Carolyn Thomas Foreman
That the Academy had at least one law student in 1835 is shown by a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs from John Jones: "I have been busy reading law since the government has made an appropriation to aid me...I have not yet made a sufficient progress...to enable me to go in business: and I find by information which Col. R. M. Johnson gave me that the term was only two years, and which will expire next January...I anxiously and gratefully solicit the government that the term might be continued to two years longer, for I am very desirous to go through a regular course in the study...that if the appropriation is not extended that my object in view will be entirely frustrated ..." Johnson adds that "Mr. Jones is a very worthy young man & very promising...I should be very glad if the request...could be extended as he wishes and if that cannot be done to extend it one year more."12
The superintendent and inspectors formulated rules to govern the workshops from and after May 1, 1835, agreeably to instructions from the War Department dated March 7, 1835. No student was to be compelled to labor in any of the shops, or learn a trade except by his own free choice, or by special directions of his parents.
The superintendent was to procure all materials and suitable instructors on the best possible terms and a set of double entry books was to be kept showing purchases and sales. "The workmen employed...shall not only be decent Men of Sober and steady habits, but well skilled in the particular Arts of their respective professions.
"The net proceeds of the Shops (after paying all the debts thereof) shall be divided among the boys who perform labor...a part of which shall be given to them dur-
12John Tipton, U. S. Senator from Indiana, wrote Herring advising the purchase of one or two hundred dollars worth of law books for a library for such students.
ing their stay at the Academy; and the balance on leaving school."
Armstrong, the Choctaw agent wrote Herring, July 18, 1835 that he had collected ten Choctaw boys and put them under the charge of John Millard who was to start for Kentucky the next day. Two of the districts refused to allow their boys to go and the other sent only four. Mr. Millard "was sent over Red river, and the fact of his being acquainted with the Indians enabled him to succeed in picking up the number by taking several very large boys, but it was the best that could be done.
"My duty requires me frankly to state that unless something is done, they will refuse before long to send their children at all, because they consider the promises and arrangements heretofore made, with Colonel Johnson, have not been complied with...Again the boys that return from the Academy, continue to give such awful accounts of it, that it must fail unless an effort is made to conciliate these people...These people have their prejudices; and they have their rights; and there are very many among them who know them; and will not be neglected..."
At this time there were 166 pupils and the inspectors report (July 30 and 31, 1835) that those who are devoting a part of their time to the mechanical arts are making considerable progress. A shop had been opened for making shoes; one for wagon making; a tailor shop and black smith shop where those trades were taught by competent persons who were paid a fixed salary: "... after paying this & the cost of the materials & incidental expenses, the entire profits of the shops are divided among the students for their sole benefit, to supply them with any reasonable extra sums for extra accomodations of clothing & to enable them at the close of their education to carry with them a surplus fund home to enable them to purchase books, and the tools & instruments for their trade..."
The report of Dr. Edward L. Branham to the trustees of the Academy in November 1835, is a quaint document "...The health of the boys has for the last three months been as good if not better than experienced
the last twelve months...I have viewed with feelings of complacency the gentlemanly deportment, cleanliness, and total abstainance of the boys from everything that would have a tendency to debilitate the system, impair the constitution, and render them unhappy subjects on earth...
"Everything that is necessary to make them comfortable is amply and bountifully supplied by their great progenitors to whom they are indebted for preservation, and civilization in those arts and sciences now understood and practiced by them honor is reflected on the names of Two venerable patriots who have conducted their institution in such a mysterious and unparaluled manner..."
Upon the occasion of the 1835 autumn inspection "...the whole school was marched out and formed in one line for inspection—They had just recd. their winter clothing and were in fine health, which gave them a most interesting appearance..."13
Mr. Henderson writes his patron Vice President Johnson, April 1, 1836, "I have dismissed Lewis Calvin and shall send home the following Boys with him who have not behaved well and appear anxious to return with Calvin—viz Lewis Calvin, John Wade, Simon Wade, Daniel Miller, James McGilby, Lewis Dodge and Thomas Brainard all Choctaws...I have just put down on the list two Boys less from the Chickasaws as Mr. Love has sent for his two sons [John B. and Overton Love] and I think I had better let them go..."
The Academy was in a flourishing condition April 1, 1836, having none on the sick list and " ...The morals of the youths...are made a subject of our highest regard and constant attention..." There were 154 Indian pupils. The tribes, names and ages follow:
13William Suggett, Chairman; A. Brookings, John T. Johnson, J. F. Robinson, S. M. Noel, A. Johnson, ,and B. Worland, inspectors.
Henry M. Folsom, an ambitious lad from the Choctaw Nation writes Herring April 4, 1836 from the Academy: "Yours of March 24 has just been recd. and I am very sorry to find in it, a refusal to appropriate a sum sufficiently large, to enable me to study Medicine. It was at the instigation of nearly all the principle men of the Choctaw Nation, that I resolved to embark in that study..."
Answering an inquiry of Capt. James Rogers, in regard to two Choctaw boys taken home from the Academy by Mr. Alex Brown, Andrew Ross writes from Washington May 11, 1836 "...all that I know about it is from letters which I recd. from my sons about that time giving an acct. of the death of Black Coat—of the departure of Mr. Brown &...I think Mr. Brown must have left the Choctaw Academy about the last of March 1835 or within a few days of that time..."
Timothy Walker, a Cherokee from Alabama entered upon his studies at the Academy June 7, 1836 and Oliver
and George Ross were taken home by their father shortly afterward.14
Robert McCalla was appointed an inspector in June and Dr. Branham submits his report to the trustees. After speaking of the fine health of the students and of their wardrobe and diet which "are suitable to render them Comfortable and happy," he notes an innovation in "A Bath House" which had "lately been constructed for their resort during the Spring and Summer which will be a great auxillary to the health...and a means of preventing many of the Vernal diseases incidental to our climate. It would be treating the young men of this institution with injustice not to mention their zeal and activity in supporting the dignity of the establishment by adhering to, and rigidly maintaining the rules of the institution..."
