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The Presbytery of Kiamichi

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The ministers and group of Churches, that first formed the Presbytery of Kiamichi, belonged originally to the Presbytery of Choctaw; which included the territory allotted in 1832 to the Choctaw Nation, comprising the southeast one-fourth of Indian Territory, after the establishment of Oklahoma Territory in 1890.

Constituted By Synod

The Synod of Indian Territory, at the meeting held at South McAlester, Oct. 22-25, 1896, in response to an overture for division from the Presbytery of Choctaw, established the new Presbytery by the adoption of the following resolutions:

1st. That the Choctaw Presbytery be divided into two Presbyteries, according to the following geographical boundaries: First, beginning at Durant on the M. K. & T. Railroad, east on the 34th parallel to the Arkansas line, thence South to the Texas line, thence west with the Texas line (Red river) to the M. K. & T. Railroad, thence north with the M. K. & T. Railroad to Durant, the starting point; this Presbytery to be known as the Presbytery of Tuskaloosa, and to embrace the following Churches now within its bounds: St. Paul, Oak Hill, Bethany, Forest, Beaver Dam, Hebron, Sandy Branch, New Hope, Oak Grove and Mt. Gilead-10; and to embrace the following ministers, now members of the Presbytery of Choctaw: Rev. E. G. Haymaker, (white) Rev. E. B. Evans, (white) Rev. Wiley Homer, Rev. J. H. Sleeper, and Rev. Samuel Gladman-5.

2nd. That the Presbytery of Tuskaloosa meet at Beaver Dam (Grant) on the Saturday before the third Sabbath in November, 1896, at 11 o’clock a. m. and be opened with a sermon by Rev. E. G. Haymaker, or in his absence, by the oldest minister present, who shall preside until a new Moderator is elected.

Organized At Grant, Oklahoma

The first meeting of this new Presbytery was held at Grant, in the Beaver Dam Church of which Rev. Wiley Homer was pastor, Nov. 14-16, 1896, seven months after the death of Parson Stewart, who had organized and developed all these Churches. The meeting was opened with a sermon by Rev. Edward G. Haymaker, superintendent of Oak Hill Academy, Clear Creek; and he was chosen to serve as the first stated clerk. The first annual report, April 1, 1897, showed an enrollment of 5 ministers, 11 Churches and 292 communicant members. The name of the Choctaw Church at Wheelock, Garvin, P. O. was included in this report, and Richard D. Colbert was enrolled as a licentiate and appointed stated supply of New Hope and Sandy Branch Churches.

The name given this new Presbytery, which was the name of a county and county seat town in Alabama, was not entirely satisfactory to those, who were included in it; and in making their first report to synod in the fall of 1897, they requested the name be changed to Mountain Fork, the name of a branch of Little river, that flows from the east end of Kiamichi mountain. While this matter was under discussion at synod the name of the principal river flowing through the bounds of the Presbytery, “Kiamichi,” (Ki a mish ee) signifying “Where you going,” was suggested by Rev. Wiley Homer; and it was approved both by the Synod and Presbytery.

The roll of the Presbytery, at the time of its first report in the spring of 1897, included two Choctaw Churches, namely, Oak Grove at Grant, and Wheelock, having 5 and 70 members respectively. During this year Oak Grove was disbanded and dropped; and Wheelock, becoming vacant, was transferred to the Presbytery of Choctaw; Rev. Evan B. Evans, its last pastor, having gone to Mulhall, in the Presbytery of Oklahoma. Bethany, a colored Church previously reported as having 9 members was also dropped. These changes reduced the Presbytery to one consisting entirely of colored Churches and of colored ministers, with the single exception of Rev. E. G. Haymaker, superintendent of Oak Hill Academy, who was engaged in the educational work among them.

The annual report for 1898, the first one under the new name, “Kiamichi” that included only colored Churches, shows that the Presbytery then consisted of 4 ministers, E. G. Haymaker, Wiley Homer, John H. Sleeper and Samuel Gladman; 2 licentiates, William Butler and R. D. Colbert; and 8 Churches, Oak Hill, 40; Mount Gilead, 25; Saint Paul, 14; Beaver Dam, 34; Hebron, 13; New Hope, 25; Sandy Branch, 16; and Forest, 20; having 187 members and 248 Sunday school members.

Boundary Enlarged

In May 1907, when the General Assembly at Columbus, Ohio, united and rearranged the synods and Presbyteries of the Presbyterian and Cumberland Churches, after the union of their Assemblies at Des Moines the previous year, the boundary of the Presbytery of Kiamichi was defined as follows:

The Presbytery of Kiamichi shall consist of all ministers and Churches of the Negro race in that part of the synod of Oklahoma, lying south of the south Canadian river, and south of the Arkansas river, below the point of confluence of these two rivers.-Min. G. A., 1907, 214.

The north half of Oklahoma was included in the Presbytery of Rendall, then established and two men Rev. Burr Williams and Rev. David J. Wallace, who had been members of Kiamichi, since 1899 were transferred to it.

