Carolyn Thomas Foreman
The Choctaw Academy, which was a powerful factor in the development of the Choctaw tribe of Indians was located first at Blue Springs, Scott County, Kentucky, and later moved to White Sulphur Springs. The school was established by Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson, the hero of the Battle of the Thames,1 at his farm five miles west of Georgetown, Kentucky. “The Choctaw Academy was, at the 1st. on the north side of N. Elkhorn . . . just above the mouth—of the Blue Spring branch . . . not more than 50 yards . . . on the N. E. side of the Branch. It was a stone building, upwards of 100 feet long—and 24 or 25 feet wide probably . . . The Blue Spring is not more than 60 poles from the Creek (N. Elkhorn.)”2
Colonel Johnson was a member of Congress at the time he founded the school in 1825 and still continued it after he became Vice-President of the United States in 1837; the files of the Office of Indian Affairs contain a voluminous correspondence regarding the affairs of the school. In the History of Scott County, Kentucky, there is an account of “Johnson’s Indian School” which recounts that “Lafayette in his tour of the country in that year, (1825) visited it at Blue Springs, and a great feast was prepared for him by the neighborhood, the ladies making a cheese for the occasion weighing 500 pounds.3 In 1831 the school was removed from Blue Springs to White Sulphur Springs, which was also on a farm owned by Col. Johnson . . . There were generally from two to three hundred Indian boys in attendance, and it brought a considerable revenue to Col. Johnson’s exchequer. Some of the boys afterward filled prominent positions in the country—several became preachers of the Gospel.”
1“Colonel Johnson, a conspicuous figure in the battle, rode at the great Shawnee chief and shot him down with his pistol. ‘Rumpsey, Dumpsey, Hickory Crumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh’ ran the doggerel of the day.” Hawthorn, Julian. United States (New York, 1899) Vol. 11, p. 723.
2The State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Draper Collection. Kentucky Mss. 17CC-15-16. The Rev. John Shane Interview.
3When Lafayette visited the Choctaw Academy he was addressed by Richard M. Johnson the twelve year old son of Col. James Johnson [brother of Richard Mentor Johnson] and there were two hundred boys present with plumes. Missouri Intelligencer (Franklin), July 2, 1825, p. 1, col. 3.
The Secretary of War authorized the Choctaw Indians to spend a certain sum annually for the education of some of their children at the school and Johnson wrote to advise the Department, 27 September, 1825,4 that “. . . I have a house with 3 rooms 20x30 feet which I shall appropriate exclusively to their accommodation. I have another house with four Rooms 20 feet square which will do for the Teacher to live in & one room for the school—the whole establishment will be within my own fences so that no time shall be lost; the Indians will be here by the 15th of Oct. I am now preparing to receive them—my workmen are fixing Tables, Benches, Chairs &&. I have engaged a Teacher of uncommon merit—a scientific character, and in the habit of Teaching from the ABC he is a man of moral character; a Preacher of the gospel, of industrious habits and dignified manners. I shall have all things ready to receive them by the 12th of next month or sooner—We shall have as many white children to be taught with them to learn them to speak the English Language as well as to learn them to read &&&.
“During my stay at home each year I shall devote much of my time towards establishing to them habits that will govern them through life . . . I intend to have them well fed, well clothed & well educated. . . . I would rather a grofs sum would be allowed for each schollar per annum to Include every expense so as to have no contingencies . . . I shall see that a faithful part is done the Indians . . . It will not do to extend any more patronage to the Schools in that nation—they have appropriated other funds to those mifsionary schools & they do not see the benefit that I know will result to this place. We shall have trustees appointed to report the progress from time to time . . .”
William Ward, the Agent for the Choctaw Nation wrote Thomas L. McKenney, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, October 22, 1825, saying “The Boys (say 21) started on the 15th. Inst under charge of Capt. P. Pitchlynn,5 with directions to
The Reverend Thomas Henderson reported to the Department that “The school commenced on the 1st of Nov. 1825,7
5Pitchlynn was interested in Indian education as evidenced by an article he wrote for the National Intelligencer which was later copied in the Missouri Advocate and St. Louis Enquirer, December 24, 1825, p. 1, col. 3.
take them to Colo. Richd. M. Johnson’s Scott County, Kentucky. I have advised you . . . that Johnson had agreed to be their Superintendent.”6
under the superintendence and tuition of Thomas Henderson . . . The school room is large and commodious, well furnished with maps, globes, books, etc. The lodging room is a large well furnished three story stone house furnished with good beds and every other accommodation for ease and comfort. The boys are called together every morning a little after sunrise, and school is opened by singing and prayer. A part of each Saturday is devoted in teaching the Indian boys vocal music, and on Sundays they are required to attend on public worship.” He adds the following list of the Choctaw boys together with their ages—Alfred Wade, 17; Jacob Folsom, 16; Lyman Collens, 16; John Riddle, 16; Peter King, 15; Silas Pitchlynn, 15; John Adams, 15; James M. King, 14; William Riddle, 14; John Everson, 14; Charles Jones, 13; Lewis McCan, 13; Daniel Folsom, 13; Hiram King, 13; Robert Nail, 13; Charles King, 13; Picken Wade, 12; William McCan, 12; Allen Kearney, 10; Alexander Pope, 10; Morris Nail, 8.”
The Louisville Public Advertiser of November 9, 1825 notes from Georgetown that twenty-one Indian children, from the Choctaw Nation have just arrived at the residence of Colonel Johnson, for the purpose of receiving an education. They state that William Ward is a native of that county and that twenty of the horses the boys rode are to be sold at public auction.
