Location: Fort Coffee

Opening of the Fort Coffee Academy

On the ninth day of February, 1844, the school opened with six students from the Pushmataha district; they presented certificates of appointment signed by J. Folsom, chief, and S. Jones, Trustee. On the following day a number of pupils came from the Puckchenubbee district with certificates signed by James Fletcher, chief, and P. P. Pitchlynn, Trustee; also from the Moshulatubbee district, with certificates from Nat Folsom, chief, and Thomson M’Kenny, Trustee. Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. choose a state: Any AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY INTL Start Now In a few days we had received thirty pupils into the school to be clothed, fed, and taught. In addition to these we had consented to teach all the day scholars who should choose to come, boarding at home and being clothed by their friends. There were only a few who availed themselves of this privilege. The lads came in dressed in the prevailing fashions, having generally shirts, pants, and calico hunting­shirts; a few had shoes or moccasins, but the major­ity came with the feet bare. Not more than...

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Contraband Traffic

The proper authorities have made laudable efforts to keep intoxicating liquors out of the Indian territory, and with a good degree of success. The Indian superintendents and agents were invested with authority in the premises. No one could lawfully carry intoxicating liquors into any of the border tribes; and if a man should be found over the line with liquors in his possession, it was regarded as prima facie evidence of guilt, and any one was authorized to seize the contraband article, break open the casks, and pour the liquors out upon the ground. The technical language of the Indians in such case was “to spill the whisky.” This regulation operated rather oppressively upon the military officers who were stationed at forts west of the state lines. Steamboats were examined at Fort Smith, and no rum, brandy, or wines were permitted to go any further up the river. They ingeniously managed for a time to evade the law, by fastening casks of spirits under the keels of the boats till they had crossed the border, and then the liquors were brought on board again. After that artifice had been detected the officers at Fort Gibson were compelled to resort to another stratagem to procure the all important supply of rum and champagne. They would purchase their liquors at Van Buren, and have them carried across the Cherokee country in...

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Political Strife and Discord

There were warring elements and fierce conflicts of long standing and of the most virulent and uncompromising character in the Cherokee nation. Their troubles originated in the change of their system of government from a heathen and hereditary oligarchy to a democratic republic. Before they emigrated to the west they had thrown off pagan and traditional rites, ceremonies, and prerogatives. They had chosen John Ross to be their chief. About two-thirds of the tribe favored the new system of government, which went into immediate operation. The opposi­tion was headed by Captain Ridge, who had a birthright to power under the hereditary regime. He was born a sachem, and could not consent to be shorn of his honors and prerogatives. The popular party, having elected their officers, and assumed the responsibilities of the government in its several departments, branded the Ridge party with rebellion and treason, and treated them accordingly; hence the many assassinations and violent and bloody conflicts which have marked the history of that people. The fraudulent circumstances attending the sale of their lands in Georgia greatly increased the bitterness of the hostility of the opposing factions. After their settlement in their present territory it was ardently desired that the antagonizing elements might be harmonized. But no concessions were made by either party, and there was not the slightest prospect of reconciliation. Ridge and the most of his...

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Religious Awakening

During the latter part of the winter and in the spring many of the students became deeply serious, manifesting an increasing interest in the services of religion; they were very eager to read and understand the teachings of the New Testament. Mr. Page would converse, sing, and pray with them in their own language. His services were of incalculable value, very far surpassing those of an ordinary interpreter; for he was himself a minister with a good understanding of the saving truths of the Gos­pel. If we failed to present the truth in terms suited to their but partially enlightened minds he could give the necessary explanation and answer all the ques­tions propounded by them. We bad not yet admitted any of them to membership, although we were led to hope and trust that there was a genuine work of grace in the hearts of a few of them. In the absence of Mr. Page they commenced to have prayers in their own rooms, and, finally, to take a part in our Thursday evening prayer meetings, taking up the cross voluntarily and praying in the native language. After watching them closely, and conversing with them, it was thought proper to admit six of them to membership; the ordinance of baptism was administered to them by Rev. W. H. Goode, and they were permitted to partake of the sacrament of...

