Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

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twelve preachers who embarked with me at St. Louis,
having left at different points for their new circuits. It
was not very cheering to reflect that I was far from my
family and friends, on the border of the Indian country,
where I knew no individual, without porter or guide, with
the sable shades of night falling upon me, and my lodging-
yet to hunt ; but knowing that my business was not only
lawful, but benevolent, and believing that I was in the
path of duty, I was not afraid to trust my heavenly Father
for all I needed. Shouldering my baggage, which con-
sisted of a heavy carpet-bag, cloak, umbrella, and a small


bundle, I ascended the steep hill, between the base of which
and the river there was scarcely room for a warehouse
and a few other small buildings ; and after resting several
times by the way, much heated, and nearly out of breath,
I reached a new cabin on the summit, occupied by Col-
onel Chick, who, having been "washed out" by the late
freshet, removed far above hio-h-water mark. The Col-
onel was very sick with chills and fever, and several mem-
bers of his family were but just recovering from the same
disease; yet, I was very cordially received by him and
his interesting family, and treated like a Christian brother.
Next morning Colonel Chick kindly sent me on horseback
seven miles, to the Indian Manual Labor School, in the
Shawnee nation, where I had appointed to meet a party
of missionaries, to proceed on together through the Indian
country to the conference. The land from the Missouri
river to the Mission is well timbered, and is as fertile and
beautiful as can well be conceived of; but the Mission
Farm itself is partly in the prairie. The school is pat-
ronized by several neighboring tribes; but the largest
number of scholars are children of Shawnees and Dela-
wares, who, being thrown together, ignorant of each other's
language, more readily adopt English as the ordinary me-
dium of communication. Since the establishment of this
great central school, the small schools previously con-
nected with each tribe have been discontinued, though
their respective missionaries continue in the regular mis-
sionary work of preaching and visiting, which contributes
much toward keeping the central school well filled with
children. The students vary in age from ten or twelve to
twenty years, and in number from one hundred to one
hundred and fifty. I was in time to witness part of the
examination exercises at the close of the regular term,
and to address a few words of approval and encourage-
ment to them. Their performance in spelling, reading,


arithmetic, geography, composition, autography, and vocal
music, was such as would do credit to any of our city
schools in the United States. Children, who one year
previous knew nothing of letters or of the English lan-
guage, read the New Testament well. Besides obtaining
a knowledge of literature and science, the boys are learned
practically the business of agriculture ; and some of them
the more useful mechanical arts; while the girls are
taught to knit, spin, weave, cut and make garments, and
the important business of housekeeping, which, I have no
hesitation in saying, is a better course of education for all
practical purposes of life, than is observed in most of our
collegiate institutes. But the best of all is the religious
influence brought to bear on the children by the daily
reading of the Scriptures, morning and evening worship,
the Sabbath school, and regular Sabbath preaching. Some
of the boys hold prayer meetings in the woods by them-
selves ; while the girls have prayer meetings in their own
chambers, and often get unspeakably happy.

The improvements on the premises are quite respectable.
Besides some comfortable frame buildings, there are two
large, substantial brick buildings, one on either side of the
spring. The boys and their teachers live in one of these
houses, and the girls and their teachers and governesses
in the other. The outbuildings, barn, etc., are comfortable
and convenient. The Mission Farm, too, is extensive and
productive. The whole number of acres inclosed with
strong fencing, is five hundred, of which three hundred
are well cultivated, and the balance in grass and pasture.
It is well stocked with horses, cattle, sheep, hogs, and
poultry ; and among the stock are three native buffalos,
which were captured when young, and subsequently pur-
chased for the Mission. Two of them are perhaps two
years old, and the other a calf six or seven months old.
The mode of capturing these animals is very simple. A



