This man is inseparable from the early history of our Choctaw Families.
Cyrus Byington was the son of Isaiah Byington and Lucy (Peck) Byington and the older brother of Spencer Byington 1802-1876 and the father of Cyrus Nye Byington
A Missionary and Choctaw Linguist
Cyrus Byington, a native of Massachusetts, went to the Choctaws in Mississippi in the spring of 1821 and remained to serve them as a Christian missionary for forty-five years, thirty-one of which were at Eagletown.
When he arrived among the Choctaws, they had no written language.
The missionaries opened schools but efforts to teach them in English failed and it was decided that the native language had to first be learned and taught.
Byington was detailed to concentrate on learning the language and developing the tools of the written form.
He and Alfred Wright, later the founder of Wheelock Mission, cooperated on the project, developed an alphabet and Byington began, with the assistance of a few Choctaws, to develop a Grammar, Dictionary, Definer and Speller of the language.
Byington was the first of the missionaries to become sufficiently knowledgeable of the language to preach in it.
He and other missionaries began to translate portions of the Bible and several hymns into Choctaw.
When the Choctaws moved to what is now southeastern Oklahoma, Byington, Wright and other missionaries followed.
Byington arrived in late 1832 and established his mission a short distance east of where the town of Eagletown is now located.
He lived at the site until 1834 when he moved about a mile and one-half north to a point east of where the Eagletown Cemetery is now located.
The purpose of this move was to bring him closer to the new Iyanvbbi Female Seminary, which was part of the Choctaw Educational system.
From the new site he supervised the seminary, continued his work on the language, founded several churches and served them on his one hundred mile circuit.
He also was frequently called upon to treat his Choctaw parishioners medically, there being no physician in the area.
During the early part of his mission tenure, he also farmed to help support his family and raise feed for his stock.
Byington and his family were frequently ill with the fevers and respiratory ailments, which afflicted the Choctaws.
Both Byington and his wife were critically ill on several occasions.
Their eleven year old son died after a short illness in 1834.
Their youngest son, only two and half years old, died of a throat ailment in 1846.
Byington's sister joined his mission in 1834 and only lived a few weeks after arrival.
Byington's family in the North tried to persuade him to give up the mission and join them there.
He was a trained lawyer and could have expected a fairly affluent and comfortable life had he been willing to join them.
Instead, he stayed, responding to their entreaties by saying, "I came for life."
His Choctaw Definer, made up of English words and Choctaw equivalents, was published in 1852 but his Grammar and Dictionary were not printed until after his death.
(Note: The first edition of the Choctaw Definer was limited to 1500 copies and one today is selling for 1,200.00)
Byington and his fellow members of the Choctaw Mission were involved in a serious dilemma over the question of slavery.
Many Choctaws owned slaves, particularly the more prominent and influential mixed-blood tribal members.
At the same time the sponsors of the Choctaw Mission were mostly abolitionists who demanded that he missionaries speak out in condemnation of the practice of slavery.
To do this it would have caused their ousting from the Choctaw Nation.
Most chose to pursue their missionary duties and remain quit about the issue.
This caused their sponsor to discontinue support.
It was to Byington, "like death" to be separated from an organization which had supported the mission for more than forty years.
With the coming of the Civil War, many missionaries left the Choctaw Nation.
Byington, however, chose to remain, continuing his missionary functions and his medical efforts among the Choctaws.
When the war ended, he hoped to continue his mission but such was not to be.
He became seriously ill and was not expected to live.
He did survive, however, and in July, 1866, his only surviving son, Cyrus Nye, put him in a horse-drawn wagon and took him the two hundred miles to Little Rock, Arkansas, to board a steamboat for Ohio Where his only Daughter, now married, was residing.
Enroot, he contracted small pox and was quarantined for a month after arrival in Ohio.
Though his eyesight and hearing were impaired, he recovered sufficiently to resume work on his Choctaw books and Bible translations.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Byington had remained at the Eagletown mission, hoping to see it occupied by a new missionary. She finally joined her husband in Ohio in the spring of 1867.
Byington completed translating the first five books of the Bible into Choctaw and took the manuscripts to New York for printing.
He returned to Ohio in the spring of 1868, but later that year became ill and died December 31, 1868 in his seventy fifth year.
At the time of his death, Byington was working on the seventh revision of his Choctaw Grammar.
Although the book would not be published until 1871, the missionaries had used the various hand-written versions for many years.
His Choctaw Dictionary was not printed until 1915.
The little Choctaw Hymnbook begun in Missippissi by Byington and his fellow missionaries has been reprinted in numerous editions and is still much in use.
It contains fourteen hymns composed or translated by Byington.
Though Byington had assistance from fellow missionaries and some Choctaw in developing the written Choctaw language most of the credit for the accomplishment is his.
He created the tools of the language that are still regarded as authoritative. And much of this work was done in what is now McCurtain County.
Note: I have brought these statements in line with Mrs. Byington's letter below. Which one is the more correct will be proved out by other documentation.
More information on Cyrus Byington
BYINGTON, Cyrus, missionary, born in Stock-bridge, Massachusetts, 11 March, 1793; died in Belpre, Ohio, 31 December, 1868.
He studied theology at Andover, where he was graduated in 1819; and, after being for some months in the employ of the prudential committee of the American board of missions, was sent by them as a missionary to the Choctaws, then in the southern states.
He remained at the Eliot station from 1821 till the Choctaws, by the treaty of 1830, were compelled to remove to the present Indian Territory, and accompanied them thither, remaining at the new station, Stockbridge at Eagletown, Indian Territory till about 1866, when failing health compelled him to relinquish work, and he removed to Ohio.
He prepared several religious books for the Indians, and translated portions of the Bible into their language.
More important information about Cyrus Byington
REV. CYRUS BYINGTON
In 1820 a Company of missionary colonists and teachers, on their way by boat to their mission work among the Choctaw Indians stopped for a time at Marietta where the people became very much interested in them and made generous contributions for their work.
This company was led by Rev. Cyrus Byington who commenced active life as a lawyer but soon consecrated himself to the work of a Christian minister and prepared for service as a Foreign Missionary.
When this company started down the river in their flat boats and passed Belpre Mr. George Dana, Sr., knowing their business wrote in his journal as follows:
"The Missionary Boat has arrived from Marietta on her way to the Choctaw Nation......
They are an injured people; have been driven from their rightful possessions by the whites; have became as it were a remnant that will soon be extinguished unless arrested in their downward career; the plan of Missions and schools has been devised for that purpose......
Human generosity and justice conspire to dictate its formation......
May prosperity attend the Mission."
Mr. Dana did not know what influence these missionaries were to exert upon his family during the coming years.
Mr. Byington continued this missionary service for nearly half a century, occasionally visiting Marietta and Belpre, where he spoke in the churches and people continued their interest in the work.
In 1827 he was married to Miss Sophia Nye of Marietta who for forty years shared with him their arduous and self-denying work.
This picture above was taken in the early 1850s
In 1852 their daughter, Lucy Byington, born on the Missionary field, was married to Dea George Dana, Jr., and spent the remainder of her life a faithful wife and mother in the Dana home.
When her father and mother retired from the Mission after the Civil War in 1866, they came to Belpre and made their home for a time with this daughter.
In 1867 Mr. Byington published reminiscences of his work in the New York Observer from which we make the following quotation:
"We left Marieta with our hearts greatly refreshed and encouraged in our undertaking.
We had heard of the Blennerhassett Island, named for the wealthy gentleman who settled on it, and built his fine palace and out houses there, and who was visited to his ruin by Aaron Burr.
We have read Mr. Wirts description of the Island, the house and the family, a description rarely surpassed by our gifted writers.
When we passed along we saw his seat in ruins, burned down, the chimneys still standing.
Little could I know or think while gazing on these ruins on our way to the Choctaws, that forty-six years after I should retire, wearied and worn, to find a home, a quiet room for prayer and study, on the banks of the Ohio and adjacent to this same Island, and my own daughter, her husband and their children there to welcome me, feed me, nourish and strengthen me, in the hope that I might do a little more.
For our blessed Saviour.
It is even so.
It was in that room I revised the translation and reconstructed and wrote out the Choctaw grammar."
This grammar was published for its literary merit by the "Pensylvania Historical and Philosophical Society."
He also prepared a very complete Choctaw Dictionary, which was published by the "Smithsonian Institute."
The fact that the Indians in this country have adopted the English as their written language has prevented the continued use of these books, but they will perpetuate an extinct dialect and are a valuable monument of self-denying missionary labor.
In Andover Theological Seminary Mr. Byington was associated with Luther Bingham, Pliny Fisk, Levi Parsons, and others who became eminent in Foreign and Home Missionary Work.
