The 1st Choctaw Missions
By Cyrus Kingsbury:
CYRUS KINGSBURY, Graduated Andover theological seminary 1815; ordained Congregational minister 1815; home missionary Va. and East Tenn. 1815-17; missionary to Cherokee, Tenn., 1817-18; missionary to Choctaws, Mississippi., 1818-32; Choctaw Missionary Indian Territory., 1832-70. Born in Alstead, N. H., Nov. 22, 1786; died Boggy Depot, Ind. Ter., June 27, 1870.
Concerning the 1st Choctaw Missions
Showing the boundary of their country: population; advancement in civilization; Religion; treatment of the dead.
The Choctaws, or "Flat-Heads", occupy the country between the Tombigbee and the Mississippi, bounded north by the country of the Chickasaws, and south by a line running a little below the parallel of 32°.
A small part of this territory is in the State of Alabama, but it lies principally in Mississippi.
Within a few years they have made great advances in agriculture, and other arts of civilized life.
They raise corn and different kinds of pulse, melons, and cotton. In one year they spun and wove ten thousand yards.
An ingenious Choctaw, for a series of years, raised his own cotton, made wheels, cards, &c. spun it, wove it, and made it into clothing.
The Choctaws raise a great many cattle.
They have laid aside hunting, as a business, though they sometimes engage in it for amusement.
They speak very reverentially of the Supreme Being; but have no exterior worship.
Polygamy is very common; there is no marriage ceremony, and their morals, in this respect, are very loose and corrupt.
Till within a few years they did not bury their dead, but left the bodies on scaffolds, erected before their doors, until the flesh was consumed.
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Their government is entirely advisory.
They are divided into three tribes, each of which has a chief: The tribes are subdivided into clans. The individuals of different clans do not intermarry.
The Choctaws have strong tendencies towards a civilized state.
They are friendly to travelers, for whose accommodation they have established a number of public inns, which for neatness and accommodations actually excel many among the whites.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in June 1818, established a missionary station among the Choctaws, which they named ELIOT, after the celebrated New-England missionary of that name.
The seat of this mission is about four hundred miles southwesterly from BRAINERD.
It is three miles south of Yalo Busha Creek; about thirty miles above its junction with the Yazoo; seventy or seventy-five miles west of the Choctaw Agency; one hundred north of that of the Choctaws; one hundred and forty-five north-west of Walnut Hills.
It is in a good country, adapted to the raising of cattle, in a climate supposed to be salubrious, and by the Yalo Busha, the Yazoo, and the Mississippi rivers, has a water communication with Natchez and New Orleans.
The state of this establishment, Nov. 1819, and Dec. 1820, was given by Rev. Mr. Kingsbury, who is at the head of it, in his Reports to the Secretary of War, as follows:
“Since the last report, thirty-eight scholars have been admitted to the school.
Ten have left it, and one has been dismissed for ill conduct.
The number now in school is seventy-four; six more are considered as belonging to it, but are at home on a visit.
Of the whole number, sixty are males, and twenty females.
All these board in our family, and are entirely under our direction, excepting ten, who live in the neighborhood, go home on Saturday, and return generally on the Sabbath morning.
Fifty of the scholars now belonging to the school could not speak our language when they entered.
These have all made progress in proportion to the time they have been here, and several of them now speak English fluently.
Others, who have not advanced so far, can read correctly, and will soon acquire the spoken language.
Sixty-five, now in the school, began with the alphabet.
Twenty-eight of these can read with facility in the New Testament.
All the scholars have been accustomed, from the first, to write their lessons on slates and, when advanced, to write on paper.
Thirty-nine write a plain hand without a copy.
Nineteen others can form letters with tolerable accuracy.
Ten have made some progress in arithmetic, and two, who were considerably advanced, when they entered, have attended to grammar and geography.
The boys, when out of school, are employed, as circumstances require, in the various business of the farm and family.
Each one, who is of sufficient size, is furnished with an ax and a hoe.
We cultivated the past season about fifty acres of corn and potatoes, most of which was planted and hoed by the boys.
The girls are in two divisions, and are employed alternately in the kitchen, and in sewing, spinning, knitting, and other domestic labors.
At present, they are taught in a room separate from the boys; and, a part of the time, by one of the females of the mission.
When our expected help arrives, it is designed to bare them entirely under the direction of a female teacher.
The education of girls is considered of primary importance, as it respects the prospective education of children, and the progress of civilization.
Since Oct. 1819, there have been erected, at Eliot, a joiner's shop, a meat house, two corncribs, and four large cabins, which are occupied as dwelling houses.
Fifty thousand bricks have been made, and two brick chimneys built; also, considerable other brickwork has been constructed for the accommodation of the kitchen, including an oven, and arches for kettles.
The improvements have been considerably enlarged, both by clearing new land, and by inclosing two small-unoccupied fields, which lie at the distance of about a mile.
Since the death of Mr. Fisk, (who was a blacksmith) an industrious young man has been constantly employed in the smith's shop; and one Choctaw lad, and one half breed are learning the trade.
They are alternately in the shop and school, and their proficiency has been good. Several other lads are desirous of learning trades; but we are not yet able to give them an opportunity.
Two wheelwrights, and a cabinetmaker, have been employed for several months.
It would be desirable to have permanent mechanics of the above description, that some of the scholars may be instructed in those arts.
In order to facilitate the communication with Eliot, and particularly between Eliot and the new establishment on the Ook-tib-be-ha, we have, with the assistance of Capt. Folsom, (a half breed) opened a wagon road from this place to the Pigeon Roost, on the road from Nashville to Natchez.
There is now a wagon communication from the navigable waters of the Yazoo, to those of the Tombigbee.
This road will accommodate those, who may wish to remove from Tennessee and Alabama, to the valuable lands on the Yazoo, lately obtained from the Choctaws.
A few bridges, and a little more labor on a part of the way, would render the road good at all seasons of the year, from the ferry, on the military road at Columbus, to Eliot.
We have been with a wagon, as far down the Yazoo, as the new purchase; but the road is not opened below our station.
The property belonging to the establishment, on the first of Oct. 1820, is estimated as follows:
Sixty acres of improvements at $15, totaling $900, a horse mill $200, Joiner's and blacksmith's shops, tools and stock totaling $600, Twenty-two other buildings of various sizes, totaling $3,000, a wagon, two carts, two ploughs, harness, and other farming utensils totaling $400, Seven horses, at $60 each totaling $420, a yoke of oxen totaling $160, Two hundred and twenty head of neat cattle, at $8 totaling $1,760, Sixty swine at $2.50 totaling $160, Pork, flour, corn, potatoes, &c. totaling $1,758, Groceries totaling $360, Beds and household furniture totaling $500, Cloth of various kinds totaling $250, Library totaling $320, A keel boat, the Choctaw packet totaling $400 and Fifty thousand brick at $6 totaling $300.
Grand Total: $11,478
Seven cows and calves, one yoke of oxen, two wagons, one cart, and various other articles, had been taken from Eliot, for the new establishment.
Similar aid will hereafter be afforded to other stations.
The government allows an additional sum of a thousand dollars towards the expenses of the buildings at Eliot.
The plan of the buildings at Mayhew is also approved, and a stipulated sum is allowed towards erecting them.
The following incident will show in what light the school at Eliot is viewed by the natives:
A half-breed Choctaw, whose name is McCurtin, had five children at school, and sent a sixth.
The school was then full, and the sixth could not be received.
The missionaries had repeatedly been obliged to decline receiving children.
On the return of his child, the father fell into a passion, sent for his other five children, and took them from the school.
Not long afterwards, the father being absent, an uncle of the children, called Capt. Cole, hearing that Mr. Kingsbury was at Eliot, repaired thither with a petition, that the children might be received again.
It is a custom of the Choctaws, that an uncle is a sort of guardian to children, even during the life of the father.
The following is a copy of Capt. Cole's petition.
A-be-ate-up-in-bogue, June 6, 1821.
Friend and brother, I reflect that my nephews and nieces have been taken from your care, and the loss of education gives me a great dissatisfaction of mind.
I wish to return the boys to your care again.
Your sanction to my request will give me much pleasure.
The girls, I leave that to your own breast, whether you wish to call them to your care once more.
When they were taken from you, it gave me dissatisfaction of mind; but I gave way to the father, as I thought it my duty.
Should you be willing to take them, you will please to answer me by the first opportunity, and you will oblige.
Your Friend and Brother,
We the undersigned humbly request that Mr. Kingsbury should sanction Capt. Cole’s request, and receive his nephews in the school again, as we feel sorry for his nephews the loss of their education, which appears much to affect him.
Capt. Leiii Perry, his x mark.
What can more clearly show the value, which the natives set on education, than the fact, that nine chiefs of a large district, should unite in a humble request, that children, who had been rashly taken away, might be restored again to the school?
The missionaries agreed to receive the children again; but they had not returned at the last intelligence.
Capt. Cole is the chief speaker of the district, in which he resides, and may succeed Puck-sha-nub-bee, in the government of that district.
Rev. Mr. Kingsbury's Report to the Secretary of War, January 30, 1822.
Mayhew, Choctaw Nation, Jan. 30, 1822.
“SIR, In compliance with instructions from the War Department, I have the honor of submitting the following Report, of the Schools in the Choctaw Nation.
As this report has been long delayed, I would observe that at the time it ought to have been made, the family at Eliot were suffering by severe sickness, and the scholars who in August went home for a vacation of six weeks, were, by the sickness, prevented from returning until late in the autumn, and some have but recently gone back.
The report was delayed until it could be seen what effect this afflictive dispensation would have on the school.
There are two primary schools in this nation, under the joint patronage of the government, and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; and one local school which is assisted from the funds of the other two.
I shall notice these, in the order of time in which they were commenced, beginning with: Eliot
This establishment was commenced in August 1818.
During the past year, it has been strengthened by the arrival of the Rev. Mr. Byington; Captain John Smith, and Mr. Elijah Bradwell,with their families ; and a single female.
The following is a list of the persons permanently employed at Eliot, with their occupation.
Rev. Cyrus Byington, Missionary and Rector.
Mr. Moses Jewell, Mechanic.
Mrs. Jewell and one child.
