RAND, SILAS TERTIUS, Baptist clergyman, missionary, philologist, and ethnologist; b. 18 May 1810 in Cornwallis, N.S., son of Silas Rand and his second wife, Deborah, sister of the Reverend Charles Tupper; m. 10 May 1838 Jane Elizabeth McNutt of Liverpool, N.S., and they had 12 children; d. 4 Oct. 1889 at Hantsport, N.S.
Silas Tertius Rand was taught to read by his father and by a succession of country teachers. During his youth he worked as a farm labourer and at 18 embarked on his family’s trade of bricklaying. He went back to school when he was about 22, mastered English grammar, and himself began teaching, alternating seasons of teaching and of bricklaying. At the same time, for short periods he began to attend Horton Academy at Wolfville, N.S., where he studied Latin and Greek. Over the years he also mastered French, Italian, German, Spanish, modern Greek, Micmac, Malecite, and Mohawk. In 1834 he was ordained a Baptist minister and undertook successive pastorates at Parrsboro, Horton (Hortonville), Liverpool, and Windsor in Nova Scotia, and then at Charlottetown, P.E.I. Like many other evangelical Nova Scotians of the day he was fired with the burgeoning overseas missionary spirit of the 1840s, and in 1847 toyed with the idea of serving in a foreign mission. His wife’s opposition, however, and his own fascination with the Micmac language directed his attention instead to the neglected Indians of the Maritime colonies.
Acquainted with the wandering Micmac since childhood, Rand began his lifelong association with these Indians in 1846 when he undertook the study of their language. He found an able tutor in Joseph Brooks of Digby, a Frenchman with a Micmac wife. With the object of establishing a full-time Indian mission, but denied the sponsorship of the parsimonious Baptist Church, Rand enlisted the support of the crusading Protestant evangelicals of Halifax in 1849. They responded the following year with the formation of the Micmac Missionary Society, an overtly anti-Catholic organization designed to convert the Catholicized Indians.
Rand’s missionary routine included summer visits to scattered Micmac bands, supervision of the mission community at Hantsport where he moved permanently from Charlottetown in 1853, and an interminable search for funds to keep the mission in operation. Although the Halifax-based missionary society helped to publicize and finance Rand’s undertaking, the burden of fund-raising fell on Rand himself. He became increasingly disenchanted with denominationalism as he saw his enterprise suffer from Protestant pedantry and rivalries, and from the decline of vital religion. Two influences helped to sustain him in the 1860s. In 1864 he abandoned the practice of colportage or begging on which his mission had hitherto subsisted in favour of trusting in the Lord, the plan popularized by Georg Müller’s successful reliance on unsolicited funds for his orphan houses in Bristol, England. Rand’s refusal to ask Nova Scotians for donations to finance the mission led inexorably to his rejection of aid from the Micmac Missionary Society and its consequent dissolution in 1870. Meanwhile, in Halifax in 1869, during a religious revival led by a visitor from the Plymouth Brethren, Müller’s own sect, Rand succumbed to the beliefs of this evangelical movement which embodied for him “the good old Baptist doctrines to which I have been accustomed from my childhood.” He publicly denounced the Baptist denomination in 1872 and his Hantsport church replied with a formal excommunication as a member. Thereafter Rand remained a devotee of the “Plyms” and a fugitive from Nova Scotian denominationalism until the deeply divided Halifax Brethren expelled him in 1885 and he returned to the fold of the Baptist church.
These financial and religious vicissitudes in no way dampened his enthusiasm for the moral regeneration of the Indians. Rand considered himself to be first and foremost a missionary and the importance of his philological work should not be permitted to obscure the overwhelmingly religious motivations and aims of this intensely spiritual man who wished to raise the Indian through faith from the degradation caused by the white man. Motivated by guilt and pity, Rand believed that the Micmacs needed religion before civilization, and he threw himself into the study of the Micmac language as the most direct way of communicating the word of God to his charges. The prominence he gave to the preservation of the linguistic component of the Micmac culture represented an intermediate stage in his wider schema: anglicization and the other trappings of a civilized life formed the desired but more distant goal. He also considered his Bible translations a legacy to his missionary successors, though his only assistant, Benjamin Christmas, a Micmac, left the mission’s service in 1860. Because the eccentric and erratic Rand was thrown on his own resources in the conduct of the mission and was primarily interested in evangelization, little was done to try to improve the material well-being of the Micmacs. The Catholic missionaries opposed his aims and would not join their efforts with his. The mission included a tract of land at Hantsport and a depot for the sale of Indian handicrafts, but Rand lacked the money to establish schools; he doled out in charity what little remained after mission expenses had been met.
