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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 4, No. 2
June, 1926

W. B. Morrison

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Since that day over nineteen hundred years ago, when standing on one of the hills of Palestine, the Master of Men said, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,"1 missions and the missionary have played an important part in the history of the world. It is interesting to follow the trail of those earliest of missionaries, led by Saul of Tarsus, the prince of them all, and see how in less than three centuries the whole outlook and course of history had been change by those humble peasants who were justly charged with having "turned the world upside down."2 We might with profit follow the steps of a St. Patrick as he brought the Gospel first to Ireland, or St. Augustine, as he tried to make "angels" out of the Angles. When we reach the period of the age discovery, and men pressed out into unknown and untracked seas, the missionary idea was the very noblest of the motives that spurred them on. While it is true that among the early English settlers in America some effort was made to evangelize the Indians, and such names as Eliot and Mahew stand out for their lives of devotion and self-sacrifice, it may also be truthfully said that, except for the Jesuit movement, which involved other purposes besides preaching the Gospel, it was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that a missionary program was developed that may be in any way compared with that of apostolic times. Under the influence of this movement, which was to a certain extent world-wide about this time, devoted young men from England and Scotland began to carry Protestant Christianity to the uttermost parts of the earth.

It is right generally agreed that we may trace the inception of the period of missionary activity in America to the famous "Haystack Prayer-meeting" held by five devout young students of Williams College. Having taken shelter under a haystack during a thunder storm one afternoon in the summer of 1806, they decided to use the time in praying for the evangelization of the world. With the incentive of this novel

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meeting before them, these young men a little later formed a society pledging themselves to missionary service in foreign lands, and taking as their motto, "We can do it if we will," which has become very familiar today on the lips of our modern Student Volunteers who are found in every university and college in the United States.3 The leading spirit in this band of young men was Samuel J. Mills. After his graduation, on account of his fervor and organizing ability he seems to have been retained in this country as a sort of recruiting officer, though doubtless he would have preferred to go at once to one of the distant fields of service. He was employed by some of the Connecticut and Massachusetts missionary societies in 1812 to make a tour of the southwestern part of the United States, and spent more than three years in making investigation of the conditions in that country both among whites and Indians.4 He was accompanied on this trip by Rev. John F. Schemerhorn, who was later to play his part as an agent of the United States Government in securing the removal of the Cherokees and Creeks from Georgia.5 Their journey was one of over three thousand miles before completed, starting in New England, thence by way of the Mohawk Valley to Niagara, then over to the Ohio as far as Marietta; and overland through Kentucky to Nashville, where they met General Andrew Jackson, who received them kindly and graciously offered them passage on his troop ships, then about to leave for military service connected with the War of 1812.

The account given by Mills of this trip gives a rather gloomy picture of religious conditions on the frontier at that time. From Nashville to Natchez, they scarcely ever saw a minister of any denomination, though occasionally they passed a hardy Methodist or Baptist pioneer. Ignorance was general, and the country was so thinly settled that few schools could be maintained. They found that not many of these pioneer people had a copy of the Bible, nor did those who would like to own such a treasure know where to obtain it. Mills was not able to purchase a Protestant Bible even in New Orleans.6 This dearth of the Bible all through a territory which had all told seventy or eighty thousand white people, impressed Mills very much, and his efforts to send cheap ver-

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sions of the Scriptures to this section was the direct cause of the formation in 1816 of the American Bible Society, which is today one of the most effective and far reaching of missionary agencies.

Natchez, then a town of fifteen hundred people, had no organized church, not even Roman Catholic. In New Orleans conditions were worse. There was no Protestant church in the city, though, as Mills said, they were just completing a theatre at a cost of one hundred thousand dollars. The Sabbath was little observed as a day of rest, but buying and selling went on much the same as on other days, while in the hotels and elsewhere, many played cards or billiards, or drank to excess.

