Indian Pioneer Papers - Index
Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: June 22, 1937
Name: E. H. Rishel (Ellen Rishel wife)
Post Office: 1313 North East 14, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: March 19, 1853
Place of Birth: Stevenson County, Illinois
Father: Benj. Rishel
Place of Birth: Darrville, Pennsylvania
Information on father:
Mother: Sarah Rishel
Place of Birth: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
Information on mother: Never came to Oklahoma, Ellen (Middlekugh) Rishel
Field Worker: Amelia F. Harris
Interview # 4519
My wife and I were sent by the "American Baptist Home Mission" of Illinois to Tullahasse Mission. This Mission was nine miles Northwest of Muskogee and was a mission for the Creek freedmen, who were Negroes.
The American Baptist Mission of Illinois made a contract with the Creek Government to feed, clothe, teach, and furnish books for fifty freedmen at $50.00 per child, and here we had a terrible struggle trying to made "ends meet"; as it was a much bigger job to feed and clothe fifty strong healthy children than we had anticipated. Had it not been for the assistance given us by the New England States and especially by the citizens of the city of Boston who sent us boxes and barrels of clothing and school books we would not have fared as well as we did.
Our main school buildings were constructed of pine frames; our dormitories were built of rough boxing and the kitchen and dining rooms were of logs chinked up with mud; but they were not cold as we burned wood stoves and had kerosene lamps.
We made and used tallow candles for the dormitories. The dormitories and beds were terribly infested with bed bugs, as our furniture was made of wood and every week we went over the beds with kerosene.
We put this kerosene in a bottle with a cork stopper and in this cork stopper we stuck a quill and by this method we could get to the small cracks and keep the bedbugs pretty well stamped out.
The girls did the housework and the boys the farm work and we were very systematic and ran the work on schedule time.
We rang a bell to rise, throw the covers back - for the beds to air, then the children dressed, combed or wrapped their hair (remember these were Negro children), then they tidied up their rooms and when the next bell rang at seven thirty, breakfast was ready.
We also had a schedule for planning meals - twelve girls for every two weeks - for the morning meal; three made the biscuits, one made the coffee, two fried the bacon, three got the tables ready.
We had white cotton tablecloths and every child had a napkin. These napkins were tied with different colored strings to tell them apart.
Three girls got the milk, syrup and butter; we bought butter by the firkin and at eight thirty A.M. every body was supposed to be ready to go to school, which lasted until twelve o'clock.
Then we had a noon meal of cornbread, meat, potatoes, onions and a big pot of beans, either dried or green and peas. We had our big meal or dinner at noon; our supper was not so heavy as for supper we ate left overs with light rolls, butter and syrup.
By changing these girls every two weeks we taught every girl how to cook and wait on the table. Saturday was mending day.
We never had but one hour of school for the girls in the afternoon from one to two. The boys were taught from two to six and were taught everything there was to know about a farm, its planting and care. We had two hundred acres of farmland.
The girls were taught to sew, make dresses, pants and shirts and the household linens. The twelve girls usually made the gardens and gathered vegetables for the meals; they would always sing some Negro song as they picked beans by the tubs full.
We had wonderful gardens in this valley land and we canned and dried what vegetables we could and we banked up sweet potatoes and turnips and some neighbors would donate a barrel of molasses and we tied up onions by the bushel to the rafters of the smoke house and barn.
We raised and cured our own meat and we bought wild turkeys from the Indians at 50 cents each. We bought venison at $1.00 for half a deer, and beef at 4 cents per pound, already butchered. The businessmen of Muskogee visited our school and were amazed at the progress and systematic way in which each child did his or her work.
The Verdigris, the Arkansas and the Grand Rivers met near the Mission and the Negroes called this place the "Pint" and liked to go there to fish as in those days fish were plentiful and about three times a week we would serve fish caught by our boys.
In the summer time these boys would build brush arbors for girls to work under and we had work tables with clapboard tops and oak legs crossed to make them sturdy and here the girls prepared the vegetables and fruit for cooking and canning and we scrubbed these tables daily with wood ashes and kept them white.
Our dormitory and schoolroom floors were scrubbed in like manner once a week.
These children could speak the Creek Indian language much better than they could speak English but they were apt pupils and learned fast to speak, read and sing in English. The children all sang well. These children were not very unruly but when they were I punished them by depriving them of some privilege.
I had one boy who persisted in fighting until finally I took him into my office and said "Edward, my punishment does not have any effect on you and I will be forced to send you home." He said, "If you whip, I be good all time." I tried whipping him and it worked.
After the second year of our school the Creek Government made a new contract for us to take fifty more children at $50.00 for each child per year and they built more dormitories and enlarged the schoolroom.
