Weave For Us A Cloak of Light

It takes the innocence and open-heartedness of children to create joyful memories. Sadly most adults seem to lose that ability as life’s struggles grow to outweigh the delights we may experience.

After the Choctaw removal, it was the children that gave their hearts to the new land. Imperceptibly, memories built around the sweetness of childhood friends, around the hills of home, around favorite teachers and schools until the land itself was suffused with the goodness of life.

One can imagine that if you squint just enough, so that you only see blurs and impressions, you would be able to see a cloak of light spreading across the land filled with intricate stitches from these childhood memories blended with strands of love and support from the adults around them.

My blog today is inspired by a beautiful old Native American prayer:

native american prayer

Peter W. Cole’s recollections of the old Armstrong Academy stand witness to the strength of memories:

“The first school that I attended was at this place. It was home to me and today I can still see that same old school, the superintendent, teachers, matrons, and students as in 1904. Today nothing remains […] it would be impossible for one to locate the place but I can walk right to the spot, the same location where I first learned how to write my name, though the place has now returned back to what it was in 1844.”

Photo Judge Thomas W. HunterThomas W. Hunter, once a candidate for office of principal chief of the Choctaw nation, but defeated by Green McCurtain – as many men were – started his career of public service when he was selected to teach at Jones Academy at Hartshorne. In 1894 he received a prestigious appointment as superintendent of Armstrong Academy and labored in that position six years. Later he was elected mayor of Boswell, and served eight consecutive terms as County Judge of Choctaw County.

On Aug 19, 1936 Thomas W. Hunter addressed a gathering of former students of the old Spencer Academy, Armstrong Academy, New Hope, and Tuskahoma Female Seminaries.

“It is pathetic that a mere handful of you [former students] remain as outposts to tell the story of those wonderful schools and their outstanding achievements for so many years. It is with unalloyed pride that the few left reflect in their lives the character of training they received and a background of mental equipment that has made them outstanding citizens of the Choctaw Nation and the State of Oklahoma.”

His father Bennie Hunter, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian whose Indian name was Bina Ahanta, came from the old Choctaw lands with the first migration of the Choctaws in 1832, along the brutal Trail of Tears. He and his wife, a daughter of George Risner, a white settler near Bennington, had eight children.

Judge Hunter never explained his passion for education, but he became one of the better educated Choctaws of his era, eventually obtaining a law degree from Leland Stanford University, California. But that night in 1936, he mentioned one of the major influences from his early schooling, a superintendent at Spencer Academy named Rev. R. L. Schermerhorn.

“It was in the fall of 1884 that I entered New Spencer (located near today’s Nelson community) as a pay student, as the school already was full according to contract and appropriated funds. It was there that I met Rev. R. L. Schermerhorn, who had become super­intendent to succeed the Rev. O. P. Stark, who had died some two years before.

“My immediate impression of the man was that of an extraordinary character, as much of a man at whose feet a boy could sit and imbibe the great truths of life that would most significantly guide a youth to the goal of all good education—a finished character that must be the determining factor in achievement and service ability.”


Memories of Nunihtakali

Long ago a little known Choctaw school called Nunihtakali fostered such endearing memories that they became treasured family stories.

A young girl named Dorothy Brose growing up in Denver often sat enraptured at her mother’s knee, listening to her recollections about this distant school. Her mother was Mary Philena Hotchkin Brose, the granddaughter of two of the most respected missionaries among the Choctaw, the Rev. Ebenezer Hotchkin and his wife Philena Thatcher Hotchkin.

From her mother’s stories, Dorothy learned about her famous ancestors:

“My great-grandparents responded to a request by the Choctaw Indians to come to Mississippi and start a mission and school. When the Choctaws were moved to the Indian Territory, my ancestors came with them. They were with the first contingent of Choctaws to ride a raft up the Red River and land in what is now Oklahoma. They settled near the Arkansas border in a town named Livingland [Goodwater Mission].”

There at the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains, her mother opened a window for her daughter into a pioneer life with the Choctaws amidst the lush green of the Caddo Hills.

“It is there [at Goodwater Mission] that my grandfather, Charles Hotchkin, and his two brothers were born. He learned Choctaw before English and became a preacher to the Indians. Right after he was married, he and my grandmother set out in a covered wagon for the Caddo Hills. They had heard of some cleared land and the need for a school and mission. The couple settled in the rolling hills and devoted their lives to the Indians of the area. This is where my mother was born and raised.”