Ward, the Agent notified Thomas L. McKenney, April 25, 18268 that the twenty boys had delayed their departure for the Kentucky school “on account of much sicknefs in that part of country particularly a disease that has not been in the nation for about 40 years, the small-pox, which is at this time making great ravages in different parts of the country . . . the four Boys & the one selected by the Revd. W. C. Kingsbury, has gone on to Ky. agreeable to your Instructions. . .”
The following letter from David Folsom to McKenny indicates that all was not harmony within the Nation: “Chahta Nation Gibeon, June 27th, 1826. Friend & Brother, Your friendly talk on paper dated 9th May was handed me a few
days since by Col. Ward, . . . Br. I will inform you I had nothing to do in sending the boys to Kentucky nor was it much known in the Nation until they were sent. . . Therefore it will not be in my power to follow your advice in all things, for I must consult my people about all publick businefs. But as soon as you will inform me where we are to procure funds for the support of 42 more scholars I shall then know better what to say to my people. You will recollect that the 6000$ is already applied to the instruction of the children from this District, and the proceeds of the 54 sections of land I wish to have applied in teaching Chahta youth Mechanical arts as I stated in my last letter. . . I know it was very rong to send the youths all from one District and without the knowledge of the people, and it was wrong for such an un-enlightened chief as M————to have the power to manage as he did. . .”9
John Bond accompanied a party of twenty-six Choctaw boys to the Academy in the autumn of 1826 and he wrote10 James Barbour, Secretary of War, from Kentucky that they arrived at the school September 29. He says that the Agent had drawn on the department for one thousand dollars to pay for the outfits and expenses of the boys and that he got the money for the draft from the branch Bank of the United States at Lexington. He inclosed a brief account of how three of the boys, after their arrival at the Academy, overcome no doubt by home sickness, “took horses & started home without leave or my knowledge & without the leave of any person.” It was thought proper to bring them back and Colonel Johnson gave twenty dollars to Mr. Henderson and George Harkins, one of the Choctaw pupils and furnished them with two horses to go after the boys. The runaways were returned to school by a Mr. Macoun who received five dollars for his trouble.
The Secretary of War, James Barbour wrote a letter11 to the Superintendent of the Indian School at Great Crossing12 in which he advised that “. . . Every department of the establishment should be regulated with great care even to the
diet and clothing,” and he submits a “Bill of Fare for Breakfast and Supper and Dinner” and a list of suitable clothing. The prescribed food is simple in the extreme and would doubtless cause a present day dietitian to raise her eyebrows. The list orders “Tea or Coffee, or Milk & Sugar, with Bread & Butter for breakfast and supper,” while dinner consists of “Meat and vegetables, Salt Meat at least twice a week, and hominy in season.” The clothing suggested consists of a “Frock or Rifle Coat of domestic cloth at $12.00” together with a coat of “coloured domestic cotton at $4.00.” He ordered two pairs of woolen pantaloons at $8.00; two of cotton at $5.00; four cotton shirts at one dollar each; four pairs of shoes or moccasins at one dollar a pair; four handkerchiefs (neck) for $1.50; one black leather stock for fifty cents; two pairs woolen stockings fifty cents; one hat—for dress $2.50; and a cap for common wear .50. This outfit cost $42.50 and it seems to leave some question as to its sufficiency according to modern requirements.
On November 22, 1826, Johnson wrote13 to Washington that “Opotheleholo and Mr. Van with 13 Creek Boys had detained me 8 or 10 days longer than I wished . . . The Creek Chief is delighted; he has brought his son about 8 years old—he will send on 13 more in the spring.” Colonel Johnson secured by direction of the Secretary of War three of the small size Adams medals to be used in the school at Blue Springs—probably as rewards for good conduct or for proficiency.
In a letter marked private, Colonel Johnson wrote to Secretary Barbour at his home in Barboursville, Virginia, on August 20, 1826.14
Col. Ward informs me that the chiefs of the Choctaw Nation had determined to avail themselves of the Priviledge given them by Col. McKinney’s official letter by sending from the two districts which have not sent heretofore, 18 schollars from each making 36 which added to the 27 already here will make 62 (sic) Choctaws in all. I have prepared at an ex-
pence of more than 1000$ since I came home to receive & accomodate the 20 Creeks & the 36 additional Choctaws.
“This shall be equal to any school in the U. States & I pledge myself that ample justice shall be done to every Boy.... It is in your power to do more to enlighten the Indians by encouraging this school than any man in the world—loose not the opportunity . . . Mr. Ward informs me that some feeble opposition was made to sending the 36 Boys because of the expence. If any letter is written to you on that subject from any malcontent please place the matter on its proper footing. We are not allowed a liberal price by any means. We ought to have more.”
The Reverend Thomas Henderson sent to Washington the first quarterly report15 of the “Choctaw Academy and Mifsionary station” (November 1, 1825—Jan. 31, 1826) including a description of its situation, the number and size of the buildings, the number, condition and progress of the Choctaw students. He writes that there are five buildings—the first he describes as “ . . . The Academy, a two story stone house, 44 feet long, and 24 wide, divided into 4 equal rooms, two above, and two below stairs, . . .” he mentions the good fireplaces and the four windows of twenty lights in each room and adds that the rooms would accommodate from 100 to 120 students.
There is one frame house, situated near the academy, with a good garden and outhouses, suitable for a family. There is a “large three story stone house thirty feet long and 20 wide, with two fireplaces, and a good Franklin stove, well calculated for the dining and two lodging rooms.”
He describes two other stone houses, two stories in height which were used for lodging pupils and states that: “ . . . All of the aforesaid houses are well plastered and finished off in good style and most admirably constructed for comfort and convenience . . .”
