Carolyn Thomas Foreman
Since the publication of my account of the Choctaw Academy in Chronicles of Oklahoma, December, 1928, I have found additional documents relating to the school in the archives of the Office of Indian Affairs, Washington, D. C. This material, together with my previous article, will form a fairly complete history of the famous school which was founded in 1825 by Col. Richard M. Johnson,1 Kentucky, and which through the education of many youths of the Five Civilized Tribes had a profound influence on the history of Oklahoma.
While Colonel Johnson may have wished to add to his own fortunes by the project, there is no doubt that the school, under the able management of the Rev. Thomas Henderson, was a powerful agent in the education and enlightenment of Indian youths who studied there, and many of its pupils became leaders in the tribes and promoted the advancement of their people.
It is regretable that this school was not named Indian Academy instead of the Choctaw Academy, as the name leads to the impression the pupils were limited to that nation, whereas many boys of the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Miami, Potawatamie, Seminole, Prairie du Chien, Quapaw and Chicaga tribes attended it.
"The school was admirably situated at Great Crossing, . . . near Blue Springs in Scott County, . . . seven miles from Georgetown, and two miles off the pike; where the old buffalo trail leading from the far south to the Ohio River crossed the north fork of the Elkhorn, and near Stamping
1Col. Richard Mentor Johnson who conceived and carried out the plan of establishing the Choctaw Academy was one of the most remarkable men of his day. Born at Bryant's Station, Kentucky, in 1781, he served his country as soldier, state legislator, member of the U. S. House of Representatives (1807-1819); U. S. Senator, and Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren. As late as 1845 he volunteered to lead a regiment in the Mexican War. He had a great flair for publicity and his name is met far and wide by the research worker. Whoever attempts a biography of him will be astonished at the number of enterprises, both public and private, in which he was involved.
Grounds, where the herds had been wont to congregate and stamp every blade of grass from the surface of the earth."2
"The Choctaw Academy, which derives its support from the appropriation of one of the annuities, and which was intended to be placed within the limits of the Choctaw territory, has been established at Grand Crossing, Kentucky, under the care of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. The number of scholars is between 25 and 30, a large portion of whom were taken from the Mission schools of this board."3 Bethel Mission reports for 1827 that seven pupils were removed from that school to the Choctaw Academy and boys were also sent from Emmaus Mission (Choctaw) the same year.
The Academy appears to be prospering from the report of Thomas Henderson,4 superintendent, to the Hon. James Barbour, Secretary of War, February, 1828: " . . . the lives and health of all the students have been wonderfully preserved until this time. In this, we will not boast, but we will rejoice that during the two years and a quarter, the time this school has been in operation that out of one hundred students we have not lost one by death; nor indeed scarcely ever have any on the sick list. We now have 65 Choctaws, 25 Creeks and 11 Putawatamies. Making 101 students . . . manifesting the same cheerful, lively and docile dispositions which has been characteristic of their conduct heretofore. They appear perfectly satisfied and pleased with their situation . . . Each room is furnished with
2From a very delightful account of the Choctaw Academy published January 1916, in the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly. It was written by Mrs. Shelly D. Rouse of Covington, Kentucky. Mrs. Rouse's husband is a grandson of the Rev. Thomas Henderson and she had access to his letters as well as the archives in Washington. Photostat copies of the Johnson-Henderson correspondence were given to the University of Wisconsin Historical Library by Mr. and Mrs. Rouse.
4Rev. Thomas Henderson was born in Albermarle County, Virginia in 1781. He surveyed part of the territory of Missouri for the Government. He was ordained as a Baptist clergyman. In 1825 he was a merchant in Scott County, Kentucky. He was a connection of Johnson's by marriage and was his confidential adviser, manager, and faithful friend for many years. He bore the brunt of many troubles that otherwise would have annoyed and distracted Johnson during the years of his public life in Washington.
a sufficient supply of candles and fuel for their studies at night.
"One class will complete the study of surveying some time during the ensuing Spring, and then commence the study of Astronomy. Many others by that time will be sufficiently advanced to commence some of the higher branches of English education. The Putawatamies although very young and without any interpreter yet can speak pretty good English and the most of them read and write tolerably well.
"In a word, the Institution is in as flourishing a condition as it has ever been in, since it was first established."
Mr. Robert Ould arrived at the Academy, June 28, 1828 to organize it on the Lancasterian plan and was much pleased with the school and the progress made by the Indian boys. Colonel Johnson wrote the Hon. P. B. Porter, Secretary of War, after Mr. Ould had finished his work that "the school has been in complete and perfect operation for a week. Mr. Henderson . . . understands the system and enables Mr. Ould to return home." The Colonel praised Mr. Ould and stated that he will make a "particular report on the state & conditions of this flourishing institution which is under the patronage of the Genl. Government."
Mr. Ould's report follows: "Georgetown, D C. July 16th-1828 to the Honble Peter B Porter Secretary of War - - Sir - - In conformity to instructions I repaired to the Choctaw Academy situated on the Bank of Elkhorn a beautiful stream in Scott County near the residence of Colonel Richard M. Johnson for the purpose of placing that interesting Institution upon the Lancasterian System which has been done it is believed both to the satisfaction of the Superintendent and pupils.
"I cannot close this report without adverting to the great and rapid progress of the scholars together with their decent and orderly appearance being generally healthy, contented, obedient and clean in their clothing, comfortable in their accommodations and large and commodious buildings for the School and for Lodging.
"Nor can I omit to mention in this report the interesting fact that many of these youths have made an open and
public profession of religion being regular members of the sundry respectable denominations which prevail in that neighborhood—nor does their profession outstrip their practice for I was witness to many traits of character truly delightful . . . this Institution at once (and I hope for ever) sets aside the old and musty idea that the sons of the forest are incapable of civilization . . . ."
