First Mission Work Among Wild Tribes
Victor I. Masters, 1914
The Home Field Magazine, 1914
THERE HAS BEEN doubt in some quarters as to the Mission Board which first commenced work among the Wild Tribes of the Southwest. The venerable and beloved Doctor A. J. Holt, now pastor at Kissimmee, Florida, went to the Wild Tribes as the missionary of our Home Mission Board in the summer of 1876. We have in our possession the commission showing his appointment to the work.
Dr. Holt had trying experiences in that service, and the story is inspiring and interesting. It has not yet been adequately told. From other quarters have come claims that Dr. Holt and Southern Baptists were not first to begin mission work among the Wild Tribes. We are of the impression that this view is held and taught by some of our Northern Baptist brethren.
We have a communication from Dr. A. L. Vail, of Philadelphia, which, together with a more recent letter from Dr. Holt, clears up the matter. We give it space In The Home Field, both because Southern Baptists are due to know the facts, and because the story of Dr. Holt’s experiences Is instructive and Inspiring.
Dr. Vail writes us, referring to representations on the subject in Baptist Home Missions: "I have no doubt the statement you make with reference to Dr. Holt’s pioneering among the Wild Tribes, is correct, at least so far as It relates to the operations of a missionary organization.
"But In 1873 James M. Haworth became the government agent at Fort Sill, representing the Friends or Quakers, under the government method at that time of appointing representatives of different Christian bodies to be Its agent in looking after different tribes. He had with him Frank Maltby, a Methodist, as assistant agent. These were earnest Christian men, who taught Christianity on that reservation. Prior to them, Thomas Beaty, a Quaker, had gone to the Kiowas and Induced them to let him open a school.”
It will be seen that Dr. Vail concedes that Dr. Holt was the first missionary ever sent to the Wild Tribes by an evangelical Mission Board. But he would seemingly class as missionary - the paid activities of the government agents, who were professing Christian men and sometimes conducted day-schools.
It is worth while to look into the missionary value of the government’s paid Indian agents to the Wild Tribes at that time. Dr. Holt, more than any living man, can give light here, and we quote him at length below. This statement from Dr. Holt will fix the facts so that there will be no future doubt about it. Dr. Holt writes as follows:"I make a distinction between the government schools, most of which at the time were conducted by Christian teachers, and the regular missionary operations of Mission Boards. The Quaker teachers did some personal religious work. Chief Kicking Bird was converted through their work. Their labors were confined to their schools, which were composed of Wild Indian children. Occasionally an Indian parent would drop in and listen to the opening exercises of singing and praying and Scripture reading.
"But these Quakers were teachers, supported by the government and protected by
the soldiery. There was not a single missionary among them. The lives of some of them were beautiful, but I shall not forget that It was by these Quakers that I was persecuted and driven away from my work there. Andrew Williams, the Quaker agent at Wichita, told me that before my coming no minister of any denomination had ever been in the country."It seems to us that this statement, coupled with Dr. Vail's, ought permanently to settle this question. Dr. Holt was the first missionary; of an evangelical agency among the Wild Tribes and the first minister who served those people. We have in our possession other interesting facts about the early work of Dr. Holt among the Indians, which we hope to publish at the proper time. We add here Dr. Holt’s narrative about the persecution he suffered from the Quakers. It certainly negatives the frequently heard statement that Quakers have never persecuted others:
"One of the Quaker children who had been attending their school at the Wichita agency waited to join our Indian church and be baptized. She had said not one word to me or my wife. She naturally went to her teacher. He advised her not to be baptized. You know the Quakers do not believe in baptism. So this teacher, named Henry Daws, went to the Quaker agent about it and said:
"Hannah wants to be baptized and I have advised her to not be. She is our girl."
"Agent Williams, said (so he told me): ‘If Hannah wants to be baptized, she may. Let everyone be pursuaded [sic] in his own mind."
If Hannah is to be baptized. I’ll lock her up,' said Henry. “Agent Williams said: 'If thou lock her up. I will lock thee up.’
"So Agent Williams dismissed Henry Daws from the school on that account. I did not know anything about it.
“Agent Williams came to me and said:
‘Friend Holt, I want thee and thy wife to teach in our school until I can get other teachers from the State. I have dismissed Henry and his sister.’
"I replied: ‘I had rather not have anything to do with the troubles In the Agency. My work Is among the Indians.' ‘But’ he continued, ‘If you do not help me out In this, I shall have to dismiss the school, and it will be greatly hurtful. I ask thee as a personal favor to help me out in my trouble.’
“Then I gave In, and wife and I taught a month in his school. Then Henry Daws and other Quakers of the Agency framed a petition to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which read this way: ‘One A. J. Holt, an adventurer and an interloper, has come to this agency, and has meddled with Its affairs, and has obtained a strong influence over our Agent Williams, and we pray his removal.’
“This was sent to Washington City, in a brief time a telegram was received by Agent Williams to this effect: ‘Dismiss Holt, reinstate Henry Daws, and order Holt to leave the reservation.'
“That was the order for my banishment. I replied as follows: ‘Agent Williams, the order of the Indian Commissioner is received. Being a citizen of the United States Government, I shall have to obey its mandates. I do so, however, under protest. The United States Government transcends her prerogative when she thus attempts to throttle missionary enterprises.’
“The reply of Agent Williams was full of tenderness and sympathy and ended by saying that his confidence in my integrity was unimpaired, and that he had only done what he was commanded to do.
"I left the day following. I left my wife sick abed. I left her in the care of Scott, the Negro helper, and Kin Chess, my faithful friend among the Indians. I was gone one month. As soon as I reached a telegraph station I wired Dr. W. H. McIntosh, the Corresponding Secretary of the Home Board, and told him to repair to Washington City, and I would meet him there with a full list of particulars, that I was driven from the field by the order of the Government. He did so and went into the office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and asked why they had dismissed their missionary. The Indian Commissioner denied having dismissed any missionary. Dr. McIntosh contended that they had dismissed A. J. Holt, and he was ordered to leave the country. The Commissioner inquired more diligently, and found that in his absence
the Acting Commissioner had issued such an order on the application of the employes [sic] of the Wichita Agency. Then they sought the files and found the charges, as I have stated. Then the Indian Commissioner got busy. First he and his Acting Commissioner were both astonished to learn that A. J. Holt was a missionary at all. Then the Commissioner wired to the commander at Fort Sill as follows:
"‘Please repair at once to the Wichita Agency and make careful and diligent inquiry as to A. J. Holt, who was dismissed from the temporary force of the school at that place. Ascertain from the most reliable sources, precisely what Holt did to merit such drastic measures. Ascertain further how he stood among the Indians themselves, and make immediate report to this office by wire.’
Then turning to Dr. McIntosh, he said: 'I regret, Doctor, to have been the occasion of this trouble, and I assure you that speedy justice shall be done. Wait until day after
aftertomorrow, and I promise you satisfaction.’
"At the time stated, Dr. McIntosh (so be afterwards told me) went In and found a reply awaiting him. Then Mr. S. A. Hayt, the Commissioner said to him: ‘I find that Mr. Holt was very popular among the Indians, and that some of the Quaker teachers became jealous of his influence over the Indians, and conspired to oust him. That he was accommodating Agent Williams until he could obtain teachers from the States, and that he has been badly treated. I shall this morning wire him to return.’"
[From Victor I. Masters, editor, The Home Field Magazine, July 1914, pp. 15-17; [From Victor I. Masters, editor, The Home Field Magazine, December 1914, pp. 3-5; via Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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