There are twenty-six Choctaws and ten young men from the vicinity of the Academy attending the school and Mr. Henderson states that: “All the Choctaw boys except one are in good health and fine spirits, well cloathed and in every respect comfortably provided for.... Those of them who are capable of dictating and writing letters have written to the
chief and to their friends exprefsing great obligation for sending them to this school. Some of the boys have recd. answers, all of which are exprefsive of the most entire satisfaction & confidence. I have recd. two communications myself from the nation and from the chief and one from Peter P. Pitchlynn, from both of which it seems that the nation has the utmost confidence and are highly pleased.
“The boys are lively and cheerful, peaceable and well disposed, easily governed and ambitious to excell. I have not had occasion to chastise any of them yet, nor indeed, but seldom to call any to account for misconduct. My method is when occasion requires it, in the most determined and solemn manner talk to the offender in the presence of the whole school calling them my sons, and in the most tender and affectionate manner point out the evil consequences resulting from bad conduct and a disregard to order; and the benefits resulting from good behavior . . . In some of the lectures I have seen the tears flow freely . . . The improvements they have made have far exceeded my most sanguine expectation . . . The youths of the neighborhood are the sons of the most respectable and wealth [y] families, of good morals, and they associate in the most friendly manner with the Indian boys; and the sciences the white boys are studying have fired the Indian boys with an uncommon zeal to attain to similar knowledge; one clafs is studying surveying, and one geography, on the globes, maps, &c. Since the white boys have commenced using the compafs and plotting; and using the globes and drawing maps, some of the Indian boys will scarcely leave their studies during the hours of recefs . . . Early in the morning I have the drum beaten which is a signal for all to repair to the schoolroom, the roll is then called . . . school is then opened by singing and prayer . . . At nine o’clock they are dismisfsed for breakfast and have half an hour; at 12 o’clock they are dismifsed two hours for amusement, in the afternoon they have half an hour given at dinner, closing the days businefs just before sundown; giving each a portion to memorize, to recite next morning.
“At dark I walk to their lodging room and spend from one to two hours to see that no disorder takes place among them . . . The one we call John Adams was not in good health
when he arrived . . . but has now entirely recovered and will, in a few days be able to attend to his studies again.
“The apparatus belonging to this Institution are as follows, viz: One pair elegent Artificial Globes. Five large maps, to-wit: one of the globe, and one for each quarter of the world, together with a variety of Atlafses, Two Surveying Compafses, with chains and plotting instruments as well as the necefsary apparatus for maps. One Overy, Octant, Quadrant and Telescope.
Superintendent and Lector of the Choctaw Academy & Missionary Station, Scott County, Kentucky. 1 May, 1826.”
This graphic account of the school gives a vivid picture of the life of these young boys, far from home and parents and it is easy to see that the present high state of literacy in the Choctaw Nation owes much to the training received by many of its young men at the Choctaw Academy.
In August the superintendent reported16 that Thomas Wall, Choctaw, who is to be provided for out of the funds arising from the 52 sections of land, had been admitted to the school May 1, making the total number of Choctaw boys twenty-seven.
The trustees of the Academy in 1926 are J. T. Johnson, B. S. Chambers and William Suggett and they report17 “The Indian youths are rapidly advancing in the attainment of a good & even refined education.” In an appended report, November 22, 1826, they state “There are, at this time, fifty-three Choctaws—thirteen Creeks, and one Potawattami—making in all 67—independent of 20 white boys. The boys are all in fine health and universal cheerfulnefs prevailed.”18
Henderson writes James Barbour, Secretary of War, Oct. 1, 1826,19 that twenty-six Choctaw boys had arrived 29 September. He states that the Southeast district has sent only five, but that they are determined to send ten to fourteen to make a number equal to the other districts. He gives a list of the students with their ages and many names long famous in the councils of the nation are included.
Greenwood LeFlore, who signs himself “Chief of North-
west” writes Secretary Barbour, from the Choctaw Nation, January 9, 1928:20 “It has been intimated to me that some persons and purhaps Members of Congrefs were disfatisfyed with the location of Choctaw academy at Blue Springs in Kentucky and also with the terms upon which the School is Established. The Nation made the selection of the place you fixed the terms and we approved them and confider them reasonable and just and a benefit to the Nation and as the School is Established at our request and upon our money we hope that the Experiment now making will not be interfered with from any quarter as it would certainly greatly Injour the future profpects of Educating our Children in a manner to be of Service to this Nation.
“I have visited the school & I know the manner in which it is conducted and the manner in which our Children are treated. I am perfectly Satisfyed with the Establishment in its present form And although it is probable that we could get our children Taught Something cheaper yet we do not wifh to put out their Education to the Lowest Bidder and if we were to do it we do not know that we Should profit by it. With sentiments of much Respect I Remain Your Cincere friend, Greenwood LeFlore.”
The following letter indicates that an effort was being made to interest the Chickasaw in the school:21 “Chickasaw Nation Mississippi, January 23rd, 1828. Col. Thomas L. McKenney, Friend .... I am also well pleased with the arrangement you have made for the benefit of my son Dougherty. I shall send him on the time appointed . . . the friendship of two such gentlemen will no doubt operate on my son as an inducement to pursue his studies with more energy . . . With great regard, Your sincere friend, Levi Colbert.” To which McKenney replied, March 17, 1828,22 “Friend and Brother, I write merely to request that Daugherty [Colbert] may leave home in time to reach the Choctaw Academy by the first of June—not sooner. When he goes there I hope he will by his good and orderly conduct be a guide to the younger boys, a credit to the school, and to himself, and to me—and that his learning there may enable him to get his living as a Surveyor, and so far at least begin as began Gen-
eral Washington . . .” showing that the school was not to be limited to Choctaw youth there were Creek boys attending and now the son of a Chickasaw chief was to be included.
