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, built of logs, and standing separate, leaving a space of ten or twelve feet between them, which served as a hall or court. There were porches in front and rear of the buildings. The invited guests occupied the hall and porches, while the lower class of natives, who were prompted by curiosity to be present, were scattered about the yards, seated upon the ground, and smoking their pipes in silence; they had never witnessed the marriage ceremonies solemnized by a minister.
At nine o’clock the bridal party were marshaled upon the front porch; friends held lighted candles, the natives swarmed about the yard, and then, in duo form, according to the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the nuptials were celebrated. It was probably the first instance in which a minister had officiated on such an occasion within the limits of the Moshulatubbee district.
The spectators thought the “talk” was altogether too brief; they had confidently anticipated a sermon, or “big talk,” at the wedding. Thinking that other ceremonies would be observed, at the proper time, before the guests should disperse, they relighted their pipes and again seated themselves upon the ground, and patiently waited to see what should transpire. After the supper had been served Mrs. H. gave them the remnants of the feast.
The wedding supper was prepared in good taste, very far surpassing many to which we have sat down among white people. As the evening was far advanced when the guests dispersed, and as we were cordially invited to remain till morning, we consented to do so, and were very comfortably entertained. It was the first night Mrs. B. ever spent under the roof of an Indian. In the morning we ate breakfast and worshiped with the family, after which Mrs. H. ordered her horses and sent us back to Fort Coffee, escorted by her faithful boy, Caesar.
Marriage ceremonies were strictly observed by the Choctaws. Ministers, the agent, chief, interpreter, and light-horsemen were legally authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony. I am not aware that any heathen marriage ceremonies were observed by any of the tribe. They seldom made feasts or engaged in dancing on those interesting and eventful occasions.
During the last week of September a delegation of about thirty Seminole Indians came down the river, landing at Fort Coffee, en route for the office of Major Armstrong, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The Seminoles had but recently immigrated to the territory, and were temporarily camping in the Creek country, above the mouth of the Canadian river. As they were few in number they were endeavoring to form an alliance with the Creeks, and to settle permanently upon their lands. The terms were agreed to, and the delegation had been sent to obtain the aid and approval of the Superintendent, in consummating and legalizing the contract.
The men composing the delegation were tall, well developed, and muscular. Whether they were fair specimens or picked men we do not know. Of their intellectual capabilities we could not form an intelligent judgment; but the opinion of an uneducated Choctaw might be given upon the subject. The delegates were at the Agency; a number of the Choctaws had come to see their red brothers, to shake hands, and smoke the pipe of friendship.
Mr. H., the merchant, was present, and noticed that a shrewd Choctaw was carefully scrutinizing the physiognomy and proportions of the Seminole chief. ” Well, Tubbee,” said Mr. H., “what do you think of him? Is he a great man? “The native replied, ” Him great man! He got big body–eat tom-ful-la–plenty much! But he no brave chief he make big talk never! He got not much plenty sense he head make like jug, heap!”
It was evident that Tubbee regarded the Seminole as a hugely-developed gormand, who was sadly deficient in intellect. The circumstances of the Seminoles were such that we could not form an opinion as to their character, enterprise, and future prospects. Their tribe had been called to endure untold and indescribable sufferings. They were then sundered; a portion had been forcibly ejected from their homes, and had been carried to the territory ; the balance, under the command of the renowned “Billy Bowlegs,” were still secreted in the swamps of Florida.
In the year of 1843 Rev. Mr. M’Kenny was sent by the Presbyterian Board of Missions to labor with the Seminoles; but finding them in an unsettled condition he could do nothing with any probability of success. Before the year closed Mr. M. was permitted to abandon the effort; and at the opening of Spencer Academy he was appointed Superintendent of that institution. He there found an interesting and promising field of labor, into which he entered with zeal and activity. Himself and family spent a day with us at Fort Coffee as they were on their journey to the Spencer Academy. Mr. M. and wife were intelligent, zealous, and devoted missionaries.