He was eminent for his scholarship and devoted piety.
A friend wrote of him:
"Brother Byington's raiment seemed perfumed with spiritual myrrh, and, like Harlan Page, wherever he went his theme was Jesus and his great Salvation.
Aided by his devoted wife, he reduced the Choctaw language to writing and published in it several books including portions of the Scriptures.
He received into the Churches nine hundred Christian Choctaws, and to all of these he was a Spiritual father.
After retiring to Belpre he purchased and removed to a home in which he died December 31, 1868.
Mrs. Sophia Nye Byington spent her last years with her daughter in the Dana home where she died February 4, 1880.
Both were buried in Rockland Cemetery. This Providential connection of Belpre with Foreign Missions is interesting and should be remembered by future generations.
Mrs. Sophia Byington
A Letter From Mrs. Sophia Byington to Choctaw Missionary Miss Sue L. McBeth
Dear Daughter "Sue"
I wrote you a hasty letter the next morning after I received yours, Dec. 27th I was then about to leave for a visit to see my daughter at my old home.
I returned ten days ago and not feeling well, and the weather being cold, I have put off writing to you as I promised.
I sent you one of Mr. Byington's grammars.
In that you will find some of your questions answered.
I do not feel competent to give a concise history of our Stockbridge home.
It has seemed to me that history was being made every day by Mr. Byington's labors among these people, where our lot was cast.
You can know that my husband's missionary labors commenced among the Choctaws in 1820 while they were living in Miss.
After he had acquired the language and prepared some books in the spring of 1827, he came to Cincinnatti to have them printed.
While on a visit to Marietta in Oct. my home place, we became acquainted and were married Dec. 17, 1827.
We soon left for his Missionary field in Miss. where we labored until the country was sold, and the Choctaws had migrated.
In the spring of 1832 we came to Ohio with the children.
Soon Mr. Byington left me to visit some of the tribe west of the Mississippi.
Mr. Kingsbury went with him.
In the fall he went to find his old people at their new home west of the Arkansas.
He was absent a year and when he returned, we prepared to go and commence our labors over again among our dear people.
At that time there was no steamboat on the Arkansas and to avoid the Mississippi swamps we were obliged to travel in wagons 500 miles over terrible roads, and in cold storms, camping out every night.
That was a terrible journey, but the Blessed Lord carried us safely through.
He had a cabin prepared for us and there we lived until my oldest son died and a sister of Mr. Byington's.
We felt the place was a sickly one and in 1834 we moved a mile and a half north and there was the Stockbridge where you found us.
That year Iyanabi Seminary was built under Mr. Byington's supervision.
In the winter a Steward and two teachers were sent out by the Ed Board and the school commenced.
Mr. Byington had the superintendence of it until 1852 when Mr. Chamberlain came.
In 1860 the Presbyterian Board had charge of it and Miss Downing and Miss Culbertson were sent there as teachers.
You must have known too well how we missionaries had to suffer at that time.
Iyanabi has never been reopened.
Col. Pitchlynn moved his family into the buildings as soon as they were vacated.
He is now living in Washington City (Washington D.C.) and his daughter; Rhoda is living there still.
In the spring of 1866 Mr. Byington was sick, nigh unto death.
The physician thought he could not live many days, but he said if the Lord had anything more for him to do he would raise him up.
He was raised up and was thought best for him to leave for he was so feeble and his labors so arduous.
He came to Ohio in July (1866) and stayed at the dear home until the spring of 1867 . . .
In September of 1867 I went with him to New York.
The Bible Society was willing to print the Pentateuch in Choctaw.
After the arrangement was made, we went to Stockbridge Massachusetts.
Manuscripts and the proof sheets were sent to him there.
He also printed the book, "Come to Jesus."
We returned to this place the last of May 1868.
And early in September 1868 he was taken sick.
His book was done, and the Savior took him home.
The last day of the year in 1868
I fear I shall not answer all your questions satisfactorily.
Mr. Byington never labored among any other tribe.
The New Testament was printed 26 years ago.
The Pentateuch was printed in both 1848 and 1869.
The first book of the Kings were printed, and some translations that are not printed.
Rev. Alfred Wright and Mr. Byington gave the written language to the Choctaw people.
Mr. Wright had feeble health and was not able to ride among the people as much as Mr. Byington, so he devoted more time translating the Bible with the help of a very able interpreter...
One of Mr. Byington's Elders occupied our house. (Note: This Elder is Judge James Hudson)
The Church still stands, but they have little preaching . . .
The dwelling house at Goodwater burned several years ago, that was to have been reopened.
The Spencer School with 50 scholars has been in operation since last summer.
But for the want of teachers, it has not been doing well.
Rev. A. Reid of Spencer is now in Princeton, N. J. His son John is in the college there.
You can get much information about the Choctaws through the Southern Board, Dr. Hobbs, you know.
He would have returned to them if the Southern Board of Foreign Missions had not objected, on the grounds that we did not remain with them through the war.
I don't like that, they need just such missionaries as he.
I shall not be able to write any more.
I have a lame hand . . .
I will send some papers from which you may gather more facts how Mr. Byington had to close his pioneer history before he extended his missionary work.
Your wilderness mother,
Notes: Stockbridge, Massachusetts was the birth-place of Mr. Byington, hence the source of the name in this new country. Iyanabi, or as Peter Hudson called this Mission, Iyanvbbi, was a boarding school for girls.
Notes: Mr. Byington was the first person to put the Choctaw language into written form and translate the words into the English language in the Choctaw to English/ English to Choctaw Dictionary that he authored and that is still in use as the standard and only available Choctaw Dictionary today. He also translated parts of the Old and New Testaments of The Bible into Choctaw. Some of this work was no doubt done in the house that later became the Hudson family estate and farm after Cyrus sold it to James Hudson his long time co-laborer among the Choctaws.
Below is a Diary of the same Missionary Sue McBeth
Miss Sue L. McBeth
A MISSIONARY TO THE
Edited by Anna Lewis
Miss Sue L. McBeth was teaching school at Fairfield, Iowa. When the invitation came for her to join the missionaries, working among the Choctaws, she felt that the invitation was a command and very soon started for her new field of work.
Her background and training well fitted her for the new task. She was the daughter of Scotch Presbyterian pioneers, in Ohio, a graduate of Steubenville Female Seminary, and was intensely interested in missionary work.
All her life she had hoped to be a missionary to the Indians. When the call came she immediately started to prepare for the journey into the West. After many suggestions from her friend she decided not to attempt the journey by the stagecoach route as she had first planned, but traveled by rail and boat, as this was a safer way for a young missionary to travel in 1860.
She arrived in the Indian Territory in the early Spring of 1860; she had traveled by rail to St. Louis, then down the Mississippi to the Arkansas, then on to Fort Smith.
From there she traveled over the old military road to Goodwater, her destination. She remained at Goodwater until the fall of 1861, then she says that the Christian Choctaws guarded her out of the Indian Territory when Texas ruffians were more to be dreaded than wild Indians.
During the Civil War she worked as a nurse at Jefferson barracks and in the hospitals of St. Louis. In 1873 she went out to the Nez Perce and for twenty years was a missionary to them.
During her long stay with the Nez Perce, she studied their language; she was at the time of her death, writing a Nez Perce dictionary and grammar. Her work is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
She was always interested in Indians, in their language and their lore. While she was in the Choctaw mission work she started to collect material to write a history of the work of these missionaries. At her death, all this material was given to a friend, who she hoped would finish the task and write this history. For some reason the book was never finished and the material was lost.
These scattered leaves, from her diary, are all that have been saved and they tell a very interesting side of the work of the missionaries among the Choctaws. It is too bad the rest of her writings have been lost. The diary is as follows:
Goodwater; called in the Choctaw language "Oka Chukmo" was founded by Cyrus Byington. It was located near the mouth of the Kametah river. There is standing one of the buildings today. Goodwater was a boarding school.
April 17th, 1860:
Commenced my labors in the schoolroom today. The scholars have been accustomed to read a verse in the Bible in turn, in the opening exercises, and the teacher follows with prayer.
But our lesson for today was the last chapter of Rev. and I talked to them about it, and questioned them for a little time before prayer, and they appeared to enjoy it so much that I think we will take that method in the future, if God pleases. It takes more time it is true, but the main object of these missions is work among souls. Intellectual culture, and care for the body are only accompaniments and subordinate.
I studied more than I taught today; studied while teaching. These Indian girls are a new book to me. The index is all that is open to me, as yet, and I tried to glean from it something of the subject matter of the pages.
Many of my girls are as large, or larger than myself. The majority are full Choctaws, but there are a number of half-breeds, as fair as Europeans. Two of these, Judith and Melinda, are quite pretty, and have large black eyes with a peculiarity about them seen only in mixed races; at least, no pure race that I have ever seen possessed it.