July 25, 1828 Colonel Johnson23 writes McKinney of his pleasure that the treaty with the Cherokee had been ratified by the Senate and requests information as to what has been done about sending some Arkansas Cherokee boys to his school; he asks the Superintendent to write the agent on the subject. He adds: “Mr. Henderson has 4 of the Boys as principal monitors on the Lancastrian24 plan and the plan is in complete and succefsul operation and promises great results—the school is in a better condition than ever . . . Two of the young men have obtained leave of the Chiefs of the Choctaws to go with me to the City [Washington] next winter and to remain during the Sefsion and appropriated 500$ for that object—These two young men George Harkins and Pierre Juzan are an ornament to any nation—at least 20 of the Boys have become religious and have joined the Baptist and Methodist Societies. It has produced all the effects of true religion upon their conduct.”
The compiler of this account of the Choctaw Academy found in the Reading Room of the British Museum, in London a letter in the Cherokee Phoenix of August 6, 1828 copied from the Columbian Star which says that the school is “under the government of the United States and the Baptist Missionary Society . . . consists of one hundred students . . . One of them Richard M. Johnson (9 years old) son of Opo-tho-lo-hola.”
The correspondence in the autumn of 1828 shows much excitement and displeasure over rumors of a report made by
24This system of education was originated by Joseph Lancaster, an Englishman. He commenced a school in his father’s house in London, January 1798 when he was only eighteen years old. The system was very successful and he established schools at Dover, Folkstone, Brighton, Plymouth, and other towns in the south of England. He came to America where he traveled extensively and lectured to many thousands of persons. He decided to settle in Baltimore where he founded in 1820 the Lancasterian Institute at 55 Market Street; he received pupils of either sex and hoped to have a perfect model of the system of education and a seminary for training teachers. England supports schools under this method in Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Bristol . . . London and they boast of their Lancasterian schools. The Lancasterian System of Education. Joseph Lancaster. (Baltimore, 1821).
Peter P. Pitchlynn25 against the Choctaw Academy. Colonel Johnson wrote McKenney as follows:26 “You will be surprised when you read the written outline of a letter to Col. Folsom as to the scandalous and false conduct of P. P. Pitchlynn. We shall have the trustees to report upon his lies and also Mr. Henderson and they shall be forwarded to you. I send this to put you on your guard and to enable you to act correctly. There is some mistery and underhanded businefs in this affair which I hope the Sec. of War will put down.”
The copy of his letter to Colonel Folsom follows and it is an able defense of the conduct of his establishment. “Blue Spring, 12th Sept. 1828. Col. David Folsom, Dear Sir: I this evening, received under a blank cover from Col. Ward a paper purporting to be a report of Capt. P. P. Pitchlynn to you, in regard to the Choctaw Academy. Altho I have received intimations that Peter was difsatisfyed, I was more astonished than I can exprefs at the grofs misreprefentations which his report contains.
“This astonishment arose from the very exaulted opinion I had formed of Peters character for integrity & veracity & particularly when I recollected the ties which bound us together not only as friends but as Masons. The first charge or statement which he makes relative to the Boarding is this—that the victuals consist of fat Bacon, coarse corn bread & Rye Coffee—badly prepared—their diet consists of such
25Peter Perkins Pitchlynn was born January 30, 1806. His father John Pitchlynn was a white man and his mother a Choctaw. He attended school in Columbia, Tennessee, and was graduated from the University at Nashville. January 23, 1826 Pitchlynn wrote the Secretary of War “. . . I have been at an English school in Tennefsee sometime at the expense of my father and have made some progress in useful knowledge which is of great satisfaction to myself and I hope will be to the Choctaw Nation. I wish to go to the Kentucky University about two years & then study the Law under Colo. Johnson—This will be attended with expencies which I am not in a situation to meet. But the Nation will not object to a part of the Amt. of the 54 sections of land set apart by the Treaty of 1820 at Doakes Stand to be applied for this object, provided it will meet with the approbation of government . . .”
He was a member of the National Council and his first proposition in the Council was for the establishment of a school among white people in order that the Indians might become familiar with their customs and manners. After a brilliant career among his people he moved to Washington in 1865 where he lived until his death in 1881. He was buried in the Congressional Cemetery where also repose the remains of the noted Choctaw Chief, Pushmataha, who died in Washington in 1824.
as I eat at my own table with the exception of such things as preserves & small matters that a person may sometimes have for a small family which cannot be furnished for a large establishment—they have been uniformly supplied with the best of Bacon, Beef, Mutton, baked & boiled—soup, corn bread, & wheat bread, the best of coffee, pies, apple dumplings, molafses, milk, shoat Baked & Boiled, Beans, Cabbage, potatoes, Turnips, salads, peas, hommony, great & small, Butter when to be had,—besides other scarce articles rice &c . . . I will say without the fear to contradiction that uniformly the above articles have been furnished abundantly & properly—sufficient left generally to feed 25 slaves . . . As to Rye Coffee, When the School was first established I had the coffee mixed with Rye elegantly prepared such as I used at my own table & used by the first families in this & other states, particularly for the small Boys believing that it was as good for them as all coffee—When some complaint was made by the young men that the coffee was not strong enough I gave orders to make the coffee as strong as the young men wished it . . . I have been more than a Brother, more than a Father to please & to gratify the students, as every honorable student will testify if called on. The next statement is that 3 or 4 filthy negroes generally wait upon the table, who are very insolent &c &c. If a man was to put his invention to the test, there could not be a more grofs misrepresentation of fact . . .”—He writes that the Choctaw boys have always occupied the same rooms since the school was established and that George Harkins presides in the lower room while Pierre Juzan was monitor of the upper one.
