Monday, August 17, 2015

The Women of Wesley (OKC): A Preliminary Research Report.

A preliminary report of research on Women’s groups and Presence in the Wesley United Methodist Church, 1910-2010.

In the infancy of the formation of the American nation, as leaders wrestled with weighty issues of declarations of independence and establishing a new government out of a collection of colonies, the life of one of the men sent a message to her husband to “remember the ladies.”   This future first lady, Dolly Madison, reminded her husband that in any laws the women should be represented or they faced a future rebellion.  The same must be said of any one who attempts to write a history of a place or an institution. There is nowhere, perhaps, where this is truer than in looking at the history of a church.

Women organized in the Christian faith to assist a local congregation or to reach out to address a social or spiritual need no doubt can be traced to the New Testament.  The women who gathered early on Easter morning can be seen in such a light.   Local ministers such as Phoebe (Romans) saw to the needs of local and distant groups.  Widows formed themselves into ministry corps (such as seen in the story of Dorcas in Acts and the instructions about such an order in Timothy).  In Methodism, the strong and proactive witness of Susannah Wesley set the stage for the development of an environment in the renewal movement that accepted that women could and should be active participants in the work of the gospel.  In Methodism, there was always the recognition that the Gospel work was not merely a spiritual task but also a physical one: for how could a person see a soul won to Christ but allow their body to starve or suffer.   If something could be done, they asked themselves, should it not be done in the name of Christ?

Assorted and randomly placed works are sprinkled throughout early Methodist history.  Many of these began to gain a great deal of identity and purpose with the Civil War.  The aided soldiers, their families, the doctors and so much more.  In 1869, the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society was formed in the Northern Methodist Episcopal and in the south in 1878. The work was officially recognized by the churches in 1890.  The Ladies Aid Society emerged simultaneously out of several groups (Presbyterian, United Brethren, etc.) and were so alike it can be hard to identify one group from another; truly ecumenical!  The Ladies Aid was first recognized in the 1903 Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

One form or another of the Women’s Home Missionary Society (W.H.M.S.) had existed with a Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (W.F.M.S.) since the pre-Civil War era but in 1910, the W.H.M.S. and the W.F.M.S. theoretically merged.  Theoretically because some churches, Wesley among them, continued to hold to the patterns previously established maintaining separate groups for decades.

In 1921, the Wesleyan Service Guild (W.S.G.) was created for women employed outside the home.  In 1939, all groups united to form the new Woman’s Society of Christian Service (W.S.C.S.) but the W.S.G. remained separate.  In 1969, under the new union of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United  Brethren Churches,  all united to form themselves into common Woman’s Society of Christian Service (W.S.C.S.) until 1972, when they came under the new title and structure of the newly formed United Methodist Women (U.M.W.).

First Women’s Groups
The Ladies Aid was first recognized in the 1903 Discipline of the M.E. Church and had continued to grow becoming a popular and active women’s group in communities.  At Wesley, the first women’s organization was a Ladies Aid Society established in March of 1911 with Mrs. A.C. McCullough as the first president (1911-1913). The next month (April) saw the birth of the local Women’s Home Missionary Society and that September the Women’s Foreign Mission Society at the home of Mrs. Pritchard on NW 29th Street. In 1926 the Wesleyan Service Guild was established. Two Sunday School classes deserve special mention due to their goal of ministry to women at Wesley.  The Ladies Bible Study group donated one of the windows in the Sanctuary in 1928 and is thought to have formed shortly after the church formed but records are scarce. In about 1922, a class for young girls was formed and soon became the Flesher Class for Young Girls and remained active until its dissolution in 1932.  In 1929, a group unique and original to Wesley, “The Sorrelle Club”, was established.  Then in 1939, the Woman’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) and in 1972, the United Methodist Women united all but the Sorelle Club under one umbrella. 

 “History Wesley Women’s Organizations”
“Women’s organizations have always been a telling force in the progress of Wesley.  In March of 1911 the ladies of Wesley Church met at the home of Mrs. H.B. Turner to organize a Ladies Aid Society.  Mrs. A.C. McCullough was elected president and Mrs. C.F. Crane elected secretary and treasurer.

Their object was to promote the financial, social and spiritual welfare of the church.  All the women of the church were invited to participate in the work of the Ladies Aid Society. Dues were $1.20 per year and service.
Those who served as president of the organization were as follows: Mrs. A.C. McCullough, Mrs. H.J. Eastman, Mrs. L. B. Goff, Mrs. R.A. Lyle, Mrs. A.H. Tyler, Mrs. H.H. Englebright, Mrs. R.L. Constant, Mrs. Nathan Boggs, Mrs. Frank Bell, Mrs. Olin Doty, Mrs. Joe Morgan, Mrs. E.B. Dodson, Mrs. R.B. Waite, Mrs. H.J. Ebeling.