Photo Dorothy Louise Brose 1936-High SchoolA deep life-long hunger grew in Dorothy to know more about that magical place in the Caddo Hills. Such was the strength of her mother’s memories that the adult Dorothy, a journalist and college professor, became determined to visit the Caddo Hills nearly one hundred years later, and record the story of Nunihtakali.

An article in the Bryan County Star, dated December 13, 1979, explained more about Dorothy’s efforts to learn about the school named Nunihtakali.

“Only a gnarled oak tree, a few bricks, and childhood memories are left of Nunihtakali. However, Dorothy Garlington, of Denver, is determined to piece together the history of the old Presbyterian mission and school which once served the Choctaws of the Caddo Hills.

It seems Mrs. Garlington has always been collecting notes and stories about the Caddo Hills mission but the idea of writing a book didn’t really materialize until the fall of 1958.

I had the good fortune to meet an editor from a New York publishing house and she said, “That is a very important part of history about which there hasn’t been much written and I think you have a marvelous idea for a book. Get busy and as soon as you have three chapters send them to me’; well, this was the thing writers dream about”, said Mrs. Garlington.”

The article goes on to say that the book sat on the back burner for twenty years as illnesses, raising a family, and caring for her elder parents and aunt took precedence. But in 1979 she started again by visiting Caddo and locating the site of the school.

“While in Caddo she toured the Caddo Indian Territory Museum and met Mrs. Stella Mills. As a little girl Mrs. Mills had played at Nunihtakali, and Stella’s sister, Mary Ellen, had been named after two of the Hotchkin girls – Mary was Mrs. Garlington’s mother and Ellen was her aunt.

The two ladies struck an immediate friendship. “I had no idea where the old home place was in relation to Caddo, but Stella did, so off we went over fences and through the brush,” said Mrs. Garlington. Dorothy returned last week to visit Mrs. Mills and the two ladies again headed for the Caddo Hills to recreate the setting of Nunihtakali.

“I have had a lot to learn about the Oklahoma environment, the Choctaws, and early day mission life, but this time I’ll be able to finish the story of Nunihtakali,” said Dorothy.”

It is our great loss that Dorothy Garlington never published her mother’s collection of stories. The publishing world would greatly change in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition her vision began to fail. But Dorothy became a pioneer in her own right, breaking barriers as a female journalist.

A Journalism Pioneer

Photo GARLINGTON-1 Denver PostDorothy Garlington broke barriers decades ago when she gave up teaching and became a journalist. Garlington, who died April 21, 2011 at age 91, “had that extra drive” to go beyond what many women did in those days,” said Sally Kurtzman, a retired English teacher at Arapahoe Community College (in Denver].

“She was very forceful and outspoken, but that’s what it took,” said Kurtzman, former president of the Denver Woman’s Press Club, where Garlington was a member for 61 years.

Dorothy was a college graduate, earning an English degree at Colorado University. Her teaching career started at Trinidad State Junior College and at Brighton High School [Brighton, Colorado], before being hired in the 1940s as editor of the Brighton Blade newspaper. She later wrote for various college publications at her alma mater, University of Colorado. For ten years she worked in Washington, D.C. for the Voice of America.

Whenever time allowed, she also did freelance writing. “She was always clear about what she wanted to do, and that was writing,” said her daughter Carol. “She loved to interview people and was good at it because she was curious and a good listener.”

Retiring in 1980, Dorothy Garlington continued for decades to work on a book about her mother, Mary Hotchkin Brose, who lived in what is now Oklahoma.

Dorothy Brose was born in Denver on March 28, 1920, and graduated from West High School in Denver.

She met her husband Waldon Garlington in kindergarten, and when he was 17, he asked her to marry him. “She didn’t want to be a Navy wife,” said her daughter Carol. So Waldon Garlington married someone else, but the marriage ended in divorce.

He sought out his kindergarten friend years later when she was living in Washington. They married on June 18, 1956. Her husband died in 2001.