Peter P. Pitchlynn, Thomas Wall, and S. D. Pitchlynn receipted to Johnson for "ninety dollars . . . to bear our expenses in the stage four hundred miles to the Choctaw nation from this school. Also two dollars to pay horses to carry us thirty five miles, a pair of shoes three dollars, overalls & waist coats five dollars . . . " "Choct. Acady. 14th Oct. 1928 Hon. P. B. Porter. Sec. of War Sir Seven Creek youths have this day been recd. at this Institution under the care of one of the Chiefs and Mr. P. Carr a half breed—These last added to those already here make Thirty Creek Students.
"I have permitted Richd. Rush to return with the Chief to the nation (at his particular request).
"The tuition of the Creeks will be considered from this time at Three Hundred Dollars pr. year, as the provision for the first Twenty was at $200, and the understanding that for all additional students at the same rate. I have given English names to three of the last boys as follows viz Peter B. Porter aged about 9 years, Robt. Ould aged about 8 years & Luther Rice aged about 13 years. Those who had names are John Marshall aged about 12 years, Goliah Harward aged about 8 years, Richd Harward aged about 9 years & George Colonel aged about 6 years. I have the honr. to be most respectfully your Obt. Servt Tho Henderson Supt."
Recd. Payment in full October 14th, 1828 E P & W Johnson (Duplicate)
Test Rh: M: Johnson
Choctaw Academy, Sir:
After drawing the other bill upon you for the outfit & other expences incurred in consequence of the return of the 5 Choctaw Students to their nation from this School the articles in the account enclosed were purchased for them in addition to the articles sent on with the other bill at the special request of the young men; when the Chief Leflore visited us 12 months ago he promised the young men a liberal outfit as they finished their education & when they left school with honor & I consider the outfit considerably less than he expected and authorised I considered every article furnished as of prime necessity for them & therefore made the purchases upon the best possible terms; the Books furnished were all important to them & their nation; the articles of Clothing equally so to clothe them respectably till they could turn their attention to something that would enable them . . . .to gain a living. A heavy rain prevented any farther progress than Great Crossings the first day & fearful that their money might give out I agreed to pay the tavern Bill the first night I hope my conduct will be approved by you. With great respect your obt sert Tho Henderson."
In October, 1828, Paddy Carr and Chief Cho-chus-micco were furnished outfits for their homeward journey. Carr receipts for $50.00 for a horse for the chief "to return home upon, his horse being small & old & gave out & will not carry him back to the nation;" William Johnson (brother of Richard) furnished "a horse, saddle & Bridle for Richard Rush a Creek . . . " for forty dollars. Twenty dollars were allowed for Rush's expenses on the journey and he was furnished with a "frock coat, two vests, one fur hat, 1 pair boots, two pair socks, one neckhandkerchief, two shirts, 1 pair shoes" which outfit cost about $29.
On December 27, 1830 Henderson writes to Johnson: " . . . the morning of the 24th Inst. Mr. Sheffield the Sub Agent of the Seminole Indians arrived with eight fine looking boys all about the same size and age—Say from 10 to 12 years. I shall give my whole attention to all matters relative to the interest of the Institution—I must necesarily have another assistant. Mr. Pratt is now with me . . ."
Inclosed in the superintendent's letter is a most interesting Seminole document: "We the Chiefs of the Seminole Nation have in full council determined not to accept of a school at the Agency for the Education of our Children, as provided for by the Treaty of Camp Moultrie held near St Augustine in the year 1823.
"We still decline to accept a school and do hereby consent that the President of the United States or the Secretary of War and their successors in office, may apply the school fund designated by the said Treaty, to the education of such of our Indian youths as may desire to have the benefit of the same and we further consent that the President or Secretary of War may select the School or Academy at which they may prefer to educate our Indian Boys . . ." This paper was signed February, 1831 by ten members of the tribe.
In 1831 the Quapaw Indians in a memorial to President Jackson charge that $900 of their $2000 annuity had been given to the Choctaw Academy for the education of four of their boys in 1830.
The quarterly report on April 30, 1832 gives an opto-
mistic account of the Academy:5 "In my last report, you discovered there were only 68 Choctaw youths at this Institution; since that time I have had to send one home, in consequence of a derangement of his mind; and I have recd. eleven more, making the above number of 78 Choctaw Students. The summer clothing of a very superior quality has been recd., and the school is now in a very flourishing and prosperous condition. The students are in fine health, with the exception of only two, on the sick list, and they are recovering, . . . this Institution requires much more attention and labour, than would be necessary, in a common school for white; children; and in that subject, I am happy to have it in my power to say, that I have at this time, a more competent industrious and effecient set of assistant teachers, than I have ever had at any former period: they are men, who take a deep interest in Indian reform, and, are so devoted to the improvement of those committed to their charge, that they spare neither time nor pains, in the discharge of their respective duties . . .We take particular care to have the Sabbath spent in the most proper manner. A part of the day, is taken up in attending to a regularly organized Sunday School; and as one of the Assistants, is a scientific teacher of Music, we spend the balance of the day in teaching vocal music.
". . . the labours of the Rev. James D. Black, as an Assistant teacher, whose abilities as a teacher, and character as a gentleman and divine, adds vastly to the respectability of the establishment . . Tho Henderson Supt."
As early as May 8, 1832 Henderson had decided on the benefits that would accrue to the Indians from learning trades and his letter to Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, shows his modern viewpoint. "Sir I have had it in contemplation for several years to suggest to the Hon Secy of War the probable advantage that might result to this Institution by having attached to the establishment . . . a few workshops; embracing the most useful and necessary mechanical arts for the promotion of civilized life; say a blacksmith, shoemaker & wheelwright who understood stocking plows; or
any others which would seem best calculated to suit the present condition of the Indians . . . .