It is a peculiar soft, bewildering, brilliancy that gives something of the impression of cross-eyes, and yet their eyes are perfectly straight. When they lifted them from their books, as I looked into their faces, I could scarcely tell if they were looking at me or not.
One girl, Lottie, drew my eyes to her often. She is of such a different type from any I have yet seen. She is a full Indian—Choctaw, it is said, but I think that some of her ancestors must have drifted down from one of the New England tribes into the Chohta family, and, as is sometimes the case, the features of that ancestor is reproduced in her.
Lottie has inherited more than the features of some of those braves. I fear I read in her face a strong, stubborn will, with which I hope I may never come into conflict. A strong, deep nature under stoical exterior.
She does not appear to be popular either with the girls or the missionaries; and yet, I cannot tell why, she interests me much. Clara Folsom, another of the largest girls, I call 'my Indian princess.' Col. David Folsom, a half brother of Clara's father, was a Miko, or king, in the old Choctaw country and the Folsoms are still one of the leading families in the Nation.
Clara realized my childhood's ideal of a chief's daughter of the olden time, as I watched her at recess moving around through the yard, in a plain calico dress, and yet with the movements and air and regal grace of a queen.
I remarked to Mrs. Jones one day that some of the girls who sat at a table with a missionary who is a brunette, were quite as fair as the teacher, although they were full Choctaws. She tells me that change of food and habits and absence of exposure does make a change in the color of the Indians sometimes. She has noticed the difference, which even a few years will make.
The father of one of my girls, a native preacher, is here tonight; quite a Rev'd. looking man. How I wish I could speak Choctaw. It would give me so much greater opportunity for doing good. But my sphere now, I'm thinking, is quite as large as my strength.
Lottie has not been feeling right for some time, and today I was compelled to seat her beside me on the platform to remain there, without her recess until she tells me "I am good." Only three little words, yet when will her proud spirit, and strong, stubborn will be subdued enough to let her speak them.
I have a very pleasant school usually, with no more trouble at least, if as much as I should probably have with the same number of white children, and I think I could not be among those I loved more dearly. Some of the older girls are a real comfort and help to me, and the little ones are docile and affectionate. But, human nature is the same everywhere, and it will show itself at times even in the Indian country.
The muslin papering of my room is drawn tightly over the walls leaving spaces behind it, between the logs, where any insect or reptile which fancies doing so can find a home. Some of the widths are only tacked together, affording places of easy degrees.
I have killed several scorpions in my room already. Last night my candle went out just as I had knocked one from the wall to the floor, and as I stood in the darkness, afraid to move, I felt the reptile run over my dress across my shoulder and down to the floor on the other side.
Perhaps it was as much frightened as I was. Scorpions run very swiftly and, I am told, only sting when they touch flesh. They are about two inches in length and in form very much resemble a lobster. The poison is in their jointed tail, at the end of which is a small, curved sharp pointed sting similar to the prickle of a buckthorn tree; the curve being downwards. They uncurl the tail in striking a blow, and drive the sting into the flesh with great force.
Lizards swarm around here too, I killed one the other morning as it was mounting the steps of the porch. The girls killed a ferocious looking reptile, a little distance from my door one day.
They called it a "red head scorpion," but, its body looked much more like that of a lizard. Miss Eddy killed one like it in my room last summer, I am told. I begin to understand the reason for the tester over my bed; for the only ceiling is the floor of the garret, with crevices between the boards in some places large enough to permit such visitors to drop through.
My first acquaintance with a 'tick' was finding one so deeply embedded in my arm one morning that it required some force to draw it out. Mr. Jones killed a small centipede in the mission house yard one day. I saw it after it was dead.
All these things were new to my experience. I had never even lived in the country or alone before, and at first I suffered with fear. I was ashamed to acknowledge myself such a coward, and the others were so much braver or had forgotten their first fears.
So, I came down to my isolated cabin without a word. I was very brave in the daytime, but when the shadows began to creep among the thick trees around my lonely little house, I could not keep them from stealing into my heart too. I slept so little that it was beginning to tell on my strength. Mrs. Jones, kind thoughtful friend noticed it, and I confessed the truth. She sent one of her largest girls to sleep in my room, and little Rosa pleaded to come too, Rosa came in a few minutes ago, and I undressed her and heard her repeat her little prayer, and she and Miscie, are now sleeping on a pallet on the floor beside me.
My room has two windows; one, facing the school house, the other the church. It is papered with white muslin sewed or tacked together, and stretched from the ceiling to the floor, over the logs.
The muslin is newly whitewashed, as are the rafters and the boards of my ceiling. My bedstead is home made, or of Indian make. My toilet table is a dry goods box set on end, with some shelves inside, and curtained with chintz. The side table, ditto.
A large open fire place, a carpet, a home made lounge, a low rocking chair, the seat covered with cow skin with the hair still upon it, and a little square looking glass, a basin, pitcher, etc. completes the furniture of my room.
The mission family consists of Mr. Ainslie, his wife and three children. Mr. Theodore Jones, the missionary farmer, his wife and two children, Miss D.(ounner), Miss I. (No other reference is made to this missionery other than just Miss I.) and Miss E(ddy), and forty five Indian girls, making, with the two women in the kitchen, a family of sixty persons. Besides these, there are a number of day scholars, from families living in the neighborhood.
This is like Wapanucka, a boarding school for girls. For nine months of the year, the pupils are wholly under the care of the missionaries, except that their parents provide them with clothing.
Three of the warmest months they spend in their own homes. They are of all ages, from six or seven to twenty years, but no two from the same family are usually here at the same time. In this way a greater number of families can be reached and more good done.
As at Wapanucka, they are taught in English. They are not permitted to talk to each other in Choctaw. Those who have been here for some years speak English very well, although the majority of the full Choctaws in the Nations understand only their own language.
The half-breeds usually speak English when they come to us, but when a full Choctaw is admitted one of the pupils acts as interpreter for her for a little time. As soon as possible she must learn to communicate her wants in English.
This takes away one difficulty of the Eastern missions; missionaries here do not need to learn the language first, but can begin their work at once.
Miss. E.(ddy) has entire charge of fifteen of the youngest girls, and latest comers, in her own log cabin. She has her own school room where she teaches them to read, etc. Out of school she teaches them to sing, sew, knit, etc.
My work is to teach thirty of the largest girls and most advanced pupils in the schoolroom, Sabbath school with them on Sabbath afternoons, prayer meeting with them during the week. Out of school others teach them to sing, sew, knit, do fancy work, of which they are very fond; to cook, wash, and do all manner of household work, which may be of use to them in the future.
The course of instruction in these schools, as far as it goes, is intended to be thorough, while due attention to the Christian religion holds its proper place in the exercises of each day. It is the wish and aim of the missionaries to give each pupil such an education.
April 20: The scenery around Goodwater is very dull and uninteresting. Mostly thin forest, of not very heavy growth, composed chiefly of the varieties of oak common to this region. The girls are not permitted to go outside of the enclosure by themselves, but are taken out to walk frequently by some of the laides.
Today we took the whole school a long ramble through the forest. Miss H.(otchkin) and myself on horseback, the girls walking. We took them along the road to the old fields, and from there to the 'witch basin', a long distance from here.
The basin is formed by the widening of a small stream or 'branch', as it is termed in the Nation. The overhanging rocks and thick trees and underwood give the pool a dark, gloomy appearance, which perhaps suggested the name.
The Choctaws formerly believed in witchcraft. When a person wasted away and died, it was supposed to be from the effects of 'witch arrows', or 'witch shot', and a conjuror was consulted who professed to be able to point out the witch. This belief caused many innocent persons to be put to death. But, except with the very ignorant, these superstitions have almost disappeared.
I took the youngest of our flock, Rosa, a little orphan half breed, on my lap shortly after we started, much to her delight. Before we reached the basin, Selina, another little one showed signs of weariness and one of the larger girls placed her behind me on the horse. I soon found that I need not have the least fear of their falling off. Riding is almost an instinct with these children; they are accustomed to it so early. It was a delightful day, and the girls enjoyed the walk, and so did I.
It was such a novelty to watch them, the older girls walking sedately beside us or making short detours through the woods in quest of berries; the little ones running here and there, peeping out through the bushes at us as they searched for flowers or fruit; taking care not to go out of the sound of the little bell Miss H.(otchkin) carried.
They found few strawberries, however. One of my girls came up and shared her little handful with me, as I came to my room. I have a very pleasant school so far. Pleasant for them, I think; pleasant for me in their good behavior.