Mr. Zechariah Hawes, Farmer and Shoemaker.
Mr. Anson Dyer, Steward.
Mr. Joel Wood, Teacher.
Capt. John Smith, Farmer, and Manager of Plantation.
Mrs. Smith and five children.
Mr. Elijah Bardwell, Farmer and Teacher.
Mrs. Bardwell and three children.
Miss Hannah Thacher, Teacher.
All these persons, children excepted, have freely offered their services to labor for the support of the school, and have been duly accepted by the Prudential Committee of the A. B. C. F. M. All, whose health will permit, are diligently, and most of them laboriously employed in their respective departments.
Besides the above, from 8 to 12 Mechanics, laborers, and domestics, are hired to labor for the establishment.
In the school, there is an annual vacation of six weeks, commencing on the first Wednesday in Aug.
The past vacations have been longer, on account of sickness in the family.
From the commencement of the term in Oct. 1 820, to Aug. 1821, when it closed, the number of scholars varied from 50 to 70.
During this period, 29 new ones were admitted; one was expelled for obstinate disobedience; and six others were taken home by their parents, who thought that they could no longer spare them to attend school.
The latter had all been at school before they came to Eliot, and when they left, could read and write very well.
The boys' school is taught on the Lancasterian plan.
During the three last months of the term, the organization and discipline of the school was improved, and the progress of the scholars more rapid.
While out of school they labored cheerfully, and with effect. Besides planting and hoeing, and laboring in various other employments, they cleared several acres of land.
It is believed that ten to fifteen acres may in this way be annually added to the plantation.
Three of the scholars are learning the blacksmith's trade.
They are alternately in the school and shop.
The female scholars have been placed under a female teacher.
While out of school they are employed in various domestic labors, under the superintendence of their teacher, and the other ladies.
Their improvement has fully equaled our expectations.
Exertions were made to provide, as far as possible, for the support of the school, and family from our own resources.
The plantation was cultivated in the best manner, the stock carefully attended to and every department was managed with economy, skill and persevering industry.
The prospects of the establishment were never more promising than at the commencement of the vacation.
About that time a distressing and fatal sickness commenced in the family.
One after another was attacked with the bilious or intermittent fever.
Those who for a time enjoyed health by attending day and night on the sick soon became the victims of disease.
Of 28 persons, including children, who composed the permanent family at that time, not one escaped.
Several of the hired people, and 3 or 4 scholars, who continued at Eliot through the vacation, were also sick.
Mrs. Judith Williams, after a long and distressing illness, died on the 13th of October.
She had taken an active and laborious part in the domestic concerns of the family.
Mr. and Mrs. Jewell buried their oldest child.
One of the scholars, a promising half-breed lad, about 13 years old, also died.
He was kind and affectionate in his deportment, much engaged in learning, and we hope truly pious.
The school and the labors of the establishment were necessarily interrupted by the sickness.
But we would acknowledge, with gratitude, the many mercies, which a kind Providence mingled with these afflictions, health in a good degree, has been restored.
The products of the field have been secured without loss, and have abundantly rewarded oar labors.
There have been harvested 1200 bushels of corn, 750 bushels of potatoes, besides some beans, peas, oats, turnips, barley, &. c.
The schools are more flourishing than at any former period.
There are in both 75 scholars, descendants of the Choctaws, and about 20 of them full blooded natives.
Five children belonging to the white families, also attend the school.
The natives, especially in the neighborhood of Eliot, are friendly, and highly pleased with the opportunity of educating their children.
The past year, in some respects, has been an expensive one.
Sickness obliged us to hire more than would otherwise have been necessary.
There has been erected a house 90 feet by 40, two stories high, and calculated for four families.
This house is not yet completed.
Sixty of the scholars have been entirely supported, as to board and tuition, and many of them clothed.
Smith-work and other property to the amount of more than $300, have been furnished from Eliot, to the school now establishing among the Cherokees, on the Arkansas.
The whole amount of disbursements from Sept. 30, 1820, to Oct. 1st, 1821, was $8,388, 87; and the receipts, during the same period, amounted to $8,191, 23.
[A classified statement of the disbursements and receipts follows, not important to be here inserted.]
The property belonging to the school the first of October,
1821, was estimated as follows:
70 acres improved land at $10 $700
7 horses $420 — 3 yoke of oxen $225 645
285 head neat cattle $8 2,280
170 swine $2 340
2 wagons, one cart, and other farming tools $400
Joiner's shop tools and stock $350
Blacksmith's shop tools and stock $250
Horse Mill $100—22 other buildings $4000 $4,100
50 barrels of flour $350 — 33 do. Pork $494 $844
Sugar, coffee, salt, and other groceries $795
Crop of 1821 totals $1,200
Beds and other household furniture $886
Clothing, cloth, and other articles in store $2,000
Library $400— keel boat $300 $700
Grand Total: $15,490
Much credit is due to Captain Smith, and those who have labored in the several departments, for their unremitting exertions in the midst of sickness, and difficulties.
They have labored for this school with more persevering industry and self-denial, than almost any persons exercise for the support of their own families.
Mr. Wood and Miss Timelier have been indefatigable in their attention to the schools.
Mr. Byington is an active man, and watches with a vigilant eye over the interests of the institution."
The second school established in this nation, is called:
Preparations for this school were commenced on a small scale, in February 1820. Two small cabins were erected, and about 25 acres of ground cultivated.
In the autumn of the same year, other buildings were commenced, and it was expected the school would be opened in the fall of 1821.
But the society from whom we expected supplies of various articles, were unable to forward them at that time.
But a very partial supply of money could be furnished by the Society, and some disappointment was experienced as to the time of receiving the annuity granted to this school by the Choctaws.
The work, though prosecuted under some disadvantages, did not stop.
The buildings and other preparations, were carried forward by obtaining extensive credit, until the money in expectation, should be received.
The following buildings have been erected, viz:
A framed dining room and kitchen 64 feet by 23
3 log dwelling-houses, 40 feet by 20
1 do. 14 feet by 16
4 dwelling cabins, 18 feet by 18
3 cabins for meat, grain, and meal
A joiner's shop, a blacksmith's shop
3 stables, Z corn cribs, and two other out-houses.
Five brick chimneys have been built, 4 of which accommodate
two rooms each. These buildings have cost nearly $4000. Sixty-
five acres of good land are enclosed, and most of it under cultivation.
Valuable teams of oxen and horses have been purchased.
Four wagons, one ox cart, and a good supply of farming and mechanical tools, also belong to the establishment.
The property of all kinds, is estimated as follows:
65 acres of improved land at $10 $660
11 horses $660 — 4 yoke of oxen $300 960
100 head neat cattle $8 800
50 swine $2 100
4 wagons, one cart, and other farming tools 490
Harness for wagons, saddles and bridles 200
Joiner's shop, tools, and stock 300
Blacksmith's shop, tools, and stock 200
14 other buildings 3,650
Shoemaker's tools and stock 87
Provisions on hand 450
Cooking stove and kitchen furniture 160
Beds and other household furniture 488
Clothing, cloth, and other articles in store 400
Library $200—30,000 brick $180 380
The disbursements for Mayhew, from its commencement in February 1820, to October 1st, 1821, were $2,212, 61.
The receipts during the same period, were $8,489, 26.
The annuity for 1821 has since been received, and also $1275 from the civilization fund towards the buildings.
The expenses of this establishment will continue to be heavy for some time to come.
A schoolhouse, horse mill, and several more dwelling houses will be needed. "
Clothing, kitchen and table furniture, schoolbooks, and various other supplies, to the amount of about $4000, are on their way from Boston, for this school.
When they arrive, the school will be opened to receive scholars.
Some of the natives have expressed dissatisfaction at so long a delay in opening the school.
I can only say, that we have done what we could.
Nor do we think there has been any loss by a few months delay.
All the funds have been employed in purchasing necessary articles, without which the work could not be prosecuted to advantage.
The money we have received, has not been sufficient to erect the necessary buildings, purchase teams, wagons, farming tools, mechanical tools, &c. and support a school at the same time.
These things must be taken in course, according to our ability, and the fund so disposed of as will, in the end, most effectually contribute to the permanent support of the school.
There are connected with this station, the following persons, viz:
Rev. Cyras Kingsbury, Superintendant.
Mrs. Kingsbury, and two children.
Rer. Alfred Wright, Missionary.
Doct. William W. Pride, Physician.
Mr. Calvin Cushman, farmer and manager of plantation.
Mrs. Churchman and three children.
Mr. William Hooper, teacher and shoemaker.
Mr. Samuel Wisner, joiner and wheelright.
Mrs. Wisner, Teacher.
Mr. Philo B. Stewart, saddler and shoemaker.
These persons, children excepted, are engaged for life, and receive no other compensation than their board and clothing.
Dr. Pride officiates as physician, both at Mayhew and Eliot.
Besides the above, there are from ten to 15 hired mechanics, laborers, and domestics, employed at Mayhew.
Two half-breed Choctaw lads also reside here, one as interpreter, the other is learning the blacksmith's trade.
In May last, three white men who have Choctaw families, and whose children had been at Eliot, proposed to put up buildings in their own neighborhood for a small school, and board and clothe their own children, if we would furnish a teacher.
This proposal was accepted, and Mr. and Mrs. Williams, who formerly had charge of the scholars at Eliot, were designated for this purpose.
They left Eliot about the first of October.
Several buildings have been erected, and a school of about 15 scholars, commenced with favorable prospects.
Mr. and Mrs. Williams have been unwearied in their labors.
The men, who engaged to put up the buildings, and provide for their children, have made commendable exertions.
They have been assisted by a widow woman, a half-breed Choctaw, who has a family she is educating.
Supplies to the amount of $300 have been furnished to this school from Eliot and Mayhew, and Mr. Williams is authorized to support 4 or 5 poor scholars.
At this school also, the scholars board with the teacher; the parents furnish provision and a book.
While out of school, they are trained to habits of industry.
The place selected for this school is called Newell, and is on the old Natchez trace, about 25 miles south of the road leading from Mayhew to Eliot.
One thousand dollars have been paid by the United States Agent to the superintendent, being the annuity for 1821, granted by the Choctaws for a third primary school in the S. E. District.