The report concerning the Indians of this section is interesting, and was evidently made with care. The Choctaws and Chickasaws are singled out as being especially worthy of missionary attention, because of their desire for education and on account of the strides they were making towards civilization. "These two tribes are more numerous than the aggregate of all the tribes between the Ohio and the Lakes, and also speak the same language. From these circumstances solely, other things being equal, a mission here would have greater prospect of success than among either of the small tribes of Indiana or Illinois. They have already made great progress in agriculture and civilization, and are by degrees casting off the Indian habits and adopting the modes of the whites."7

It was this report that induced the recently formed American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to turn its attention to the southern tribes, and to determine as soon as possible to send missionaries among the Choctaws. But before going further into the subject, something should be said about the origin and purposes of this great society of missionary effort.

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions came indirectly from the famous "Haystack Prayer-meeting" alluded to earlier in this paper. Mills went from Williams College to Andover Seminary, the theological school of the Congregational Church. There he associated himself

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with a number of other godly young men, all graduates of prominent New England colleges, one of them being the famous Adoniram Judson, a graduate of Brown, and afterwards the pioneer Baptist missionary to India. A petition from these men and a few others to the General Association of Congregational churches of Massachusetts to send them as missionaries to the heathen, led on June 29, 1810 at Bradford, Mass., to the founding of the American Board, largely by a few professors of theology from Andover Seminary.8 The organization was completed on September 5 of the same year at Farmington, Connecticut. The nine men chosen as the first Commissioners at Bradford were all members of the Congregational church. In February, 1812, the Board applied to the legislature of the state of Massachusetts for incorporation. It seems rather strange to us today that an organization with such an altruistic purpose should meet with legislative opposition, but as a matter of fact the bill proposing incorporation was twice voted down before finally passed. A member from the old town of Salem, who had been to India, ridiculed the idea of taking the Gospel to that part of the heathen world, and declared that all efforts of the kind would be worse than vain. Benjamin W. Crowningshield, afterwards Secretary of the Navy under President Madison, was one of the determined opponents of the bill. One of the supposedly convincing arguments used by those opposed to the measure was the objection to "exporting religion, whereas there is none to spare from among ourselves."9

The matter seems to have been brought into the realm of partisan politics also, and the outbreak of the war with England, together with altogether unpleasant and unhappy foreign relations with other countries at about the same period, doubtless had some effect upon certain members of the legislature.

While the Board at first seems to have had no thought of becoming anything more than a Congregational body, at its second meeting it sent a suggestion to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church for the formation of a similar body in that church.10 It may be stated parenthetically that since 1801 there had been a plan of union in operation

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between the Presbyterian and Congregational churches, by which they were no longer competitive bodies, though each church retained its own identity. The Presbyterians were the gainers from this union, so far as numbers were concerned, but many of their churches became impregnated with doctrinal laxness, and the arrangement was discontinued in 1837. It, however, was the main cause of a great schism in the Presbyterian Church, which soon after divided into what were known as the Old and New Schools of Presbyterianism.11

In reply to the suggestion of the American Board, as stated above, the Presbyterian Assembly requested that its members be permitted to have a part in the labors of the body that had just been recently organized. This was accordingly done, and at the annual meeting of the Board in 1812 eight prominent Presbyterians were added to its membership, all of them citizens of the New England and Middle states. Among those who may be called original members of the Board are such distinguished and well known names as John Jay, of New York; Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College; Gov. John Treadwell and Gen. Jedidiah Huntington, of Connecticut; General Henry Sewall, of Maine; and Joseph Lyman of Massachusetts. Gov. Treadwell was its first president.12 Several commissioners from the Dutch Reformed Church were afterwards added, and one of then, the distinguished Dr. Theo. Erelinghuysen, of New York, was for many years its president. In 1834, the Board was composed of 85 members, among whom were 14 college presidents and eleven professors of theology. At this time, 47 members were Presbyterians, 31 Congregationalists, and 7 Dutch Reformed.13 At this same time, about one-sixth of the membership was from the South.14 With the separation of Congregational and Presbyterians forces in 1837, the ascendancy in the Board gradually went back to the Congregationalists and to New England,15 which, as will be seen later, affected the attitude of the Board in dealing with such matters as slavery, when they arose in connection with their various missions. At the opening of the Civil War, the famous Mark Hopkins, president of Williams College, was the presiding officer of the