"It is very certain (were it even practicable to make good schollars of every youth sent to the institution) that by their education alone, they cannot all hope to get employment and be supported in the nation, in its present uncultivated Condition—and it is equally certain that nothing will tend more rapidly to promote civilized habits . . . than the encouragement of the mechanical arts—Every person is well apprised that it is not every sprightly boy among our own white children that is calculated to become a schollar, . . . . I think by proper management the greater part of the students in nearly the same time, now devoted at school, could be sent home with good trades & a sufficient education for mechanics and farmers. Let such as discover a genius and talent for education be permitted to pursue a regular course to full extent . . . Tho Henderson."
An effort to induce the Cherokee to send some of their boys to Johnson's school proved unsuccessful according to a letter to Cass from the Cherokee agent, George Vashon, July 12, 1832: "Sir, I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the instructions of May 5th, relative to the Education of Cherokee boys at the Choctaw Academy, and to Report the enclosed decision of the National Council, disapproving of the proposal to apply any part of the Education fund under the Treaty of 6th May 1828, for the Education of the fifteen Cheroke boys as contemplated.
"The proposal was strongly recommended to their favorable consideration, pursuant to your instructions, but the measure was most probably defeated through the Cherokee delegation while at Washington, by those unfriendly to it—until the decision of the National Council was communicated, I had every reason to expect that the proposal would have been approved, but the delegation who had returned from Washington produced a different result—if the subject had not been broached there I think the measure would have succeeded.
"The enclosed decision applies to have Geo. Guess, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, employed to teach a School in the Cherokee language, and four other Teachers
employed to teach a School in each of the four Districts, allowing four Hundred dollars per ann: to each teacher. Some few of the Educated Cherokees, are deemed most competent to teach the full-bloods who don't speak English, and the establishment of such Schools, they think will save that portion of the Cherokee Children from long continued neglect. Such Teachers, with Mr. Guess, will therefore be employed, without delay, for the present year, until the further instructions of the Department upon the subject are received."
The letters and reports of Mr. Henderson always furnish graphic pictures of the Academy and the one of August 1, 1832 is no exception: "We have now one Hundred and Twenty Indian youths at the Institution; all in good health, not having at this time any on the sick list . . . The number is now reduced to Seventy-one as follows—We had the misfortune a few days ago to loose one by death, and seven have been selected and are now preparing to start home to the old nation, East of the Mississippi river. Viz. Jno. M. Nail, Steven Holson, Charles Westley, Wm. Cobb, Canady MCurtain, Saml. Austin and David Wilson sent home, and Charles Cole Decd.; making eight . . . Six other Choctaw youths have been selected to be sent home whose parents and friends have removed to the Arkansaw, West of the Mississippi, and desire their sons to be sent to that country; but they have necessarily to be retained at school until the rise of the waters, as there is no other conveyance to that country except by steam boats.
"The first rise of water they will be fitted out and sent home .... The number of Choctaw students will then be reduced to 65, embracing the 25 first provided for, and the 40, provided for in the treaty of Dancing Rabit Creek.
"On Wednesday last the 25th ult. our annual examination took place, in presence of all the Inspectors, and a respectable audience of literary gentlemen—8 were examined in higher branches of Mathematics and Algebra—27 in Geography—30 in English grammar and 34 in Arithmetic, very much to the satisfaction of the Inspectors & Spectators.
"On the following day Thursday the 26th. we had an
exhibition at a stage erected in a most beautiful grove, near to the Academy, in the presence of at least 3000 gentlemen and ladies—The students acquited themselves with great credit.
" . . . some small accomodations have been added to the four school rooms at the Academy, making altogether entirely sufficient for 200 students. A large dining-room has been erected 64 feet long by 20 wide with an ell 36 feet, making a house equal to 100 feet in length, . . . We continue to encourage the various societies heretofore introduced at the school, for the purpose of promoting mental, intellectual and moral culture among the students. The Singing Society and Sunday school, together with our weekly lectures on the subjects of religion and morality, are productive of much good.—The Nepolian Society is admirably calculated to benefit the Indian youths, as its principle object is to instruct the young men in all the peculiarities of etiquet observed in the polite circles of Society.
"The Lycurgus court is equally, or more important, as its object is more particularly self government; consequently, many species of vice are brought to view and exposed, that otherwise would never have been known or punished—It consists of a grand-jury, a Judge, sherriff, two lawyers and clerk; the grandjury takes notice of every species of misconduct during the hours of recess and at all times when out of school—At the regular courts presentments are made, every officer endeavoring to copy the proceedings of common courts of Justice.
"The debating Society is an excellent auxiliary to a very important branch of education regularly observed at this school, which is the writing composition—one strengthens the mind thinking and speaking, and the other aids in thinking and writing correctly. I have the Hon to be Most Respectfully Your Obt Servt Tho Henderson Supt."
The seven inspectors sent a report August 10, 1832 in which they find that: "The students are all well clad in a Style to secure Comfort decency and health and manifest in their appearance conduct and conversation every evidence of contentment & prosperity.
"Doct Hatch a gentleman of deservedly high standing
in his profession is the Physician of the Academy employed by the year. . . Mr. James D. Black together with two of the Indian youths Mr. J. N. Burrossa and Mr. W. Trayhern are . . . teachers."
"The examination took place in the presence of the inspectors and a number of visitors and literary gentlemen—the exercises were principally in the higher branches of Mathematics and Algebra—in Geography and English Grammer . . . Vocal Music—during which the pupils generally exhibited a progress in their Studies, highly creditable to themselves & their instructors . . . indeed many of them manifested a proficiency in improvement and a development of genius rarely found in the youth of our Color and Nation.
". . . Upon the whole we cannot discover any inferiority of Capacity in the indian youth compared with our own—Their behavior—the good order which prevails amongst them—their docility and rapid advances in Study must prove to all who witness them that Nature has gifted them with genius and intellect equal to any people on Earth . . .