Herring directed Gov. Montford Stokes, subagent for the Cherokee at Fort Gibson to send Thomas Jefferson Rogers, William Rogers, and David Miller to the Academy while Nicholas Smith was to be sent from Tennessee. Stokes writes June 30, 1836: "The three boys needed clothing suitable for the journey and I have expended thirty dollars for each of them, for that purpose. Two days later Stokes writes that he has been busily employed in fitting out the boys and that "The mother of the boy David Miller has married a second time, and the boy has been somewhat neglected, and straggling about, in bad company, so that I had some difficulty in getting him. I think it is a fortunate circumstance that he has gone to a respectable school."
Stokes not having funds on hand was compelled to secure the garments for the lads from Ed. W. B. Nowland, the sutler at Fort Gibson, and draw on the department for $631.75 in favor of Nowland. This bill included "Expense of transportation for four Boys to Choctaw Academy...and the return of two boys to the Cherokee Nation West $431.75 and the service of the conductor to and from the Academy $11 and $10 Expense of Collection the Boys for the journey."15
The same month Herring had directed William Arm
strong, Choctaw agent to send fifteen boys to the Kentucky school and the latter writes July 14, 1836: "I dispatched Mr. Clarke to Red river to procure ten boys which he did and during his absence I obtained the remainder in this district and succeeded in getting the boys off—on a Steam Boat on the 9th of this month.
"The boys are more intelegent—and bid far to do better than any who have gone on—I prepared them with cloathing here, and gave Mr. Clarke funds to defray their expenses...and directed him to take charge of such as should be returned from the School—and also gave him very particular directions to attend well to the boys—and to guard them from going about the Boats—engine... By the same Boat Gov. Stokes came this far [Choctaw Agency] with three Cherokee boys...leaving them with Mr. C."16
In August 1836 the Academy was visited by Abel Pepper, agent for the Potawatamie Indians who wrote C. A. Harris, the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, that he is very favorably impressed with the school.
Mr. Clarke who took the fifteen lads to Kentucky returned with seven boys September 1, 1836. For the trip east "the boys were furnished with clothing to make them comfortable; on the way, they slept in the cabin of the boat, on their own blankets;...the season of the year made it more difficult to get on and anything like travelling expenses had greatly increased; hereafter said Armstrong, "when the boys are to go on to the Academy, I would recommend that it be so arranged that they leave here in June, they will then be able to return by water. Mr. Clarke had to get back with his seven boys at a greater expense, by land from the mouth of Arkansas river in consequence of the boats having stopped running."17
A month later Henderson writes Cass of the arrival of Clarke with the Choctaw and Cherokee youths on September 26. This makes "at this institution 65, the number provided for by the [Choctaw] nation: Viz 25 under the
17Ibid. "Schools (Choctaw A39, etc. Choctaw Agency 1836. A-39.)" The expenses for returning the seven boys to the Choctaw Nation were $427.87. One of the boys went to Vicksburg near where his mother lived, not having yet emigrated (ibid. A-46).
first arrangement, and 40 by the Treaty of Dancing Rabit Creek...a few days before the arrival of these last 15, we had the misfortune to loose one by the name of Solomon Allen [age 19] by death..."18
The first week in January 1837 Johnson was making arrangements for eleven "Boys from the Choctaw Nation to fill one vacancy & to supply the place of ten Boys who will be sent home 1st of July...". He wishes Captain Armstrong to bring the lads and requests that one of the chiefs or braves accompany the party in order to see the school. If Armstrong cannot come he wishes Clarke, his clerk to represent him since he has had the experience of a previous trip. He also wishes Mr. Harris or Mr. Kurtz to visit his school the following summer.
Henderson has the sad duty of reporting to Secretary Cass the death of Timothy Frazier at the Academy on October 23, 1836, and Samuel Leonard on the 30th. These two deaths reduced the number of the Choctaw pupils to 63.
A letter from the Indian Office, March 14, 1837 to Captain Armstrong directs that two Cherokee children were to accompany the party of Choctaws to the Academy: "The relatives of the late Templin W. Ross, an emigrant from the Cherokee nation east, in 1832, who died after his arrival West, leaving several children, are anxious to have charge of the two youngest, a boy & a girl, for the purpose of educating them and bring them up properly...It is our wish that the children should be sent to Harrisburg in Penna. where their uncle Robert J. Ross Esq will receive them. If my young friend Mr. G. W. Clarke...should accompany the party I feel assured he will do everything in his power for their comfort..."
In April Armstrong received an order for twelve Choctaw boys to go to the Kentucky school and made arrangements to have them at the Academy on time. He writes Doctor Gray that he will have the Ross children brought to the Choctaw agency so that the Department may inform their uncle in Harrisburg. Doctor Gray wrote Mr. Ross regarding the children of his late brother and Ross decided
from the accounts that it would not be wise to bring the three older children "but only the two youngest a boy & a girl."
Mr. Clarke arrived at the Academy June 15 accompanied by 12 Choctaw and the two small Ross children. Mr. Henderson's touching letter to Harris, June 20, shows his kind nature and that he was a proper person to fill the position he held: "We have two orphan children of the Cherokee tribe a little boy and girl 1eft by Mr. Clarke, and we have already taken the boy into the school and the girl I will take into my own family and send her to school with my daughters, to a female school taught convenient to my house if it should meet your approbation. These children are very anxious to remain here as they have relatives in the institution.
"The girl will be placed under the care of my wife who will take the same care of her that she does of her own children — As others will have to be sent home in a short time, these two will serve to fill the vacancy if they can be permitted to remain..." The fate of these orphans is not disclosed in the official records searched by the compiler of this account.
Dr. H. T. N. Benedict in his report for April 1837 says "there has been a considerable amount of disease among the students, tho' no epidemic has prevailed." There had been 18 cases of fever, 1 of pleurisy, 1 of "rheumatic white swelling accompanied by fever, 1 hemorrhage of the lungs...3 pulmonalis...
"The morbid ulcer of A. Folsom, reported last quarter as doubtful of recovery, is still under treatment, with a fair prospect of ultimate success. No deaths this quarter. The undersigned would do violence to his feelings were he to omit to mention, in the most favorable terms, the Choctaw youth, Dr. Adam Nail, who has been engaged as student and assistant to this department. His attention and acquirements, his assiduity and morality have been of the most praiseworthy kind, and have gained the full confidence of his superiors, and bid fair to make him an ornament to the profession.
