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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 4, No. 3
September, 1926
SOME NOTES OF INTEREST CONCERNING EARLY DAY OPERATIONS IN INDIAN TERRITORY BY METHODIST CHURCH SOUTH

J. Y. Bryce

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In May 1866, in New Orleans, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, elected Rev. Enoch M. Marvin to the office of Bishop. The first assignment of the newly elected Bishop included the Indian Mission Conference, the session of which was held September 12, 1866, at Bloomfield Academy, located in the extreme southeast corner of the Chickasaw Nation; Rev. J. H. Carr was elected secretary. We are carrying at this time the picture of the first building in which the Bishop held his first conference, as well as the last one, which was held in 1877, Sept. 20th, at Stringtown.

The first is the little chapel used by the officials of the Academy for religious services, and the second is the church building used by all denominations in the village for public worship.

Bishop Marvin died on reaching home in St. Louis, after the adjournment of the conference held in Stringtown; this was the completion of his trip around the world. J. H. Carr

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was for a long time connected with the Bloomfield Academy as Superintendent; he came up from the Choctaw District for admission into the traveling connection at the meeting of the second session of the conference, held October 23-27, 1845, Bishop Joshua Soule presiding; the conference was held at the Indian Manual Labor School, located then in the Shawnee Nation, State of Kansas, Johnson County, now Kansas City. J. Wheeler was the secretary.

Rev. J. H. Carr served the Doaksville Mission for a period of six years; on November 15, 1851, the conference was held at Muddy Springs, Cherokee Nation, no Bishop being present. Samuel G. Patterson was elected president, James M. Garner, secretary, with W. A. Duncan as assistant.

The minutes of the conference show that the Choctaw District was placed in charge of N. M. Talbott, as presiding elder; Mushulatubbee circuit, John Page; Fort Coffee Academy, John Harrell, Supt.; Poteau School and circuit, to be supplied.

Kiamichi, J. Chuckmubbee; Chickasaw Academy, to be supplied; Perryville, W. D. Collens; Red River African Mission, John H. Carr. The ninth session of the conference met at Clear Springs Camp Ground, October 28, 1852, with Bishop Robt. Paine in the chair, and James M. Garner, secretary. The appointments of this session for Choctaw District are as follows: Choctaw District, to be supplied. After the adjournment of the conference some few weeks, Rev. W. L. McAlester was assigned to the district as presiding Elder, having been received by transfer. Mushulatubbee, John Page; Fort Coffee Academy, John Harrell, superintendent; New Hope Female, Seminary, N. M. Talbott, superintendent; Doaksville, D. M. Lewis and S. P. Willis; Choctaw Academy, John S. Noble, superintendent; Kiamichi, J. Chuckmubbee and H. Bacon; Chickasaw Circuit, to be supplied; Chickasaw Academy, John C. Robinson, superintendent; Bloomfield Academy, John H. Carr, superintendent; Perryville Circuit, to be supplied; Colbert Institute, Ezekiel Couch. Rev. John H. Carr was for sixteen years connected with the Bloomfield Academy as superintendent, pastor and presiding elder of the country adjacent. The war between the states almost demoralized the church work as well as that of the schools and Rev. J. H. Carr showed wonderful skill in keeping together the members of his

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flock and the student body of Bloomfield Academy. For the benefit of those who may be interested to know, we give from the records some of the facts that are connected with the life and works of this pioneer preacher. The date of his birth was April 16, 1812, in Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee. In an early day he, with his parents, emigrated to Arkansas Territory. Their mode of travel was that of a keel-boat on the Cumberland River. The family left the home in Tennessee on Christmas day, 1819, and on the ninth day of April, the following year, they reached their destination, settling on the bank of Red River, Lafayette County, Territory of Arkansas. A few months later they moved from Lafayette County, to Hempstead County. Here young Carr grew to manhood enduring all the privations peculiar to pioneer life. His reading was mostly done, after the day’s work had been finished, by the fire light from the old fashioned fire place, or from the light penetrating the cracks of the log room in which he lived.