On September 17, 1940 the Woman’s Society of Christian Service was formed by uniting the three societies: The Ladies Aid, The Home Missionary and the Foreign Missionary Societies.”

The Wesley Auxiliary of the Women’s Home Missionary Society was organized in April 1911 in the home of Mrs. R.W. Spriggs with Mrs. J.F. Warren, Conference Corresponding Secretary, assisting in the organization.  Mrs. R.W. Spriggs was elected president and Mrs. Olin Doty, secretary and treasurer.  Their motto was “For the Love of Christ and in His name.”  The aim and purpose of the group “Help Win America for Christ.” By this organization they became part of the National organization which was made up of Conference, District and Local Societies.

“The Agencies”: Home and Schools, hospitals training schools for Deaconesses, homes for Deaconesses, children’s homes, kindergarten, and day nurseries, settlement work in large cities, immigrant work at ports of entry, rest homes for retired missionaries, boarding homes for working girls and visiting nurses.  The members of Wesley Auxiliary were always active and they were nearing the thirtieth birthday of the Auxiliary when the uniting of the three organizations, The Ladies Aid Society, The Woman’s Home Missionary Society and the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service.  Those who served as presidents from Wesley Auxiliary are named as follows:  Mrs. W.W. Spriggs,  Mrs. T.P. Taylor, Mrs. Clinton M. ALoen, Mrs. George Q. Fenn, Mrs. James Reneau, Mra. E. K. Ramsey, Mrs. Charles Johnson, Mrs. V.D. Wessel, Mrs. O.B. Morris, Mrs. R.E. Bradshaw, Mrs. D.R. McKown, and Mrs. Lloyd Boatright.

Snapshot of 1940
In 1940, a church yearbook and directory listed the “Ladies Aid Society” had an object “To promote the financial, social, and spiritual welfare of the church”.   Ladies were members of ten circles that met around the community on the third Tuesday of the month. Their calendar was from September to June and covered topics of loyalty (September), events such as the “70 and Over” Luncheon” (October), Thanksgiving and a Father-Son Banquet (November), Christmas (January) and Prayer and Lent taking up the first two months of the New Year. The Lent event would be an Organ Fund Concert. Easter (March) in April “The Women’s Work Old Fashioned Dinner”, while May saw a May Day Breakfast, Mother-Daughter Banquet and election of Officers. These were installed in a June program before the group took off the month of July.

 “Women’s Foreign Missionary Society”. In 1869 the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society was formed in the Northern M.E. and in the south in 1878. The work was officially recognized by the churches in 1890.  It formed at Wesley in the spring of 1911, and the first president was Mrs. D.G. Murray (1912-1913). She was the wife of the District Superintendent, D.G. Murray.  She would later donate one of the stained glass windows in the new sanctuary in honor of her husband.   In 1940, at Wesley, the group motto was “Saved for Service”, their theme “One Heart, One Way”, their guiding hymn was “Brotherhood” (noted as 469 in the Hymnal).  Their study text was “Woman and the Way” and their motto was “Study-Service-Sacrifice”.  They met every second Tuesday of the month at 1-2 p.m.
The “Women’s Home Missionary Society” motto was “For the Love of Christ and in His Name” and their aim was to “Help Win America for Christ.”  The group had formed at Wesley in the spring of 1911 and the first president was Mrs. R.W. Sprigg (1911-1913).  They listed in 1940 that that their agencies included 940 Missionaries and Deaconesses serving in 180 institutions in 40 states, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Their official magazines were “Woman’s Home Missions” and “Junior Neighbors”.  The theme for the year was to be “With One Increasing Purpose” and their textbook was to be “Homeland Harvest” by Dr. Arthur Limouze and “Right Here at Home” by Frank Mead. The organization was organized into ten groups with Officers, Department Secretaries (Spiritual Life, Christian Citizenship, Thank Offering, Missionary Education, Mite Box, Lenten Offering), supplies, Chorister, Pianist, and Young People Work (College, High School, Intermediate Department, Junior Department, Primary Department, Mothers Jewels).
In 1940 were also listed the “Wesleyan Service Guild,” whose motto was to “The World – To Serve”.  Its goals were “Enrichment of spiritual life, Practice in World brotherhood, Development of Christian Citizenship, Guidance in the Highest Use of Leisure”.  They had several service projects including a home mission through the Leisenring Center, Dunbar, PA; through migrant work; and the Navajo Mission School, Farmington, NM.

