Death of Cyrus Kingsbury
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Early in the year 1820, an English traveler from Liverpool, named Adam Hodgson, who had heard of the Elliot mission when at home, visited the mission, though he had to turn from his main route of travel the distance of sixty miles. He, at one time on his sixty miles route, employed a Choctaw to conduct him ten or twelve miles on his new way, which he did, then received his pay and left him to finish his journey alone. Of this Choctaw guide Mr. Hodgson, as an example of noble benevolence and faithful trust, states:
“After going about a mile, where we became confused in regard to the correct direction and were halting upon two opinions, my guide suddenly and unexpectedly appeared at my side, and pointed in the direction I should go, as he could not talk English. I thanked him and again we parted; but again becoming confused by a diverging path, half a mile distant, as suddenly and unexpectedly, appeared again my guide who had still been, silently and unobserved, watching my steps. Again he set me right, and made signs that my course lay directly toward the sun, and then disappeared;” and by carefully keeping the course as directed by the Choctaw, Mr. Hodgson safely reached the mission, where he was warmly received by the missionaries. Yet the Indian is still called a savage, who “cannot be educated out of his savagery.” God pity such ignorance, and forgive their duplicity in assuming to be enlightened Christians, and yet seek to hand down to the latest posterity a part of God’s created Intelligences the Red Race as beings incapable of being “educated out of their savagery.”
Mr. Hodgson was duly introduced to the members of the mission, and then to the school of native American pupils, and expressed his surprise as well as heartfelt gratification with the account the teachers gave of the uncommon facility with which they acquired knowledge. After remaining a few days, Mr. Hodgson left, and was accompanied several miles on his way to Brainard by Mr. Kingsbury, the missionary station established five years previous, among the Cherokees by Mr. Kingsbury and Mr. and Mrs. Williams, as before stated.
Mr. Hodgson, in a letter written shortly after he left Elliot, thus spoke of his interview with Mr. Kingsbury in his own room at Elliot: “A log cabin, detached from the other wooden buildings, in the middle of a boundless forest, in an Indian country, consecrated, if I may be allowed the expression, by standing on missionary ground, and by forming at once the dormitory and the sanctuary of a man of God; it seemed to be indeed the prophet’s chamber, with the bed and the table, the stool and the candlestick.
“It contained, also, a little book-case, with a valuable selection of valuable books, periodicals, biographical, and devotional; among which I found many an old acquaintance in this foreign land, and which enabled Mr. Kingsbury, in his few moments of leisure, to converse with many, “who have long since joined the spirits of just men made perfect, or to sympathize with his fellow-laborers in Staheite, Africa, or Hindoostan. About midnight we became thirsty with talking so much; and Mr. Kingsbury proposed that we walk to the spring, at a little distance. The night was beautifully serene after the heavy showers of the preceding night; and the coolness of the air, the fresh fragrance of the trees, the deep stillness of the midnight hour, and the soft light which an unclouded moon shed on the log cabins of the missionaries, contrasted with the dark shadows of the surrounding forest, impressed me with feeling’s which I can never forget.” In regard to the mission family, he said: I was particularly struck with their humility, with their kindness of manner towards one another, and the little attentions, which they seemed solicitous to reciprocate. They spoke very lightly of their privations, and of the trials which the world supposes to be their greatest; sensible, as they said, that these are often experienced in at least as great degree, by the soldier, the sailor, or even the merchant.
Yet, in this country these trials are by no means trifling. Lying out for two or three months, in the woods, with their little babes in tents which cannot resist the rain here, falling in torrents such as I never saw in England, within sound of the nightly howling wolves, and occasionally visited by panthers, which have approached almost to the door, the ladies must be allowed to acquire some courage; while, during many season of the year, the gentlemen can not go 20 miles from home (and they are often obliged to go 30 or 40 for provisions) without swimming their horses over four of five creeks. Yet, as all their inconveniences are suffered by others with cheerfulness, from worldly motives, they would wish them suppressed in the missionary reports, if they were not calculated to deter many from engaging as missionaries, under the idea that it is an easy, retired life. Their real trials they stated to consist in their own imperfections, and in those mental maladies, which the retirement of a desert cannot cure. I was gratified by my visit to Elliot, this garden in a moral wilderness; and was pleased with the opportunity of seeing a missionary settlement in its infant state, before “the wounds from decent separation from kindred and friends had ceased to bleed, and habit had rendered the missionaries familiar with the peculiarities of their novel situation. The sight of the children also, many of them still in Indian costumes, was most interesting. I could not help imagining, that, before me, might be some Alfred of this western world, the future founder of institutions which are to enlighten and civilize his country, some Choctaw Swartz or Elliot, destined to disseminate the blessings of Christianity from the Mississippi to the Pacific from the Gulf of Mexico to the Frozen sea. I contrasted them in their social, their moral, and their religious conditions, with the straggling white hunters and their painted faces, who occasionally stare through the windows, or, with the half-naked natives, whom we had seen a few nights before, dancing around their midnight fires, with their tomahawks and scalping knives, rending the air with their fierce war-whoops, or making the woods thrill with their wild yells.
