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The Meeting of Folsom and Nittakachih
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When the council, convened for the adjustment and final distribution of the annuity, adjourned in such confusion, together with the animosity manifested and openly expressed by both contending parties the one toward the other, (a similar scene never before witnessed in a Choctaw council) I feared the consequences that I was apprehensive would follow; but hoped that the conflicting opinions then agitating my people would be harmonized upon calm reflection and the adoption of wise and judicious measures. But when I ascertained that Nittakachih and Amosholihubih were truly assembling their warriors, I began to view the matter in its true and proper light. I knew those two chiefs too well to longer doubt the full interpretations of their designs as set forth in their actions; for they both were men who indulged not in meaningless parade, or delighted in empty display. Inevitable war kindred against kindred and brother against brother with all its horrors and irreparable consequences now seemed to stare me in the face, with no alternative but to speedily prepare to meet it; therefore Le Flore and myself, after due deliberation, resolved, if we must fight, to confine the fighting as much as possible within Amosholihubih’s and Nittakachih’s own districts. We at once took up our line of march south toward Demopolis, which was in the district of Amosholihubih, and where they had assembled their warriors.
At the termination of our second days march, we ascertained through our scouts, that Amosholihubih and Nittakachih were also advancing with their warriors to meet us. In vain I still sought for some pacific measures that might be advanced to stop further demonstrations of war. To send a flag of truce, requesting a conference with the two disaffected chiefs, would, I felt, prove unavailing, as it would be attributed to fear on the part of myself and LeFlore, and but render them the more obstinate and unyielding. On the morning of the third day we were informed by our scouts that they were only a few miles distant, slowly but boldly advancing. In a few hours marching, I looked ahead and dimly saw the outlines of the front warriors here and there visible among the trees, and then the whole army appeared in full view about half a mile distant, all in full war dress and armed complete, advancing slowly and in good order.
Even up to this moment I had cherished the fond hope that matters would not be carried to the extreme; but now hope fled, and the speedy destruction of my people and country seemed inevitable. In vain I endeavored to think of some plan that might yet avail and prevent bloodshed. A few moments more and it would be too late for reflection, as each army with stern brows, firm steps and resolute hearts, were slowly but fearlessly shortening the distance between. But now the time for futile reflection had passed, and stern determination claimed the hour.
Nearer and nearer the fearless warriors were steadily approaching each other. Not a word had been spoken, nor a sound of defiance uttered by either the one or the other of the still advancing parties; and thus in profound silence each continued to advance, the one toward the other, until not exceeding two hundred yards intervened, when Nittakachih gave the signal for his warriors to halt, which they instantly obeyed. LeFlore and myself instantly gave the same to our men, which were as quickly obeyed. For several minutes the armies stood and gazed upon each other in profound silence. To me what minutes of indescribable suspense! I speak not boastingly when I affirm that my own safety had not the weight of the sixteenth part of a poor scruple in my reflections. The terrible consequences that would follow the firing of a single gun absorbed my every thought; and how soon that might be done by some inconsiderate and reckless one, no one knew. I still clung to a feeble and lingering hope that the unfortunate affair might yet be amicably adjusted; but what step to take that could lead to that desirable and happy result, at that advanced stage of affairs, I was utterly at a loss.
At this juncture of alternate hope and despair my astonishment was unbounded when I saw Nittakachih leave his men where they were standing and alone advance toward us with slow and measured steps, looking with a calm and steady gaze upon us. Every eye was upon him in a moment, as with firm and dignified steps he continued to advance until he had reached a point half way between the now wondering, but still silent, warriors; then stopped and, slowly raising his arms, he gently folded them across his breast and, in calm and dignified silence, looked with fearless eyes upon me, Le Flore, and our astonished men. Truly, what a scene! What a picture! There he stood in his shining war-dress midway between the gazing and admiring warriors, the personification of calm courage and heroic daring; his dark eyes flashing, and his proud lips curling seemingly in fearless defiance, and presenting one of the finest specimens of a North American Indian warrior conceivable. No figure of bronze could have been more rigid than that of Nittakachih, as he there stood erect and in calm silence; truly a more striking subject for a picture was never exhibited than was presented in Nittakachih in that attitude. What a theme was he to whom fear was a stranger!
But what his motive in thus presenting himself deliberate as it was strange none could comprehend, or even advance a remote conjecture. Yet, all could read that what ever it might be, he meant it; for no one did him the injustice by even supposing that the situation was contrived for dramatic effect. Ah! It is comparatively an easy matter to unravel those characters which appear before us in butter fly colors, whose easy dispositions and familiarities of manner preclude the possibility of deception; but to understand the secret and hidden workings of that mind which lies continually wrapped up in its own solitude to trace the secret springs and solitary windings of the mysterious power within, and read the intents of the heart as they are made manifest, in the attitude, the look, the silence, the act, requires an intimate knowledge of the human soul which but few; if any, possess, and which nothing but long experience can ever secure.