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Biography of Mrs. Sarah B. Goode

Before closing these sketches it is our duty to mention particularly one member of our mission family who has recently departed this life, in the faith and hope of the Gospel. In preparing this little volume there has been a studious effort to avoid any unnecessary mention of ourselves or family. We had no desire to obtrude personal affairs or an undue share of self upon the attention of the reader. A simple record of facts required more than was desirable in this regard. But as Mrs. Goode has finished her course with joy and has entered upon her blissful reword, it becomes a duty to pay that tribute of respect to which she is eminently entitled. Sarah B. Goode was born on the 31st day of Au­gust, 1809, in Washington county, Virginia. While an infant her parents emigrated to Louisville, Kentucky, where she was reared and educated. In her sixteenth year she was converted and became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In her twentieth year she became the wife of William H. Goode, who was then a lay member of the Church. The life of labor, toil, joy, and sorrow which lay before them was alike unknown and unanticipated by them; for Mr. Goode, at that period, had not felt himself called to the office and work of a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. A...

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Tahlequah, The Cherokee Capital

Tahlequah is situated a few miles from the Neosho river, and fifteen miles from Fort Gibson, in the center of a rich and densely populated portion of the nation. It was first chosen as council-ground, and sub­sequently made the permanent seat of Government of the tribe. Its location and surroundings rendered it by far the most important place in the nation. Park Hill was in the vicinity, Fairfield and Dwight missions were near. There was a Methodist church in sight of the village; a school-house also. There was an excellent brick court-house, well and conveniently arranged. At the time of our visit the Supreme Court was in session; the Rev. David Foreman, of Park Hill, was one of the judges. Mr. F. was a well educated, talented, and worthy man, having no great amount of Indian blood in his veins. He was a large, well-formed, intellectual, and dignified looking gentleman. The Hon. John Ross, the chief, resided upon a farm near the capital, but being absent on a visit to Washington City, we did not have an opportunity of seeing him. Lewis Boss, his brother, also resided upon a farm. His family were well educated and genteel, some of whom were Church members. William P. Ross, a son of Lewis, was the editor of the Cherokee Advocate, a weekly newspaper, which was edited with tact and marked ability. Three...

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Conference Session

On Wednesday morning we met at Riley’s Chapel, one mile from Tahlequah, standing out in the open prairie. We could not discover the wisdom of the location. Bishop Morris was present, and opened the conference with the reading of the Scriptures, singing and prayer. W. H. Goode and H. C. Benson were elected Secretaries. The Indian Mission conference had been created by the General conference which had closed its session in the month of June preceding. We were now met to organize and hold the first session; the preachers bad formerly been members of the Missouri and the Arkansas conferences, and were now met in one body for the first time. There were five Indian preachers who were members of the conference; three of them were Cherokees and two were Choctaws. There were a number of native local preachers, one of whom was a Muscogee, or Creek. The closing prayer of each day’s session was made by an Indian in his native language. On the second day of the session the Rev. Mr. Hurlburt, a Wesleyan minister of the Canada conference, presented his parchments and a certificate of good moral character, and asked to be received into the conference. In answer to the questions asked by Bishop Morris, he satisfied the conference that he was willing to conform to our usages and be governed by our Discipline, and was...

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Our Work

May first, 1845, had been ushered in; our third crop of grain and vegetables was growing finely. During the preceding winter the farm had been enlarged and materially improved, the most of the labor having been performed by the students. We had also inclosed a pasture at the upper end of the cane­brake, between the farm and the river. Having purchased a few cows, we were prepared to live more comfortably than at any time before. The buildings at New Hope were inclosed, and would be completed in time to receive female pupils at the commencement of the next session. The buildings of the female institute were substantial frames, one story high, with porches in front and rear. They were planned with special reference to the manualla­bor system, as it was intended that the girls should be instructed in plain and fancy sewing, the duties of the kitchen, the dairy, the laundry, and the mysteries of housekeeping in general. Mr. Goode had put the buildings under contract before leaving, and, when at Cincinnati, had purchased the articles for furnishing that department of the school. The services of Dr. E. G. Meek and Mrs. E. Meek were already secured for the New Hope branch of the Academy. After Mr. G. had left us we found matters did not move on quite so smoothly as formerly; Davis, one of the pupils,...