Little Elsie's mother and two sisters came to visit her tonight. I went down into the yard to speak to the little one, the prettiest Indian child I have yet seen with large soft black eyes.
But "huh" with her mouth shut, was all she could say, for she could not understand me. Rosa was displaying her treasures to her and carrying on a conversation through one of the little Choctaw girls who was acting as interpreter. For Rosa speaks English only.
I brought a letter with me from the Rev. Joseph Kerr, one of the first missionaries among the Weas, to his old friend, the Rev. Cyrus Byington at the Stockbridge.
Stockbridge Mission was established by the Rev. Cyrus Byington, in 1836. The name Stockbridge was given to this school because Byington was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This was a girls school known as Iyanvbbi Female Seminary.—"Recollections of Peter Hudson," Chronicles of Oklahoma, X (1932),
April Attended preaching in the little church in the forest yesterday. The Indian girls in their neat calico dresses and sunbonnets, walked two and two beside their teacher; while the groups of Indians were standing around the church door watching us as we came up, was to me a novel sight.
There was a very good congregation present; mostly full of Choctaws; although I noticed one white man, Mr. Oakes, who lives near us and his wife, a half breed nearly white.
We have Choctaw hymn books, which the majority of the people can read. Mr. A.(inslie) gave out and read a hymn which the congregation sang harmoniously. They have full, sweet voices, and appear to enjoy singing very much. One great inducement for the adult Choctaws to learn to read was that they might be able to sing their hymns.
After a short prayer, and reading a chapter, Mr. A.(inslie) called on a native Choctaw to pray. Of course I could not understand a word of the prayer, but the reverent, and earnest tones seemed to come from the heart.
Mr. A.(inslie) preached in English and as the majority of the congregation understand little or nothing of that language, Mr. Yale, the father of one of my girls, acts as interpreter.
In preaching Mr. A.(inslie) would speak a sentence or two in English and then pause while Mr. Y.(ale) who stood beside him on the platform, repeated his words in Choctaw; then he in turn would wait for another English sentence.
So that we had the same sermon in two languages. Mr. Y.(ale) appeared to translate very readily, and the congregation was very quiet and attentive.
The church here is one of the smallest in the Nation; numbers only about forty communicants outside of the school. But Mr. A.'s(inslie) field of labor is quite an extensive one. Taking Goodwater as a centre, a radius of six miles would include what properly belongs to his parish. Beside this he has a preaching place near Red River on Sabbath afternoons, while the Choctaws hold a prayer meeting on Sabbath P. M. over in the church.
An Indian came up and shook hands warmly with me in the aisle as we were coming out yesterday. "That is Moses Fletcher, one of our elders, and one of the best men." said Miss I. ( ) when he had gone.
"I have to be physician too, you see," said Mr. A.(inslie) as I came on the mission house porch after church and found him preparing medicine for an old man who was sitting there. Mr. Yale, who lives near Goodland, only comes to church and returns immediately. A black man was acting as interpreter; describing the symptoms of the patient to Mr. A.(inslie), and conveying the prescription to the Indian.
Knowledge of medicine is indispensable to the superintendent of a mission station, as he is usually the only physician, not only for the family, but for his congregation.
Mr. A.'s(inslie) own little babe has not been well for some time and is still no better.
Two Choctaw women were sitting on the mission house porch as I went up to supper tonight. They had brought baskets to sell. I stopped to shake hands and say (how do you do?) and when I came back they were gone. Baby Bella is still very ill. I do not think she can recover.
Little Bella Ainslie died yesterday. It is the first death in the family, and the parents feel it keenly, though bear it like Christians. I do not think that Mrs. A.(inslie) will long survive her babe unless she has speedy relief. Her health has been failing for a year.
Her lungs are evidently affected very much. We buried baby Bella today in the grave yard by the church. Two missionaries and a little band of Indian children sleep beside her until the resurrection. Shall I sleep with them, too?
May 9, 1860 We had communion last Sabbath—"big meetin' " the Indians call it, and on Saturday afternoon the Indians are trooping in to be ready for it. My heart sank as I saw them coming and thought of my lonely house, but Rev. Stark has arrived to assist Rev. Ainslie, and he will occupy the other room (in my cabin.)
Four men in their gay hunting shirts, and one of them barefooted, and Annie's mother came on the porch as I came out from supper, and three horsemen passed along the road just now.
Miss A.(rms) keeps watching our girls in the yard for all sorts generally come to these meetings—come from a great distance some of them. (Good water was a boarding school mission.
Choctaw Missionary Harriet Arms is pictured here ----- >
We had 45 Indian girls, 9 months of the year like Wapanucka.) Parents who have children here take this time to visit them, brothers to see their sisters, etc. The strange dogs are making music among the campers over by the church. I suppose most of the men will camp out in the woods around.
The women we will have to accommodate in the Mission.
The "big meetin" is over and the Indians are returning home again as they came. There must have been several hundred persons in the church and around it today. A motly assembly—men women and children all dressed in their gayest clothes—such brilliant colors.
The men with calico hunting shirts trimmed with fringe and rosettes, and two or three different colors of ribbons on their hats. The women with bright bandannas or sunbonnets and walking many miles perhaps with their allunsi (babies) in their arms or bound upon their backs with a shawl.
As we went to church as far as the eye could reach through the woods were groups of people, horses and wagons, and an Indian sounded a cow horn from the church door to call together the worshippers.
At the close of the morning service Reverend A.(inslie) announced that the friends of the young woman who had been baptized and united with the church at the last communion, and had since then died, wished to perform their cry over her, and would proceed to the grave yard for that purpose as soon as the benediction was pronounced.
Mr. A.(inslie), Mr. L.( ) and myself followed them and found 5 or 6 women seated on the ground around the grave with their shawls or handkerchiefs drawn over their heads, and their heads bowed on their knees, and one or two men standing near, weeping and wailing. I was forcibly reminded of "Jairus' daughter", and indeed this seems to be a relict of the old Jewish custom of mourning for the dead.
Wherever they have received it, whether, as some say, they are themselves the remains of the ten lost tribes, or they have received it by tradition in some other way. They do not have services at the funeral, but celebrate the 'cry' at the grave about six weeks afterwards.
The mourners usually have a white sheet thrown over their heads and the note of mourning at the funeral and at the "cry" is different. At the first it is a succession of short moans, 'oh my sister' (or brother) etc. At the 'cry' it is like the plaintive mourning of the dove. I waited until after the hymn was sung and then, seeing the mourners rising, came away. The missionaries do not forbid the custom, or encourage it, and it is gradually dying away.
I feared as I went to church that the novelty of the scene would distract my thoughts, and indeed it did a little, but I have enjoyed today very much, particularly the afternoon feast.
What a cheering sight to see these so lately heathen celebrating the dying love of a saviour so long unknown. Mr. Stark and Mr. Ainslie preached in English. Mr. Yale (an Indian) interpreted. For neither of the missionaries understand Choctaw well enough to preach in it, and few of the Indians here understand much English.
The closing hymn in Choctaw was sung to a most beautiful tune, one I have never heard. I could understand nothing of the words, but the sweet refrain 'Ho Minti' (Oh Come). Father Byington's initials are at the bottom of it. It is his composition or translation.
No one can tell me anything of the origin of the tune. Whether it is of English or Indian composition, it is certainly one of the sweetest and most melodious I have ever heard, and I noticed tears on some of the dark faces around me while they were singing it. They tell me that that hymn always appears to move the Choctaws more than any other. Perhaps because it is a hymn of invitation speaking of the dying love of Jesus, and partly perhaps because of the power of its melody.
After he had read the hymn, Mr. A.(inslie) invited any who wished the prayers of the church to come forward while we were singing. The missionaries are accustomed to extend such invitations at Communion seasons.
Their congregations are usually scattered over a large tract of country, and the pastors generally have the care of schools besides attending to their pastoral duties. They cannot well discover what is passing in the hearts of many of their hearers without some such expedient, although perhaps in different situations it may not be necessary.
Here, inquirers simply come forward to show that they are seeking an interest in Christ, and pastor or elders visit them afterwards, and converse with, or instruct them. The elders are earnest, and valuable helpers to the pastors in this work among the people. Two young men came up on Sabbath, shook hands with the ministers, seated themselves on the front seat, and a Choctaw prayed.
I wish I could speak the Choctaw language. I do not need it in my daily duties, but I would like to talk with the natives who come to the mission. At present my intercourse with them is limited to a cordial shaking of hands, and "Chi Chukma?" (Are you well?)
Mr. Ainslie tells me that the original Choctaw salutation was "Kota Mish minti ho?" (Where do you come from?, recalling the "Where do you hail from?" of the southern states, or "Kota mish is ho?" (Where are you going?)
