Gratitude for Courageous Young Women


Feeling grateful this week for all the young women of long ago who were brave enough to give up comfort and security to come educate the Choctaws and care for the sick and orphaned. My great grandmother, orphaned in the 1840s may not have made it without the shelter and care from the Wheelock Academy. I can count at least seven other relatives that benefited in some way from Wheelock, either as students or as teachers. Here are a few of the names we know, among many that we may never know.

~~~In Remembrance~~~ 

BURNHAM, ANNA. Born at Lenox, Massachusetts, in 1781. Departed for mission work at Mayhew east of the Mississippi River in Sept. 1822. Arrived on December 13th. Returned home on leave in 1828. After several months of rest resumed service at Yoknokchaya east of the river. Came with the immigration of the Choctaws to Clear Creek in 1833. Taught with Rev. and Mrs. Alfred Wright on the opening of Wheelock Academy, also at Pine Ridge with Rev. Cyrus B. Byington. The records of 1837 show her work continued. The circumstances of her death are unknown.

CHILD, PRISCILLA G. Taught more than three years at Iyanubi. Left in February 1856 for Wheelock Academy, Choctaw Nation. Later became the second wife of the Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury. They were married Oct 20, 1867. Priscilla died August 17, 1869 at Pine Ridge Mission, Choctaw Nation. Burial is unknown.

CLOUGH, EUNICE. Born at Bradford, New Hampshire in 1803. Departed from Boston Dec. 1, 1829; arrived at Mayhew east of Mississippi River Jan. 11, 1830. Came with the migration of the Choctaws arriving at Bethabara near Eagletown on October 27, 1832. Transferred to Lukfata near Broken Bow on July 13, 1835. Records show her to have been there in 1837. Was the first teacher of Allen Wright, distinguished son of the Choctaws, and according to custom gave him the English name. Her marriage to Noah Wall was on May 23, 1840. A granddaughter, Eunice Ellen Wall, was the wife of T. J. Hogg, a member of the House from Roger Mills County in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth sessions of the Oklahoma State Legislature (1933-1935). Death occurred August 24, 1842 at Fort Gibson. Burial is unknown.

EARLE, ELIZABETH W. Taught at Armstrong Academy in 1859. Is of interest particularly because of what was regarded as her brilliant marriage in 1860 to Colonel Robert M. Jones of the Choctaw Nation, after his wife Susan died January 1860. Col. Jones was a man of intelligence, splendid appearance, great wealth, and wide influence as a Southern planter and trader, serving as Choctaw delegate from the Indian Territory to the Confederate Congress at Richmond, Virginia, during the War Between the States. She is most likely buried at Rosehill Cemetery, Choctaw County with her husband Col. Jones.

Clara Eddy-early missionaryEDDY, CLARA W. A native of New York State, educated at Emma Willard School at Troy, New York, a handsome woman with brilliant mind. Came to Tullahassee Mission, Creek Nation in 1852, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board, and thence in 1854, to Wapanucka Academy, Chickasaw Nation, where she taught the beginners and small girls in a log cabin room separate from the main building. Aside from regular classroom studies, she taught them singing, sewing, and knitting. When Wapanucka was closed at the outbreak of the War Between the States, Miss Eddy transferred to Chuahla Seminary, at Pine Ridge, Choctaw Nation, the Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury, Superintendent. When this school closed late in 1861, she went to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she remained until 1866. In that year, she returned to Boggy Depot to teach the children of the Principal Chief and Mrs. Allen Wright in whose home she lived. On the re-opening of the public neighborhood schools in the Choctaw Nation in 1867, she taught the school at Boggy Depot, and some years later taught at Caddo for several terms. Her purpose as a teacher was to give thorough understanding as far as the subject was pursued, stressing always Christian life and principles. Boys and girls were well taught under her super­vision, and many of them became prominent and useful citizens in the history of Oklahoma. It was said of her: “She was not only good but faithful.” Died at Boggy Depot April 27, 1884. Burial in the Wright family burial plot in the cemetery at Old Boggy Depot, Atoka County.