Their textbook for 1940 was “Through Tragedy to Triumph” by Basil Mathews.   The group met the second Tuesday in member homes and had officers covering various projects (President, Recording secretary, correspondence secretary, treasurer, spiritual department chair, world service chair, social and recreational chair, mite box secretary)

The WSG had formed at Wesley in 1926 under the guidance of Maude Thomas Wolf and existed until the merger of women’s groups in 1973.  In a 1964 church self-study report  the group was  noted as still being active with some 26 members.

At Wesley there was also the unique “Sorelle Club.” It was organized in the church parlor in 1929 by Frances Wahl McAlister (Mrs. Wade), Mildred Robinett (Roscoe) and Sarah Paul Potts (Mrs. Ruhl).  Charter members were:  Deborah Heep Lower (Mrs. Paul), Iris Jenkins Miller (Mrs. Lewis), Hazel Ruedy Hornung (Mrs. Gerald ), Naomi Doty Matheney (Mrs. Jesse), Jessie Gowen Fuller (Mrs. Guy Edward), Thelma Varvel McCreight (Mrs. Warren), Mrs. Theresa Cranfield, Mrs. Cora Hayward, Thelma Carr (Mrs. Harold), Velda Marks (Mrs. karl), Betty Salmmon (Mrs. Herbert), Margaret Ireland (Mrs. “Brick”), Birdie Lasater (Mrs. Frenchie), Rilla Warner (Mrs. Judd), and Thelma Saxon Baker (Mrs. Marion).

It was organized by newlyweds and young mothers who wanted church activities and fellowship different than the Circles then offered at the church. The first presidents were: Frances McAlister. Mildred Robinett, Sarah Potts, and Thelma McCreight.  The name was submitted by a committee of organizers and means “sister.”  It was reorganized in 1938 by Mrs. Hugh B. Fouke, wife of the pastor, into a spiritual, educational, and social club with meetings held in the parsonage parlor. 

In 1940, they reflected that new threefold purpose “spiritual, educational and social.”  It was noted they used the “panel method” for their discussions and programs.  They met the third Thursday at 12:30 in the Wesley Church parlor.  The officers included a Counselor (the pastor’s wife in 1940), chairman, program committee, hostess chairman, secretary and treasurer, telephone chairman

The Woman’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) was formed in 1939 as a result of the merger between the M.E., North, the M.E., South and the Methodist Protestant churches to form the Methodist Church.   The first president at Wesley was Mrs. Joe Morgan (Ione) (1939-1940).

Other Groups
Ladies Bible Study - No information
Flesher Class for Young Girls. In 1921 Wesley had a Sunday school class for college and business people sponsored by Mrs. W.E. Flesher. In the summer or fall of 1922, Mrs. Flesher became the teacher of a Sunday school class for 9th or 10th grade girls, ages 14 or 15 years. According to Helen Sellers the Flesher Class for Girls “really started the Sunday Mrs. Flesher took the class as a substitute teacher, it was then taught by Mary Lanham (Arbuthnot).”  Sellers identified the following as charter members of the class: Elva Brown; Jean Alexander; Mildred Armor; Elizabeth Dailey; La Vaughn Reneau; Elizabeth Hoffman; Mary Emma Brown; Sarah Paul; Ramona Parrick; Thelma Todd; Thelma Keel; Mildred Jines.
Lydians - No information
Malla Moe was a group limited to single women who are members of the Two-In-One Class (Sunday School) and took its name from Miss Malla Moe of Norway, who a missionary to South Africa. In the early 1960’s, there were approximately 70 members, with an average attendance of 30 at the potluck luncheon on the first Tuesday of each month.  The group also held a lunch together every third Sunday after church. Special activities included projects for Crippled Children’s Hospital.
Nursing Home Auxiliary- No Information
The United Methodist Women
In 1973, United Methodist Women became the women’s mission organization of The United Methodist Church.

Women in Ministry and Leadership
In 2007 Wesley had appointed the first female senior minister. Rev. Diana Cox Crawford served from 2007-2012.  She had previously pastored   across Oklahoma and served in various capacities in the conference as an elder. She was not, however, the first woman to serve in ministry roles at the church.  Changing times, terms and denominational ministry classifications have meant that often these women were overlooked and their significant contributions - and history - unknown.
Women such as:

Miss Eureath White (1932-1933), found under "Pastoral Assistants" in the 1975 'History of a Dynamic Church' she is in a list which includes many recognized clergy and indicating the importance and value of the role in the life of the church.  She may be the woman who later taught sociology at Southern Methodist Univ.

