W. B. Morrison
Among the heirlooms handed down from missionary forebears, and now in the possession of Rev. Ebenezer Hotchkin, of Durant, Oklahoma, is a small black memorandum book, closely written in ink, now faded, but in the neat legible hand much more common seventy-five years ago than today. This little book contains a diary for the year 1853 in the handwriting of that pioneer and prince of missionaries, Dr. Cyrus Kingsbury. In this book nearly every day during that entire year he recorded a sentence or two—matters never intended for other eyes than his own. These, taken together, give the reader a very fair idea of the man’s character, his pure life, his kind heart, his fervent piety and strong Christian faith, and furnish a good account of the many and varied duties that occupied so much of his time.
Before giving a few selections from this little book, it may be of interest to recount the outstanding facts of Dr. Kingsbury’s personal history and service. He was born (as we find in his own handwriting on the fly-leaf of this diary) on Nov. 22, 1786, at Alstead, New Hampshire. Having made a profession of religion in 1806, his earnest mind and heart soon turned towards the ministry. Guided by Rev. Dr. Crane, he received his preliminary education at Northbridge, Mass. He early came under the influence of that noble band of young men, led by Samuel J. Mills, who burning with a desire to win the world for Christ, first gave to the hesitant church of that day the now familiar slogan "fee can do it if we will." Kingsbury graduated from Brown University in 1812, the same year that Adoniram Judson, a graduate of the same school, went as the first American missionary to India. Three years later, he completed his work at Andover Seminary, and was the same year ordained as a missionary of the Congregational Church at Ipswich, Mass. After working two years in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee, he was in 1817 appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as a missionary to the Cherokee Indians and opened up the fist Indian work of that Board at Brainerd, Tenn., on Missionary Ridge, not far from Chattanooga. The Choctaws having meanwhile sent an urgent appeal to the American Board to establish a mission
among them, and bring to then the "White Man’s Book," Kingsbury was given the honor and the difficult task of opening up the work among the people of that tribe, in the summer of 1818. He soon acquired the language and won the confidence of the Indians and few men who ever came among them gained a greater influence over them. Kingsbury’s headquarters so long as the Choctaws remained in Mississippi, was at Mayhew, near the Government agency. His first marriage, and the death of this wife in 1822, occurred here.
When the Indians were compelled to go west, it seemed at first that the great work, so auspiciously begun, would be destroyed but, at the solicitation of the Christian Indians, backed by Kingsbury’s strong support, the Board decided to re-open the work in the country west of the Mississippi. Kingsbury, like a courageous captain, sent trusted followers, among then the saintly Wright and Hotchkin, on with the Indians over the "Trail of Tears" and, lingering until nothing more could be done in Mississippi, closed the work there permanently, and journeyed to the new country where the remainder of his useful life was to be spent. His home, and the headquarters of the mission, was established at Pine Ridge, near old Fort Towson, a few miles from Doaksville, long the Choctaw capital. From this point the Christian statesman directed the work of the mission with painstaking care, and yet with a sympathy and fairness that retained for him the love of his associates, the confidence of the Indians and the respect of the Christian people of the North and East who supported the work. He lived to see the Choctaw Nation a Christian people to a far greater degree than is the American nation today. When the slavery question became bitter, from 1840 to 1860, Kingsbury and the majority of his co-workers, though nearly all New England men, took the position that slavery, perhaps wrong in itself, was an institution that was established by law, and refused to be drawn into any controversy with the people among whom he was working by interfering with their "peculiar institution" in any way. This brought about constant friction between the missionaries and the American Board, and resulted in the withdrawal of this Board from Indian Territory in 1859. Dr. Kingsbury and his mission were at once taken over by the Old School Presbyterian Church, of which
he had been a member since the early days in Mississippi. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Kingsbury remained at his post, and was at least accused of "believing firmly in the right and the final success of the Rebel cause." The Mission became the first "foreign" work of the southern Presbyterian Church in 1861, and Cyrus Kingsbury, therefore, one of its first foreign missionaries. He remained in the harness practically until the end of his long life, and finally died in 1870, and was buried at historic Boggy Depot in the present county of Atoka, Oklahoma.
It will be remembered that at the time this little diary was written, Dr. Kingsbury (by the way, one of the large New England colleges, Amherst, I think, had long before given him the degree of D. D.,) was 67 years of age, and rather infirm in health. He had from youth been lame in his feet, and the translation of the name by which the Indians knew him was "Limping Wolf." We shall now give a few extracts, with an occasional comment.
Jan. 1, 1853. Another year has opened upon us under circumstances of great mercy. May I make a wise and profitable improvement of its precious privileges.
Jan. 4, (Sunday). I was able to preach in the morning. A delightful day and a good congregation.
Jan. 5. Engaged in settling up the accounts of the station.
Jan. 9. Went to see an old colored brother, Dennis Folsom. He is, we think, near death.
Jan. 16. Preached at Goodland. Audience attentive. Evening, returned to Capt. Jones. Had a meeting with his own family and colored people.
NOTE.—The Captain Robert Jones referred to, was a part-blood Indian, living not far from the present city of Hugo. He was the wealthiest and most influential man of his day among the Choctaws, and had a beautiful country place furnished in true Old South style. He is said to have owned 500 slaves.
Jan. 23. Preached in the morning at Doaksville; P. M. at Towson; night at Doaksville. A deathlike stupidity seems to pervade this neighborhood. 0 Lord, revive Thy work.
