There is less of absorbing interest and romantic narrative in the history of these missions, than in the history of the Burman stations. Yet the Board have by no means overlooked their obligations to the tribes, who were once lords of the soil.
The first missionaries to the Indians, commissioned by the American Baptist Board, were Rev. Messrs. Peck and Welsh. They were designated to their work, in Philadelphia, in May 1817, and spent the summer in forming missionary associations, and awakening attention to the condition of the Indians. In the autumn, they arrived at St. Louis, which they made the head-quarters of their operations. Here they established schools, preached to the destitute settlers, and formed acquaintance with the neighboring tribes of Indians. When matters here were in good train, Mr. Peck was instructed by the Board to remove to the station occupied by Mr. McCoy, and assist him in his toils. But in consequence of family circumstances, he was excused from any further service of the Board, and has since labored successfully, in the Western States, on his own responsibility.
Mr. McCoy, who had preached, for some time, in the vicinity of the Indian country, felt much anxiety for their religious welfare, and offered his services, as a missionary of the Board. Similar offers were made by Rev. Messrs. Ronaldson and Young, who were likewise accepted.
When Mr. McCoy received his appointment in 1817, he commenced his labors among the tribes in his neighborhood - the Miamies and Kickapoos. Here his success was very small. He baptized but one individual, and collected only nine or ten scholars in his Indian school. While here, he formed an extensive acquaintance with the Indians generally; and with a Miami chief he was quite intimate. This chief urged him to go to Fort Wayne, a central point, to which the Indians were in the habit of resorting. He listened to the request, and went with him.
In this place, Mr. McCoy had frequent intercourse with the Putawatomy, Ottawa and Shawnee Indians, and prospects were encouraging. As soon as his determination to stay was known, several of his scholars from the former station came to join his school, and in less than six weeks he had forty-eight scholars. The gospel also was preached to a ready people, and within three months, six persons were baptized.
During the year 1822, a season of sickness and great distress afflicted the region. The Putawatomy Indians were very anxious to have the station removed into the heart of their tribe, and to retain Mr. McCoy for their teacher. On the abatement of their troubles, the mission family, after the spot had been investigated, removed to the station. It was named Carey, in honor of Rev. Dr. Carey, of Serampore. This station was two hundred miles northwest from Fort Wayne. Mr. McCoy was assisted by Mr. Lykins, whom he baptized, and who became valuable as a teacher. Soon after the removal to Carey, Mr. William Polke and Miss Goodrich joined the station, and the mission began to proceed with vigor. The Putawatomy Indians seemed disposed, from the beginning, to listen to the gospel. In less than two years, the boarding school contained nearly seventy scholars, and much progress had been made in agriculture and the mechanic arts. A religious attention of an encouraging character was soon visible, and a considerable number made a public profession on the same day.
Messrs. Simmerwell and Slater, with Miss Purchase, joined the Carey mission in the year 1826. Being thus reinforced, opportunity was presented to Mr. McCoy to travel among the Indians, and originate new stations. The Carey station was marked by no special circumstances of interest, during his excursions. In the years 1828–1830, the subject of the removal of the tribes was agitated, and the state of the mission was and unpromising. The following extract from the last report of the Board discloses the present prospects of Carey.
“The removal which it was hoped would be brought about at this station, did not take place; and Mr. and Mrs. Simmerwell are still there. Finding they were likely to remain for an indefinite time, they made arrangements to continue the school, and employed Luther Rice, a native Indian, and lately a resident at Hamilton, N. Y. to teach it. The number of boarding scholars averages probably ten; but any of the Indian children in the vicinity of the school are at liberty to attend. Whether the government will provide for the removal of the Putawatomies the present season, is uncertain; but we think there can be little doubt of their intention to do so. Whenever that event takes place, the station will be relinquished, of course; and it may be before that time.”
Several Ottawa Indians, who had become acquainted with the state of things at Carey, expressed great anxiety to have a missionary, and instruction in religion and the mechanic arts. No missionary could be sent; but a blacksmith, an Indian apprentice and two hired men, whose influence might be beneficial, went to reside among them. In the winter of 1822-3, Mr. McCoy set off to visit them. Thomas is in the state of Michigan, more than a hundred miles distant from Carey. In Sept. 1825, Mr. McCoy made a second visit to Thomas. He was received with the greatest cordiality; and urged to establish a mission and schools. About a year later, he took up his residence there for several months. A church has been organized, which was admitted, in Oct. 1832, into the Michigan Baptist Association. The station is under the superintendence of Mr. Leonard Slater. The school is committed to Mr. Potts, and is kept alternately on the mission premises, and about a mile distant, in order that its influence may be diffused as widely as possible.