"The public manifest great and increasing interest in the progress and prosperity of this institution—It is visited by literary and other gentlemen from all parts of the Union when travelling through this country all of whom . . . concur in the opinion that this institution in its every aspect is important and should be continued, sustained and enlarged."
The inspectors, B. W. Stone, Wm. Suggett, David Thomson, S. M. Noel, J. L. Johnson, and J. F. Robinson find the school in a flourishing and prosperous condition in the autumn. " . . . with increasing evidences of its utiltiy and importance." There are sixty-five Choctaws, three Creeks, sixteen Potawatamies, ten Miamies, eight Seminoles and four Quapaws in the school.
William Trayhern, a Choctaw youth of twenty-one who had entered the Academy March 22, 1831 had evidently made a distinguished reputation as he was highly recommended to the Secretary of War by Colonel Johnson and Mr. Henderson.
On January 31, 1832, " . . . Although an alarming epi-
demic has raged through this country during the past fall and winter, taking off many of every age and sex, yet, . . . the students of this school have enjoyed . . . good health . . . the lodging rooms consist in a large row of neat comfortable buildings, conveniently situated to water and firewood; about 150 yards from the Academy and 50 or 60 from the dining-room.
"The dining room is a large spacious building affording sufficient room for the whole school to sit down at meals at the same time—Much pains have been taken to furnish good wholesome diet, as well as warm comfortable clothing. The Academy consists of a large neat log building standing on a beautiful eminance, surrounded by the most delightful groves of timber, and near one of the best springs of water in the country. It is 50 feet long and 24 wide two stories high and divided into 4 convenient rooms with a good fire place in each . . . " "Dear Sir, If the object of Mr. Trahern should be accomplished, the funds are wanted every six months for three years by a draft drawn by him self in favour of one of the Professors of the Medical College in Lexington say Doctr. Dudly which will save much trouble to all parties. If ever any young man deserved a part of the Civilization fund this young man does. He is most promising in every respect in enterior grace & manly appearance & in his mind & intellectual powers & his acquirements are all sufficient to make him an eminent Physician.
"It is intended to divide the 700$ to 3 years . . . I hazard nothing in pledging my self that with this advantage he will faithfully pursue his studies & accomplish his education & his Profession. Your friend Rh M Johnson"
"Sir Young Mr. Trahern one of the Choctaw youths who has been at this institution two or three years has become quite distinguished in point of learning & gentlemanly deportment, and is now anxious to procure a profession beleiving he could render to his people more benefit in that way than any other—I would therefore beg leave to recommend him to your particular notice as a young man of talents, and meriting the patronage of the nation to which he belongs and the Genl. Govt. so far as it is concerned.
I am Most Respectfully . . . Tho. Henderson Sup."
The inspectors were enthusiastic about the work shops and "recommend that a Tailor's shop—a cabinet-makers shop—and such others as the wisdom of government may direct, should be immediately added to those now in successful operation."
There were 123 students January 31, 1833 and "all are in good health and spirits, except one of the Miamie boys who has for some time been afflicted and laboring under a most painful disease of the hip, some what like a white swelling . . . attending physician has lost all hope of his recovery, yet, from the circumstance of his being in good health otherwise I am encouraged to entertain some hope . . . that he may yet be restored."
Three months later Henderson reports an increase of five: " . . . The singing department has advanced to a very high state of perfection: far exceeding any among the white population in our section—the speaking society is also attended with many great advantages. Having some different nations together I find results in the most favourable consequences; it has a tendency to promote union & brotherly affection among the different tribes and gives great facilities in learning them to speak English as they have necessarily to converse in our language . . . "
Cholera in the summer of 1833 brought untold suffering upon the inmates of the Choctaw Academy. Mr. Henderson and Dr. Samuel Hatch furnish graphic accounts of the epidemic: " . . . sometime in June last, when our immediate vicinity, and surrounding towns were suffering greatly by Cholera: the disease made its first appearance among us.—Its first attack was in Col. Johnson's family: His loss was great, consisting of 15 deaths. To our great astonishment out of 129 Students then in school and the vast number of cases among them, we only lost nine (Viz) six Choctaws, two Seminoles & one Miami—My own family including myself were severely attacked . . . The labor, which duty required of me as superintendent of the School, necessarily devolved on Col. Johnson, in consequence of the indisposition of myself and family, during the rage of Cholera among the Students . . . We now have one hundred and
twenty-two Indian youths in School. We have just closed our annual examination, in which the students acquited themselves with great credit. The branches of education, in which they were examined are as follows; one class in history, Geography, natural Philosophy, and Algebra—four classes in Geography and Grammar, one class in Surveying, two classes in Grammar and Arithmetic, four classes in reading, writing and Arithmetic.
"The balance of the School, consisting of the Smaller boys in the first rudiments, such as Spelling, reading &, C."
"CHOCTAW ACADEMY CHOLERA Report of the attending Physician of the Choctaw Academy.
"I have been employed two years including the current year as the regular Physician of this School . . . During the 8 years, such has been the health of the students & the strict attention to the sick, that up to the appearance of Cholera only six students died . . .
"The Cholera commenced its ravages in Georgetown seven miles from the Academy about the last of May. I immediately sent to the Academy an ample supply of medecines with instructions for their administration, by which the superintendent & teachers were to be governed in case the epidemic should make its appearance among the students—arrangements were made for several Physicians of skill & merit residing near the Academy to be in attendance at different hours every day. Every precaution as to diet & cleanliness was taken: & no exertions were wanting to ward off the Pestilence or render it less, fatal. The disease however made its appearance at the Academy early in June and ceased about the first of July, during which time, say 3 weeks nine Indian youths died—viz, 6 Choctaws, 2 Seminoles & one Miami—also 14 black people including five at the Blue Springs & one white man, making a total of 24 deaths in a population of 200. The greatest mortality prevailed during the first 6 or 7 days & in almost every case which terminated fatally, little or no warning was given & in a very few hours the patient expired . . . the whole burthen of ministering to the sick and dying fell on Col Johnson aided by his black people & some of the In-
dian youths particularly John Jones, Potawatamie to whom great praise is due. It is but justice to Col Johnson to say that his exertions through the day & night to relieve & comfort the sick, demand the warmest gratitude from all persons interested in the prosperity of this school. He exhibited throughout this awful crisis the same intrepidity & unshaken firmness as in former scenes of danger, & we believe that had he left the place during the existence of the malady, a large majority of the Students under the influence of terror & alarm must have fallen victims to the disease.