~~ Denver Post, April 28, 2011

You may be wondering what brought Mary and Ellen (Eleanor) Hotchkin to Colorado. It was the health of their brother Joseph. After their father’s death at Hugo in 1905, his children were faced with immense struggles. Mary, the oldest child at age 25, brought Eleanor, Joseph, and the youngest sibling Cyrus to the drier climate of Colorado Springs.  Joseph died in 1908 from tuberculosis. Mary worked as a nurse at the county poor farm according to the 1910 federal census. Her sister Eleanor was working as a “domestic.”  Life slowly improves for the two sisters; Mary married Arthur Brose in 1915. By 1914 Eleanor has acquired skills, working as a bookkeeper in Denver; she married Moses Moore in 1919. [ His sister Maria married Eleanor’s first cousin Dr. Ebenezer Htochkin, later President of  Oklahoma Presbyterian College in Durant.] There is no trace for the two brothers, but I suspect they became itinerant workers in the oil fields.  Cyrus was brutally murdered in December 1914 in a small town in Louisiana without a penny to his name. The older brother Charley fared better, finding a job as a clerk for Magnolia Petroleum Company and getting married in 1923 in El Paso.

We all have stories inside us.

Be sure to tell yours to those you love.

~My Christmas wish to you~

May you  weave golden light into your life.


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

SOURCES – under fair use exception; not-for-profit educational purposes

A huge thank you to Mary Maurer, who writes on a blog site called “Caddo, Oklahoma-My Hometown”. I was fascinated with her blog about Dorothy Garlington written on March 24, 2012 – view her BLOG HERE. My efforts to contact Dorothy’s daughter, Carol Garlington of Denver, to ask about her mother’s book were unsuccessful.

“Nunihtakali In The Caddo Hills”, Bryan County Star, Caddo, Okla., December 3, 1979

NOTE: The mission and school established by Rev. Charles Hotchkin is sometimes spelled as Nunnik Takali or Nunnih Takali.

Dorothy Garlington Broke Journalism Barriers in Colorado”, by Virginia Culver, Denver Post, April 27, 2011, page 9B

Interview with Pete W. Cole (PDF), A Brief Sketch of Old Armstrong Academy, 1937, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman.

Interview with Thomas Woutin Hunter (PDF), 1937, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman.

Imon, Frances, “Choctaw Education”, Smoke Signals, Vol. II, 1977, page 11-18.

Memorial Page for Mary Hotchkin Brose, buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, Wheat Ridge, Colorado (suburb of Denver).

For more information about the Hotchkin family of missionaries, see Ed Hotchkin’s genealogy site  – excerpt below:

“The files at the Three Valley Museum, Durant, OK contain a biography, dated March 1952 and believed to be written by his granddaughter, Dorothy Brose Garlington, gives a great deal of information on Rev. Charles and his family. This biographer says that, “Charles Eugene Hotchkin was born 14 January 1846 near the Red River, at Goodwater, Indian Territory, twenty miles northwest of Paris, TX and twelve miles southeast of Soper, OK. His birth was premature and he never became a strong or healthy man. He grew up with the Indian children in the Koonsha Female Academy and learned the Choctaw language as a child, and became one of the best interpreters of that language in the nation. Charles finished his education in Ohio and then returned to the Choctaw Mission and began teaching in the Mission schools. It was at the Mission School that he met Eleanor Copeland, daughter of the Rev. C.C. Copeland, Superintendent of Wheelock Female Academy.

Eleanor and Charles were married by Rev. W.J.B. Lloyd, 10 September 1872, at Wheelock. Eight children were born to this union: Maria (Mariah), Cornelia, Mary, Charles, Joseph, Eleanor, Cyrus, and Alice.

After their marriage, Charles and Eleanor made their home, for several years, on a farm with his brother Henry at Livingland. [Henry had married the missionary Mary Jane Semple, a teacher at Wheelock Academy, in 1860.] Seeking to have a home for themselves, they cleared a spot of land, four miles southeast of Caddo, in the Caddo Hills and moved there in September 1872. Seven miles south of Caddo they organized a church called Nunnik Takali. As he worked with the Indians at this church, Charles realized that he could be of greater service to them and his Lord if he entered the ministry, so on 9 June 1884 he was ordained to the full ministry of the Gospel in the Presbyterian Church. Charles really loved the Choctaws and preferred to speak their language to his own. He served the tribe for many years as a mission teacher.

His son, Charles Frederick Hotchkin is quoted in, “Presbyterian Missions in the Southern United States,” as saying, “I heard my mother say, she would cook corn bread on Monday morning for my father and he would leave with others on ministerial tours and live on that bread for two weeks at a time.” The Chronicles of Oklahoma says that Ebenezer saw that his sons got a good education and took them to some of the best academies in the North.”

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