To all, it seemed a fearful scene, terrific in its consequences, was about to be enacted. In vain I sought for some token, some sign expressive of his wish; but his silent and motionless form, indexing a determined soul, was all that seemed animate. Like a statue he still stood, calm, silent and motionless, presenting a picture grand and beautiful even to sublimity, while silence profound seemed to brood over everything animate. Even the gentle breezes seemed to have sung themselves to rest; and a solemn hush prevailed, as though all nature in pitying suspense had made a pause, to stay the death dealing struggle that seemed about to ensue between kindred and friends. It was a bright October morning, clear, sunny and cool, with the bluest of blue skies over head, dotted he re and there with little white clouds that floated about like sails upon an ocean, while the sunlight filtered down between the branches of the trees and fell in bright flecks upon the ground. The melancholy haze of Indian Summer wrapped every distant object in the soft, purple veil; the dim vistas of the surrounding forests ended in misty depths; through the openings the majestic trees of endless variety and gigantic size were dropping their dying leaves, and here and there along a ravine, crimson maples gleamed against the back-ground of dark green sweet-gums. In all directions, the forest foliage painted with autumnal hectic, were strewing the bier of the departing” year, casting over all a melancholy, dreamy, appearance that approximated to the sublime; and which, under other circumstances, would have awakened the harp of memory to the sweetest tones, carrying the thoughts back to the haunts of the olden time, under the magic melody of boyhood’s by gone joys; but then all was wrapped in that mysterious silence which produced sensations not similar to that experienced by the birds beneath the basilisk glare of the serpent. What emotions thrilled my soul! Emotions, which seemed to isolate my whole being from all surrounding objects, but that silent and motionless form before me, wrapped in the impenetrable silence of his own heart.
Again I looked around for some one from whom I might receive even a conjecture as to the interpretation of the in comprehensible enigma, that so mysteriously and unexpectedly had presented itself before us, but none ventured to break the stillness by a word.
I then resolved to go to him alone, be the consequences what they might; and a ray of hope illuminated the darkness of my despairing soul, as I thought a word to him might, perhaps, be as oil upon the troubled waters, and the threatening storm of war yet be hushed to peace. With emotions known only to myself, yet with a calm exterior, I started to ward him with a slow but firm step, and had walked but a few paces when I observed Nittikachih’s warriors silently, but steadily raising their rifles to their shoulders and bringing them to bear directly upon me; and at the same instant heard behind me the ominous click of the rifle locks of my own men the signification of which I well understood. With deadly aim Nittakachih’s warriors held their rifles up on me, as I drew nearer and nearer to their adored chieftain who still stood silent and motionless, but with his black, penetrating eyes upon me as if he would read the very thoughts of my heart; yet without a visible sign of emotion, and utterly unheeding the thousand rifles that also rested upon him, with as many clear and resolute eyes glancing along their dark barrels. The silence was still profound, Not a word, not even the chirping of a bird or rustling of a leaf broke the fearful stillness. I well knew everything was suspended at this juncture upon a pivot which the slightest breath might turn the equally poised scale for the worst, and give a signal for several thousand rifles to begin their work of death, and Nittakachih and myself would be the first to fall riddled with bullets, and our position but made it doubly sure.
With a secret bracing of my nerves I continued to steadily advance, and when within a few paces of him I met his eyes fixed upon mine with that baffling expression, which, I must confess, caused me to feel an inward alarm, as if some thing vaguely dangerous had suddenly reared himself in my path, which by its very charm instinctively bade me beware. But I as quickly subdued my apprehensions, by thinking, with a certain haughty pride which I fear will never be eliminated from my nature, of the dangers I had already met and overcome in my brief but troubled life, and meeting his calm and steady gaze with a smile which I knew to contain a spice of audacity, stopped immediately before and near him and calmly said, as I noticed the strife of expression between his eye and lip; the one hard, cold and unyielding; the other deprecating in its half smile and falsely gentle, as if the mind that controlled it was even then divided between its wish to subdue and the necessity it felt to win: Nittakachih, it would be only folly for me to speak as if nothing had occurred to justify your present attitude. It would be doing your good sense and sound judgment but little honor; and putting myself, or rather, ourselves, for we, as chiefs, should be one in the matter of our country’s interests, in a position, which would make any after explanations exceedingly difficult. For explanations can be given, and in a word, for what has doubtless appeared to you as strange and unwarrantable on our part, explanations which I am sure you will cheerfully accept, as it is not natural for you to nurse suspicions contrary to your own candid and noble nature. I calmly waited for the words I felt to be hovering upon his lips, but they were scarcely the ones I expected. He replied that he was satisfied with my proffered words of reconciliation, and, as he spoke his voice assumed its confident tone, whatever might have been the disturbance communicated to his inward nature. Then looking with his dark and piercing eyes into mine, as if to read the secret thoughts of my heart, and see if perchance treachery lurked not beneath the smile of friendship: finding none, the dark cloud of defiance that greeted my approach instantly gave place to the sunlit rays of confidence, and he continued: “I feel that I can and will again give you the title of friend. Will you accept it from me, and with it my past confidence and esteem?” I responded, I will in behalf of the common interests of our people; and then extended my hand to him, but in a steady mechanical way that I felt committed me to nothing, for I was fully alive to the possible consequences of my every act. He took it, though the slight unmistakable pressure he returned seemed to show that he accepted it for a true sign of restored friendship, if not of absolute surrender. “You have removed a great weight from my heart,” he again re marked. “Had you been one of the common place type of men, you might have made this a serious matter for us.”