These salutations were in harmony with their former roaming habits, and are still common. "Iti-bapi-shi li ma" (I am your brother.) is the most beautiful of their salutations, and is plainly original. "Chi Chukma?" (or "Chin Chukma?") is the greeting most used by the missionaries and may have been introduced by them.
Three of our ladies have been here for the full number of years for which they engaged, and expect to spend the summer vacation with their friends, and return to us in the autumn. As so much time is taken up in the journey by those who come from the Eastern States, Miss D.(ounner) has gone home, and I have her girls with my own in the school room, while Mrs. Jones takes charge of them out of school.
Little Elsie, the child of one of our elders, has been here only a short time. The first day in school she was very restless, and at recess I drew her to me and talked to her about being naughty. While I was talking to her one of my own girls came in. "Elsie no understand English, Miss M.(cBeth)", she said, and it was true, the child had not understood a word, was only pleased at being noticed.
She is a very affectionate child and as I cannot talk with her when she gets into mischief, I have seated her beside me on the little raised platform. Twenty times a day perhaps, she holds up her English primer to know if she has the right place, and when I have shown her the page, she leans back against my chair so contented and lovingly.
It is their recreation hour, and some of the little ones are making images out of the red clay in the yard. They seem to enjoy it very much. They make horses and saddles and little men to ride them, and sheep and cows and deer, and let them dry in the sun.
They seem to enjoy their play work very much. Human nature and child nature is the same all the world over. We are only four miles from Red river, and boundary line between the Choctaw Nation and Texas, and the red or brick dust colored soil along its banks, from which that river takes its name, extends to Goodwater.
Some of the larger girls are over in their sitting room singing an evening hymn to the tune of 'Auld Lang Syne'. They are beautiful singers; the most of them are passionately fond of music. Sometimes I hear a group of the smaller girls on the porch at my door singing their little hymns in different parts, composing some of the parts I suppose, and making them accord too.
They can have little scientific knowledge of music, and yet how quickly they detect a jarring note, and quick lifting of the head of some of the children when strangers, who have been with us at family worship have sometimes struck a discordant note in singing.
The Choctaws have full rich voices and the language is soft and musical. Nasal sounds are numerous, but gutturals can hardly be said to exist, and the nasals are much softer than the 'ng' in English. The full English nasal, as in sing, occurs in Choctaw only before K in an accented syllable. There is an aspirate, but is not very distinctly heard often.
Syllables usually terminate in a vowel sound, but may end with a consonant. The Choctaws give the vowel 'u' the sound of 'a' short, and when lengthened it passed into 'a' long. This perplexed me much at first when attempting to sing their hymns in church.
A few verses of the hymn of invitation sung at communion here, the melody of which haunts me still, will give some idea of the language.
Hatak hush puta ma!
Hatak hush puta ma!
Yakni achukma kvt
Hatak hvsh moma ma!
Hatak hvsh moma ma!
Chisvs im anumpa
Hvsh yimmi pullashke;
The girls are singing a variety of hymn in the sitting room across the yard, but among them all I can distinguish Judith's sweet voice singing "Oh how he loves." God has given me the hope that both she and her sister Sarah have found that dear Saviour and experience His love in their hearts.
Betsy, and Herzia and Lizzie Ann, and Lucy, and others of the older girls who have been here for some time are, I believe, earnest Christians, but many are still out of the Ark of safety. Oh that the seed dropped may spring up and bear fruit unto eternal life, that all our dear girls may be gathered into the fold.
Anna and Harriet (Webmasters Note: I think this is our Harriet Hudson) have seated themselves on the doorsteps with their books; others are at the windows or under the trees in the yard. It is a very pleasant sight that greets my eyes when I lift them from the page as I sit by my open window on this peaceful Sabbath evening.
The white school house with its animated groups before me, beyond it is visable a part of the log house from the porch of which comes the voices of Mrs. Jones' little ones, singing their evening hymns. While the little white church peeping out from among the trees and the forest with its lengthening shadows and its song of birds forms a fitting background for the picture.
The bell has rung for Mr. Ainslie's hour with the pupils on Sabbath evening. I hear his voice repeating a part of our lesson in Sabbath School this afternoon, the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, as he applies the words home to their hearts. Surely these Sabbath exercises will not be labor spent in vain, but will make their influence felt on all their future lives.
We had no interpreter in church today, and Mr. Ainslie preached a sermon of about the usual length and then called James Tonitubbe, one of our elders to the stand.
I recognized him as the Indian on horseback who met us, and shook hands with me so warmly on my way here. I could not understand his address today, but he seemed to be deeply in earnest and the congregation appeared to be very attentive. They are always quiet and attentive and always well behaved in church.
Very frequently Mr. Ainslie calls upon some of the men to lead in prayer in their own language and our Christian girls usually lead in Choctaw in our weekly meeting with them. They seem to have no hesitancy in doing so and are very fluent in prayer—appear to have no difficulty in finding words to express themselves, and the reverent and earnest tones in which they address a throne of Grace shows that they realize.
June 29, 1860:
School closes this week and already quite a number of the pupils have gone home. Lizzie McFarland left two days ago and may not return. I had a long talk with her in my room, and she made me many tearful promises. Judith and Sarah Belvin and Libbie went yesterday. Libbie has been here her full time and does not expect to return.
She is a professor, although so young, and I think is a Christian. She will have much to contend with in her home, poor child; temptations without, and strong passions either for good or evil within her own heart. She will make a useful Christian woman, with grace; without it she will have much influence for evil.
Little Rosa McIntosh left today. She has not been well for some time, and as it was so near the close of the term her uncle, Mr. Samson Folsom, came to take her home. Rosa's mother was a Folsom, and as Rosa is an orphan she lives with her uncle.
Mr. F.(olsom) is a portly, fine looking man. A white man who accompanied him from Doakesville, although an M. D., was not nearly so gentlemanly in appearance as he. Poor Rosa looked so sorry to go away, and I was sorry to lose her. I had learned to love the child so much; and she knew it. I have been amused lately sometimes when something troubled her to see her come around to the side of the house nearest me to cry, and crying loudest when she thought I heard her.
Miss J.(ones) started for home two days ago. Miss D.(ounner) is to leave as soon as school closes. I begin to feel lonely already at the thought. The dining room looks so empty with only one long table, and that not full.
We had a new interpreter last Sabbath, Mia Sonni, a fine intelligent looking young Choctaw who was educated at the Armstrong Academy. That Academy is under the care of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Mia Sonni is an elder in the church there although he does not look more than twenty years of age. "Why did they make such a boy an elder?"
I asked Mr. Ainslie. "Because he was the best they could get," was the answer. "They ordained him almost as soon as he united with the church." He took dinner with us on Sabbath, and afterwards accompanied Mr. Ainslie to his preaching place near Red River.
Mr. Ainslie announced that he would begin a series of family visits among his congregation next week.
July 5 I attended a Choctaw wedding yesterday in company with Mr. Ainslie. It was near noon when we started. The thermometer was 100° in the shade, and our way, for some distance, lay through the forest, the undergrowth so dense that umbrellas were useless.
Every little while we had to lean forward on our horses' necks to avoid Absolom's fate. "Never mind," said Mr. A. (inslie) we will be in the road presently." But when we reached it we found only a by-road, leading to a farm house, and the low overhanging branches still kept us on the watch.
After riding about a mile and a half, Mr. Ainslie turned into the forest with "This is the place." "This? Where?" I asked, for no sight or sound had warned me of a human habitation. But, just before me, on a rising ground, not forty yards from the road, stood the home of the bride, and under the trees within the enclosure were seated about one hundred Indians, men, women and children.
Some were talking together in low tones; others quietly watching us as we came up the path, while the horses browsing near the, or the dogs basking in the sunshine, scarce greeted us with a glance. Sheltered by the trees, which skirted the road, we might have passed the whole assembly without even a suspicion of their presence.
While Mr. Ainslie was securing our horses, I went up to a group of women under a tree and shook hands with them. That was about the extent of our intercourse, as they could not speak English; but one of them pointed me to a chair in the shade, from which I had a full view of the scene.
Mrs. Oakes, with her mother, Mrs. Everidge, and Mia Sonni, arrived a few minutes after us. The others around me were principally of the poorest and least educated class of Choctaws— the class which clings the longest to the tradition and ways of their fathers. And yet, with the exception of their color, the appearance of the people was very similar to that of the dwellers in many a frontier settlement, or rural district in the states today.
They had good, honest looking faces, and their garments if very plain were neat and clean. The men were principally farmers (although there might have been some mechanics among them), and were clothed after the manner of their white brothers, save that many of them wore a calico hunting shirt instead of a coat. The women were dressed in calico, and some of them had a handkerchief tied across their heads instead of a bonnet. And here I may remark that I have often been surprised at the taste displayed.