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Board. From that time on, it became sectional in character, so far as its membership is concerned. A perusal of the names of commissioners for the year 1907 shows only one out of over three hundred hailing from the Old South.16

Samuel J. Mills died still in the bloom of youth, while returning from a tour of missionary investigation on the west coast of Africa, but his spirit lived on in the activity of this great mission Board. The first mission established was at Bombay, India, the second in Ceylon; the third to the Cherokees in Tennessee, and the fourth, the one with which we are most concerned in this paper, to the Choctaws in Mississippi. With this beginning, the American Board enlarged its vision until it was supporting workers on every continent and in the islands of the South Seas.17

The Cherokee Mission at Brainerd, on Missionary Ridge, near Chattanooga, Tenn., was opened in 1817 under the charge of Rev. Cyrus Kingsbury, and Mr. and Mrs. Loring S. Williams. It was not long before the Choctaws petitioned the American Board to send missionaries to them also. As has already been indicated from the report made by Mr. Mills, the Board was glad to grant their request at the earliest opportunity, which came in 1818 with the arrival of additional workers at Brainerd. The Choctaws in making their request, stated that it was their desire to have their children taught the better way of life which was found in the "White Man’s Book"; that they were just as worthy as the Cherokees; that they had always been at peace with the whites, and that the Choctaws had never shed a white man’s blood in war.18 The Board thereupon requested Cyrus Kingsbury to proceed to Mississippi and establish a mission among the Choctaw people, thus beginning a connection between that great man and this Indian tribe that was not terminated until his death over fifty years later. Kingsbury was one of those who had come under the spell of Mills and Judson. He was born at Alstead, New Hampshire; in 1786, received his preparatory education at Northbridge, Mass., and later attended Brown University, from which he graduated in 1812. He then completed a theological course at Andover Seminary, and was ordained as a missionary in 1815. A part of the next year he spent in Vir-

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ginia and Tennessee, and in 1817 took charge of the work for the Cherokees at Brainerd, relinquishing it only to take up his larger work of a lifetime for the Choctaws. Kingsbury was one of the remarkable men of his day. He acquired a wonderful influence over the Indian people, which he held through varying vicissitudes until the end of his life. Whatever was done to change the Choctaws from heathen to Christians, and from savages into a civilized people, is in large measure due to his faith, wisdom and perseverance. Lame from his youth (the Choctaws called him "Limping Wolf"), and frail in health for many years, he was nevertheless always active in the work to which he devoted his life, riding from station to station, meeting in a statesman-like manner the many and varied problems that arose, and at the same time keeping up a vigorous touch through means of newspapers and magazines with the great church constituency which must never be allowed to forget his adopted people and their needs. In spite of the honorary degree of D. D. bestowed by one of the large New England colleges, and other honors from time to time, he was consistently humble and unaffected in his life and service.19 A small diary, which he kept during the entire year of 1853, and which was never intended for other eyes than his own, has come down to us.20 No one can read it without having an increased respect for the deeply religious character and purity of soul, which he evidently possessed to a marked degree. He lived to the advanced age of 84 years, and what is mortal of him now lies buried in the historic old burying ground at Baggy Depot in Atoka County, Oklahoma.