Nina B. McCosh - (1937-1945?). Born ca. 1893 in Kansas, Nina attended the "Kansas City Methodist Training Institute", now part of St. Paul's Seminary,  a special school for 'Deaconess and Missionaries' in the years before women were recognized by the Methodist denominations for ordination. Such schools allowed women to be specially trained to serve in specific pastoral and social justice arenas.  These women organized missions, ministered to families, communities, and saw to the spiritual formation of people in the parish. The role answered the need for more qualified, trained, and committed people to serve as leaders within the church but did not grant those clergy role or status.  Yet, they did minister in real and powerful ways within congregations. A local news article illustrates the potential scope of her work at Wesley when it says that she was replacing the "assistant pastor" Rev. S. Lewis Stockwell (who was taking a church in Kansas).  She was from Colorado Springs and had worked just previously in Guthrie for five years as a "helper" (Oklahoman, Sept.20, 1937:6).

In an undated list in the 1975 "History of a Dynamic Church" (pg.3) are included the names of some other female "Wesley Resident Ministers":

Mrs. Mabel Crabtree - She is mentioned in a 1932 article about five city church leaders to serve on the faculty of the state Epworth League at Guthrie. From Wesley she joined other instructors from various other Methodist Churches.  Epworth League was the youth organization of the Methodist Church.

Alice M. David - In her 1942 obituary she is noted to have been ordained in the 1929 in the M.E. Church. She led a long and active fight against drink being a local and state leader of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.  She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She died at 82 on Jan.17, 1942 and her funeral was held at Wesley in Oklahoma City.
Joyce Webster - She was listed in the 1968 book, Oklahoma Methodism in the Twentieth Center" by Clegg and Oden as being a current clergy member of the conference who had entered it in 1927.

In an undated list in the same source are included some female "Local Preachers Whose Names are found on the Several Records of Wesley":
Mrs. Mabel Crabtree- She is mentioned in a 1932 article about five city church leaders to serve on the faculty of the state Epworth League at Guthrie. From Wesley she joined other instructors from various other Methodist Churches.  Epworth League was the youth organization of the Methodist Church.

Mrs. Alice M. David nee Harris- In her 1942 obituary she is noted to have been ordained in the 1929 in the M.E. Church. She led a long and active fight against drink being a local and state leader of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.  She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She died at 82 on Jan.17, 1942 and her funeral was held at Wesley in Oklahoma City.
Neva Davidson - In 1934 she was pastoring at Capitol Hill and removed to Wichita Falls, Texas.
Harriette Davis - No information found
Nina B. McCash (should read McCosh)
Joyce B. Webster - She was listed in the 1968 book, Oklahoma Methodism in the Twentieth Center" by Clegg and Oden as being a current clergy member of the conference who had entered in 1927.
Grace E. Garten - On August 2, 1988 a special retirement luncheon celebrated the life and legacy of Miss Grace E. Garten in the life of Wesley UMC in Oklahoma City. It was held in the Scarab Room at Oklahoma City University.  Fittingly, the cover of the program read "Amazing Grace!" and included the lines of that well known hymn. (see list of participants in the program below).
Grace was born, according to a biography she typed for her retirement celebration, "on a farm near Piedmont, Okla. and moved to a farm east of Hennessey when I was five years old. I had an older brother and sister who were twins (Alma and Albert). I always said that I was a middle dot in the "five spot", as in dominoes/  With a pair older than me and a pair younger, I was more or less alone.

