Sunday, October 13, 2019

“I Saw There the Sons of a Cherokee Regulus”

The Chief Vann House
by Denise Weimer
With a heart for missions, the Moravian Church spread from Germany to America. At the turn of the nineteenth century, workers from Salem, North Carolina, founded a mission school on the plantation of Cherokee Chief James Vann (now Northwest Georgia). In March, 1802, the Springplace school opened with only a few pupils, including Vann’s youngest daughter Sally and her cousin. Others soon followed, including Sally’s brother Joseph and sons of other chiefs. Children of Vann’s overseers, who were often his cousins, also attended. In 1806, three scholars boarded with the missionaries, while five stayed in the home of Chief Vann.

The missionaries found it almost impossible to learn the Cherokee language. In May, 1807, they began instruction in writing English. By August 1810, the scholars had advanced in arithmetic as far as the Rule of Three and made further progress in reading, grammar, and writing; learned by heart a bit of sacred history; and studied the basics of geography. 

Perhaps the school’s most famous student was Buck Watie, son of David Oowatie and mixed-blood Susanna. Buck went to Springplace in 1811 or 1812. The missionaries described him as trusting and gentle. He continued his education at the Congregationalist Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. There he became the mentee of philanthropist Dr. Elias Boudinot, who gave him his name. Both Watie/Boudinot and fellow scholar John Ridge married local white Congregationalist girls, creating scandals. They took their brides back to the Cherokee Nation. In 1828, Watie/Boudinot and missionary Samuel Worcester printed the first Cherokee newspaper.
Elias Boudinot/Buck Watie

A Catholic Abbe wrote of the school: “I there saw the sons of a Cherokee Regulus learning their lesson, and reading their New Testament in the morning, and drawing and painting in the afternoon, though to be sure, in a very Cherokee style; and assisting Mrs. Gambold in her household work or Mr. Gambold in planting corn.”

Abraham Steiner visited from Salem in October 1819. He enjoined, “Let us, in spirit, live a day at Springplace. In the morning, when all are up and dressed … we meet for family prayer, all kneeling. After breakfast school begins, remaining in session till dinner. Several hours' intermission are followed by school from three o'clock until toward evening. In the hours of intermission the scholars either help in the garden and field, chop wood, etc., or, when no work is pressing, take exercise together; go out with their blow-guns — tubes of cane, 7 or 8 feet in length, fitted with arrows which are blown out — or bows and arrows, to shoot birds and squirrels. After supper is evening-song and prayer and early to bed. Mrs. Gambold does all the teaching except the class for religious instruction which is taught by Mr. Gambold. The school opens and closes with song.”

A sketch artist's depiction of the Springplace mission
In 1819, it was decided to accept only male pupils. The message of the Gospel spread along with the esteem of the school. The window before the Trail of Tears closed soon after, but the fragrance of Springplace remained.

In The Witness Tree, my novel released last month, Clarissa Kliest leaves the security of Salem for a marriage of convenience and an unexpectedly dangerous assignment in the Cherokee Nation. (The Witness Tree on Amazon)

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for Smitten Historical Romance imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. Her contemporary romance, Fall Flip, also released last month with Candlelight Romance. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:

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