Charles Elliott.

Indian missionary reminiscences, principally of the Wyandot nation. In which is exhibited the efficacy of the gospel in elevating ignorant and savage men online

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Online LibraryCharles ElliottIndian missionary reminiscences, principally of the Wyandot nation. In which is exhibited the efficacy of the gospel in elevating ignorant and savage men → online text (page 1 of 14)
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" Where there is neither Greeii nor Jew, circumcision nor uu-
eircumcision. Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free : but Christ w
all, and in all," Col. iii, 11. ......







The following is the history of these Remi-
niscences. While missionary at Upper Sandus-
ky, in 1822, the author kept a brief journal of
passing events, for the first three months of his
stay there. The keeping of the journal was
interrupted by the increased duties of an exten-
sive revival, in the first place ; and subsequent-
ly, by his spending the latter half of the year in
obtaining supplies for the increasing wants of
the mission school and family. The Reminis-
cences took their origin as follows : — About
the end of February, 1834, shortly after the
writer commenced editing the Pittsburg Con-
ference Journal, he was relating one day the
substance of what is contained in Reminiscence
XVI., to some friends in the printing office.
They requested that it would be written and
published. This was done, and after the pub-
lication of this, several others followed. Short-
ly after this, some thought that the incidents
contained in these unadorned and unpretending
narratives might be interesting to the public as
a Sunday school book. This led the writer to


add the above-named journal and some other
incidents not published in the Conference Jour-
nal. He judges that the life of Between-the-
Logs will be acceptable to most. He also sup-
poses that the concluding observations on the
efficacy of the Gospel, both in civilizing and
Christianizing man, will not be unacceptable
to those who may have patience to read what
precedes ; or who feel interested in the con-
version of the world. No one who peruses this
humble production will expect any literary em-
bellishment. This is beyond the reach, and,
in this work, foreign to, the design of the writ-
er of the Reminiscences.

Charles Elliott.
Pittsburg, Feh.^ 1835.



John Steward the coloured man, the apostle of the
Wyandots — His conversion — Licensed to exhort — Re-
markable dream — Sets out from Marietta toward the
north-west — Arrives at Goshen among the Moravian
Delawares — Journey to Pipetown — Incidents there.

John Steward was born and raised in Pow-
hattan county, Va. He was a free mulatto, and
claimed kindred with the Indians. In the early
part of his life, he lived without an experimental
knowledge of religion. He could read and write
but imperfectly, yet, after he became religious,
he improved much in reading, so that he could
read, with tolerable fluency and precision, his
Bible and hymn book. Through the instrumen-
tality of Methodist preaching, he was convinced
of his sinfulness by nature and practice. He
sought God earnestly, and found the pearl of
great price, accompanied with the direct wit-
ness of his sonship, by the agency of the Holy
Spirit ; a clear sense of which he afterward re-
tained. In his Christian experience he was
very clear. This I learned from hearing him
preach, pray, and exhort, frequently, as well as
from frequent private conversations with him.
He prayed much, and lived near to God.


He joined the Methodist Episcopal Church
at Marietta, where he obtained the reputation
of a consistent Christian. After some time, in
consideration of his gifts, graces, and prospec-
tive usefulness, he was regularly licensed to ex-
liort ; and as an exhorter he laboured, especially
among the people of his own colour, with ac-
ceptance and usefulness. Shortly after he was
thus licensed, he esteemed it his duty to call
sinners to repentance, in a more extended way
than what falls ordinarily to the lot of exhort-
ers. But as there is something altogether ex-
traordinary connected with this man, a minute
history of his early movements may not be un-
acceptable. With him I had frequent conver-
sations respecting the first steps by which he
was led to attempt to preach among the Indians.

About the time, or shortly after he commenc-
ed exhorting, he had a remarkable dream. And
although dreams are uncertain directories, and
are never to be followed, unless they have the
authority of the revealed word to sanction what
they teach, yet when they teach us what the
Bible and common sense teach us, it is wise
and safe to follow them. The only reason why
we ascribe Steward's dream to a good cause,
was, that the subsequent steps by which he was
conducted lead us to the certainty of facts,
which testify that his cause was one that was
under the direction of the Almighty.