This is reserved for the specified object, and will be employed so soon as sufficient additional funds can be secured, and suitable persons engaged to carry on the work.
Before closing this report, I beg leave respectively to introduce a few remarks.
The Schools in the Choctaw Nation have very comfortable resources, and are becoming extensive and important in their effects.
All the arrangements respecting them have been made with reference to their permanent support, and gradual increase.
The advantage of this plan are already perceptible at Eliot.
By a comparison with the former Report, it will be seen that the disbursements for the last year, were less by almost $4000, than those of the preceding.
It will, however, be several years before the advantages of the plan will be fully realized.
Benevolent persons in the United States have sent large supplies of clothing and other valuable articles for the use of these schools.
These donations have been of essential service.
Without them the schools must have languished, and perhaps have been given up.
Of some of these articles there has been a much larger supply received than we expected, and we presume larger than was anticipated by the various donors.
After supplying the wants of the scholars and of the family, a large surplus remained.
Some of this is sold to hired persons, and so far saves the payment money.
Some is given to the Indians, in exchange for corn, beef, and other articles purchased of them, to the mutual advantage of the schools and the natives.
The remainder of the surplus will be reserved until some way is opened for its disposal.
The proper distribution of these charities imposes on us highly responsible and difficult duties.
We wish ever to keep in mind, that an injudicious bestowment of charity increases the evil, it is designed to remedy.
This is especially the case among savages.
Our object has ever been to furnish them only such aid and instruction as would enable them better to provide for their own wants, and not to induce them to depend on the United States for a supply.
The fact, that such a liberal support of clothing has been sent to the schools, doubtless induces some to do less for their children, than they otherwise would.
The parents of most of the scholars are poor, and unable to do much towards the board and clothing of their children.
The parents of most of the scholars are poor, and unable to do much towards the board and clothing of their children.
But it is sometimes a question how far charity ought to be extended to those, whose parents are well able to support them.
Several of this description have clothed their children, and paid for their board, and all appeared willing to do it, until they were told by gentlemen from the States, that the Government would educate their children, and that they need be at no expense for it.
Previously to this rumor, the Choctaws had manifested a noble liberality.
It is presumable they will again manifest a similar spirit, when they come better to appreciate the advantages of education, and more correctly to understand the means by which it is supported among them.
As yet but a small portion of the children of this nation can be educated at these schools.
What is contributed by the rich towards the support of their own children will enable us to extend just so much further the benefits of instruction to the poor.
The wretchedness of this people is daily becoming more manifest; as is also the importance of extending, as speedily as possible, to the rising generation, the salutary influences of civilized and Christian education.
On this rests the only hope of rescuing them from the avarice of unprincipled white people, and from the influence of their own ungoverned appetites and passions.
During the past summer, in one neighborhood of about eight miles square, ten men and two women lost their lives by whiskey.
Capt. L. Perry, one of the most useful Chiefs in the nation, was recently murdered in a drunken affray.
The murderer of course was killed.
Two other men committed suicide, in consequence of having lost their property by intemperance.
We would respectfully submit to the consideration of the Executive, whether any direct measures can be adopted to diminish this great evil, and stop the effusion of human blood, with which this land is so deeply stained.
With great respect, I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
Superintendent of Schools in the Choclaw Mission.
Cherokee Phoenix and Indians' Advocate
Saturday, September 18, 1830
Vol. III, no. 19
Page 3, col. 3a
From the Christian Herald.
A LETTER CONCERNING THE CHOCTAW INDIANS.
We have been kindly favored with the privilege of making the extraction given below, from a letter addresses [sic] to the Rev. John Andrews, of this city, by the Rev. Loring S. Williams, missionary among the Indians. The letter is of a later date than any we have seen published from the missionaries. As it contains an interesting narrative of the Mayhew Church, of the difficulties it has encountered, and of the prospects of the Indians of the Choctaw tribe; feelings of sympathy and anxiety will be awakened by its perusal, in behalf of these poor people. The territory inhabited by the Choctaws is in the central part of the state of Mississippi. Amongst them missionary labors were commenced in the year 1813, and there are now eight regular stations, where schools are taught, and the gospel preached within the last year or two, it will be recollected that the efforts of the missionaries have been remarkably successful. Towards the close of the last year, it was believed there were two thousand persons who habitually prayed in the name of the Savior.
AIKHUNNA, Choctaw Nation
June 30, 1830
Rev. and Dear Sir:
A few particulars respecting the Choctaw Mission may be acceptable.
When I wrote to you in October last, I think I stated that we had received about 50 Choctaws into our church.
Since that date we have been permitted to receive 184 more, besides two black persons; and it is expected that a number more will be admitted on the next Sabbath.
I am now speaking of the Mayhew church, which is scattered over a large extent of country, and is now under the care of Brethren Kingsbury, Byington, and myself, residing at three different stations. Of the church members 52 belong to my congregation.
There are nine ruling elders in this church, seven of whom are natives, who appear extremely well as church officers. It is true they are comparatively ignorant; but they are very teachable, and thus far, faithful and exemplary.
There are several places for public worship within the bounds of the church, where there is generally a good attendance on the Sabbath; and once in two months, the whole church according to their ability, meet at a central spot, where a large house has been erected for the purpose.
They commonly collect on Friday, and stay until Monday. On such occasions we have considerable preaching, examination of candidates, and the administration of the ordinances. The Lord's supper is also occasionally administered at some of the stations, as otherwise some of the infirm members, who live at a great distance from the center meeting house, could never enjoy it.
The number received into the churches in other parts of the nation is, I think, not far from 50.- There are also a number of hopeful candidates in different places. We hope that the special influences of the Holy Spirit are not wholly withdrawn.
But there is less excitement among the people in general; or, I should say, less deep concern for the salvation of the soul is manifested. It will be seen in the sequel, that there is an excitement of another kind. There are some cases of lamentable backsliding among those who had professed to be anxious to obtain an interest in Christ. Some few church members have also gone astray.
This may be said of this part of the nation; but it is particularly applicable to the southern part, where many of the inquirers, having been overcome by powerful temptations, have returned to their evil course.
Never was the great Adversary more busy in opposing the gospel in this land, than at the present time. I will briefly state some facts in illustration of this remark.
Soon after the legislature of Mississippi extended her laws over the poor Indians, abolishing their laws, customs, &c. making it a heavy penalty, and imprisonment, for any chief to associate as such--- two of the principal chiefs resigned their commissions.
Their influence, in favor of the gospel, had hitherto been most salutary. But there were some portions remote from missionary stations, still held in complete bondage by the prince of darkness:--and besides, they were so much under the influence of certain corrupt white men, that though they had repeated offers of preaching, they would not hear. It seems that they only waited on opportunity of manifesting more openly their opposition to all invocations on their ancient customs.
Taking advantage of the great change in the political affairs and government of the nation, they formed a conspiracy, which has at length become very strong. They make every exertion to oppose the gospel or anything that pertains to it; such as our mission schools, scripture, translation, & the like. They have not yet proceeded to acats of violence on any person,and we think they will not presume to do so.
But it would seem that every other means that the wicked one could invent, has been, or is now tried, to induce the Christian party to renounce their religion. Flattery, bribes, threats, slanders, various allurement &c. have been successfully employed. The descent upon the south part of the nation was so sudden and so skillfully managed as to produce the effect before mentioned.
The church in this northern section had timely notice of their approach, and desirous so to prepare their minds by prayer and mutual consultation. More private attempts were first made, after which a public council was called when the two parties met.
It was good to see one of the band conduct with so much Christian fortitude and meekness as they did on this occasion. All matters were discussed very freely but there could be no fellowship of light with darkness.---
The heathen party had much to say about political affairs, but it was sufficiently obvious that their intent was to undermine the foundation of religion and to shut out the light of the gospel from the nation. And it was painful to see some white men among them encouraging and advising them in their attempts.
The Christian party spent the most of the two nights they were on the council ground in worship of God: while the other party, thirty rods distant, spent them in heathen games and dances. O what a contrast! I know not that any advantage was gained by the enemy. He has not however, relaxed his exertions to draw off these poor lambs from the fold.
The intelligent part of the people are on this side, but there are some cunning and powerful speakers on the other. And as they address themselves to the corrupt propensities of human nature, and plead so earnestly for the ancient customs of their fathers for "liberty of conscience," and insist so strenuously, that "the religion of white men is not for the red man, and that even multitudes of white men do not believe, and obey the Bible,"----that it cannot be expected but that they should succeed with many of those who are not rooted and grounded in the faith.
They insist upon it for instance, that religion disqualifies a man for any civil office--being told by these officious white men, that the President of the U.S. is not a Christian; and that there are few or none in Congress.
It is indeed a sifting time in the church. But we are comforted in the assurance that the Lord knoweth them that are his, and is able to keep them in the evil day. I have no doubt that perilous times are at hand.--The legislative proceedings of their white brothers have shocked and thrown them into confusion.
They now expect to leave their little farms and comfortable dwellings- the sepulchers of their fathers, their schools and meeting houses, to their white neighbors, while they retreat to the western wilds for a home, which, even there, they fear may yet be coveted and perhaps claimed by white men.
O will not Christians at least pray for these lambs, and for those who are called to feed them.
Your in gospel bonds.
L. S. WILLIAMS
After the removal of the Choctaw's to Indian Territory the Missionaries set up a number of Mission stations....Below is some information on some of the larger ones.
The Annual Report of the American Board of Foreign Missions: 1836
MISSION TO THE CHOCTAWS
WHEELOCK. —Alfred Wright, Missionary, and Mrs. Wright; Jared Olmstecd, Teacher: Anna Burtiham and Sarah Kerr, Teachers, and Assistants
STOCKBRIDGE. —Cyrus Byington, Missionary, and Mrs. Byington.
EAGLE Town. —Nancy W. Barnes, Teacher.
MOUNTAIN FORK. —Abner D. Jones, Teacher, and Mrs. Jones.
PINE RIDGE. —Cyrus Kingsbury, Missionary, and Mrs. Kingsbury; Jonathan E. Dwight, Native Assistant.
GOOD WATER. —Ebenezer Hotchkin, Licensed Preacher, and Mrs. Hotchkin. (6 stations; 4 missionaries, 2 male and 8 Female assistant missionaries, 1 native assistant; — total, 15.)