gentle cow, with a young calf, is driven into the buffalo
range, the calf killed, and its place supplied with a young
buffalo calf, which she adopts, and it follows her home.
By the way, those three woolly captives on the Mission
Farm, are missionary stock ; and I am authorized to say,
if any friend of missions would like to give the Missionary
►Society a handsome sum, say three hundred dollars, and
take them, he can be accommodated. There is also con-
nected with the Indian Manual Labor School, a steam
flouring mill, capable of grinding three hundred bushels
of wheat a day, and does good work, which cost the So-
ciety four thousand dollars, with four years to pay it in,
the net profit of which, the past year, amounted to more
than one thousand, eight hundred dollars ; at which rate
it will soon pay for itself, and become very productive
stock. At the earnest request of some of the Indians in
their official council, the superintendent is about adding
machinery to saw lumber — they engaging to furnish the
lumber at the mill for half of the sawed lumber — which, it
is supposed, will increase the profits of the mill. This
establishment, while the improvements were in progress,
received from the Government four or five thousand dol-
lars, and from the Missionary Society ten thousand dollars
a year; but now, with five thousand dollars from the
Society, and nothing from the Government, it gets along
comfortably ; and it is probable the sum may be gradually
reduced till it can support itself, though the expense of
feeding, lodging, clothing, and educating one hundred and
fifty students, must necessarily be considerable.

After the interesting spiritual exercises of the Sabbath,
we left on Monday, the 14th, for conference. While some
brethren on horseback steered through the border settle-
ments of Missouri, four of us, in two buggies, took the
military road through the territory, which was once a com-
fortable road for a new country; but the bridges were


mostly destroyed by the freshets, and the sloughs were
extremely boggy, which rendered the traveling difficult.
Our company consisted at first of Rev. L. B. Stateler,
missionary to the Shawnees, Rev. Thomas Ilurlbut, late
of the Canada conference, and missionary among the Chip-
pewas, Rev. E. T. Peery, superintendent of the Indian
Manual Labor School, and mvself. We c;ot a late start
the first day, and after proceeding about twenty-five miles,
took lodging at the Hickory Camp, near a small branch.
Our tent was made of domestic cotton, circular, after the
form of the habitations of Northern Indians, supported
by one center pole, and the base extended by cords and
pegs, with an opening fronting the fire. It shed rain well,
and afforded some shelter from the wind. We had two
buffalo-skins for beds, a blanket each for covering, carriage
cushions for pillows, and passed the night in safety. The
next day, having journeyed about thirty-eight miles, we
camped on the south bank of Mary de Zine, in a quiet
and pleasant place, sheltered by the tall trees, with but
little to break the stillness of night, except the tingle
of the horse-bell, and an occasional report from a neigh-
boring camp of Potawattomie Indians, who were sojourn-
ing there, probably for the benefit of the fall range. Next
morning, while brother Hurlbut was making our coffee,
and the other brethren were hunting the horses, which
had lost their hopples and wandered out of hearing, I
went to the Indian camp to inquire if they had seen any
horses. It was a double camp, containing about a dozen
individuals. While the children were gamboling about
the creek, and the old man and his numerous dogs were
lying down at their ease, the women wore busily employed,
some preparing breakfast, and the others making flag mat-
tresses. I was favored with a true Indian reception, and
having accomplished the object of my visit, soon retired.
If the brethren, accustomed to Indian society, should feel


disposed to laugh at this unimportant item, I have only to
say, it is not written for their benefit. And lest I be over-
much tedious, I will relieve your readers for the present.
Yours, truly, T. A. Morris.

Missouri Territory, Oct. 16, ISM.

Brother Elliott, — Having recovered our horses at
Camp Mary de Zine, we resumed our journey, and, at
Osage creek, overtook Rev. Thomas B. Ruble, missionary
among the Potawattomie Indians, and Washington, son of
chief Boashman. Young Boashman was educated at the
Indian Manual Labor School, is a professor of Christianity,
acts as interpreter, and it is thought may become a useful
man, if faithful, in the missionary work. Thus reinforced,
our three carriages formed a little procession, and we
found it necessary at night to raise two camp fires. Early
in the afternoon we were caught in a north-eastern storm
of rain, attended with such wind as rendered it difficult to
hold an umbrella; which, in an open buggy, was rather
unpleasant. However, I was much relieved by the use of
a Spanish blanket, with a hole in the middle to let my
head through, so as to screen my shoulders and knees.
Late in the evening we reached the Mamita, near Fort
Scott, where we could procure fuel and water, and took
our quarters for the night, chilled and wearied with the
cold journey. The storm beat all night upon our frail
habitation, and occasionally whirled the smoke and ashes
into it. This was not the worst trouble : two of the horses
gave us the slip, and detained us next morning about
three hours searching for them ; a difficulty against which
we subsequently guarded. Thursday morning we called
at the fort, and procured horse-provender for the next
night, being the last opportunity for the next fifty miles.
There were at the fort three companies, one of dragoons


