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By Melville ATKEY


1805 - 1868

19 June 1805:

James Atkey born, Newport, Isle of Wight, England, to Isaac and Ann (Yelf) Atkey.


James Atkey came under the influence of the Wesleyans. 7


James Atkey is ordained a minister in the Wesleyan Church in Newport.


James and his Uncle Thomas helped form a Newport branch of the Wesleyan Missionary Society. He was persecuted and stoned by Episcopalians.

3 September 1835:

Married Jane Trafalgar Grapes, daughter of John and Hannah (Bull) Grapes

1 January 1837:

George Atkey born, Newport

30 January 1838:

Anne Elizabeth Atkey born, Newport

2 September 1839:

Henry Atkey born in Newport. James and family resided with Isaac Atkey and Christian Yelf on Holyrood Street, Newport. Occupation: shoemaker. 9

7 March 1841:

James Atkey Jr. born in Newport.


Eliza Jane Atkey born in Newport.


John Atkey born in Newport. James Atkey inherited a clothing box from his mother's cousin, Elizabeth Wallbridge (1770-1801), The Dairyman's Daughter of the book by Rev. Legh Richmond. In addition, he inherited the family bible from his mother's side, a Geneva "Breeches" bible. 7

1 February 1848:

Alfred Atkey born in Newport.

September 1854:

Following a partial business failure, James and family emigrated to Canada, 7, arriving in Montreal, following a seven-week voyage. They wintered in 10 Montreal. 11

May 1855:

The family traveled to Collingwood, by way of Toronto, where they took a small steamer to Sydenham (Owen Sound). 11


James is sent by the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society to the Peter Jones Reserve on Colpoy's Bay, approximately thirty miles from Owen Sound. The family traveled by sailboat manned by two Indian chiefs. When they arrived, they found that the Ojibway people did not speak English, while James and his family knew no Ojibway, and so the tribal council deliberated for six hours before deciding to allow the Atkeys to stay and teach. Their mission house was built of logs, with beds in the corners. There was one post for each bed, while two sides were supported by the walls. Poles were fastened to the walls and the single posts, providing support on the other two sides. There were a few pieces of 11 rough furniture. Jane, who was raised in a house with servants, 12, was required to grind grain into flour with a round hole in a rock, using a stone pistle. 11 His salary for his first year as teacher to the Indians was fifty pounds, with a further allowance of sixteen pound ten shilling for house rent, moving expenses, stove etc. 13 James taught at first using signs and facial expressions. Later, he taught through an interpreter. He would recite a verse of a hymn, and then the interpreter would repeat it to the congregation. 11 Soon, sickness became rampant among the Ojibway people, and the Atkeys, with their supply of medicine, proved their usefulness. 12 In his first and only report to the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, he wrote "On the whole things are prospering among the members and the school children: previous to my going among them their class meetings were much neglected; now they are regular in their attendance, and evince an earnest desire to save their souls. After speaking to them in class, one Indian spoke and said in Ojibway, he hoped he would understand more fully what I had said when we both got to heaven: they are often deeply affected under the preaching of the word, and are laboring to prepare for a better country in heaven. Our school is prospering; the children are of very inquiring minds; some that a year since could connect only three or four words, can now read the Bible, and those who then could not form a letter, can now write a very fair copy. Some of them are now learning the arithmetical tables. I am fully satisfied we are not laboring in vain." 13


It is likely that James' employment was not renewed. 14 He allied himself with the Congregational-sponsored Canada Indian Mission Society, which was established informally in 1850, and finally incorporated with its Headquarters in Owen Sound in 1860.


Under the terms of the "Peter Jones" treaty, the Nawash Indians of Owen Sound gave up their reserve at Colpoy's Bay and were to be moved to Capt Croker and Christian Island. In order to continue to minister to them, James and his sons George and Henry built a twenty five-foot steamboat. They brought the engine and boiler from a foundry in Toronto, and installed them. The maiden voyage from Colpoy's Bay to Owen Sound was successful, but when they awoke the following morning, they found the craft lying on the bed of the Sydenham River with only its stack poking through the surface. The engine was removed and put to work in McQuarry's Tannery.

16 September 1857:

James Atkey purchased lot 12 concession 25 of Keppel Township, with 73 acres at the rate of one dollar ninety cents per acre. He made a deposit of sixty-four dollars and ninety cents plus one dollar fifty cents interest.


James Atkey's salary for the 1859-60 year was three hundred seventy five dollars.

31 July 1860:

Permit to fish: "I hereby give my consent for Mr. Atkey to fish in Colpoy's Bay." Chief Peter Jones Kegedonce.


Attendance in church averaged thirty-five parishioners. School attendance was irregular because of hunting and fishing. The village was often virtually deserted or four or five weeks at a time. The mission was occasionally visited by Rev. Ludwick Kribs who kept the mission on the opposite side of the bay, as well as by two members of the Board of the Missionary Society. In his last report, Mr. Atkey said: "We have at present eleven members who commune with us, and their deportment is generally consistent, and their attendance on the services of the sanctuary very regular. Although we cannot see that fruit of our labor we could desire, we feel assured we have not labored in vain altogether, as we have living proofs to show that the blessing of God has rested on our efforts. Many of the Congregation are often times deeply affected; we yet hope to see the work revive, consequent on constant effort and persevering prayer for the fulfillment of diving promise…On the whole the children progress satisfactorily, considering their numerous disadvantages. Several that have left the school have learned to read the Scriptures in English with profit to themselves and advantage to those friends around them, and are able to communicate by letter with their friends in all parts of the country. I would here remark they are very pleased to hold this sort of intercourse with each other. This is a powerful engine placed in their hands for good or evil. How important is it that right principles should be instilled into their minds; and what so likely to accomplish this as a Scriptural Education?" 18

