Old Baptist Mission Church enduring after 186 years
Descendants of the original church members continue to worship, have weddings and funerals at the Old Baptist Mission Church in Adair County. About 40 members meet there today. LUKE WILLIAMS
WESTVILLE, Okla. – Every Sunday morning since 1888 at precisely 10 a.m. the steeple bell at the Old Baptist Mission Church is heard around Adair County ringing, signaling the start of worship services.
For much of the 20th century the small church was noted for its month-long revivals and meetings. Today the 40 members continue meeting in the white church with a modest steeple, just off U.S. 59 between Westville and Watts.
“It’s a pretty popular (job) to ring the bill,” Rev. Tim Bailey, church pastor, said. “A cord pulls the steeple bell to make it ring.”
The church is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of the Ozarks, and Bailey has served as its pastor for nine years. Over the past century, the church has gone through phases of remodeling, but the original church contains the same sanctuary.
“We mostly do maintenance,” Bailey said of work done on the church. “We avoid changing the structure (of the church). There are a lot of people that love the church and don’t want to see it changed.”
The congregation was organized in 1830 and came to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears where they continued holding services, Jack Baker, Goingsnake District Heritage Association president and Tribal Councilor, said. “It is quite likely the oldest church in Oklahoma that continues to meet. Other churches were founded earlier than the Baptist Mission Church, but they no longer meet.”
Descendants of the original church members continue to worship, have weddings and funerals at the little white church. It was also the site of a family reunion for the descendants of Jesse Bushyhead, a Cherokee minister and Cherokee Nation chief justice.
Baker said it is believed Lilly Carson has the distinction of attending the church the longest, when she was honored in 1989 for being a member for 70 years. She since has died.
“A church is not a building, it’s the people,” Baker said.
Luke Williams, an Old Baptist Mission Church member, echoed that sentiment saying the present church building is not the original church building.
The church met informally for services following their arrival in the area in February 1839, he said. It was not until 1842 that Baptist missionary Evan Jones established a formal church and served as its first pastor, Williams said.
That church, built with bricks, was destroyed during the Civil War, said Williams, who is also the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association’s vice president.
After the fire, the church members remained and held services. With a $615 loan from the American Baptist Home Mission Society of New York the current church was built in 1888, he said.
“Due to the wording of the sign over the church door, many people falsely believe that the actual church building including the lumber, nails and windows was carried during the Cherokees’ forced removal during the winter of 1838-1839,” Williams said.
This church building did not travel the Trail of Tears – its members did, he said.
“That point is often misunderstood by visitors who read the church sign,” Williams said.
The early church congregation consisted of Cherokees who endured the removal and settled in what is now Oklahoma, Williams said.
“The area surrounding Baptist Mission was settled by more mixed bloods than full bloods,” Williams said. “The Baptist Mission Church contained a surprisingly heterogeneous mixture of members: mixed bloods, full bloods, black slaves and whites.”
ᎢᎪᏗᎢ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – ᎤᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᎬᎢ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏔᏁᎬᎢ 1888 ᏂᏗᎬᏓᎴᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᎯᏳ 10 a.m ᎠᏟᎠᎵᏒᎢ ᏑᎾᎴᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎭᎸᏂ ᎤᏃᏴᎬᎢ ᎠᏛᎪᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎤᏪᏘ ᏗᎾᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ, ᏕᎦᏃᏣᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᎾᎴᏅᏗᎢ ᏗᎦᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ.
ᏭᎪᏛᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ 20th ᏱᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏍᏗᎢ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏃᏟᎩ ᎨᏒᎢ ᏏᏅᏓ- ᏱᎪᎯᏓ ᏓᏂᎳᏫᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎬᎢ. ᎪᎯ ᎢᎦᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ 40 ᎾᏂᎠ ᎠᏁᎳ ᏂᎬᏂᎯᎵᏐᎢ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎤᏁᎦ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎦᏚᎢ ᎠᏝᎭ ᎤᎭᎸᏂ ᎫᏢᏛᎢ, U.S. ᎠᏠᏒᏊ 59 ᎢᎪᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏩᏗᏏᎢ ᏥᏕᎦᎫᎭ ᎠᏰᏟ.