Growing up on a farm, I learned to do what other farm girls did: milk cows, wash the separator, feed calves and pigs, dress chickens, cook for harvest men and threshers, churn butter, etc.. I heard the Bible read every morning - also had Family Prayer together each day. I must have heard the Bible read through several times before I left for college.   An old-fashioned one-room rural school called College Corner was where I received my education in grades 1-8. 
I attended a Christian Union country church near my home from early childhood through high school - was active in all youth activities - was given a license to preach while a teenager - also participated in the program of the County Sunday School Conventions which included all Protestant denominations. 
I worked my way through high school and college graduating from Oklahoma City University (OCU) with a major in Religious Education and Philosophy, also a major in Education.  Following graduation, I became a teacher in the Oklahoma City School System. I became a Methodist in 1933 when I joined First Methodist Church here in Oklahoma City. In 1939, I studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  The remainder of my seminary training was at Garrett, a Methodist College on the campus of Northwestern University at Evanston, Ill.
My first position as Director of Christian Education in a local church was in Dallas, Texas at Tyler Street Methodist Church.  I joined the Wesley Methodist Church staff as Director of Christian Education Sept. 1, 1944 when Dr. Nuell C. Crain was pastor.
1963-1967: was Director at Travis Park Methodist Church, San Antonio
1967-1970: was Director at Crown Heights Methodist Church, Oklahoma City
In July of 1970, when Dr. Blanton was senior pastor, I accepted the invitation to return to Wesley as Christian Education Director - the last 13 years I have served as Parish Visitor.”

In addition to this information she also had certifications for specialized Christian education and church work:

 1955 (?) -- Certified Director of Christian Education
1974 -- Consecrated Lay Worker
1977 --Diaconal Minister"


On September 1, 1944, Wesley's program had grown so much that a new employee was decided on to head the growing groups in the church. Grace E. Garten, a public school teacher, was hired as the first full-time Director of Education.  In 1941, an article in the Oklahoman, "Parents Criticized for Books Children Read" (Nov.3,1941;5) she was reported as having spoken to a group on behalf of the Oklahoma Council of Churches as it Religious Education Director.  She urged parents to "have good books available in the home."  Church records note she re-established the 'Junior Church' in 1944 and when the Baker Chapel was built in 1954 this group met in that area.  In 1948 (that year she is listed in a city directory and gives Wesley as her place of employment).  In 1952, there is an article in the Ada Weekly News (Ada, OK) that Miss Garten would be conducting lectures there on Christian Education at the First Methodist Church of Ada.  She would remain at Wesley for many decades and in near retirement years became the official Parish Visitor. She finally retired fully in 1988.  She was well respected, at Wesley and around the state, as an Education Director.  She conducted numerous workshops for churches addresses issues and methods to improve their programs.  She was long affiliated with the Council of Churches education program.
In 1940 she penned a lovely poem, later used in a church devotional booklet:

 "What God does not do as God
He does do as man.
For it was through Jesus
 That came the redemptive plan.
 So God reaches out to the world through me.
 Not alone through my Godlikeness
 But through my humanity.
 For there is a call in the human touch
 That lost man understands.
 And when the world is brought close to God
 'Twill be through human hands."

Grace E. Garten, 1940.   Into the late 1980's she conducted programs for senior centers and other locations bringing along her large collection of crosses.  She died in 1990 in Oklahoma City.
---Compiled by Marilyn A. Hudson

Friday, July 24, 2015

Asbury Manual Training School and Mission, North Fork Town, IT by Linda Morgan Clark