The last January, a day was set apart for special prayer, in behalf of the mission, by the mission family. At the close of the day, a hired man in the family was found to be the subject of deep religious impressions. After him several Indian children, members of the school, became anxious, and finally, one chief. A few converts were the fruits of this awakening.
In the year 1818, Rev. Mr. Posey travelled through a part of the Cherokee nation in North Carolina, and established a few schools. But, owing to various discouragements, they were discontinued at the close of the first quarter. After their failure, he travelled extensively among the Indians in Missouri. On his return, he erected a little establishment suitable for a mission-family on the Hiwassee river, in North Carolina. In 1821, his school contained forty children. At this time, a large company were sent by the Board to occupy the station, including among them Rev. Mr. Roberts and Mr. Evan Jones, now the superintendent of the mission. The school greatly increased, and in the year 1823, two or three of the natives became serious. Schools were established in two or three places, at some distance from the station, where the missionaries occasionally visited and preached. Upon these schools, the divine Spirit shed forth his influences, and several became followers of the Lamb.
This station is the most encouraging of all under the charge of the Board, among the Indians. From the close of the year 1829, there has been a continued season of religious revival. In the autumn of 1830, there was a large
number of inquirers; and during that year, 39 Cherokees united with the church. During the year 1831, events occurred of great interest. Many joined themselves to the Lord, at the seat of the station; and in a district twenty miles distant, a considerable number of sincere disciples have followed their Lord in the ordinance of baptism. Mr. Jones thus describes the close of a meeting, holden among them.
“Every breast seemed to be full, and every heart overwhelmed with various emotions. Some bowed down under the guilt of past sins, some hoping in the atoning blood of Jesus, while many bosoms swelled with gratitude to see their parents, wives, husbands, children, yielding to the gentle sway of the blessed Saviour. The penitents were of all ages, from eight or nine to upwards of eighty years of age.”
The converts exhibit characteristics of decided piety. Two of them, John Wickliffe and Dsulawe, have been approved as teachers, and spend much of their time in the service of the Board. Their labors, together with those of private brethren, have contributed materially to the extension of the revival.
On the first Sabbath in June, 1832, thirty six full Cherokees were baptized, One, a little boy, 9 or 10 years old, and another an aged man of 70. Mr. Jones says in a letter, “In all the settlements where the members reside, they meet on Sabbath days to sing and pray. They have also regular prayer meetings in the week. All the heads of families have morning and evening worship in their houses: and many who are not heads of families use their influence for that purpose.”
Letters from Mr. Jones, till the close of October 1832, recount scenes of continued revival. The word of God among the Cherokees has free course and is glorified. The church numbers upwards of 160 members. The boarding school is in a flourishing condition. Mr. and Mrs. Butterfield and Miss Rayner were sent to this station, as a reinforcement in Oct. 1832.
Sault De St. Marie
This station, in Michigan territory, is under the superintendence of Rev. Abel Bingham, who arrived, with his family, in October 1828. He immediately commenced a school with 50 scholars, and established preaching, on the Sabbath, to the neighboring whites, and, through an interpreter, to the Indians. In December, 1831, it became apparent, that the gospel was taking effect, and a more than ordinary interest was felt in the subject of religion. The number of hearers increased, and anxious inquirers often tarried for prayer and conversation, after the assemblies were dismissed. In a little time, the work spread into the garrison, and several of the soldiers became hopefully pious. Stillmore were asking, “what shall we do to be saved?”
A letter dated in May 1832, speaks of the revival, of which this was the commencement, as unspeakably interesting. “It has been a glorious time, and one never to be forgotten. God has displayed his power once and again in this place. At first, temperance with healing rays shone upon it and effected much. Then followed the influences of the Holy Spirit, and the stoutest hearts submitted to his power. The garrison, which two years ago, following the custom prevalent of spirit drinking, exhibited the characteristics of intemperance with its numerous train of vices, is now a sober and religious place, from which prayer and praise are constantly ascending from numerous hearts.
Our little church, which numbered but six last summer, now recognizes thirty four; eighteen, of whom are soldiers, mostly young men of promising talents, and very zealous and devoted.”
More recent letters speak of additional baptisms. Messrs. Meeker and Merrill, with their wives, joined the station in October 1832. This station has the advantage of affording its missionaries frequent opportunities for giving religious instruction to natives from the interior. It so occurred the last winter, that a Tequenenon chief and his daughter were detained at the place for several weeks, during which time it was hoped that she became savingly acquainted with the truth.
The temperance measures of Mr. Bingham have been very successful. Nearly all the inhabitants of the place are united in them, and partake in the general benefit.
