Presbyterial Meetings and Picnics

On August 31, 1905, the Presbytery of Kiamichi met at Oak Hill, at a time when an attack of malaria at his summer home at Fonda, Iowa, prevented the return of the superintendent. The attendance of visitors was unusually large. It fell to the lot of Miss Eaton, matron, and Miss Ahrens to provide for their entertainment. They were ably assisted by Miss M. A. Hall and Mitchell S. Stewart. They had sixty for dinner on Friday and Saturday and one hundred and twenty-five on Sabbath.

On this occasion three new members were added to the roll, Jack A. Thomas was elected and ordained an elder, and Samuel Harris, a deacon.

The meetings of the Presbytery, which are always evangelistic, have now come to be the most attractive, interesting and profitable meetings held in their respective communities. As the available Churches are few in number, the meetings are held in each every two or three years. The coming of the Presbytery is anticipated with a great deal of interest, and a “big crowd” is the delight of the congregation, receiving and entertaining it. This is a fact worthy of special note.

Not An Oak Hill Bucket

In the Territorial days, or, rather previous to the allotment of lands to them individually in 1905, the most attractive meeting, in their various neighborhoods, was the annual old-time picnic, made interesting by the presence of a “merry go round” that relieved them of their nickels, and a platform, where promiscuous dancing was sure to be continued through most of the night, and be accompanied with considerable dissipation and immorality.

When the superintendent discovered the nature of these gatherings, he did not hesitate to declare their dissipating and demoralizing tendency. He also stated the attitude of the institution in regard to them by giving utterance to the following sentiment: “Whilst everything at the academy is available for the betterment of the colored people, there is not an Oak Hill bucket available for use, at a dissipating and demoralizing dance in the timber.” This sentiment sounded a little harsh and cruel at first, but it now commands the approval of all the good students and of those, who are doing most to promote the happiness and welfare of the young and rising generation. Since the young people have come to participate, to a greater extent, in the frequent meetings of the Presbytery and in an annual Sunday school convention, the old time “dance in the timber”, has become a “thing of the past.”

Everybody Goes To Presbytery

The meetings of the Presbytery are sure to be attended by everyone, living in the vicinity of the meeting, and by as many others as can manage to “get there.” It is unusual for any colored minister and his elder to be absent from any meeting, no matter how great may be the difficulties, that have to be overcome in getting there. If the place of meeting can be easily reached, additional delegates are chosen to represent the Sunday school, the aid, Endeavor and Women’s Missionary societies.

If these additional delegates get to the meeting, they are duly enrolled and later are accorded all the time they wish in making their oral reports of the work they represent. All seem to enjoy making reports and addresses at Presbytery. Many are animated with the earnest desire to aid in giving their race an uplift, and the address in Presbytery seems to be one of the nicest opportunities to do this. This is especially true of some of those among the older people who cannot read survivors of the slavery period who inherited good memories and good voices. Several of the most eloquent and deeply impressive appeals, it was the privilege of the author to hear at the academy or Presbytery, were delivered by those, whose condition of slavery in youth and isolated location afterward prevented attendance at school. By frequent participation in religious meetings, where they endeavored to repeat and enforce Bible truths, to which they had given an attentive ear, caused them, like some of the famous philosophers in the days of Socrates and Aristotle, to be held in high esteem as persons of intelligence and influence in their respective communities. Henry Crittenden, Elijah Butler, Mrs. Charles Bashears, and Simon Folsom were all good examples of unlettered, but natural orators, who found their widest sphere of usefulness in the activities of the Church.

Going To Presbytery

Those, attending the meetings of the Presbytery, often experienced serious disappointments on the way and some little inconveniences, when they got there. Previous to the organization of the Church at Garvin in 1905, there were only two Churches, Oak Hill and Beaver Dam at Grant, that were located near the railroad. All the other Churches were located in rural neighborhoods, 8 to 20 miles distant from the nearest station. The roads to them were merely winding trails through the timber that crossed the streams where it was possible to ford them, without any grading of the banks.

That which we witnessed and partially experienced, in making our first trip through the timber to a meeting of the Presbytery at Frogville, about fifteen miles from the station, was characteristic of three other meetings we attended, at a distance from the railroad.

The delegation that arrived at the station consisted of nearly two dozen and about half of them were women. We arrived at the place the wagons were to meet us, after walking across the railroad bridge over the Kiamichi river, a short distance west of the station. When we arrived there, we found only one wagon of the three that were expected. That was a serious but not a stunning disappointment. The luggage was crowded into the bed of that wagon and it carried also a few of the older women. The rest of us set out on a good long walk; indulging the hope other teams would surely meet and relieve us somewhere on the road. As the hour of noon was approaching, we anticipated our needs on the way, by having a box of crackers and a slice of cheese put on the wagon. When we reached a half way place, where there was also a spring of good water, this lunch was greatly enjoyed. We managed to ride the remainder of the distance, and at the end of the journey we heard no one complain the “road am hard to travel.”

Entertainment For Everybody

The problem of entertainment, always seemed before-hand a rather serious one for the few families, living near the Church in a rural neighborhood. Their generous hospitality, however, never seemed to be over taxed, but to have an elasticity that included a cordial welcome to every one, and as much of comfort during the night as it was possible to extend. Many of the younger people on Saturday and Sabbath evenings, when their number would be greatest, would be grateful when they were accorded a pillow and blanket for a bed on the floor, or a bench.

The happy, hopeful spirit, manifested by both hosts and guests, in meeting the responsibilities and unexpected disappointments, that are sometimes experienced while attending meetings of the Presbytery in the rural neighborhoods, reminds one of the happy remark of a little six year old boy, in regard to a sunny visitor, whom he knew had experienced many trials and had just left their home: “Yes, I like her; she goes over the bumps as though her heart had rubber tires.”

Choctaw, History,

Flickinger, Robert Elliott. Choctaw Freedmen and Oak Hill Industrial Academy, Valliant, Oklahoma. Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen. Pittsburgh. 1914

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