Monday, January 5, 2009

Sac & Fox Mission Trip, Part II

Use this link to read Part I of this series of posts.

Maps in this post are from Roger Nichols' thesis, Cutting Marsh: Missionary to the Stockbridges, 1830-1848.

In 1834, John Metoxen, John N. Chicks, two other Stockbridge Mohicans, and Rev. Cutting Marsh traveled by birchbark canoe up the Fox River, and then portaged to the Wisconsin and paddled down to the Mississippi. From there they continued south, spending time in what is now Iowa.

This was their mission trip to the Sac and Fox Indians. Unlike the Stockbridges, the Sac and Fox didn't speak an Algonquin language. From the Stockbridges' point of view, it was also significant that the Sac and Fox weren't "civilized" Indians.

When the delegation arrived in what would become the city of Davenport the next year, Cutting Marsh had a long talk with one of the city's founders, George Davenport, a trader. Marsh, of course, was trying to talk Davenport into getting a Calvinist mission established there. Davenport was noncommittal. He told Marsh that the Sac and Fox were " their present state."

Meanwhile, John Metoxen was fortunate to speak with Chief Blackhawk through a good interpreter. Unfortunately, we only have a second-hand account of the conversation written down by Cutting Marsh. However, the conversation must have started out well with Blackhawk telling Metoxen how he appreciated the level of sobriety he'd seen among the Stockbridge Mohicans during his visit to Statesburg a year earlier. This was probably the opening that Metoxen wanted. Marsh's reconstruction of the discussion from there is not quite believable, but it is all we have:

Blackhawk: "Now what do you think is best about receiving missionaries &c?"
Metoxen: "By all means, receive them...for they will do you good."
Blackhawk: But the trader, Mr. D, told me not to have anything to do with them..."

As contrived as that dialog seems, it likely reflects the larger truth that George Davenport's livelihood as a trader would have been threatened by a mission that would teach the local Indians to become "civilized farmers."

*Letter from Marsh of Sept. 5th 1834 letter in the ABCFM Papers.
*Marsh's 1834 Report to the Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SSPCK).

This series will continue.

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