"He made early exertions to board the students at a distance from the Academy, but from the panic which prevailed through the country he was able to procure boarding for 60 only having about 70 at his residence. He employed Mr. Blake & aftrwards Mr. Dunlap active & worthy young men of Georgetown to aid him in superintending the sick . . . Col Johnson was twice attacked once seriously with Cholera brought on by excessive fatigue & watching. On many days 20 were added to the sick list & it is believed that no less than 120 cases yeilded to prompt medical treatment . . . . The school has again resumed its operation with renewed vigour—the students have all returned . . . "
The most interesting and tragic event that happened at the school is detailed in the following official document. The whole trouble occured through the custom of giving the Indians new names in place of their Indian names when they entered school, by which their identity was lost. The Choctaw Academy was not the only institution that adopted the foolish custom; the records of the school at Cornwall, Connecticut show the same lists of students bearing the names of presidents, army officers or Indian officials.
"Department of War, Office Indian Affairs June 4, 1833 —Sir,
"The chief Blunt has requested, through Mr. Wescott, that his son, who is now at the Choctaw Academy, may be sent home prior to the 20th. of July, at which time he will be ready to remove with his people.
"You are requested to give the necessary directions to the Superintendent to comply with this request. And if
others of the Boys now there, belong to the towns of Blunt & Davy, you will please to provide for their return at the same time. The whole arrangement should be made with the greatest possible economy & I have the honor . . . Elbert Herring (To) His Excelly. W. P. Duval Bardstown, Ky I subjoin an extract from Col. Gadsden's letter upon this subject. "If however, any of them, (the boys) should be from Blunts town, they had better accompany the younger Blunt on his return to Florida, and thus afford no pretext to the Chief to delay his contemplated departure."
"Bards Town Kentucky June 15. 1833 To the Supert. of the Choctaw Academy Sir Inclosed is a copy of a letter to me from the Department of War, on the subject of returning young Blount, to his father in Florida and such other Indian boys from the Towns of Blount and Davy as are at the Choctaw Academy—A Treaty has been made with these two Indian Chiefs for their lands in Florida and it is important that the boys belonging to these Towns should be at home by the 20th. of July next—I would advise that the boys should be sent on horseback, as the safest and most economical. To send them down in a steam boat at this season would endanger their lives—If the stage in your opinion would be as cheap you can employ some discret person to take charge of the boys—as they can by the stage reach home, or within five miles of their resedence . . . Wm. P. Duval
"Choctaw Academy 11. Octr. 1833 My Dear Friend, I have seen your correspondence with Mr. Henderson on the subject of sending home some of the Siminolie Boys . . . . I had all the Boys called up & made the effort to find out which of the Boys were intended to be sent & it was impossible to assertain & this was communicated to Gov. Duval by me. It will be indispensible that some person from that quarter should come & designate the Boys & it will be as cheap & more safe—I truly regret the wish of the Parent & friends to take the Boys for a year or two more as they are making rapid advances in learning. Could you not advise them to leave the Boys till they remove & get settled in their new home If you can with propriety I hope you will for the sake of the Parent &
friends, for the benefit of the school & for the just remuneration of those who have made such ample means to keep them till their education is finished you will place me under obligatons to do it, at all events till next Summer the Boys ought not to be taken . . . (To) E. Herring Esq City of Washington Rh M Johnson
"Choctaw Academy Sunday night—Nov. 9th. 33 Dear Sir [Herring]
The following facts will prove I fear too conclusively that Blunts Son died with the Cholera altho I shall carry with me to the City the only Boy of the 6 who says his father was a chief—when the 8 Siminolies were brought here by the Sub. Agent, a black man came with them, & said he belonged to one of the principal Chiefs, that he had brought his young master, with him & charged my negro man named Jerry the principal Cook to take special care of this Boy, which was named at this place Wm Ficklin—this Black man promised my man to have him paid to take good care of Wm. Ficklin his young master—this Boy died with the Cholera my negro man was the first on my place who died with the Cholera the above facts I have obtained from several of my servants upon a rigid examination, & after I had examined all the Boys & found that only one of the Six remaining was the son of a chief—I was mistaken in supposing one only died of the Siminolies two died with the Cholara—If this letter is sent on in advance & the black man is still living, the Father will be able to judge of the truth of the facts & the probability of his son's death & prepare him for the event; he was a lovely Boy, & lived longer than any who died with that fatal disease. He had three of the best Physicians in the country to attend him—he bore his sickness with great fortitude & every effort was made to save him—notwithstanding I shall carry with me one of the Boys as above & they will see his improvement and how well he looks—I truly regret this prospect as Blunt has set his heart so much upon his child. But if he should be dead, he must see that providence above has taken him from him—Truly yours Rh: M: Johnson
If the Black man belonged to Blunts that will still more identify that Wm. Ficklin was Blunts son—if he was not
there is a hope left that his son may be alive & the one that I shall carry with me. I wrote you this morning before assertaining these facts RMJ.
"Choct. Acady 10th. Nov. 1833 Sir Yours of the 31st. ult came to hand by last nights mail. This morning I had all the Seminole boys collected to try once more if by any means I could identify the son of Blount.—We have spent all the morning without coming to any satisfactory conclusion; except that one boy now says his father was a chief but his name was not Blunt.
