The Columbia Is Coming!


205 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88826-094-6





Reviewed by Barry M. Gough

Barry M. Gough is a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and
author of The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and
Discoveries to 1812.


The British Columbia coastline saw numerous missionaries come to provide services to Indians and settlers. Over the course of 150 or more years Roman Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Salvation Army members, Anglicans, and others have made their presence known in most out-of-the-way locations from Victoria north to the Nass River. This was a maritime frontier for Christian activities, and it was made possible only by the energetic and courageous actions of parsons-ship’s captains who worked as teachers, preachers, doctors, and general assistants to natives and whites alike. This book tells the story of the Columbia Coast Mission in the years 1905 to 1969. Its principal focus is on the fiery John Antle, who started the service with an objective of providing isolated logging camps, Indians and settlers with much-needed medical facilities. This was the era before medical services became universally provided by the province of British Columbia, and Antle was frequently involved in heroic rescues and near-death circumstances. In addition, Antle and his ships of the service provided social connections, religious services, educational activities. This book is also a story of the sturdy little ships that plied the coast on these various missions, and in a useful appendix these ships are detailed as to their dates, names, construction, and dimensions.

This well-written book has been carefully researched, as the bibliography and the footnotes reveal. The book boasts an adequate index, and although the reader could have hoped for cleaner photographs, the number of illustrations is some compensation. The book includes a useful map which shows the position of hospital and church at various locations along the east coast of Vancouver Island and the adjacent continental shore. This book is good in detailing the human factors involved, apart from the fact that it contains a rather uncritical perception of the sea. The author believes that the Great Lakes are not a great nursery for heavy-weather seamen. However, despite this oversight, this is a thoroughly interesting piece on missions and B.C. coastal history. It is recommended for all readers who have an interest in the pursuit of Heaven’s Command.


Andersen, Doris, “The Columbia Is Coming!,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,