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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 division should be abandoned he would return to Fort Coffee and continue in the work. But in the event of a separation his purpose was to continue in the old Church, and remain on the north side of the line.
These views and sentiments were understood, and they were fully approved by conservative men, even in the south.
He accordingly arranged all the business matters of the institution, effected settlements with all, taking vouchers, and posting the books with such exactness and care that none could misunderstand them.
On the third day of March Mr. Goode and family started for Louisville Mr. Brigham, the assistant teacher, left at the same time. Meeting the Rev. J. C. Berryman, Mr. G. frankly stated to him what his intentions were, but at the urgent request of Mr. C. he went to Cincinnati and procured the supplies for the mission before the adjournment of the convention.
The result of the convention is well known; the Church was sundered in twain; a new organization was effected, and Mr. Goode never returned to the Indian Mission conference. He was transferred to the North Indiana conference, where he traveled a number of years; and again, at the bidding of the Church, he took his family and went to the extreme western frontier, as the first superintendent of the work in Kansas and Nebraska.
After Mr. Goode left Fort Coffee Mr. Stateler became the nominal superintendent; but his absence in attending the quarterly meetings of the district made it necessary for me to do the work of both teacher and superintendent and as the assistant teacher had gone, my duties were very onerous indeed. To procure an assistant of the right character in that country was exceedingly difficult. In the midst of our labors Walter A. Duncan, a halfbreed Cherokee, came to Fort Coffee, anxious to remain a year, that he might improve his education and qualify himself for the ministry. He was about twenty-two years of age, tolerably well educated in the common English branches, and of studious habits. We could not receive him as a pupil, but concluded to take him on trial as an assistant teacher, promising to give him private instructions. He was a young man of good appearance, of fair ability, pious, and anxious to be useful. He was indeed a very promising youth, bating a single idiosyncrasy; he had quite a penchant for writing verses. But believing that he had mistaken his gifts, and was not “born a poet,” I labored faithfully to get that crotchet out of his cranium, yet with but poor success; for in my absence he would still torture Mrs. Stateler and Mrs. B. With his doggerel rhymes of interminable length and dullness. Whether Walter ever succeeded in becoming either a poet or preacher I know not.
This is a matter of too much importance to be overlooked in these sketches. Standing upon the bluff of the river one afternoon I saw a small craft floating down the sluggish current, near to the projecting rocks beneath my feet, manned as follows; A sturdy negro stood in the bow of the boat to do the duties of captain; another well-developed Ethiopian was seated in the stern to manage the rudder; four Indian women, with bare heads and feet, and dressed in red calico skirts, were laboring manfully at the oars. A well-dressed Indian man was seated upon a pile of peltries, smoking his pipe in silence; a decent-looking Indian woman was seated by his side similarly occupied. They were evidently the proprietors of the boat and the cargo, and had employed the crew to work the vessel for them.
As a matter of amusement I determined to challenge the vessel. The captain was startled at the unexpected sound of a voice coming from the rocks above his head. “What you do up dar, sar?”
“Captain,” said I, ,this is a port of entry, and I demand your ship’s papers. Whence do you come, whither bound, and what is the character of your cargo?”
“Massa, dis heah bongo is no ship; we’se got no papas, sah ! We is cum from Muscogee nation, an’ we am gwine to Van Buren. Dis heah boat’s loaded wid cow-skin, deah-skin, coon-skin, an’ buffalo-skin n’ tongue. We ‘se gwine to buy flouah, shoogah, Blanket, lead and powdah, but no whisky!”
In that load of peltries we had a fair specimen of the exports of the country; these were their only articles, and they commanded but poor prices. The wild game had become scarce; it was mostly slaughtered or driven farther back upon the plains. Hunting parties would occasionally make a tour up the rivers and over the prairies, in the direction of the Rocky Mountains, to chase and slaughter the buffalo. Such expeditions were attended with considerable peril, as the prairie tribes were all hostile, and were ever lying in wait to rob and cut off small bands of travelers or hunters. To escape robbery and death it became necessary to go with weapons and in numbers sufficient for self-defense, and then to move with military precision, not failing to have sentinels both day and night to watch the movements of the insidious enemy. Having reached the buffalo range, they choose a camping spot, convenient to water and grass; and then apply themselves to the exciting duties of the chase, till they have loaded their ponies with skins and tongues, and have satiated themselves with the sport. It was not an unusual occurrence for a hunting party to bring home a few buffalo calves. When taken young they are easily domesticated, and will travel in company with the packed ponies without giving any additional trouble. We saw two fine young buffaloes at Tahlequah that had been captured on the plains when calves. They were two or three years old when we saw them, well grown, fat and sleek, and herding with American cows. They were gentle as ordinary cattle, and, so far as we could discover, did not retain a particle of their native wildness. But there is but little inducement for rearing buffalo cattle; for they are inferior for beef, too unwieldy for oxen, and worthless for dairy purposes, as the quantity of milk given by them is too small, and it is also wanting in flavor.