GOULDING, HARRIET. A faithful and successful teacher at Chuahla Seminary, Pine Ridge Mission, Choctaw Nation, for ten and a half years, who was compelled in 1854 to discontinue her labors presumably because of ill health. Her home was in Ware, Massachusetts.

Philena Thatcher HotchkinHOTCHKIN, MRS. PHILENA THATCHER. Born 1803 in Hartford, Pa, she one of the earliest recruits when Dr. Cyrus Kingsbury opened Mayhew Station in Mississippi. She became the wife of Ebenezer Hotchkin, a teacher from the American Board, sent in 1828 to help the Choctaws in Mississippi. They removed with the Choctaws in 1832 to Indian Territory. Mother Hotchkin, as she was called, rode a little Indian pony and carried her child on her lap from Natchez to Doaksville. As soon as they arrived, the entire family came down with a devastating fever, and for six months, they were cared for by Rev. Alfred Wright and his wife at the tiny Wheelock cabin. The Indian Territory, writes one of their descendants, “There was nothing but the wilderness…flour hauled from Little Rock cost $50 a barrel and all the meal must be ground on a little hand mill; pumpkin was the staff of life.” She died November 1867 near Goodwater Mission, several weeks after her husband passed away while on a visit to Massachusetts. Burial at the Hotchkin-Ussery Cemetery, no headstone.

John-Constance Edwards

HUNTER, CONSTANCE LUCRETIA. Born in Guernsey County, Ohio in 1853. She taught school at Wheelock Academy, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). She married Rev. John Edwards as his second wife; they retired to California about 1895. After his death she lived with her only child, mostly in Oregon, where she died in 1936. Burial in Mountain View Cemetery at Eugene, Oregon.

McBETH, SUSAN LAW “SUE.” Born in Scotland in 1830 to Scottish immigrants, a stonemason named Alexander McBeth and his wife Mary Henderson. She was educated at the school for young women in Steubenville, Ohio. Came to Goodwater among the Choctaws in 1880, from Fairfield, Iowa. Taught the older girls academic subjects and all Sue McBeth-NezPerce missionarytypes of household skills after class hours. Gathered data for a history of mission schools. This material came to the Oklahoma Historical Society through a niece, Mary Crawford. In this Miss McBeth commented on the fall rich singing voices of the Choctaws and their soft, beautiful language, also their quiet dignity. On the outbreak of the War Between the States, went to the Nez Perce of the Northwest with her sister Kate, where many years were spent in their service. At time of death was writing a Nez Perce grammar and dictionary ( now in the Smithsonian Institute.) Sue died in May 26, 1893 at Mt. Idaho, Idaho. Burial in Nikesa Cemetery, Idaho County, Idaho.

McCORMICK, Harriet. Born in Coxsackie, New York. Entered mission service at the age of twenty. Transferred to Goodland Mission, Choctaw Nation, in 1854 upon death of Mrs. O. P. Stark, to take over the well-established school. Two years later married the Reverend O. P. Stark. Was recognized as a successful teacher for twelve years and a worthy successor of the first Mrs. Stark. She was a devoted mother to her three step-children and reared eight sons and daughters of her own. Death came October 3, 1910, in Paris, Texas, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Kate Stark Skinner. Burial in the Evergreen Cemetery at Paris,

McKenzie College-ClarksvilleMcKENZIE, Mrs. J. W. P. “MATILDA.” Matilda Hye Parkes married Rev. John Witherspoon Pettigrew McKenzie on 29 Sep 1829 in Burke County, North Carolina. Matilda was the teacher of the first school in the Territory opened exclusively for girls. This was in 1836 in the Choctaw Nation, at Shawneetown, in McCurtain County. Her school is said to have been a model of its kind. Elementary subjects and domestic arts were taught. Later, Mrs. McKenzie assisted her husband, the Reverend McKenzie in a Seminary of interest for older boys across the Red River at Clarksville, Texas. Buried in the McKenzie Cemetery near her husband.