During the year past this mission has experienced few changes.
Miss Sarah Kerr, from Charleston, South Carolina, joined the mission in March last, and Miss Clough, by entering into the marriage relation with a highly respectable and pious white man residing among the Choctaws, has terminated her labors in connection with the mission, though it is believed that her influence will be great and salutary on the people among whom she still resides.
Jonathan E. Dwight, a Choctaw young man, who had spent a number of years in New-England, acquiring an education, and the last at Moore's Indian school at Hanover, New Hampshire, returned to his people last autumn, and has since been aiding Mr. Kingsbury as interpreter and assistant, and as he appears to be a pious and exemplary young man, it is hoped that he may be permanently
useful in connection with the mission.
Five schools have been sustained by the mission; one or two of which have however, been taught but a few months, owing to failure of health in the teacher, or other causes.
In all these schools the whole number who attended was 148; and the average attendance 106.
Of the pupils, 85 could read the Bible; 50 wrote on paper, and nearly all on slates; 37 studied arithmetic; 60 are full Choctaws, and 88 are of mixed blood.
Besides the schools mentioned above, one was taught by Mr. Hotchkin, the expenses of which are defrayed by the government of the United States, in accordance with treaty stipulations.
Six or seven Sabbath-schools have been taught by the missionaries, embracing in all, adults and children, from 150 to 200 scholars.
In giving an account of the schools in July last, Mr. Wright remarks, "The year that now closes affords us encouragement to persevere in this department of our missionary work.
Parents at no former period have manifested so deep an interest in the education of their children, and the teachers have never labored with more satisfaction to themselves.
The schools have indeed not been large, but the daily attendance has been over a hundred, and I have received most earnest requests for the establishment of additional schools."
The missionaries request that one male and two or three female teachers may he sent to aid in the labors of the mission.
Mr. Wright has divided his Sabbaths between Wheelock and two other places, and his congregations have been larger than formerly, varying from forty to two hundred.
At times he has been cheered with the hope that the Lord was about to pour out his Spirit and revive his work.
Within the bounds of his labors a number have been led to inquire what they should do to be saved.
To his church, two have been added on profession, and five from other churches.
Mr. Byington has had great encouragement in his labors, at the five preaching places, which he occupies.
About fifty persons have appeared to be awakened, and thirteen have been received to the church on profession of their faith in Christ.
In July the meetings were still fully attended and solemn.
The monthly concert for prayer and other prayer-meetings were well observed, and hopes were entertained that a still more extensive and powerful revival was to be enjoyed.
Mr. Kingsbury preaches one fourth of the Sabbaths at For Towson, or some other place in the vicinity of Pine Ridge, one fourth on the Boggy, where the members of the Mayhew Court: are located, another fourth on the Kiamichi, sixteen miles from Pine Ridge, and the remainder principally with the church at Greenfield, formerly under the care of Mr. Wood.
To the Pine Ridge church thirteen have been added, six of them on profession, and seven from other churches.
To the Mayhew church elect have been added; six from other churches, and five on profession.
His audiences vary from forty to a hundred.
The whole number added on profession of their faith, is twenty-six; and the whole number of members now in communion with the churches, about After remarking that the missionaries have much to perplex and dishearten them, Mr. Wright adds, "The Lord has a church here, a vine which I trust his own right hand has planted; and why should we not believe that he will still water it with the dews of his heavenly grace, and cause it to flourish and become fruitful.
The Lord has a heritage here, and why must we believe that he will give up to reproach?
And why should the unwarrantable impression that the Indians are destined to dwindle away cool the sympathies or restrain the prayers and efforts of the American churches in their behalf?
They have been obliged to leave the land of their birth, and seek a residence in a strange land, where many of them have fallen victims to the unhealthiness of the climate, and where they have suffered privations and hardships incident to unsettled state of things.
But these evils are in a measure overcome.
They are becoming inured to the climate, and many of them are beginning to live comfortably.
And could the gospel exert its saving influence, no reason could be given why they should not become a numerous, enlightened, and Christian people."
The Acts of the Apostles has been translated by Mr. Byington.
And an edition of a thousand copies, amounting to 165,000 pace, has been printed.
The Epistles of John have been translated by Mr. Wright, and are probably now in the press at Park Hill.
An additional missionary is much needed to relieve Messrs.
Wright and Byington from a portion of their other labors, that they may devote more of their time to translating other portions of the Scriptures, and preparing other books in the Choctaw language.
The number of readers is already considerable and constantly increasing.
Those who are able to read obviously manifest more enlargement of mind and more correctness of thought than their uninstructed countrymen.
The whole number of copies of works printed in this language for the mission is about 33,000, and the whole number of pages about 3,048,150.
JOURNAL OF A TOUR IN THE INDIAN TERRITORY
Journal of a Tour in the Indian Territory by N. Sayre Harris, Secretary and General Agent of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the Spring of 1844.
"We spent the previous night under the hospitable roof of the Rev. Mr. Byington, at Stockbridge, a Missionary of the A. B. C. F. M.; (American Board of Foreign Missions) he had made an extensive tour of the Indian country in 1837 with the Rev. Mr. Kingsbury, is well acquainted with the Choctaw, and gives himself, so far as other engrossing duties permit, to the work of translation, having rendered the Acts of the Holy Apostles into Choctaw, and being now engaged upon the Book of Genesis...
He was their physician too, and while sitting with him, a fine looking Choctaw applied to him for medicine for a sick wife.
We could not but admire the cheerfulness with which his lady shared his labors, and gave the natives the example of a cheerful Christian home in the wilderness.
Aloof from politics, whether of church or state, and occupied solely with the duties of their charge, they did not seem to be aware of the privations they endured...
Mr. Byington's labors as a preacher had not been without a blessing. He preaches in Choctaw, and his congregation here is full blood...
Mr. Byington kindly rode with us to Eagletown, where we crossed a fork, and were introduced to Capitan (George B.) Hudson, a member of the Choctaw bar.
He looked as though he might be an eloquent pleader.
He was certainly a graceful man, commanding in his appearance, and six feet high.
We were shown the site of the female boarding school, which is to go into operation next fall, under the auspices of the A. B. C. F. M.
The position is a very fine one, not far from a new residence just erected for Mr. Byington, who is to have supervision of the school.
We passed on and forded Mountain Fork and Little River.
It is a country of rolling hills, with plenty of pine, oak, black jack, and dogwood trees, some fine cotton land, salamander hills abundant and some beautiful knolls."
Source: Chronicles of OklahomaVolume 10, No. 2 June, 1932 - http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v010/v010p219.html
Annual Report: American Tract Society: 1858
Rev. S. WELLS reports: “In presenting the results of another year's labor in this south-western field, I would first record my gratitude to God for his kind, preserving care; for almost uninterrupted health in traveling over 10,000 miles through our western frontiers, by land and water; also to those pastors who have so cheerfully cooperated to open my way, and give me success in the collection of funds.
I am largely indebted to many excellent families, whose hospitalities I remember with gratitude in the solitudes of Arkansas, and the wilderness of our Indian territories.
To owners of steam-boats, proprietors of stages and hotels, I am greatly indebted for favors to such an extent as to lessen by half all my traveling expenses.
The officers of steam-boats in many instances have not only carried me free of all expense, but urged me to travel with them whenever it might suit my convenience.
The cash collections this year, including part of a legacy; are over $4,000, besides some $250 sent on by those who usually hand me their funds, making my collections one-third larger than any previous year.
So great has been the satisfaction of readers of the Messenger and Child's Paper, that I have endeavored to introduce it into a large number of families, schools, and churches.
My collections for the Child's Paper and Messenger have been $188 62, besides selling some $200 worth of the Society's bound books.
The number of new colporteurs recommended and commissioned has been over forty; some in Tennessee, others in Texas, Choctaw nation, and Arkansas, besides several for North Mississippi and Alabama.
This is double the number recommended by me in any one year during my agency of twelve years.
The first part of the year I spent in visiting Arkansas, south of the Arkansas River, a portion of our country never before visited by a general agent.
In every place I was cordially welcomed, and much interest manifested in the cause.
Their hospitality was exceedingly cheering.
If it were not for the difficulties of travel, this would be a very inviting field of labor.
We have now some six colporteurs laboring successfully in the southern portion of that needy and destitute state.
Passing over into the Choctaw nation, I visited the principal missionary stations and Indian churches.
There I found that schools and missions had prepared the way for successful colportage; the Indians and missionaries giving liberally, and furnishing an educated Choctaw to labor as a colporteur.
To brethren Byington and Kingsbury I feel under special obligations for making my stay pleasant and my visit successful.
The Indians gave liberally.
Rev. Mr. Byington interpreted for me while I preached to the Indians.
Rev. Mr. Kingsbury traveled several days with me through the territory, as we visited leading Choctaws and several mission stations.
The remembrance of that visit is' exceedingly pleasant.”
By Allen Wright
Choctaw statesman Allen Wright was born in Mississippi in 1826.
He moved with his family in 1833-34 to present McCurtain County, Oklahoma, the former Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory.
Called Kilihote at birth, he was renamed Allen Wright upon attending school in 1834.
His surname was bestowed in honor of Rev. Alfred Wright, a noted Presbyterian missionary among the Choctaw.
Allen Wright was under the instruction of Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury from 1840-44 and graduated from Union College at Schenectady, New York, in 1852 and from New York City's Union Theological Seminary in 1855.
Wright was an ordained Presbyterian minister when elected to the Choctaw General Council in 1856.
He twice served in the Choctaw House of Representatives and was thrice chosen national treasurer.
He was elected principal chief in 1866, was reelected in 1868, and was defeated by incumbent Coleman Cole (see picture below) in 1876.
During the Civil War Wright signed the Choctaw treaty of alliance with the Confederacy in 1861, and he served in the Confederate army.
He represented the Choctaw at the Fort Smith Council and signed the Reconstruction Treaty of 1866.
When U.S. commissioners proposed the consolidation of Indian Territory's tribes under an intertribal council, Wright suggested that the region be designated the "Territory of Oklahoma."
Wright married Harriet Newell Mitchell in 1857.
