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Full text of "John Stewart, missionary to the Wyandots"



JOHN STEWART 

flDfssionarie to the 
Mi^anbots 



I 




REV. N. B. C, LOVE, D.D. 



JOHN STEWART 



Missionary to the Wyandots 



REV. N. B. C. LOVE, D.D. 



THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF THE METHODIST 

EPISCOPAL CHURCH 

RTNDGE LITERATURE DEPARTMENT 

150 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK 



PRICE FIVE CENTS 



§f 



Boston Uolvoftl^y 
School ®f Theology Library 



JOHN STEWART 

Pioneer Missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church 

By X. B. C. Lorn D.D. 

The Methodist Episcopal Church from its organiza- 
tion in 1773 Avas missionary in its spirit. It made 
continuous efforts towards the conversion of the whites 
and blacks, but the red men of the forest were passed 
by. The minutes of the annual conferences, at the be- 
ginning of the last century, reported in separate columns 
the numbers of whites and blacks in each society, but 
no figures for the Indians. 

The Methodist Episcopal Church was aggressive in 
the older States and passed into the Northwest Ter- 
ritory and the greater 
West and South. In the 
providence of God John 
Stewart was the apostle 
to the heathen Wj'an- 
dots, and the founder of 
the first Methodist Epis- 
copal Mission among the 
heathen. 

Before the advent. of 
Stewart the most cruel 
and bloody practices ob- 
tained among the Wyan- 
dots. In this respect 
they were not different 
from the other Indian 
tribes of the Northwest. 
The burning of Col. 
Crawford, when a pris- 
oner, is evidence of this. 
Even the women and children participated in torturing 
him. We need not repeat the story here. The Wyan- 
dots were the leaders in this savage deed. Between- 
the-Lo2"S, it is claimed, was a participant, and such 




BETWEEN-THE-LOGS. ' 



An Apostle 
to the 
Wyandots 



Co-operation 
of two 
Bishops 



Stewart's 
Conversion 



were the people to wliom Stewart carried the gospel 
of love and peace. 

The Wyandots for a long period stood politically at 
the head of an Indian Federation of tribes and so were 
recognized by the United States Government in the 
treaties made with the Indians of the old Northwest 
Territory. 

The names of chiefs of the Wyandot nation appear 
first and prominently on the treaty made at Greenville 
in 1795 between the Government and the Indians, 
Gen. Wayne acting for our Government. 

While the itinerant Bishops Asbury and McKendree 
and their worthy helpers were denied the honor of in- 
augurating the great missionary movement among the 
heathen, they are to be honored for their unselfishness 
in giving their co-operation and support to John 
Stewart, an humble mulatto layman, who had been con- 
verted through their preaching, and whom they recog- 
nized as having received the call of God. 

John Stewart's parents were free people of color 
who resided in Powhattan County, Va. They were Bap- 
tists, and of good repute. John went to winter school 
while a boy at home, and was more favored in this than 
many negro boys. While in his early manhood he 
learned the dyer's trade and earned some money, but 
a highwayman robbed him of all. The fear of destitu- 
tion worried him, for he felt that to be poor was to be 
in disgrace, and he purposed to commit suicide. Hesi- 
tating in this, he drank intoxicants to drown his sorrow, 
until a kind Christian friend persuaded him to desist 
and reform. Although failing several times in his 
efforts, he at last succeeded. 

He listened to the preaching of the Gospel by the 
Methodists and was converted. Finding no Baptist 
Society convenient, he united with the Methodist Epis- 
copal Church. Here he was at home. The prayer and 
class meeting were delightful to him, and all his preju- 
dices against the Methodists gave way. He also pros- 
pered in business and saved some money. The grand- 



father of Bishop McCabe was his class leader and per- 
sonal friend. 

Stewart has been described to me by two pioneers 
who knew him well. He was a light mulatto, about 
five feet, eight inches high, weighing about one hundred 
and forty pounds; well formed, erect in carriage, easy 
and graceful in movement. His features were more Eu- 
ropean than African. He had a tenor voice, and was 
gifted in song. 

He often went into the fields or forests to meditate, 
to study the Bible and to pray. One Sabbath evening 
he was in the edge of the woods by the side of a rivulet 
that ran into the Ohio, when a voice from the sky 
seemed to say to him in audible tone, " Thou shalt go to 
the Northwest and declare my counsel plainly." As he 
listened and looked, a peculiar halo appeared to fill the 
\Yestern sky. This summons was repeated. The first 
was in the voice of a man, the second that of a woman. 
That he was honest in the thought of this calling there 
need be no doubt. 