From History of Methodism in Texas, by Phelan, chapter two, page 13, we are told that the Missouri Conference was formed the year 1816, and embraced in its bounds all of the territory of Arkansas, and as the present state of Oklahoma was at one time Arkansas territory, and possibly considered as being in the Missouri Conference, it can be said with tolerable accuracy that he was brought up in the heart of the country which he served so long as pastor and superintendent; he was licensed to preach in the year 1834, in the bounds of the Missouri Conference, but no doubt in that portion of the conference known as Arkansas territory. Mr. Carr was a member of the Missouri Conference for a period of two years, possibly for three years, when he located. But in 1845 he was received into the Indian Mission Conference, and was considered as a pioneer preacher and kept up frontier work in Arkansas, Texas and Indian Territory.

When Bishop Marvin came to hold the conference at Bloomfield he found things in a deplorable condition, so far as the general state of the church was concerned; most of the preachers, during the war had become discouraged and had left the country, or had engaged in other business. The first work of Bishop Marvin was given to the Indian Mission Conference at the session held at Bloomfield Academy, September 12, 1866, at which time the records show the following named

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preachers, most of whom were present, receiving appointments: John Harrell, Superintendent Indian Missions; Choctaw District, J.C. Robinson, Presiding Elder; Doaksville, J. N. Hamill, S. P. Willis; Mountain Fork, Kiamichi and Mushulatubbee and San Bois, to be supplied; Chickasaw District, J. H. Carr, Presiding Elder; Chickasaw Circuit, J. T. Talbott; Jacks Fork, to be supplied; Perryville, John Page; Fort Arbuckle, to be supplied; Chickasaw Academy, J. C. Robinson, superintendent; Bloomfield Academy, J. H. Carr, superintendent; Cherokee District, Young Ewing, Presiding Elder; Tahlequah and Fort Gibson, to be suplied; Grand River, D. B. Gumming, and E. Butler; Sallisaw, Isaac Sanders; Flint, Standing Man; Canadian, W. Cary; Creek District, Thos. Bertholfe, Presiding Elder; Creek Agency, James McHenry; North Fork and Little River, to be supplied; Asbury Manual Labor School, Thos. Bertholfe, Superintendent; James G. Walker, transferred to the West Texas Conference.

In these reconstruction days it required much skill and patience to carry on the work of the Mission, and to this purpose Bishop Marvin gave unstintingly of himself and his money. The records show that the preachers were about ready to give up the struggle and abandon the field, but the Bishop stepped into the breach and guaranteed funds sufficient to carry the work on for the year, which meant the outlay of five thousand dollars. It will never be known just what portion of this the Bishop paid, but it is a matter of record that at different times he paid out of his own pocket as much as fifty dollars. It is also a matter of record that the five thousand dollars was paid and the preachers remained on the work. Bishop Marvin held three sessions of the Indian Mission Conference; the one at Bloomfield being the first, the second one was held the following year at Fort Gibson, October 3, 1867, with Rev. John Harrell, secretary. The appointments at this time were as follows: Superintendent of Missions, John Harrell; Cherokee District, Y. Ewing, Presiding Elder; Grand River Circuit, D. B. Cumming and E. Butler; Fort Gibson and Tahlequah, J. C. Robinson; Sallisaw, Isaac Sanders; Webber Falls, Standing Man; Creek District, T. B. Ruble, Presiding Elder; North Fork, to be supplied; Creek Agency, J. McHenry; Little River, to be supplied; Choctaw District, to be supplied; Mushulatubbee, San Bois and Perryville, to be supplied; Chicka-

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saw District, to be supplied; Chickasaw State, J. F. Talbott; Kiamichi, J. H.Carr; Doaksville and Mountain Fork, S. P. Willis. John Page left without an appointment. Peter Stidham and Thos. Colbert, local preachers, were ordained deacons. Willis F. Folsom and Ashley Burnes were elected to elder’s orders, but not being present they were not ordained. Thomas Bertholfe had died during the year, and the committee on memoirs read his obituary and asked Bishop Marvin to preach his funeral, which he did.

Chickasaw station, as appearing in the appointments of this year is the first charge in the Indian Mission Conference to be designated as Station, and was then the Chickasaw Academy, and is now Tishomingo. The second work to be honored as a station was Fort Gibson, the year 1870, when the writer’s father, James Y. Bryce, was pastor, Bishop John C. Keener was the president, and J. C. Robinson, the secretary. Ten years later, Bishop Marvin visited again the Indian Mission Conference, and on September 21, 1877, at Stringtown, having arrived a day late, took the chair and presided, with Rev. E. R. Shapard as secretary.