They were the parents of eight children and were the grandparents of historian Muriel H. Wright.
Allen Wright was also the maternal uncle of rancher Alinton Telle. Wright died at Boggy Depot in present Atoka County, Oklahoma, on December 2, 1885, and was buried in the Boggy Depot cemetery.
Wright writes below:
Wheelock Seminary, around which is entwined much of the early history of Oklahoma, is situated in McCurtain County abount one and one-half miles northeast of Millerton and about ten or twelve miles north and west of Idabel.
Here it was that one of the principal missions established by the American Board among the Choctaws had its beginning, and here it was that many of the Choctaw men and women, who afterwards became prominent, received their early training in those things which fitted them for a life of usefulness and service to their people and to the future state of Oklahoma.
Subsequent to the concluding of the treaty in September, 1830, at Doak’s Stand, Mississippi, commonly known as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the Choctaws emigrated to their new home west of the Mississippi. This removal took place in the years 1831, 1832 and 1833 and was made in bands or companies, each company being known by the name of its leader or head man.
Prior to the removal of the Choctaws from Mississippi the American Board had established a number of missions amongst the Choctaws and had made considerable progress in both religious and educational work. Many of the old missionaries in Mississippi emigrated with the Choctaws or joined them in their new home shortly after their removal.
Amongst those early missionaries were Reverend Cyrus Byington, Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury, Copeland, Hotchkin, all names familiar to the older inhabitants of the eastern part of Oklahoma, especially that part which comprised the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory.
The band or company known as the Thomas LeFlore Company, comprising about six hundred persons, in the early part of 1832 removed from Mississippi and settled in what is now McCurtain County, Oklahoma. Shortly after their arrival in their new home a mission was established and a church organized and named Wheelock Mission, in memory of the first president of Dartmouth College.
It is said that the first meeting was held on the 9th day of December, 1832, at which meeting thirty persons were received into the church from those who had formerly been members of the church in Mississippi, and that seven others were added on profession of faith.
The mission was established by Reverend Alfred Wright, who was a missionary to the Choctaws in Mississippi and who had continued his work amongst the Choctaws in their new home after it had been interrupted in Mississippi, occasioned by the preparations for their removal.
Joseph B. Thoburn in his History of Oklahoma gives the following account of Reverend Alfred Wright, the founder of the mission:
“Alfred Wright was born at Columbia, Connecticut, March 1, 1788; graduated from Williams College in 1812, and Andover Seminary 1814; went to North Carolina in 1815, resided three years in Raleigh, ordained as an evangelist with Jonas King in Charleston, South Carolina, December 17, 1819; shortly after received an appointment from the board as a missionary among the Choctaws; returned to New England in 1820, stationed at Goshen, August 1, 1823.
Missionary operations were interrupted by the removal of the Choctaws across the Mississippi so he left that region October 27, 1830, visited New England and continued north till 1831; he then went to Little Rock, Arkansas, February 18, 1832. On September 14, 1832, he went to Wheelock where he died.”
At first the mission was purely a religious organization, but very shortly after its foundation, probably in the early part of the year 1833, a school was established as a component part of the mission. The school was maintained by the American Board as a day school for Indian children, later as a boarding school for Indian girls.
About the year 1875, the school was given certain support by the Choctaw national government from the tribal funds, and became more or less a national institution for orphan girls, with the actual control of the school, however in the hands of the Board.
Since its foundation in 1833, Wheelock School has been rebuilt, added to, and remodeled, and is today one of the most attractive institutions of the kind within the state, being maintained to this day as a school for orphan Indian girls and wholly supported from the tribal funds. Wheelock Seminary, as it is now known, can well lay claim to being one of the oldest educational institutions within the state, having had an unbroken and continuous existence since its foundation in 1833 to the present.
During that time it has been under different managements, first the Board of Missions, then the Board with a part of the financial support derived from the Choctaw tribal funds, then the support and supervision of the Choctaw Nation, then the support of the Choctaw Nation under the supervision of the Indian Department in accordance with the agreement, known as the Atoka Agreement, which was made between the Choctaw Nation and the United States in 1898.
In glancing over the history of this interesting old institution one cannot help but think that it was endowed at its foundation with some of the sterling qualities of its founder, who exchanged the comforts and pleasures of his New England home for the discomforts and sufferings of the great West in order that he might carry out what he conceived to be his mission in life.
Those were not days of railroads and modern conveyances such as we now have, and the journey was made by these people in wagons drawn by horses or oxen, on river-boats and flat-boats. So arduous was the journey from their old home in the state of Mississippi to their new home west of the Mississippi River that many died on the way, and were buried where they died, and because of this the road was called the “Trail of Tears.”
From this institution many Choctaw women, prominent in their day and time, received the first rudiments of their education, and after finishing the prescribed course taught in the school, either went at their own expense or were sent at the expense of the Choctaw Nation to different colleges of the South and East.
Among former students of the school now living are Mrs. A. M. Colbert, who is the daughter of Israel Folsom, a man prominent in the affairs of the Nation, and the mother of Mrs. M. Conlan of Oklahoma City; Mrs. J. F. McCurtain, who was Jane Austin, and who is the widow of Jack McCurtain, one of the ablest chiefs the Choctaws ever had. Mrs. McCurtain is still living, and is known and loved by all the older members of the Choctaws.
Near the school is an old stone church, which was built in 1842 under the direction and supervision of the founder of the mission, and dedicated in 1846. The church was built from native stone quarried in and about the school.
From 1832 to March 31, 1853, the date of the death of Reverend Alfred Wright, there were nearly six hundred members taken into the church by him. A tablet can yet be seen in the church graveyard giving the date of his birth, death, and a short account of his work as a missionary among the Choctaw Indians.
This tablet was placed over his grave shortly after his death by those among whom he had labored and for whom he had devoted the greater part of his life. One can readily imagine the trials and tribulations that were encountered in building this simple church in those days, and one can well imagine the thoughts that were in the mind of that goodly man while the church was undergoing construction.
No doubt it was difficult in those days to obtain material and money, and with the inadequate means at hand he was endeavoring to construct a church such as he had left in the far-away New England home. Time has proven that he built well, for although many changes have taken place since the church was built, yet it remains today a living witness to his work.
To such institutions as Wheelock, and to such men as its founder, the people of Oklahoma will always be indebted for braving the dangers and discomforts of a new and comparatively unexplored country and implanting in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants those precepts and principles which make for a higher and better citizenship; and to such institutions and to such men as the early missionaries the Choctaws, and in fact all the Indians of eastern Oklahoma, will ever owe a debt of gratitude for having so thoroughly prepared them for the duties which years later devolved upon them as citizens of a great commonwealth.
The Wheelock Misson
By Len Green
For more than 120 years it existed as Wheelock Seminary (later Academy) and its remnants stand today near the spot where it was born back in September of 1832 as a Presbyterian mission. The academy and the historic rock church building nearby are symbols of a belief in education, dedication beyond that of ordinary persons and the hard work of several generations.
The story of Wheelock must start with the two persons most responsible for its creation, the Rev. Alfred E. Wright, missionary to the Choctaws from the American Board of Missionaries, and his wife, Harriet Bunce Wright. Alfred Wright was born March 1, 1788 in Columbia, Conn. He graduated from Williams College in 1812 and from Andover Seminary in 1814. He was ordained as a minister Dec. 17, 1819 in Charleston, N. C. In 1820, he accepted an assignment as a missionary to the Choctaws and was assigned to a Presbyterian mission in Goshen, Miss., where he remained until August 1, 1823.
On that date, he was assigned to found a mission and school in the Choctaw community of Mayhew, Miss. He returned to what was then spoken of as civilization in 1825 to marry Harriet Bunce and bring her back with him to the Choctaws. Born Sept. 19, 1779 to Capt. Jared and Lydia (Prettyplace) Bunce, Harriet was only ten months old when her mother died, and she was cared for and educated by her sisters. Harriet Bunce Wright was a teacher of unusual ability and tenacity. Thus the story of Wheelock belongs as much to her as it does to her minister-doctor husband.
In the early part of 1832, Alfred and Harriet Wright chose to join a group of Choctaws, who were making their way from Mississippi to their new home in the west on their own, led by Thomas LeFlore, who had succeeded his cousin Greenwood LeFlore as chief of Okla Falaya District.
As there was much illness along the trail, it proved slow going and the party did not arrive at Eagle (now Eagletown, Ok.) until Sept. 14, 1832, where they stopped at Bethebara Mission, which was located on the west bank of the Mountain Fork River in what is now McCurtain County, and under the direction of the Rev. Loring S. Williams. Rev. Wright was never a strong man or a well man. He suffered from a chronic heart condition, malaria (then called intermittent fever or chills) and bursitis. He was too ill to go on, and remained with Rev. Williams at Bethebara, while his family continued on westward along the Little Rock-Fort Towson Military Trace.
After crossing Little River (which the Choctaws called Boklusa or "Black River"), the group stopped for an overnight encampment on a little rise just south of the Military Trace and less than a mile from the river. Harriet Bunce Wright, teacher Anna Burnham who had joined Wright at Mayhew in 1822, and others of the party were quite taken with the site as it stood above flood level and contained a spring of clear, coot water and a small stream. The following morning, when the Thomas LeFlore party moved on westward, Mrs. Wright and her group remained behind, and began building a small log house, the first building at what would become Wheelock.
After a slow recovery, the Rev. Alfred Wright was able to rejoin his family in late November of 1832, and conducted his first church service at the new site December 9, 1932. Until a small log church could be built, worship was held outdoors under a large oak tree, with the congregation sitting on logs, pulled up into rows, and Rev. Wright System using an upended 100-gallon barrel as a pulpit. The Rev. Wright decided to name his new mission and school Wheelock, honoring Eleazor Wheelock, a noted Presbyterian and first president of Dartmouth College who had befriended Wright on several occasions.
Almost simultaneously, the group constructed a small log church building and a larger log building to house the family. To this structure, at Mrs. Wright's urging, a large room was added to serve as a school room where she and Miss Burnham could begin conducting school. From 1832 until 1839, Wheelock was operated as a "day school," meaning that the students lived at home and commuted each day to and from the school for classwork.