Rand’s study of Micmac customs and folklore also formed part of the evangelical design of the mission; by familiarizing himself with the language, he deepened his appreciation of the mental cast of the Indians, whose intelligence he highly esteemed. He did not believe that the Indians constituted a dying race: there was no dire foreboding of physical extinction in his poem, The dying Indian’s dream.
Undeniably, Rand was more successful as a collector of the Indian heritage than as a Protestant evangelist. The former involved only cooperation on the part of the Micmacs, the latter threatened to overturn the delicate balance of their post-contact way of life, especially their Catholicism. Like most Protestant clergymen, Rand believed that the failure of the Indians to join the age of progress could be attributed to “the darkness, superstition and bigotry of Romanism.” In the same way that the Catholicism of the Micmacs had attracted the attention of both Rand and his supporters in the first instance, so Catholicism defeated this experiment in Protestant evangelization. Rand had no choice but to accept his defeat. In 1873 he suggested that since the hold of the Catholic Church on the Micmacs could not apparently be broken, then “if the Lord will be pleased to regenerate and save them, He can do it where they are,” in the Catholic Church. Rand, who could claim only one convert for 40 years of work, in 1874 rationalized his somewhat meagre missionary accomplishments thus: “My special work seems to be pretty clearly marked out. I must pioneer for others.” Nevertheless he remained a pioneer without followers among Nova Scotian Protestants who variously applauded or criticized his solitary efforts from the sidelines while they totally ignored his eloquent plea for the white man’s recognition of Indian rights and the white man’s duty to improve the temporal and moral position of the Micmacs. As solace Rand devoted more and more time to his study of Micmac culture as the years passed, a study which won him recognition abroad and honorary degrees at home as he produced his scriptural translations in Micmac and Malecite, compiled his Micmac dictionary, and collected scores of legends including the time-honoured tales of Glooscap, the mythological hero of the Micmacs.
Silas Tertius Rand’s publications include The jubilee historical sketch, of the Nova Scotia Baptist Association . . . (Charlottetown, 1849); A short statement of facts relating to the history, manners, customs, language, and literature of the Micmac tribe of Indians, in Nova-Scotia and P.E. Island . . . (Halifax, 1850); A short account of the Lord’s work among the Micmac Indians . . . with some reasons for . . . seceding from the Baptist denomination (Halifax, 1873); A brief statement respecting the Micmac mission (n.p., ); The dying Indian’s dream, a poem (3rd ed., Windsor, N.S., 1881); The Micmac mission (n.p., ); Dictionary of the language of the Micmac Indians . . . (Halifax, 1888; repr. New York and London, 1972); Legends of the Micmacs, [ed. H. L. Webster] (New York and London, 1894; repr. 1971).
Atlantic Baptist Hist. coll., S. T. Rand papers. British and Foreign Bible Soc. Arch. (London), Foreign corr., letter of S. T. Rand, 6 Feb. 1856. National Museum of Man (Ottawa), “An annotated bibliography of the works of Silas Tertius Rand,” comp. Sharon Blakeney (typescript) (1974). PANS, MS file, Silas Tertius Rand, Letters to Rev. George Patterson, 1874–85. Micmac Missionary Soc., Annual report of the committee (Halifax), 1850–63; 1866–67. Nova Scotia Bible Soc., Report (Halifax), 1885; 1888; 1889. Christian Messenger (Halifax), 1837–84. Daily Sun (Saint John, N.B.), 8 Oct. 1889. Messenger and Visitor (Saint John), 1885–89. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 24 May 1872, 26 Jan. 1877. Morning Herald (Halifax), 30 Jan., 16 Feb. 1886. Morning News (Saint John), 15 June 1872. J. S. Clark, Rand and the Micmacs (Charlottetown, 1899). W. D. and R. S. Wallis, The Micmac Indians of eastern Canada (Minneapolis, Minn., 1955). L. F. S. Upton, “Colonists and Micmacs,” Journal of Canadian Studies, 10 (1975), no.3: 44–56; “Indians and Islanders: the Micmacs in colonial Prince Edward Island,” Acadiensis, 6 (1976–77), no.1: 21–42.
© 1982–2023 University of Toronto/Université Laval
Cite This Article
Judith Fingard, “RAND, SILAS TERTIUS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 25, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/rand_silas_tertius_11E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Judith Fingard|
|Title of Article:||RAND, SILAS TERTIUS|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1982|
|Year of revision:||1982|
|Access Date:||March 25, 2023|