From: THE CLARKSVILLE STANDARD 25 Jun 1881, Saturday — At 5:50 a.m. At 5:50 a.m. on Monday the 26th inst., the Rev. J. W. P. McKenzie died at the residence of his son, on the old homestead, four miles from town. In 1842 — when we came to Clarksville he was teaching a small school in a log school-house. He had commenced teaching in 1840 on the place ever since occupied by the family. After that, as he acquired reputation as a teacher, and increased his facilities, he built up the McKenzie Institute, for which large buildings were successively constructed, and drew scholars from central, south-eastern and south-western Texas and from Arkansas, until the attendance numbered 300. From the first he was an earnest Preacher, of the Methodist persuasion and remained active in the service, until too much debilitated to ride. After the war he took charge of Marvin College, at Waxahachie; for a year or more, but found it more laborious than remunerative, and returned to the old homestead. Mr. McKenzie was a native of North Carolina, and was of Scotch parentage and was 75 years of age on the 26th of April last. His wife Mrs. Matilda McKenzie the partner of many years, and very popular during the existence of the institute, with all the scholars for her personal kindness, still survives, aged 70 years.

ORR, MINERVA WASHBURN. A Native of Randolph, Vermont, and sister of the Reverend Cephas Washburn. Entered the service of the American Board in August, 1819, and came to Elliot Mission, Choctaw Nation, in Mis­sissippi, in January, 1820. She became the wife of James Orr who was also in the service of the American Board, and together they made no small contribution to the establishment and success of Dwight Mission in the Cherokee Nation. There she died in 1852 (on Sallisaw Creek in Vian, Sequoyah County, Okla.). She is most likely buried at the Dwight Mission Cemetery, no marker.

Sarah Hunter Robe-WheelockROBE, SARAH MARIE HUNTER. Born 1835 in Morgan County, Ohio; died Oct. 8, 1917 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. William Bay and Sarah Hunter Robe began their missionary careers when Robe was appointed Superintendent of Spencer Academy by the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1871. Mrs. Robe is described as “A short pudgy little lady with snow white hair, always neatly but conservatively dressed. She was an expert horsewoman (always riding sidesaddle) and could handle a team of horses like a man.” Her granddaughter appraised her to be an excellent cook and needlewoman “par excellent.” William Bay Robe died in January of 1911 in Muskogee, followed by Sarah Hunter Robe in October of 1917, leaving a rich heritage of service to mankind. Burial in Greenhill Cemetery at Muskogee, Okla.; no marker.

Mary Semple HotckinSEMPLE, MARY J. Began her long career of forty years of service among the Choctaws at Wheelock Academy in 1857. Taught in several places among the Indian Schools where her duties were well discharged. Became the wife of Henry W. Hotchkin, son of the early missionary the Reverend Ebenezer Hotchkin, and continued her work as teacher. Instrumental in founding the Presbyterian College for young women at Durant. Mother of the Reverend Ebenezer Hotchkin of Durant, namesake of his grand­father, and a member of the House in Eighteenth State Legislature of Oklahoma.

From Find-A-Grave: Ernest Trice Thompson in Presbyterian Missions in the southern United States, says that Mary was a cultured young society girl who had cane to Indian Territory by boat and wagon in 1856 at the age of nineteen. She married Henry while at Bennington in 1860. Mary taught school and the family lived in Caddo from 1883 to 1887, and then in Paul’s Valley until 1891, and then Wynnewood for the next five years. She was placed in charge of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls after its formation in 1896. With the able assistance of her son Ebenezer, this school grew. Mary consecrated her life and her forty years of service to the Indians. Besides being a teacher, she worked as a friend, nurse, doctor and spiritual advisor. Into her classroom at every station she carried her bible and taught it just as she taught her regular classes. It was a habit of hers to give away marked copies of the New Testament. Her last words as she lay dying were “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.” Mary’s piousness was shown by an event that happened late in her life when she was returning from Oregon to Oklahoma where she had been ministering to the Klamath Indians and visiting her son Alex. Her children were waiting for her at the train station but she did not return as expected. They found her the following day getting off the train and her explanation was that it had been a Sunday and she felt that she must not ride the train on a day that she should be in church. She had made a stop to attend church. Mary is buried in the Stigler City Cemetery under a white marble stone, which the Compiler had to remove the weeds from to read the inscription, “Came to Indian Territory as a Missionary to the Choctaw Indians in 1857. Taught for 40 years among the Choctaws and Chickasaws.”