Choctaw families living in the area were somewhat scattered, and many families lived too far from the school for it to be practical for their children to attend daily classes. Also, in bad weather, going to and from school on horseback or in horse drawn hacks became practically impossible. By 1838, it had become obvious to Harriet Bunce Wright that the "day school" plan was not reaching enough young Choctaws who needed and desired education. She prevailed upon her husband to help her found a "boarding school." As he was the only person in the area knowing anything about medicine, the Rev. Wright was generally away from the mission treating the ill or preaching sermons. Thus, the brunt of operating the school fell upon Harriet and Anna Burnham.
Thus the first dormitory building, also of log construction, was built in 1839. The response was so great that during the next three years the dormitory building was enlarged and a classroom building constructed. Each young Choctaw attending the school paid for a part of his or her education by helping with the work of running the school, cleaning, helping to cook, chopping and gathering wood for the fireplaces and other menial tasks. A portion of each day was spent in the classrooms where the youngsters were taught the English language, arithmetic, reading, writing and the Bible.
In 1842, the Choctaw National School System adopted Wheelock into its school system, assigning it as Wheelock Seminary, an exclusive school for Choctaw girls. A companion academy for boys was established first at Clear Creek, south and west of Wheelock, but later moved to a spot on the Military Trace about two miles west of Wheelock and renamed Norwalk Academy.
In 1845, Rev. Wright began work on what will probably be his most lasting and best known memorial.
The Wheelock Rock Church, which stands today as the oldest church building in Oklahoma still in use. Stone was quarried from the banks of Little River (Boklusa), and dragged by oxen drays to the building site. The walls were made 20 inches thick, which helped to keep the church a bit warmer in winter and a bit cooler in summer.
The floor and belfry were of cypress wood and the building was roofed with "shakes" chopped from oak trees and "cured" in the sun.
The building was financed by freewill donations and done by volunteer labor. The church building was completed and Rev. Wright delivered his first sermon in his new church in the late spring or early summer of 1846.
Wright's slogan (and probably his philosophy of life) "Jehovah Jireh" (which means "the Lord will provide") was carved into the gable of the church where it may still be seen.
Through the years, Wright's "intermittent fever," bursitis and heart condition had steadily worsened, yet he still continued to ride out whenever he was needed to minister to the sick. Rev. Wright died March 31, 1853, and as was his wish, his body was buried within sight of the beloved church that he had created in the heart of the wilderness. Harriet Bunce Wright tried to carry on with her teaching chores, but after the 1854 school year her health was failing so rapidly that she went east to live with relatives. She died Oct. 3, 1863 in Madison, Fla., and was buried there.
Following the death of the Rev. Alfred Wright, the American Board of Missionaries sent the Rev. John Edwards, another Presbyterian minister, to serve as superintendent of Wheelock. John Libby, who had made the journey west an with the Wrights as a young seminarian but who had returned east to further his education in the late 1830s, returned to Wheelock with Rev. Edwards as an assistant. In 1857, Mary J. Semple (who would later become the wife of the Rev. Ebenezer Hotchkin) joined the staff. She was to be a career educator, spending 40 years among the Choctaws teaching first at Wheelock and later at Spencer Academy. Accompanying her west was Mary Lovell.
By the late 1850s, Wheelock was probably the largest and best known seminary for training young Choctaw girls in the entire Choctaw Nation. In 1861, the Choctaw Nation voted to join the Confederate States of America. Whereupon, the Rev. John Edwards was ordered by the American Board of Missionaries to leave Wheelock and return to the north. John Libby, who had married a Choctaw woman, chose to remain behind. He continued to maintain the buildings and tried to keep Wheelock "together" during the bitter War Between the States. Libby and his Choctaw wife, who was a graduate of Wheelock Seminary herself, continued to operate a day school at the site off and on until all of the buildings, save the famous rock church, were destroyed by fire in 1869.
In 1882, the Choctaw Council created a Choctaw National School Board, and one of the first targets set by the board was to rebuild Wheelock and operate it as a boarding school for girls. In late 1882, plans were approved for construction of Pushmataha Hall (popularly known today as the "main" or "dormitory" building), and construction was completed in 1884. Two years later, Wilson Hall (the classroom building) was completed.
After the death of his wife in California in 1881, the Rev. John Edwards had returned to the Choctaw Notion, and had accepted a position on the teaching staff of the academy near Boggy Depot. With the re-opening of Wheelock in 1884, Rev. Edwards was asked by the Choctaw Nation School Board to return to Wheelock as superintendent. He married a Wheelock teacher, Constance Hunter, and remained as mentor at the school until the end of the 1886-87 school year.
At that time, because of failing health, Rev. Edwards requested that a new superintendent be assigned. Chosen was the Rev. William C. Robe. Teachers were Velma Hunter (a sister of Constance Hunter Edwards), Mary Lane, Jessie Thompson and Anna Hunter.
When William C. Robe elected to retire in 1890, his son, J. C. Robe was chosen by the Choctaw Board of Education to follow his father as superintendent of Wheelock. From 1890 until 1910, Wheelock Seminary was operated as a "contract school" by the American Board. As a contract school, this meant that the school was operated from Choctaw Tribal funds but that superintendents and teachers were furnished by the American Board of Missionaries (now almost exclusively Presbyterian).
Superintendents serving the school during this period included:
1890-92- J. C. Robe.
1893-94- Dr. C. H. Ellis.
1894-98- E. H. Wilson.
1898-1902- Frank Shortall.
1903-10- L. D. Schoonmaker.
From 1910 until 1932, Wheelock Academy was operated from tribal funds, administered through the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Superintendents during this period included:
1910-16- Eleanor Allen.
1916-20- Minta R. Foreman.
1920-21- Elsie E. Newton.
1921-22- Ivy Seaton.
1922-25- Zula Breed.
1925-27- Mary Morley.
1927-29- Orlando R. Wright.
1929-32- Minta R. Foreman.
In 1932, the United States government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, took over complete operation of Wheelock Academy. Minta R. Foreman remained as superintendent until she decided to retire at the end of the 1941-42 school year.
In July of 1942, Leila Kent Black was assigned as superintendent, serving in that capacity until the BIA decided Wheelock Academy was no longer needed and closed it in the spring of 1955.
Many McCurtain Countians and Choctaws from all across the old Choctaw Nation still recall with sadness those final graduation exercises in 1955, and the beauty of the school in its pastoral setting as tearful young Choctaw girls, gowned in white, said final goodbyes to the school they so loved.
At this juncture, control of the grounds and building were removed from the control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and placed in the care and custody of the General Services Administration. The GSA, pleading shortages of funds, furnished only a single "caretaker," who was allowed living quarters, a small salary and a miniature budget which allowed him to accomplish only the most pressing maintenance problems. For almost 20 years, the once beautiful buildings were allowed to decay and fall apart through lack of use and through lack of proper maintenance. If the caretaker asked GSA to repaint the buildings, they would send him a gallon or two of paint with instructions to "touch up" the worst spots. If he asked for major repairs, only minor efforts were expended. Several times during the period, interested Choctaws and former students tried from time to time to get something done about the deterioration being allowed at Wheelock. However, complaints made to the BIA were referred by that agency to the GSA, and there received the same treatment as did requests from the caretaker assigned to the historic school.
In the late 1960s, through the interest of such Choctaw families as the Kaniatobes, Victors, Dyers, Herndons and others, attention was generated to the deplorable situation that had developed at Wheelock. Len Green, managing editor of the McCurtain Gazette in Idabel, Ok., began a blistering editorial campaign and an effort to save Wheelock was launched by the Idabel Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded by T. L. Kimbro, manager. Instrumental in the "Save Wheelock" campaign was Carl Albert, McAlester, then 3rd District Congressman and later Speaker of the House, who also become interested in the institution after correspondence and conversations with Kimbro, Green and other interested persons.
Albert managed to get Wheelock Academy placed on the National Register of Historic Sites and applied pressure upon the General Services Administration to restore the buildings to the condition in which they were when the GSA "took over" in 1955. But, the General Services Administration got itself "off the hook" by the simple expedient of turning Wheelock Academy back over to the Choctaw Tribe.
Formed in 1972, the McCurtain County Historical Society launched efforts to get some type of reclamation programs started at Wheelock before this Treasure of Choctaw heritage is lost completely. Joining with the McCurtain County Historical Society in the effort were State Senator Jim E. Lane and Rep. Mike Murphy. They managed to qet state funding to help.
Through state funding, Wheelock Rock Church is being placed into top shape once again, with (at this writing)(1979) only a small amount of interior work left to be done.
A granite marker, commemorating Wheelock's founder, the Rev. Alfred E. Wright, was installed adjacent to the church building and was dedicated in ceremonies held in September of 1976.
After his election as Principal Chief in 1975, the late C. David Gardner became interested in the preservation of Wheelock and commissioned a feasibility and engineering study in an effort to save Wheelock. This feasibility study indicated that there might be little hope of saving Pushmataha Hall, the oldest and best known of the buildings on the grounds of the old school.
Letter of Alexander Reid
to Walter Lowrie
Spencer Academy, Jan. 9th, 1854
Walter Lowrie, Esq.
In this letter I will endeavor to state plainly and briefly as I can, such facts, suspicions, and opinions, as are likely to help you in determining what to do and say respecting the New school's law. I will try and stick to the truth as closely as possible.
Col. Pitchlynn is no doubt the author of the law. He was very probably assisted by the Rev. Israel Folsom and Thompson McKinney. These three men were members of the Gen. Council and Trustees of the schools. They are authorities on all matters relating to education. The schools are really in their hands. They can manage them pretty much as they please. The Gen. Council stands ready to sanction all their doings. There is no man in the nation of sufficient sense, patriotism, and moral courage to stand up publicly against any school manners proposed by this triumvirate of which Peter Pitchlynn is Chief. These are the men with whom we have to deal. With the confidence and cordial cooperation of these men Spencer and all the schools would flourish. Without their active cooperation the schools would go on and do much good if they would only let us alone. But against their positive cooperation open or concealed the schools cannot stand. The triumvirate is over the schools " to root out and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant." Vide new law.