He dreamed that he was in a certain house,
about to commence a religious meeting, and that
an Indian man and woman, while he was sitting.


came into the house, clothed in particular gar-
ments — -they came into the house in a peculiar
manner — accosted him, and shook hands with
him — retired and took their seats — and seemed
to manifest peculiar earnestness and interest in
respect to his message. He also gathered from
them, that they invited him to go and preach for
their people, who lived in a direction north-west
from Marietta. This dream made an uncom-
mon impression on his mind. And though he
used many means to argue away its force, it still
clung to him by day and by night. When he
resisted the impression on his mind, he was af-
terward in a state of mental misery. But when
he was determined to follow the indented im-
pression of his mind, his peace and joy returned.
He would frequently go into the woods and fields,
to pray, and ask God for direction. It seemed
to him as if he heard the voice of these two In-
dians continually, saw them always before his
eyes, and heard their invitation to him, to come
and preach to them, as well as their warning to
preach the truth faithfully. He would sometimes
seem to hear them praise God with sweetest
voices. They still seemed to come from the
north-west, and invited him to proceed in that
direction. He would sometimes find himself
standing on his feet, and addressing a congre-
gation. A sense of his weakness and ignorance
prevented him from attempting the contemplated
journey, though his mind was continually drawn
to travel toward the source from whence the
voices came. Th« impression made daily on his


mind became stronger and stronger. And in
consequence of having resisted this call, from a
sense of his own insufficiency, the agitations of
his mind so affected his body, that he was thrown
into a severe fit of sickness. During his illness,
and as he was recovering, he resolved, with
God's help, that, should the Lord restore him,
he would attempt the work which he believed it
his duty to perform. When he thoroughly re-
covered, he firmly resolved to go, provided he
would be enabled to pay some debts he had con-
tracted before he experienced religion. This he
was soon enabled to do, and commenced prepar-
ing to take his journey. He opened his mind on
the subject to several members of the Church,
but they generally viewed his impressions as
merely imaginary. From this source he there-
fore either met with no encouragement, or with
repulse. Here his difficulties again increased.
And though he was convinced he must go, yet
he had no person or Church authority to send
him. The quarterly meeting conference justly
enough supposed that the hazard was too great
for them to venture any particular interference.
At length he conversed with a certain class
leader, one of his confidents, on the subject,
and the leader gave him the following wise ad-
vice : — "Your impressions and sense of duty are
so peculiar, that no Church authority can act just
now in your case. But as you verily believe it
is your duty to go somewhere north-west, and
preach to the Indians, obey what you esteem to
be the command of God. And probably you


may not be able to decide the question or ease
your mind in any other way, than to attempt the
work by commencing your journey." The
leader and he prayed together, and being thus
recommended to the grace of God by this pious
man, he came to the determination to make the

Accordingly he commenced his journey. He
had no purse, nor money to put in it, and had no
clothes but those on his back, and these were of
coarse material and somewhat worn. He had
no license, permit or recommendation from any
Church authority. He had no one to wish him
God speed but the class leader. No large as-
semblies convened to hear speeches, make col-
lections, or to join in prayer for him. The whole
Methodist Episcopal Church was in a profound
midnight sleep in regard to Indian missions,
when John Steward, the coloured man, with his
staff on his shoulder, to the end of which was
tied the little coarse handkerchief or knapsack,
which contained a couple of halfworn shirts,
and a couple of thread-bare socks, none of which
were ever after washed, except when, on his
journey, or at Sandusky, he washed them with
his own hands, without soap or smoothing, nor
were they repaired by new ones — with his Tes-
tament, also, in one pocket, and his hymn book
in the other — a small supply of bread and meat
too made a part of his outfit. John Steward,
the coloured man, thus set out from Marietta, not
knowing whither he was going, except toward,
the north-west. Methinks I still see the picture