Mary Semple Hotckin2Her obituary, published in the Durant newspaper:  “The death of Mrs. Hotchkin on last Friday evening at Stigler, Oklahoma marked the passage of a long life in the Indian service. During the past three years her work has been among the Klamath Indians of Oregon. Last January the department gave her a vacation and she came east to visit her son, E. Hotchkin, of this place, and two daughters, Hettie McIntire and Lucy K. Forrest of Stigler, OK. She suffered a stroke of paralysis in July and lingered in a paralyzed condition until August 31 when she died. Mrs. Hotchkin was born in 1836 in Steubenville, Ohio. She came to the Choctaw country as a mission teacher in 1857. The journey was a memorable one . . . down the Mississippi by boat to Gaines Landing and across the state of Arkansas in wagons. Her first year was at Wheelock. The children were all Indian, none of them knew any English and she knew no Choctaw. Yet at the end of the year, she knew Choctaw and they could speak and write English. She taught Indian schools 40 consecutive years, teaching at Wheelock, Goodwater, Mayhew, Old Bennington, Caddo, Chikika, Wynnewood, and Durant. She came to Durant in 1896 with her son, E. Hotchkin, and taught in the Calvin Institute. Durant College grew out of this school and later Oklahoma Presbyterian College. Mrs. Hotchkin was married in 1860 to Henry W. Hotchkin, son of Ebenezer Hotchkin, missionary to the Choctaws in Mississippi in 1828. Nine children were born of this union.

In The Presbyterian Survey, dated Oct 1935, she said that the story started when Dr. Scudder, of India, visited Steubenville, Ohio in 1846 or 1848 and lectured to the Sunday school children in the Second Presbyterian Church. When he closed his lecture, he said, When you go home ask your mother to let you write in your bible, “Dr. Scudder asked me to be a Missionary.” Mary did write this in her bible at the age of 10 or 12 years old and over the following years wondered if she were really meant to be a Missionary. Mary says that she was totally unprepared for the hard life in Indian country and at one early point, Dr. Kingsbury offered to send her home.

Shortly after her husband Henry’s death Mary had a serious accident. She was thrown from a buggy by a team of young mules and left in the woods for some time with a broken hip. The hip never healed properly and for the rest of her life she walked with crutches. Burial in Stigler Cemetery at Stigler, Okla.

STARK, MRS. OLIVER PORTER. Margaret Olivia Selfridge was the daughter of Matthew Selfridge, Allen­town, Pennsylvania. Entered the mission field as a teacher in 1847, at the age of twenty, soon after her marriage to the Reverend O. P. Stark, native of Newburgh, New York. Prior to accepting the appointment to Goodland Mission, Mr. Stark served as superintendent of Old Spencer Academy for Indians. His wife Margaret began the next day teaching any Indian children that would come to their two room log cabin where she opened her first school at Goodland Mission, Choctaw Nation, under the auspices of the American Board of Commis­sioners of Foreign Missions, in a small side room of her log cabin home in 1850. Two years later, the rapidly growing school was moved into the newly erected church building which housed it for many years. Mrs. Stark was described as a “heavenly woman,” and her fellow teacher, Miss Arms, writing of her said, “When I first saw it [Goodland], it seemed as if it must have dropped from the clouds into the heart of the forest, and that Mrs. Stark had dropped with it.” She died at Goodland September 15, 1854, leaving four children, her infant daughter dying fifteen days later. Mrs. Porter’s grave is the first burial at the Goodland Mission cemetery. Burial at Goodland Cemetery, no legible marker.