Colonel Johnson was greatly agrieved because Pitchlynn had complained of soiled table cloths and that the food was unsavory and he goes on to say “. . . Col. Leflore saw the arrangements, Majr. Juzan saw it & Peter has at all times been intimate with it & these matters were approved by each individual in their turn. The Choctaws occupy 4 rooms. Each room has a fireplace & each room about 18 or 20 feet square. High Beds for the large Boys and Truckle beds for the small Boys so as to give considerable room . . . since I came home the young men requested me to make some arrangement for rooms of study. I without hesitation gave up two rooms of the house I entertained company in & they are now occupied,
& when I have only one friend to visit me the young men have to retire to enable me to give him a room to occupy . . . the next charge is that the Boys have wool hats & straw beds. Before the government fixed the terms of the school &c I consulted Peter on those two points, when he brought the Boys here. He recommended wool hats and straw beds. The govt. approved & adopted that regulation. So did Col. Leflore when here. It is very evident to you that it would take 300$ a student if the scale of accommodation departed from plain substantial economy. Peter knows this by experience at Lexington & the moment you send a student to another school you have to pay 300 or 400$ and not the same advantages in my humble opinion as the Boys derive at this school. As to their clothing, I have ever since the first year purchased the principal part of the clothing ready made at Philadelphia & the materials such as the War Dept. pointed out & made up by the Taylors who clothe the officers & soldiers of our army . . . In last Nov. I gave each student a good pair of shoes. In March I provided each another pair & they were at liberty at all times [to] have them mended . . . I have given nearly one half of the students every year 3 & 4 pair—I have never refused any, and instead of wool hats I have uniformly given the large students common fur hats . . . I provided each bed with 4 articles of covering . . . I have never received as profit equal to the hire of my slaves & the rent of my houses. I have not complained . . . As usual your friend.
Rh: M: Johnson.
N. B. I have often invited you to visit the school to see for yourself . . . If anything the Boys have been too much interrupted with the best of company, great meetings religious & political & social that we have every year often & over, they have every chance to go to meeting & many are in the habit of visiting the neighbours, Great Crofsing & Georgetown, on all great & public-occasions. Every year we have carried the students 2 weeks to a watering place for health, pleasure and company. Their manners are considerably polished & [they] know how to behave & keep company as well as our white Boys—these are stubborn facts & if they were to study more & take some lefs time for this intercourse with the whites it would be equally valuable in my humble opinion.”
On a separate sheet of paper Johnson sent the following: “I now enclose a copy of a letter of Thomas Henderson to Col. David Folsom in answer to the falsehoods of Peter Pitchlynn—the letter is certifyed to contain the truth by six of the young men, 30 would have signed the certificate . . . I shall call the trustees & get them to examine at least 30 of the large Boys on each point, more effectually to put down the lies of Peter Pitchlynn who has robed the Nation of 500$ under the false pretext of going to school & having taken away his only Brother wishes to have the handling of the money & to waste it. The conduct of Peter is too base to think of . . .”
Thomas Henderson’s letter found in the files of the Indian Office was written from the Choctaw Academy September 13, 1828. He took the affair much to heart and asks plaintively why Peter did not talk to him regarding the soiled linen instead of taking such a trival matter to the Secretary of War.
His letter follows: “I feel it my duty in support of truth and in justice to all parties to write you a short and hasty letter. This I say I do in justice to your Nation, to the Govt., to the trustees of this Institution, to Col. Richard M. Johnson, and to the most sacred principles of truth which ought to govern every man . . . The attitude I now take is the most delicate one I have ever taken. The exalted opinion I had entertained of the correctnefs and entegrety of Peter P. Pitchlynn, the affection and tendernefs I have had for his brother Silas, and the good feelings made on my mind from the character I have always had of his aged Father, places me in a situation more easily felt than described.
“I was presented on yesterday with a report . . . from Col. Ward which is said to be a copy of a report made out by Mr. Pitchlynn and read in public council. Col. Ward enclosed this without comment or otherwise it might assume a different aspect.
“To say that there has never been any complaint or any cause of complaint to a certain extent, perhaps would be transcending the bounds of truth, for I would ask where is the establishment consisting of 100 youths to be provided for, that there would not be, on some occasions a deficiency in some respect or other . . . Col. Johnson . . . when any com-
plaint has been made as to a deficiency . . . has taken uncommon pains to remedy the evil immediately . . . When in good health, they all sleep on straw beds, such as are used at all large institutions (which was Mr. Pitchlynn’s own plan), but when any are sick, they have as good fine feather beds to sleep on as this country affords . . .
“Our school has been visited by all clafses and ranks of people, both clergy and laiety, men of the highest rank in life, as well as the ordinary clafs; and on all occasions men of science and literature, as well as the clergy have lectured the boys in the most suitable and appropriate way, to prompt them to study, to piety and in a word, to pursue that course calculated to make them a distinguished people.
“No opportunity has ever been neglected neither by myself nor Col. Johnson, to invite preachers of the presbyterian, baptist and methodist, to preach at the Academy . . . Between twenty-five and thirty of the students have made an open profession of religion and ornamented this profession by a very orderly walk since27 . . . they have been permitted to visit on invetations fully as much as they ought. They have been permitted to see all grand & large assemblies when it was thought beneficial to them; and on all occasions of that sort the kindest and most affectionate attention has been paid them.
“Now as regards the eating department. I believe it to be equal, or superior, to what it was when Mr. James McDonald visited the school, or when Col. Leflore and Majr. Juzan were here . . . store shoes were furnished but they were not of the best sort, when they wore out Col. Johnson had the measure of the boys taken and the shoes made by the best of workmen, and out of the best kind of leather . . . as regards their cloathing I say upon honor that they are not surpafsed by the children of the best farmers in the country . . . With sentiments of respect and regard I remain your devoted friend, Tho. Henderson.