What have I said and done, I replied, though not so bitterly, or with as much irony as I might have done, had that desire to understand the full motive of a condescension I could but feel was unprecedented in his arrogant nature, been less keen than it was, to influence you to suppose that I will not yet do so? “Your glance and your honest hand are your surety,” he answered; then with a real smile, though it was not the reassuring and attractive one he doubtless meant it to be, we both turned our face s toward our anxious and waiting warriors, and each gave the signal of peace and friendship restored. Instantly every rifle was lowered, and the two armies slowly marched in perfect order to where we stood, and there all shook hands. A council was v then and there convened; satisfactory explanations made and accepted; peace and friendship restored, and a terrific civil war averted. And then, as the party turned their faces home ward, all fired off their guns as an acknowledgment that not a particle of animosity lingered in the heart of a single one of either party, but that entire confidence and friendship was restored.
In more ancient times, when difficulties between two clans of parties had been settled they stacked their arms together, and as an evidence that entire confidence, friendship and good will was restored; which ceremony was called “Tanapoh Aiyummih,” signifying guns mixed.
Such was the narrative (in substance) related to Mr. Calvin Cushman by Colonel David Folsom sixty years ago, portraying a scene in actual life that stands unequaled in the annals of historic warfare; while also displaying a self-sacrificing and patriotic heroism (especially in Colonel David Folsom) that should put to shame and confusion of tongue those ignorant and senseless babblers who deny to the Indian race the possession of a single virtue.
Nittakachih moved west with his people; remained a few years, and then returned to the home of his nativity in Mississippi to attend to some unfinished business, and while there was taken sick and died; and thus secured for himself the gratification of dying in his native land, and having his body laid away in peaceful rest among the graves of his ancestors a privilege so much coveted by the North American Indian.
Had Nittakachih possessed the advantages of a thorough education, he would have placed his name high on the roll of fame among earth’s illustrious great as a brave, patriot and honest statesman; yet, without any of those advantages what ever; few, if any, among the whites could equal him in point of true native eloquence, genuine patriotism, self-command, and moral courage, under any and all circumstances. It was my fortune to be personally acquainted with him, and never have I seen, nor do I ever expect to see, a finer specimen of nature’s true man, than was exhibited in Nittakachih. He left one son, who was known as Captain Jackson Nittakachih, and also one son-in-law named Tunapoh Humma, (Red Gum). He was chief at one time of the Kunsha-ache Iksa, which lived on the creek then called Lussah Hocheto, (Big Swamp), now known as Big Black. They both moved with their people to their present place of abode, and died soon after the death of their noble father and father-in-law.
Colonel David Folsom, the first chief of the Choctaws, elected by ballot, was a man whose generosity of nature was conspicuous, not merely in the ordinary acceptance of that term, but in its fullest and broadest sense; and I hazard nothing in saying if posterity shall do justice to his memory, history will accord to David Folsom a high rank as a just and honest ruler, a noble patriot and an exemplary Christian; and it is no doubtful proof of the distinguished talents of this illustrious Choctaw, that he administered the national affairs of his people for thirty years, during a period the most critical and perilous in the annals of the Choctaw Nation, con jointly with other kindred spirits venerable for their age, prudence and integrity and of which their nation seemed remarkably prolific, and whose names and eulogy might fill a volume. Colonel David Folsom was a good man in the full sense of that word. Continually filling offices of greater or less importance in his country, still he ever carried the traits of honesty, faithfulness, zeal and energy into every position. He was truly one of those characters that naturally come to the front in all matters, and possessed many of the characteristics of a leader of men. It was natural that such a man should sometimes encounter antagonism and be misunderstood, but his noble heart and generous nature could not carry malice or harbor revenge. No man was more ready for reconciliation and forgiveness, whether the cause of misunderstanding was just or unjust. Of his worth as a citizen, public or private, and his Christian faith and life, his people know full well and justly appreciate.
