Location: Fort Coffee

Indian Annuities

About the middle of December Major Armstrong received at Fort Coffee sixty thousand dollars in specie, to be paid over to the several Indian agents, to be distributed as annuities to the tribes embraced in that superintendence. It had been boxed and officially sealed at the New Orleans mint, each box containing one thousand dollars. The boat had come late in the afternoon, and the boxes of coin were delivered to Mr. Armstrong, at our mission, about sunset; but, before it was possible to bring a wagon and horses to remove the treasure, a messenger arrived from the Agency with the sad intelligence that Mr. Irwin, the brother-in-law of Mr. Armstrong, was dying. He must go at once to the bedside of his dying friend; but it was impossible to carry the money with him, for its weight was over two tuns avoirdupois. What could be done under the circumstances? It was almost dark; it would require a stout team of horses to draw it, and no such team was at hand. It would not be secure in the hands of his servants; for the Choctaw and Cherokee Indians knew of its arrival, and might be tempted to take possession of it and appropriate it to personal and private uses. After consultation it was thought proper to convey the money up the hill and deposit it in the little...

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Rev. John Page, a Choctaw Preacher

On the fifth day of November Rev. John Page, a Choctaw Indian, preached to us at Fort Coffee. The services were held in the little office, where I was still confined with the fever. The sermon was plain, Scriptural, and earnest, rendering the exercises interesting and profitable. Mr. Page preached in English, speaking the language intelligibly, but not correctly ; his custom was to preach to his people in the native tongue. During the week Mr. Page spent with us he gave us a brief sketch of his life. When a lad, in a heathen state, he had been sent to the Choctaw Academy, where he remained a number of years, and only left when the institution was disorganized. At the time of his entering the school he was utterly destitute of moral and religious instruction; he had never been taught his duty to himself, his fellowmen, or to his God. He was received into the Sunday school, where he received his first lessons of a religious character; he there received light into his dark and benighted mind; there he felt himself to be a sinner exposed to death. His faithful instructors im­pressed upon his mind and conscience the duty of repentance and faith in the Savior as conditions of mercy and acceptance with God. While under strong convictions for sin, with a soul yearning for peace, he attended...

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Arrival at Fort Coffee

The bell aroused us in the morning, at six o’clock, and we found ourselves the sole occupants of the building. It consisted of a single room, about twelve feet square, erected of small logs, “scotched down” with the broad-ax on the inside. The edifice was covered with “shakes,” had a rough, loose floor, two windows, a batten-door, and an outside chimney, built of clay and cobble-stones. Having hastily made our toilet, we went directly to the breakfast-table, where we saw none but strange faces, not one of whom had we seen or heard of previous to that morning. We regretted to learn that Rev. W. H. Goode, three days before our arrival, had set out upon his journey through the Indian country north to Missouri river, and thence down the river and across the country home for his family. He had expected us at the mission before his departure, but, owing to the low stage of water in the Arkansas, we had been detained and delayed a number of days, rendering our journey tedious beyond our anticipations. We had been thirteen days on the way from Louisville to the Indian country, and yet exerting ourselves to the utmost to make a speedy trip. Ordinarily eight or nine days would have been sufficient for the journey. Had we not been favored with a rise of the river, caused by the...

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Camp Meeting on the Border

Thursday morning, the twenty-first day of September Rev. Mr. Steele, a half dozen of our Indian friends, Mrs. B., and myself started on horseback to a camp meeting, which was to be held on the border or line which separates the state from the Indian territory. The distance was thirty miles, in a south­east direction, and within the state, in the northern extreme of Scott county. We lead provided ourselves with the usual outfit, of blankets, bread and cheese, matches, tin cups, and ropes with which to tether our horses. For miles we traveled through a region of country still decked with primeval beauty. The for­ests were scarcely marred by the woodman’s ax or scathed by the hand of civilization. Beauty and magnificence characterized the scenery in every direction as far as vision could extend. The sky and atmosphere were beautifully serene; the foliage lead just begun to assume its rich golden tints, giving indication that autumn was approaching, but the withered branch and the sear leaf were not yet visible. The beautiful birds of the forests were chanting their morning carols; the atmosphere was sweet and balmy, and every object of sense was made to contribute to our pleasure. We returned silent but devout thanks to the Author of all good for so many sources of thrilling delights. As we pursued our journey, we were very forcibly impressed...