P. S. . . . I have heard of the Col. whipping some [negroes] very severely for insolence to the students but these are not those who wait on the table . . . T. H.”
27On December 7, 1828, one of the Indians, Sampson Birch, was ordained to the ministry and “Robert Jones, was encouraged to exercise his gift preparatory to license.” History of Scott County, Kentucky. vol. 1, pp. 160-161.
“We the below named subscribers certify that we have heard this letter of Mr. Henderson read and that it is substantially correct and true.
Pierre Juzan, Geo. W. Harkins, Selas D. Fisher, Saml. Worcester, Saml. Garland, Robt. Jones.”
While the charges made by Pitchlynn no doubt annoyed Johnson and his superintendent, posterity has him to thank for these interesting accounts of the Choctaw Academy which otherwise would not have been written.
According to the following letter28 the Academy was to receive some ambitious pupils from other tribes and Thomas Crowell writes to notify Colonel Johnson: “Creek Agency 23rd Sept. 1828. Colo. Johnston, Sir. Paddy Carr the bearer of this starts today with seven Indian Boys for the Choctaw Academy 6 Creeks and 1 Uchee. Five I believe were directed to be sent but in getting them ready there was two others that plead so hard the nation concluded to send them & they thought perhaps it would be best for some that were there to return—of this however you will be judge—they had understood that there was one or two that did not learn well—and thought it would be advisable to bring them home & put others in place of them. The Boys that are now sent I think are all smart Boys—Colo. Crowell is not at home . . . I am Respectfully your Obt. Servt. Thos. Crowell.”
The Arkansas Gazette of November 4, 1828 copies an item from the Cherokee Phoenix of October 8 saying that the seven Creek boys passed there on their way to school in Kentucky “nuder the leadership of Patrick Carey,”29 a young man of intelligence” and that the boys were handsome.
On December 13, 1828, Colonel Johnson wrote from the Senate Chamber to the Secretary of War: “Honble. P. B. Porter, Sir: I recommend the following measure relative to the Choctaw Academy.—viz. 1st. That no more students be sent to the C. A. untill the whole number of students from that nation be reduced to 25 . . . unlefs there has been an inequality of students to sd. Academy from the 3 Districts in which case . . . may send so many students . . . as to place all
29Samuel D. Wheat of Little Rock says “Patrick Carey, whose real name is Paddy Carr, the interpreter of the Creek Nation.” Arkansas Gazette. November 18, 1828, p. 3, col. 2.
the districts on an equality. 2 ly to send home 10 students on the 1st day of Nov. annually till the no . . . . are reduced to 25 students.”
When sending the reports of the trustees for the quarter ending January 31, 1829, Henderson writes:30 “I have now a gentleman [Mr. McCalla] employed to assist in school whose abilities as an English teacher are not surpassed by any in the State . . . We have 95 Indian students at school at this time viz. 55 Choctaws—30 Creeks—10 Putawatomies—Total 95.
The quarterly report ending May 1, 1829 states: “All in good health and spirits making the usual good progress in their various studies. About Forty of the students have advanced as far as the study of English Grammar and Geography and about half that number are now studying Surveying, Moral Philosophy and Astronomy. The young men sent home last year would do credit to any Nation. The school is supported out of the education fund of each nation agreeably to treaties and arrangements with those Tribes and the money left in the hands of the President & Secretary of War as Trustees and Guardians.
Johnson wrote the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, from Blue Spring, April 24, 1829, that “Anthony Shane,31 interpreter to several tribes has sent to this school his son . . . I presume this distinguished friend of the U. States receives a salary from the U. States as Interpreter, Rh. M: Johnson.”
On August 4 of that year he wrote John H. Eaton, Secretary of War: “. . . I have been elected to congrefs with ease against a combination of men & devils.”
The Choctaw Academy was very advanced in its policy of safeguarding the health of its students and it anticipated by a hundred years the modern summer schools and camps, as will be seen by the following letter from Johnson to Thomas L. McKenney—
“St. Ronands Well.32
In conformity to usage since the establishment of this school we have brought the students to this watering place where we shall remain two weeks, in accordance with the advice and opinion of the trustees & superintendent & the whole of the students. In order to meet the extra contingent expences of removing & rent of Houses &c. one dollar per schollar has been allowed by the Sec. of War, . . . It is well known that there is not such a school in the world for the education of the Indians & having established it themselves, they ought not to be encouraged to squander their resources by instituting another school elsewhere as the funds would be wasted before another experiment would be got into operation . . . Your friend,
Rh: M: Johnson.”
The quarterly report of the Academy, received August 8, 1829, by the Indian superintendent, contains the information from Mr. Henderson that “. . . We had an exhibition in the month of June, at which there were at least Two Thousand Spectators. The performance on the part of the students was very gratifying to the audiance . . .” In a postscript he adds: “We have one Indian youth the son of old (Anthony Chein (I) an Ottaw or Otaw Chief who servd. in the late war.” The boy was Charles Chein and Henderson later calls him a Shawnee.
In the middle of September of that year, in compliance with the rules of the school Colonel Johnson selected six Choctaw boys to return to their homes: “Forbis Leflore, David Wall, Daniel Folsom, Charles Jones, Peter King and James King. And in conformity with the exprefs wish of the Chiefs, we have provided them a suitable outfit . . . Tho. Henderson.”
There is an interesting receipt among the Choctaw School files which reads—“This 9th day of Oct. 1829 Received of Thomas Henderson by the hands of Richard M. Johnson one hundred & fifty dollars which is to cover expences to this school & back to the nation which we consider a small allow-
ance in the case of Col. Greenwood Leflore a chief of our nation . . .