I cannot help feeling that the Trustees have dealt very unkindly with the superintendents of their schools in getting up such a law. Without previous consultation with them in regard to it. The profound silence preserved both before and after the passage of the law makes me suspect that Peter P. purposely turns the light because his deeds are evil. Perhaps he thought he could accomplish his dark designs the better if invested with plenary powers he could see the Com. of Indian affairs and the Secretaries of the Boards before the Missionaries had time to advise them fully of what was going on here. This is only suspicion.
Mr. Kingbury, Mr. Byington and myself were in Doaksville frequently during the meeting of the Council. We put ourselves purposely in the way of the Trustees and leading men. And talked with them freely about the schools. They had every opportunity of letting us know what they were about to do if they wished. But they did not. They, I am persuaded, purposely kept us in the dark and it was not until several weeks after the adjournment of the Council that any of the Missionaries knew that such a law was in existence.
The Gentlemen composing the Triumvirate cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for their disrespectful treatment of us. Messrs. Pitchlynn, Folsom, & McKinney knew very well what is due from them as Trustees to those who have the charge of the public schools. Their conduct was discourteous and unkind and without excuse or any palliating circumstance. In a note to me dated Sept. 15th, Col. P. writes: "We (the trustees) have met here to examine your report and feeling as we do desire to cooperate with our Superintendents in promoting the best interests of the schools." A singular way of cooperating with their Supernts to enact laws affecting the schools under our very noses (for we were in Doaksville the day the law was passed), and not say a syllable to us about them. "Heaven knows which way the wind blows."
The Law was introduced into the Council near the close of the session and hurried through without discussion. It is thought that two thirds of the members did not know what they voted for. Some have since pleaded ignorance as an excuse for voting for it. One man said the law was so long and was read so fast that before they got to the end he had entirely forgotten what the first part was about. He voted for it not withstanding. Samson Folsom told Mr. Kingsbury that the Council passed the law though ignorance and that when its character & design became known the next Gen. Council would repeal it. Mr. Folsom has no ground for thinking so. I doubt if he does really think so. I suppose he said this to soothe Mr. Kingsbury's feelings.
Unforeseen circumstances may make the law a dead letter but it will not be respected. The three Trustees knew what they were doing when they framed the law and got the Council to pass it. The three Chiefs who signed it signed it not through ignorance. There are six influential men in favor of the law and there is not one man of influence known to be opposed to it. I see no chance of its being repealed. The Choctaw legislators are too proud to retrace their steps. They will not undo their wrong doings. So I fear their wrong doings will one day undo them. Samson Folsom himself counts nothing in Choctaw school affairs. He and his father in law Pitman Colbert both together were a host on our side among the Chickasaws. Now that old Pittman's gone Samson's influence I fear will not amount to much. Pittman could be relied upon. There is no Pittmans among the Choctaws.
The trouble about Mr. Hotchkins and the High School may throw light upon the late law. Mr. & Mrs. Hotchkins have labored among the Choctaws about thirty years. They have been good and faithful servants and now they have received their reward!
Last Nov. was a year the Good Water Seminary under the care of Mr. Hotchkins was converted by the Council and by Peter Pitchlynn into a High School for young ladies. By a High School Peter and his noble friends mean a school for the children of the High Folks where the amiable Dears can do as they please. As was predicted, the daughters of the Aristocracy soon gave Mr. H. and the excellent ladies in charge of the Seminary trouble enough. It was with great difficulty that the school was continued until the close of the session. Being at Good Water about two weeks before the close of the session Mr. Hotchkins in speaking of the troubles they had had in maintaining order said "Mr. Reid, I have seen more of the Devils work this session than I have done since I came to the Choctaw country." Sad testimony this respecting the daughters of the Aristocracy. Some of the young ladies were whipped. Peter's daughter among this number. Some left the school in disgrace. It was manifest to Peter that the High School was a failure. Peter was grievously disappointed. Of course the blame must be laid on the Superintendent. Mr. H was not competent to manage the High School. He concluded however to try the school another session. Probably because he did not see clearly how to effect a change to suit him.
But the best schemes of men & mice going oft a glee and see did Peters last Sept. and see they may again. Last Sept. Mr. Hotchkins called on Peter and frankly acknowledged his inability to manage Peter's daughter by moral suasion. And as for switch suasion he did not wish to try that again for fear her noble brothers would shoot him if he did. Mr. H. was willing to take her on her good behavior. If she would not behave herself then Peter must take her home without any fuss about it. This Peter would not brook. What was clear before was ten times clearer now. Mr. H. was not fit to manage a High School. Proved. He could not manage Peter's daughter by moral suasion. And dared not do it by the switch for fear of being shot by her brothers Q. E. D. The High School could do no good to forty three other men's daughters if Peter's daughter could not be there to make the forty four. This is self evident. And therefore cannot be proved. Peter's anger was up. He bowed himself with all his might and the High School fell upon the ladies and upon all their people that were there in. A decree was issued suspending the school until after the meeting of Council. Now Peter's wrath long pent by selfishness and state policy got free vent and furiously did it pour forth against School Missionaries, Churches and Religion. The schools never did any good yet and never would as now managed. A change was loudly called for Look at Spencer! Nothing but a big primary school after all!
As for the Missionaries, his soul hated them. They were a trouble unto him, he could not live(?) with them any longer. They were all a set of fanatical abolitionists. He would have nothing more to do with them. He would not even sit in the same meeting with them. Thus Peter went on last Sept. at Stockbridge during the meeting of Presbytery. Peter in common with his Half Breed brethren is proud and passionate. Supremely selfish without principle and without patriotism full of visions of self aggrandizement and constantly and laboriously at work in building splendid castles in the air for the Pitchlynns to inhabit at no distant day. Exceedingly ambitious of being thought a great man, he mounted the present school system with the fullest confidence of being borne by it to the highest pinnacle of power and greatness whence he might rule the whole Choctaw Nation without a rival. But he missed it that time (It is thought he is going to try again). His disappointment is not getting on the pinnacle was bitter as his hopes were bright. Hence his dissatisfaction with the schools. There the fact that his own children and the children of the aristocracy generally, for whose benefit the schools were originally established, are effectively excluded from any participation in their advantages because the sprouts of the nobility cannot be made to submit to satisfactory and most necessary discipline troubles Peter and his half-breed brethren. Amazingly, I sometimes do not wonder that Peter and his peers do not care much about the schools.
Spencer and all the schools are full of children but they are the children of the lowly Tubbies and not of the lordly Half B. In Peter's opinion the children's bread is given to the dogs. He thinks this ought not to be and all the Halfs think so too. If Peter could get the bread for the children he would be willing to give the dogs pretty plentifully of the crumbs to keep them from barking. But for the dogs -- the no accounts -- the contemptible Tubbies to eat up all the bread is intolerable. Such a manifest departure from the original design of the schools will never be regarded with satisfaction by P.P. Pitchlynn & Brothers.
In carrying on the schools and other Missionary operations, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that there are among the Choctaws two classes of people, the Full Bloods and the Half Breeds. These are contrary, one to the other. The Half Breeds despise the Full Bloods. The Full Bloods are the Mass of the people. The Half Breeds are the Aristocracy. They rule the Nation -- posses the wealth of the land, and own the slaves. They are few compared to the Full Bloods. The Chief families among them are the Folsoms -- the Pitchlynns -- the Harkins -- the Leflores -- the Garlands and the Pickens. Of these the Folsom family is by far the most numerous. They are scattered all over the Nation and they are related by marriage to all the other Half Breed families. Indeed all these families are closely allied by blood & marriage. For instance, Judge Garland's wife is Col. Pitchlynns Sister. One of Col. P's daughters is married to Loring Folsom. Another to James Harkins, the Chief's bro. Loring Folsom's sister married George Harkins the Chief. Judge Garland's brother is married to Israel Folsom's daughter. And so on through the list. These leading men are thus bound together by family ties. These ties are much stronger than a person would think at first. I have not mentioned Capt. Jones name, because he stands alone and is not connected with the other families now.
The dissatisfaction with the schools exists among these families and the chief causes of this dissatisfaction are these three. 1st Col. Pitchlynn's great disappointment. 2nd The exclusion of the children of the above families from the schools. 3rd The very strong prejudices felt by the owners of slaves against Anti Slavery Men commonly called here Abolitionists. All the Missionaries from the North are known to be opposed to the system of slavery and because they are so they are regarded and hated as abolitionist by the slave interest. This throws up a very serious difficulty in the way of Northern Missionaries carrying on the National Schools satisfactorily to the slave interest. I sometimes think that this foolish feeling against abolitionists will turn out to be the great difficulty in the way of carrying on Spencer and the other schools. At Spencer we all feel that our strength is to set still. We do not say a word about slavery. We mean to keep still as long as we stay here. Privately I confess I would rather live in a free country myself. I am digressing a little and will stop with talk of Peter again & put an end to him.
The first two years I was here, I basked in the full beams of Peter's favour. In those days there was no school like Spencer. No Superintendent like Mr. Reid and no Board like the Pres. Board. It was dangerous for a dog to move his tongue against Spencer in those days. Then we had Pitchlynns and popularity plenty. There was Leonidas P. and Peter P. and John P. and Eastman P. and Jefferson P. -- two Sons and three nephews. Besides these there were three Howells and one Folsom and one Garland, all sons of Peters sisters. These ten were princes of the blood. They were known at Spencer as the Cousins. There were other groups of nobility besides the Cousins. There were Gardiners and Pickenses and Folsoms and Harkinses and Leflores enough in those paling days. But now there are none. The Sons of the Nobility have all taken wings and flown and with them flew all Peter's glorious hopes of Spencer. Now we lie in the shade. The days of Peter's favour falls upon us very obliquely. Since the flight of The Cousins, Peter visits, formerly so frequent, have been few and far between. He has been at Spencer only once in Eighteen Months and then I sent a special messenger after him. But why should he come to Spencer? He has neither sons nor nephews here now. Quae Cum ita Sint. There is nothing in Spencer worth coming to see. Spencer is no account now.
Last Sept. I begged the Trustees to give tickets to the best boys of my own selection, Peter refused point blank under pretense that the law would not let him. The following is the close of his letter to me dated Sept. 9th.
"If we should fail to carry out this part of our duty it would not be a long time before we would hear a potent voice rise up in our midst calling for a division of Spencer Academy.