Asbury Manual Training School and Mission, North Fork Town, IT
            In 1821, Bishop William McKendree (Methodism’s Senior Bishop at the time) appointed 30 year old Rev. William Capers of South Carolina, to serve as Superintendent of Missions to the Creek Indians whose lands included parts of western Georgia and eastern Alabama.  Capers was sent to Fort Mitchell, Alabama, a fort built during the Creek War in 1813 by the Georgia militia.  The fort was originally located on a horse trail through Creek lands that allowed whites to travel from Georgia to New Orleans.  At the time Capers was sent as “missionary in South Carolina and to the Indians” the trail had become a postal road known as the Federal Road and the fort a trading post for the southeast region.  Here at this important crossroads Rev. Capers was to fulfill his mandate to carry out “the benevolent purpose of teaching [the Indians] the ordinary arts of civilized life and their children the common rudiments of education.”  It was hoped that the Federal Government would fulfill its promise of providing $10,000 if the school taught “reading, writing, and arithmetic [to] all students. Boys would also be taught knowledge of the modes of agriculture while girls would also be taught spinning, weaving, and sewing.”
            After successful negotiations with the chiefs of the Creek Nation, in 1822 Rev. Capers opened the Asbury Manual Labor School and Mission one mile north of Fort Mitchell near the Indian village of Coweta (one mile west of the Chattahoochee River and nine miles south of Columbus, Georgia) to teach Creek children reading, writing, and other “civilized” skills.  When it opened there were twelve pupils under the direction of Rev. Isaac Smith. 
            Soon there were three teachers, several buildings, and a farm of about 25 acres. Rev. Capers served the school and mission until 1824, to be followed by a succession of missionaries. It is believed the school was the first formal educational effort of any kind in the Chattahoochee River Valley. Throughout its history, the school had, on average, 35 to 50 boarding students. 
            Today, the location of this school is recognized as a United Methodist Heritage Landmark.  An historical marker has been erected near the site and is listed as a destination point in A Traveler’s Guide to the Heritage Landmarks of the United Methodist Church (at
            It is to this school and this first missionary to the Creeks that we can give credit for the seeds of Christianity in general and Methodism in particular being placed in the heart of one of its young pupils, i.e., Samuel Checote, who was sent by his parents in 1828, at the age of nine, to board at the school. 
            Two years later, on February 3, 1830, the South Carolina Conference formally discontinued the Asbury Manual Labor School and Mission. Five years previous to the closing, on February 12, 1825, (and only three years after the school was established) the National Council of the Great Creek Nation had signed a Removal Treaty by which it relinquished all Alabama and Georgia lands in exchange for lands in Indian Territory. 
            Adding to this atrocity were the deplorable conditions of the Indians.  Contact with white intruders exacerbated the pervasive use of alcohol among Indians and their destitute condition led to the theft of the cattle, poultry, and corn that belonged to the School and Mission. The combination of losing their native homelands and the appalling conditions in Alabama dealt a devastating blow to the Creeks and contributed to their increasing indifference to white man’s religion. Other barriers had produced mixed results and little immediate success in converting Creeks to Christianity, i.e., a ban on preaching, the entanglement of the missionaries in the politics of Removal, and their cultural biases, to name but a few. As the Methodists turned their attention to the masses of white people that flooded into the new Georgia counties on the east side of the Chattahoochee River, the fate of Alabama’s Asbury mission with the Creeks was sealed. 
            So in 1829 before the Asbury school and mission in Alabama faded into obsolescence and closed, ten year old Checote and his parents moved from their home near Ft. Mitchell to Indian Territory and settled just west of Okmulgee, IT.  
            In 1847, three years after the General Conference meeting in New York City that created the Indian Mission Conference (IMC), the third Annual Conference of the IMC met in November 1847, in Doaksville, IT, and made plans for re-establishing Asbury Manual Labor School and Mission in the Creek Nation, IT.  Rev. William Capers, now a Bishop, and the one who had organized the school with the same name in Alabama which Checote had attended, appointed the Rev. Thomas B. Ruble, missionary among the Pottawattomies, to select a site and supervise the construction of the new school buildings.  Ruble secured the help of Colonel Logan, the U.S. Indian Agent for the Creek Nation, and Colonel Rutherford, superintendent of the Western Territory.
            A site was chosen the following year for the school on an 80-acre farm at North Fork Town, on the Texas Road where the Creek Trail of Tears ended and 10 Miles northeast of what is now Eufaula, Oklahoma.  About 30 acres was fenced.  Included on the property was a stable, chicken house, a few fruit trees and a 20 square foot house with porch and kitchen,.  From the $1,000 alloted by the Board of Mission, Ruble purchased the site and improvements from a widow for $300 (about $10,000.00 in today’s money).