"Such are his pecuniary deficiencies that he is much
hindered in his pursuit of medical knowledge...The undersigned would also suggest the propriety of having a limited, but select number of medical works procured for use of such youths as may wish to learn the healing art..."
William Armstrong dismissed one of the teachers in the Choctaw Nation in June 1837 since he has made himself very obnoxious to the Indians: "I design to place Thompson McKinney a half breed in charge of the school'," wrote Armstrong; "he is one of the young men who returned from Col. Johnson's school, he is intelegent and very well qualified, having acted in the capacity of an assistant at the Choctaw Academy, and comes well recommended by the Revd. Mr. Henderson who is the principal..."
The resident physician, Dr. Benedict reports all well at the Academy, June 30, 1837, but says they suffered from an epidemic of influenza in April and that he "found no disease prevailing...save a morbid action produced by the prevalence and severity of the Itch, of which there were more than one hundred cases. This nausious disease" he believes to be now eradicated from the school.
Eight Potawatamie youths, in charge of Mr. Gardner, arrived at the Choctaw school, July 29, 1837. Henderson had intended to send Tho. L. McKenny (a Potawatamie), Washington Eaton and Rufus King (Quapaws) to their homes since they were inclined to run away from the Academy but the boys had had a change of heart and had behaved so well that he had concluded to keep them.19
In August Mr. Branham brought five fine looking Chickasaw boys to the school and Mr. Henderson wrote Colonel Johnson in Washington that three or four Cherokee boys may be sent home the following summer. Harris suggests additional runes for the Academy and Henderson sends a copy of the regulations to Johnson asking him to submit them to the Commissioner for his approval.
"In addition to the regular Rules of the Choctaw Academy, the following regulations are introduced Viz.
1 In future no holidays shall be given in this institution, except Christmass, Newyear's-day, Easter, Whitsunday, 22nd February and 4th of July.
2 At the annual examination a vacation of one week only shall be given after the examination shall be over.
3 In addition to the debating society, I would recommend the organization of a Society to be formed by the larger Students and assistant teachers to meet Semi-Monthly for the purpose of taking into consideration all matters of Self-Government, during the hours of amusement, the time of vacations, and holidays; together, with every other matter which shall have a tendency to promote their own hapiness, facilitate their Studies, and advance the principles of civilized life.
4 The Students who are Studying Astronomy, Surveying & Book-keeping Shall meet in the front room at the house of the Supt. every night during the winter, and spend two hours in reviewing the Studies of the day under the immediate inspection of the Supt. except the Wednesday Night of every alternate week, each one shall produce a letter composed by himself addresst. to some friend or relative in his own nation Which letter shall answer as a subject of composition, and shall be inspected by the Supt. and at at the end of every three months a premuim shall be awarded to the best performer.
5 The assistant teachers at the end of every month will furnish the Supt. with a list of the names, tribe and progress of each Student who is not capable of writing letters; for the purpose of communicating their condition to their respective agents.
6 It is also required that each assistant teacher shall cause every Student who can write, to spend a part of every alternate Wednesday in writing a letter to some friend in his nation which shall be corrected by the teacher, copied by the Student and presented former shall receive a premium.
Tho Henderson Supt."
Henderson wrote to Johnson December 22, 1837 to ask him to try to interest Mr. Harris in the propriety of introducing "A system calculated to instruct the youths of this institution in the business of agriculture upon a small scale. This could be done by proper management...and doubtless would be an important acquisition to every student destined to shed the light of civilized life among the Indians—What will an education avail them in their present uncultivated condition without some knowledge of cultivating the soil?..."20
The superintendent reports the school improved in many respects during the quarter ending December 31, 1837. There had been some illness and one death but "the regulation for the comfort and convenience of the sick, under Doctor Benedict is admirably calculated to insure the best success in effecting the most speedy recovery from disease.
"As to the moral condition...I flatter myself that it is much improved...from the fact, of having had so few cases of immorality before the school during the past quarter. A religious, or moral lecture, is delivered...regularly every Sabbath;...The mental improvement is under flattering and very encourageing prospects — The school convenes at a very early hour; the teachers attentive, rigid and efficient. The rules are promptly enforced and discipline rigidly and kindly observed...
"The introduction of letter writing, may be productive of much good, and render great satisfaction to the parents of the children separated from them at so great distance. Minute details of facts and every necessary information is given monthly by the Supt. to the parents of such children as are not able to write for themselves, through the agents of the respective tribes."
Dr. Benedict's report accompanies the above and he tells of 22 cases of fever, one enlarged spleen, one schrofulous white swelling, 3 of pleurisy, together with colds and local inflammations. On November 30 Robert A. McCabe died "of tubercular consumption...The only death under
the treatment of the present incumbent since 12th April.
"The case of Dr. A. Nail, is again presented to the consideration of this board. His merits have, thus far, equalled those of any youth known to the undersigned; and his pecuniary needs for books, appear to be the only limit to his proficiency. He is in present need of Doan's Manual of Anatomy, Doan's Surgery Illustrated, Coats's Botany and Materia Medica, and Howard's Improved Botanic Practice, costing in all about forty Dollars."
Senator Johnson wrote Harris on January 13, 1838: "I will ask the favour of giving to Doctor Nail a Choctaw the Books he desires as a reward for his services as recommended by Dr. Benedict..." The request was granted and the senator wrote for a list of the books.
Henderson's report for the period ending April 1, 1838 tells of the progress of the pupils and although "have had some difficulties to settle among the students, yet, at this time, the most perfect submission, and contentment seem to exist.
"Our chief difficulty...has arisen in a good degree, from having young men too far advanced in life, when they first enter the school — When the Indian character is formed, and the habits, customs, and the roving disposition settled, the calculation of doing much good need not be hoped for.
"When the uncultivated Indian has passed his 18 or 20th year of age, he cannot stand close confinement, nor, will he readily submit to rigid government, which has necessarily to be enforce — They too soon become dissatisfied and before they are able to appreciate any of the advantages of an education, get restless, and want to go home. At this time unfortunately this school consists of a portion of students of that description.