which he gave of his departure, when we con-
versed on this subject, in the fall of 1822. He
proceeded from the town toward the north-west,
leaving Zanesville on the left, sometimes follow-
ing a road, when he thought it was in the right
direction ; at other times travelling in the path-
less woods. When he supposed he was too far
to the east, he inclined toward the west, and
when he thought he was too far toward the
west, he inclined more toward the east. Some-
times he would stop in the woods, pray to his
heavenly Father, sing a hymn or two, or seat
himself on a log, and read in his Testament.
Thus he proceeded until he came to the Dela-
ware Indians on the Tuscarawas River, at Go-
shen. These were the shattered remains of those
who were so inhumanly butchered during the
last war. They were murdered in cool blood,
in the most barbarous manner, while at their de-
votions. They were Moravians. They received
him kindly. He preached for them and remained
several days among them. He told the minister
of his call, who exhorted him to obey it. Stew-
ard thought, at first, that he had arrived at the
end of his journey, but after he was there a few
days, he believed that he must still proceed
farther ; that this was not the place where he
was called to labour, and that there was yet
some place north-west where he must go.

While at Goshen, Steward learned that there
were Indians north-west of that place. He there-
fore determined to set out to find them. He had
already travelled about 80 or 100 miles. The


distance still before him was about one hundred
miles, and for the most part uninhabited, or at
least very thinly. He proceeded on his journey
as before. When he thought he was too far to
the east, he took a more westwardly course, and
when he found he was too far to the west, he
changed his course more to the east. He lay
several nights in the woods. Toward the head
waters of the Mohican or Killbuck creek, he
providentially found a welcome lodging with a
pious class leader, who encouraged him much,
and replenished his knapsack with a fresh sup-
ply of bread and meat. They spent a good part
of the night in prayer, and Steward left his
roof much encouraged to fill his mission. Some,
whom he met, endeavoured to dissuade him from
his undertaking, by informing him that the In-
dians could not be converted, and if they could,
he could never be the instrument of their con-
version. But these things did not move him : he
still pursued his journey as before, until he ar-
rived at Pipetown, on the Sandusky River, where
a part of the Delaware Indians reside. It should
also be remarked that during this journey he
never omitted any opportunity of preaching,
conversing with people on the subject of reli-
gion, or praying with them in the families where
he stopped. When he entered a cabin in the
wilderness, he had no money to offer them for
entertainment : his only resource was, to declare
the errand on which he was going, which, by
the way, was not a popular one among the early
settlers of Ohio. Yet his candid tone of sin-


cerity, as well as the good hand of God over
him, generally obtained for him a kind reception.
They who go on God's errands will find some
way to enable them to prosecute them.

When he arrived at Pipetown, he was con-
ducted to one of the Indian cabins, and was cor-
dially received. This was in October, and on
the day in which they were gathering in, and
husking their corn ; after the completion of
which they must have a great dance. He told
them he was sent by the Great Spirit to teach
them. This they rather called in question, but
promised to give him a hearing when they would
finish their dance. They commenced by setting
up the war whoop, and then they proceeded to the
dance, which they performed with great agility,
Steward being seated in the midst. They danced
and frisked around him, sometimes brandishing
their tomahawks close to his head and face, as
if to cleave his skull, yet dexterously missing
him, and touching or grazing only the hair of
his head, or skin of his face; at other times
they would point their butcher knives at him,
and make a thrust at him, as if to kill him ; yet,
carefully missing their mark ; at first he became
somewhat afraid, but immediately recalling him-
self, he composedly kept his seat, felt no fear,
and after a little took his hymn book from his
bosom, selected a hymn, for the purpose of sing-
ing it when they were done dancing. This cir-
cumstance called a halt in their movements, so
that in a short time they got through their
dance, and all became perfectly composed. He


immediately commenced singing his hymn. All
were silent while he sung ; and when he got
through that hymn, one said in English, Sing
more. He complied, and then inquired for an
interpreter : an old Delaware, named Lyons, in-
terpreted for him while he preached, or, as he
said himself, talked to them about religion, out of
his New Testament. The Indians listened atten-
tively, and when he had finished, they gave him
the best entertainment they had, and he occu-
pied such a bed as they use themselves, i. e. the
floor, with a blanket wrapped around him.