Aug - Sept 1862:

James, Jane and their children James and Henry were employed by Charles Rankin in his survey of the Colpoy's Bay reserve. Henry worked thirty days and was paid seventy-five cents a day. James Jr. worked twenty-three days and was paid sixty cents a day, while their mother worked thirty days and was paid fifty cents a day. James Sr., who was a chainbearer, witnessed the pay record, but his own payment is unknown. 19

27 September 1862:

James petitioned the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Quebec City, the Honorable William MacDougall, for a lot of land on "easy terms, as I wish to settle here with my numerous family." He supplied references from Charles Rankin, Chief Joseph Jones, William Bartlett, agent of the Indian Department in Toronto, and Frederick Wilkes, Judge of the County Court in Owen Sound. 20

2 July 1863:

James Atkey purchased Lot 11 Concession 23 of Keppel Township, 147 acres at the rate of $2 per acre. A deposit in the amount of $58 was paid. He then assigned the property to his sons George and Henry. 21 James retired to his farm, as his health began to decline. He continued preaching the gospel to new settlers. 22

1 May 1864:

James Atkey became postmaster for Oxenden, which he named after a village in England. 23 (The possible sources of the name "Oxenden" include the village of Greater Oxenden near Market Harborough, Oxenden Corner in Kent, or North and South Ockendon in the area of Upminster, east of London. At the time James lived, spellings were not yet standard, and certain sources have attributed a spelling of "Oxenden" to each of the above. It has also been suggested that the name originated with the Bishop of Oxenden.)

18 March 1865:

James Atkey, on behalf of the settlers of Oxenden, petitioned the Honorable Mr. MacDougall to provide funds for the construction of a small bridge on Jones' Range. "I would state here in a few weeks the stream will increase as to render its erection impossible. Now the water is very low. It can be built with ease. Our new mills are nearly finished. It is important to have a bridge to reach them when the water rises." 24

29 September 1865:

One hundred and fifty dollars is granted toward the construction of the bridge, "the one half of said sum to be paid upon the frame work being finished and raised, and the other upon the bridge being completed." 25

19 January 1868:

James Atkey died at Colpoy's Bay. * His last words were those of his much revered cousin, The Dairyman's daughter, "All is well." 26

The inscription on his grave stone reads" But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." I Corinthians XV:20

Beside him lies his wife Jane Trafalgar Atkey who died in 1894. Her inscription reads, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philipians I:21



* Yelf Family "Geneva" Bible passed down from Isaac Atkey and now in the possession of Ronald G. Atkey, P.C., Q.C.

** Records of Frederick Atkey, Claygate, Esher, Surrey, England.

1 Letter, dated 7 August 1906 by Mark Brewster to Theopholus Atkey Brewster, in possession of Marcus V. Brewster, Manning, South Carolina.

2 Records of Marcus V. Brewster.

3 1841 Census, United Kingdom.

4 1851 Census, United Kingdom.

5 Year approximate.

6 Central Records Office, London.

7 Ludwick Kribs, The Canadian Independent, March 1868. United Church of Canada Archives, Victoria University, Toronto.

8 Methodism in the Isle of Wight, date and author unknown.

9 Birth certificate, Central Records Office, London.

10 Roy F. Flemming, "Stone Bearing Date 1668 Supports Idea Jesuits Had Mission in Oxenden Area", The Owen Sound Sun-Times, 11 September, 1954

11 James Percy Sims and Eleanor Preston, Oxenden History, Wiarton, Ontario, 1955.

12 "James Atkey, Missionary to Indians, Arrived at Oxenden 100 Years Ago", Owen Sound Daily Times, 16 September, 1950.

13 Annual Report, Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, 1855-6. United Church of Canada Archives, Victoria University, Toronto.

14 Case and his Contemporaries: A Biographical History of Methodism in Canada, Volume V, Methodist Conference Office, Toronto, 1877.

15 Land Sales Book 60, Folio 6, Land Sale No. 11, Letters Patent No. 8160, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

16 Canadian Congregational Yearbook, 1860. Report of Canadian Congregational Missionary Society, United Church of Canada Archives, Victoria University, Toronto.

17 Document in possession of Mrs. Thomas Davidson of Lake Charles, Ontario, as recorded by Richmond Secord Atkey in 1949.

18 First Annual Report of the Canada Indian Missionary Society, 1861. United Church of Canada Archives, Victoria University, Toronto.

19 Pay List, E.W. Banting Collection, Metropolitan Toronto reference Library.

20 Public Archives Canada, RG10 Volume 273 Reel C-12, 657

21 Land Sales Book No. 63, Folio 75, Land Sale No. 225, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

22 Ludwick Kribs, The Canadian Independent, March 1968. United Church of Canada Archives, Victoria University, Toronto.

23 Record Group 3, Records of the Post Office, Series D.3, Divisional Inspectors, Reports, Public Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

24 Public Archives Canada, RG10 Volume 303 Reel 12, 675

25 Public Archives Canada, William Spragge's Letterbooks, 1865.

26 Rev. Legh Richmond, The Dairyman's Daughter, The Gospel Standard Baptist Trusts Limited, 1829.