The following pages present an over-all picture of the work of the Grande-Ligne mission. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but the information here gathered together will, it is hoped, enable our readers to appreciate more deeply the past of the work, and its signifigance for the present and future.
In the historical notes on the churches, we have intentionally ommitted the names of the present pastors, in order to ensure that this booklet be kept as up-to-date as possible over a longer period of time.
Further information will gladly be supplied, on request. Write to the General Secretary, The Grande Ligne Mission, 312 Birks Building, Montreal 2, Quebec.
The French people both in France and Canada have all through their history possessed a group of evangelical Christians, standing out against the majority of the race by reason of their testimony to the pure Gospel of Christ; witness the Waldenses, the Albigenses and the Huguenots, in France; and in Canada, the various denominational Missions of which the Baptist "Grande Ligne Mission" was the pioneer and is still working with faith, courage and hope.
The name the "Grande Ligne Mission" is derived from the locality (* Grande Ligne is a hamlet 33 miles from Montreal) in which the founders of the work met with their first successes, and in which they established the First French Baptist Church of Canada, and its school, now known throughout the Baptist World. These pioneers were the Rev. Louis Roussy and Henrietta Odin Feller.
Madame Feller and Mr. Roussy came as missionaries to Canada from Switzerland. The revival which swept over Protestant Switzerland and France in the early part of the 19th century as a result of Robert Haldane's work in Geneva, was the movement which inspired both of these young Christians with a longing to be used of God in special missionary work.
The door to French Canada providentially opened to them; they saw the need and with joy consecrated themselves to that field of labour.
They sailed from Havre on the 20th of September 1835 and landed in New York on the 23rd of October. From there they took a boat up the Hudson and through Lake Champlain into the Richelieu River, arriving at St Johns, Province of Quebec, on the 31st of October.
In St Johns and Montreal, and in the surrounding rural districts both these missionaries resolutely set about the work for which they had come, but it was only after months of devoted approach to the homes in various localities that they finally found a humble home in Grande Ligne where their message was gladly recieved. The family in this home, Levesque by name, occupied the log hut pictured here and found it possible to let Madame Feller have the attic to be used as her personal quarters and as a school-room for the children of the nieghbourhood. This was in 1836.
The following year, 1837, the rebellion of the French Canadians aginst the British broke out. Madame Feller, Mr. Roussy and their sixty-three converts were persecuted as Protestants and finally were forced to flee for their lives into temporary exile in the State of New York.
When quiet was restored in Canada these exiles returned and amid untold hardship they again set up their homes and their altars of worship.
In 1840 the work had prospered to such a degree that Madame Feller wrote, "We may predict that Grande-Ligne will soon become Protestant. God grant that it may become Christian."
Meanwhile Mr. Roussy had gone forth into several surounding parishes and had found numbers of families which rejoiced to hear the message of salvation. By this time friends in Philadelphia, New York and Brooklyn were taking a most lively interest in the mission's work. Madame Feller had visited them to present the needs of the field and they responded most generously with money to buy a property upon which to erect a school adequate to the purpose in hand. This building was dedicated on the 9th of August, 1840, amid great rejoicing on the part of the converts and of the many friends from Montreal and the United States.
Now began 28 years, for Madame Feller, of regular and fruitful work as directress of the school which had just taken such satisfactory, tangible form.
Year after year boys and young men came flocking to recieve the benefits of the school. Many of these were trained to become missionaries to help the founders carry forward the banner of the Gospel; some of them might be named: Theodore Lafleur, Toussaint Riendeau, J. N. Williams, ans A. de L. Therrien. Outstanding converts of that period, men who became invaluable workers in the Mission, were ex-priest L. Normandeau, Dr. Cote, and Narcisse Cyr.
As the school prospered, so did the work on the fields, and Mr. Roussy was indefatigable in gathering in men and women, entire families, so that churches were established in Marieville, Ely, Roxton, St. Constant and other places too numerous to mention. He expounded the Scriptures, pled with sinners, inspired believers, doctored and consoled the sick, comforted the dying and made himself and his Master beloved of all sincere souls who recieved his ministry.
A school for girls was set up on the St Pie field under the care of the Rev. Theodore LaFleur, just returned from studies in Geneva. This building burned down in 1854 and the school was transferred to a commodious building in Longueuil, opposite Montreal, where it enjoyed a period of great usefulness to the girls in the Province. Mingled with the successes there were periods of depression due to lack of money and of workers. So it was in 1867-1868 when Madame Feller lay confined to her bed approaching the moment of departure to recieve her rich reward. It was just after the Civil War and funds were very low. There were no pupils in the Fall, but during the Winter a class of 25 older boys gathered in sadness to pursue their important studies. But Madame Feller never lost faith, and as she gave a parting message to her sorrowing friends and boys she looked into the future with the assurance that God could not fail the work He Himself committed to her care, and which she now passed on to others.
After her death, Mr Roussy went on with the church work, mostly as pastor of the Grande-Ligne church. The school was led by several devoted men in turn: Rev. L. Normandeau, Rev. T. Brouillet, Rev. J. D. Rossier, Rev. Chas. Roux. It was in 1879 during the principalship of Mr. Roux that the Girl's school was brought to Grande Ligne where it has been ever since, making of the Feller Institute a co-educational school. Mr. Roux applied himself to the training up of young men for the work and had the joy of seeing several of these accomplish important tasks which materially furthered the scope and success of the Mission. G. N. Masse, A. E. Masse, Arthur St. James, Alfred Lebeau, Louis Dutaud, W. S. Bullock, and L. A. Therrien were a few who were privileged to study under him.
Mr. Roussy died in 1880 and was succeeded as pastor of the Grande Ligne Church by one of the Mission's pupils, the Rev. Alphonse de L. Therrien.
His ministry was marked by many blessed revivals among the people of the place and the pupils of the school. He also built the Roussy Memorial Church which still stands near the school.
In 1887 the Rev. G. N. Masse became principal of Feller Institute, and under his able leadership the school entered a marked phase of development. The buildings were remodelled and enlarged twice, the attendance trebled, and the curriculum brought up to the best Provincial standard. He was succeeded by his brother, Mr. Arthur E. Masse, who added to the further efficiency of the school by joining with the Board of Directors in their successful effort to erect a new gymnasium and Manual Training department. This new building is named Masse Hall, and stands as an appreciation of the work of the two brothers. Mrs. Arthur E. Masse served most efficiently as Lady Principal during the administration of both brothers.
During the administration of the Masse brothers, the Rev. M. B. Parent, D.D., gave a quarter of a century of the most distinguished service to this field as preacher and pastor; and it must be added that at varying intervals Grande Ligne was exceptionally privileged in having as special evangelistic minister, the Rev. G. R. MacFaul, M.A., of Ottawa. All these men and many others too numerous to mention were products of the Feller Institute, and each one contributed his generous share of influence and labor to bring to its present important status, the Grande Ligne Mission.