“ᎢᎦᏃ ᎦᎸᏉᏗ (ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗᎢ ) ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏃᏴᎵᏍᏗᎢ ᎤᎭᎸᏂ,” ᎠᎵᏣᏙᎲᏍᎩᏃ Tim Bailey, ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᏗᎦᏘᏱ, ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏍᏕᏱᏗ ᎦᏌᏁᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏳᏃᏴᎵ ᎤᎭᎸᏂ.”
ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎢᏧᎳ ᏚᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎰᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮎ ᏗᎾᏓᏬᏍᎩ Missionary Association of the Ozarks, ᎠᎴ Bailey ᏧᏁᎳ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏂᏓᎦᏘᏲᎢ. ᎯᎠᏃ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏥᏛᎦᎶᎯ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎯᎸᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏘ ᎤᏃᏢᎯᏌᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎬᏩᏍᏙᎢ ᎤᎾᎵᏣᏗᎢ.
“ᏭᎪᏛᏃ ᏍᏗᏊ ᎦᎷᎳᎾᎥᎢ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎾᏅᏁᎰᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Bailey ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎦᎷᎳᎾᎥᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ. “ ᎥᏝ ᏲᎦᏕᏯᏙᏔᏃᎢ ᎠᏁᎬᏍᏛᎢ ( ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ). ᎤᏂᏣᏘᏃ ᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎨᏳᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎥᏝᏃ ᏳᎾᏚᎵᎠ ᎤᏂᎪᏩᏛᏗᎢ ᎦᏁᏟᏴᏓ.”
ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏗᏂᎳᏫᏥᏙᎯ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᏅᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ 1830 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎷᏤᎢ ᏴᏫᏯᏍᏛᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ ᏥᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎥᎿᏃ ᏂᎬᏂᎯᎵᏐᎢ ᏓᏂᎳᏫᎬᎢ, Jack Baker, ᎢᎾᏓᎠᎾᎢ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ Heritage Association ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᎳᏫᎩ, ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏩᎦᏴᎵᏴᎢ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏓᏁᎳ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎬᏯᎢᏐᎢ ᏓᏂᎳᏫᎬᎢ. ᏗᏐᎢᏃ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᏚᏙᏢᎭ ᏓᎦᏴᎵ ᎠᏏᏅ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎾᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎥᏝ ᏃᏊ ᏱᏚᏂᎳᏫᏦᎢ.”
ᎢᎬᏱᏃ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏨᎢ ᏂᏓᏳᎾᏓᎴᏅᎢ ᎠᏁᎳ ᏂᎬᏂᎯᎵᏊ ᏓᏂᎳᏫᎬᎢ, ᏕᎨᎦᏨᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎾᎵᏨᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎤᏁᎦ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ. ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎤᏙᏢᎭ ᎠᏂᏏᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᏧᎾᏠᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮎ Jesse Bushyhead ᏂᏓᏳᎾᏓᎴᏅᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᎵᏣᏙᎲᏍᎩ ᎨᎲᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᎯ ᏗᎫᎪᏗᏍᎩ.
Baker Z ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏃᎯᏳᏐᎢ Ꮎ Lilly Carson ᎾᏍᎩ ᏩᎪᎯᎸᎢ ᏂᏗᎬᎳᏫᏥᏙᎲᎢ, ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏣᏂᎸᏉᏗᎲᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ 1989 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ 70 ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᎳ ᏂᎨᎰᎢ. ᎥᏝᏃ ᎾᏊ ᏰᎭ.
“ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᏃ ᎥᏝ ᎠᏓᏁᎸᏊ ᏱᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩᏍᎩᏂ ᏴᏫ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᏐᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Baker.