A deep impression was made on his astonished mind. 
He had no thought of preaching; he felt he would obey 
fully by teaching and exhorting, but when a friend told 
him he was called to preach he rebelled, feeling he was 
not prepared nor worthy. He resolved to go to Ten- 
nessee, but sickness came to him, and for awhile his life 
was despaired of, but finally recovering, the impression 
that it was his duty to go to the Xorthwest was intensi- 
fied. 

The Northwest, beyond a fringe of settlements, was 
a vast illimitable wilderness, occupied by savage beasts 
and as savage men. He resolved to go, not for gain, 
nor for fame, nor for pleasure, but to save souls from 
the bondage of heathen darkness. The risks were many, 
but he felt that an unseen hand was over him. Starting 
on his journey, he knew not whither he went any more 
than Abraham of old. His friends tried to persuade 
him not to go, and having started, those whom he met 
in the settlements also tried such persuasion, or laughed 

5 



A Summons 
to Service 



A Journey 
into the 
Wilderness 




JOHN STEWART LISTENING TO THE " VOICE " WHICH 

CALLED HIM TO PREACH TO THE WYANDOTS. 

From a painting by Rev. IT. B. C. Love, D,©, 



at his folly, but to no purpose. The red men of the 
forest, neglected by the Government and despised, feared 
and hated by the frontiersmen, were upon his mind. He 
believed they were dear to the heart of Jesus. 

He went on, keeping towards the Northwest, wading 
streams, camping alone at night, unarmed in the pri- 
meval forests, enduring hunger and many other hard- 
ships. After the severe toil of days and exposure of nights, 
he came to the village of the Delawares — on the head- 
waters of the Sandusky River. The Indians extended 
to him the hospitality of their cabins. Here he held 
religious worship, singing, praying and telling the stoiy 
of the dying love of Jesus until late at night, then, re- 
tiring, he fell asleep, feeling that his mission was ac- 
complished and that he would start on his homeward 
journey in a day of two. With the dawn of the morn- 
ing, however, he awoke and heard an inward voice tell- 
ing him to go farther. Having inquired the way, he 
started again on his pilgrimage. 

The first afternoon he came to the cabin of a white -^ Backwoods 
family and was refused admittance by the wife until the 
return of her husband. Upon the husband's arrival, 
while supper was preparing, Stewart sang some sweet 
songs, which charmed the backwoodsman and his family. 
He offered to hold services at night, and the boys were 
sent post haste by the father to the few residents in 
the vicinity. Stewart had about a dozen in his con- 
gregation to whom he expounded the Gospel, and sang 
Methodist hymns, to their great entertainment. The 
Divine Spirit was in the word and several were 
awakened and saved. Among the number was the daugh- 
ters of the home in which he was entertained. He tar- 
ried for several days, holding services at night and 
forming a class. 

In a few days he found himself in Upper Sandusky, 
an entire stranger, without an introduction to any one. 
He called at the home of William Walker, sub-Indian 
agent, who thought him a fugitive from Slavery, but 
Stewart in a sincere, artless manner gave his history. 



Congregation 



A Providen- 
tial Helper 



An Audience 
of Indian 
"Warriors 



including his Christian experience. Mr. Walker was 
convinced, and gave him words of encouragement, direct- 
ing him to the cabin of Jonathan Pointer. 
. Pointer was a black man who had been stolen by the 
Wyandots when he was a child. He could converse 
fluently in both the English and Wyandot languages. 
Here was a providential helper in opening an " effectual 
door " to the Divinely appointed missionary of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church. 

Pointer was not favorably impressed with Stewart, 
and tried to dissuade him from his undertaking by tell- 
ing him of the efforts of the Roman Catholic mission- 
aries and their complete failure. He did not know that 
" the kingdom of heaven cometh not by observation." 
Indeed, Jonathan Pointer was as much a heathen as 
the Wyandots, and was at that time preparing to par- 
ticipate in an Indian dance and religious feast. Stewart 
wanted to accompany him, and Jonathan reluctantly 
consented. Stewart as a visitor sat in silence and wit- 
nessed the dance. When an interval of rest occurred, 
he asked the privilege of addressing them on the pur- 
pose of his visit which, with their consent, he did, Jono- 
than interpreting and rather enjoying the notoriety it 
gave him. 

Here was a scene worthy tne brush of the artist. The 
first heathen audience of hundreds of Indian warriors 
in war paint and gaudy costumes listening to a mes- 
senger of the Methodist Episcopal Church; Jonathan, 
too, in paint and feathers, while a mild-mannered mulatto 
told them the purpose of his visit. Here was Christian 
courage equal to that of Fr. Marquette or any of the old 
Jesuit Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. In this 
Stewart evinced extraordinary courage and faith in the 
Heavenly Father. 