Every Sunday we had Sunday school in the Auditorium and Prayer Meeting every Wednesday night.
We had these children memorize certain psalms and parts of the different book of the Bible and then we would go to preaching at a church house about a mile and a half away from us. The preacher would preach in English and would have an interpreter to translate his sermons into the Creek language.
In 1891 the Creek Government decided to try a Negro superintendent. I said "All right", but an influential Negro came to me and said if I would pay him $50.00 he would fix it so I could stay on. (Politics played a part in Government affairs away back there.) I replied that I would not do it and said that if four years of service was not recommendation enough I did not want to stay. This was in January 1891.
I was then offered a good position by J. G. Murrow at Atoka to supervise the Atoka Baptist Academy, a boarding school for Choctaw children, maintained solely by donations. I took this position. We had about twenty children at first but they kept coming as long as we would take them.
We were sorely pressed many times but the New England states helped a great deal here with donations of clothing, shoes and books. There was not any livestock at this school and one kind citizen donated a cow, another gave us some pigs and D. N. Robb donated two young mules unbroken and each year our cows and sow pigs increased and helped greatly in our upkeep.
We used wood for fuel as it was plentiful near Atoka and the boys would cut and haul twenty and thirty loads before they started sawing and ricking it up after school hours.
I often look back and wonder how we managed on so little.
In October 1897, we made a contract with the Choctaw Government whereby they agreed to pay us $110.00 per year for each Choctaw child. We then progressed rapidly and conducted a mixed day school and let the whites and Indians of Atoka come to our school, by paying a tuition of $2.00 per month.
We had a music teacher for the girls and I (Mr. Rishel) taught these children to sing and some had beautiful voices.
I had an opportunity to buy some band instruments cheap, which I did and I then hired an instructor and we had an orchestra of twelve pieces, played by twelve Choctaw boys. We were proud of those boys and our band was an asset to Atoka and when Teddy Roosevelt came through, we were called on to furnish the music, which we did.
We gave these boys training in manual labor. We first had a circular saw, run by horse power; later, we got a gasoline engine and geared to this engine was some shafting from a discarded gin. This contrivance gave us power for three different turning lathes and a small circular saw.
With this equipment we ripped up boards, made fancy tables, book shelves, magazine racks, fancy goblets, vases, gavels, and what-nots of all kinds and besides we cut up all of our wood; and we also had a printing office of the hand set type, and we taught the boys how to print and publish a paper, The Academy News, Atoka, Indian Territory, and they also printed our programs and some of the boys became very proficient, and Solomon J. Homer, who was a brilliant Choctaw Attorney, took one of our boys, Lee Folsom, to McAlester with him to assist in printing the laws of the Chickasaw tribe.
We were just getting ourselves established and were ready to expand in many different ways when the directors thought it best to move the school to Unchuka on a farm of three sections, nine miles North and East of Coalgate.
I supervised this school for sixteen years just as I had done at Atoka, only on a larger scale.
We did the best we could for these children always and I tried to instill in their minds the maxim, that honesty is the best policy.
Many boys and girls who were educated at our school are today prominent citizens and assets to any community. Chas. Crumpton made a fine schoolteacher. He was a full blood Choctaw.
Sallie and Frances Williams, full blood Choctaws, were among our students. Sallie married a ranchman and moved to Tuttle.
Mary Baker, daughter of a prominent Choctaw Baptist Minister, left our school to teach. She taught for one year and then was married to J. James, a cattleman.
Two others of our students were Martha and Mose Downing. Martha was married to Dr. LeRoy Long, a prominent physician of Oklahoma City. Mose is a progressive farmer at Caddo.
Lee Folsom, a full blood Choctaw, became a printer and is now working for the "Atoka Citizen."
Miss Muriel Wright, one half Choctaw, is a writer of history.
We never could have accomplished what we did, except for the hearty cooperation of the Atoka citizens and the loyalty of our older pupils who finished school and entered private industries. Their sympathy and encouraging letters were a great help to us.
In the Creek Nation, a mile and a half to the Southwest of Tullahassee Mission there was a neighborhood of Creek Freedmen that had been known for years as Sodom, and people who knew thought the name appropriate.
We arranged with Women's Baptist Home Mission Society, with headquarters in Chicago, to send a graduate of the Chicago Baptist Training School to make her home with us and devote her time to the needy neighborhoods within reach of the Mission. She devoted a part of her time to Sodom with gratifying results. The name was soon changed from Sodom to Pleasant Grove.
This school later merged with the Bacone School now at Muskogee.
After twenty-four years of service we resigned from the work to take a much needed rest and bought our present home here in Oklahoma City.
Transcribed for OKGenWeb by Lola Crane firstname.lastname@example.org