace Country inhabitants a hundred years ago, carried him from Edmonton far north to Fort Vermilion and west to Old Wives Lake (now Fairview) and Dunvegan. His interest in their practical need to have a local food supply made him a farmer of distinction. An astounded continent is reported to have heard that a sample of wheat grown by a clergyman and transported from Peace River to Edmonton by dog-team had won a prize at the Chicago World’s Fair. This kind of publicity made many ask, "Where is this Peace River Country?"

Rev. Brick’s sons stayed in the area. A great-grandson Robert Birosh presently lives in Hudson’s Hope where his grandfather had once been a partner in one of the free-trading enterprises that sprang up early in the century when the Hudson’s Bay monopoly was broken. A huge, well-built two-story log building had been constructed as the "Diamond P" trading post. Revillon Freres also used it. When we first saw it in 1955 trees were growing up through the overhanging eaves of the roof, but it could have been reconstructed as a remarkable museum. It was bulldozed down when the highway was built.

Mr. Brioche's mother was born in Fort Vermilion in 1897. Mrs. Harriet Birosh -- Bob’s wife -- also has roots in the North although she came here from the United States. She is related to the McLeods who figured in the early Northwest Company’s history of the area.

J.G. MacGregor pays tribute to these historic Peace River families as coming from "forebears, . . . well-educated stable people, alert to its [the Peace River Country] opportunities, heedful of its beauty and grandeur, and ready to cope with its challenge."

Capt. Allie Brick contributed not a little to the colorful tales of the past. When Alberta became a province in 1905, he was elected to be the first Member of the Legislature.

J.G. McGregor relates, "to represent his constituents . . . he may not have travelled in state but the procession made by his retainers is still talked of in the North Country. He had planned to combine public business with private, and so had brought out several freight teams. Behind the teams, sometimes in single file, sometimes abreast, but never more than fifty feet behind came two of God’s most ungainly looking creatures. For they liked Allie Brick; these creatures with the immense ears. They were particularly fond of his team of gray horses, and at home it Peace River they were accustomed to running with them in the barnyard. When Allie and his horses struck off south on this new venture, they followed contentedly to render what help they could to Allie and his new province. So, over hill and dale, past leafless poplar and straggling pine, they trotted along the Athabasca Trail after the slick runnered sleigh. The opening of Parliament in Edmonton may have been an event, with soldiers police, and costumed Lieutenant Governor, but Allie’s procession along Jasper Avenue with his two moose was a seven day’s wonder."

J.G., McGregor remarks with dry humour, "With Allie Brick and his retainers representing the people of the Peace River country (of Alberta) their cry for modern improvements naturally began to receive some attention."

A pity they couldn’t have gone to Victoria on behalf of the people on this side of the boundary!

REV. JOHN GOUGH BRICK

 

Rev. John Gough Brick, who came to take charge of the Anglican Mission at Dunvegan in the year 1882 moved down to what is now the Shaftesbury Settlement in 1887 and established an Anglican Mission there. He later brought in farming machinery and purebred stock and started a mission farm.

In the winter of 1892-93 he sent out to the Dominion Department of Agriculture, at Ottawa, wheat which was placed as the Dominion exhibit at the World’s Fair at Chicago, and won first prize. The Dominion Government holds a medal for his award. The wheat was hauled to Grouard by oxen and from there to Edmonton by dog train. One of the Rev. Mr. Bricks sons, T.A. (Allie) Brick, took up farming near the Mission farm and was the first farmer in Peace River to raise wheat commercially. He was also the first M.L.A. of the Peace River provincial constituency when the Province of Alberta was formed.

 

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