August 4, 2018 10:05:18 PM
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dine with one of the principal chiefs of the Choctaw Nation in 1822? The experience was described by a Mr. Hooper, a missionary at Mayhew, in a September 19, 1822, letter published in The Christian Mirror of Portland, Maine. Hooper was working at the Choctaw Mission school at Mayhew between present day Starkville and West Point.
On the morning of July, 23, 1822, he set out from Mayhew for the house of the Choctaw "King." The king he referred to was Moshulitubbee. He was one of the three principal chiefs of the Choctaw Nation and had two houses in what is now Noxubee County, one near Brooksville and the other at Mashulaville. Hooper wrote that after setting out from Mayhew, he proceeded four or five miles and stopped at an Indian's house where he obtained directions.
He continued: "I then ascertained my course, and proceeded onward; sometimes traveling in a path, at other times striking through the pathless forests and prairies. ... It was most delightful after traveling, sometimes 4 or 5 miles through woods, to behold suddenly opening before me, the most charming landscapes, adorned with a luxuriant herbage. It seemed strikingly to represent a Christian pilgrim, who having wandered through the wilderness of this world, opens his eyes on the fields of immortal glory, and traverses the paradise of God.
"I found three houses, or rather neighborhoods, during the first 20 miles and arrived at the king's residence at 4 o'clock, P.M. The king recognized my countenance, hastened to meet me. Taking me by the hand, he said, in broken English, "come into the house." Having introduced me to the queen, he directed his interpreter (a slave) to say to me, "we are friends; you must tarry with me all night. I will go with you a part of the way tomorrow.
"The king's house has three apartments. In front is a piazza about 10 feet by 25. The piazza is floored with plank. After accomplishing some business with the king we walked out to view his fields, flocks and herds. He gave orders to one of his sons and some laborers to kill an ox. We then waked into the piazza and passed an hour in miscellaneous conversation. The king remarked that a big council had been recently holden at his house, and no whiskey was drank on the occasion. The interpreter at length informed us that supper was ready.
"On entering the room I was not a little surprised to see a table set in so much order. A neat linen was spread over the table, and on it was some of the fatted ox, well cooked. Also sweet potatoes, corn bread, imported tea, and wild honey. The only thing that was Choctaw was a large native bowl of tomfullah, with two spoons made of the horns of a buffalo.
"Having seated ourselves, the king, through his interpreter, desired me to ask a blessing. I remarked at the table that it gave me much pleasure that the great Spirit had so bountifully rewarded the labour of his hands. This led him to ask whether I could tell him where the first seed corn came from. ... Before rising from the table, he bowed toward me to return thanks. While the queen and young children were supping, the king at my request, related some of the traditions of his fathers, among which was the following: 'There was once a great rain, which caused the waters to rise above the hills and mountains. The whole race of men, with the exception of one family, was drowned. This family having a big boat, floated on the waters, and thus were preserved from the general destruction. The waters at length subsiding, the family came out of the big boat, on to the dry ground.'"
Hooper further said of the next morning: "After having some conversation with the slaves about eternal things, I took leave of the queen, and the dear little boys who are my pupils. The king and an adult son accompanied me 15 miles to Major Pitchlynn's."
Carolyn Kaye and I had been researching Choctaw stickball in the 1820s when we found this, and as often happens, changed the direction of our research.
Next Saturday at my home, the Ole Homestead at 302 College St., Columbus, Lee Gibson of Starkville, one of my favorite artist, will have her Art for EB benefit art sale to help raise money to find a cure for EB, a deadly skin condition that affects children. Come by and enjoy great art on sale for a worthy cause.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]
1. Roses and thorns: 11/11/18 ROSES & THORNS
2. Possumhaw: 'Twas a dark and stormy night LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Editorial cartoon 11/11/18 NATIONAL COLUMNS
4. Other Editors 11-12-18 NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Leonard Pitts Jr.: What journalists do NATIONAL COLUMNS