"...I would therefore, respectfully suggest to the Dept., the propriety of instructing the Indian agents...not to send any one over 15 or 16 years of age — The most suitable age to become useful is, from 10 to 15; beyond that age, unless it should be to complete an unfinished education but little good need be hoped for, or expected..."
Dr. Benedict in his first annual report (April 2, 1838)
lists cases of fever, pleurisy, diseased spleen, and scald head. "...we have lost no case of acute disease during the year, and...only one case of a chronic character, which was a well developed case of Tubercular Consumption." In a postscript the doctor adds that: "the assiduous attention, and the skillful administration of Dr. A. Nail has contributed much, very much, to the success of our Botanic remedies, (for we use no others) and that he continues to merit the confidence of his principal, and the fostering care and protection of the War department. His equal for probity, sobriety, assiduous application to his duties, and increasing skill in the curative art, we have seldom, if ever witnessed."
The two Creek chiefs Jim Boy and David Barnett being in Washington in the spring of 1838 sent the following interesting letter to the Hon. C. A. Harris: 21"Washington City April 17th. 1838 Sir (Harris) About the year 1834, as well as is remembered by us, the following named youths of the Creek Indian Nation, were at the request of Judge Tarrant, one of the 6 Agents then among the Tribe, suffered by us to be sent to the school for the education of Indians in the State of Kentucky where they have remained ever since—their names and descriptions are as follows (viz)
Is.ho.ni.ye aged about 16 years, son of Chief Jim Boy of the Clew alla Town
Daniel aged about 12 son of David Barnett one of the Chiefs of the Tuckabatchee Town
Ackawnoochee aged 16 son of Thlathlo Hadjo one of the secondary Chiefs of the Thlothlocko Town.
Thlo.bo.te aged about 16 son of Hop.e.thle Emarthlar one of the secondary Chiefs of the Thlothlocko Town
Robert Blue aged about 16 son of Mad Blue one of the Principal Chiefs of the Tuckabatchee Town and
Samuel Smith aged about 12 years, son of Samuel Smith a half breed of the Tuckabatchee Town
"The parents of two of these being dead (viz) of Thlobote and Robert Blue—and many of the relatives of the others having been drowned at the time of the sinking of the Steam Boat, on the Mississippi River on board of
which they had been embarked in order to be transported to Arkansas their surviving friends are anxious that they should now return to their homes again, and respectfully request through the undersigned, who are themselves among the list of parents, that measure be taken as early as practicable for the sending of them to Arkansaw their new abode, to their friends and relatives as desired With high regard we subscribe ourselves Very Respectfully Your Friends and Brothers Jim Boy his x mark David Barnett his x mark Chiefs of the Creeks."
On their way west the two chiefs visited "this institution...and concluded to take with them six of the Creek boys—I furnished each boy a decent outfit & thirty dollars apiece, to bear their expenses home, the whole amount for outfit and expenses is $456 for which I have this day [May 21, 1838] drawn on the Dept."
Johnson writes Harris from the Academy "2d. 1838" of the arrival of seven Cherokee boys fro mthe Nation East from General Smith's agency and he says "They are young & very promising."
"ANNUAL REPORT of the COMMISSIONER of INDIAN AFFAIRS 1838-1839 Washington. 1838.
p. 91 No. 33 Report from the Choctaw Academy.
"The institution at this time is in a very prosperous condition, consisting of 152 Indian students, under rigid and strict discipline, and learning with considerable spirit and ambition. Twenty-two of the students are in the several shops learning trades, and one hundred and thirty in school, divided and arranged into 15 classes,...[Studies are English grammar, surveying, book-keeping and history, geography, algebra, reading, arithmetic, writing, spelling].
"We have some young men in this institution of considerable promise, who bid fair to be very useful to their respective tribes, when they shall return to their homes, among whom I would mention Adam Nail, a Choctaw youth, who has turned his attention to the study of medicine, together with other useful studies, and has occasionally practised in this institution, under the regular physician, with great success. We have many others belonging to the
school, who discover considerable talents to be useful as clerks, accountants, &c...
"Report...of work shops on 30th Sept. 1838. 22 learning trades or professions. 8 in tailor shop, 8 in boot and shoe shop, 4 in smith shop, 2 in wagon shop...all rapidly improving. On 5th Jan. 1838 new regulations introduced in workshop — very salutary effect. A handsome profit shown from net proceeds of each shop at last quarterly inspection. This profit is to be divided among the boys when they complete trades and are about ready to go home."
On the first of October 1838—"There are 152 Indian youths in this institution generally in good health good condition and well contented The teaching and boarding departments are well conducted with a sufficient number of competent and efficient teachers well supplied with books, Stationary and School apparatus; and also, with ample supplies of wholesome provisions and comfortable bedding — The workshops are well managed by good foremen and are in a prosperous condition—(The medical department is very successfully conducted by Dr. Adam Nail a Student of this institution with the occasional aid of other physicians) — All of which is most respectfully submitted. Tho Henderson Supt.
From the Choctaw Agency West, Armstrong writes J. Hartley Crawford, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, December 5, 1838: "Sir I have been endeavoring to get the Indian boys collected to send on to school in Kentucky, I find it more difficult to procure them than at any previous time, I was unable to get them in the Summer owing to Small Pox prevailing through the Indian Country, there is still a few cases existing amongst the Choctaws. The Creeks and Seminoles are suffering severely from this scourge, especially the Seminoles. I have collected the Choctaw boys who are now at this place, and will have some Chickasaws ready in a few days. The river commenced rising a few days since, but I fear will not admit boats up, the boys will therefore be detained until we have a rise, which usually has been before this time.
"I have written Col. Logan to send down the Creek boys, which I hope he will do. The Cherokees have refused sending their boys, so have the Quapaws. The Osages are out hunting on the Prararie, I am informed by Mr. Callaway, Neosho SubAgent and Acting Agent for the Osages that it is probable they will agree to send their boys to the school in Kentucky..."22
Henderson's report on January 1, 1839 is a particularly happy one saying that "Under the fostering care of the Dept. of War, we have the peculiar pleasure of beholding the offspring of a once powerful...race of people now reaping all of the advantages and blessings of civilized life.