He was elevated to the chieftaincy at a time when his country was agitated by many conflicting emotions; his people were just emerging from (the state of nature to that of Christianity and civilization; and the fountains of the great deep of their hearts were being broken up by the new order of things that were being established among them in government and in morals; and in connection with this, the exchange of their homes and country for others remote in the distant and unknown west, by a process of coercion, fraud and tyranny unsurpassed in the annals of man, but justly aroused their fears to the highest pitch, and filled every heart with misgivings and the deepest gloom. I witnessed their indescribable agitation, and heard their wail of woe. Yet amid the raging storm of conflicting emotions that everywhere prevailed, Colonel David Folsom stood preeminent; the prudent, wise and wholesome counsels he then gave upon all questions to the subordinate chiefs and his agitated people; his calm and noble bearing amid the all pervading confusion; the firm and undaunted rebuke which his en lightened and enlarged philanthropy administered to the wrong policy of the uninformed and inconsiderate, were as oil upon the troubled waters and conspired to make him the chief influence for good .
But in his home life Colonel Folsom’s virtues shone in all their unvarnished beauty. This was his chosen sphere; here he delighted to receive and entertain the friends who were privileged with his intimate acquaintance, official or private, rich or poor, high or low; and for warmth of affection to his people, kindred and cherished friends; for singular unselfishness, he had few equals and no superiors any where. His sympathies were as prompt and as tender as a child’s, and it was natural and became habitual for his people to go to him when in trouble, to seek council and sympathy, which they never sought in vain; nor did he wait to be sought. He loved outward nature too as the source of conscious pleasurable emotions. He would say, “It rests me to look upon its varied and lovely scenes, landscapes which are really a means of education to the susceptible mind, and which so often have been invested with the charms of poetry and romance. ”
During a visit to the Choctaw Nation, in 1884, I unexpectedly came upon a cemetery in my devious wanderings wherein I found the graves of many Choctaws. Conspicuous among many monuments, stood that of Colonel David Folsom, whom I had known from youth’s early morn. Thus reads the epitaph:
“To the memory of Colonel David Folsom, the first Republican Chief of the Choctaw Nation, the promoter of industry, education, religion, arid morality; was born January 25th, 1791, and departed this life, September 24th, 1847, aged 56 years and eight months.
“He being dead yet speaketh.”
His son, then my companion, and old friend from early youth, informed me that the above appropriate epitaph was dictated by Rev. Cyrus Byington, the long known and faithful friend of Colonel David Folsom and his people. To all, Colonel Folsom seemed to have died in the very midst of his great usefulness and the brightest glory of his days; but those years and the responsibilities that had attended them, had already added dignity to his firm, bold brow, with its strongly marked eyebrows above black penetrating eyes. For many years he had been the ruling spirit among his people, and this sense of mastery had given him some touch of kingliness to his general appearance, his tone and manners something of that look and demeanor which is seen in renowned statesmen and famous warriors.
In strolling over that silent and lonely habitation of the dead, I found the graves of many of my old Choctaw and Chickasaw friends of the long-ago; and in reading their names carved upon the hard, white stone, how beautifully those cherished friends of other days seemed to rise up again in the perspective of memory, calm and serene, as an gels of life from the paradise of the past.
Close by that of Colonel David Folsom’s was the grave of Joel H. Nail, a brother-in-law to Colonel Folsom, and grandfather of Joel H. Nail, now living in Caddo, Indian Territory. He was another true and noble specimen of a Choctaw Christian man. A beautiful marble monument also marked his place of rest, and the following told the curious and inquisitive passer-by who was the Occupant:
“Sacred to the memory of J. H. Nail, of the Chahtah Nation, who died at his residence near Fort Tawson, August 24th, 1846, in the 52nd year of his age.
“Reader prepares to meet thy God.”
The present Nail family of the Choctaws are the descendants of Henry Nail, a white man, who came among the Choctaws about the time Nathaniel Folsom, John Pitchlynn and Lewis Le Flore came; and as they, so did he, marry among them, was adopted and thus became identified among that people. He rose to the position of child and exerted, as did the other three above mentioned, a moral influence among that noble and appreciative people with whom he had cast his lot. He had four sons Joel, Robert, Morris and Joseph; Joel Nail had seven daughters Harriet, Delilah, Selina, Catharine, Isabelle, Melvina and Emma; and three sons Jonathan (father of the present J. H. Nail), Adam and Ed win. Robert Nail had one son the only chief named Edwin, who was drowned in Blue river; and Jonathan had only one son, the present Joel H. Nail, as above stated, and who is a worthy scion of the old stock and still living; he is a quiet and good man; noble and good in his integrity of character; attractive in the benevolence of his life; great and good in his benefaction and charity to his fellow-man; with a life full of gentleness, always ready, he lives as one whom only those can understand who knew him and enjoyed the benefits of his virtues.
Near to this stood another emblem of frail mortality, which told of one who had lived and died, and upon whose smooth face I read love s tribute of affection. “Sacred to the memory of Major Pitman Colbert, who departed this life February, 26th, 1853, aged 56 years. He lived an exemplary life. Ever devoted to the welfare of his people (the Chickasaws), and died respected by all who knew him.”