Steward continued — Departure from Pipetown and
arrival at Sandusky — His reception at Mr. Walker's —
Journey to Jonathan's — First preaching among the
Wyandots — Fulfilment of his dream.

We have already seen that the Delawares
listened attentively to Steward's sermon, at the
close of which they gave him the best entertain-
ment, as to victuals and lodging, of which they
were possessed. He now supposed he had filled
up his mission, and accordingly determined to
return to Marietta, and from thence proceed to
Tennessee, to visit his relations. In the morn-
ing his impression of going northwest returned
with renewed force ; and though the Delawares
urged him to continue longer with them, and
though he was also strongly inclined to visit his
friends in Tennessee, yet the more powerful im-


pression of duty urging him to go farther had the
dominancy. Accordingly he proceeded on his
journey, and soon arrived at Upper Sandusky,
at the house of Mr. William Walker, the United
States' sub-agent, and interpreter for the nation.
At first he was suspected to be a runaway slave,
and was on that account narrowly questioned.
Steward declared to them he was a free man,
and that he was sent of God to preach the Gos-
pel to Indians somewhere northwest of Marietta,
from whence he came ; that he had visited the
Indians on the Tuscarawas river, and those at
Pipetown ; but these were not the Indians to
whom he was sent, and he came to Sandusky
for the purpose of finding them, as he thought
the Wyandots were those to whom his mission
called him to go. He also informed Mr. Walker
that he had been a very wicked man, but that he

was brouorht from darkness to light. He de-
cs o

Glared to him what God had done for his soul.
He sung hymns, prayed with them, and read in
the Testament, which he took out of his pocket.
The family, as Isaac Walker informed me, en-
tertained a favourable opinion of his sincerity ;
but they supposed, though a good man, that he
was a mistaken man ; and though they declined
interpreting for him, they treated him kindly,
and directed him to go to Jonathan Pointer, the
coloured man, who, they said, would interpret for
him. Jonathan lived about eight miles from Mr.
Walker's, in an out-of-the-way place, to which
there was no direct road or trail, only that it was
still northwest. He proceeded to Jonathan's,


and though it would appear impossible for a
stranger to find it, yet he went toward the
direction in which it was, and exactly hit upon
the house, which was situated in a hollow place,
at a distance of several miles from any other.
When Jonathan ascertained his errand, he en-
deavoured to dissuade him from the undertaking,
telling him that many wise and learned men had
already, to no purpose, preached to the Indians.
Still Steward persisted in declaring that he had
a message from God to them, and that he must
deliver it.

" Finding that Jonathan was preparing to
attend a feast which was appointed to be cele-
brated on that day. Steward asked liberty to
accompany him, to which Jonathan quite re-
luctantly consented. A large number of Indians
being collected together, the feast and dance
were conducted as usual on such occasions, with
great mirth and hilarity. Permission being
granted, at the close of the amusement, Steward,
through the agency of Jonathan, delivered to
the Wyandots a discourse on the subject of
Christianity, dwelling principally on its experi-
mental and practical effects upon the heart and
life. They listened with profound attention to
what he delivered, and then gave him their
hands, in token of hospitality to a stranger.

" He made an appointment for meeting the
next day at the house of Jonathan, the inter-
preter ; but how surprised and disappointed was
he to find, instead of a large assembly, only one
old woman. Not disheartened at this, Steward,


imitating his Lord and Master, who preached to
the woman of Samaria, preached the Gospel to
her as faithfully as if there had been hundreds
present to hear him. The next day his congre-
gation was increased by the addition of one old
man. To these two he preached with such suc-
cess, that they both became sincere and genu-
ine converts to the Christian faith.