"We see the schollar advancing in the path of Science...we behold the mechanic on the same march giving evidence that a radical change for the better is rapidly making among the aborigines of our frontier.
"From this institution we humbly hope that the first permanent foundation for civilizing and christianizing the Indians is now laid — We look with pleasing anticipation over the sprightly countenances; glancing a view at the intelligent eye, we imagine to ourselves that we behold the mechanic, the orator, and the profound schollar who are to shed light and knowledge among their ignorant race, at some future day;...
"I have no recollection of any period [when]...we have had better health, more obedience and less vice among the students...The boarding, clothing, lodging and medical attendance are ample and...the fine healthy appearance of the boys indicate good treatment...we have at this time not one on the sick list — The work shops are in a prosperous condition turning out occasionally, young men fully competent to conduct a shop in their own nation."
William Armstrong, Acting Superintendent of the Western Territory notifies Crawford, January 7, 1839, that he has started a party of boys to school in Kentucky: "I waited some time hoping the Arkansas would rise, but fearing the Ohio might be frozen, I started the boys by land with a Careful Conductor — with directions to take passage on a steam boat at the first point on the Arkansas that
they could find one, I presume they will have to go to Little Rock."23
The list which accompanies Armstrong's letter is unusually interesting since he gives the Indian names of two of the boys, the tribe, age and degree of Indian blood.
On April 3, 1839 the inspectors report the "...academy in a high state of prosperity...harmony and order" and Dr. Adam Nail, who has become the resident physician lists "2 Cases of Pleuracy, 1 Ague & Fever, 1 Chicken Pox, 2 Sore Throat" since his last report.
Armstrong's letter to Crawford, July 14, 1839 paints a discouraging outlook for Colonel Johnson's school: "Immedeatly upon receiving your instructions to send Indian boys to the school in Kentucky, I sent to Red River for the proper portion of Choctaw boys. The chief of the large District Col. Leflore refused to send any, stating that some boys had lately returned, giving a very bad account of the school. After using every exertion to get the boys, I could only procure three, and these after getting here I sent back, to wait until fall or winter when I hope I can send on what number may be wanted...Col. Logan could not obtain any Seminoles.
"The Cherokees as well as the Quapaws have entirely
refused...the school from some cause has become very unpopular with the Indians, and the exaggerated stories that the boys tell who have lately returned from the school, (perhaps runaway) makes it at this time impossible for me to get the boys."
That Mr. Henderson was deeply disturbed is shown by his letter to Crawford of September 23, 1839, in which he explains his position "...It is a matter of deep regret that the Indians cannot appreciate the advantages of education more highly...and, all our labour and toil to cultivate the minds of their children should be so little regarded by them.
"It is true that many prejudices have existed against this institution ever since it was located in Kentucky; these have been gotten up from various quarters...and have been managed with much art and skill to the great injury of the school; some of the boys themselves who had become impatient and tired of close application to business or study; and some by designing men in the nation, and others by enemies to Indian reformation in the bosom of our own country.
"With all these we have had to struggle and combat for 13 or 14 years — as to the grounds of complaint heretofore...we have this gratification, that, upon an investigation it has uniformly turned that they have arrisen from the most trivial circumstances and have been more ideal than real.
"If the Indians of the North or South are so prejudiced against the school...I am at a loss to ascertain upon what ground their objections are predicated; for sure I am that the great boast of the talents and education among the Choctaws and Potawatamies, is, of persons who have been educated at this school.
"We always expected that many,...would make but little or no use of an education...& that others...would on their return home fall back into their Indian customs and habits and soon forget what they had learned.
"I have often regretted to observe one unfavorable trait in the Indian disposition to do justice to this institution; that is, while they have been disposed to speak in the most unfavorable terms of a few...they have passed by
unnoticed the meritorious and the many who have done credit to the school and have been an honor to the nation and to themselves.
"...this school can boast of having produced a greater number of the best schollars, and mechanics; some of the best accountants and school teachers, as well as some of the best practical farmers and merchants, than any other institution of which I have any knowledge. A smith shop is conducted in the Choctaw nation by a young man from this institution; and I am told that a shoe and boot shop is managed profitably in the Potawatamie country by a young man who learnt at this place — I recd. a letter not long since from one of the young men who was educated at this school, who informed me that he was employed to teach a school at $500 a year; and from another that he was acting as a clerk on good terms — I have also heard from many others who are doing well, but those of whom I speak came to the school in a perfect state of nature.
"I have also been informed that many who became pious while at this school continue to conduct themselves orderly and in a christian like manner. Any information of this sort must be highly gratifying to one who has grown grey labouring to improve the condition of that devoted people."
Henderson had been superintendent for 14 years and he had "endeavored to soe the seeds of piety and benevolence, to lay the foundation of moral rectitude, to cultivate social, affactionate and brotherly temperment of mind, to stamp upon the young, and all, the high reverence and responsibility we owe to the Creator..."
On the first of October, 1839 there were 125 pupils in the Academy. These are all in fine health. The "...school is located within half a mile of white sulphur fountain; among the best medical springs in the west, to this, the students resort during the summer for the purpose of bathing and using the water...to support order at the table and see that everything is properly prepared, one of the teachers regularly attends at the dining room during meals...I find less disposition...on the part of the boys now here, to perform labour in the shops than formerly;
they of late discover so much reluctance, that it has become quite discouraging; in the smith shop only three, and in the wagon shop none..."
The following complaint against the Choctaw Academy signed by 33 of the pupils, headed by the often lauded Adam Nail, serves to show the state of mind of a portion of the students who had become fastidious as to table service and clothing. Evidently it did not occur to these lads that they were furnishing a very bad description of themselves and their habits and that they had not profited by their environment to become worthy citizens of their tribes.
"Choctaw Academy Scott County Ky: Oct. 28th, 1839 We the students of the Choctaw Academy, do agree to report to you the present state of the institution.
"We have for a sub-superintendent a profane man. And one of the teachers also a profane man. There is hardly, one, of the students but what is profane. The students contract bad habits, from having no night regulations, they set up as long as they please, and the greater part sleep untill about 8. o.clock or untill breakfast every morning.