At the conclusion of his address he invited all to 
shake hands with him, and on motion of Chief Bloody 
Eyes, all passed by in single file and did so. An appoint- 
ment was made at Jonathan's cabin for the next evening, 
and by the light of the cabin fire Stewart preached his 
first sermon. This was late in November, 1816. 
8 



Stewart met the Wyandots daily, Jonathan inter- 
preting and saying : " What Stewart says may be true, 
he did not knoAv, he only translated fairly." Many were 
greatly interested and a few awakened. The efforts of 
Stewart to secure the conversion of his interpreter were 
unceasing, and his reward soon came in an open pro- 
fession on the part of Jonathan, who became a firm, out- 
spoken believer. The soil of his jovial African heart 



Jona,thail 
Pointer Won 




EEV. JAMES B. FINLEY PREACHING TO THE WYANDOT 

INDIANS AT UPPER SANDUSKY. 

The black man, Jonathan Pointer, interpreting. 



was thin and did not bring forth perfect and matured 
fruit. He was naturally vain and sometimes was given 
to drink, but God used him as one of " the foolish things 
of this w^orld to confound the wise." He was demonstra- 
tively pious in church. 

The missionary met with opposition from the whites 
who sold " fire water " to the Indians. They maligned 
him, persecuted and tried to scare him away: They 
said, " he was no minister, a fraud, a villain," and some 
of the leading chiefs became his enemies. Dark days 



A Controver- 
sy about the 
Bible 



Superstitious 
Savages 



First Con- 
verts among 
the Indians 



had come. The muttering of a storm was heard, but 
nothing daunted, Stewart sang, prayed, and going from 
cabin to cabin found those who received him and his 
words gladly. The agent, William Walker, Jonathan 
and a few other leaders were his friends. Indians preju- 
diced by Catholic teaching joined the opposition. His 
Bible, they said, " is not the true Bible," but these 
questions being left to Mr. Walker, the decision was 
favorable to John Stewart. Walker said there was lit- 
tle difference between the Catholic and Protestant 
Bibles, one being a translation from the Latin, the other 
from the Greek and Hebrew, and both from the same 
original documents; and that any layman called of 
God had the divine right to preach and teach. Thus 
through this layman and Government officer, Stewart 
was helped in his work. 

The Wyandots were superstitious, believing in magic, 
witchcraft, religious dancing and feasting. These things 
Stewart opposed with Scripture and reason, and gave 
any who desired the opportunity to defend them. John 
Hicks, a chief, undertook this. " These things," he said, 
'* are part of the religion of our forefathers handed 
down from ancient times, and the Great Spirit was the 
author of them, and all nations have religions given 
them, the same being adapted to their needs." 

Mononcue, then a heathen, endorsed what Hicks said. 
He also said, " The Bible is the white man's book and 
Jesus the white man's teacher; they were sent first to 
white men, why not to the Indians ? " 

Stewart said, " In the beginning Jesus commissioned 
his disciples saying, ' Go ye into all the world and 
preach the Gospel to every creature.' This is as much 
for you as for any others; we bring His Gospel to you 
and if you receive it not you shall be damned. The 
Bible is for all. Christ died for all that all might be 
saved." 

Stewart continued and Mo noncue, Hicks and others 
were "convicted and converted. Many others embraced 
the truth. These were among his first converts. Having 



never been Roman Catholics, their prejudices were easy 
to overcome. 

Crowds came to Stewart's meetings nightly, and the 
work of revival increased. Many of the younger con- 
verts became, under the leadership of Stewart, good 
singers. Stewart's solo singing was a special attraction 
to the unbelievers. He always sang with the spirit and 
with the understanding also. While he was not demon- 
strative nor vociferous, he had the gift of persuasion 
and could logically impress the truth on other minds. 
He was not a scholar, but he had a good common school 
education and upon this foundation, through his inter- 
course with books, nature and God he became an effi- 
cient workman. Several of his sermons found in print, 
although not fully reported, evince the fact that he had 
clear conceptions of theology, especially as relates to 
man as a sinner, and a sinner to be saved by Grace. 

In February, 1817, Stewart felt that something 
more radical must be done in order to bring about the 
conversion of those who were under his instruction. 
Their convictions were more of the head than of the 
heart. He and those with him prayed daily for the out- 
pouring of the Holy Spirit, and their prayer was 
granted. Revival power came upon these heathen, and 
there was deep and pungent conviction for sins and real 
conversions. This work of grace aroused opposition. 