“But they form a still stronger contrast with the poor Indians, whom we had seen on the frontier, corrupted, degraded, debased by their intercourse with English, Irish, or American traders. It was not without emotions, that I parted, in all human probability forever in this world, from my kind and interesting friends, and prepared to return to the tumultuous scenes of a busy world from which, if life be spared, my thoughts will often stray to the sacred solitudes, of Yallow Busha, as a source of the most grateful and refreshing recollections.”
Soon after Mr. Hodgson left Elliot, a re-enforcement of missionaries arrived at Elliot and Mayhew from Massachusetts, viz: Messrs. Smith, Cushman, Bardwell, with their families, Byington, Hooper. Misses Frisselle and Thacher from Pennsylvania. They traveled together as far as Pitts-burg, Pennsylvania, where (November 4th, 1820) they took passage on a large flat boat called, at that day, an Ark, and reached the Walnut Hills (now Memphis, Tennessee) about the last of December, There Mr. Cushman and his family, and Mr. Hooper, took a wagon, and safely arrived at Mayhew after being about three weeks upon the road; while Mr. Smith and family and Mr. Byington and Miss Thacher remained on the boat until they reached the mouth of the Yoh-shu-bah (Yazoo); and Mr. Bardwell and his family and Miss Frisselle remained at the Walnut Hills to look after the interests of the property of the mission, which had been there deposited to await the arrival of the Choctaw packet to carry it to Elliot and Mayhew. But the river rising to such a height as to render it impracticable to travel by water, Mr. Bardwell, after waiting many days for the falling of the river, procured horses upon which he and his family and Miss Frisselle rode to Elliot through the wilderness by the way of little paths alone.
A short time before the arrival of the above mentioned missionaries at Elliot and Mayhew, Mr. Loring S. Williams, who came with Mr. Kingsbury to the Choctaw Nation, traveled over that Nation to learn the views of the Choctaw people in regard to the establishment of churches and schools among them, and whom he found everywhere delighted with the idea. In his travels he visited, among many others, a point on the Old Natchez Trace; (to which I will again refer) called French Camp, about half way between Elliott and Mayhew where he eventually settled with his family, opened a school and both preached to and taught the Choctaws, and God greatly blessed him in his glorious work. In the meantime, Mr. Kingsbury met all their chiefs in a great council near and explained to them the nature and design of the missions being established in the Nation; and to which a chief thus responded: “I be not used to make a talk before white man, but when my heart feel glad, me can say it. Me and my people have heard your talk before, but never understand this business so well as now, that the missionaries Work For Choctaws Without Pay; that they leave their homes, and all for good of Choctaws. We are ignorant. We know when day come, and when night come. That be all they know.”
Thus was manifested the eagerness of those ancient Choctaws, as well as all their race from the days of Elliot, the early Apostle to the Red man of North America, down to Cyrus Kingsbury, the Apostle of the Choctaws; and thus it would have been down to the present day, but for the interference with and pulling down the labors of those men of God, by the hands of those white men of the devil, whose howls are heard from the center to circumference of the land, even this day, “Open up to white settlement ! Open up to white settlement!”