and two of infantry, though they appeared to have but
little to do, as we saw some of them miles beyond, sport-
ing with greyhounds. This day the wind, crossing the
prairies, was quite chilly. When we reached the last skirt
of timber on the Dry wood Fork, though early in the after-
noon, it was too late to encounter the Big Prairie, twenty-
three miles across ; and we concluded to wait till morning,
shave our beards, readjust our equipage, and take a fresh
start. We had replenished our store of provision with
some beef, sweet potatos, and a chicken, and having full
time to broil, roast, and eat, we fared well that night. In
the evening we were warned, by the northern lights, of a
coming storm. About three o'clock next morning, the
sleet and hail commenced falling, which soon turned to a
regular snow-storm; and when we left our camp, at day-
light, the snow was about two inches deep, and still
coming down on us. This was the only day of real suf-
fering we experienced on the journey through the territory.
We started with wet boots, exposed to a severe north-west
wind, and soon became chilled, while the snow prevented
our warming by running on foot, as we had done the day
before. On reaching the Cow Fork, we found a fire ready
for us, which some movers had just left, where we took
our luncheon ; and having cleared the range of the snow-
storm, and reached dry ground, we resumed our journey
under more favorable circumstances. Still it was very
cold. When we arrived at Spring river, where we ended
our day's journey of thirty-eight miles, the bottom was
so crowded with the camps, teams, and stock of emigrants
to Texas, that we had some difficulty in finding a suitable
place to pitch our tents. As for myself, I was so affected
by the cold, that I could not hold a limb of me still ; but
the work of preparation for night, a good log fire, and a
supper of broiled jerk and hot tea, made of spice-wood
nrush, relieved all the difficulty, and we slept soundly


Saturday, 19th, we passed through the Quapaw lands,
a small principality about eight by twenty-four miles in
extent, in which we have a mission and mission-school in
a tolerably prosperous condition. We also passed the Lit-
tle Shawnee village, occupied by a small band of Shaw-
nees detached from the main body of the nation. On
the way we overtook several companies of Indian women
mounted on ponies, well packed with bags of corn, going
to mill, which, though not fashionable employment among
white ladies, is far preferable to the old style of pounding
corn with a pestle. In the evening we arrived at Mrs.
Adams's in the Seneca nation, by whom we were kindly
received. We rested over Sabbath in her house. Sister
Adams is of the band of Stockbridges, and her husband,
Rev. Daniel Adams, was a Mohawk. He was our mission-
ary among the Senecas, an excellent man, and died at his
post during the past year. His widow is a well-educated,
intelligent, and pious woman, and, for her opportunity,
keeps a comfortable house of entertainment. Our relig-
ious services in her house, on Sabbath, were, to me, at
least, peculiarly interesting. The congregation contained
about sixty persons only, yet among them were seen Sen-
ecas, Stockbridges, Shawnees, Cherokees, Africans, Cana-
dians, and citizens from several of the United States ; and
during the exercises of preaching, prayer, and praise, all
appeared to be " baptized into one Spirit;" while tears of
joy, and half-suppressed exclamations of triumph, told
the deep feeling of many hearts. It was here the Rev
N. M. Talbott, missionary among the Kickapoos north of
the Kansas, joined our traveling party, and continued
with us to conference.

Monday, 21st, we resumed our journey, and soon
passed the Seneca Mills ; but, for want of water, all was
still. In the afternoon we went through Baetie's Prairie,
one of the best settlements in the Cherokee nation ; and


in the evening camped at Spavanaugh, a beautiful stream
of clear water. About dark, while eating our supper, an
Indian, on whose heart the light of the Gospel had prob-
ably never dawned, came to us in a bad humor, and
though he could not clearly express his meaning in words
that we understood, his countenance looked terrible ; and
by violent gestures, and an occasional word of broken
English, we at last learned that he was offended at us for
cutting and burning his wood. We, however, soon hit
upon a successful mode of compromise : with two crackers
and two dimes, we effected a satisfactory treaty of peace,
which relieved the whole difficulty.

Tuesday, 22d, after traveling thirty-five miles, late in
the evening, we reached Tahlequah, the capital of the
Cherokee nation, commonly called the Council Ground.
It is a little city, but full up to our expectation. The
most important building is a new brick court-house.
There is, in the midst of the village, a stand, with tempo-
rary seats arranged for public assemblies, and covered
with an arbor, serving as a kind of forum for political
orators, and perhaps for a place of religious worship.
The National Council was in session. It consists, I under-
stand, of a lower house, or popular branch, of twenty-four
members, and a senate, or upper house, of sixteen mem-
bers, occupying very ordinary buildings, but talking of
erecting a more spacious capitol. It was said they were
rather retarded in the business of the Council by the
absence of the Hon. John Ross, head chief of the nation,
who was, however, expected daily. The Supreme Court
was also in session. From all I could learn, there is a
strong feeling in the nation in favor of law, and a determ-
ination to enforce it. The Cherokees are progressing in
education, civilization, and Christianity, all of which are
forwarded by means of the press among them ; and they
might do very well in their new country, if they could


permanently settle some internal difficulties that have long
embarrassed them. In their political and social relations
it is said that party feelings and party measures are
strong; very much like those among their white neigh-
bors of the United States. At Tahlequah we learned
that the conference was to meet in Riley's Chapel, two
miles distant, and that "headquarters," from which we
were to be distributed to our respective lodgings, were
near the chapel, at the house of Rev. Thomas Bertholf.
Fortunately for us, my "cabinet" and self were all bil-
leted to the house of George M. Murrell, Esq., at Park
Hill, one of the finest neighborhoods in the nation. "We
were only two and a half miles from the chapel, with the
privilege of riding to and from, and had as comfortable a
home as could be desired in any country.

Here I close this number, with one or two general
remarks. The distance from the mouth of the Kansas to
Tahlequah is about two hundred and sixty miles by the
military road, and about seven-eighths of the way are
dreary barrens, or prairie, mostly of inferior quality,
being arms or skirts of the almost boundless plains of
sand, stretching toward the Rocky Mountains, which afford
neither timber, water, nor soil sufficient to sustain any con-
siderable population, and will, therefore, never be inhab-
ited to any great extent. Even on the east border of this
vast territory there is comparatively little to engage the
eye, the ear, or the mind of the enterprising pioneer.
One fox, one gray squirrel, and a few ducks and geese,
were all the game we saw on a journey of two hundred
and fifty miles. The character of the country west of the
civilized Indians is greatly in their favor, as no consider-
able settlements are likely to be soon formed beyond them.
Yours, respectfully, T. A. Morris.

Pabk Hill, Cherokee Nation, Oct. 22, 1844.

N OTJ&S O F T K A V E L . 357


Brother Elliott, — The Indian Mission conference
commenced its first session at Riley's Chapel, near Tahle-
quah, in the Cherokee nation, on Wednesday, October 23,
1844. The name of the house is intended, I learn, to
perpetuate the precious memory of the first Cherokee
converted to Christianity. It is a respectable frame build-
ing for a frontier country. There are in this conference
seventeen elders, all of whom were present but one, six
deacons, and four licentiates : total, twenty-seven ; and all
tried men in the Indian work. About one-fourth of them
are native preachers. There are also several natives not
yet admitted into the conference, who act as helpers and
interpreters on the circuits. The conference, as a whole,
will compare well with other conferences as to ministerial
qualification, in proportion to their numbers. This little
band of missionaries live and labor together in the bonds
of Christian affection. All their work is missionary ; and,
consequently, there is no scrambling for popular appoint-
ments, or city stations. After arranging the work for the
ensuing year, we stationed the whole conference in less
than two hours, and had no occasion afterward to change a
single appointment, nor did any one complain that his lot
was hard. The religious exercises at the opening of each
day's session were conducted in English, and at the close
of the session, in Choctaw or Cherokee. We reached the
point of final adjournment on Saturday afternoon ; all the
business having been fully considered and done up, except
to ordain the preachers, which was done on the Sabbath.
Two of those ordained were full-blooded Choctaws; and
one of them, being a good English scholar, interpreted the
questions to the other in presence of the congregation.

As this was the commencement of a new state of things
in the Indian missionary work, the conference thought it


best to take decisive measures at once, being* determined
not to encourage or countenance any mere hangers-on, or
inefficient men, who might desire, under the name of trav-
eling preachers, to be employed as teachers of neighbor-
hood or Government schools, not under the control of the
conference. And though they gave a supernumerary
relation to one brother in feeble health, it was without
claim on the missionary funds. Any brethren who may
wish to become identified with the Indian Mission con-
ference must calculate to go in for the work, the whole
work, and nothing but the work, or to be furnished with
"walking papers" in short order. So it should be in
every conference. And the fear expressed by some that
the missionaries, when once the power was put into their
own hands, would make a prodigal use of the missionary
funds, is perfectly groundless. On the contrary, the mission
committee of five leading men, whose report of estimates
was cordially approved by the conference, and concurred
in by myself, manifested a scrupulous regard to economy.
The whole amount appropriated for all the conference this
year is, fourteen thousand, four hundred and ninety dol-
lars, and thirty -two cents. And this, let it be observed,
is not only to support the twenty-seven missionaries and
their families — for most of them have families, and all
of them should have — but also their helpers, interpreters,
teachers ; to pay for necessary improvements, and feed,
clothe, lodge, and educate the children in the mission
schools. Three of these schools, alone, required seven
thousand dollars; nearly half of the whole amount. It
is worthy of remark, that the appropriation for the Indian
work, this year, is less than it usually was when connected
with the other conferences. And yet much fear is enter-
tained, that in the present excited state of the Church, the
means may not come into the hands of the Assistant
Treasurer to take up the drafts without difficulty. Still we


hope better things, though we thus speak, The confer-
ence organized itself into a Conference Missionary Society,
auxiliary to the Parent Society of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, and reported two hundred and seventeen dollars,
and some cents, obtained during the year, and at the first
meeting. They will more than double this sum next
year, I presume.

Now, if any one doubts the propriety of expending so
much money on the Indians, to effect their conversion
from heathenism and sin to civilization and Christianity,
let him visit the work, make observation for himself, and
his doubts will be removed. If he can not do this, we
refer him to the official minutes of the Indian Mission
conference, where he will see that, beside a few white
and some hundreds of colored members — for some of the
Indians are extensive slaveholders, and are likely to
become liberal supporters of the missionary cause — we
have nearly three thousand Indian Church members.
Moreover, we have very many of the children in a course
of training in day schools and Sabbath schools. But while
much has been done, much remains to be done. Thou-
sands are yet heathen sinners, and perishing for the bread
of life. We owe them much, as an injured people. The
land is before us. Great and effectual doors are open
unto us; and there are many adversaries. Some of these
doors may be shut, or entered by others, while we delay
operations. The far-famed Nannawarrior fund has slipped
out of our hands. By official action of the Choctaw
Council, it has been diverted to other channels, not under
our control. And from the best information we can
obtain, this movement was intended by the leading men
before they requested us to postpone our operation in the
premises last spring. After all, it is questionable whether
we shall have lost much in the end, as Jhere is some pros-
pect of other and more inviting fields of labor. In such


an enterprise as that of converting the heathen, there will
always be difficulties and discouragements, beyond what
may be reasonably expected in our ordinary circuit work
among our own countrymen; and these difficulties have
been increased by the system of connecting the Indian
missions with ordinary work in the conferences, which has
led to frequent changes both of men and measures. We
trust, however,. the difficulties will be relieved, in part, by

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 27 of 30)