"Two of the boys say their fathers died before they left the nation; one says he knows nothing of his father,—& the other two say their fathers were hunters and not chiefs, and that neither was named Blunt.
"No one among the six now remaining can give any information respecting the parents of either of the boys who died—therefore the probability is that one of those youths must have been the one in question, unless, the one mentioned above who says his father was a chief be the one and he is mistaken in his name—hoping that this may be the son of Blount and under a full conviction that no other one now living can be his son Col. Johnson has concluded to take him to the City of Washington when he goes on to congress and if he can there be identified, to send him home from the city.
"If this youth should not prove to be the son of Blount (and of that I have strong doubts) he must unquestionably be dead.
"When these youths were brought to the Academy, I recd. Gov Duvall's [Florida] letter stating the number of boys and their tribe, without giving either the names of the parents or children as they could not speak english nor had any, except Indian names, I had names given to each one, and entered them on the roll as Seminole Students.
"I am this moment informed by a note from Col. Johnson that he has found out by the cooks that one of the boys who died was Blunts son—the cooks say that the old black man who came with the Seminole boys said he belonged to the principle chief and gave charge concerning this boy stating that he was his young master
"Had we known this fact it would have saved much trouble & perplexity—however the boy spoken of will go on with the Col. I am . . . Tho Henderson Supt."6
Conditions at the school were better as will be seen by the subjoined report of the superintendent November 1, 1833.
"During the quarter past, and indeed, since the Cholera left this quarter, the health of the students had been unusually good; . . . Their winter clothing, shoes, socks, and hats all of superior quality have been given them . . . (The deep interest which this institution excites almost daily invites Spectators of every class; both foreigners and citizens, males and females, to witness the novelty of Indian reform: But no department in the arrangement of the institution, has excited more admiration than the recent introduction of workshops, connecting practically arts and sciences together—particularly for that race of the human family who have so long suffered for the want of both—The improvement of some of the youths in acquiring a knowledge of some of the mechanical arts has been rapid beyond calculation. About the 1st of Sept Last I had the buildings for the workshops so nearly completed, that I purchased tools, employed suitable workmen, and commenced operations—
"The waggon shop is a large comfortable frame building 35 by 21 with twelve light windows, with one large stove & six work benches; calculated for 8 or 10 hands, if necessary—in this Shop waggons, carts and stocking ploughs will be carried on.—
6" ... I have examined the boy brought on by Col. R. M. Johnson and found him to be one of the sons of Mulatto King. He stated to me that his brother Orsler died with cholera last summer, and that another of the Seminole boys also died, who was an orphan named Aaron. That all the other Seminole boys are living, and among them is Billy, the son of Blunt. This boy, who says his name is Jack Vacca, . . . has been sent off by stage this morning, and will probably arrive at your house in about a fortnight.
" ... if Blunt and the parents of any of the other boys wish to have them returned, you will, ... employ some suitable person to go to Kentucky for the purpose of conducting them home . . . It is to be hoped that . . . none will be recalled except Blunt's son and the boy called Sampson, from Davy's town . . . You will, however, consult the wishes of the parents, and leave Blunt and the others, who have agreed to emigrate, no pretext for further delay . . . Elbert Herring To his Excellency William P. Duval, Tallahassee, Florida (OIA).
"The Shoe Shop is also a neat frame building 21 by 20 with six 12 light windows, lathed and plastered with a large good stove—calculated to employ 10 or 15 hands—in addition we erected a lumber or store room 21 by 12 to store away Shoes, and a convenient cellar under it for iron and leather—
"The Smith Shops are two log buildings one 26 by 20 calculated for two furnaces and four hands And the other 18 by 20 with one furnace and two hands. The tools are all of the best quality & although the buildings and tools have cost much more than was anticipated; yet, I am confident that for the permanent improvement, and civilization of these people funds were never more profitably expended . . . .
"I found it a very difficult task to procure skillful workmen in the different mechanical branches, of steady and sober habits calculated to fill their stations with that dignity that the nature of the case required—but finally have succeeded to entire satisfaction. It requires three shoe and boot makers three blacksmiths, and two waggon makers to impart the instruction necessary for each Shop—I shall do myself the pleasure of presenting two pairs of Shoes to the Dept. as a specimen of the Skill and mechanical genius of two of the Students, one pair for Gov Cass made by a Potawatomie youth and the other for Mr. Herring made by a Choctaw . . .
"I have the same assistant teachers mentioned in my last report: Mr Isaac S. Gardner a classical Scholar, Mr. M Duvall professor of mathematics, and Mr A Buckholts in the preparatory department—these assistants as has been stated before, are of high character as teachers and gentlemen—faithful and diligent in the discharge of their several duties—both rigid and kind in exerciseing the discipline of the institution, beloved and feared by the Students . . . . In consequence of some students having just gone home, our number is now reduced to one hundred and thirteen (Viz) Choctaws 52, Potawatomies 19, Miamies 8, Seminoles 6, Prairieduchein 15, Quapaws 4, Creeks 3, Cherokees 6 Total 113 All cheerful, and well contented in good health and fine spirits, performing their several tasks in each depart-
ment with much delight Your most obt. servt. Tho Henderson Supt."
Duval writing Herring from Tallahassee Indian Office, January 23, 1834 says: "The Agent General Wiley Thompson has brought eight Indian boys to this place by my order and he is making the necessary preperation to send them to the Indian Academy in Kentucky—A young gentleman named Henderson brought the five remaining boys from Kentucky and he will have charge of those who are going there . . . Three of the boys who were at the Academy will return. Their parents consented and the little fellows are much delighted . . . "
The spring of 1834 was a season of much distress among the Choctaw Indians, many of them being destitute and F. W. Armstrong, their agent was issuing a pint of corn to each individual. The boats were unable to get up the river and the agent writes Herring, March 8, that: " . . . I fear that some will perrish of Hunger."