But now missions began to be established in various parts of the Choctaw Nation; and now was also seen the long closed gates of an age of moral and intellectual darkness, through which even the wing of conjecture is unable to explore in its flight, swinging open to the first echo of the approaching footsteps of those pioneers of the Cross bearing and bringing the glad tidings of peace and good will to the Choctaws, and commending the religion of Jesus Christ to them, not more by their learning than by their life; and of each of whom, both men and women, it truly might be said, Israelites “in whom there is no guile.” But the ever watchful and closely observing Choctaws at once learned to justly appreciate the simple beauty of such lives as theirs, never before neither seen nor even heard of, in all their knowledge of and intercourse with the White Race. Consequently, they held them in great respect and reverence; and even to this day, though all have passed from their toils below to their rewards above, Mr. Cyrus Kingsbury, the last of that noble little band of Christian heroes and heroines, dying June 27th, 1871, aged 83 years, 7 months and 4 days, while their names live in the memory of the present generation of the Choctaws; since, in all the years of their long lives of labor and love among them, they did them no wrong, but only good, and thus proving themselves to be their real friends and benefactors, who came to them, not with soldiers and guns as their emblems of peace, friendship and good will, but with the Bible alone by whose doctrines universal friendship, peace and brotherhood may be successfully and permanently established among all man-kind, of all nations and of every tongue; and was successfully and permanently established between the missionaries and the Indians every where upon the North American continent, from the first sermon preached to them by John Elliot down the flight of years to the last sermon preached to them by Cyrus Kingsbury. A truth incontrovertible, too, clear too certain to admit of dispute. And had the love of God and one veneration of his precepts, as set forth in the Bible, governed the American people in all their dealings with the Indians, as did those early missionaries to that noble race of God’s created intelligences, they would, long since, have been a part and parcel of our nationality filling their nook and corner of our confederacy with gloriously redeemed manhood and womanhood that would today triumphantly stand the scrutiny and verdict of the civilized and Christian world. But alas, we tried to force upon them the falsehood that they were inferior beings, and justly failed; and will ever fail so long as a North American Indian lives to hurl the idiotic notion back into our teeth, though the howls of the modern idiots, who still strive to diabolify the noble but unfortunate Red Race, disturb the quiet of earth with “No good Indian but a dead Indian,” “Once an Indian, always an Indian” exterminate the red skins; shoot down the “bucks as rabid wolves,” followed by the doxology upon that “Harp of a thousands .strings.” “Open up their few remaining acres of land to settlement for the children of the Lord.”
Many parents and friends attended the closing exercises of the first session of the Mayhew School, and were delighted at the improvement of tire children, and the day was a happy one both to parents and pupils. Amasholih’ubih, accompanied by many of his chieftains and warriors, also attended the examination, and made the following remarks to the school: “Such a thing was not known here when I was a boy. I had heard of it, but did not expect to see it. I rejoice that I have lived to see it. You must mind your teachers, and learn all you can. I hope I shall live to see our councils filled with the boys who are now in this school, and that you will then know much more that we know and do much better than we do.” And he did live to see it. All returned to their homes highly pleased. At the opening of the next session of the school, Amosholih’ubih brought two of his sons and a nephew to enter the school: also an aged Choctaw man brought his grandson and daughter to enter the school, and said to Mr. Kingsbury: “I now give them to you, to fake them by the hand and heart, and hold them fast. I will now only hold them by the end of their fingers.”
To the examination at Mayhew in 1822, many Choctaws came from a long distance, and the whole Nation, from centre to circumference, seemed awake upon the subject of improvement, morally, intellectually, and religiously. But alas, the devil was not asleep, but secretly busy in trying to thwart the good efforts of both the Choctaws and missionaries, by influencing his abandoned white subjects, who had fled from the religious restraints of their homes in the States, to misrepresent the designs of the missionaries, and, in a few instances, succeeded in inducing parents to take their children from under the care and instruction of the schools. But many Choctaws came the distance of 70 miles to learn the truth of the reports; and, as might be expected, returned satisfied of their falsity, and better pleased with the missionaries, their churches and schools, than ever before; and thus was the devil and his white subjects gloriously defeated in their nefarious designs.
Soon after, a brother of Captain Cole (who died ten or twelve miles east of Atoka in the present Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, in the year 1884, at the advanced age of nearly four score and ten years) sent five children to school, and a few months later sent another, but the school was so crowded that the sixth could not be admitted, and for causes not known, the father sent and took away the five who manifested the greatest sorrow in having to leave the school. But Captain Cole, after more room had been provided, sent a petition with the signature of himself and eight chiefs urging the propriety of returning all the six children to the school; and not only the six were returned, but also six others, besides application for two others, one of whom was his son, whom he gave to the missionaries, with the words: “I want him to remain with you until he obtains a good education, if it takes TEN years.”
Mrs. Kingsbury died at Mayhew, on the 15th day of September 1822, and was buried in the Mayhew cemetery a true and self-sacrificing Christian woman, who gave up all for the sake of assisting to lead the Red man of North America into the fold of her Divine Master. Her noble husband’s body rests from its earthly labors, in a Choctaw cemetery near Old Boggy Depot, Indian Territory, among the people he loved so well, and for whose good he labored so faithfully for 53 long and eventful years. She left two little boys, Cyrus and John, the last mentioned also lies in the same cemetery near the grave of his noble father; the former, if alive, I know not where he is. The last I heard of him, (years ago) he was living in Iowa. Both were the playmates of my child hood’s years, never to be forgotten.