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Visit to Fort Smith

On Saturday, in company with a friend, I started to Fort Smith to spend the Sabbath, and to conduct religious services in the absence of the stationed minister. We spent the night at the residence of Mr. A., who had formerly resided in the city of Pittsburg, extensively engaged in mercantile pursuits. He was an intelligent and gentlemanly old man, who had been accustomed to mingle with the wealthy and refined; but, having met with reverses of fortune, he had been greatly reduced in his circumstances, and had emigrated to the frontier settlements with the hope of being able to improve his financial condition. The family consisted of Mr. A. and wife, and three grown­up daughters, who were educated, accomplished, and fully qualified to mingle in the most refined and polished society. The dwelling consisted of two small cabins, built of round poles, and covered with shakes. The floors were of loose, rough, boards, and bare, while the scanty supply of furniture was of the cheapest and plainest description; and yet the family were cheerful, hopeful, and happy, not entertaining a single doubt that a brighter day would soon dawn upon them, and their lost fortunes would be retrieved. There was but one church edifice at Fort Smith, which was in an unfinished condition; it was built by the community, and occupied by ministers of the various denominations. At...

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Indian Camp Meeting

On Friday morning, the eleventh day of August, Rev. John Cowle and myself started to Pheasant Bluffs to attend a camp meeting. Before leaving Fort Coffee we had made the needful provision for our comfort, each being furnished with a blanket, a rope with which to hobble or tether his horse, a package of bread and cheese, a box of matches, and a tin drinking-vessel. The distance was thirty miles, and, as neither of us had ever been there, we knew nothing of the trail, and but little of the character of the country over which we must travel to reach the place of our destination. Having proceeded a few miles we began to feel a little anxious to obtain information that would guide us in the proper direction, and so we halted at the door of a cabin to inquire the way to Pheasant Bluffs. The major domo replied, in a very deliberate and dignified manner, “Me no talk Inglis;” and, as he declined saying another word, we were forced to proceed on our journey at random. We soon found a gentleman, however, with whom we could communicate. His smattering of English, and ours of Choctaw, enabled us to converse quite intelligibly. There was no road, as we learned, but a multitude of paths, crossing and re-crossing, and forming a beautiful variety of curves and angles. He gave...

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Provisions Spoiled

Late in the month of July we discovered that our flour, like the surplus manna in the wilderness, bred worms. It was, indeed, a difficult matter to preserve provisions in a sweet and sound condition during the long, dry, and intensely warm summer seasons in that country. We had known that the weevils would consume the unground grain that might be stored away in the granary, but we had never heard that the meal and flour would become foul and unfit for use. Our flour was in barrels, had been purchased in Cincinnati in the month of April preceding, and was of excellent quality. On opening a fresh barrel, one morning, it was found to contain myriads of white, hairy worms from a fourth to a half inch long. The cook stood aghast; he was, indeed, so much excited as to attract the attention of the entire family to the scene and the cause of his amazement. ” Mister B. O. mishter B., to flour ish spilt; to flour ish no goot; it’s filt mit so many verms as eber vas!” “‘Gustus” was not very courageous; he was constitutionally cautious and somewhat nervous. On a former occasion we had seen him overwhelmed with fear and uncontrollable excitement; but he was quite to sure the circumstances fully justified him in his agitation and expressions of alarm. He had gone into...

