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 southern brethren. But when required to abandon the old landmarks, and stand upon a new platform, or return to the north, the path of duty was clear. We determined to remain in the Methodist Episcopal Church; for it was impossible for us to pronounce the Shibboleth which was the only password that could gain access to the public sentiment of the south.

We durst not remain in communion with a Church which claims that ” slavery is right per se;” that it is an “Abrahamic institution.” We felt that we must withdraw from a communion which will not, or dares not say a word in condemnation of an institution which utterly ignores the marriage relation, and, per sequence, tolerates and sanctions polygamy, bigamy, adultery, and promiscuous concubinage.

After closing up all the business matters, and delivering the books, papers, and other property with which we had been intrusted, into the hands of Mr. Stateler, we were ready with an hour’s notice to take our leave of the Indian country. But as it might be a number of days before a boat should come, we still continued in charge, while Mr. Stateler and family went a distance of fifteen miles to attend a camp meeting. At the time of his leaving the Superintendent gave directions that, in the event of a boat’s coming before his return, the office and family-rooms should be locked up, and the keys placed in the hands of Charles.

On Sunday morning, the twelfth day of May, we assembled in the chapel to conduct religious services for the last time with the students. They understood it to be our last occasion of worshiping together, and were peculiarly attentive. We felt sorrowful at the thought that we should meet no more in the Lord’s house on earth.

At length the boat came; and assembling our family together, we found it very difficult to pronounce the word farewell. They came forward in silence, to give us the last shake of the hand, all of them manifesting deep feeling on the occasion Charles came last, to whom we gave a parting word, and handing him the keys, we went aboard the boat. Passing around the bluff to descend the river we looked up and saw our entire family of students, standing upon tile projecting rocks, and waving us a last farewell. As Mrs. B. saw it the tears gushed from her eyes, and her emotions were uncontrollable. We felt the separation most keenly; and sincerely did we regret the necessity which severed us from the work in which our hearts and hands had been so warmly enlisted.

In fifteen years of itinerant life we have formed many and strong attachments. We have suffered intensely again and again in sundering relations and leaving precious friends behind; we have been required to bid adieu to beloved parents, brothers, and sisters, with but little prospect of ever seeing them again in the flesh; but we never felt more sad than when we gazed for the last time upon our Indian pupils. Our connection with them had been of the most interesting character; we taught about forty of them to read and write. We had rejoiced to witness moral development; they had manifested a readiness to receive the truth. Many whom we found rude and uncouth we left able to converse in the English language readily; their minds were undergoing that refining and purifying process which education and religion alone can effect. While all were orderly and moral, a few gave evidence of genuine and sincere piety.

We had gained the confidence of the tribe; its most influential and talented men regarded the Fort Coffee Academy as the model school of their nation. As evidence of this judgment, it is only necessary to record, that the Trustees and chiefs were eager to place their national school under the supervision of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Colonel T. M’Kenny came with a statement to that effect. ” We,” said he, “can not make Spencer Academy what it ought to be. You can. We wish you to have it under your care.” Mr. W., the Principal, wrote to the same effect, stating, at the same time, his intention to resign his place.

It seemed a strange providence that now separated us from that field of labor in the Master’s service, yet we acted from a conviction of duty, and have never regretted the steps then taken.

Our immediate successors were Rev. Mr. M’Alister, Superintendent; Mr. Graham and Mr. M’Alister, jr., teachers at Fort Coffee; and Dr. E. G. Meek and Mrs. E. Meek, teachers at New Hope.

The institution continued successful and prosperous, as we were gratified to learn from teachers and students. But for a number of years past I have received no intelligence from our old field of anxious toil.

During the past fourteen years we have occasionally received an item of news from our Choctaw brothers. Mrs. B. has received a number of letters from those who were small boys and members of her class in the Sunday school when we were living with them.

A few of our pupils have engaged in teaching; some have gone into the professions; one has graduated at a medical college in Philadelphia; others have labored in connection with the missions.

Since the foregoing pages were written, a paper has been received which contained an account of the remodeling of the constitution of the Choctaw government. The office of chief had been abolished, and the executive duties and responsibilities were devolved upon a governor. There had been also a modification and improvement of their judiciary.

The paper gave an account of the election of the governor and his installation into office. It was stated that ” he came upon the platform, leaning upon the arm of the Hon. Ashley Burns, a judge of the Supreme Court. The governor delivered his inaugural address, at the close of which Chief Justice Burns administered the oath of office, in a dignified and impressive manner.” That newspaper paragraph called up most vividly scenes and events of past time. I remember Ashley Burns well; the Indian youth who had traveled over a hundred miles on foot through that wilderness country to Fort Coffee Academy. We remember how we taught him the mysteries of the spelling book, and his first efforts at the blackboard to form words. We remember that Ashley was studious; that he loved his books much better than the ax, the mattock, or the hoe. And though we confidently anticipated his success in life, yet we scarcely hoped that in such a short period he would be the Supreme Judge of his nation. But we most sincerely rejoice in his success in gaining such an honorable and important position in his tribe.

There were other lads of whom we shall confidently expect to hear in favorable terms youths whose movements in life we shall note and whose success we hope to record. They were the little fellows who “toted” the wood and the water the boys, who ,in a single year after entering the Academy, were sufficiently familiar with our language to render good service as interpreters. We could name a half score, at least, who are destined to fill responsible stations in the Choctaw nation. If they shall fail in life, we shall renounce at once and forever the maxim, that ” the child is father of the man.”



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

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