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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 accordingly received.
Mr. H. had labored many years with a band of the Chippewa Indians in Canada, and had thoroughly mastered their language; and as the Pottawattomies speak the same dialect, with slight differences of accent, he was appointed to labor with that people.
It will be borne in mind that a plan of separation had originated in the recent General conference, which contemplated the division of the Methodist Episcopal Church into two distinct ecclesiastical organizations. The plan was to be submitted to all the annual conferences, inasmuch as it required a majority of three-fourths of the members of all the annual conferences present and voting to make a division of the Charter Fund and Book Concerns. One of the provisions of the plan was to give to each border conference the privilege of adhering to either section of the Church. After the conditional plan of separation had been adopted by the General conference, a caucus was held by some sixty or more delegates, representing the conferences in the slaveholding states, in which the inferences steps were taken for the organization of a Methodist Episcopal Church South. It was agreed that a convention should be held in the month of May, 1845, in the city of Louisville, Kentucky. A circular was issued and sent to all the southern conferences, recommending each to elect delegates to take their seats in the proposed convention, to effect the new Church organization. On Saturday, the fourth day of our session, two resolutions were introduced by the adoption of the first, the conference gave its sanction to the division of the Church; and by the adoption of the second resolution, the conference determined to proceed at once to the election of delegates to the Louisville convention.
When the resolutions were introduced Rev. W. H. Goode vacated the Secretary’s desk, and declined voting on either resolution, nor would he cast a ballot in the election. The Assistant Secretary wrote up the minutes till after the delegates were chosen. On counting the votes, J. C. Berryman and W. H. Goode were found to have a majority of all the votes cast, and were declared duly elected. D. B. Cumming was appointed a reserve delegate.
On Saturday afternoon we organized a Conference Missionary Society. The minutes were read and adopted, and the conference adjourned under pledge not to leave till Monday.
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On Sunday morning there were sermons by W. H. Goode and Bishop Morris, at the close of which the Bishop ordained Walter H. Collins, H. C. Benson, John Page, and Isaac Chukmabbee deacons.
J. C. Berryman was appointed superintendent of the conference; L. B. Stateler, presiding elder of the Choctaw district, and W. H. Goode and H. C. Benson to Fort Coffee Academy and mission. The session was harmonious and pleasant, and very brief, completing the business and adjourning on the fourth day.
Bishop Morris had performed a journey of two hundred and fifty miles to reach the seat of the conference, through a wilderness country, inhabited only by the Indian tribes of the border. Leaving the Missouri river at Fort Leavenworth, he had traveled, in company with a few ministers, through the Delaware, Shawnee, Pottawattomie, and Osage tribes, to the capital of the Cherokee nation. They had been forced to camp out, and prepare their food by log fires. The trip was greatly enjoyed by the Bishop, who did not fail to study character as he passed through the different races of the red men of the forest. We heard him remark that he had negotiated an important treaty with a Pottawattomie, while camped upon the bank of the Osage river. ” We had built a fire,” said the Bishop, “not far from his cabin; but wood was rather scarce, and the Pottawattomie was not willing that we should burn any. He came to our camp with a cloud upon his brow, and by his vehement gesticulation, ordered us not to burn his wood. But that would not answer our purpose, for the night was chilly and our food must be prepared, and so I went to our stores and took out two crackers, and then taking a bright dime from my pocket and holding it so the camp-fire should shine upon it, I indicated by signs that he should take the bread and the dime, and that we should take wood for our fire the terms were accepted and the treaty confirmed. I had bought him for two biscuits and a dime.” The Bishop’s health was perfect; he was buoyant and almost youthful in spirit.