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The Story of Oklahoma Baptists
E. C. Routh, 1932

Chapter V
J. S. Murrow

[p. 41]
      After H. P. Buckner had worked, among the Creeks several years, he opened correspondence with the president of Mercer College, desiring to find a young man who could assist him. Buckner wished to give the greater part of his time to the translation of the Bible into the Creek language. In 1880, the Board of Domestic and Indian Missions located then at Marion, Alabama, published three books by Buckner, the Gospel of John in Creek, a Creek hymn book, and a Creek grammar. Joseph Samuel Murrow, then a young ministerial student in Mercer became interested and resolved to spend his life among the Indians.

      Murrow was born in Richmond County, Georgia, June 7, 1835. His father, John Murrow, and three brothers, were ministers. His grandfather was one of Francis Marion's men in the Revolutionary War. When he was nineteen years of age young Murrow united with the Green Fork Church in Middle Association, and was baptized by his oldest brother. In his diary for 1854, under date of December 17, he wrote: "Attended church this day. Enjoyed the blessed privilege of taking communion today for the first time in my life." On September 16, 1857 he was ordained by the First Baptist Church, Macon, Georgia. Immediately thereafter, without completing his course at Mercer, he set, out on his long journey to the West. In Mississippi he was married October 8, 1857 to Miss Elizabeth Tatom. He and his bride traveled by boat from Memphis to the mouth of the Arkansas River, thence to Little Rock and Fort Smith. In neither one of these towns was there a Baptist meeting-house or a Baptist preacher. They arrived at Buckner's home, North Fork Town (Micco), near the present Eufaula, December 10, 1857, and he baptized his first Indian convert that same month. At that time mail was received monthly by U. S. Overland Mail Route from St. Louis to California.

[p. 42]
Writing to the Baptist papers in Georgia and Mississippi (Christian Index and The Mississippi Baptist), he said that the Indians sang in the Spirit and prayed in the Spirit, and that "an Indian is never known to refuse to pray when called upon." Murrow was supported in his work among the Indians by the Rehoboth Association in Georgia.

      In the summer of 1858, August 18, his wife was taken from him by death. In June he wrote that in the three nations [Creek, Cherokee, and Choctaw] there were 40,000 Indians, and that there was no Southern Baptist missionary among the Seminoles or Chickasaws. On October 27, 1859, he was married to Miss Clara Burns, daughter of Rev. Willis Burns, a missionary to the Choctaws, who had come from Alabama the preceding year. Early in January, 1860, Murrow moved from Micco to Little River Station, about sixty miles due west of Micco, in the Seminole Nation. He started work among the Seminoles, and constituted a church with seven members. The word "Seminole" means "runaway." The Seminoles were members of the Creek Tribe east of the River until they went away to Florida. The Seminoles now use the Creek Scriptures and hymn books in their worship.

      By appointment of the Confederate Government as agent for the Seminoles, under General Albert Pike, Murrow served as missionary. He continued his work among the Seminoles during the Civil War, baptizing more than 200 Indians in the camps, and missing only one Sunday service during the War. Of the 65,000 Indians, about 10,000 were in the Confederate Army, many of them serving in Arkansas. On September 23, 1860, John Jumper, distinguished chief and afterwards a preacher among the Seminoles, was baptized by Rev. John D. Bemo, into the fellowship of a Baptist church. He had been a Presbyterian three years, but he could not reconcile Matthew, third chapter, with the Presbyterian administration of baptism. Murrow told of preaching in the house of an Indian who had two wives, and wanted to join the church but Murrow advised him that he could not be received until he put one of his wives away. At the close of the War he ordained Colonel John Jumper and James Factor, interpreter, to the ministry. They

[p. 43]
served their people faithfully many years until their death. Murrow moved to Texas spending part of the year as teacher at Linden where he was "raised" a Master Mason. In later years he won the highest distinction in Masonry, receiving the Honorary 33rd of the Scottish Rite in October, 1911, and holding various high offices in Masonic organizations. In the fall of 1867, he and his family returned to the Indian Territory and settled among the Choctaws on Middle Boggy near the present site of Atoka. With the coming of the M. K. and T. Railway in 1872, the town of Atoka, named after a chief of the Choctaws, was located and Murrow moved to the new town where he made his home until his death in 1929. For twenty-three years he was pastor of the Atoka Baptist Church which was organized in May, 1869. Under his leadership many of the Choctaw Baptist churches were reconstructed and the Choctaw-Chickasaw Association was organized in 1872. Ha was interested in the Choctaws who remained in Mississippi. Rev. Peter Folsom made a trip back to Mississippi and investigated conditions among the Choctaws, not one of whom could read or write or had been in a church house. A young Choctaw, Jesse Baker who was educated in Shurtleff College, labored among them until he died from overwork. The Mississippi Baptist State Convention took up missionary work among the Choctaws and much good was done.

