Collection: Life Among the Choctaw Indians

Fort Coffee Neighbors

Our nearest neighbors were Cherokees, and resided on the north side of the river; their houses and farms were in view of our mission. The ferry kept at Fort Coffee was owned by a Cherokee, who lived directly opposite to our establishment. He was a shrewd man in business, a regular Shylock in his ex­actions. Woe betide the unlucky traveler who should venture to cross over in his boat without having first stipulated as to the fare; and even then the ferryman would fail to give back the correct change; it must be in his favor to the amount of

Indian Mission Conference

On Monday morning, October the fourth, Revs. W. H. Goode, John M. Steele, H. C. Benson, John Page, Oakchiah, and Chukmabbee set out on horseback for TAHLEQUAH, the Cherokee council-ground, where the session of our conference was to be held. As there was no road directly across the Cherokee nation from Fort Coffee, it was necessary to keep down the river on the southern side as far as Fort Smith. There we crossed the Arkansas and immediately entered the Cherokee country. Our purpose had been to take the military road leading to Fort Gibson; but after consultation, we determined to

A Short Chapter in Itinerant Life

The Rev. John Smythe, of the Arkansas conference, was appointed to the Dry Run mission. It was a new field of labor in the interior, or rather verging to­ward the south-western corner of the state. He was an active, zealous, and earnest preacher, whose labors were crowned with abundant success. Before the close of the conference year he had organized a flourishing society at Brown’s Bend, and had built a church, which was appropriately christened “Cottonwood.” Brother Brown was one of the converts, a leading and influential man in the community; and Mr. Smythe appointed him class-leader. The leader did

Fort Coffee Academy for Boys

On the first day of October, 1844, the second session of the Academy opened with about thirty students in attendance, a few not having yet returned. Mr. Brigham was employed as an assistant teacher. He was an Irishman, having been born and educated in the city of Dublin, and was, by profession, a druggist. His education was good; he was intelligent and gentlemanly and had once been a member of the Presbyterian Church. Our school was full, not one of the old pupils failing to return. They manifested very great pleasure at meeting us and in getting back to the

New School System

It will be remembered that at the session of the General conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the month of May, 1840, four Secretaries, or agents, were appointed to serve under the direction of the Missionary Board of our Church, Rev. E. R. Ames was appointed to the western portion of the work. The Secretaries were expected to travel extensively, to address the Churches on the subject of missions, to labor to arouse the people to a sense of their duty, to learn the wants of the desti­tute, and to devise means for the support of such new missions

Settlement with Superintendent

On the tenth day of May I had a final settlement with Rev. L. B. Stateler, the acting Superintendent of our mission, with the intention of quitting the territory as soon as a steamboat should ascend the river as high as Fort Coffee. We could not conscientiously remain in the south after the division of the Church. Before the separation, while the Methodist Episcopal Church was a unit, with a Scriptural and conservative platform, bearing an emphatic testimony against the “great evil of slavery,” and looking forward to its “extirpation,” we could labor heartily and conscientiously in fellowship with our

Death in the Mission

On the twenty-fifth day of March, James Wathin, a lad of about ten years of age, died of pneumonia. The disease had prevailed in our family for a number of weeks, and James had suffered severely with it, but had partially recovered from his attack, and we thought him out of danger. But owing perhaps to imprudence he suffered a relapse, from which we could not raise him; the physician did all that he could, but without success. When we saw that the lad must die, we sent for his father, whose name was Beelah, and who resided near the

Choctaw Wedding

Mrs. H., a Choctaw woman, has just sent a servant to ask if we would be willing to attend a wedding at her house; her youngest daughter was about to be united in wedlock to a fine young Indian, who was serving as a clerk in a dry-goods store at the Agency. As we expressed our pleasure at being her guests on the eventful occasion, Mrs. H. sent us horses and saddles, and a servant to conduct us to her residence. We found a multitude of people assembled to witness the ceremonies. Mrs. H’s dwelling consisted of two square rooms,

A Building in or about Fort Coffee

Life Among the Choctaw Indians

Henry Benson worked as a missionary amongst the Choctaw at the Fort Coffee Academy for Boys in the mid 1800’s. In this manuscript he depicts the formation of the Academy and missionary amongst the Indians, providing valuable insight into the tribal customs of the Choctaw after they had been forcibly moved to the Indian Territory. He also provides glimpses into the lives of westerners before the Civil War in the south-west.