Of Major Colbert it may justly be said: He was eminently a Christian reformer. His sympathy for his people was intense. He sought to create love and harmony among them; and to show them that purity of life, generosity, honor, truth, are blossoms that spring even from stagnant pools, which to know may be found, not faultless, but still true and lovable, and learn that mercy and charity are needed as well as justice to see what is beautiful in any life. His hearty contempt for cant and snobbery in any form found a ringing echo in his noble nature. He was a true disciple in the temple of knowledge; ever devoting his time and labors to those useful pursuits, which alone adorn and embellish the mind, fitting it for the abode of truth. To the light of nature and reason he added the light of the Bible and Revelation; and prompted by a higher and nobler motive, moved and instigated by a Divine impulse, by that Spirit that comes from above, he spent the morn, noon and evening of his life: in trying to alleviate the sufferings of others; to lift the fallen, support the weak, confirm the good, elevate the scale of excellence among his people, and with the laudable purpose of making them the better by his having lived; and who, in his devotion to the great principles of morality and virtue, lived a life of pleasant toil, supporting and elevating his race wherever fallen, curbing the vices of the vicious, correcting the waywardness of the dissolute, sustaining the right and condemning the wrong.
But what visions of the long past awoke to memory as I stopped before a monument, whose beautiful symmetry of form had attracted me and read; in memory of Louis Garland; died August 14th, 1853, aged 33 years. Generous, upright and virtuous, he lived an example for all who seek the favor of the good.”
More appropriate and truthful words never adorned the tombstone of man. We were fellow students during the years 1839-40-41 and 1842 at Marietta College, Ohio and both professors and students who may now be living, could they read the epitaph that records Lewis Garland’s place of rest, would attest to its truth without a dissenting voice; and I too, though years have intervened with their varied vicissitudes, would here offer some tribute, though feeble yet sincere, to this my Choctaw friend, though an Indian, yet loved none the less. I was born among his people and thus was early initiated into the “mysteries of the Indian character;” and a friendship and love for them, of which I am not ashamed, but justly proud, was formed; not only for them but their entire race, which time nor distance has been able to weaken; and even today, in these my declining years, my heart oft turns to these true children of the Great Spirit, known during the long period of life, and among whom I have yet to find my first false friend; and though during my sojourn and travels among them, I could but feel that
We met like ships upon the sea,
Who hold an hour ‘s converse
One little hour! And then speed away,
On diverging paths to meet no more
And my heart still goes out in fond affection to all those old Choctaw and Chickasaw friends of my youth; in whose honest hearts I have ever found a friendship that never betrayed and a constancy that never wearied.
“Continuing my walk through the cemetery, I discovered a grave that had no marble token to tell of its silent occupant. Upon inquiring of my Choctaw companion, he in formed me that it was the grave of his brother, Cornelius; another fellow student of boyhood’s merry time. We were chums for two years in college life, and there and then be came sincere friends, linked to the recollections of life s early morn, ere sorrow’s dark pall had fallen athwart our pathway; but hope with rosy finger still pointed to the flattering possibilities of the promising future. But alas! Consumption claimed him as its own, and he returned to his southern home but to fall into a premature grave. In college he was a diligent student, and stood high in his classes. The high elements of his noble nature were so fully developed that he commanded the respect and admiration of both professors and students. He was consistent in all things, and his moral character was blameless; and the highest testimony to this was the respect, which all classes of students manifested toward him. But here, dear Cornelius, old chum, loved friend and companion of schoolboy days, I let the Meeting of Folsom and the curtain drop over thy blameless life, closed by a calm and peaceful death and blessing’s well bestowed. Thou went loved and honored while living, and thy early death deeply mourned by all thy friends both red and white; and friend ship without alloy still drops a tear over thy early grave, while thy name and virtues are engraved unstill loving hearts that need no voiced urn or marble inscription to perpetuate thy memory.
But adieu, old friends of the past. After life’s fitful fever, there you sleep. No persecution and oppression disturb you now. The tall forest oaks stand like sentinels around your graves as if keeping watch over this bivouac of the noble dead, which I visited with deep emotion, and left with reflections sad. Why should not history preserve their names? But all unnoticed by the bus world, they lived and died, because they were Indians. That tells tale.
As a sample of Colonel David Folsom’s ability as a letter writer, I will insert a few of his letters written to Rev. Elias Cornelius and others, copied from the original without alteration; and when it is taken into consideration that he never went to school but six months, they may justly cause the blush of shame (if such a thing be within the line of a possibility) to appear upon the cheeks of thousands of white men, who have gone as many years, and yet cannot do half as well.
To Rev. Elias Cornelius:
Choctaw Nation, Pigeon Roost.