Jan. 27. Visited in Doaksville. Heard the sad intelligence that Silas Garland, one of our most worthy citizens, was called out of his house and shot down dead! A most diabolical deed.
NOTE.—The Garlands were one of the most prominent Choctaw families.
Feb. 4. Rode to Mr. Stark’s—20 miles. A very cold day. Found the family in comfortable health. Thankful for a comfortable lodging place.
Feb. 7. Returned to Pine Ridge. A pleasant winter day. Found the family well. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits. Not well myself.
Feb. 8. Some better this morning. May my spiritual state be improved. Lord revive Thy work in my heart. Made out the semi-annual account to Dec. 31, ’52.
NOTE.—This last item referred to the financial report for the American Board.
Feb. 9. Have been reading Upham’s Interior Life. Hope I have received spiritual benefit. Called on Dr. Edwards, and advised with him in regard to my health.
NOTE.—It is significant of Dr. Kingsbury’s spiritual influence among all classes that this Dr. Edwards had just recently made a profession of faith and united with the Pine Ridge church.
Feb. 11. Visited Mr. W. Collins in company with Dr. Hobbs. Found him very sick. Will probably not recover. Is unprepared for death. How sad is his state.
Feb. 13. Wesley Collins died last night about one o’clock. Poor man had neglected his soul. Buried this evening.
Feb. 14. Preached last night at Capt. Jones’: Had no freedom. Alas, what poor preaching! Lord give Thine own word sucess!
Feb. 19. Took last night ten grs. Blue Mass and five grs. Calomel, and this morning 17 grs. of rhubarb and 20 of magnesia. Pain still continues.
NOTE.—Quite frequently, he gives an account of medicine taken by himself or family. The remedies and quantities are characteristic of the period. We may sometimes wonder how Dr. Kingsbury lived to be 84 years of age.
Feb. 27. Preached at Doaksville. P. M. preached the funeral of Dennis and Lydia. A large number of black people present.
NOTE.—The old negro, formerly referred to had died; followed soon by his wife. Dr. Kingsbury was kind and attentive to the black people as well as to the red and white.
March 23. Rode to Wheelock. Found Bro. Wright more comfortable than I had expected. Bro. Byington and Bro. Hotchkin came. A happy meeting.
NOTE.—Rev. Alfred Wright, the "beloved physician" both of souls and bodies, who built the oldest church now standing in Oklahoma, was then on his death-bed.
March 30. A messenger arrived from Wheelock informing us that our dear Bro. was much worse. Another note by the mail reached us at night. No hope of his recovery. This is sad indeed. But the Lord reigns.
April 1. Our dear Bro. Wright died last night between 11 and 12 o’clock. Was buried today in the afternoon.
May 25. Put up a box of books and part of a communion service for Mayhew. Got a chain for drawing water at our upper well.
June 10. Visited Iyanubi Seminary. Whole number of scholars 35, under good discipline. Not advanced.
June 17. Went to Goodwater to attend the examination, with Mrs. K. The girls recited promptly, all from memory. No exercise of the judgment. Too much for show.
NOTE.—Visiting the schools and examining the students on stated occasions was a part of Dr. Kingsbury’s duties as superintendent of the work. The diary records three or four additional visits of this kind about this same time.
July 13. Commenced raising the Presbyterian church in Doaksville, after having united in prayer. Proceeded slowly, but without any accident. Rain about noon, with high wind.
NOTE.—The church builder—another phase of missionary life.
July 22. Finished making my account with the A. B. C. F. AT. for the last half year, for which I am truly thankful.
July 26. Staid last night at Mr. Bacon’s. A resting place for a weary pilgrim. Rode to Pine Ridge, 32 miles.
Found the family all well. Praise the Lord for His abounding mercies.
Sept. 6. I have succeeded in collecting $700.00 for the liberation of Simon and family, that he may go as a missionary to, Africa.
NOTE.—This was Simon Harrison, a pious negro slave. The plan to buy his freedom and send him as a missionary to the native land of his race is illustrative of the wide range of activities in which Dr. Kingsbury was interested.
Nov. 9. Visited the Chief and others at Doahsville. Proposed the enlargement of the school at Pine Ridge if the Nation wants to increase the appropriation.
NOTE.—The Choctaw National Council was now in session. This, and several other entries for the next few days, deal with conferences held with members of the Council. Here, we find the church statesman at work.
Nov. 15. Simon Harrison left his home this day for Liberia.
Nov. 25. Had a meeting of the family with the emigrants in the dining room. Sang "Blest be the Tie that Binds," and had a prayer, after which Simon and family and George left on their long journey to Africa’s sunny shores.
NOTE.—Evidently Simon did not get off on the 15th., as stated above .
Dec. 20. Rode from Mayhew to Pine Ridge. A cold day on the prairies, but I did not suffer much. Found my family well. Lewis Garland, I hear, returned from the Annuity very sick.
Dec. 21. Visited Mr. Garland twice. He is a very sick man. Prayed with him by his request and the request of his. father-in-law, who is with him very providentially.
Dec. 26. Confined to the house. Mr. Lowrie preached two excellent sermons. Lord, grant me healing and restoring mercies.
Dec. 27. Hope my health is improving. Am not yet able to go out, except just at the door.
Dec. 28. Consulted last night respecting the location of the new helpers for the mission, who are soon expected.
Dec. 31. The last day of another year. How great are my obligations to God for His abounding mercies to me and mine. What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?
—W. B. Morrison.