All who wish can attend the wedding. Some had no doubt come from a great distance. While dinner was preparing, an old man arose and made a long speech in Choctaw. "What is he saying," I asked Mrs. Oakes. "He is telling the bride and groom that they must live peaceably and right and not get tired of each other and separate in a little while." "Do they ever do so?" "Sometimes. They usually marry very young, and some only live together a few months." (Like some of their white brothers and sisters in the states, was my silent comment.)
At last dinner is ready, and Mr. Ainslie and I are seated at the head of the table opposite the newly married pair. Strong coffee, wheat and corn bread, meat, chicken, molasses, and butter is the bill of fare.
"You do not understand Indian customs," said Mrs. Oakes who sat beside me as I refused a plate of something. "You must take everything they offer you, and then you can carry home what you do not eat." "Will they be offended if I do not?" "Oh no."
I should have liked to get a view of the interior of the cabin, but could not without seeming too curious and the Choctaws have a great deal of quiet dignity which makes you feel instinctively that the exhabition of such a feeling would lower you in their estimation.
But the house is one of the smallest I have seen. The bride's mother is, I believe, a widow, and is very poor. As only twenty or thirty persons could be seated at the table at once, the dinner promised to be a very lengthy affair. So after another general shaking of hands, we started homeward very well pleased with so much of our "4th of July."
We had an apple "Bee" today at the mission house. Six Choctaw women, all save one of whom are members of our church, were helping to prepare our apples for drying. They are glad to come, for besides food while they are here, Mr. Ainslie pays them for their work and gives them a little bundle of fruit or vegetables to take home with them.
A very acceptable present in this season of scarcity. The Choctaws in this neighborhood, as I am told by Mr. Ainslie, pay considerable attention to raising apples, peaches, plums, cherries, and pears; also sweet potatoes, turnips, beans, Choctaw peas, etc. But nearly everything of the kind is a failure this year because of the long continued drought and intense heat.
I was out on the porch with the women for a long time today and they showed me the Choctaw names of objects I showed to them, and laughed at my pronunciation. One of them is a young married woman who had not been at the mission house before, and her bashfulness and blunders seemed to amuse the others very much.
After supper she did not notice that they were going to wait prayers, and, Indian fashion, was taking home the piece of bread left at her plate. When she saw the others sit down again, she stood, sadly bewildered for a moment for she had no pocket or any place in which to place her bread, and as she saw her companions smiling at her dilemma, she threw the bread in Elsie's mother's lap, and sat down and hid her blushes behind her apron.
Before they left Mr. Ainslie asked me to play for them. One after another came into the room or to the window, laughing and talking to each other, and telling me with a pleased nod of the head that it was "achukma" (good). The young stranger came up to the melodeon, touched the keys, and start back at the sound herself had made, then tried it again, well pleased with her performance. Presently I ceased working the pedal, and she looked puzzled at no sound coming although she still touched the keys. After looking the instrument all over to discover the ...........................
Goodwater, Choctaw Nation
August 1, 1860 This morning I saw Indian men riding along the road past my door and fastening their horses under the trees near the church until I suppose there were forty persons on the ground.
Two of them walked through the rear close to the window where I sat writing, startling me a little for they seldom come so near my cabin, although I can hear them passing along the road or through the forest many times a day.
I thought at first that they were gathering for some church meeting but when I went up to the mission house at noon, Mr. Ainslie told me that this was election day, and that the men came to the mission to vote; that they were voting for a Governor or Principal Chief of the Nations, and some other officers.
"Where are the polls?" I asked. "Under that straw shed over by the church", he said. "How do they vote? Have they tickets?" "Oh, no. Each man tells Mr. Folsom for whom he wishes to vote, and he writes down the voter's name opposite the candidates." "Will there be any trouble? Have they any fire water?" I asked, for I remembered 'Election Day' at home. "Oh no," was the answer. "There are very few drinking men in this neighborhood. They will be quiet enough."
And so it proved they were. Two or three loud laughs were all the sounds that reached me, although they were so near and they dispersed as quietly as they came. Mr. Ainslie tells me that there were not near so many present today as usual. I suppose that some had graver matters to think of now than even Election Day.
When the missionaries first came to the Choctaws, their nation was, as we have said, divided into three large districts. Each of the three districts had its Miko or King; each town or smaller division, subordinate chiefs, captains, (Here a part of the diary is missing, but her comments upon the drought of 1860 are extremely interesting)
I don't know. I suppose some of them have a little corn in their fields. Those who have money are sending to Texas for flour. "Have they good crops in Texas?" "Oh, no. If they had we could easily be supplied, but they are nearly as badly off as we." "I wonder if the drought extends much further north." "I think not. I think it is only the high lands west of the Mississippi.
I hear they have good crops in the states, but the difficulty is in getting it here. Gaines Landing, the nearest point on the Mississippi is not less than 200 miles from here, and it would need to be brought here in wagons—almost an impossibility under this broiling sun, for the heat contracts the wood of the wheels so that the tires fall off, even if man and beast could endure it. Why, Tawnee Tubbe went to Texas after a load for Father Kingsbury and his wagon fell to pieces and he had to get it repaired.
That cost $12.00. One of his oxen fell down dead. That cost $25 more, making $37.00 in all, besides his time and labor." 'How comes it that the man you went to see today had corn, while those around him had not?' "Well, it is partly in the cultivation, for he is part white, and understands farming, but principally because his land lies low, swampy ground that does not get so badly burnt up.
When I went there today his cabin was locked up, but a few boards raised a little from the ground under a tree, an old blanket on them, a block of wood for a pillow, and some few cooking utensils near, showed that he did not need a house only to keep his goods in, for he lives alone. He will not make any contract for his corn until it is brought in.
Besides you know that these schools are supported in part by appropriations made to the Indians from government, and those that I have spoken to on the subject think that a part at least should be given up to support the Indians through this trying winter, and I think so too.
It will feed more perhaps than it would should it be expended on the schools, and life is the first thing to be taken care of in such times as these, although there will still be a great deficiency even of the cheapest food. $300 will not go very far, flour at $8.50 per hundred weight.
I had a very gloomy letter from Mr. Stark last night. His charge is much larger than mine and not as well provided for. He talks seriously of going back to the states rather than stay to witness the distress he cannot alleviate." 'But the appropriations, if they are given up, will they not do much to relieve them? They are only a drop in the bucket to feed the 20,000 in the Choctaw Nation alone, and the Choctaw government has no possible means that I know of to feed them.
We will just have to appeal to the Christian tribe to this country, her mother carying Mrs. K.(ingsbury), then an infant, on her lap on horseback for the greater part of the journey. When she was about eight years old her mother visited her home friends in the North for the first time in her missionary life, taking Marie, her only daughter with her.
She left Mrs. Kingsbury with Mrs. Dr. Pride, a. sister of Mrs. Hotchkin, then residing in Springville, Pa. Here she attended school for nine years. Some years after her return to Goodwater she was married to Mr. K.(ingsbury), and has since then resided in the Nation. Her husband, Mr. J. Kingsbury was educated in Marietta College, in Marrietta, Ohio, but the greater part of his life has been spent on mission ground.
The fact that both he and his family have been adopted by the Choctaw Nation as citizens of their country shows the esteem in which he is held by this people. He stands high in regard of all who know him, as an earnest, consistent Christian, and has been for many years a ruling elder in the church.
Mrs. Kingsbury told me that her brother had gone to Ohio for his bride, my old school mate and dear friend, Miss Mary Semple, and expects soon to return with her to Living Land.
Doaksville is a small but pleasant looking village. There are a number of neat, if not tasteful dwelling houses, and two stores, which I found contained a little of almost everything from hoops to hunting shirts.
It has quite a respectable looking church in which Father Kingsbury preaches. The Choctaw churches contributed $1000 in one year towards the erection of this building, and at the same time gave another $1000 to the cause of Foreign Missions, and other benevolent objects.
It was near evening when we reached this station, where we found the ladies from Wapanucka waiting to be taken to their respective homes. At the supper table we had been talking about the dark prospects of the Choctaws and the Mission, on account of the threatened scarcity of food of the States.
When the starving millions of Ireland appealed to the United States they met a generous and cheerful response, and surely we are as much indebted to the Indian as to the Irish. What is appropriated to the School may, if husbanded with care, keep my congregation alive, but our appropriation (300.00) is the largest and my congregation the smallest, and the many who are not favored must suffer."
Tomorrow is our communion. 'Do you think we will have many Indians on the grounds tonight? "I think not. They have no provisions to camp out with." Poor, poor Choctaws.