"I am anxious to see you and to have a long free and candid talk with you about Spencer."
This extract shows what was in Peter's head two months before the Council met. This "potent voice" whenever it rises will be Peter's voice, though other lips may utter it. Peter knows how to row one way and look the other. When I meet with him he makes a fuss and appears friendly. This is Choctaw fashion. It goes for nothing with the knowing our Peter never says any thing but good about Spencer to my face but he says plenty of bad behind my back. Against myself personally I am not aware that he has spoken anything out of the way. If he would content himself with an occasional blast against us by way of easing his troubled mind, I would not care the snap of my fingers for it. But if he is going to take active and decided measures against us, as recent events make more than probable, then we had better put our household in order and stand ready to get out of his way as quietly as possible. Peter is the Atlas on whose shoulders rest the schools at present. If we could make him [face?] right and stand firm all would be well. But for this gentleman this is impossible. With God all things are possible.
I will now leave Peter and introduce to your acquaintance the more prominent of his Half Breed Brethren.
1st Rev. Israel Folsom. Israel is the nephew of the late Col. David Folsom and cousin to Col. George Folsom the present Chief of Push District. He resides near Washitaw, is about fifty years old and speaks both English and Choctaw fluently. He was educated by the Old Missionaries and is a man of considerable parts. He made a profession of religion in the Old Nation and was licensed to preach by the Indian Presbytery. Some six or eight years ago he quit the Missionaries of the A Board on account of there supposed sympathies with the abolitionist. Since then he carries his neck stiff and his head high whenever he falls in with his former friends and patrons. After his secession he joined the Cumberlands and was by them ordained to the Ministry. He is quite a big man among the Cumberlands of Texas and Arkansas. He has several preaching places in the region round about Washitaw. His church is small but on the increase and is known as Israel Folsom's Church. He tries to proselyte all he can. Last year the Cumberland Presbytery met at his house and made quite a stir among the people of the district. Last summer the Chief Geo. Folsom, Israel's cousin left the Bennington Church under the pastoral care of Mr. Kingsbury and joined Israel's Church. Col. Pitchlynn has lately done the same. Thus Israel's Church bids fair to become the Church of the Aristocracy. Israel warrants his Church sound on the slavery question. He hates the abolitionist heartily. It is thought that he wishes to get some if not all the schools into the hands of the Cumberlands. He probably intended to have put the High School into their hands at the last meeting of Council if Peter and himself had succeeded in getting it away from Mr. Hotchkins. This would have been quite a wind fall for Israel's new friends.
I suspect the 9th Sect. of the New Law squints at some arrangement with the Cumberlands. "The Trustees are hereby authorized to contract with any Board of Missions or other persons for the establishment of schools and Academies &c." One more statement and I am done with the Cumberlands. The Rev. Mr. Corley, a Cumberland lately Chaplain at Ft. Towson and now preaching at Clarksville, Texas, recently wrote Mr. Kingsbury to inform him of his intentions to spend one half of his time itinerating among the Choctaws. The Cumberland Board of Missions recently established were desirous of having a Mission among the Choctaws but as yet they had no funding. Therefore for the present they would only itinerate a little. Peter and his good Pastor will furnish the dear Cum. brethren with funds if they can. Just now the Cumberlands and their Choctaw Brothers are playing at, "You tickle Me and I'll tickle You." Both parties will be sick of this game before long I reckon. The Cumberlands are known to be pro-Slavery. This will go far to give them favour with the "Powers that be."
Push Pitchlynn, Peter's oldest boy. The same that borrowed ten dollars of you in New York and never paid it -- a Chip off the old block. A low blackguard accompanied Mr. Lowry to help take care of the Ten young men. The two other boys Peter has sent to Tennessee to be educated under Mr. Lowry & Comp. Mr. D. Lowry's star is the ascendant just now in the Choctaw House. But wait awhile. So much for Israel and the Cumberlands.
2 I come now to Thompson McKinney. This Gentleman passes through Spencer's yard on his way to and from Council and never Stopt! I saw him in Doaksville and charged him to be sure and stop on his way home and visit the school and give the boys a good talk &c. He promised to do so, but did not. A common thing among the Choctaw grandees -- "To say and do not." To be sure he was in a great hurry to get home as appears from his reading the law so fast that the members had not quickness enough to catch the meaning of it. And then in putting it in Choctaw for the benefit of Tubbie Members, he left out more than over half! For want of time no doubt. So we must excuse him for not stopping at Spencer. I do not know what he thinks of Spencer. But I do know from his own lips and from other sources that he is very much out with the School at Ft. Coffee. He told the Supent of Ft. Cof. Sch. that he (T. McK.) would take the funds from him if he did not do as he told him. Sometime ago I knew McKinney was hot for some changes in the present school system. He expressed to me the opinion that the Choctaws were able to carry on their own schools without the help of Boards. I told him plain out they could do no such thing. He did not like this very well and maybe he has not got over it yet. I suspect T. McK. Would as soon the Board would throw up the schools as not. It is very hard to get at the real sentiments of the Choctaw politicians. We can only approximate to them by an induction of particulars. To your face they will say all manner of fine things and behind your back laugh at the simplicity which believes them all. This is a hard saying. I sincerely wish it was not true. So much for Thompson McKinney. He is a very pleasant man.
3rd George Harkins is Chief of Apuk. District. He owns a large number of slaves. He was always an anti-School man. Both his sons and his daughters found the schools too hot for their fiery natures and quit them. This made George think less of the schools than ever. I have called on him occasionally. He always seems friendly but I have never been able to induce him to visit Spencer though I have tried hard. If business calls him North of us he will go round the back way rather than take the short cut through Spencer's yard. If the schools need help Col. Harkins will not give it. Why should he? He has had to pay dearly for the Education of his own sons & daughters in Texas. Some of his children are there now.
4th Old Col. Tom LeFlore cares no more for the schools than Col. Harkins. So long as his son Israel was at Spencer the old Chief would favour us with a visit and a talk once in a while. Since Israel ran away, which he did more than three years ago, Col. Tom don't come near us. There are one hundred of the sons of his people here but that's nothing to him. His son Israel is not among them.
5th Col. George Folsom Chief of the Push. District and a cousin to the Rev. Israel Folsom. George having joined Israel's Church will of course follow where Israel leads. He informed the Council in his message that the schools are very little good. I was sitting close by him at the time. The speaker of the House had called me forward to open the meeting with prayer. I suppose Israel told him to say something against the schools and he did so. On quitting Benington Church he told some of the members that he had let down the bars for the rest of the members to follow him into Israel's fold. From this remark we got a glimpse of Israel's tactics.
6th Capt. Jones takes no part in public affairs. He is the wealthiest man in the Nation. Having many slaves he is strong against abolitionists. He is long been the most sensible and substantial man among the Choctaws. A few years ago he got disgusted with politics and quit. He will not lift a finger to save the Schools. He has only one daughter and he is rich enough to pay for her education in the best schools in Texas.
7th Of Col. McCurtain I know nothing but that he is Chief of the Ark. District. I suppose Thompson McKinney shapes his sentiments on the subject of Education.
The pretence for suspending the High School was that inconsequence of certain vulgar reports affecting the character of Mr. Hotchkins, parents were unwilling to send their children to the school. The main report was that Capt. Duke's daughter left the school in the family way and told her mother that Mr. H. was the father of the child. There was not a particle of truth in this or in any of the reports. If any considerable number of the people believed them it was mainly because such men as the trustees encouraged them to do so. A committee of the Indian Presbytery fully investigated these charges and before the Meeting of the Council prepared a report clearly establishing the innocence of Mr. H. The Trustees and leading men professed to be fully satisfied that the reports were all false. The Missionaries thought that now the Trustees would issue tickets and start the school again. But no, the Trustees, though acknowledging that Mr. Hotchkins Character was without a blot, insisted on his resigning. The Superintendent of the school alleging that this was necessary to satisfy the people who would not believe that Mr. H. was innocent. Now the people to whom it was thought necessary to sacrifice Mr. H. was Peter Pitchlynn! The Brethren and the Trustees not being able to agree, the whole matter was referred to the Prudential Committee Boston. Mr. H. is still at Good Water but there is no school.
I feel very sorry for Mr. & Mrs. Hotchkins. They have been most unkindly dealt with by the Trustees. I send a copy of the report of the Committee that you may see how easily Peter and his friends can find cause for the removal of a Missionary whenever it suits them. They can get up an evil report against any man. Then under pretense of satisfying the unreasonable prejudices of the people, he must quit the school or Nation as the case may.
A few odds & ends and I am done with My Commentary on the new law.
1 The day the Council adjourned I rode from Doaksville in company with Col. Fletcher. He told me that Col. Harkins had a great deal to say against the school at Norwalk. Now the only reason why Col. H. is out with the school at Norwalk is that his youngest son behaved so badly last session that he could not stay in the school. His father had to take him home. Now he very down Norwalk.
2 Col. F. told me also that the plan of sending boys into the States to be educated and learn trades was very popular with the Members of Council. The leading men, he said, thought the schools in the Nation didn't learn the boys much. They didn't learn them any trades. The only way to learn Choctaw boys was to send them into the States. Since I wrote last I am informed on good authority that even Capt. Gardiner, of whom I spoke so favorably in my last letter, fairs strong for sending boys into the States to be educated. Capt. Gardiner says the schools in the Nation can't carry a boy far. A boy leans very well until he get to a certain point and there he sticks and the Missionaries can't carry him any further no matter how long he stays in school. I am sorry to say that there seems to be some foundation for this notion. As to learning trades that is out of the question at present. All this lowers the schools in the estimation of the people generally.
3 Recently Israel Folsom gave out an appointment for a "big meeting" at Bennington where the Chief, his cousin, lives. The only member he has in the region is the Chief himself. The Chief applied for the Bennington Meeting house for the occasion and was refused by the Rev. C. C. Copeland. This made him very angry. He said some hard things. Among others, he said to his brother John Folsom, "Why not let the old Missionaries go and let the Cumberlands come in their places."
Now of all that I have written this seems to me to be the sum. Vain is the hope of man," therefore "Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils for wherein is he to be accounted of."
Yours Very truly
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;