July 16, 181&
My Dear Sir:
Your letter dated Knoxville, June 2nd has come duly to hand, safe this morning, which I am rejoice to learn that you and brother McKee and three other boys are all well and happy. I did learn from you and McKee, when you wrote from Cherokee Nation to me by Mr. Kingsbury, and did write you and direct the letter to City Washington, agree able to your direction to me. Rev. Mr. Kingsbury was here few days ago from Yellobusher; and he requested that he wanted my brother Israel under his care, and that he was much in need for company in traveling about the nation and which his request was very certainly most pleasing talk to me and Israel. He is under Mr. Kingsbury’s care and as he is very industrious boy I make no doubt but he will be useful to Mr. K, by the first opportunity that K. may have he will send Israel on to you. My dear friend, I have no means to inform you at present in the regard of my nation, as we have had no council since you left here. But I know and all I can say for my nation they are a people much inneed for help and instruction, and we look up to the government of the U. S. for instruction, and which I do know the establishment of this school will be the means of the greatest good ever been done for this nation. Our hunting are done for these many years back and for wanting good Father and good Council that the general run of peoples at the Nation have still hunted for game an they have in many become in want. But I know that your wish is pure and love and good for this nation, and therefore I have been talking to my peoples and have advice them for the best during their intention to industry’s and farming, and lay our hunting aside, and here is one point of great work is just come to hand before us which is the establishment of a school, and the Choctaws are appear to be well pleased. I thank you for the good and love you have, and what have already done for my nation. Not long since I have heard from Rev and Mrs. Williams. They are all well. I have not seen them yet. I wish you happiness.
I am your true friend till death,
N. B. You will excuse my bad writing, as I did inform you that I had only but six months schooling.
Chahtah Nation, Pigeon Roost,
Nov. 3, 1818.
To Rev. Elias Cornelius:
My dear sir: I have just returned from the Chahtah Treaty, and I inform you that Chahtah did not sell or exchange lands with the United States the Chahtah said that it is but two years ago when the Nation sold a large track of country to the United States and therefore they said that they had no more lands to sell, which they cannot think to sell the land which we are living on it and raising our children on it. And I inform you also that the nation a great of friendships to the United States Com. The Nation talk of in Council and mention that it was great benefit for us Chahtah to have school in our Nation, and appear to be well please and rejoiced to have such aids in our Nation. The chiefs wrote a letter to the president of the United States a most friendly talk and I must inform you in one part of the letter to the president, our chief said, Father we are most thankful for your kindly favor that you aided the Society School in our nation. The chiefs are I believe in notion of visiting the father, the president. Give my warm love to my brother McKee and Israel when you shall see them, and tell them we are all well.
I remain your most dutiful friend till death,
Chahtah Nation, Pigeon Roost,
July 6th, 1822.
My Dear Friend Rev. Byington:
I was rejoiced to learn from Rev. Kingsbury good news from Elliott, and that health of family was much better. It is indeed good news to me to hear that Mr. Ward has brought the large boys under his Government once more. After all our fuss and talk and grumbling and dissatisfaction on the part of we Chahtahs, I hope good will result from it. I did feel sorry when I was there to witness some bad conduct of the scholars there. But I hope good may overrule for the best this is my sincere wish. Some days since I was at Mayhew and staid there few days, and I am happy to say to you that family were well, and the scholars are doing well, and all in good health. The children go out to work cheer fully, and come in the school cheerfully, and mine their teacher cheerfully, and on the hole I think they improve most handsomely and the missionary spirit at Mayhew I think it is good they all appear to do what they can. We shall have a council 18th inst. at Mayhew with the chiefs and warriors of this District. I shall want Mr. Kingsbury to give them a straight talk. I have no news to inform you at present that is worth your notice. Give me some news if you have any. Present my best wishes to the Mission family.
I am Dear Sir your friend,
Rev. C. Byington.
January 7th, 1829.
My Dear Friend Rev. C. Byington:
I am informed you have gone to Columbus, and I do not know it is best that you were there with the lame hand you had. I did not like the look of your hand other day. I think it would be well for you to be very careful hereafter and endeavor to get your hand well. As to our appoint, at Aiikhuna (a school or place of learning), you need not feel any disappointment. I shall try to go over agreeable to promise, it was made to the people, if I should be permitted to go by the almighty hand. I shall try to go and see the people if I only just go there and shake hands and see the people. Mr. Williams will be there, and he can preach to the people if it were necessary to do so. I trust, if I am not deceived, the Lord has done great things for my soul. Pray for me brother.
I am, dear sir, your friend, Aiikhuna.
I have copied the above four letters of Colonel David Folsom from the original without any alteration whatever.
Though there are defects, yet, when we consider the limited opportunity offered in six months tuition and only six months and the writer beginning at the alphabet of a language foreign to his native tongue, and of which he comparatively knew nothing, are they not remarkable productions, especially in that of their orthography? And when we also take into consideration that Colonel David Folsom is but one of hundreds of Choctaws, as well as of other North American Indians all over the continent, as will be successfully established, do not the united voices of truth and justice proclaim the falsity of the assertion, “The Indian could never be educated from his savagery.” Here I will introduce to the reader the Rev. Israel Folsom, a younger brother of the great and good Colonel David Folsom, either of whom to know was to love, yet true Choctaw Indians. But Rev. Israel Folsom’s name belongs alone to the religious history of his country and people, by whom such a man cannot be, forgot ten. The cause for which he so prodigally spent himself is his people; but I honor his name. What Christian can be dead to the lesson of self-sacrifice, and life-long devotion, which his noble career so eminently exemplified? Who of those who knew him can doubt that after life’s journey he entered into that everlasting rest which, while on earth, he so wistfully contemplated, and so interestingly discoursed upon?
