Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge

The ABCFM Papers are kept here at Harvard University's Houghton Library. The Papers are available in microfilm via interlibrary loan. Refer to the ABCFM Papers finding aid for a list of reels of microfilm covering missions to many nations.

The Death of the Tribal Church Series:
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?
V. Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?

Today's post:
The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge

Situated in Boston, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions didn't have the luxury of closely overseeing its missionaries in the field. In making decisions, it seems they had to rely heavily on the views of their missionaries. Several months before he left the Stockbridge Mohicans, Reverend Cutting Marsh was already advising the ABCFM about what he felt should be done after his departure. During Marsh's lame duck period the ABCFM also took the opportunity to have Marsh reconsider some of his recommendations.

Asked by the ABCFM "Ought [Jeremiah Slingerland] not be encouraged to go on preaching and keep the church together?" Marsh replied that he felt Slingerland should not be ordained for a number of reasons, one being that he continued to lack confidence in Slingerland's work and another being that Slingerland had been investigated by the Green Bay Indian Agent for asking to be paid for teaching "two schools at the same time" (letter from Marsh to Greene, 9/21/1848, ABCFM Papers).

Marsh was also asked about the mission property. He made it clear that his position had not changed since 1845 when he wrote that the ABCFM was "under no obligation whatever to the tribe for any of [the mission] property excepting fifteen acres of the soil" (letter from Marsh to Greene, 7/28/1845, ABCFM Papers).

And so the ABCFM decided to withdraw from the Stockbridge mission. Cutting Marsh and his family moved out of the mission house but Jeremiah Slingerland didn't move in. Nor was he ordained.

A modern satellite photo of Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago. The village of Stockbridge is on the east shore.

The treaty made on November 24th, 1848 promised the Indian party a number of payments for lost lands as well as money to start over and a new seventy-two section reservation (a section is equal to 640 acres, or one square mile). However, exactly where the Indian party would move was not specified. The Indian party never did come to an agreement with the federal government over where they would go. As years went by, many members of both the citizen party and the Indian party remained at Stockbridge on Lake Winnebago.

Jeremiah Slingerland continued his work as a schoolteacher - paid by government funds - and on the side he preached, farmed, and attended to Indian party politics. In 1853 he married a white woman named Sarah who was also a teacher. Town records show that white ministers O.P. Clinton and J.P. Jones as well as Slingerland were paid to preach between 1850 and 1857.

This series will continue.

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