August 10 We have had a delightful rain today, the first for nearly two months and the thirsty baked earth rejoices. The breadstuffs are already past hope, I fear, but it may do the fruit and vegetables some good, or at least start the grass to growing so that the poor cattle may have a little longer reprieve from starvation. The flowers drooped and died long ago. The springs and small streams have dried up. The bees suffer with the rest. They have had to quench their thirst at the well, swarming around it so that we could scarcely draw the water.
I sent my monthly report of Meteorological Observation to the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D. C. a few days ago. For the thermometer the average for last month as: at 7:45 a. m., 83.50°; at 1 p. m., 99.64°; at 6 p. m. 96.7°.
Many days it was 110° in the shade at 3 p. m. But I am told that the heat this summer is unusually great; and the situation of Goodwater, in the heart of the forest, distant from any large body of water, probably makes the temperature higher than at many other places in the same latitude. Certainly the effect is very debilitating, especially to those accustomed to a colder climate.
Mr. Ainslie has begun making preparations to leave Goodwater.
September 7. At Wheelock again (Returning from a visit to father Byington, 60 miles from Goodwater.) While we were eating breakfast on the porch this morning, we saw a covered wagon drive up to Rev. Edwards, and presently came the tidings, 'Rev. and Mrs. Reed (Spencer Mission) have come.' Quite a reunion of missionaries at Wheelock.
Mrs. Reed has been East on account of her health for a year or two (she is dead) and Rev. R.(eed) went for her and the children this vacation. They had got lost, and camped out all night and came to Mr. E.'s (dwards) for breakfast. About six miles from here.
They only remained a little while as they wished to reach L.(enox) tonight. Presently Mr. Stark's company started, without Mrs. Byington. (She came to W.(heelock) with me.) I was selfish enough to be glad I could keep her with me until Monday.
Shortly after breakfast the large road wagon was brought to the gate, ourselves and our provisions packed in it, and we started through the hot sun to the camp meeting. I wish I could photograph the picture that met us as we came upon the grounds to look at when laboring with discouragements. It was noon when we arrived.
As far as the eye could reach through the dim forest aisles were scattered Indian ponies with the bright red or blue blanket strapped across their backs, the unfailing Indian dogs, groups of Indians in their picturesque costumes preparing their scanty dinners by their camp fires, while the blue smoke curled in lazy wreaths through the leafy canopy above.
Here a table spread under a rude arbor, there a group preparing to dine on the lap of Mother Earth, those who had food freely sharing with those who had not, while under a large arbor in front of the cabin 'meeting house', were seated several hundred Indians, listening to the eloquence of a Choctaw orator.
We drove slowly through the groups to Rev. Edwards' camp, a little hastily built log cabin, with a slab shelf for him to sleep on fastened to the wall inside—where he soon joined us. After eating dinner from the slab shelf and resting a little.
Rev. Edwards and his Wife are pictured here ----->
Miss McLeod and I strolled through the grounds, stopping occasionally to say 'che chukime'
(How do you do?) and shake hands with a little group under a tree, or pat the dusky cheek of a little bright eyed 'alonsa' (baby).
(Webmasters Note: What follows is an account where Chief George Hudson is mentioned)
About two o'clock an old Indian, twirling a long stick in his hands, paced through the grounds, chanting in Choctaw. Every little while raising his voice in a prolonged "Kaa." "What is he doing that for"? I ask. "He is calling on them to form the procession" was the reply, and presently several Indians with drums came on a little rising ground and sounded the 'call to arms'.
They did not beat a turn, but thumped monotonously or drew their sticks across the drum ends. All they wanted was noise, and they had it! Then came the banner bearers with their banners. The mottoes were Choctaw except one and that read "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve".
One showed the stars and stripes, another had a broken bottle painted on it. (I noticed a bottle on the platform which they said was to be broken by the old chief as the finale to the meeting.)
Just as the procession was starting an Indian handed a banner to a neat looking Indian woman, the mother of one of my pupils, and the women and girls formed behind her, walking two and two, beside the men.
They made the tour of the grounds and then came into the arbor where we were already seated. The choir took the front seats and sang some M. L. L. temperance hymns, and after prayer Rev. Fisk, an old gray haired Indian who preaches up in the mountains, delivered a long oration in Choctaw.
I could not tell what he said, of course, but his audience appeared to be very much interested. I looked around upon the five or six hundred Indians and thought, if there be tears in heaven, the cloud of witnesses who look down upon this scene weep for joy to see five or six hundred of these forest children assembled here to battle with the 'fire water' their deadliest enemy (Satan and depraved whites excepted).
This is the fruit of missions surely it has not been labor spent in vain.
There sat (George Hudson) the old Chief, or Governor, on the rude platform. Around him some of the chief men of the Nation, lending their influence for good. Here were many who did not go to church, attracted by the novelty. Many good words, for they had addresses on various subjects, will fall upon their ears. Oh that they may sink into their heads and 'bring forth much fruit many days hence.'
After Rev. Fisk had concluded, Rev. Dukes, a half blood, took the stand but we were compelled to leave shortly after he commenced for our conveyance was not a very speedy one, and we were six long miles from home.
Rev. Duke was one of Mr. Byington's people in the old Nation. He and his wife too. His wife is a very pleasant looking half blood, and his daughters are nearly white. He is one of the 'trustees' who visited Goodwater, and his wife tells me they are going to send one of their daughters to G.(oodwater) to school this winter.
I saw another Indian girl, Jannie Austin, a neatly dressed and lady like girl who had just returned from school at Lewicklez, Pa.
Note: This is Jane Austin McCurtain, wife of Jackson McCurtain, one of the most outstanding Choctaw women of the nineteenth century.
She had been sent there with the appropriated 'college fund', a fund appropriated by government to give a few of the most promising youth an education in the States, and then they must return and teach their own people what they have learned. "You have a great work before you, Jannie", I told her. (She expects to begin teaching shortly). 'You must try to work for the souls, as well as to enlighten and elevate the minds of your people. Do work for God, Jannie, will you not." "I will try." Such teachers may accomplish much good.
I found that Rev. Fisk had preceded us to W.(heelock), is spending the night here. I had a long talk with him about his people. He said, in his broken English, "The first time I saw a missionary, I was afraid of him. I had been traveling all day, and although I was cold and hungry when I came to the door, I was afraid to go in, and turned away and slept in the bushes.
That missionary was Father Byington. When we lived in the Old Nation I had heard of him before. He had talked to a boy I knew about his sins, and I was afraid he would talk to me about my sins too." "What ideas had you of sin before you heard the gospel?" "I did not have any at all, and when I heard of it at first, I thought the bad men were down below the ground somewhere", he said, motioning with his hand.
"I thought all the people above it were good, but I did not have any clear idea of immortality of the soul? Of a future state of rewards or punishment?" Well, we thought that the 'shilombish', the soul or shadow that was in a good man, or one who did not quarrel or fight, the winds took away to some pleasant country far off in the south, and there he always lived, and had fine horses and fine hunting grounds, and where he could always be happy."
"Those were the hunting grounds of their fathers that I have read about." "Yes, and we thought those who lived to quarrel and fight in this world were sent away off somewhere else by themselves where they were compelled to quarrel and fight forever." "But you had some idea of the 'Great Spirit' of God. Did you worship Him?" "No, we had some idea of the Great Spirit who made the world, but we thought He was away off somewhere and did not take much notice of what was going on in this world. We did not worship him or anything else."
Rev. Edwards told me today when I was talking to him on this subject, that there was no original word for religion or religious worship in the Choctaw language. When the missionaries came among them they were in about the same condition as the Sandwich Islanders were when the Gospel was first carried to their shores.
They had thrown away their 'tabu' system, had ceased worshipping their idols or worshipping anything, were shrouded in Cimmerian darkness, both intellectually and spiritually. That was probably one reason why in so few years the Gospel light shone so brightly upon those Isles of the sea. They had been so far prepared for it’s coming in God's providence that they had no deep-rooted false faith or religious system to lay aside or rise up in arms against it.
So this people had forsaken the tradition of their fathers or religious faith and worship, if they ever had any, and so were prepared to receive the Gospel so much the more readily. But I am digressing. I told Rev. Fisk "I always felt a deep interest in your people. Even when I was a child. I loved to read about them and longed to know more of them.
I can remember, when quite young, of feeling so sorry for them, thinking that perhaps some day, if God pleased, I would come to tell them of a Home that passeth not away—eternal in the heavens. I mention this so that you will find some apology for my questioning you so.
