School Duties

The plat of ground inclosed by our buildings was rectangular, the sides of which were one hundred feet in length. In the center of this square a post or column was firmly planted, upon the upper end of which a bell was hung. In the winter season the bell was rung at five o’clock, and in the summer at sunrise, as the signal for rising. In one hour after the first bell the second bell was rung as the signal for assembling in the chapel for family worship, which consisted of the reading of the Scriptures, singing, and prayer. From the chapel we went directly to the dining-room for breakfast. Immediately after breakfast all the pupils were taken to the fields or woods, and kept at manual labor till half past eight o’clock; they were always in the care of one of the teachers. At nine o’clock the exercises in the school­room commenced; the session continued till twelve, at which time we had an intermission of one hour for dinner and recreation. The afternoon session continued till four o’clock; at half-past four the pupils again engaged in manual labor till within a half hour of sunset. In the winter season, when the days were short, the school did not open till half-past nine in the morning, and was dismissed at half-past three in the afternoon.

At the ring of the bell we met in the chapel for prayers at sunset in the evening, after which we had supper. The students were encouraged to read of evenings, but were not required to devote any of the time to study; they devoted an hour or two each evening to exercise and sports of various kinds in the open air. At nine o’clock in the evening a tap of the bell was the signal for retiring, and in thirty minutes all were required to be in bed, with their lights extinguished; at ten o’clock one of the teachers invariably visited all the rooms to see that all the lads were in their appropriate places, and that the fires were all secure. Each student had his bed as­signed to him, and no one was suffered to make a change without special permission.

On Saturday we had neither school exercises nor regular duties at the labor of the farm. The morning was spent in cleaning the yards and grounds of any litter and rubbish that might have accumulated during the week; the afternoon was devoted to amuse­ments under healthful restrictions. No students were permitted to go far from the mission without special consent being first obtained. Fishing and bathing in the river in the spring and summer were favorite recreations. Gathering berries and nuts in their season was a delightful occupation; shooting with bows and arrows and ball-playing were engaged in by all. At four o’clock, on Saturday afternoon, we assembled all the lads at the school-room to distribute their Sunday clothing. The lads had each a particular number by which he was known, and all his garments were marked with his particular number. By this method each lad always wore the same garments, and, as all received new suits at the same time, an inducement was thus presented to each to be careful to preserve his clothing.

On Sunday morning, at nine o’clock, we met for Sunday school; also at three in the afternoon for one hour only. In the Sunday school we had all who were sufficiently advanced to read the New Testament. A considerable time was spent in singing, an exercise of which the Indians are exceedingly fond their voices are musical and they learn to sing readily.

The ages of the students range from eight years to twenty, yet our rules were uniform, requiring strict and unqualified obedience from all. We found the young men ready to obey without any reluctance exhibition of special obstinacy.

Our authority was recognized and duly respected on all occasions. There were a few instances of delinquency and violations of rule, but not one case of rebellion or insubordination. We had daily and regular hours for manual labor; and although the lads did not take hold voluntarily, yet when directed to do so they never refused. They would use the ax, hoe, rake, maul, and grubbing-hoe to good purpose. Man of them would handle oxen and horses at plowing, harrowing, and carting, with good judgment. A few would handle carpenter’s tools with skill and ingenuity, showing an aptness and talent for mechanical pursuits.

They were kind and obliging in their mutual intercourse, whether at business or amusements; yet were occasionally so rude and careless as to inflict wounds and bruises upon each other, but without malice or ill feeling. We found it necessary to take the supervision of their sports; to restrict the use of the bow and arrow; and, in positive terms, to forbid the practice, of throwing sticks, pebbles, and stones at one another. A single violation of this rule soon brought a case of discipline before the school. The charge was direct and facts clear and undisputed. Robert Frazier had thrown a pebble, which struck Sam Magee on the cheek just below the eye. There was considerable contusion and swelling of the face. Sam was a little fellow not more than ten years old, while Robert was eighteen and well grown.

The school was called to order while the investigation should take place; and the accused was called for­ward to answer to the charge. “Well, Robert, what have you to say? Did you throw the stone which struck Sam in the face ?” “Yes,” said R., “I flinged it.” “Did you aim to hit him when you threw the stone?” “Yes,” said he, “I wants to hit him, but no wants to hurt his face.” “But did you not know that it was a violation of our rules to throw at each other?” He replied, ” Yes, I knows it.” ” Did you not know that it was wrong to throw a stone at a little fellow like Sam?” Robert was silent. “Now, what ought to he done? What shall I do with you for breaking our rules?” He replied without a moment’s hesitation, “I must be whipped.” The appeal was then made to the entire school, “What shall be done with Robert for violating the rules of the school?” They responded, without a dissenting voice, ” He must be whipped!” As the rule was well understood, and as there was a confession of guilt, and as the jury were unanimous in their verdict, we felt it to be necessary to inflict the penalty. The rod was accordingly applied with considerable energy, but it was patiently borne, and Robert loved and respected us none the less for the promptness with which we maintained the authority of the school government.

The smaller boys were passionately fond of marbles; and although their games were innocent, still we could not consent that they should engage in such amusements. Playing on the ground, in a single day they would soil their clothes to such an extent as to render themselves unfit to come to the table or to sleep in their beds. We finally interdicted the marble-playing altogether; but the little fellows were not inclined to yield; they would keep a sentinel to watch that no teacher should come upon them and surprise them in the midst of their games. It soon occurred, however, that the sentinel became himself deeply interested as to the result of a closely contested game, and they were caught by one of the teachers. Allen was stooping at the ring as the teacher came up in the rear and seized him by the collar, and gave him a drubbing, which was borne with the courage of a martyr. But when the teacher looked for Sam, the other offender, he had vanished from sight. But after a little search he was found behind a pillar under the porch; he was dragged forth to receive his portion of the merited punishment. The marbles were abandoned from that eventful period.


Benson, Henry C. Life Among the Choctaw Indians and Sketches of the South-West. L. Swormstedt & A. Poe. 1860.

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