When in 1818, Kingsbury, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. L. S. Williams, started overland in wagons for the Choctaw country of Mississippi, it was an undertaking fully as momentous as would be a trip to central Africa today. However, the journey was safely made, and a site at once chosen for the first station near the Yellowbusha river, thirty miles from where it empties into the Yazoo. In honor of the great "Apostle to the Indians," the station was named "Eliot." Within fourteen months a school-house, suitable store houses, and seven cabins for dormitories and dwellings had been built. The school opened with ten pupils present, but before

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the end of the year sixty were in attendance.21 As soon as the missionaries learned the language, they also began preaching to the people. The process followed here is typical of methods generally used by the early missionaries, which, as we shall see, proved so effective among the Choctaws. Children were brought to the mission and kept the entire year, except for a short vacation, with the understanding that they were to be under the entire supervision and instruction of the missionaries. They were to be given the rudiments of an education in English and in their own language, as soon as text books could be provided, and were drilled daily in the scriptures and catechisms. All necessities, even clothing, were furnished to the children, but the latter were expected to work a certain portion of the day, and to submit to reasonable discipline. As may seem natural, Kingsbury had some difficulty at first in maintaining an efficient system. Some of his problems are shown from an address he made before the Choctaw Council in 1822, when he insisted that parents must not take children out of school until the close of the term; that they must permit the missionaries to correct them, and that parents must not make visits of too great length at the schools. This address was naturally, not well received at first but when Dr. Kingsbury further showed them that far more, than half of the support of the schools was being contributed by the American Board and the United States Government, and that the missionaries themselves received no salaries at all, but only their bare living, a better spirit developed in the council. The chieftains decided to give Kingsbury better support in every way. One old chief spoke the real sentiments of his people when he said, "The Choctaws are ignorant; they know when day comes and when night comes. That’s all they know. We expect to die in our old habit, but we want our children to do better."22

This old Indian was to a great extent right in his estimate of his people, and at the coming of the missionaries, save for the desire for better things, their condition was in many respects not promising. A summary of their moral condition in 1822 as given in the "Mission Herald" states, "They are in total darkness on moral and religious subjects, and exposed to various imaginary terrors from supposed

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witchcraft and other causes; addicted to the intemperate use of ardent spirits; in short, ignorant, degraded and miserable.’23 Dr. Kingsbury stated that in 1821 ten Indians lost their lives through intemperance in one district alone.24 They paid any price for the liquor, and in 1819 small bottles holding only a half pint sold regularly for one dollar—though in some sections of the country at the same period, more than a gallon of the destructive fluid could be purchased for the same amount of money.25 Infanticide was common, and even customary among the women, and if for any reason a babe was not wanted, it was strangled or buried alive. Stealing and lax morals in other respects were only too prevalent, but by 1822, the effect of missionary effort among them began to be evident by the passage of laws dealing with all of the matters mentioned above, the Scriptural punishment of 39 lashes on the bare back being administered to hog and cattle thieves, and to him who stole another man’s wife.

At the request of the Indians, and under the direction of Dr. Kingsbury, the work of the Mission was extended as rapidly as possible. Early in 1820, Kingsbury in company with Col. David Folsom, a half-breed Choctaw of high character and standing, and Major John Pitchlyn, an Englishman who had married a Choctaw woman and had long made his home among them, selected a site for a new station in what is now Oktibbehah County, Mississippi, not far from the Government agency. It was named Mayhew, in honor of the Mayhews who in Puritan times preached to the Indians on Martha’s Vineyard.26 Suitable buildings were soon erected, and Dr. Kingsbury moved to this point, which in a measure became missionary headquarters so long as the Choctaws remained in Mississippi. In 1822, a party of new missionaries arrived from the north, most of them from New England. They came overland to Pittsburgh, and down the Ohio and Mississippi on a flat-boat to the mouth of the Yazoo. One party of them was six weeks struggling the Yazoo River, and the heroic female missionaries took their turns at the oars. Some of them were as long as eight months altogether in reaching final destination. They suffered from the fevers