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Cooks Leave

The German man and wife who had been employed by Mr. G. and brought from Cincinnati, when he first came to Fort Coffee, became dissatisfied. They had been employed to do the cooking and chamberwork of the institution, but the situation did not please them. They had no German friends with whom to associate, and were anxious to return to Cincinnati. We were reluctant to let them go; they were pious, intelligent, and faithful; and we had become very much attached to them. But they would not be reconciled, and so returned to their former home and friends. Our plans were now somewhat frustrated; we were daily expecting the students, and there were none to cook, wash, and do chamber-work. Mrs. G. and Mrs. B. could do very well till the school should open, but no longer. In the midst of our perplexity Mr. G. fell in with a colored man at Fort Smith, who claimed to be skilled in the duties of the kitchen; and his wife and daughter could do the work of the rooms and the laundry. Charles was free, having bought himself; his eldest daughter was also free; but his wife and the younger children were slaves, belonging to a Mr. B. , who resided at Van Buren. It was arranged that Charles should hire the time of his wife and children of their master,...

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The First Quarterly Meeting at Fort Coffee Academy

Near the close of December our first quarterly meeting was held at Fort Coffee. Revs. J. C. Parker, J. Harrel, and Andrew Hunter were present. At the recent session of the conference they had been appointed a committee to audit the books and accounts of our mission during the preceding year. J. C. Parker was the presiding elder, but left on Monday morning without having held a quarterly conference; but in the evening we met in an upper room to organize and hold the first quarterly conference ever held in the northern district of the nation. The members present were W. H. Goode, preacher in charge, and H. C. Benson and John Page, assistant preachers. Mr. Goode took the chair as President, and H. C. Benson was appointed Secretary. We had neither stewards nor class-leaders; the usual questions were asked and answered, and the regular minutes were made and recorded. Our goods had not yet arrived. Mr. Goode had written repeatedly to the merchant with whom they were stored, but had received no answer. It was finally determined that I should go in search and not return without them. Accordingly, on the morning of the twenty-seventh of December, I set out on horseback for Fort Smith There I left my horse, to be returned to Fort Coffee, and took the coach for Little Rock, a distance of three hundred...

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Crimes and Debauchery

A grand ball-play recently came off at Ayakni Achukma, at which some avaricious and unprincipled trader succeeded in smuggling whisky into the camp. Soon after the liquor was distributed the excitement became wild, intense, and irrepressible; the play was summarily closed, and a general bacchanalian carousal and debauch were the results. While the whisky lasted the drunken revelry was kept up, each one contributing his part in the disgusting orgies. At length, having exhausted the supply of liquid fire, they struck their camps and dispersed, each in the direction of his own neighborhood and cabin. Cornelius Macann and family, who were our near neighbors, had to perform a journey of thirty miles to reach home; as they could not do this in one afternoon, they were forced to camp and take one “sleep” by the roadside. Macann was about fifty years old; his wife was much younger, and his son Jim, by a former wife, was perhaps twenty-five years old. The old gentleman was a little more under the influence of liquor than his wife, and she assumed the responsibility of taking the jug into her own possession. Camping by the side of their trail, Macann was very stupid and almost consumed by thirst; his wife kept the jug concealed and would not give him the coveted oko-ho-ma–whisky. He complained bitterly of his wife’s unkind treatment, but finally lay...

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Louisville Convention

The month of March had come, and all the conferences in the slave states, except Baltimore, had voted in favor of a division of the Church, and had accordingly chosen delegates to meet in convention, in the city of Louisville, on the first Monday of May, 1845, to effect a separation and to “erect” the southern fraction into a distinct ” ecclesiastical organization.” It will be remembered that the Indian Mission conference had elected J. C. Berryman and W. H. Goode delegates to said convention, and D. B. Cumming a reserve delegate. As the time was drawing near for the convention to meet, Mr. Goode requested the Assistant Secretary of the recent conference to furnish Rev. Mr. Cumming with a certificate of his appointment as reserve delegate to the convention. Mr. Goode then wrote to Mr. Cumming that, as he should decline taking a seat in the convention, it would be the privilege of Mr. C. to be present and take his scat as a member. Mr. Goode’s opinions were well understood, at the time of his election, but the brethren hoped his views might undergo some change within a few months. His purpose was to go to Louisville at the time of the convention, as it was necessary to purchase the annual supplies for the Academy and the mission, and if conservative influences should prevail and the projected...