In 1910 the colored Presbyterian ministers and Churches in east Texas were added to the Presbytery of Kiamichi. These included Rev. J. A. Loving, M. D., and the Mount Zion Church, at Jacksonville, Texas; and Rev. J. M. McKellar and the Mount Olivet Church at Rusk, Texas.

Annual Report of 1913

In 1913, the Presbytery included 14 ministers and 16 Churches as follows:

Minister Address Church Elders Members S.S. Members Missionary Offerings Self Support
Wiley Homer, H. R. Grant, Okla.
Robert E. Flickinger, H. R. Rockwell City, Iowa
Samuel Gladman1 , Ev. Eufaula, Okla.
Thomas K. Bridges Lukfata, Okla. Mt. Gilead 2 26 25 $ 13 $ 25
William Butler Eagletown, Okla. St. Paul 4 27 38 8 98
Millerton, Okla. Forest 3 13 17 3 25
Lukfata, Okla. Pleasant Valley 2 27 37 8 15
Richard D. Colbert Grant, Okla. Hebron 2 19 15 8 12
William J. Starks Garvin, Okla. Garvin 3 30 57 11 190
William H. Carroll Valliant, Okla. Oak Hill 3 69 85 55 78
Noah S. Alverson Griffin, Okla. Ebenezer 1 12 13 4
Plant S. Meadows Shawneetown, Okla. Mt. Pleasant 2 8 10 3
Millerton, Okla. Bethany 3 23 30 10 10
Samuel J. Onque Grant, Okla. Beaver Dam 4 41 55 10 53
Julius W. Mallard Frogville, Okla. New Hope 8 26 59 11 24
Frogville, Okla. Sandy Branch 2 29 87 6 30
Pleasant Hill, v 4
J. A. Loving Jacksonville, Texas Mt. Zion 3 28 45 14
J. M. KcKeller-14 Rusk, Texas Mt. Olivet-16 1 18 60 6
Totals 38 400 583 $170 $560

These Churches now represent 38 elders; 400 members, and 583 Sunday school members. They contributed $180.00 to our Missionary Boards and $560.00, towards self-support.

At the next meeting of the synod in the fall of 1913, the two ministers and Churches in Texas were transferred to the Presbytery of White River, Arkansas.

Other ministers and Churches, that have been enrolled as members or a part of this Presbytery, and their names have not yet been mentioned, were as follows:

Rev. Thomas C. Ogburn, who in 1890 and 1891 served Beaver Dam, New Hope and Hebron.

Rev. William G. Ogburn, who in 1890, served Saint Paul and Mount Gilead.

Rev. Burr Williams, who from 1899 to 1902 served Conwell chapel at Springvale, and from 1902 to 1903, served Mount Zion at Monger, O. T.

Rev. David J. Wallace, Langston, in 1899, and in 1906 at Okmulgee, Ok. Ter.

Rev. Hugh L. Harry, New Hope at Frogville in 1904 and 1905.

Succession Of Stated Clerks

Edward G. Haymaker, Clear Creek, Nov. 14, 1896-1903.
John H. Sleeper, Frogville, 1903-1904.
Thompson K. Bridges, Lukfata, 1904-1906.
Samuel Gladman, Millerton 1906-1910.
William J. Starks, Garvin, 1910-1914.

Exhibit Of Growth, 1868 To 1913

The following exhibit shows the comparative growth of the work among the colored people of the Choctaw nation in Indian Territory, the summaries commencing with the results of the work as left by Parson Charles W. Stewart, when he was honorably retired from further active service among the Churches, on account of the infirmities of age, in 1890, from Beaver Dam, New Hope, Hebron, St. Paul, and Mount Gilead, and in 1893, from Oak Hill and Forest. The report for 1898 is the first one of the new Presbytery of Kiamichi to include only colored Churches.

Church Address Stewart began services Date of organization 1890 1893 1898 1913
Beaver Dam Grant 1874 1881 15 34 41
Hebron Messer 1868 1872 12 13 19
New Hope Frogville 1869 1872 38 25 26
St. Paul Eagletown 1877 1878 18 14 27
Mt. Gilead Lukfata 1883 1885 25 25 26
Oak Hill Valliant 1868 1869 30 40 69
Forest Millerton 1885 1887 7 20 13
Sandy Branch Sawyer 1895 16 29
Ebenezer Griffin 1903 12
Bethany Millerton 1904 23
Garvin Garvin 1905 30
Pleasant Valley Lukfata 1906 27
Mount Pleasant Shawneetown 1906 8
Pleasant Hill 4
Total in Oklahoma 108(145) 37 187 354
Mount Zion Jacksonville, Texas 28
Mount Olivet Rusk, Texas 18
Total in Presbytery 400

Dearth Of Ministers

This exhibit shows that the membership of the 7 Churches, when relinquished by Parson Stewart in 1890 and 1893, numbered 145, and in 1898, when the Presbytery under the name “Kiamichi” made its first report, including only colored Churches, the number was 187; suggesting a gain of 42 members by his successors in 8 years. If, however, the 16 members at Sandy Branch be taken from the 1898 column, it shows the 7 Churches served by Stewart, gained only 26 members during all those eight years.