No boats had been able to descend the Arkansas River since February 6, and Armstrong having collected 15 boys for the Choctaw Academy had been obliged to keep them at the agency. "I have engaged a young man in whom I have the fullest confidence to take charge of them . . . I have propaired two large Canoes and have lashed them to-gether—With oars &c. and on the 10 this Instant they will descend the river, and unless they caught a boat at Little Rock they will go on to the Mississippi to the Mouth of White river & there take a passage for Louisville . . . "
Two of the Choctaw youths were stricken with pleurisy and delayed the start for Kentucky and in the meantime three boys from the Red River arrived at the agency prepared to go. "It became evident that the Sick boys would not go, and Adam Fulsom a Treaty Captain required that a son of his that has been in Kentucky at School for some time should return home having learned that he was doing no good . . . Therefore to Keep up the Number required at School, I have now sent Sixteen boys they are thus far on their way in the Manner before stated,. . . Before the arrival of these boys from Red River, I had taken three or four boys that were too small and one of those is too old (indeed he is a man) I was forced to do this to get the number as
instructed . . . P. S. These boys will I hope get to the Mississippi in 10 days. It will then take about 7 or 8 to get to the academy."7
In March, 1834 a controversy arose over Cherokee boys who were selected to go to the school from among the Eastern Cherokees. Wm. M. Davis, Enrolling and Appraising Agent, took eleven boys to the school in April. The two sons of Andrew Ross (brother of Chief John Ross) the son of Elija Hicks (editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, whose wife was a sister of the principal chief). " . . . the next was the son of Watie one of the national councilors. The next was an orphan boy in the care of Judge Brown . . . the next was an orphan in charge of John Walker Jr. . . . the next was an orphan youth the step son of Mr. Crutchfield who is of the John Ross party." Judge Ross and Colonel Johnson went to the President and had the selection confirmed and approved. The records do not furnish the names of the other boys in this party.
Davis writes May 16, 1834 of the journey to Kentucky, "In providing the means of transportation . . . I took the cheapest plan; I required each to furnish his own horse and saddle and bridle, this they were all able to do except one, him I furnished with a horse of my own and charged the Govt. nothing for his use. Col. Hugh Montgomery the Agent furnished six of the Cherokee youths with their outfit [of] clothing, and furnished me with money ($12 each, making $72 in the whole) to bear their expenses on the journey . . .five of the six students I selected under the written instructions of the Hon. Andrew Ross . . . were furnished in part with clothing by myself and I paid their expences on the journey: Col. Montgomery . . . having no orders upon the subject from your Department did not furnish the money. I expended for the clothing and for expences on the road for the five students mentioned $120.89 which was refunded to me by Mr. Hnderson . . . " To Elbert Herring.
John Ross addressed a letter September 1, to President Jackson from "Head of Coosa Cherokee Nation" in which he says "That Major Davis of Ky one of the Agents
appointed by the Govt. to value the improvements of the emigrating Indians, have taken it on himself to collect all the entire number of children, which the available interest accruing from the Cherokee school fund will educate, in the Choctaw Academy, and have conducted them on, and placed them under the patronage of that Seminary. This unexpected procedure is supposed & believed to have been performed thro' the management of Colo. R. M. Johnson and under the assumed authority of Andrew Ross—It is proper that I should inform you that the Cherokee people are not sattisfied with this course of conduct."
With this letter is inclosed a resolution of the Cherokee Council signed at Red Clay, Cherokee Nation, 22 August, 1834 in which ". . . the President of the United States be & is . . . requested to Order the withdrawal of said scholars from the Choctaw Academy, that an opportunity may thus be afforded to the proper authorities of the Cherokee Nation to make an impartial selection of the Scholars . . . to be educated." This document is signed by thirty-five members of the Council and Committee and contains the names of Richard Fields, Joseph Vann, Hair Conrad, White Path, Samuel Gunter, Thomas Foreman, A. McCoy, and W. Rogers. It is approved by John Ross, George Lowrey and Edward Gunter.
The controversy still raged and Montgomery wrote Herring Novembr 4, 1834: "as John Ross and five or six others of the most leading Charactors of the Nation were at Washington at the time, I notified Thomas Foreman a Committeeman and John Watts a Counsellor and James Brown the present Judge of their Court, the most prominent & leading characters in all this vicinity that if they would select from their party six others they also Should be sent, they declined making the selection. I then believed that my instructions had been complied with and after clothing the first six and supplying Majr. Davis with money to bear their expenses I gave them to his care.
"But altho Messrs Watts & Brown declined making the general selection they both urged Majr. Davis, to take their two boys (viz) Watts a son & Brown's nephew and a number of others importuned him to take a full blood or-
phan boy by the name of Fallen and a lad by the name of Hunter, I believe an orphan—and a son of Elijah Hicks on the application of his Father who is the Brother in law of John Ross . . .
"Now Sir so far from those five being selected by the emigrants there is not in this nation any man more violently opposed to emigration than Elijah Hicks Editor of the Phoenix & John Watts a counsellor & James Brown a Judge & as to Fallen I know that his connexions too are opposed to it although he lived with John Walker, and I believe that so are the connexions of Hunter at least none of them have enrolled; . . . two of the first six, Wests two sons, left the Academy in a few days after they went . . . James Starrs son declined and I took a son of a widow Thompson in his place."8
Leonard Tarrant, Creek agent, writing from Talladega County, Alabama, March 28, 1834, informs the Indian Commissioner that he will send to Fort Mitchell for the boys whose names had been furnished by Colonel Abert as the chiefs of the Upper Towns had not furnished their quota of boys to attend the Academy.
