Oklahoma Genealogical Society
Old Baptist Mission Church
(Near the present town of Westville, Adair County, Oklahoma)
Taken from Oklahoma Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol.12, Nos. 1 & 2, For March and June 1967
Transcribed to Electronic form by Jo White
From material written by A.D. Lester, Westville, Oklahoma, Nov. 30, 1965 for the OGS Quarterly, consisting of Baptist Mission (typescript) and Letter—some of which pertains to Bacone College at Muskogee, Okla. Bacone was established by A.C. Bacone, first employed as a teacher at the Cherokee Male Seminary. He resigned from the Seminary and established a Literary and Theological School for Indians. It opened in a room of the mission building, owned by the American Baptist Mission Society in Tahlequah, on February 9, 1880. It was moved to the new site in Muskogee in 1885. Indian University, now Bacone College, was established as a result of a grant from the Creek Indian nation for its site . . .and the result of action on the part of all Baptists in the Territory . . .
The first public action creating a university was at a meeting of the Cherokee Baptist Association with the Fourteen Mile Creek Church on October 10, 1879, when Bacone suggested the establishment of the Literary and Theological School for Indians. A committee was appointed consisting of:
· Daniel Rogers
· Hon. Huckleberry Downing
· A.L. Lacie (a Baptist preacher and a member of the Baptist Mission Church)
· Major G.W. Inglass
· Prof. A.C. Bacone, and
· J.S. Murrow
The old sandstone foundation remains of the first Baptist Mission Church near the present church. Church records begin in the 1930’s. There is a “lost” cemetery between the present and first mission, pointed out by Mr. Lester’s father-in-law. There is now no sign of the graves. Mr. Lester says it cannot yet be proved, but it is likely there was a church there before Jesse Bushyhead came over “The Trail of Tears.”
Excellent photographs of the present Old Baptist Mission Church, the Oklahoma Historical Society marker, and a part of the cemetery appeared in Oklahoma’s Orbit, the magazine section of the Sunday Oklahoman, Jan. 17, 1965, in an article, “The Church that Became a College,” by Lucylle Lamb. In Miss Lamb’s treatment, the historical account varies from the findings of Mr. Lester, who devotes his historical interest and time to research for and preparation of a History of the Old Baptist Mission. Mr. Lester seeks information about records, traditions, legends, photographs, any clue regardless of how small. (Material requested and edited by D. Wilkinson.)
The church building is located at the foot of Mission Mountain, about three miles north and west of the present Westville, Oklahoma. The church (a body of persons) was organized about 1830 in the Cherokee tongue in the old Cherokee Nation East—in Tennessee (or Georgia). Legend says the church group came over the Trail of Tears as an organized church, and services were held as the Cherokees traveled along the way. The church organization arrived at its present site in February 1839. The early pastor was either Jesse Bushyhead, Elder, or Evan Jones—the latter known to be there in 1844, followed by his son, John Jones, until after the Civil War.
According to some of the old-timers, the following were early members:
· Taylor Sixkiller (Great-grandfather of Bud Lacie of Westville)
· Peach Eater Sixkiller (At one time a member of the Cherokee Council)
· Johnson Sixkiller
· Soldier Sixkiller (Caretaker of the Old Church)
· Adam Lacy, or Mouse
· Alex Mixedwater
· Dunn Proctor
(The Sixkiller family still has possession of the old key to the crude lock on the door.)
Elder Jesse Bushyhead was in charge of distributing food to the Cherokees, with headquarters at the old church. The Cherokees gave their own name, as was their custom, to the church—“Bread Town.”
A school was established at the Mission. Some of the last scholars said, in their time, the top grade was the equivalent of the sixth. Many students went on to the male and female seminaries.
The Mission acquired a printing press and in July 1844 the first issue of the paper conveyed the news of the death of Elder Jesse Bushyhead, who died 17 July 1844. The paper, The Cherokee Messenger, was devoted mostly to Scriptures—perhaps because of the scarcity of Bibles written in Cherokee. Harvey Upham and Mack Tiger published the paper. The Cherokee type (Secu-yah Alphabet) was brought from the Shawnee Baptist Mission in Kansas. The first edition consisted of 1600 copies and had 16 two-column pages.
The late Dennis W. Bushyhead held the longest church membership—60 years, when he died in 1961. He was a grandson of Elder Bushyhead.
Some of the early day ministers were members of the church, some preached there at times; and some of them were also regularly assigned pastors there:
· Elder Jesse Bushyhead (A man noble in person and noble in heart, his choice was to be a true and faithful minister of his Lord and Master rather than any high worldly position. He loved his Country and his people, serving them from time to time in many important offices and missions. He united with the Baptist Church in early manhood and died as he had lived, a devoted Christian.)
· Evan Jones, followed by his son, John Jones
· Stephen Foreman
· Lewis Downing (Ordained by the Baptists to preach while a resident of present Adair County, then the Going Snake District. After moving to Mayes County, he became Principal Chief of the Cherokees.)
· John Wikliffe
· And later, Adam Lacie from Salina.
After a period of no available records, there were the following names (and also others):
· Elder Vick
· Elder Patterson
· Elder Worley
· Elder McCormick
· _____ Stewart
· Elder Sam West of Muldrow, Okla.
· Bill Isaac
· R.R. Dearing
· E.T. Odle
· Sam Sloan
· Andrew Tune
· Elder W.F. Masters of Watts, Okla.
The old church was noted for its revivals or protracted meetings—some lasting three or four weeks. When the Cherokees were baptized and/or joined the church, they expressed it the Cherokee way—“I joined the meeting house.”
When A.L. Lacie was a member of the Baptist Mission, he kept a record book of his mission and pastoral work; however, he did not record that he was the pastor. His grandson has his record book.
Among the teachers at the school in the old Baptist Mission Church were:
· Miss Carrie Bushyhead, who became Mrs. Carrie Quarles (Aunt Carrie), and
· The late Congressman, W.W. Hastings.
Some of the graves in the present Baptist Mission cemetery are:
· Jane (Jennie) Drew. No marker; first grave; daughter of Jesse Bushyhead; located next to his grave. Mrs. Drew died while on a visit to her parents there. (Her father’s was the second grave.)
· Jesse Bushyhead. Born in the old Cherokee Nation in East Tennessee September 1804. Died in present Cherokee Nation July 17, 1844.
· Catherine Bushyhead Hinds. 1877—1908
· James D. Ward. Born September 2, 1858—Died August 8, 1882
· Solamon M. Son of G.W. and M.A. Ward. Born September 18, 1882—Died July 17, 1870 (sic)
· Mary A. Ward, wife of G.W. Ward. Died December 5, 1875, age 35 years 2 days
· Wm. W., husband of M.M. Costen. Born July 22, 1840—Died April 2, 1898
· Bessie L. Costen. Born August 15, 1885—Died May 6, 1897
· Jesse (the) youngest son of Jesse and Eliza Bushyhead. Born December 26, 1841—Died January 1, 1868
· W.R. Quarles—Born in Cobb County, Georgia, December 12, 1842.
· Carrie E. Quarles—Born in Bradley County, Tennessee March 17, 1834; Died at Bapteast (sic), Oklahoma February 23, 1909
· G.W. Welch. Born July 4, 1839—Died June 23, 1890
· G.G. Welch. Born July 17, 1847—Died February 19, 1900
· Permelia. Wife of Red Bird Sixkiller. Born July 30, 1863—Died at the age of 42 years
· W.M. Crowder—Born at Shelby, N.C. March 23, 1840—Died April 3, 1936 at Westville—Joined Baptist Mission Church in 1902
· Polly Foreman Crowder—Born February 25, 1844—Died April 12, 1927
· A.B. Couch—Born January 20, 1837—Died July 10, 1900
· Jane H. Crowder—Born January 28, 1875—Died October 28, 1897. (Polly Crowder’s Father—Charley Foreman—Drove wagon over the Trail of Tears.)
· Mary E. Palone—wife of Adam Palone—Born April 10, 1841—Died August 28, 1928
· Delphia Hastings. Born 1834—Died 1912
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