This lack of growth, during this important period, was in great measure due to the fact most of the Churches were left vacant, during a considerable part of that period. Thirty years had passed since the people had been accorded their freedom, but so great had been the lack of educational facilities, a sufficient number of acceptable men that could read and expound the scriptures profitably to others, could not be found. Other communities throughout the south were experiencing the same need, and had no young men to spare for these needy fields.

Favorite Sons Become Ministers

It devolved upon each community to solve this problem, relating to the supply of ministers, by encouraging their own brightest and best boys to train for the ministry. That was the way this problem had to be solved by the Choctaw Freedmen in the south part of Indian Territory.

While the native young men were under training, and the Churches were vacant, the services had to be maintained by the elders and most capable women; and they deserve great credit for their faithfulness and efficiency in maintaining them from year to year.

The Church, that during this period made the greatest gain-13 members-was Beaver Dam, the one that was first to furnish from its own membership, an acceptable and capable minister for its own pulpit, by commending Wiley Homer for licensure in 1894, when he was appointed the stated supply for that Church and Hebron.

In 1897 the same Church presented Richard D. Colbert, another of its sons for licensure that he might take charge of the Church at Frogville and Sandy Branch.

Eagletown presented William Butler, as their favorite son, for licensure; and beginning then, he is still serving that Church and Forest.

In 1905, Ebenezer Church at Griffin presented Noah S. Alverson for licensure, and beginning then, he is still faithfully serving that field.

In 1905, Mount Gilead Church at Lukfata presented for licensure John Richards, a youth of considerable promise, who died at 25, in June 1907, while pursuing his studies under the superintendent of Oak Hill Academy.

Under the ministry of these native youth, aided by several others who have joined them, the membership of the Presbytery was increased from 187 to 350; or, nearly doubled, during the period from 1898 to 1913, and five new Churches have been organized.

Parson Stewart, serving all his seven Churches life-long periods, and these favorite sons, following loyally and faithfully in his footsteps, have greatly honored the permanent pastorate, though none of them have ever been installed. In this matter of long pastorates, these ministers and people have made a record, worthy of the emulation of the Church at large; especially those congregations that seem to take pride in having “itching ears” and the consequent doom of standing vacant and idle half the time, and those perambulating ministers, who remind one of the proverb of the “rolling stone that gathers no moss.”

New Era Requires That Preachers Be Teachers

On the other hand it is proper to note, that, commencing with Parson Stewart all of these worthy men were licensed and ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry, after taking a very “short course” of educational training. This was due to the fact they were needed to meet an emergency, an unexpected and unusual condition that called for immediate action. The extraordinary call, these men were encouraged to accept, came to them during the Territorial days, when there was no adequate provision for public education. They were then abreast of their times, and the very best their several communities could furnish.

Now the times are different. The change came with the allotment of lands in 1904 and 1905, followed by statehood in 1907 and the establishment of a public school system immediately afterwards. Public schools are now found in every community, where there are a sufficient number of pupils to justify the employment of a teacher. The demand for good teachers is now greater than the supply, and with passing years the call will be for better ones. There are many reasons now, why every candidate for licensure should first prove himself to be an acceptable and successful teacher, as well as a good speaker. Teaching is now, and for many years will continue to be, the secondary employment of the colored minister in the rural districts. Recognizing that fact, every future candidate for the ministry should be animated with the noble ambition, to stand at the front in the teacher’s profession, in order that there may be a constant demand for his services as a teacher, in the community he serves as a preacher.

More ministers are needed, and promising young men, in every community, should be encouraged to train for that sacred office. The Church is standing ready to co-operate with them, in their effort to secure a good and thorough education, as a fitting preparation for their future work. “Go and teach” is a divine call to a noble work, but “Go and preach,” is recognized as a divine call to a still nobler and greater work, as the Bible and its mission are greater than that of any other book. A greater work suggests the need of greater preparation. The extraordinary incidents of the past were not intended to be regarded as precedents or as a rule for the future. The time is now at hand when all, who present themselves to the Presbytery, before they have graduated from the Grammar department, or 8th grade of a well accredited school, should be enrolled and held merely as “candidates for the ministry,” until they have completed their studies to that extent, before “licensure to preach” is accorded to them.

Ordination should ordinarily be deferred, until the licentiate has completed the theological course prescribed for all in the standards of the Church. Young men are frequently impatient to enter upon their ministerial life work. They do not always know, that expert or thorough training in youth, doubles their value in the activities of life; and that this is especially true of the teacher and preacher.

Footnotes

  1. Died, Eufaula, January 8, 1913, at 65. 


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