On May 31 Tarrant notifies Herring that the Creeks refuse to select any other boys as they fear to offend the Upper Creeks. " . . . This was the third time I had got Mr. Kellough to go for them . . . The truth is they are opposed to send their children . . . Marshall says he is able to school his children himself and Ilands, is sending his son to school." Tarrant writes August 22 that he had "attended a council of the tribe Assembled by Mr. Meigs at Tuckabatchee and that they have furnished me with a list of Twelve boys to send on to the Choctaw Academy." It was planned to send the lads as soon as horses or ponies could be procured but "they are scarce and high and difficult to obtain." He concludes " . . . If there had been no meddlesome White persons in the country the boys might have been sent long since."9
Henderson's report for May 1, 1834 says "The last Sixteen Choctaw youths sent from Arkansas by Genl. Arm-
strong were nearly all in bad health when they arrived . . . One was extremely ill and died in a few hours after their arrival; the balance are improving considerably both in health and appearance—have had the houses white washed inside and out—also enlarged shops."
On August 31 there were 150 pupils and not one on the sick list. Doctor Colton had been secured as an assistant teacher to take the place of Mr. Duvall. Henderson says, "The lodging rooms are in good condition and are inspected every morning to keep everything in good order . . . Having Isaac Gardner Esq. a classical teacher whose profession was the law and Doctor Colton who is an experienced practical physician now as permanent teachers in this institution, will afford an opportunity to some of the young men of sprightly minds to read law or study medicene, when circumstances will permit."
Tarrant was able to write Herring October 3, that "the Creek boys, (six from the upper and six from the Lower Towns,) are now on the road to Kentucky. They left this place [Mardesville, Alabama] on the 29th Ulto in fine Spirits for Kentucky. Poney's were so high that I deemed it most advisable to hire them, they were obtained at $10.00 a piece."
The quarterly report from the Academy for October 31, 1834 lists 156 Indian youths in the school: "Viz, Sixty-two Choctaws, Fifteen [missing] Twenty-four Potawatamies, Eight Miamies, Four Quapaws, Twenty from Prairieduchien, Eight Seminoles and Fifteen Creeks." With the exception of the Prairie du Chien boys the descendants of all the other students at the Choctaw Academy were citizens of Indian Territory and later of Oklahoma and they must have had strong influence for education among the Indians.
Henderson wrote that: "the school is divided into four classes . . . The first class embraces the alphabet and first elements of learning. The Second, embraces Spelling, reading and writing. The third Spelling reading writing Arithmetic, grammer & geography: the fourth embraces all the higher branches of English education." This report is followed by a list of the students which gives the tribe, age
class, and "Remarks"—the latter is a simple statement as to the quality of mind possessed by each boy—good, ordinary, dull promising and sprightly, according to the opinion of Mr. Henderson.10
10Text books used in the school were Pike's Arithmetic, Emerson's Readers, Kirkham's Grammar, Olney's Geography, Tytler's History, Blake's Philosophy, Colburn's Algebra, Gibson's Surveying, and the American Spelling Books (Mrs. Shelly D. Rouse, Colonel Dick Johnson's Choctaw Academy, Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications, January 1916).
Another example of the foolish custom of changing the names is contained in the following letter: "Columbus November 7th 1834 To The Public Gentlemen—These young men are on their way to Choctaw Academy—Scott County Kentucky by Special instructions recd. from the War Department and we have furnished them the necessary Clothing—Cash &c. in accordance with said instructions—and as they have no Supervisor—and understand very little of the english language—and have a very imperfect and limited knowledge of the world; it is hoped the good people on the road will aid in furthering them on and not see them imposed upon nor allow them to drink any spirits—knowing as we do their nature—and should their means fall short—the Honl. R. M. Johnston will furnish any thing in reason for them to whose house they are going Very Respectfully Yr Obt. Servants John Pitchlynn, Andrew Weir, Sylvester Pearl
Their names are as follows Richard M. Johnston—principal George Washington, Lewis Cass, John M. Chair, Thomas
L. McKinney Andrew Weir, Geo. S. Gaines, Charles Henderson
They have a letter to J. H. Hough Esq. Nashville Tenne.
"They have a letter to Capt. I. Edmondson City Hotel Nashville and also one to Mr. A Throckmorton Louisville Kenty."
November 17, 1834 Henderson writes Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, that eight Choctaw lads had arrived at the school "under the authority of the Dept. to Majr. Jno. Pitchlynn. ." The names and ages are as follows: "George Gains about 17 years, Charles Henderson 15, Andrew Weir 15, Jno. M. Clair 16, Saml. Leonard 15, Doctor Colton 16, Tho. Brainard 16, and B. Worland 18."
In a letter from Leonard Tarrant, December 13, from Mardesville, Alabama to Herring he narrates his difficulties in collecting the Creek boys he sent to the Academy, requests a settlement of his accounts as he had been forced to borrow the money for their expenses. "It will be seen by Examining the Account of the Outfit of the boys, as rendered by Hogan, Lawyer that I had to purchase the materials and have their clothing made. I purchased plaid and had cloaks made instead of Coats as the cold weather was setting in." Col. James Hogan conducted the boys on their long journey and Tarrant was forced to employ a man to help him in bringing home the ponies he had rented for the boys to ride.
On the first of February, 1835 Henderson writes Cass that ". . . a temperance society for the first time was introduced in this institution, during the Christmas vacation, upon which about one hundred of the students & several of the neighbors had their names enrolled . . ." The school gained eleven Chickasaw boys in the same month. They left the agency on the fourth and Benjamin Reynolds, the agent sent their names to the department:
Andrew Ross visited his two sons at the Choctaw Academy in March 1835 and he wrote the Secretary of War from there on the 16th: "In conformity to your promise to Colo R M Johnson, on my arrival here from Arkansas to see my two sons, on my way to my family I have drawn this draft for two hundred Dollars, to enable me to prosecute my journey. As I am destitute of any other means; I have selected a home in Arkansas & I am now returning to Alabama for my family . . ."11