The heathen party arranged for a " Thanksgiving 
Feast and Dance." It was for the whole Wyandot na- 
tion, and so Stewart and his followers attended. Stew- 
art went with misgivings; he simply sat and looked on. 
To his surprise his converts joined in the dance, 
Mononcue with others. Stewart had protested against 
this, and he went away discouraged, resolving to leave 
them. He announced his purpose and preached his fare- 
well sermon the next Sunday from Acts 20 : 30. This 
sermon, reported and printed by William Walker, the 
writer has read. Earnestly Stewart plead with the con- 
verts to avoid all heathen practices, and warned the 
heathen present, kindly but earnestly, to flee from the 
wrath to come. 



Deep Convic- 
tions and 
Real Conver- 
sions 



A List of 
Missionaries 



tie narrated his call to come to them and his labor's 
with them, and told them they should see his face no 
more. There was general weeping, even the heathen 
joining in the lamentation. Stewart then addressed the 
chiefs and principal men, while silence reigned among 
the large audience assembled in the council house, as he 
bade all good bye. 

On the suggestion of Mrs. Warpole, a collection was 
taken for Stewart, amounting to ten dollars. He left 
and returned to Marietta. A few remained faithful. 
Heathenism and drunkenness held full sway. Only 
twenty men of the Wyandot nation did not drink intoxi- 
cants. Although Stewart was away his heart was with 
the Indians and after only a few months, to the joy of 
the Christian Indians, he returned. During his absence 
he wrote an excellent pastoral letter to the little flock. 
Throughout, his spirit and conduct evinced the unselfish- 
ness of his motives. 

With his return came an increase of zeal, and power 
and increased success crowned his efforts. The work 
enlarged. It was more than Stewart was able to do. 
A prominent Methodist minister of another denomina- 
tion than the Episcopal Methodists, visited him and 
tried to have him change his relationship, but it was of 
no avail. He sent an account of " The Lord's doings " 
among the Wyandots to a session of the Ohio Annual 
Conference and asked for a helper who could assist him 
in preaching and administration. 

As nearly as can be ascertained, the names of the 
missionaries and time are: John Stewart, 1816 to 1823; 
James Montgomery, 1819; Moses Henkle, 1820; J. B. 
Finley, 1821 to 1827 — part of this time as presiding 
elder; Charles Elliot, 1822; Jacob Hooper, 1823; J. C. 
Brook, 1825; James Gilruth, 1826-27; Russell Bigelow 
served as junior missionary in 1827 and in 1828 was in 
charge of the mission and of the district as presiding 
elder with Thomas Thompson, junior missionary; B. 
Boydson, 1830; E. C. Gftvitt, 1831; Thomas Simms, 
1832; S. P. Shaw, 1835; S. M. Allen, 1837; James 
Wheeler, 1839-1843; Ralph Wilcox, 1843. 

12 



The teachers in the mission were: Miss Harriett 
Stubbs, Miss Margaret Hooper, Liberty Prentis, Miss E. 
A. Gibbs, Asbury Sabin, Jane Parker, matron, and 
teacher of spinning, weaving and domestic work, Mrs. 
Jane Riley, L. M. Pounds and the missionaries' wives. 

Up to this time Stewart was an exhorter, his license 
being signed by Father MeCabe, grandfather of Bishop 
Charles C. McCabe. The license was given while Stew- 
art was in Marietta. 

He now attended a Quarterly Meeting on Mad River 
Circuit. Bishop George was present and presided. 
" After a careful examination, John Stewart was 
licensed as a local preacher." 

With money raised by Bishop McKendree a tract of 
fifty-three acres of land on the east side of the San- 
dusky, near Harmen's Mill, was bought for Stewart. 
About this time Bishop McKendree, in feeble health, 
came to the mission on horseback, from Lancaster, Ohio, 
and was accompanied by J. B. Finley and D. J. Soul, 
Jr. The Bishop was delighted to find " the Lord had 
a people among the Wyandots." 

The money paid for the land was collected by Bishop 
McKendree at camp meetings and conferences. In this 
is not only an official recognition but a memorial of 
the large heartedness of this pioneer Bishop. 

About 1820 Stewart married Polly, a mulatto girl. 
She was a devout Christian, and could read and write. 
With her he lived in his own cabin home and with the 
help of his wife and friends soon had enough from the 
virgin soil, with some money assistance from the con- 
ference, to live in pioneer comfort. 

