Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Stockbridge Mohicans Choose Lutheranism, Part 2

In the last post I told of how a Stockbridge Mohican named Henry Sprague approached Rev. Francis Uplegger in 1892 about the possibility of sharing his ministry with the tribe. In this post I will recount Uplegger's response to Sprague's proposal.

Here's a recent photo of one of the school buildings for the Lutheran Indian Mission.

When asked if he would share his ministry with the Stockbridge Mohicans, Rev. Francis Uplegger reminded Henry Sprague that Protestant denominations had a "no compete" agreement. Sprague countered that the Presbyterians had been neglecting the tribe and data that I have bears this out fairly well. The Presbyterians did send three ministers since Rev. Jeremiah Slingerland's death eight years earlier, but they stayed an average of less than two years.

Uplegger himself explained that he was too busy to minister to the Stockbridge Mohicans, so he enlisted the help of Rev. Theodore Nickel in Shawano and the two men determined that the Presbyterians in town were happy to give the Lutherans a chance to reach out to the Stockbridge Indians. In fact, according to one account, the Presbyterians said that the Stockbridges were "a tribe of harlots" (I will cite the document that says that when I find it).

Like Uplegger, Rev. Nickel was German-born and had never preached in English before he took on the Stockbridge mission work. Nickel not only had to travel rough roads, but he took a significant pay cut when he committed himself to preaching to the Indians.

Nickel started out preaching in people's homes. More and more Stockbridge Mohicans gradually came into the Lutheran fold. By 1899, Nickel's success was such that he used his own money to purchase 20 acres for the Lutheran mission on Mission Lake.

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