"The sabbath days are not kept. the students, go where they please, go hunting (and last summer they went a swimming) ramble over the woods and very seldom go to church. We have a young man here who has been a drunkard for two years get drunk two or three times a month, generally on Sundays and belches out profaneness to its greatest extent, he has led many a boy. No attention paid to instructing of the boys morals.
"One old drunken negro at the head of the table affairs, hardly any forks on the tables. No table-cloths on the two tables and but one on the monitors table. Our shirts are scarce, one for summer and one for winter. No suspenders. Our bed clothes are very indifferent. Our rooms we are constantly patching.
"As to the progress of the students in learning, we do not believe any body knows. send and have it examined, ascertain how long a student has been here, and how far advanced when he came here and you will find the true state of the school.
"P.S. Our superintendent is about fifty miles from here and has been, away for one year, comes a few days to each quarterly inspection. We have not had a thourough examination for five years.
"One hundred and six indian students at he Choctaw academy—and no more. excuse our ungrammatical sentences we do not learn
much here. Students.
Vice President Johnson's letter of January 12, 1840 to the Secretary of War, J. R. Poinsett, depicts the status of his school
and his feeling about continuing it: "The Choctaw Academy situated upon my premises in Kentucky is now prosperous, & in a
blooming condition...was placed under my patronage at the request of the Indians.
"I have devoted much of my time to the prosperity & services & attention...a sudden winding up of the school might be injurious to all concerned, I have thought it might be proper to state to you that I should be glad that after two years more the school could be wound up gradually.
..."In the progress of the school I have erected buildings which have cost at least 20.000$ which will be entirely useless when the school is removed & I shall be injured if I
should not get something to cover this expence. I shall therefore expect that you will at the proper time...use your power to remunerate whatever is correct & just as in other cases."
With this letter is a copy of a resolution passed by the board of inspectors at their meeting on January 2 and 3. 1840 and signed by William Suggett, Chairman: "Resolved that whereas a certain letter purported to have been drawn by Adam Nail, and signed by about thirty of the boys intended to be sent to the War Dept., that we as a board, upon full investigation of that letter view it altogether false and unfounded and that it has been produced through malice and revenge of mortified pride and self importance on the part of its author and therefore is entitled to no credit whatever."24
The following letter forecasts the approaching end of the school: "Choctaw Agency 22 Feb. 1840 J. Hartley Crawford Esq. Commr. of Ind. Affrs. Sir Upon receiving you rcommunication of the 14 Jany. directing me to have collected and send on twenty boys from the Choctaws and five from the Creeks I notified Col. Logan to select the required number from the Creeks — and also wrote Mr. George W. Clark now at Fort Towson to undertake the collecting and taking on the Choctaw boys — Mr. Clark has performed this kind of service before and is also favourably known to the Choctaws — if it can be done he will do it.
"That you may see the difficulties to encounter — I enclose you two letters one from Col Laflore (chief) — another one from the boys at school [Nail petition] these letters are frequently recd. by parents from their children it cannot therefore be wondered that there should be great feeling against the Choctaw Academy — under such circumstances I despair of succeeding in sending on the boys—indeed there is a strong disposition — and it is now spoken of among the leading Choctaws to send for their children and bring them home. I have objected to this course — I know that the boys are in the habit of complaining—and there may be no ground for the complaints — but such is the effect they have had through the nation that with the
best exertions I could make I failed to send on boys upon your last call...Wm. Armstrong Act Supt W.T."
The enclosed letter follows: "Puckshenubbi District Jany 14th 1840. Dear Friend. Sir. [Armstrong] Having recd. a letter from my son a few days since, I am sorry to learn, that he is badly treated, and that the Choctaw Academy...is badly managed. He says that the school is not kept in order, and that the students are learning all the bad vices that can be, such as gambling, drinking &, I have heard this from different students that came from there.
"When I sent my son to that school, I expected him to get an Education, and to learn how to conduct himself with propriety—But sorry I am to think that I have sent my son, to such a base place.
"It appears from all accounts that the students are not fed with a sufficiency, and that they are badly clothed. Dear Sir. It is my request that you write on to the manager of the school to send my son and my nephew Wm. Smallwood home, and I will put them in school in this Nation, where they will do much better than in Kentucky...your friend Thomas his x mark Leflore. Written by Bazil Leflore, Choctaw Clerk of the District, W. A. to Capt. William Armstrong, Choctaw Agency, Arkansas [Postmarked Fort Towson].
This letter is very interesting when one reflects that Bazil Leflore had learned enough as a pupil at the Academy to hold the position of clerk of his father's district and was able to attend to correspondence for his father who could not write. The boy who wrote the complaint to his father, Chief Leflore was doubtless Farlius Feflore. Basil was graduated from the Choctaw Academy and a photostat of his certifciate of graduation is now in the Oklahoma State Historical Society library having been secured by Hon. Robert L. Williams.
On March 4, 1840 Johnson requests the Commissioner to furnish the superintendent of the Academy "Silver medals for the meritorious boys who leave school in credit; none have been recd for years and the students express great anxiety to have this badge of honor to carry home — please let me have...as many as you can spare & oblige."
Henderson presents a more cheerful picture of the "base place" than Leflore's letter. April 1, 1840 he reports: "The students...are good healthy condition, and making as much progress in learning as at any former period...are generally well behaved, peaceble and friendly disposed among themselves; consequently we have had but little trouble during the past quarter with unruly and disobedient boys...The number...now at the institution is reduced to 107..."
Dr. Robert Evans reports April 3, 1840 "...The only case we have to lament is that of George W. Hord who was taken early last fall with a pulmonary affection of the lungs,..." In 1834 Henderson lists young Hord as 12 years old, in the 3rd class and having a good mind. A note with the above report says he was a Seminole, that he entered school in March 1834 and gives has age as 15 in 1840. A palpable error as he must have been 18 at the time of his death.