Luke Williams, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎦᏴᎵ ᏗᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎨᎳ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏃᎮᏛ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎪᎯᏴᏥᎩ ᏣᏓᏁᎳ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎥᏝᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᎤᎾᏁᏍᎨᏛ ᏱᎩ.
ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏁᎳ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎦᎢ ᎣᏂ ᎢᎬᏩᏂᎷᏨᎢ ᎠᏂ ᎡᏍᎦᏂ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎧᎦᎵ 1839 ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. 1842 Ꮓ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᎾᏃ ᏗᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᎠᏥᏅᏏᏛ Evan Jones ᎤᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᏧᏂᎾᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏱᏃ ᏗᎦᏘᏱ ᎨᏒᎩ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Williams.
ᎾᏍᎩᏍᎩᏂ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ, ᏗᎬᏔᏅᎢ ᎬᏗ ᎠᏁᎬᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏴᏢᏃ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎦᎾᏩ ᏓᎿᏩ ᏣᎾᏟᎲᎢ ᎤᏂᏲᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Williams, ᎾᏍᎩᏊ Ꮎ ᏥᎩ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎶ ᎢᏍᎦᏚᎩ Historical ᎠᎴ Genealogical ᏔᎵᏁ ᎠᏓᎴᏁ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ.
ᎤᎪᎾᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏁᎳ ᏂᎬᏂᎯᎵᏐᎢ ᏓᏂᎳᏫᎬᎢ. $615 ᏕᎨᎦᏙᎳᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Ꮎ ᏥᎩ ᎠᎹᏰᏟ ᏗᎾᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ ᏄᏯᎩ ᎠᏁᎭ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎾᏊ ᏣᏓᏁᎳ 1888 ᏥᎨᏒ ᎤᎾᏁᏍᎨᎲᎢ.
“ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎭ ᏧᏂᏫᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᏍᏚᏗ ᎬᏙᏌᏛᎢ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏥᎪᏪᎳᎾᎢ, ᎤᏂᏣᏘ ᏴᏫ ᎰᏩ ᎠᏁᎵᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᏣᏓᏁᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏩᏠᏯᏍᏗ ᏗᏯᏖᎾ, ᏴᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᏦᎳᏂ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎬᏂᏰᎿᎢ ᏥᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ ᎪᎳ 1838-1839 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Williams.
ᎯᎠᏃ ᏧᏂᏫᎳᏍᏗ ᏣᏓᏁᎳ ᎥᏝ ᏥᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏳᏂᏲᏢᏁᎢ - ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᏎᎢ ᏥᏧᎾᏂᎩᏎᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᎠᎾᏓᏩᏛᎯᏙᎯᏃ ᎤᏂᎵᏓᏍᏗᎰᎢ ᏄᏍᏛ ᏥᎪᏪᎳ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᏍᏚᏗ ᎬᏙᏌᏛᎢ ᎦᎸᎳᏗᏢᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Williams.
ᎡᏘᏴᏃ ᏣᏁᎲᎢ ᏗᏂᎳᏫᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩᏃ ᎨᏒᎩ ᏥᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏁᏅᏒᎢᏃ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎠᎯᏴᏥ ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Williams.
“ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏗᎾᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗ ᎬᏩᏚᏫᏛ ᏴᏫ ᏄᎾᏛᏅᎢ ᎤᏂᎪᏛᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᎾᎬᎭᏟ, ᎠᏏᏅ ᎠᏂᎧᎵ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎨᏒᎢ,” Williams Z ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏗᎾᏓᏬᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᎳᏫᏍᏗᎢ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅᏓᏃ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎨᏒᎩ: ᎤᎾᎬᎭᏟ, ᎠᏂᎧᎵ, ᎠᏂᎬᎿᎨᎢ ᏗᎨᏥᎾᏝᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏁᎦ.