Collection: Life Among the Choctaw Indians

Fort Coffee Academy

In the month of March, 1813, Rev. William II. Goode was appointed Superintendent of Fort Coffee Academy, and Henry C. Benson was appointed teacher. At the time, the former was presiding elder of South Bend district, and the latter was the junior preacher of Mooresville circuit; both were of the Indiana conference. We were regularly transferred by Bishop Soule to the Arkansas conference. Mr. Goode made provision for his family during his absence, and immediately set out upon his journey for his distant field of labor. He went to Cincinnati, where he procured the necessary outfit and supplies for the

Fourth of July Celebration

On Tuesday morning, at sunrise, Mr. Heald, merchant, Mr. Cotton, our head carpenter, and myself started to Fort Smith to participate in the anniversary celebration of our national independence. Two of us were well mounted on mustang horses, and the third upon a Santa Fe’ mule. The distance was fifteen miles, down the river, through heavy timber which shaded the road, rendering our equestrian exercise delightful. Mr. Heald and myself had been chosen to address the people on the occasion. The church in which we spoke was much too small to contain the audience. At the door of the church

Distinguished Men

The Honorable Nat Folsom was our district chief, a full-blooded Indian, uneducated, and able to converse but little in the English language. His residence was in the vicinity of Pheasant Bluffs, thirty miles from our mission. When I first saw him he was probably fifty years of age, large and well-developed; and, though considerably gray, he was still active and in the enjoyment of vigorous health. He was an unusually fine-looking Indian; and, although his glossy hair was becoming streaked with white, his face was smooth, his eye bright, and his step elastic and firm. We met him first at

Indian Annuities

About the middle of December Major Armstrong received at Fort Coffee sixty thousand dollars in specie, to be paid over to the several Indian agents, to be distributed as annuities to the tribes embraced in that superintendence. It had been boxed and officially sealed at the New Orleans mint, each box containing one thousand dollars. The boat had come late in the afternoon, and the boxes of coin were delivered to Mr. Armstrong, at our mission, about sunset; but, before it was possible to bring a wagon and horses to remove the treasure, a messenger arrived from the Agency with

Rev. John Page, a Choctaw Preacher

On the fifth day of November Rev. John Page, a Choctaw Indian, preached to us at Fort Coffee. The services were held in the little office, where I was still confined with the fever. The sermon was plain, Scriptural, and earnest, rendering the exercises interesting and profitable. Mr. Page preached in English, speaking the language intelligibly, but not correctly ; his custom was to preach to his people in the native tongue. During the week Mr. Page spent with us he gave us a brief sketch of his life. When a lad, in a heathen state, he had been sent

Arrival at Fort Coffee

The bell aroused us in the morning, at six o’clock, and we found ourselves the sole occupants of the building. It consisted of a single room, about twelve feet square, erected of small logs, “scotched down” with the broad-ax on the inside. The edifice was covered with “shakes,” had a rough, loose floor, two windows, a batten-door, and an outside chimney, built of clay and cobble-stones. Having hastily made our toilet, we went directly to the breakfast-table, where we saw none but strange faces, not one of whom had we seen or heard of previous to that morning. We regretted

Camp Meeting on the Border

Thursday morning, the twenty-first day of September Rev. Mr. Steele, a half dozen of our Indian friends, Mrs. B., and myself started on horseback to a camp meeting, which was to be held on the border or line which separates the state from the Indian territory. The distance was thirty miles, in a south­east direction, and within the state, in the northern extreme of Scott county. We lead provided ourselves with the usual outfit, of blankets, bread and cheese, matches, tin cups, and ropes with which to tether our horses. For miles we traveled through a region of country still

Visit to Fort Smith

On Saturday, in company with a friend, I started to Fort Smith to spend the Sabbath, and to conduct religious services in the absence of the stationed minister. We spent the night at the residence of Mr. A., who had formerly resided in the city of Pittsburg, extensively engaged in mercantile pursuits. He was an intelligent and gentlemanly old man, who had been accustomed to mingle with the wealthy and refined; but, having met with reverses of fortune, he had been greatly reduced in his circumstances, and had emigrated to the frontier settlements with the hope of being able to

Indian Camp Meeting

On Friday morning, the eleventh day of August, Rev. John Cowle and myself started to Pheasant Bluffs to attend a camp meeting. Before leaving Fort Coffee we had made the needful provision for our comfort, each being furnished with a blanket, a rope with which to hobble or tether his horse, a package of bread and cheese, a box of matches, and a tin drinking-vessel. The distance was thirty miles, and, as neither of us had ever been there, we knew nothing of the trail, and but little of the character of the country over which we must travel to

Provisions Spoiled

Late in the month of July we discovered that our flour, like the surplus manna in the wilderness, bred worms. It was, indeed, a difficult matter to preserve provisions in a sweet and sound condition during the long, dry, and intensely warm summer seasons in that country. We had known that the weevils would consume the unground grain that might be stored away in the granary, but we had never heard that the meal and flour would become foul and unfit for use. Our flour was in barrels, had been purchased in Cincinnati in the month of April preceding, and