This was the last conference held by Bishop Marvin. During his sermon at 11 o’clock conference Sunday, he referred to the fact that his brother had died just a few days before, and that was his first Sunday in heaven.

In those early days the conference was small and the facilities for entertainment were very meager. The burden of entertainment usually fell on a few, such as, at this time, men like E. H. Culbertson, who was the pioneer Methodist in that locality. Mr. Culbertson, with his family came to the Indian country in the sixties, and settled a few miles south of where Stringtown is now located. Here he established a blacksmith shop where he did an extensive business, located, as he was, on the military road leading from Missouri and Arkansas on the north to Texas on the south, over which a continual train of emigrants were always to be seen. While establishing a business, Mr. Culbertson did not neglect to establish an altar of prayer. Rev. James Y. Bryce organized the Methodist church, after the M. K. & T. was built through the country, and from South Canadian to Red River, Brother Culbertson was the only man who would lead in public prayer. Stringtown was one of the important towns of the Territory.

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It was situated in a cove surrounded by small hills, very much like potato hills, that is, like sweet potato hills, the way Indians, several years ago, used to fashion them. At the base of these hills was a large spring of pure water, that supplied the citizens of the village. The building in which the conference was held, was located about fifty yards below the spring. At that time, as is the case now, Stringtown was noted for its lumber industry, which was second to no other industry in the Territory. Great pine forests abounded in what was then called the Pine Mountains, situated to the south, east and northeast, with as many as fifteen or twenty saw mills going at full blast; planer mills with shingle mills were located in the town, where a great many men were employed. Such men as James Garner, Henry Jackman, and Alex Thompson, all brothers-in-law, carried on extensive mercantile businesses. These men with their families, and that of E. H. Culbertson, with others, whose names we do not now recall, had the responsibility of caring for the conference. Such families as these, and others, scattered over the Territory, made a civilization and gave a religious impetus to this country that has lasted through all these years.

At the time Mr. Culbertson settled at what is now Stringtown, there was only one house in that locality, a small log cabin, owned by an Indian woman. This Mr. Culbertson purchased and moved his family into, which was the first white settlement made in the village. The date of this settlement was June 22, 1868. The same year a few months later, a man by the name of Joe Riley, with the prefix colonel, put in a saw mill three miles east, which was the beginning of extensive lumber interests in that locality. From this mill, Mr. Culbertson purchased the material out of which he built a home about three hundred yards from the spring above referred to; this home was made the stage stand, and continued as such for a number of years. At this place Mr. Culbertson also built a blacksmith shop where he did an extensive business with the stage company and the emigrants who traveled in great throngs over the military road leading from the north to the south, being the first one surveyed by the United States through the Indian Territory.

In the year 1869, Mr. Culbertson, with the help of Mr.

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Alex McKinney, who lived two or three miles west on the North Boggy Creek, assisted by a few other friends, built the first little church building in that section of the country. This building is still standing and is the one appearing in the picture, with some additions necessary to make it commodious for school and church purposes as the community advanced in population.

W. T. Culbertson, of Kiowa, son of E. H., gives us the origin of the name Stringtown. He says that a wit, passing through on the stage, coming from the north, passed by a house located just in the edge of the prairie, known as the Lewis Priddy place, just about a quarter of a mile from the first store building put up in the town by a man known as Capt. Watkins, and on by the stage stand and blacksmith shop, owned by E. H. Culbertson, strung out along the foot of the hills, suggested, very naturally, the name Stringtown. As such it has been known all these years.

W. T. Culbertson, son of E. H., mentioned above, says that the Culbertson home had been enlarged for the annual Conference occasion, so that the hundred or more who were expected to attend the Conference, and most of them did attend, could be provided for; he also says that one room was reserved for the Bishop and his cabinet, but that the Bishop was entertained at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Jackman, their home being nearest the church, and the Bishop not being very well, was placed there for his convenience.