Mushuletubee (I) His
There is a further item in connection with the visit of the Chief dated October 14, 1829, asking the Secretary of War to: “Please pay to Richard M. Johnson or order . . . $53.50 for the contingent expences of the chief Mushlatubbe and his Interpreter M. Mackey of the Choctaw Nation during their stay at this school on a visit to inspect its condition . . .” signed by Henderson; and Johnson incloses a list of clothing which includes “boots, socks, panteloons, saddle & saddle blanket, flannel shirt & bill for board for Mushlatubbe & Mackey.”
The “Superintendent & Tutor” Henderson sent a full and interesting report of the school to Secretary Eaton on November 1, 1829, in which he says “. . . at this time we have Ninety Students at this institution viz. Choctaws 55, Creeks 25, Putawatomies 10,—90 Total. In addition however we have one Shawney whose name is Charles Chein the son of old Anthony Chein the chief. For Charles Chein no arrangement has yet been made as to boarding clothing and tuition, but we rely on the promise of his father to pay for him.
“There is not one on the sick list. They are all well provided with clothes and food as well as comfortable accommodations for lodging and studying.
“The building have been so frequently described that we deem it unnefsary at this time.
“The Students are making the usual rapid progrefs in their various studies. The prospects are yet flattering in a high degree that much good is to result to the different tribes concerned in institution.
“The most rigid discipline is observed both as to morals and close application to study.
“The branches of learning now pursued in this school are reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, surveying, natural and moral philosophy and astronomy, in each branch a respectable clafs as to number making handsome and flattering progrefs. In addition we divide the school into
three general clasfses and require each to write out a composition each week to be read on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. This last course I find is attended with much benefit to the students. As six of the Choctaw youths were sent home this fall, six others have been sent to supply their places. I shall annex to this report the names of all the students belonging to this institution.”
This list furnishes a striking example of the deporable custom of giving Indian children the names of noted men thereby causing them to lose their family name and making it almost impossible to identify them after they returned home and resumed their patronymic.
The first mention of the school in 1830 is a request from Hon. R. M. Johnson for a calculation as to the amount due for the education of four Quapaw33 boys. On February 13, 1830, John Tipton, Agent for the Potawatamie writes Colonel McKenney stating that by provision of a treaty with the Potawatamie and an arrangement with the Indian Department nine boys of the tribe were to be educated in the Kentucky school. That two extra boys were sent to the Academy, one of whom is since dead34
From the House of Representatives, March 31, 1830, Johnson writes to the Indian Office that he has “intelligence that the Osage Boy or young man has safely arrived at the Choctaw Academy, in good health and is doing well.” He adds a request for the allowance of a Winnebago boy, as he needs the money.
General John Tipton writes again June 9, 1830 from his agency to McKenney that: “I have now here Eight Indian boys, 4 Miamies, and 4 Potawattimies, and will set out today to conduct 7 of them to the Choctaw Academy in Ky. to be educated agreeably to the . . . Treaty of 1826 with the former, and 1828 with the latter tribe. One Miami boy is too young to go to the academy now, and I have put him with a nurse for this year and expect to send him on next year . . . this being the first time that the Miamies would agree to send their children to school . . .”
On June 14, 1830, McKenney notified the Reverend Mr. Henderson that: “The 2000$ stipulated for in the treaty with the Poawatimies of 16th October 1826 and heretofore applied towards the education of their children, cannot be paid to your order as usual for 1830; Congrefs having adjourned without making necesfsary appropriation.”
In the quarterly report ending October 31, 1830, Henderson writes to the department “. . . Since my last report we have erected another School house about one and a half miles from the former.
“It is built in a small beautiful grove contiguous to one of the best springs [White Sulphur] in Kentucky. And in point of convenience and comfort is second to none I ever saw . . . The situation is retired. Every facility the mind could desire is here afforded for study and improvement. The principal object in moving the Academy to this place was to be more convenient to fuel. 17 Choctaw youths have been received this quarter which makes the number at present in the institution as follows viz: 58 Choctaws, 13 Creeks, 14 Putawatomies, 3 Miamies, and 1 Osage, making in all 89 . . . The numerous distinguished persons who occasionally visit the school bear testimony to the progress of the Boys.”
“They then moved the Acad. to the other (south) side of Elkhorn—about ½ m. north of the pike from G. T. [Georgetown] . . . to Fkft : [Frankfort] 2 ms. s. from N. Elkhorn . . . or 2 ms. by the road from the former location . . . The 2d academy was a log building—2 logs in length—as long as they could get the logs—with short logs to make them splice.”35
35The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Draper Collection, Kentucky Mss. 17CC6-25. The Rev. John Shane Interview.
The close of the year 183036 brought a serious complaint to the government officials in the following letter dated December 23. “Friends and brothers. The Honr. Andrew Jackson presid. of the US we are obliged to write to you that we as a comparison has been in a habbit of hireing men which if he performed we paid him well if not we turned him off without any pay we have employed and payed those Yankee Mifsionarys for twelve years for which we have Recd. no compensation we have never Recd. a Scholar out of their Schools that was able to keep a grog shop Book when we found that we could get nothing from them we Established an academy in kentucky under the direstion of the president and the Superintendence of R. M. Johnson from which we have Recd. a great number of first Rate Scholars, . . . Mushuletubee (his X mark) oklabbee (his X mark) Ispiahhomah (his X mark) Charles King, James M. King, Hiram King, Peter King, M. Mackey U. S. Intr.