            The cornerstone was laid July 19, 1848, for what is believed to be the largest mission school built in Indian Territory.  The first classes, however, were held in the log house starting in August, with the Reverend W. S. Cobb as teacher.  The classes continued in the log house until the new buildings were ready to use in 1850.  A stone and brick building 110 feet long, 34 feet wide and three stories high was built with materials shipped by boat from Louisville, via the Arkansas River, then overland to the site by ox-drawn wagons.  The design of this building proved to be a model for a few mission schools built in later years.  The bottom floor housed the staff and missionaries, the second floor was reserved for classrooms, and the top floor was divided into girls’ and boys’ dormitories.
            The U.S. Government paid $5,000 ($150,000.00) to build the school from the funds promised to the Creeks under a treaty in 1845 whereby they were to be compensated for their native lands.  The balance of the total cost of $9,169 ($284,000.00) was paid by the Board of  Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  The building contained 21 rooms, large halls, and would accommodate 100 students along with the faculty. In 1848, before the school was even complete, the annual report to the IMC records that there were 30 Creek boarding students, one local preacher, 24 white teachers and staff and a small balance of $6.75 on hand. 
            The school continued to be financially sustained from the Creek’s annuity, making it an official “Indian Mission School”.  The Creeks supplied textbooks and financial support for the students.
            Early schooling experiences were checkered with frustrations of erratic attendance, unsupportive parents, and inexperienced teachers.  Sometimes it was a struggle to keep students and missionaries on task.  In 1851 the Superintendent informed the commissioner of Indian affairs, that half the students had the measles and the Baptists had opened a school in the area, both of which were robbing the Asbury School of its pupils.  Then on top of that a great wind storm caused a great deal of damage to the large school building alarming students, their parents, and the staff.  The missionary then chose to abandon his post and take his family to safety.
            Yearly reports to the IMC Annual Conference as well as the U.S. Government reflect the details of managing the endeavor up to the outbreak of the Civil War.  Rev. Thomas Bertholf, Superintendent at the beginning of the war, took his wife and went south to the mouth of Washita River (near present day Kingston) until the hostilities ended, but still remained Superintendent of the Asbury school.       
            The Civil War and Reconstruction was devastating to the Indian tribes in IT.  Inter-tribal rivalries continued to fester.  Marauding soldiers from both sides of the conflict overran Indian lands.  Cattle were driven off, buildings were burned, many Indian settlements were destroyed, the people scattered, and mission work disrupted.  The Indian Mission Conference (IMC) struggled to take up its work again. At the Asbury School, the smaller buildings had been burned and the large building was severely damaged and in disrepair.  Rev. Bertholf returned in 1866 from his place of refuge and was given the task of rebuilding and reopened the Mission and School.  Samuel Checote, now a Methodist minister in the IMC, helped Bertholf secure an appropriation of $6,000 (almost $100,000 in 2015 dollars) from the U.S. government for the task.  However, Reb. Bertholf did not live long enough to accomplish his assignment.  He died June 18, 1867, and was buried on the school grounds.
            Rev. John Harrell, Checote’s mentor, was then appointed superintendent of the Mission to serve for the remainder of the Conference year.  Next, Rev. Thomas B. Ruble, who was assigned in1848 to complete the project.  But the restoration work had barely begun, when the very next year the main building of the school was destroyed by fire.  Rev. Harrell then returned to the school as Superintendent, to complete the Conference year, and using his considerable influence with the Creeks and government officials, had new buildings built once again and the school reopened in 1870.
            The Indian Mission Annual Conference was held at the school in 1874.  Rev. Harrell, appointed again as Superintendent in 1876, like Rev. Bertholf, died while serving the mission.  While preaching in Vinita, he collapsed in the pulpit, Dec. 8, 1876.  Five years later, in 1881, the School burned again and burned again for the final time in 1887, never to reopen (reportedly boys burned down the school in both instances).  Some students were sent home, and the missionaries and remaining students went to live in the nearby home of Judge Stidham until the end of the term.  That was the end of the Asbury Manual Labor School and Mission in old North Fork Town, IT (now an Oklahoma ghost town).  Neither the church nor the Creeks could agree to having it rebuilt since jointly financing Mission Schools by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Indian tribes was drawing to a close.
            This account certainly reflects the concerted effort on the part of the government, church, and Creeks to keep this school in operation for as long as possible. Not only was it vital to the work of Methodism among the Creeks but it also played a significant role in the education of many, many Creek children who went on to be leaders, educators, and outstanding citizens in their tribe.  One such individual was Creek Chief, Peter R. Ewing, an outstanding Baptist minister, educator, and Bacone College alumus who ran away from home when he was 10 years old so he could attend the Asbury School.
            It is told that Peter Ewing, born Peter Chuffee, whose last name translated from Creek into English is “Rabbit”, was teased mercilessly by the children at the school by calling him “Peter Rabbit”.  He was discouraged to the point of quitting school, when Rev. Young Ewing, the last Superintendent to preside over the school, took special notice of Peter and the teasing he was enduring.  He took Peter under his wing and told him he could be his boy and he’d give him his last name.  So ever after that Peter Chuffee/Rabbit was Peter R. Ewing.
