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Abraham Cowley

Birthplace: Fairford, Gloucs, England, Great Britain (United Kingdom)
Death: September 11, 1887 (71)
Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada (Hypertrophy of the Prostate)
Place of Burial: East Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Cowley and Mary Cowley
Husband of Arabella Cowley
Father of Francis William Rice Cowley; Robert George Sainsbury Cowley; Arabella Bateman Cowley; Alfred Edmeads Cowley; William Cowley and 7 others
Brother of Jacob Cowley; Harriet Bond; Thomas Cowley; James Cowley; Robert Cowley and 4 others

Occupation: Archdeacon of Cumberland, Ruperts Land
Managed by: Christopher Michael Wheeler Barrett
Last Updated:

About Abraham Cowley

Baptised on 21.04.1816 in Fairford.

Went to Farmor's School of which John Keble was a governor in 1828. Went on to the Church Missionary College in Islington in 1839 influenced by the Fairford vicar, Canon Rice (Lord Dynevor later).

Married in December 1840 in Marlborough Wiltshire and emigrated to Canada soon after.

January 1841 went via Montreal to Rupert's Land. Ordained Deacon in February 1841 and priest in July 1844. He made his way to the Red River using the Hudson Bay Company to overcome transport difficulties. He and his wife founded the Fairford Mission among the Salteaux Indians at Partridge Crop on the Little Dauphin River. They left the Fairford Mission in 1853 and took over the parish of St Peter's Selkirk.. Became Archdeacon of Cumberland in 1867. Honorary DD St John's College Winnipeg (1867). Was secretary to the Church Missionary Society. He translated the Book of Common Prayer into Salteaux language and constructed a grammar and vocabulary for them.

In "By canoe and Dog Train" by Rev Egerton R Young (Project Gutenberg version) he writes : "The next day two boats were ready, and we embarked on our adventurous journey for our far-off, isolated home beyond the northern end of Lake Winnipeg. The trip down Red River was very pleasant. We passed through the flourishing Indian Settlement, where the Church of England has a successful Mission among the Indians. We admired their substantial church and comfortable homes, and saw in them, and in the farms, tangible evidence of the power of Christian Missions to elevate and bless those who come under their ennobling influences. The cosy residence of the Venerable Archdeacon Cowley was pointed out to us, beautifully embowered among the trees. He was a man beloved of all; a life-long friend of the Indians, and one who was as an angel of mercy to us in after years when our Nellie died, while Mrs Young was making an adventurous journey in an open boat on the stormy, treacherous Lake Winnipeg.

This sad event occurred when, after five years’ residence among the Crees at Norway House, we had instructions from our missionary authorities to go and open up a new Indian Mission among the then pagan Salteaux. I had orders to remain at Norway House until my successor arrived; and as but one opportunity was offered for Mrs Young and the children to travel in those days of limited opportunities, they started on several weeks ahead in an open skiff manned by a few Indians, leaving me to follow in a birch canoe. So terrible was the heat that hot July, in that open boat with no deck or awning, that the beautiful child sickened and died of brain-fever. Mrs Young found herself with her dying child on the banks of Red River, all alone among her sorrowing Indian boatmen, “a stranger in a strange land;” no home to which to go; no friends to sympathise with her. Fortunately for her, the Hudson’s Bay officials at Lower Fort Garry were made aware of her sorrows, and received her into one of their homes ere the child died. The Reverend Mr Cowley also came and prayed for her, and sympathised with her on the loss of her beautiful child.

As I was far away when Nellie died, Mrs Young knew not what to do with our precious dead. A temporary grave was made, and in it the body was laid until I could be communicated with, and arrangements could be made for its permanent interment. I wrote at once by an Indian to the Venerable Archdeacon Cowley, asking permission to bury our dead in his graveyard; and there came promptly back, by the canoe, a very brotherly, sympathetic letter, ending up with, “Our graveyards are open before you; ‘in the choicest of our sepulchres bury thy dead.’” A few weeks after, when I had handed over my Mission to Brother Ruttan, I hurried on to the settlement, and with a few sympathising friends, mostly Indians, we took up the little body from its temporary resting-place, and buried it in the St. Peter’s Church graveyard, the dear archdeacon himself being present, and reading the beautiful Burial Service of his Church. That land to us has been doubly precious since it has become the repository of our darling child".

He died at Dynevor, Manitoba where Lord Dynevor had established a hospital.

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Abraham Cowley's Timeline

April 8, 1816
Fairford, Gloucs, England, Great Britain
July 6, 1843
Fairford, Manitoba, Canada
April 16, 1845
Manitoba, Canada
Manitoba, Canada
March 4, 1849
Fairford, Manitoba, Canada
Manitoba, Canada
April 16, 1853
Rupert's Land, Canada
December 19, 1855
Fairford, Manitoba, Canada
January 12, 1858
Manitoba, Canada