Ah”! How those names stir the memories that still cluster around my early youth! We were five missionary boys, Cyrus and John, my two brothers and myself, all playmates at that age when we felt that we were “monarchs of all we survey” and truly we reigned right royally. But with added years came the “truth that the world was not so eagerly molded to our wishes, for life soon taught its realities to us as to all poor humanity whose days are full of sorrow, and lives but a span. But. it rests me, to pause, here and there, in the midst of hurry and care, to sit in this my angle-nook, among the present Choctaws Indian Territory, and ponder o’er the joys of by gone clays, when I was a fifth part of the happy, boyhood group that each day gathered together in the long ago. How well I remember it, and how warm my heart grows at the thought. The cold adamantine wall that has enclosed me in my contact with a busy and seemingly heart less world crumbles to dust and falls away, leaving me again a tender, confiding, loving boy. Ah! That beautiful long ago! When I received earth as full of sunshine without alloy, and sweet song without a discordant note.
Those were days wherein the world seemed to have reached its perfection; days, when all things seemed in unison with harmony, as if Nature would indulge her offspring; when all things, animate and inanimate, seemed to give signs of satisfaction and contentment; and even the horses and cattle, scattered here and there in little groups, some reposing on the green sward and others grazing around, seemed to be indulging in tranquil thoughts. Ah ! The memory of those days makes me long once more to throw myself into the arms of loving Nature, as in the days of yore; but not as she smiles in well-trimmed woody groves or in cultivated fields of grain; but Nature, as she was in that age when creation was complete and unadorned by human hand. Yes, I would go again, even in this my life’s far decline back to the land whereof none then the history knew; back even to the Red man, whom I am not ashamed to own I love; to whom civilized vice was then unknown; where on every side stretched away on illimitable forest scarcely to be distinguished in the shadows of night from the hills beyond; while the flowing streamlet, here and there, clearly gleamed through the open glades as the ripple of night breeze gently stirred the forest leaves. But if you, whose eyes may some day fall upon these, my written thoughts, I pray you persevere, since what I may have to tell you may not be without interest, as I have not told it before nor will I again.
Though the death of Mrs. Kingsbury was a great bereavement and trial to Mr. Kingsbury, yet he faltered not in the cause of his Divine Master among his loved Choctaws. But two weeks after he started upon a long journey in the southern part of the nation to find suitable points for establishing churches and schools among the Choctaws, that their children might receive an education near home, and also relieve the missions from all expenses except that of the support of teachers. After several days travel, he arrived at the home of the celebrated chiefs of the Choctaws, Apushamatahahubih, where he met Mr. Jewell; thence, they journeyed together to a point one hundred miles distant, called by the Choctaws Oktak Falaiah (Ok-tark, (Prairie), Far-lai-ah (Long.) There they laid the foundations for the establishment of a school, which was afterwards named Emmaus, and was near the line between Mississippi and Alabama. At Ok tak Falaiah they made the acquaintance of Henry Nail, an aged white man, who had been adopted by the Choctaws by his marriage, many years before, to a Choctaw woman. He told Mr. Kingsbury and Jewell that he had twelve children living and one dead. He was a chief among the Choctaws for many years, and is the progenitor of the Nail family among the Choctaws. But I will speak of him again more definitely. Thence the two missionaries, in company with Joel Nail, a son of Henry Nail, who lived near his father with a wife and several small children, went to Okla Hunnali pro. Ok-lah (people) Hun-nar-lih, (Six). While en route, they unexpectedly came upon a large company of Choctaws assembled for a ball play. As soon as they ascertained that one of the white men was “Na-sho-ba-An-o-wa, (Nar-sho-bah, (Wolf), Arn-o-wah (Walking) (a name given to Mr. Kingsbury by the Choctaws, though one foot was badly deformed by the cut of a scythe when a boy) of whom they had heard, they postponed their ball play, and both chiefs and warriors gathered at once around him, and urgently solicited him to give them “a talk” about schools. He willingly complied; while they listened with the deepest interest and in profound silence to his propositions, and manifested un-assumed joy at the prospect of a school. Mr. Kingsbury then bade them a friendly adieu, and the three continued their journey thence to Okla Hunnali, which comprised six clans, and contained 2164 inhabitants.