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Persecuted Missionaries

Revs. Mr. Worcester and Dr. Butler, it will be remembered, were Presbyterian ministers, sent out as missionaries to labor with the Cherokee Indians, while they were still upon their reserved lands east of the Mississippi river. They entered upon their work in the year 1825, while themselves and families were comparatively young. Having labored successfully a few years, the General Government determined to purchase the Indian reserved lands, and remove the Cherokees to new territory on the frontiers west of the Mississippi. The first overtures on the part of the United States authorities were treated with indifference, amounting almost to contempt. After a time the efforts were renewed, but without success. The people of Georgia became impatient of delay; they were eager to divide the fertile lands among themselves. It would open a rich field for speculation. It was finally determined that Georgia would extend her jurisdiction over the Cherokee nation, and control matters according to her sovereign pleasure. They affected to believe that the missionaries employed their influence adverse to the interests of those who were striving to obtain the possession of the reserved lands. Laws were accordingly enacted requiring all white men to quit the Indian territory, under penalty of heavy fines and confinement in the state prison. The local officers were not reluctant to execute the laws with the utmost promptness and rigor. All the missionaries...

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Reverend Mr. Fisk, Indian Preacher

On the seventh day of November two Indians came to Fort Coffee to visit the Academy and to make the acquaintance of those who were laboring in connec­tion with it. Rev. Mr. Fisk was a full-blood Choctaw, a member of the Presbyterian Church, and an assistant at one of the missions on Red river. He had been on a visit to Park Hill, and had returned by the way of our mission. In the evening we assembled the family in the chapel for religious worship, as Mr. Fisk had consented to preach to the students. His text was the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of the Gospel by St. John: ” For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” His manner was pleasant, and his emphasis and fervor were peculiarly impressive and appropriate. The theme was the love of God in giving his Son to die for sinners. He spoke of Gethsemane and of the cross with solemnity and appropriateness. He crossed his arms to describe the instrument of torture upon which the Savior was crucified. He struck in the palms of his hands to indicate the manner in which Christ was nailed to the wood, and then a significant movement of the hand reminded us of the stroke of the soldier’s...

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Progress in Study

Various and conflicting have been the opinions entertained with regard to the intellect of the North American Indians. They are generally reputed to be shrewd, cunning, sprightly, and fluent in speech. It must occur to every reflecting mind, however, that there must be great diversity as to intellect among the different classes, and that habits and pursuits of life have an important bearing upon the question. Much depends upon physical organization, and modes of living naturally affect the conformation and development of the several organs of the body. The Choctaws were fairly developed and well proportioned in body, but not superior nor quite equal to the average of white people, while the entire want of mental and moral training could not fail to super induce less vigorous intellectual manifestations. Indian lads are infants in thought, in feeling, and in mental strength when well-grown boys. But they were not seriously wanting in intellectual ability; they made fair progress in study, being able, in most cases, to read easy lessons within a few weeks after entering school; they almost all would learn to write with remarkable facility, and many of them would excel in penmanship without much effort. In a number of instances lads commenced the year in the alphabet, and before the session closed were able to write letters home to their friends; their passion for letter writing was almost...