His conversion to the Christian religion was somewhat peculiar. After he had become the head of a family, he came in possession of some deistical books handed to him by some of that class of whites who would not only degrade the Indian upon earth but also damn his soul in eternity. But the God of pity and love thwarted the designs of the white, miscreant by interposing in behalf of his untutored, inexperienced and unsophisticated child of nature, as the sequel will prove. For several years he carefully and diligently read the deistical works, to the gradual neglect of the religious books, especially the Bible, all of which, had been furnished him by those devoted missionaries, with their frequent prayers for God s blessing to accompany them. Those prayers of faith followed the Choctaw student from his home east of the Mississippi River to his new home in the west; when he still read his deistical books, and devoted much thought and-calm reflection upon their teachings while engaged in the duties of his extensive farm and stock ranch. One beautiful spring morning, having ridden out upon the prairie to look after his cattle, and while reflecting upon what he had read the night before, which denied the existence of a First Great Cause, he asked himself: “Then whence came the green grass that now covers this vast prairie as with a carpet, that stretches away before me on every side? Whence came the innumerable flowers of variegated colors that so delight my eye? Whence came the cattle, the horses, the birds, and all other animals? Ah! Whence came I, myself? There must be a God. There is a God!” Then and there he sprang from his horse, fell upon his knees, and in earnest prayer sought light from Him, who hath said, “In the day that ye seek me with all thy heart, I will be found of thee,” and arose a changed man! He at once turned his steps homeward, entered his house, and-without speaking a word gathered every deistical and infidel book that had so long contaminated and polluted his house and led him astray, and in one pile threw them into the lire; then went out of the house, took his stand where he could see the top of the chimney, and, as the black smoke, made blacker by the consuming falsehoods of their infamous contents, ascended in dark rolls to the sky, shouted as he waved his hand to its final adieu, “Behold infidelity”! And from that moment gave his life to the ministry, and in that capacity filled a large, sphere of usefulness, and sat upon the throne of a wide public esteem.
By precept and example, he endeavored to lead the minds of his people into the paths of virtue and truth. His great effort was to train them morally by impressing upon them the value of Christian truth, as the basis of Christian character and life. In his nature he was modest and retiring, but his social qualities were of the highest order; and as husband, father, citizen, friend and preacher of the Gospel, he illustrated in his daily life all those noble attributes which make up and form the highest type of true manhood. His fine sensibility fitted itself to every demand that could be made upon it in his family and social relations. He was happy in making others happy, tender, and true and devoted; and his ways were truly the ways of simplicity and gentleness. Thus lived and died this great man great, not in the present acceptation of the word in this age of folly and sin, but in that of truth, an ornament to the truth, and a gem in the diadem of his Redeemer. Truly, so grand a specimen of the old school of Presbyterianism should not be lost from the view of succeeding generations; who, in strength of faith, ardor of hope, and zealous devotion to the cause of man’s Redeemer, and unwearied labor for the salvation of souls, had few equals in any age of that glorious church of Christ.
One has spoken of him as “one of the saintliest men with whom he had ever been acquainted”; and all those who knew him will fully acquiesce in the truth of that statement. He was indeed a most sincere Christian; a man of great spirituality; in which there was nothing” morbid or sentimental, nor yet bustling and obtrusive; but unaffected and genuine, and at the same time most active and efficient. The elements of character, which contributed to his success, were his simplicity, solidity and godly sincerity. He was one who believed what he preached, and practiced what he taught. He united gentleness with decision of character, and was firm in his convictions, yet free of obstinacy; and when convinced of his errors, he at once retracted. No one ever knew him to knowingly sacrifice a right principle, frustrate a worthy purpose, shrink from a known duty, betray a sacred trust, speak evil of his fellowman, forsake a friend or injure an enemy. Insincerity was a stranger in his breast, and to say or do anything for effect never entered his honest mind. Though not what the world would call a brilliant preacher, yet he possessed” what many brilliant preachers lack good, common sense; for extravagances or eccentricities never marred his own labors, nor were the legitimate effect of his pulpit works cancelled by his errate life.
