Friday, November 20, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Jeremiah Slingerland Keeps on Preaching

Death of the Tribal Church Series
A series of posts about the church history of the Stockbridge Mohicans
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?
VI. The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge
VII. The Citizen Party Makes a Request

VIII. Today's post:
Jeremiah Slingerland Keeps on Preaching

The Winnebago Presbytery today covers this area (northeast Wisconsin and adjoining counties). Meetings that had an impact on the church history of the Stockbridge Mohicans were held at Neenah and Weyauwega. Also highlighted in purple is the location of the Stockbridge's Shawano County reservation.

The tribe had kept the faith without missionaries before and they would again in Shawano County. Informal worship services were held at the Slingerlands' home until Methodists came into the area and organized the first church on the new reservation in 1863 or 1864. Ironically, Jeremiah Slingerland, an unordained Indian preacher, essentially served as a missionary to whites in the frontier town of Shawano for four years. As of the summer of 1859 he was preaching either on the reservation or in Shawano every Sunday (letter from Slingerland to Electa Candy, 7/21/1859, John C. Adams Papers). The first white minister didn't arrive in Shawano until 1863 (booklet celebrating the 125th anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church in Shawano, page 1).

The Stockbridge Mohicans had a long history of Calvinist Christianity. All their missionaries right up to Cutting Marsh and Jeremiah Slingerland had been either Presbyterians or Congregationalists (and during these times there weren't major doctrinal differences between the two denominations). In his heart, Slingerland never was a Methodist, but because Methodists cooperated with Calvinists, he became licensed as a preacher of the Methodist Episcoal Church.

Then on January 31st, 1866, Slingerland traveled to the annual meeting of the Presbytery of Winnebago in Neenah. After being examined in "Experimental Religion, ancient languages, church history, and natural sciences," he was finally ordained a Presbyterian minister - more than twenty years after he graduated from the seminary (minutes of the Presbytery of Winnebago).

On August 28th, 1867, at a presbytery meeting in Weyauwega, Reverend Slingerland proposed that a Presbyterian church be organized for the Stockbridge Mohicans. The new Presbyterian church was given $200 in financial aid from the Presbyterian "Board of Domestic Missions" (minutes of the Presbytery of Winnebago). However, due to the continued partisan tribal politics and the lack of farmable land on the reservation, this new congregation was considerably smaller than previous congregations had been.

When Reverend Slingerland died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1884, the Presbytery of Winnebago eulogized him as

an intelligent , able, and devoted minister of Christ. The faithful servant of his tribe... watchful and efficient in their behalf.. [who] identified himself with their poverty and their wrongs, he has stood among them as a true shepherd leading them in the way of life (minutes of the Presbytery of Winnebago, 7/9/1884).

The series will continue.

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