The account of the manual labor department shows discouragement by the usually optimistic superintendent: "In the wagon shop there are none, in the shoe shop there are none, in the smith shop, there are three who seem disposed at present to continue,...not much confidence can be placed in boys, particularly Indian boys who are so naturally fond of change. They would frequently solicit permission to go into some of the shops to learn a trade, and in a short time become tired of work and as earnestly ask for permission to leave the shops and return to school."
Four Potawatamie boys arrived at the school May 12, 1840 and Henderson writes that "They are of suitable size and age to ensure success in education..."
The state of the Academy as chronicled by Henderson, October 1, 1840 sounds encouraging: "The students...are in fine health and in a more peaceable and quiet condition than common...The diet is substantial...the winter clothing is now prepared of good quality and well suited to the season...the Sabbaths are spent to the best possible advantage in promoting morality and principles of religion among the students — during the past summer 50 or 60 have professed religion and have joined the church;...
"Among students are Coffee Folsom 20 - W. B. Pitchlynn 16 - Benjn. Nail 10 - Forbis Laflore 20 - Choctaws: and George Colbert 13 - Colbert Carter 14 - Chickasaws: Lucious Marshall 13 - Porter Marshall 12 - Tho Marshall 14, Creeks who had been in school since September 1834. Among the Cherokee were Philip Watts 20 - Jos. Ross 14 -Edward Crutchfield 13 - Lewis Downing 1225 - John B. Fields 15 - Charles Bushyhead 15. According to one record Forbis Leflore returned home in September 1829 but he may have gone back to the school.
Peter P. Pitchlynn was appointed by his tribesmen to make an investigation of the school in 1841 and later he became superintendent, reorganized the Academy and made D. Vanderslice acting superintendent during his absence in the nation.
The Cherokee Advocate26 quoting from the Frankfort Commonwealth that "Mr. Thomasson, of Kentucky, has submitted a resolution of inquiry into the disposition of the funds appropriated by Congress to the Choctaw Academy and the treatment of the Indian youths educated there...all, we think proper to say is, that, if neighborhood reports be worthy of any attention, the vindication of the faith and good name of the Government require a rigid scrutiny of all the matters proposed in Mr. Thomasson's resolution..." The Advocate adds: "We are glad to hear of this inquiry and hope that it will be so prosecuted as to elicit the correctness of the alleged complaints. These complaints are universal, we believe, among our neighboring bretheren, who have never reaped fruits commensurate with the sums of their money that have been lavished upon this Academy."
Thomasson's resolution was adopted by the House of Representatives December 19, 1844 and the report27 of the Committee on Indian Affairs. March 3, 1945 was as follows: "That they have examined the papers in possession of the committee..." that they "are not satisfied that the abuses alleged to have existed in the management of the Choctaw
academy are well founded. Serious charges...against individuals connected with that institution...are not of a character, and not sustained by sufficient evidence, to warrant the definite action of the committee...information before the committee, is, in many respects contradictory...the committee beg leave to be discharged..."
Among the papers in this printed document is an answer from O.P. Rood, who testifies that he has been connected with the school for two years and ten months. He states that: "Every action of Colonel Johnson towards the students, that has come under my notice, has been kind and fatherly in the extreme.
"...In the spring of 1839 some person or persons attempted to burn the old academy situated on the hill, in which attempt they were so far successful as to injure the house materially. I applied to Colonel J. and stated that the house could not be made as comfortable as I could wish, and requested that he would have the house now occupied by the school fitted up. (It was then used as a store and Wagon shop.) He immediately had...the house fitted as it now remains...So far as it has has come under my notice, Colonel Johnson has been very kind and friendly towards Colonel Pitchlynn;..."
The inspectors report (5 and 6 of April, 1842) that they find the facts as given by D. Vanderslice, the superintendent, as to "the numbers of the students, health, progress in their various studies, and their accommodations, correctly stated..."
John Dougherty and Willis Dehoney, members of the board, were appointed a secret committee to visit the Academy. They examined the establishment and reported to the inspectors April 1, 1842 "...that they found all things equal to their most sanguine anticipations...There were no complaints, but all seemed cheerful and happy."
At the annual meeting of the inspectors October 5, 1842, they found "the students, though few in number, are in the enjoyment of unusual good health and spirits, are comfortably clad, and well attended to..." They write to Hon. John C. Spencer, Secretary of War, that "...the conduct of the students,...has been exemplary. There is
no complaint in the school or neighborhood against the students, that we know of..."
It appears that William Suggett was "the only remaining inspector of the Choctaw Academy...for the quarter ending December 31, 1842" and his report was delayed until January 14, 1843 by his illness and bad weather. He makes the usual statement as to conditions being good and says: "The boys are well satisfied; and, upon particular inquiry, they make no complaints. Mr. Isaac S. Gardner, the senior teacher, is a moral, talented, and well educated man, much beloved by the students, and is every way well calculated to instruct and conduct a school.
"The moral deportment and high standing of the superintendent are, I presume, too well known to the department to need notice from me; suffice it to say, he deserves the confidence of the government, and has both the interest of it and of the aborigines of our land at heart."
In Suggett's report for December, 1843, "...at no time has he been more gratified at the prospect of educating usefully morally, and religiously the children of the red man — the native sons of the forest...many of the students have joined the temperance society...The teachers, Mr. I. S. Gardner and Mr. Rood, are gifted, and qualified to do their duty — Mr. Gardner has no superior — besides subordinate teachers of good character and qualifications...The christian must rejoice at these good results of the Indian school which has,...sent out to the world, and back to the nations...young men distinguished for learning, for business habits, for eloquence, for their morality and religion. It has sent out good physicians; those who have made good merchants, good chiefs, and good ministers of the gospel..."
Mr. Suggett made his report of July 1, 1944 to Hon. William Wilkins, Secretary of War, and he is "Happy to find that, in every department, there is care, attention, and regularity in the management of this valuable institution...the progress of the students is equal to what might be expected under the disadvantages which attend the tuition of boys who commence without a knowledge of the English language, and are ignorant of a letter in the alphabet
The final report for 1844 was sent by Suggett who "conscientiously believing that no one school has ever produced one-tenth part of the benefits to the Indian race as this, he would be wanting in his duty to them, and to his country, not to recommend it to the kind patronage of the President and Secretary of War."