Rev. Israel Folsom always gave one tenth of his annual income to the church; and in his will, left one tenth of his property to the church to which he was attached; and though time seemed to have prematurely whitened his locks, yet it also seemed to have gently touched his stalwart frame, and his manly features indicated to the last a character that had met life s vicissitudes as a man should meet them. His native strength and force still seemed like the beautiful country in which he lived once wild and rugged indeed, but now softened and humanized by years of culture. It was evident that he looked at the world, as mirrored before him, not with cynicism nor mere curiosity, but with a heart in sympathy with all the influences that were making it better. He died April 24, 1870, and was buried at Old Boggy Depot, Choctaw Nation, and Indian Territory, aged 67 years, 11 months and 22 days. Such was Rev. Israel Folsom, of whom it may be said: He was a remarkable illustration of the power of Christianity a great mind, once entangled in the meshes of error, but broke away, grasped the truth and yielded not with his expiring breath. His was a religion that endured; a bright and shining light to all his people; a morning star that had arisen, casting its wild light over the dark cloud which, for untold centuries, had hung its dark and gloomy pall over his nation; and though it seemed to set prematurely, yet it cast back a light that illuminated the path of truth. But the veil of silence has been drawn over as true and unselfish a life as was ever laid at the Master s feet; yet his grand Christian life will remain a bright, shining light, animating and encouraging his loved ones left behind, while memory endures.
I will here give the following of the Choctaw people, from the pen of their great and good countryman, Rev. Israel Folsom, which I have copied from the original without alteration whatever, furnished me by his daughter Czarena, now Mrs. Rabb, and never before published:
“The history of the aborigines of America has been one of the most prominent and interesting subjects of inquiry and research of the present age. The, manners, habits, customs and peculiarities of the different Indian tribes, have, for many years, formed a theme of deep interest and praise worthy investigation to the philanthropic and scientific world. While their traditions are worthy of being pre served, on account of their similarity to some of the wondrous and attractive events recorded in the Old Testament, various and unsatisfactory are the conjectures set forth regarding their parent root or origin. Some; with a good show of plausibility, have attempted to prove that they are of Jewish extraction and constitute a remnant of the lost ten tribes of Israel; others as earnestly agree, that they are but a branch or off-shoot from the Tartar, Sclavonic or Tyrus race; while, on the other hand, a class of speculative historians make bold to assert that they are not of Asiatic line age, and do not, therefore, owe in common with mankind their descent from Adam. The first view is supported by the Indians themselves, but gives little strength or addition al force to the argument. Whatever value, or otherwise, may be attached to one or all of these theories, which to a large extent they only are, one thing is clear and beyond contradiction, that the white people in general have, comparatively speaking, but a very imperfect knowledge of the Indian race.
“During the earlier period of the history of America, and shortly after its discovery, the monarchs of Europe, fired with the lust of conquest and spoil, attempted, but in vain, to subjugate the Indians and rivet the shackles of slavery upon them. They however, carried this purpose so far into execution, as cruelly to tear them away from their peaceful homes and endeared families, and transported them by thousands into various parts of the world. These unjust proceedings, instead of quenching the indomitable love of liberty, which so strongly and brightly burned in their breasts, served only to arouse the full power of resistance against their oppressors, which ultimately had the effect of freeing them from such bondage.
They may bury the steel in the Indian’s Breast;
They may lay him low with his sires to rest,
His scattered race from their heritage push,
But his dauntless spirit they cannot break.
“From that period up to the present time, the Indians have been and are still receiving everything but justice. In fact ever since the Christian world gained a foothold upon the American continent and erected the cross on its shores they have had no rest, but have been defrauded, trodden down, oppressed, scattered, and weakened. Their condition has been one of constant suffering and injustice. Avarice, the demon of civilized man, has worked heavily upon them, the result of which is, that only a sad and melancholy history can be written in regard to their past and present conditions. Yet a people possessed of such rare and remarkable traits, should not be permitted to pass away without some notice and record of their history.
“But how true, when nature is wounded through all her dearest ties, she must and will turn on the hand that stabs and endeavor to wrest the poniard from the grasp that aims at the life, pulse of her breast! And this she will do in obedience to that immutable law, which blends the instinct of self-preservation with every atom of human existence. And for this, in less felicitous times, when oppression and war succeeded alternately to each other, was the name Indian blended with the epithet cruel, therefore, when they (the whites) talk or write about the Indians wild, savage, and irreclaimable nature, they speak not nor write as they know or feel, but as they hear, by which and through which they have been educated to regard the Indian race as beings forming a lower link than humanity in the chain of nature, and finding only a place for them in the ranks of ferocious beasts of prey; but this, with other innumerable errors of both excusable ignorance, but in most cases, that of inexcusable ignorance and great want of principle, is shamefully unjust; since the Indians cruelty to the White Race as a whole, has not been greater than that practiced upon them by the White Race, proving that they possess as humane dispositions as any nation of people under the same circumstances and in the same state of moral and intellectual culture.
“As comprising an important chapter of this great subject, I will now proceed to give a brief narrative of the Choctaw tribe of red people their traditions, government, religious belief, customs and manners, anterior to the introduction of the gospel among them. To guard against any misconception, however, I deem it proper to state that their traditions and history are so much commingled, it is difficult to separate them without destroying, in a great measure, the interest of the subject, and I have, therefore, to some extent, interwoven them.
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