            After the school burned for the final time, the Creeks were without a school for a few years.  So in 1892, the Creeks built their own school to fill the void left by the abandoned Asbury School.  This school eventually became Eufaula’s High School.  Today Creeks operate their own boarding school called Eufaula Dormitory, located on the outskirts of Eufaula, which they view as the Asbury School’s logical successor.
            Asbury School and Mission holds a special significance as well for Muskogee Methodism.  The very existence of the school and its high regard in Indian Territory is the reason Rev. Theodore Frelinghuysen Brewer was sent in August 1878 by the Arkansas Conference to be a teacher and eventually principal of the school.  In the scant notes of his life left in his own handwriting, he says that he was appointed principally to do educational work.  However, in October of that year, at the third Annual Conference of the Indian Mission Conference, held in Muscogee, IT, he also became the founding pastor of the “Rock Church” in the little village of Muscogee that had sprung up around the MK&T/KATY railroad station.
            But the Asbury school also has a relationship to the town of Eufaula and the First United Methodist Church of Eufaula, that deserves notice (Rev. Brewer established the Eufaula church in 1879, the year following the beginning of the “Rock Church” in Muscogee.)
            When the present day Lake Eufaula was being built, the Eufaula church decided to take charge of the reinterment of several of the school’s workers who were buried in its burial ground located about ½ mile west of the School site near the old Jefferson Highway. Two Superintendents of the School, Rev. Thomas Bertholf, and Rev. John Harrell, were buried on those school grounds (as were their wives, some of their children, and others who died while working there). 
            Beginning in 1961, First Methodist Church in Eufaula worked with the Corps of Engineers and Eufaula’s City Council to relocate the graves of the missionaries to an addition to Eufaula’s Greenwood Cemetery before the old school site and cemetery disappeared under the waters of the new lake. A block of cemetery lots was purchased by a group of Eufaula citizens and donated to a committee from the church working on the relocation.  Had the church not prevailed, the Corps would have relocated their graves along with hundreds more from other cemeteries effected by the proposed impoundment area of the lake, to a location the Corps carved out on the western shore of the lake adjacent to an old burial ground near the ghost town of Fishertown.  Approximately 20 or so graves of infants, children, and young women from the Asbury Cemetery however were moved to the Fishertown location by the Corps.
            Thus only eleven individuals from the Asbury Cemetery were reinterred in the new addition to Eufaula’s Greenwood Cemetery.  The location of these graves was then marked by a memorial stone structure from the original hand-hewn stones of the school the Eufaula Methodists were able to save before the clearing of the land for the lake (the Eufaula newspaper reported in 1941 that the commissary building was still standing).  It took about three years and countless hours of volunteer labor; the cooperation of the Corps of Engineers, citizens of Eufaula, its City Council, the official board of the church; and thousands of dollars in donations to complete the project.  It is said that the memorial cost more than twice the $10,000 original cost of the School in 1848.  The stone monument was designed by the church’s pastor, Rev. Cecil L. Bolding, and marked with aluminum lettering and a bronze tablet furnished by the Oklahoma Methodist Historical Society. It was dedicated May 30, 1964, only months after the dam was ready for the lake to fill to its capacity.  At the Oklahoma Annual Conference in June that same year, the Asbury Memorial was designated a Methodist shrine.  As far as it is known this is the first place of Methodist historical importance so designated (its predecessor of the same name in Ft. Mitchell, Alabama, was not designated as a shrine until after 1984).
            The following graves and headstones/monuments were moved to Greenwood Cemetery:
Bertholf, Marcus
12 Feb 1814
1 Mar 1869
Bertholf, Thomas, Rev.*
12 Jul 1810
28 Jun 1867
Harrell, Elisa
16 Oct 1816
20 Nov 1876
Harrell, John
22 Oct 1806
8 Dec 1876
Lindsey, Edward Allen
27 Aug 1882
Pifer, Caroline
9 Dec 1870
17 Jul 1882
Pifer, Eufaula
28 Feb 1880
6 Feb 1883
Ruble, James M
9 Oct 1839
11 May 1859
Scott, Altha
4 Apr 1877
24 May 1878
Waggoner, Payfont L
16 May 1856
30 Dec 1882
Wilkey, M. J.
5 Nov 1866
6 Feb 1882
*Rev. Bertholf’s wife’s burial place is uncertain.  She may have been in an unmarked grave and lies instead under Lake Eufaula.  Her cenotaph is on her nephew’s monument (Charlie H. Bertholf), in the Combs, McCurtain County, Cemetery.
            Countless articles in the Indian Journal (Eufaula’s newspaper) reference the old school, even going so far as to credit the Methodists and their Mission School with the very existence of Eufaula.  However, after the lake was impounded and the property was no longer visible, the role of this school and its history seems to have faded.  It would appear that those reinterred in the Fishertown location have been forgotten as well, for now it is overgrown and nearly abandoned.  A feature article in the Muskogee Phoenix, July 3, 2015, reported on its current neglected condition.  Obviously the Corps made a major blunder in relocating the cemeteries effected by the building of the lake to a place they carved out adjacent to the burial ground of a small village that vanished even before Oklahoma statehood.

* * * * * * *

Information on Fishertown:

Linda Morgan Clark