From Louisville, Kentucky, November 24, 1844 a man of the name of F. Joyce wrote Hon. W. P. Thomasson28 as follows: "Without a commentary on the subject of the deplorable condition of the Indian department, as managed for the last 12 or 15 years,...permit me to call your attention to the Indian institution located in this State, called the 'Choctaw academy.'
"...It would not be in my power to explain to you, in the hurried limits of this letter, the deplorable condition of this institution and its inmates. Curiosity prompted me to visit it about the 1st of September last" and he says he found "...a much more degraded state than most neglected 'negro quarters' I ever saw. The young Indians were, as I was told, about 60 in number, from different tribes; and instead of presenting a collection of human beings governed by rule and order, they were ranging about in rags and at rude plays, without a guide or governor, with the prospect that, when they would leave that retreat, they would be neither white man nor Indian..."
Col. Cave Johnson, of Tennessee, who served his state in Congress seven times and was later Post Master General of the United States, sent Colonel Johnson a copy of Joyce's letter and the resolution introduced into Congress by Mr. Thomasson, calling an investigation of the Choctaw Academy.
Colonel Johnson writes Cave Johnson from "Near Sulphur, Ky., January 8, 1845. "...What a blessing it would have been to the country, and to the poor Indians, if the authority which has been so shamefully abused by others, had been vested in this good man — judging from his own letter, as otherwise he is a stranger to me!"
Johnson resents the fact that Joyce did not call on him or the officers of the school and he explains how the boys
are clothed, "the quality as good as that which is used by the independent farmers of the county for themselves and their children, and the quantity ample..." he recounts the difficulty of keeping boys, between the ages of ten and fifteen years looking tidy and admits that some of the clothing was ragged when the time came to change into winter garments. "Nearly all the Indian youths come to this school are perfectly ignorant of the English language. They require more recreation each day;...the school having diminished one-half, one-half of the buildings had been unoccupied for two years...and no doubt these deserted rooms and houses were supposed to be those occupied by the students...If his visit had not been so rapid, (not half an hour) ,and so unknown to me and all others connected with the school, he would have been informed" as to the buildings, repairs, etc.
"It is very true that it is extremely difficult to make the students keep their respective rooms clean, neat, and in good order — particularly in the warm season; many will abandon their rooms for the green grass and shady trees by day and by night, and no human power can prevent it;...
"In order to accomplish the great objective of civilization and education, we have resorted to every expedient that reflection and experience have suggested; among other things, we have omitted vacations — keeping school all the time, except a few days in the year, such as 4th of July and Christmas day — to keep the boys from idle and dissipated habits. I have, on several occasions, taken students to the city of Washington, who were not inferior to the most polished young men from our own colleges; and these were only common specimens of more than one hundred young men who have been educated here and sent home...I will venture to assert that this has done more to elevate and civilize the aborigines than any other school that has ever existed since the revolution...
"The informer (Mr. Joyce) says he saw the boys engaged in 'rude play, and lounging about without a guide or governor.' What does he mean by rude play?'...The boys here indulge in the bodily and athletic plays which my teachers tolerated in my boyhood and no governor or guide
was ever considered necessary in those plays. Playing ball, running, jumping, playing marbles, prisoner's base, and all such, are the rude plays in which the Indian youth here have indulged, and in no other. We have never permitted the boys to box...I have never known more than two or three fist fights...they indulge in the bow and arrow...I hope it was not intended to make the boys give up these ordinary athletic exercises for 'sell and thimble,' hide the slipper,' sister Phebe,' and the like."
There are several letters appended to House Report No. 193 from neighbors of the Academy. One written by Richard Thomason, January 10, 1845 states that he has lived in the vicinity ever since the school started and that his eldest son completed his Latin studies there. He praises Mr. Vanderslice, the superintendent, Mr. Gardner and Mr. Rood, and says "With regard to Col. R. M. Johnson, the patron of the school, his course has been that of a kind father to the young Indian; and this embraces everything.
"...It is impossible that they have or can suffer for want, judging from the vast quantity both animal and vegetable provisions that is, daily prepared for them..."
There follows a statement signed by nine other men of the Thomason family, including the former pupil, concurring in the letter of their relative and they say "The buildings are better than those used by the schools in the country for white children..."
An interesting note from Sandford Braham certifies that he has sold to Colonel Johnson "200 yards of linsey and jeans of real substantial quality — such as a great many of the white men and boys of my county wear for laboring clothing. This was purchased for the use of the Indian boys;...which I would say is a very suitable article of clothing for them. I am...a manufacturer of woolen goods." Colonel Johnson adds a brief line: "It is the very same clothing that I now have on, and have all the winter. Rh. M. Johnson."
The life of the Academy was doomed by the fact that the Indians had begun to build schools in their own nations. Mr. Henderson had retired to his farm in Grant County, Kentucky where he died in 1846. Surely his memory
should be revered by the Indians of Oklahoma since he did so much to instruct and elevate the youth of his day. His responsibility must have been tremendous but through all of the annoyances he suffered his letters always reflect his mild and humane nature.
Not so the gallant Colonel—some of his letters to Mr. Henderson were very fiery and he made it plain that his home was his castle and that the boys of the school were not to invade his private premises. Having retired from his long career in public life he made his home on his farm in Scott County until his death in 1850.
There is little left of the old buildings of the Academy but the good accomplished there will never die and a school which sent out such men as Lewis Downing, George W. Harkins, Peter Pitchlynn, Robert Jones, William Smallwood, the Leflores, the Folsoms, and the Nails, together with other distinguished Indians will live in the hearts and memories of their descendants.29
29In addition to authorities quoted the compiler has material not used in this article, because of lack of space, from the New York Observer, November 1, 1834, p. 31; The Southern Statesman (Jackson, Tennessee) August 10, 1833, p. 3, col. 3, taken from the Cynthiana Glaener; The Cherokee Advocate, (Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation) July 31, 1845 copied from The Arkansas Intelligencer; and Zion's Advocate, a Baptist paper. There is also an interesting account of the school in Life Among the Choctaw Indians by Henry C. Benson, A. M., Cincinnati, 1860.