William Ward, the Choctaw Agent notifies Samuel S. Hamilton of the Indian Bureau June 21, 1831 that “There has started to the Choctaw Academy Eleven Choctaw Boys the Greater part of them full [blood] Indians; This I thought was the best course, to let them go on as a disapoint. might be difsatisfaction to some of the Indians. The Boys names is as follows. Benjamin Wright, Lewis Folsom, George Washington, Jeremiah Byington, Turner Turnbull, Joseph Nail, Adam Franklin, John Coffee, Jefsee Jones, George S. Gains and George Poindexter. The report for August 1832 gives one hundred fourteen Indian students of all tribes attending the Academy; and for November says that thirteen boys have been sent home and one hundred remain—viz: 65 Choctaw, 3 Creeks, 16 Pottawatomies, 10 Miami, 8 Seminole, 4 Quapaw, 9 Prairie du Chien. It describes the Academy as situated on a high hill surrounded by a forest and that there are four school rooms and a dining room which is 100x20 feet.. In addition to Thomas Henderson the Superintendent, there are Dr. Sam Hatch physician, Mr. James D. Black and two of the Indian youths—Mr. I. N. Burrossa and Mr. W. Trayhorn—employed as teachers.
George Vashon, Cherokee Agent in July, 183237 wrote from the Western Cherokee Nation regarding sending some youths to be educated at the Choctaw Academy but the suggestion was opposed by the Cherokee people.
Captain Andrew Johnson of Great Crossings was appointed “as an Inspector of the Choctaw Academy February 17, 1833 . . . to supply the place of Mr. Chambers who has removed from the state.” Elbert Herring, Chief of the Indian Bureau, wrote to the Inspectors of the school February of that year “it is very gratifying to the Department to be informed . . . that the Institution is in a flourishing condition, and that the children are making so much proficiency in the different branches of their education.”
Again the progressive mind of Henderson is shown by the following letter sent to him by Elbert Herring from Washington May 1, 1833: “Your views coincide entirely with my own on the expediency of teaching the Indian pupils at your Academy those mechanical arts most useful to the respective Tribes in their present condition . . . the Secretary of War is decidedly in favor of your project and believes that it will greatly conduce to the well-being of the Indians and very much accelerate their progress in civilization . . . Five hundred Dollars will be remitted from the Treasury for the purpose of purchasing necessary materials
and tools and erecting three work shops for a wheel Wright, Blacksmith, and Shoe maker . . .” He asks to have Colonel Johnson informed that Mr. Tarrant, Agent for the Creeks in a letter to him, expresses the opinion that the Creek Chiefs will, in a short time, send their children to the Choctaw Academy.
During the cholera epidemic of 1833 the disease was terribly fatal among the pupils of the Academy. There were two physicians living near the school who usually attended patients there but at this time Colonel Johnson sent to Georgetown for Dr. Ewing who had been surgeon of his regiment during the War of 1812. Dr. Ewing being unable to go sent his partner Dr. Gano who reported that seventeen of the boys died that day.38
William Armstrong writes to Crawford May 17, 1840,39 that the Indians no longer wish to send their sons to the Choctaw Academy and that it is proposed to close the school in two years.
By the year 1841 Peter P. Pitchlynn had come to the fore and he writes Crawford40 on March 2: “Having been appointed by the General council of my Nation to visit the Choctaw Academy” where he is to investigate the condition of the students “as well as to take charge of it as superintendent,” makes his report in which he says that he spent fifty days there but that he was ill part of the time. He suggests and has made some improvements and outlines a plan for an advanced Choctaw school.
On March 15, Pitchlynn in acknowledging receipt of his appointment as superintendent of the Academy, accepts with the understanding that the school is to be removed to the Choctaw Nation. On March 29, 1841, he notifies Crawford that he has arrived at the Academy, that he has reorganized the school and made Mr. D. Vanderslice, acting superintendent during his absence while he goes home to get his family.
The files of the Southern Superintendency for July 15, 1841,41 contain a letter from Armstrong to Crawford which
recites that to his request for more boys to send to the Academy Choctaw Chiefs James Fletcher, James Gardner (speaker) John McKenney (chief) write that they do not think the school is any good for their boys. They state that they have decided to send no more but “by your advice we did last year agree to send and fill the school up once more and that because one of our own people would be placed at the head of the institution.” They have decided to have a school in their own country, to be established by the Government where mechanical arts and agriculture will be taught. To settle the matter the General Council of Choctaw adopted resolutions signed by John McKenney, James Fletcher, Isaac Folsom, Chiefs, and Sloan Love, Speaker, to the effect that no more pupils will be sent to Kentucky; that they hope soon to see a boys school begun in the Nation; and, wonder of wonders! they “Resolved that at the next annual meeting of the council a committee consisting of two from each district,” with the agent, be appointed to select a site for a girls school.
Blue Springs and White Sulphur Springs, located nine miles west of Georgetown, became fashionable resorts for wealthy Southerners after the school was discontinued. These spots should be dear to the members of the Choctaw and Creek nations as the places where their youths were taught and the memory of Colonel Johnson should be revered as he did much to advance the progress of these, as well as other tribes of Indians.
Andrew Ross, brother of Chief John Ross, named his youngest son Richard Johnson Ross in honor of his friend, Colonel Johnson whom he greatly admired. This son was a major in the Confederate service in 1864 and died at Carriage Point in the Chickasaw Nation. Ed Crutchfield was a pupil of Johnson’s Kentucky School in 1837 and he is described as a man of good morals, intelligence, and wealth who lived and died in Saline District, Cherokee Nation.
“Richard Johnson was a popular man among Southern Indians after he opened . . . his Indian school. He had a noble impulse, his heart was big and he called Indian boys to the paths of peace and learning. Returning to their In-
dian homes, they were stars in a dark night. Their influence was mild and always good among their people.”42
CAROLYN THOMAS FOREMAN,
42Morton, Jennie C. Dick Johnson’s Indian School at sulphur, Scott County, Ky. Published by the Kentucky State Historical society, Frankfort, Kentucky.