Near the end of 1823, after a battle with consump- 
tion, the word spread among the Christians that Stew- 
art was dying; a number of Christian chiefs and devout 
men and women were with him. Christmas and the 
New Year were at hand. Stewart calmly exhorted all — 
told how the Lord sustained him, and gave his testi- 
mony to the power of Christ to save. Holding his wife's 
hand, he said to all, " Oh, be faithful," and died. In an 



A Lccal 

Preacher's 

License 



Marriage and 
Home Life 



Stewart's 
Death 



13 



An oft- 
visited 
Grave 



humble grave on his land he was buried, and for twenty 
years thereafter no stone marked his resting-place. 

But he was not forgotten. His grave was often 
visited, and the Indian j'outh were taught to place 
flowers on his grave each spring and summer time. 

In 1843 the Rev. James Wheeler, missionary, just 
before the Indians left for the West, had Stewart's re- 
mains taken up and reinterred at the southeast corner 




REV. N. B. C. LOVE, D.D. 



Wyandot 

Mission 

Church 



of the "old mission," and a free stone slab placed at his 
head with a suitable epitaph. 

This church was erected in 1824, the money, 
$1,333.33, being donated by the Government through 
Hon. J. C. Calhoun, Secretary of War. Rev. J. B. 
Findley was the instigator in securing this, and he was 
made the custodian of the money pending its disposition 
in the erection of this church. The building later went 
into decav, and the gravestones were carried away piece- 



14 




15 



The Mission 
Restored 



Rededica- 
tion 



meal by relic hunters, until in 1886 all vestige of them 
was gone. A similar condition of affairs pertained 
with reference to the wood work and the furnishings of 
the Mission Church. 

In 18G0 and 61 when these were in a fair state of 
preservation, the writer, then a young man in his first 
station. Upper Sandusky, made a chart and diagram of 
the church and cemetery, the location of the buried dead, 
with copies of the epitaphs on each tombstone, which he 
preserved. The work of restoration was done with 
money — $2,000 — donated by the Missionary Society of 
M. E. Church, by order of the General Conference. The 
writer, as chairman of the restoration committee, had 
the honor of using this money in erecting once again, 
out of its ruins, the first mission church of Episcopal 
^Methodism, and the first Protestant mission church in 
the Northwest Territor3\ When Charles Elliott was 
missionary, a log building was erected in which Stewart, 
Elliott and others preached, arid here Harriett Stubbs 
taught the children. It was a temporary log building 
and, so far as we know, was not used exclusively as a 
church, and was not dedicated. 

During the session of the Central Ohio Annual Con- 
ference in September, 1889, the restored Mission Church 
was rededicated. There were several thousand more peo- 
ple present than could get into the house, so the services 
were held under the old oak trees which had sheltered 
the hundreds of Wyandots who had worshiped in the 
church. 

Dr. Adam C. Barnes, P.E., was chairman. Dr. P. P. 
Pope, grandson of Eussell Bigelow, led in prayer. Ad- 
dresses were delivered by Bishop J. F. Hurst, Hon. D. D. 
Hare, Dr. L. A. Belt, Gen. W. H. Gibson, a historical 
address by the writer, and reminiscences by Dr. E. C. 
Gavitt, only surviving missionary, and a hymn in Wyan- 
dot sung by " Mother Solomon," a member in her child- 
hood of the first mission school. Many were present 
•whose parents or grandparents had been connected in 
some way with the mission. 
i6 



The Mission 
Church 
Stewart's 
Memorial 



Organization 
of the 
Missionary 
Society 



The name and work of John Stewart is perpetuated 
in this restored and really monumental church, in the 
engraved marble tablet in its walls, the granite marking 
his grave, and in each mission church and mission school 
of Episcopal Methodism throughout the world. 

The good work inaugurated by this humble but ex- 
cellent Christian character will never be forgotten, but 
as the ages come and go, 
and the heathen world is 
brought to Christ, his 
name shall be more re- 
membered and honored. 
All admit that his suc- 
cess among the Wyan- 
dots led to the organiza- 
tion of the Missionary 
Society of the Methodist 
Episcopal Church in 
1819. And was not the 
mission school at Upper 
Sandusky the genesis of 
the Woman's Foreign 
Missionary work? If so, 
then all honor to Har- 
riett Stubbs and Jane 
Parker and their worthy « MOTHER SOLOMON." 

successors. 

Let the name of Stewart be placed in the list of the 
world's benefactors. May his sublime faith, clear con- 
viction of the Divine presence, enthusiasm, endurance, 
patience and unselfishness, awaken in the hearts of each 
reader of these pages the spirit of emulation. 




i8 



BOSTON UNIVERSITY 



1 17n D1D7D fi77b 



A 



John Stewart