Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Stockbridge Bible and the John Sergeant Memorial Church

The image below illustrates how thoroughly complex the various splits and reconciliations within the Presbyterian church have been. The point of showing them here is to illustrate that the Presbyterian church is not a single body, but rather a group of denominations. The Stockbridge Mohicans were served by many Calvinist ministers, probably most of them claimed to be Presbyterians (the ABCFM, however, was a predominantly Congregational organization). Click on the diagram to enlarge it.

In telling the church history of the Stockbridge Mohicans, I haven't reached the point where the tribe comes to feel they are not being served by Calvinist church bodies (more specifically the Presbyterians), and move on to Roman Catholic and/or Lutheran churches. That happened at the end of the 1800's, I referred to it in my last post as "a low ebb" in "organized Christianity."

Despite some activity with other denominations at the end of the 1800's, there were still Stockbridge Indians who continued to identify themselves as Presbyterians, remaining loyal to Calvinist roots that stretched back to the ministry of John Sergeant [Sr.] (1734-1749).

The following account is excerpted from my paper that appeared in the Spring, 2007 issue of The Book Collector.

[Jamison] Sote Quinney and other leaders got to know white Presbyterian ministers in the area who came in to preside over funerals. On Sunday, September 29th, 1907, the Assistant Superintendent of the Presbyterian church's Wisconsin Synod visited and preached to the Stockbridge [Mohicans]. the scripture lessons were read from the Stockbridge Bible for the first time in [many] years. finally, at the end of the service, a petition to start a new church was placed on top of the revered Bible. Forty-five adults signed the petition, some of the older ones with tears in their eyes (Putnam, Christian Religion, pages 5-6, and Earl North, in the Interior, 234-235).

On reading of the establishment of the new congregation in a church newspaper [North's 1908 article], a few of the descendants of John Sergeant, the first missionary to the Stockbridges, offered to provide financial support. the rest of Sergeant's descendants were also asked to contribute, and the church became known as the John Sergeant Memorial Presbyterian Church (letter from Charles Kilpatrick to the descendants of John Sergeant, August 15, 1911, in the John C. Adams Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin). Sote Quinney was an elder of the Sergeant Memorial Church from its beginning until his death (Jameson [Sote] Quinney is repeatedly mentioned as a church elder in the papers of the John Sergeant Memorial Church which are kept at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, PA).

In the fall of 1915, Quinney was given a free trip to the Presbyterian synod meeting in Milwaukee for the purpose of showing off the Stockbridge Bible (entry in the church records, October, 3, 1915). He brought the two volumes in an oak chest, possibly the same oak chest that was used to transport the Bible since the tribe left Massachusetts (Milwaukee Sentinel, October 10, 1915, an image of that article is in my previous post).

No comments :