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Death of Oakchiah

On the second day of November a lad came from Fort Smith with a note from a Mr. Moore, informing us that Oakchiah, the Indian preacher, had just died at his house, and he wished instructions with regard to his interment. Mr. Goode wrote to Mr. Moore to have the corpse decently buried, and to forward the bill of expenses to our mission, and it should be paid. It was accordingly done. A brief sketch of this native minister of Christ may not be wholly devoid of interest to the reader. He was a full-blooded Choctaw, born in the old nation, about the year 1810, as we learned in conversation with him at Fort Coffee, where he spent a few days, on his way to conference. Previous to their emigration from Mississippi there was a revival of religion in the tribe, during which many precious souls were converted to God. Oakchiah was one of the trophies of the cross, won to the fold of the blessed Savior and numbered with the heirs of salvation. He was young, sprightly, and active, and full of energy and zeal in the cause which he had so heartily espoused. When he was admitted into the Church and baptized, he was called William Winans; he still retained his Indian name, however, and was called Oakchiah as long as he lived. Soon after his conversion...

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Fort Coffee Neighbors

Our nearest neighbors were Cherokees, and resided on the north side of the river; their houses and farms were in view of our mission. The ferry kept at Fort Coffee was owned by a Cherokee, who lived directly opposite to our establishment. He was a shrewd man in business, a regular Shylock in his ex­actions. Woe betide the unlucky traveler who should venture to cross over in his boat without having first stipulated as to the fare; and even then the ferryman would fail to give back the correct change; it must be in his favor to the amount of one or two “bits” at least. The act establishing the academies secured to each the possession of one square mile of the public domain. Upon that section no Indians were permitted to settle. The schools were established on the manual-labor principle, and the land was reserved for farming and grazing purposes for the benefit of the mission. We found, however, one Indian within the limits of our reservation; he was a full-blooded Choctaw, whose name was Jones. He had a small farm, and a cabin, which served as a shelter for his family. It would not do to dispossess him of his home, robbing him of his improvements, nor was it desirable to have him so close to our mission; for his habits were bad, and his example would...

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Indian Mission Conference

On Monday morning, October the fourth, Revs. W. H. Goode, John M. Steele, H. C. Benson, John Page, Oakchiah, and Chukmabbee set out on horseback for TAHLEQUAH, the Cherokee council-ground, where the session of our conference was to be held. As there was no road directly across the Cherokee nation from Fort Coffee, it was necessary to keep down the river on the southern side as far as Fort Smith. There we crossed the Arkansas and immediately entered the Cherokee country. Our purpose had been to take the military road leading to Fort Gibson; but after consultation, we determined to go by the way of the Fairfield mission, at which place we should be able to make the acquaintance of one of the old pioneer missionary families. Our course of travel was nearly north-west, through a region of country much more fertile and productive, and better supplied with timber than any we had previously seen in the south-west. All day long we were permitted to witness the varied evidences of Cherokee civilization. We saw many proofs of progress in their practical business operations and pursuits of life. There were occasional farms, with comfortable family dwellings, and with barns orchards, wagons, carts, plows, harrows, and other implements of husbandry all giving indication of intelligence, thrift, enterprise, and comparative wealth. But in the immediate vicinity of those comfortable homesteads we would...

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A Short Chapter in Itinerant Life

The Rev. John Smythe, of the Arkansas conference, was appointed to the Dry Run mission. It was a new field of labor in the interior, or rather verging to­ward the south-western corner of the state. He was an active, zealous, and earnest preacher, whose labors were crowned with abundant success. Before the close of the conference year he had organized a flourishing society at Brown’s Bend, and had built a church, which was appropriately christened “Cottonwood.” Brother Brown was one of the converts, a leading and influential man in the community; and Mr. Smythe appointed him class-leader. The leader did his work promptly and faithfully; and the society continued to flourish in short, there was uniform and increasing prosperity till the year closed and the preacher set out for conference. The old preacher was not returned to Dry Run circuit, but was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Jones, who received a plan of his work from the hands of his predecessor, and went directly to Brown’s Bend to commence the labors of the year. Cottonwood meeting-house was filled with attentive and apparently devout worshipers. When Mr. Jones had concluded his sermon he published his appointments, requested the members of the Church to remain for class, and pronounced the benediction. But to his astonishment not one remained; and on reaching the door of the church all were gone, and none...

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