*' The next day, being Sunday, eight or ten
assembled in the council house, who seemed
much affected under his sermon, and a work of
reformation commenced, which terminated in
the conversion of many. This was in the month
of November, 1816. Steward continued his
labours, visiting the families from cabin to cabin,
talking, singing, and praying with them, and
preaching to them on Sabbaths in the council
house. Very soon large crowds flocked to the
meetings, and such was the deep concern mani-
fested for the salvation of their souls, that for a
season they almost entirely neglected their secu-
lar affairs. This gave occasion for the merce-
nary traders residing among them to speak re-
proachfully of Steward, and to accuse him of
being instrumental of starving the Indians, by
preventing them from hunting, &c. ; but it was
very manifest that the true reason of their op-
position was, ' that their craft was in danger.'
But although they threatened him with impris-
onment if he did not desist, he gave them prac-
tical evidence of a determination to persevere in
his labours, regardless of all consequences." —
Bangs' History of Missions.


A principal difficulty arose to Steward from
the hardened state of Jonathan, his interpreter,
who, though he interpreted faithfully whatever
the other uttered, yet would sometimes add,
" So he says, but I do not know whether it is so
or not, nor do I care. All I mind is to interpret
faithfully what he says. You must not think
that I care whether you believe it or not." Yet
interpreting was made the means of his con-
viction. He soon became much alarmed in the
act of interpreting. While Steward would be
uttering his sentence, he would be meditating his
escape before it would be his turn to speak ; yet
the idea of leaving the preacher, and by this
means disappointing the hearers, who were now
numerous and much affected, pre vented him from
running away from the word of the Lord. Jo-
nathan became a convert to Christianity, and
was afterward, apparently, hearty in the work.
He was certainly an excellent interpreter, of
whom, as such, a few words may be said at a
future time.

One other circumstance that occurred in one
of the first meetings held by Steward among the
Wyandots, is worthy of notice. While Steward
and Pointer were seated together, and the con-
gregation were assembling, an Indian man and
woman came in, approached Steward, shook
hands very cordially with him, and then took
their seats in an orderly manner. When they
had taken their seats Steward observed to Point-
er, I saw that man and woman before. No,
said the other, you certainly never saw them


before this evening. I am sure, said Steward, I
saw them before, for their countenances are fami-
liar to me, as well as their manner of walking,
sitting, and acting. It is impossible, said Point-
er, for you to know them, as you were never in
any place where they were, and therefore you
are certainly mistaken. Then Steward observed
to him, This is the man and woman whom I saw
in my dream before I left Marietta ; and I
know, from the deep impression made on my
mind, that these two persons are just like those
I saw in my dream. I give this narrative pre-
cisely as Steward gave it to me. The thing is
somewhat strange and curious, and would not be
worth mentioning were it not that it is connected
with matters of importance. This circumstance
was an encouragement to this devoted man,
when opening the door of faith to the Wyandot
nation. One cannot, in this place, avoid think-
ing of the following passage of Scripture : —
Acts xvi, 6-12, '* Now, when they had gone
throughout Phrygia, and the region of Galatia,
and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach
the word in Asia ; after they were come to My-
sia, they assayed to go into Bithynia : but the
Spirit suffered them not. And they, passing by
Mysia, came down to Troas. And a vision ap-
peared to Paul in the night : there stood a man
of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying. Come
over into Macedonia and help us. And after he
had seen the vision, immediately we endeav-
oured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering,
that the Lord had called us for to preach the


Gospel unto them. Therefore, loosing from
Troas, we came with a straight course to Sa-
mothracia, and the next day to Neapolis, and
from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city
of that part of Macedonia, and a colony ; and
we were in that city abiding certain days." —
This man and woman were among the first con-
verts to Christianity in the nation. Both of them
became stable Christians, and, I think, have
finished their course with joy.


Licensing of John Steward to preach.

Perhaps the partiality of the author for the
Wyandot Indians may lead him to bestow too
much attention to their history. If in this he
errs, the error is an honest one. The fact
that John Steward was licensed to preach was
formerly mentioned. Brother Brockunier, in

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Online LibraryCharles ElliottIndian missionary reminiscences, principally of the Wyandot nation. In which is exhibited the efficacy of the gospel in elevating ignorant and savage men → online text (page 1 of 14)