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WASHBURN, CEPHAS (1793-1860)

A missionary to the Cherokee people, Cephas Washburn was born to Josiah W. and Phebe Cushman Washburn in Randolph, Vermont, on July 25, 1793. He graduated from the University of Vermont, was ordained a Congregational minister in January 1818, and afterward preached in Vermont. From October 1818 to autumn 1819 he served as a missionary in Georgia. These years encompassed the Second Great Awakening, an important period of religious revivalism and evangelism in America. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent Washburn to the Arkansas Cherokees. Washburn married Abigail Woodward just before the couple left Georgia. In July 1820 he preached the first sermon ever given in Little Rock, Arkansas. In company with his brother-in-law, Rev. Alfred Finney, an 1815 graduate of Dartmouth University and an ordained Congregationalist minister as well, he moved into the Cherokee country to establish Dwight Mission near present Russellville.

When the Cherokee Nation was relocated westward to present Oklahoma in 1828, Dwight Mission moved to a new site near present Marble City, in Sequoyah County. There the Washburns remained until he resigned his position in 1850. He concluded his career as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, retiring in 1855. He died on March 17, 1860, and is buried in Little Rock. Washburn's memoirs, Reminiscences of the Indians, posthumously published in 1869 and reprinted several times in the twentieth century, record his observations of the lifestyles and culture of Cherokees west of the Mississippi.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cephas Washburn, Reminiscences of the Indians (1869; reprint ed., Van Buren, Ark: Press-Argus, 1955).

Dianna Everett

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