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Fort Coffee Quapaws

On the fourth day of September two Indians, a man and his wife, came to Fort Coffee, to seek admission into the school. They were, according to their statement, Quapaws, and belonged to a remnant of a once numerous tribe, residing near the south-west corner of Missouri, in the vicinity of a mixed tribe of Senecas and Shawnees. The Quapaws then only numbered a fraction over three hundred souls. The Rev. S. G. Patterson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, had been laboring with them as a missionary for several years. The Quapaw’s name was Villiers, and his wife was sister of the chief then in power and the daughter of the old chief. Villiers professed to be a Christian, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He believed himself called to the work of the ministry, and had come to our mission to improve his education and qualify himself for greater usefulness. He stated that, before leaving his tribe, he had procured a letter of recommendation from Colonel Barker, the United States Agent; also one from Mr. Patterson, the missionary, which was also signed by Rev. D. B. Cumming, the presiding elder of the district. The letters were addressed to Mr. Goode, but having been robbed on the way he had lost his papers, They had left their home, traveled across the country to the Neosho and there...

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Murder of Mr. Vore and Family

About the last of September we received intelligence of the murder of Mr. Vore and family, who had resided for some years a few miles above Fort Coffee, in the Cherokee nation. As the rumor spread the people became excited and aroused to an unusual extent. Mr. Vore was a merchant, an upright, honest, and reputable man, who had been very highly esteemed by his Cherokee neighbors; he had been engaged in selling goods, buying peltries, and in a general traffic with the Indians. On the evening of the twenty-fourth of September a man called at the residence of Mr. Vore to obtain accommodations for the night, and, as there was no public house in reach, he was taken in. On the following morning the neighbors discovered that the house and store had disappeared, although no fire had been seen in the night, nor had any alarm been heard. A crowd soon collected, and, on examination, discovered the charred skeletons of three individuals, supposed to be those of Mr. and Mrs. Vore and of some one who chanced to stop with them. They had no children and kept no servants or clerks about the store. A few rods from the smoldering ruins were found the money-safe and a few drawers and trunks, in which fine and costly goods had been kept; all were opened and rifled of their contents....

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Freshets in the Streams

It will be remembered that, during the spring of 1844, unprecedented floods prevailed in the south­west. The rivers west of the Mississippi all overflowed their banks, inundating all the low lands adjacent. The Arkansas and Red rivers had never been known to be so high. Having their sources in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and having numerous and lengthy tributaries, the continuous rains and the melting of the immense quantities of snow in the mountains, caused vast torrents of water to pour down the gorges and flood the channel of each stream. And as the rains continued to fall, with but little in­termission for seven weeks, the rivers overflowed their banks, inundating the low lands, and proving fearfully destructive of the improvements and growing crops in the bottoms. Such rains for so long a period we had never before witnessed. The forest-trees literally bent beneath the weight of their luxuriant growth of foliage. At Fort Coffee the river rose forty-four feet above low-water mark; but still we were secure, as it yet required an additional rise of twenty-one feet to reach the top of the rocky cliff. But on the opposite side of the river, where the bank was not so high, the country was inundated for miles. Vast numbers of cottonwood-trees were uprooted by the floods, and carried down the current to the imminent peril of...

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School Duties

The plat of ground inclosed by our buildings was rectangular, the sides of which were one hundred feet in length. In the center of this square a post or column was firmly planted, upon the upper end of which a bell was hung. In the winter season the bell was rung at five o’clock, and in the summer at sunrise, as the signal for rising. In one hour after the first bell the second bell was rung as the signal for assembling in the chapel for family worship, which consisted of the reading of the Scriptures, singing, and prayer. From the chapel we went directly to the dining-room for breakfast. Immediately after breakfast all the pupils were taken to the fields or woods, and kept at manual labor till half past eight o’clock; they were always in the care of one of the teachers. At nine o’clock the exercises in the school­room commenced; the session continued till twelve, at which time we had an intermission of one hour for dinner and recreation. The afternoon session continued till four o’clock; at half-past four the pupils again engaged in manual labor till within a half hour of sunset. In the winter season, when the days were short, the school did not open till half-past nine in the morning, and was dismissed at half-past three in the afternoon. At the ring of...

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