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John Jumper and Missionaries in Oklahoma

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I do not stop to learn about the Seminoles from just the Seminole War. I feel that I have to cover all periods of history with the Seminoles to really understand their history and culture. That is why I have taken several trips to Oklahoma and studied the state archives, as well as in Alabama. My research goes far and wide.

Below: a historical marker I found in Oklahoma, relating to the subject of this blog. This marker was way off the beaten track!

Often one period of Seminole history not well known is in Oklahoma after the Civil War. The Seminole Nation in Oklahoma was absolutely devastated after the Civil War, and the people were impoverished and starving just as they were during removal. And it was a long time until things really got better.

Surfing the Florida archives, I found an autobiography by Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson (AJ) Holt, “Pioneering in the Southwest.” He eventually retired in Kissimmee, FL. He has quite an interesting history.

AJ Holt considered himself a Texan, and was with a Louisiana regiment during the Civil War. He was a honorably discharged Confederate veteran before the age of 16. After the war he went to a Baptist seminary but did not complete his schooling because he was asked by John Jumper to come and be a Baptist missionary to the Seminoles.

So in 1876 at age 28 and recently married, Holt moved to Wewoka, Oklahoma; traveling with his Uncle who was also a preacher and had opened the doors for Holt to be invited by Jumper to the Seminole Nation.

The condition of the Seminole people that AJ Holt found in Oklahoma were a precarious existence. On the second night of his first travel to Wewoka, he stopped at a Seminole family’s humble house. They had no kitchen in their tiny cabin, and just one cast iron pot outside over a fire. The only food they had was plain Soffkee in the pot, and nothing else.

When travelling between tent revival meetings, the Seminoles would not eat, and AJ Holt one time nearly collapsed from exhaustion because of it, but Jumper found a turtle in the river and threw the whole terrapin in the fire and pulled it out of the coals when done. Holt ate the whole turtle, but the other Seminoles did not want any. Then a day or two later the whole group stopped on the river and caught a huge amount of fish with just two fish hooks and horsehair woven into fishing lines, and then roasted all without cleaning them, and then commenced to gorge themselves on the whole batch.

Originally the Seminoles were resistant to any Christian missionaries. But the Black Seminoles readily accepted Christianity at the revivals, and when John Jumper was converted, the Seminoles then accepted Christianity. These Black Seminoles were not born in Oklahoma, but were ones in Florida who were removed.

Today I got an email from Mvskoke County. Along the same subject, it mentioned John Jumper who I had just read the morning before. When two related stories come at me from different sources in the same day, I take notice.

From: Field Notes from W.O. Tuggle, 1881.

John took a few whiffs from his inseparable companion, a merry twinkle was in his eye and he began; "Down among the Seminoles where brother Factor & brother John Jumper preached, there are a good many colored people. I see some here at the camp meeting, the old fellows up there at the arbor today."

I had seen them. Two were dressed in peculiar style. They wore loose sack coats, made of blue cotton stripes, & had large turbans on their heads. One turban was made of a brown shawl twisted around the head, & the other was made out of a large handkerchief with stripes of yellow, blue, red & white. Both were barefooted. The old fellow with the bright colored turban had Burnside whiskers which were as white as was his hair, for he was indubitably very old, & when he opened his mouth to sing his teeth shone like ivory. These Negroes came from Florida with the Indians & have been the means in many cases of converting the Indians to Christianity as often the Indians would listen to a colored man preach when they would not care to attend religious services conducted by white men.

"Well," continued John, "during a revival among the Seminoles one old colored preacher was preaching about Heaven & telling them what a good place it was & he told them that one of the best things up there was good eating, & he said, 'O, Yes, my brudderin, Tank de Lord, when we gits to dat blessed place, we'll fust hab good things to eat all de time. Bes tings in de world. Glory to de Lord. Up in Heben, we will just eat dem good hog heads, & cabbages all de time.'

"One brother in the congregation got happy and began shouting, 'Bless de Lord, Glory.'

"The old preacher warmed up to his work & went on, 'O, Yes, my dear brudderin & sisterin, good eating all de time & plenty ob it. We'll have hog head & cabbage all de time & we'll eat dem hog heads till de grease pours down de sides of our moufs.'

"The old brother in the congregation was overcome, he jumped up clapped his hands & shouted out, 'Go on, my brudder in de Lord, & speak unto us some more of dem blessed greasy words.'"

John enjoyed the story himself & the Indians laughed heartily for they enjoy jokes & tales.

Shem, Ham & Japheth: The Papers of W. O. Tuggle, Comprising His
Indian Diary, Sketches & Observations, Myths & Washington Journal
in the Territory & at the Capital, 1879-1882
edited by Eugene Current-Garcia and Dorothy B. Hatfield
(University of Georgia Press, 1973)
Current Location:
the hammock
Current Mood:
awake awake
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