The mission at Hickory Log was formerly under the superintendence of Rev. Duncan O’Briant. He divided his labors between the schools here and at Tinsa-wattee, about 60 miles distant from the Valley Towns. The church at the latter place numbered about 30; the school at Hickory Log contained also from 20 to 30 scholars. And both have been marked by an encouraging attention to religion.
In July 1831, about 80 families of the Cherokees at Hickory Log were contemplating a removal to Arkansas, or west of it, provided their beloved missionary, the Rev. Duncan O’Briant, might be allowed to accompany them. To this, of course, there was no objection, if the removal of Mr. O'Briant could be brought about, without charge to the funds.
That this could be done, it was thought there was little or no doubt; and consequently measures were taken to bring the school, in its existing location to a close, early in November, and prepare for a removal.
The account of the station from its origin, as then submitted by Mr. O'Briant, the superintendent, and the Rev. Littleton Meeks, who had for years examined it quarterly, will furnish satisfactory evidence of the beneficial results of missionary labor. “This school,” say the brethren, “commenced its operation, April 30th, 1821, at the Tins-a-wattee Town, in the Cherokee nation, under the patronage of the American Baptist Board for Foreign Missions. Since its establishment, about two hundred children have attended to receive instruction, the greater part of whom have been enabled to read the word of life, and to write a fair hand, and some have been made acquainted with arithmetic. Some of the scholars embraced religion while at the school, and a regular Baptist church was organized, which embraces thirty-four members. Besides this, there has been a general improvement among the natives, in morals, agriculture and housewifery. This church, which is under the pastoral care of brother O’Briant, now stands dismissed from the association, to remove to Arkansas.” A public meeting was held on this interesting occasion, and a sermon delivered by Rev. Mr. Meeks, to a deeply affected audience; at the close Rev. Mr. O'Briant, family and flock, came forward, and were commended to God in fervent prayer.
In October 1823, Rev. Lee Compere founded a mission at Withington, among the Creeks, on the borders of Georgia and Alabama. He established a school, and one of his scholars, John Davis, became hopefully pious. It was his custom to go out, with this young man as an interpreter, and read the Bible and converse in every house where the people would listen. The Creeks, however, furnished an uninviting field, and Mr. Compere's labors were useful, chiefly, in the conversion of several of their slaves. These slaves were bitterly persecuted by their masters; and so much opposition to the mission was manifested by the Creeks, that the station was relinquished by the Board, and Mr. Compere left their service.
John Davis, the convert above noticed commended himself to the affection and confidence of his pastor, who encouraged him to address the people of his tribe, on the great subject of religion. Believing that he could be most useful where he now is, he removed thither, and has continued to give evidence, that he is actuated by the genuine spirit of the gospel. He preaches at four different places at stated times - visits and converses with the Indians at their homes, and three days in a week teaches a school for the benefit of children.
A Baptist church was constituted among these Indians Nov. 9th 1832, called the Muscogee Baptist church. It consisted of Rev. Mr. Lewis and wife, missionaries,
John Davis, and three black men, who had been baptized east of the Mississippi. Nov. 16, two Creeks were baptized and admitted to the church. These were the first baptisms, that have occurred in the Indian territory. The religious assemblies are represented as attentive, and prospects encouraging.
Mr. Johnston Lykins, who was long associated with Mr. McCoy, at the Carey Station, has accepted an appointment by the Board to labor among the Shawnees, within the limits of Missouri, where he arrived with his family on the 7th of July. At the date of our last intelligence from him, he had not been there a sufficient time to ascertain accurately the prospects of the situation. He had communicated to the chiefs and the principal people individually, the object of his coming; but the desolating prevalence of the small pox, prevented a public meeting of the Indians. “Till the malady subsides,” he says “my labors must be confined to private visiting; but in this way I hope to do something towards the promotion of that cause, which we so ardently desire to see successful.”
Tonawanda, N. Y.
The schools in New York, among the Seneca and other Indians, which are under the patronage of the Board, are transferred to the special care of a Board organized for that purpose, within the state.
“The native church and school are in a pleasant and prosperous state. The teachers are happy in their employment. The scholars make excellent proficiency in their different branches; the present number is thirty, and there is a good prospect of considerable increase.
“The church has lately had an accession often, three of whom are intelligent young men, and influential in the tribe. The members appear to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ; they enjoy good harmony, and have formed a temperance society on the plan of entire abstinence.
“Measures are in progress to obtain good mechanics, who will feel an interest in the welfare of the station, and who will be able not only to supply the station with articles in their respective branches, but also to assist the boys in acquiring such trades as will afford them profitable and useful employment.
[From The American Baptist Magazine, 1833, Volume 13, pp. 16-20. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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