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American Missions and Missionaries

Monroe Station

     In the year, 1819, the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia resolved to established a mission among the Indians east of the Mississippi river. Rev. David Humphries offered to take charge of the intended mission. He says:

“The Rev. T. C. Stuart and myself were appointed by the Synod, early in the year, 1820, as exploring agents, first to visit the Creek Nation and lay the object of the Synod fully before them. When the matter was brought before their large council, and fully explained through an interpreter, they expressed a desire to have schools among them, and to have their children taught, but they expressed fears that there was something behind which they did not understand. It might be to get a foot-hold among them, and then make efforts to get their lands. They rejected the offer, and assigned this as a reason."
     Humphries and Stuart then journeyed through Alabama and Mississippi, and proposed to established a mission among the Chickasaws.
“We therefore, set our faces for the distant West, and passing through the new settlements of Alabama, by way of Fort Jackson, Falls of Cahawba, Tuscaloosa, and the little villages of Columbus, Mississippi, and Cotton Gin Port, we crossed the Tombecbee river, and entered the Chickasaw Nation, forty-one years ago this day [that is they entered on July 8, 1820], and found ourselves at the hospitable mansion of old Levi Colbert, the great man of his tribe. This was Friday evening. We soon learned that a great ball play was to come off on the following Monday, at George Colbert’s, some twenty-five miles distant, and that a large company was going up the next day. * * *

“There being a large collection of Indians from all parts of the nation, we had no difficulty in securing the attendance of the chiefs in council at an early day. Accordingly, we met them at the house of Major James Colbert, the following Wednesday, being the 22d of the month. You remember their young king was conducted to the chair of State that day for the first time, as King of the Chicasaw Nation.’ He was an ordinary Indian, and never opened his mouth during the council. They very readily acceded to the terms upon which we proposed to establish schools among them; and, that there might be no misunderstanding in future, we drew up a number of articles, which were signed by the contracting parties.” * * *

     During this journey Mr. Humphries concluded that he was not called to preach to the Indian.  He lived to labor for many years among the churches of his native State.  Messrs. Humphries and Stuart made their report to the Synod in the fall (1820) Mr. Stuart offered to take charge of the work.  The Synod accepted his services, and in January, 1821, he reached the place which was chosen for a station. It was called Monroe Station in honor of James Monroe, who was then President of the United States. Stuart was the only missionary. Two men with families came, Vernon and Pickens; Vernon as mechanic, and Pickens as farmer. Houses were put up, a farm opened and a school established. The preaching was done through an interpreter. 

     Other missionaries came at different times to assist Stuart: 

Rev. Hugh Wilson in 1821 from North Carolina; 
Rev. W. C. Blair in 1822 from Ohio; 
James Holmes of Pennsylvania in 1824. 
     Wilson and Blair, after the removal of the Indians to the West, went to Texas.  Mr. Holmes was licensed to preach after he came to the Mission as teacher. He became a Doctor of Divinity, and taught a classical school at Covington, Tenn., for some years. He died at an advanced age.

     Timothy Butler lived in the State of New York near the head-waters of the Alleghany river.  He learned that a new mission established among the Chickasaws needed more workers.  He was poor, but went to a point on the Alleghany river, and there, mainly with his own hands, built a flat boat. On it he placed his family and possessions, and floated down to the Ohio; then to the mouth of the Tennessee. There he boarded a steamboat, and stopped at F1orence, Ala. Thence he went to Monroe Station.  He became useful to the missionaries. 

     Monroe Station was abandoned after the Chickasaws moved to the West. Monroe church, six miles south of Pontotoc, is several miles from the old Station.

Monroe Church

     In 1823, the Missionary Society of South Carolina sent Rev. Hugh Dickson to visit and report on the condition and prospects of the mission at Monroe Station. He arrived in May. The Missionary families who resided there requested Mr. Dickson to organize them into a church. On June 7, 1823, the organization took place, and in the number were: 

Hamilton V. Turner, 
Susan Stewart, 
James Wilson, 
Ethalinda Wilson, and 
Prudence Wilson. 
     Dinah, a colored woman, who was born among the Indians was a servant of James Gunn, was received on a profession of faith. She became greatly concerned about her future fate during the earthquakes in 1811-12 and began to try to lead a better life. When regular preaching was established she became a listener, and on the day the church was organized was received as a member. She then resolved to learn to read, which resolution she soon carried into effect. She became a reader of the Bible, and carried a New Testament around with her. The Indians had great confidence in her sincerity, and her influence among them was great. For several years she was the principal interpreter for the missionaries. Her native tongue was Indian, though she spoke English fluently. She delivered the messages of the missionaries with great earnestness. By small savings, she got money enough together to buy her freedom, and then assisted her husband to get his.

     It is to be noticed that William Colbert, a grandson of the Scotchman who went among the Chickasaws at an early day, became one of the elders in the Monroe church, as appears by the session books of April, 1834. The missionaries preached at other places besides Monroe Station. Although that place was the centre of their operations, they preached from house to house and had stations at distant places which they visited.

     Some time toward the close of the eighteenth century, the Congregationalists in the State of New York sent Rev. Mr. Bullen with two deacons to work as missionaries among the Chickasaws.  They located, and put up some buildings at a spring about a mile distant from where Monroe church stood (about six miles south of Pontotoc) in 1876. They opened some mechanic shops there, and tried, though in vain, to hire a suitable interpreter, and were preparing to have a school and church when some imprudences of the two deacons put an end to the mission. 

     The prejudice of the Indians was aroused, and their authorities asked Rev. Mr. Bullen and his comrades to retire from the country.  Malcolm McGee often told the circumstances to Rev. T. C. Stuart, and said Mr. Bullen appeared to be a good man, and no complaint was ever made against him. But the Indians took exception to the conduct of his two helpers and resolved to put a stop to the mission before anything of importance was accomplished. 

     After Monroe Station became known, a Memphis merchant sent Rev. T. C. Stuart a hogshead of Testaments and Bibles. He said that the hogshead had lain in his warehouse for over twenty-five years, that of its history no one knew anything, “but that it was directed to the Chickasaw Nation.”  Undoubtedly it had been sent to Rev. Mr. Bullen.  But the Bibles were all worm-eaten and valueless.

Pigeon Roost [Marshall County]

      In a letter to the author of this article, written from Tupelo, Miss., July 27, 1881 Mrs. M. J. Stewart, daughter of Rev. Thomas C. Stuart, says: “There was a mission station established by my father, who was superintendent of all the stations among the Chickasaws, at a place known as ‘Pigeon Roost,’ in Marshall county. The station was called Martyn, and was first occupied by the Rev. W. C. Blair, of Ohio, and afterwards by Rev. James Holmes, of Pennsylvania.”

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Ellen Pack