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that always attacked newcomers in these southern lands, and one missionary, Mr. Smith, who brought his family lost two children within a short time.27 Among those who came at this time was, Cyrus Byington, a native of Stockbridge, Mass., a young lawyer, who had become impressed that it was his duty to enter mission work, and after graduating from Andover Seminary in 1819, had offered his services to the American Board.28 As Kingsbury was the statesman of the Choctaw Mission, so Byington became its scholar. He at once applied himself to the task of learning Choctaw thoroughly, spending much of his time in villages where no English was spoken. With the aid of the Folsoms, he had within a few years made a dictionary of the Choctaw language containing over 3000 words,29 had prepared a speller, and also translated several hymns into the Indian tongue. He later wrote a Choctaw grammar, the first draft of which appeared in 1834. His dictionary was constantly improved, and he was working upon the seventh revision of it at the time of his death, which occurred at Belpre, Ohio, in 1868. On account of his eloquence, and, we suppose, a rather demonstrative style of preaching, the Indians dubbed him "Sounding Horn."30

By 1825, the Mission contained three main stations, Eliot, Mayhew and Emmaus, each with a number of substations and schools, and the greater part of the Choctaw Nation was being reached at least to some extent. Among the able and useful men sent by the American Board to aid in this work, we shall take this occasion to speak of two others who came to Mississippi during this period, and who afterwards, with Kingsbury and Byington, renewed the Mission in Oklahoma. Alfred Wright was a native of Connecticut, and graduated from Williams College in 1812. He began his work in North Carolina, at Raleigh, but was ordained as a missionary at Charleston, S. C., in 1819, and was sent to Mississippi by the American Board in 1823, and first located at Goshen, one of the outstations of Emmaus. He had also made a study of medicine, so we may call him the "beloved physician" of the Mission, as well as faithful preacher. He was among the first to renew the work of the Mission west

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of the Mississippi, opening the station at Wheelock (named by him after the first president of Dartmouth College), where an Indian school is still operated for the Choctaws under the same name.31 He built a stone church near his station, which is still standing the oldest church in Oklahoma. Dr. Wright died at Wheelock in 1853, and lies buried in the graveyard near his church. A flat stone over his grave tells the visitor today a brief story of his useful life, one item being the fact that he received 570 persons into the Wheelock church.32

The school-teacher of the Choctaw mission was Ebenezer Hotchkin, a native of Richmond, Mass. He received a good common school education in his native state, but never enjoyed the benefit of a college or seminary course. He received an appointment as a teacher from the American Board, and came to the Choctaw country of Mississippi in 1828. There, he married Miss Thatcher of Lucerne County, Penna., who was one of the earliest recruits when Dr. Kingsbury opened up Mahew station. He applied to the Presbytery of Tombigbee for licensure to preach under what is known as the "extraordinary clause" in 1830, and after completing the requirements of Presbytery, was duly licensed at Columbus, Miss., in 1832.33 He removed with the Choctaws in 1832, and worked among them as a teacher and preacher until his death, which occurred in 1867. A grandson of the same name is an honored teacher and missionary to the Choctaws of Oklahoma today.

While the Government of the United States had long before adopted the policy of removing all of the Indians west of the Mississippi, the Indians were not made to feel that they were to be compelled to this action until General Andrew Jackson became President. It is true that several treaties had been made with the Choctaws, which perhaps most of them did not fully understand. That of 1820 provided that the members of the tribe should take their lands in individual allotment as soon as they should become sufficiently enlightened to be citizens of the United States, but that there should be no change in their boundaries until such a time. By 1825, the whites were pressing on their frontier

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still more strongly, but yet a clause in the treaty of that date provided that they should not be brought under the operation of the laws of the United States without their own consent.34 But in September, 1829, came the first definite shadow of the necessity of removal in a letter from the Secretary of War, read before a council of the Choctaws by Col. Ward their agent, in which the advantages of removal were pointed out, and the statement made that the President did not feel that he could protect them or prevent them from coming under the laws of Mississippi if they did not remove. The Choctaws, through one of their chiefs, Col. David Folsom, now a devoted Christian, replied: "We do not wish to sell our lands and remove. Here we have lived, and here we wish to live. The American people say they love liberty; why will they take it away from the Red Man? But whatever the white man wishes to do with us he will do."35 This meant that there would be no armed resistance among the Choctaws, in keeping with their traditions. It did not mean, however, that the Indian had no proper grasp of the situation, for Col. Folsom wrote a little later to Agent Ward, "The Red People are of the opinion that in a few years, the Americans will also wish to possess the land west of the Mississippi."36 The full-blood element, while accepting the inevitable, became very bitter, and to a large extent turned against Christianity and the missionaries, blaming them for the great misfortune that was about to befall them. There is little reason to suspect the part-blood chiefs of any disloyalty to the Indians at this time. One of them, Col. LeFlore, spent a part of the winter of 1829-30 in the Cherokee country of Georgia, and came back thoroughly convinced that the Indians would have to go. It was simply a recognition of the inevitable that caused him and other leaders to counsel a peaceable removal. It is true that many of the missionaries to the various Indian tribes counseled the Indians not to fight removal, though there was no uniform policy. This position, however, was taken by the Methodist missionaries among the Choctaws, and at a general council held in March, 1830, a removal treaty was submitted by the Indians, written, it is said by Dr. Tally, head of the Methodist mission. Col. LeFlore was a member of

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the Methodist church, but the other two chiefs were Presbyterians. However, they resigned at this time, and let Col. LeFlore act for the whole nation. The United States rejected the treaty they proposed. For a short while thereafter, the full blood element secured control, abolished Sabbath observance, and threatened to undo all the work of the missionaries. While the sentiments of Dr. Kingsbury and his associates were undoubtedly very sympathetic towards the Indians in their unwillingness to leave the home of their fathers, it is evident from their communications to the Mission Herald about this time that they were also just as diplomatic as possible, and we find no friction between the Government officials and missionaries as was the case in Georgia.

The final and definite removal treaty was made at a great gathering of the Choctaws at Dancing Rabbit Creek in Noxubbe County, Mississippi, which was concluded on September 27, 1830. By the terms of this treaty all the Choctaws who desired to remain under their tribal laws and customs agreed to remove at Government expense to lands in the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi within two and one-half years. Those who remained were to take allotments and come under the laws of the state.37 The story of such a treaty as that of Dancing Rabbit is not the most pleasant reading, but is rather typical of the methods by which our Government got rid of the Indians in the early days. Considerable sums of money were used in the entertainment, or bribery, of the Red Men, and the grounds were surrounded by crowds of white rowdies with faro tables and drinking saloons. It is recorded, however, that Chief Folsom and his band of Christian Indians were a notable exception to the general revelry. While the U. S. Commissioners held a two day conference with the mission forces, it is significant that the latter were then excluded from the treaty grounds.38

The next two or three years furnished a period of demoralization for the mission and the people as well. The Christian Choctaws sent in urgent and pathetic appeals to the Board to permit the missionaries to accompany them beyond the Great River. One of these letters, published in the