      Murrow's interest in the Creeks and Seminoles did not abate. In the seventies his attention was turned to the Plains Indians in Western Oklahoma and John Mclntosh, a descendant of General William Mclntosh was sent to that field early in 1877. A great-grandson of John Mclntosh was one of the victors in the recent Olympic games. H. F. Buckner in his "Thirty Years Among the Indians" tells something of the work done by Mclntosh and of his retirement because of the failure to support him. It was in the year 1876 that the Baptist General Association of Western Arkansas and Indian Territory was organized (known as The Baptist General Association of the Indian Territory from 1898 to 1900, when it was consolidated with the Baptist Territorial

[p. 44]
Convention of the Indian Territory). Murrow was one of the organizers in 1883 of the Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention. In 1885 he was appointed by the Home Mission Society superintendent of the Indian Mission work in Oklahoma. In June, 1888, he was married to Miss Kate L. Ellett who had come to the Territory in 1882 as a missionary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. For years after their marriage she rendered distinctive service as a missionary. "Aunt Row," as she was affectionately called, died in January, 1915, after twenty-seven years as the beloved companion of Dr. Murrow. In 1921 he was married to Mrs. Jennie Ragle who ministered to him with beautiful devotion to the end of his earthly journey.

      Murrow rendered distinctive service not only as a missionary and pastor but as an editor. He was editor of the Indian Missionary, 1887-1891, a file of which is preserved in Bacone College. He kept a diary every year from the year of his conversion until a short time before his death. A number of these diaries have been lost or destroyed. The remaining volumes are preserved at Bacone College. In these daily records he expressed freely and frankly his opinions of various men, whether those opinions were favorable or unfavorable.

      At the 1896 meeting of the Missionary and Educational Convention there was adopted the recommendation that an institution for the care of orphans be established in the bounds of the Convention at the earliest practicable time. At the 1903 Convention the establishment of the Murrow Indian Orphans' Home at Atoka was reported. Later the Home was located at Umchuka, some 25 miles from Atoka. (In 1904 the Convention adopted a recommendation that a Baptist Orphans' Home be established for the care and training of dependent orphans not eligible to the Murrow Orphans' Home. At the 1905 Convention the bid of Oklahoma City for the location of the proposed home was accepted). In 1910 the Murrow Indian Orphans' Home was removed from Umchuka to buildings on the Bacone College Campus near Muskogee where it is still located.

[p. 45]
     Early in 1880, a Christian school for the Five Tribes with an initial enrollment of three students was opened at Tahlequah by Professor A. C. Baeone who had come to Indian Territory in 1878 to teach in the Cherokee Male Seminary. In 1881 he sought a better location and petitioned the Creek Council at Okmulgee to make a grant of land on which to build a school. The request was at first declined, but on the insistence of the sainted William McCombs, the question was reconsidered and a grant of 160 acres was awarded. A. C. Bacone, J. S. Murrow, and Daniel Rogers, a committee appointed by the Home Mission. Society, selected the present site of Bacone College. A granite marker has been placed on the spot where these three men knelt in a prayer of thanksgiving to God for giving the land. The school was opened at the new location in the spring of 1885, with tho commencement exercises for the session then closing. Several years after Dr. Bacone's death in 1896 the name of the institution was changed from Indian University to Bacone College.

      On Sunday, September 18, 1929, at the age of ninety-four years, three months and one day, Father Murrow fell asleep and was at home with his Lord. He had given more than seventy years of his life to the building of the West. He had led a mighty host into fellowship with his Savior and Lord. The Indians justly claim him as a great benefactor. One of the most cultured Indian women in America is Princess Ataloa,, field representative of Bacone College, herself a B. A. of a Baptist college and M. A. of Columbia. Dr. Murrow baptized her great-grandmother, her great-grandfather, and her grandmother, and married her mother and father under, the old Chickasaw laws. A short while before his death, Dr. Murrow placed his hand on her head and said, "My great-granddaughter I put into your hands the torch. Carry it on." That Is the commission entrusted to all who love the Indians.

      Page 46 has questions and is not included.
Go to Chapter 6

[From E. C. Routh, The Story of Oklahoma Baptists, 1932. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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