In order to accommodate the large crowd during the preaching hour, they built a large brush arbor near the church under which the services were held. Some of the best preachers this Conference ever had were in attendance on this occasion, men who served a day and generation when it was anything but pleasure to be a pastor under conditions that existed at that time in the Indian country. Quite a number of noted laymen were present at this time. These laymen were the salt of the earth, and they have left a goodly heritage to the present generation, which has been as a sweet smelling sacrifice during all these intervening years.

Some of the laymen present and taking part in the conference proceedings were as follows: G. B. Hester, of Boggy Depot; R. S. McCarty, of near Ft. Smith; G. W. Stidham, of Eufaula; William and Josiah Impson, of McGee Valley; E. H.

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Culbertson, and W. T. Culbertson, father and son, both of Stringtown. The preachers receiving appointments at this time were as follows: Cherokee District, Young Ewing, P. E.; Tahlequah, J. F. Thompson; Fort Gibson, T. K. B. McSpadden; Sallisaw, to be supplied; Flint, to be supplied by Chas. Duncan; Vinita, W. S. Derrick; Claremore, J. W. Cowart; Spring Creek, supplied by R. Cameron, and one named Soune; Canadian, John Sevier; Cherokee Orphan Asylum, W. A. Duncan.

Choctaw District, E. R. Shapard, P. E.; Skullyville, supplied by S. G. Harrell; Sans Bois, supplied by J. P. Mullen; Mushulatubbee, to be supplied; New Hope Seminary, E. R. Shapard, Superintendent.

Chickasaw District, J. H. Walker, P. E.; Chickasaw, N. E. Parsons, Gibson Grayson and J. D. Collins; Pauls Valley, to be supplied; Washita, to be supplied; Atoka, James Y. Bryce; Jack Fork, supplied by Moses Perry and one named Balinchi; Boggy, to be supplied by James Jerry; Kiamichi, supplied by A. B. Collit and Daniel Miller; Doaksville, W. M. Keith, S. P. Willis, supernumerary; Doaksville Colored charge, supplied by John Gant; Boggy Depot Colored charge, supplied by Isaac Kemp.

Creek District, Samuel Chicote, P. E.; Okmulgee, Moses Mitchell; Eufaula, Walter Collins; Hitchitee, supplied by Moses Sayers; Broken Arrow, supplied by Jess Brown; Concharte, to be supplied; Muskogee, (Indian Work), James McHenry; Asbury Manual Labor School, to be supplied; D. B. Cumming was superanuated and Reverend John Harrell had died. In 1831, Rev. John Harrell was transferred from the Tennessee Conference to the Missouri Conference for work among the Indians, in which capacity he labored for forty-five years. Brother Harrell received his last appointment at Vinita, 1876, Bishop McTyerie presiding, his assignment being that of superintendent of Asbury Manual Labor School, located about one mile east of Eufaula, at which place he, with his wife, are buried.

E. H. Culbertson was born December 28, 1833, and died January 28, 1902. His wife, Mrs. Helen H. Culbertson, was born October 20, 1843, died March 4, 1921. They are buried in the city cemetery, at Kiowa. No better people ever lived in this country, and no layman ever did more pioneer,

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heroic labor for the good of humanity than this father and mother in Israel. Their home was always open to receive the ambassadors of the Lord, and they were always ready with whatever they had to respond to the demands of the day in which they lived.

J. Y. B.

COPY OF MRS. HESTER’S LETTER.

Muskogee, Okla., June 16, 1926.

Dear Mrs. Moore
Treasurer, Historical Society.

I do not know for certain but I am of the opinion that Mr. Thoburn wrote me that I was made an honorary member of the Historical Society; I do not remember the date.

I made a donation of 12 pictures of the first men of the first U. S. Court established in Indian Territory before we came to be a state. They got the pictures as I gave them by Mrs. Conlan’s request and saw them exposed several years ago.

I was 87 years of age last January, 1926, and have been a resident of Indian Territory and Oklahoma 68 years; among the Chicksaws at Tishomingo first, then 40 years among the Choctaws at Boggy Depot, then among the blanket Indians, as we had a school at Anadarko. I am now with the Muskogees and Cherokees. My health is very poor and I am not as active at 87 as I was at 27 and all along the interim.

I am enclosing $5.00 as a contribution to the Society.

With love and many prayers, I am, lovingly,
MRS. G. B. HESTER,
301 So. 7th.

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