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Mission Herald, concludes with an appeal for the prayers and help of Christian people for them as they were "about to return to the wild woods." The Board yielded to their entreaties, and sent word that it would not abandon the people in their perilous and distressing condition.39 This was generous on the part of the American Board, for practically all of their costly equipment in Mississippi would be almost a total loss, and new and heavy expenditures would have to be assumed to re-establish the mission in Oklahoma. The influence and advice of Cyrus Kingsbury played a large part in the determination of the Board to continue its work. Many of the full-bloods, still resentful, were opposed to allowing the missionaries to renew their labors in the West.40 General gloom pervaded a land that only a few years before was well on the highway to happiness and prosperity. The actual removal began in the fall of 1831. The season proved severe and there was much suffering, in spite of efforts made to prevent it. The Indians were moved in parties of from five to fifteen hundred persons, each group under its own chief, but also in charge of a "contractor" whom the Government had employed to superintend the removal. One of these was the famous Gen. Sand Dale, a native of Rockbridge County, Virginia, a scout under Andrew Jackson, and an Indian fighter of note.41 It was indeed a long and tiresome "Trail of Tears" for the Choctaws. Many of them died on the way from exposure and fatigue, while the cholera claimed hundreds. It would appear that about ten per cent of those who began the journey, perished before it was ended.42 And then, their sorrows were not over. Most of the bands settled first along the banks of the Arkansas and Red Rivers. While the country was beautiful, it was also like all unoccupied lands, especially in southern regions, very malarial, and it took several years of cultivation before its deadly qualities ceased to be felt by the Indians and missionaries as well. By the end of 1833, the larger part of the tribe had been transferred to the new country, and were hopefully busying themselves in building comfortable residences. The missionaries reported them to be very well sat-

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isfied under the circumstances.43 But for several years, there was a sorrowful story of sickness and death. Mr. Hotchkin wrote to the Mission Herald that in his community of about five hundred souls, every babe under one year of age died during the year 1833. Mrs. Wright wrote that from June to the first of August, Dr. Wright had attended 332 cases of illness at Wheelock, and the next year there was an average of one death to a family at the same station.44 Such were some of the results of the forced migration.

Dr. Kingsbury and Mr. Byington remained in Mississippi until the migration was about over, and in 1834 permanently closed the mission in Mississippi and, after a tour of exploration for the American Board among the wild Indians of the Kansas region, took up the work in Oklahoma, already well begun by Dr. Wright, Hotchkin and others. By 1839 stations had been established at Wheelock, Stockbridge (named by Mr. Byington after his old Massachusetts home), Mountain Fork, on the beautiful stream of the same name, Greenfield, Goodwater, and Pine Ridge.45 The last named point was only two miles from Fort Towson, and here Dr. Kingsbury made his headquarters. Other stations or sub-stations were added from time to time, until the whole Choctaw Nation was reached with schools and preaching points. Not in a day, however, was the ground regained which had been lost through the removal, but within 25 years, or at the time of the opening of the Civil War. Dr. Kingsbury could write, "I unhesitatingly answer that the Choctaws are a Christian nation, in the popular acceptance of that term."46 He further stated that from one-fifth to one-fourth of the whole population were connected with the different churches; that the Sabbath was observed as a divine institution, and that the sessions of the General Council were uniformly opened and closed with prayer.

It will be remembered that earlier in this paper, it was stated that about 1835 there came to be a decided change in the make-up of the American Board; that it began to be more distinctly Congregational in membership. It also began definitely to fight slavery, and it was this question that

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led to its final withdrawal from the Indian Territory. The Choctaws were slave-holders, though the practice was more generally confined to the part-bloods, who occupied and farmed the better lands, and as formerly in Mississippi, dominated the tribal affairs. It is remarkable how little was recorded in regard to slavery among the Choctaws in any of the records, at least until after 1835. The missionaries were nearly all from New England, and doubtless brought their prejudices with them. However, they seem largely to have gone about their spiritual labors among the Choctaws without attempting to reform social institutions, especially those closely connected with politics. Doubtless, the missionaries soon learned that if they were to have much influence, especially with the leading men, they must not exert too much pressure in matters such as slavery, against which there was no public conscience among the Indians. Perhaps, too, the fact that slaves were uniformly well treated among the Indians, and not subjected to much restraint or debasement, may have made our missionaries snore inclined to tolerance.47 At any rate, as soon as the anti-slavery movement in the North assumed its aggressive form, we note a difference of view-point between the Choctaw missionaries and the American Board on the subject of slavery. The original minutes of the Choctaw Mission from 1836 have been preserved, and are in the hands of the author of this paper. Almost the first entry refers to a communication from the Board with reference to the employment of slave labor by the missionaries.48 As the years went on, these differences of viewpoint became more marked. While they had stated their position more than once previously, the minute book records a very full presentation of their case at a meeting held in April 1855, at which a representative of the American Board was present. Some items of the statement are these: (1) A missionary has nothing to do with political questions and agitations; (2) While admitting slavery to be wrong, they refused to hold every slave-owner a wrongdoer for sustaining a relation made legal by the laws of the land; (3) That the Bible gave directions for servants and masters, and that it was the missionary’s duty to explain and illustrate those precepts. This was evidently not acceptable to the Ameri-