This is the first time I have found one of your people who could tell me so many things that have craved an answer so long." "Oh no," he replied. "It does not need an apology. Anything I can tell you I will be glad to." "Well, then, with your permission, what tradition had your people of their origin? (Here again some of the diary is missing)
October 22 The Rev. Pliny Fiske arrived on Saturday night to preach for us on Sabbath. I was so glad to see him, but too busy to talk with him then, much as I wanted to do so, and so I placed the rocking chair and table before the fire in the sitting room for him, and left him there to study while I attended my girls' prayer meeting.
He preached for us in Choctaw on the Sabbath, and seemed to be deeply in earnest. I saw him wipe away the tears several times during the sermon. In the morning he addressed our girls in the schoolroom. The most of them understood Choctaw much better than English, and we were so glad to have any one talk to them in their own language about their soul's interests.
How much I enjoyed the brief glimpses the dear genial old man gave me of that olden time I so longed to explore, and through which he would so willingly have led me.
I had heard Mrs. Byington and he, when at Wheelock, laughing over some of his experiences when he first went to the white man's country to school, and his feelings on first seeing the wonders of civilization.
The Rev. Pliny Fiske, one of our most successful and devoted native pastor, belonged to Mr. Wright's people at Goshen; and the tidings of the sale of the Choctaw country in 1830, and the necessary breaking up of the schools and churches preparatory to the removal of the people, came in the midst of a time a great religious interest among the natives in that district.
In 1832, as we have said, Mr. Wright followed his people to this country, and located at Wheelock. The buildings at this station were erected under Mr. Wright's supervision, and before his death he had received to the communion of the church here five hundred and seventy members.
November 14 Four days ago I heard little Willie Jones making a great ado in the mission house yard, and caught the welcome tidings: "Miss E.(ddy) come! Miss I.( ) come!" and sure enough there they were. In a little while Wallace came from the Post Office with a letter for me from Dr. Wilson, such a good kind letter, but containing the unwelcome news that Mrs. Ainslie is no better, and he did not think she would live through the winter. So, of course no Mr. Ainslie for Goodwater. Both Dr. W.(ilson) and Mr. Ainslie think that Mr. Balentine is with us.
For the past two days we have been busy rearranging the school. Miss E.(ddy) has taken the little ones and new comers into her own charge in the log house; leaving thirty girls to Miss I.( ) and myself, the same as last term. I have come back to my little quiet cabin, and life at Goodwater is settling back into its old monotonous groove again. And we can very well dispense with the excitement, and part of the care and toil of the last six weeks.
Dr. Wilson's last letter to me (dated October 22) says: "I have no doubt this month of October will be a memorable one in all your future life. Memorable as a time of great pressure and responsibility.
December 25 I was awakened this morning by the voices of the girls at my door crying "Christmas gift! Miss M.(cBeth), Christmas gift!" and from all sides I heard it as I went up to breakfast. I told them that in my country people said "A merry Christmas", and "A happy New Year", but they seemed to think their Christmas would not be a very 'merry' one when they had to go into the school as usual. They have been promised a holiday on New Year's, however.
We had several visitors; some former pupils, and friends of the girls who spent their Christmas here, perhaps in the hope of a share in a 'big dinner'. But we had no extras except a warm biscuit apiece for the girls, (a rarity this session,) and that disappeared into pockets before dinner was over, to be eaten between times, as a tidbit.
We have a small library, principally of Sabbath School books, belonging to the mission. The Missionaries have a few books of their own, but it is difficult to bring many books through.
It was Mr. Jones' turn to lead the meeting last Sabbath, and, of course the Choctaws could understand nothing but the hymns and prayers in their own language. But they have a prayer meeting of their own in the church after we come away.
I hear the old cow horn calling in the worshippers, after the brief intermission. No matter how stormy the day may be, a goodly number are sure to be present. They would set most of their Christian white brothers and sisters a good example in punctuality and perseverance in this respect.
A great many Indians were over at the church on Saturday. I thought they were going to have prayer meeting, but Mr. Jones said they were taking the census of the district preparatory to the anticipated distribution of corn. But the promised half-bushel to each individual will scarcely eke out life until harvest time to those who have no other means of relief.
We have recently had a visit from Mr. Henry Hotchkin and from Allen McFarland, a brother of my pupil, Lizzie McFarland. Mr. Hotchkin has lately returned from Ohio with his bride, and they are now residing with his parents at Living Land.
December 27 I think I never did as much thinking in my life as since I came here where the thoughts which are generated cannot find vent: but are compelled to stay all huddled together in my brain.
And, very probably that is the best place for them. The duties of the missionaries are so arranged that when one has leisure another has not, and we have to be contented with a few words in passing, or in business consultations. Each one is, socially, nearly as much isolated as if they were alone.
Mr. Jones came back from Pine Ridge, the other day, with the intelligence that Miss Stanislaws had warned father Kingsbury that he will need to get another teacher shortly, as she expects to marry Mr. Joseph Folsom who visited us with Mr. Wright in the spring. Mr. Folsom is an educated man, and member of the church and, as far as I know, a Christian.
June 12, 1861. At the Spencer Mission
Yesterday we bade good-bye to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, our dear Indian girls and our mission home, most probably forever, and came to this place on our way to Fort Smith. Mrs. Edwards and her children are to join our company here. Mrs. Young, one of the Spencer missionaries, is lying very ill.
Her husband and some of the missionaries here will remain for a time; the others will go home with us. Dear old Father Kingsbury rode over from Pine Ridge today to bid us a sorrowful good bye, until we meet, as we hope up yonder.
Spencer is a beautiful place. Everything in and around the Academy is in the most perfect order, and the Institutions would do credit to any of the states.
Many of the leading men in the churches, and of the government have been pupils of Spencer, and from its halls an influence has gone out which has been felt, in blessing, in every part of the Nation.
Looking back at the history of the two tribes of whom we have spoken, the only marvel is that they have made such progress. It is saying much for the character of the race, that, in spite of all the discouragements and hindrances, which have been placed in their way, the Choctaws and Cherokees have reached their present advanced standard of civilization and Christianity. And it is saying still more for the power of the Gospel of Christ the means through which this great change has been accomplished.
June 18, 1861. At the Lenox Mission
Our company left Spencer on Thursday morning; some riding on horseback, and some in the mission wagons. We hoped to spend the Sabbath at Lenox, but the great heat, often 100° in the shade, the slow moving ox team, and the mountain ranges we had to cross, made our movements slow, and Saturday noon found us a long day's journey from our place of rest. We found a pleasant camping place where we spent the Sabbath. Monday morning, shortly after midnight, we were again on our way, and before noon reached this place.
Some of the Indians living near came to our camp on Sabbath, and for them, and for ourselves, we had religious services, both in the daytime and at night.
This is the last station on our route, and is about eighty miles from Goodwater. I have now visited all the mission stations in the Choctaw nation under the care of the Presbyterian Board, except that at Living Land, Rev. Hotchkin's home.
Lenox is a lovely spot, nestled down among the Kiamisha Mountains. Long before we came in sight of it we met Mr. Edwards waiting and watching for the dear wife and little son and daughter who were with us and rejoined him there. He took refuge at Lenox in his ............
Just before reaching Lenox we called at the house of Judge Wade, a noble, brave looking man, concerning whom Mr. Ainslie told me the following pleasing incident.
Some time prior to 1850 two United States officers on their way from Fort Smith to Fort Towson, overtaken by night, stopped at an Indian house and asked for lodgings. This was readily granted them. Shortly afterward, Judge Wade, the owner of the house, came in.
He had been hunting and his arms and appearance created emotions of fear in the officers who knew nothing of the character of the man. After supper when shown into the adjoining room as their sleeping room, they carefully placed their pistols under their pillows and through the open door watched their host.
He threw some pine fagots on the fire, took down his Choctaw hymn book and Bible, and with his household sang a hymn, read a chapter and prayed. The officers, though skeptics in religion, now were forced to pay tribute to the power of religion and felt ashamed of their fears. They stealthily slipped their pistols back into their knapsacks and slept as serenely as if in their own fathers' house.
July 6th, At home. We spent the second Sabbath in camp and resumed our journey on Monday morning. The first glimpse we caught of the white man's civilization (not the civilization of the Gospel) as we emerged from the forest on the borders of the Indian Territory, and came in sight of the States once more, was the white tents of any army of soldiers encamped on the outskirts of Fort Smith.
All the way to our homes were the sights and sounds of war; soldiers with us on the boat; the cars bearing us swiftly through the camps of the south and north. The effect of the sudden transition from the quiet of the forest and our Indian homes into the midst of such scenes as these was bewildering.
We were transported back to the days of Caesar and 'De Bello Gallico.' We could scarcely realize nor can we yet fully realize, that we were traveling in Christian America in the middle of the nineteenth century.
Our company reached Cincinnati in safety, and at that place we separated, and all have doubtless ere this reached their homes.