WALL, TRYPHENA. Born in Mississippi, daughter of Noah and Lucy Folsom Wall, who was daughter of Nathaniel Folsom of Rowan County, South Carolina, and his full blood Choctaw wife. Tryphena was schooled at Mayhew Mission in Mississippi, and came west with her family in the removal to the Indian Territory. Beautiful in character and personality, she was the first young woman among the Choctaws who had attended the early mission schools chosen to teach the public school at New Mayhew, in what is now Bryan County, Oklahoma, under appointment of Captain William Armstrong, U.S. Agent to the Choctaws, in 1839. Official records of 1841 state that “She was devoted to her work and exerted herself ac­cording to her best skill.” Married in 1842 Charles F. Stewart of Con­necticut, a trader in the Choctaw Nation. Died June 27, 1849, leaving four small children who were reared in New England with advantages. Her remains lie in the old graveyard at Doaksville.

Harriet Bunce Wright-WheelockWRIGHT, HARRIET BUNCE. One of the most intelligent, attractive, and advantaged women who came to Oklahoma as a mission teacher. Born of well-endowed New England parents at Wethersfield, Connecticut, July 19, 1797. Early orphaned, her home was first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then for a number of years in Charleston, South Carolina, with a sister, wife of the noted Doctor B. M. Palmer. Well-schooled and for­tunately associated, she taught with a high degree of success in the work of the Presbyterian Church at Charleston, and assisted in founding the first Sunday school there. Married In 1825 to the Reverend Alfred Wright. They came at once to Goshen, Mississippi, in the mission service of the American Board among the Choctaws, and later came west with them in 1832, experiencing many of the hardships on the “Trail of Tears.” Assisted in founding and operation of Wheelock mission in 1832, and in the founding of the first school there. With the establishment of Wheelock Seminary for girls at this point in 1842 she became the principal, and yielded an influence in this position for many years over Choctaw girls and young women for which she was so eminently fitted. She assisted by personally copying in long hand much of the monumental work of her husband in his translations of portions of the Bible and other writings which appeared in forty-one published volumes in the Choctaw language Remained at Wheelock two years after the death of Doctor Wright in 1853. Died in Madison, Florida, October 3, 1863; burial at the Old Oakland Cemetery.

harriet cropWRIGHT, HARRIET NEWELL MITCHELL. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Henry Mitchell, of Dayton, Ohio. Came as a mission teacher under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board in 1855, from Dayton to Good­water among the Choctaws, and in 1859, after her marriage, served for a time as matron and supervisor of the girls at Wapanucka Academy, Chicka­saw Nation. In 1857, married the Reverend Allen Wright, a distinguished Presbyterian minister of the Choctaw Nation, who represented his people, the Choctaws, after the War Between the States in the difficult questions arising therefrom and in the making of the new Treaty of 1866. In these discussions at Washington, D.C., he applied the name “Oklahoma” by which the state is now known. Mr. and Mrs. Allen Wright reared eight sons and daughters and two nephews, all of whom became well educated men and women who made constructive contributions to the culture and de­velopment of Oklahoma. Of these, the sons, Eliphalet N. Wright, M.D., was an able physician and surgeon, and Frank H. Wright, D.D., a Presby­terian minister of distinction, while Allinton Telle, a nephew was an able attorney. Muriel H. Wright (Alpha Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma), our well recognized Oklahoma author and historian, is a granddaughter. Burial at Boggy Depot Cemetery near Atoka, Okla.


***YAHOKE, ikana! Thank you, friends. Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***


Women Teachers in Oklahoma,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, 1949, Vol 27, No. 1, pp 18-25.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in the blog is mostly from the 1949 article. Information may not always be accurate.

APPENDIX, page 18

Perhaps mankind should be content with oblivion, provided it has had a part in the uplift of humanity. Yet all long to be held in remembrance, and those who have received the benefits of valued service desire that those who were our benefactors not join the ranks of the unknown. In that spirit these sketches of the work of women teachers in the missions and schools of the Indian Territory from 1820 to 1860 are offered.—E. McM.*

*The names and data presented here were found by Miss Ethel McMillan in her careful search throughout the sources used in the compilation of this contri­bution to the history of women teachers in Oklahoma before 1860, and are not to be taken as a complete listing of all those who served in the period of 1820 to 1860.

Duke University houses the Anna Burnham Papers, 1824-1841, consisting of 19 letters from Rev. Byington, available online

==>I have not read the letters; perhaps it will become a future blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s