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can Board, as might have been expected at a time when New England missionary societies were arming volunteers for the Kansas frontier, and no less a man than Henry Ward Beecher was proclaiming that for the Kansas slaveholders, a Sharps rifle would prove a greater moral force than the Bible. 49 A few weeks later, therefore, we find this entry: "We are fully convinced that we cannot go with the Board as to the manner in which we as ministers of the Gospel and Missionaries are to deal with slavery. We believe the instructions of the Apostles in relation to this subject are a sufficient guide, and if followed, the best interests of society as well as the church will be secured." We have no wish to give the Board any further trouble on this subject, and as there is no prospect that our views can be brought to harmonize, we must request that our relation to the A. B. C. F. M. be dissolved in a way that will do the least harm to the Board and to our mission."50 But, matters were patched up temporarily, and it was not until December 24, 1859, that the final steps were taken by the American Board to relieve themselves of the "unceasing embarrassments and perplexities connected with the missions in the Indian Territory." As always, the Board was liberal in its settlement, and the separation was made with mutual expressions of kindly feeling. All the mission property except the schools was given personally to the missionaries as a retiring allowance. The work was at once taken over by the Old School Presbyterian church, to which practically all the missionaries already belonged.

How this transaction was viewed by local people outside of church circles may be seen from the report of Choctaw Agent D. H. Cooper made shortly afterwards. He writes: "It is a matter of congratulation among the friends of the old Choctaw missionaries who have labored thirty years among them, and intend to die with the armors on, that all connection with the Boston Board has been dissolved. If it had been done years ago, when their freedom of conscience and missionary action was attempted to be controlled by the parent board, much of the suspicion, ill-feeling and diminished usefulness which attached to the Choctaw missionaries in consequence of this connection with and support by a Board

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avowedly and openly hostile to Southern institutions would, have been prevented."51

However, looking back as we now do with vision unclouded by prejudice, we can admire those stern New Englanders who fought slavery because they thought it was wrong, but shall we have no less admiration for those other New Englanders, men of God every one of them, who learned to have a broader tolerance for and sympathy with their southern brethren?



1.      American Board of Commissioners, Memorial Volume, 1860.
2.      American Board of Commissioners foreign Missions, Annual Report 1907.
3.      Abel, Annie Heloise, The Indian as Slaveholder and Secessionist.
4.      Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography.
5.      Britton, Wiley, Civil War on the Border, Vol. 2.
6.      Buchanan, J. S., and Dale, E. E., A History of Oklahoma.
7.      Carter, W. A., A History of McCurtain County and Southeast Oklahoma.
8.      Choctaw Mission Records (Two volumes of manuscripts).
9.      Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 10.
10.     Ford, Jas. F., A History of the United States, Vol. 2.
11.     Kingsbury, Cyrus, A Diary (manuscript) for 1853.
12.     Mission Herald (Organ of the A. B. C. F. M.), Bound volumes Nos. 10, 18, 19, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33, 35, 38.
13.     Love, Wm. A., Mississippi Historical Society Report, vol. II, The Mayhew Mission.
14.     Records of Tombigbee Presbytery, Vol. I.
15.     The Bible.
16.     Thoburn, Jos. B., A History of Oklahoma, Vol, I.

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