Title: Interview with David Weaver (September 6, 1973)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007529/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with David Weaver (September 6, 1973)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: September 6, 1973
Spatial Coverage: Creek County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007529
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Creek County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: CRK 55

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Full Text


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David Weaver (W)

Interviewer: J. Paredes ()
September 6, 1973

Typed by: P. F. Williams

I: The date of today is September the 6th, 1973, and I'm

talking with Mr. David Weaver, who began the Mennonite

work in the Creek Indian Community and is here for a

visit in Poorch and currently is working with the

Choctaw Indians in Mississippi. Mr. Weaver, if you

could just begin by talking about how you came upon

this community and when you first came here and how

you began your work.

W: All right. In 1950, I was approached by some of our

church leaders in Pennsylvania about need of personnel

in south Alabama to help with some new programs, mission

programs, in the Atmore, Alabama, area. We yd_6__A_

to this and moved to north of Atmore, northwest of

Atmore to the Ewil's farm in another part of 1950.

Our work there was to help along with the mission

church in Freemanville. And after we're living in

this area for a year, we decided to sell our property

in Pennsylvania and try to buy a small farm here in

this part of the county. The only farm, small farm,

available to us at that time was a farm that Mr. King

CRK 55A 2

had for sale which happened to be right in the middle

of the Poorch Indian Community. This community some-

times was called _Uc_ _ecs-- And so we

finally purchased that farm and moved there, not with

any idea of working with the Indian-people, but rather

continue our work with the Freemanville congregation.

But we weren't living there very long until two of

the Indian women from the community came to our house

and asked if we wouldn't be willing to start a Sunday

school for them, their families and some other families

that were interested in this kind of thing.

I: Who were those two women?

W: Well, one was Mrs. Martin here, and her sister, Mrs.

Sells, Roberta Sells. Now, we didn't know about one

factor of this until sometime after we lived here and

became better acquainted. Actually after we had started

the church, Sunday school and church program there.

Apparently there were some families in the community

that were desirous of some kind of a religious program
kt^M;e Wt- 1(5 Lo11 "6p r
for the- families andnwere not able to find the fellow-

ship in the only other available congregation in the

community. And I understood from them later on that

they had gotten together and prayed together that God

CRK 55A 3

would send somebody in to help them. Then, when we

moved in they felt it was their answer, that God ikem

answered their prayers. So we gave consideration to

this. First started with having Bible studies in the

homes, Indian homes. And this thing grew until we

finally decided to move in our home, we had able to

open two rooms into one. And we kept that going in

the summer of...up to the summer of '53. We-had

seventy attending in our home. Then we planned for

a summer vacation Bible school and got permission to

use the Indian schoolhouse and that was in the latter

part of July of 1953. We had the very interesting

Bible school, well-attended by...from the whole com-

munity. I believe that we had up to around a hundred

and fifty people coming to Bible school, average

attendance of a hundred and twenty to thirty people.

And then parents of the committee were urging to move

ahead into a regular mission church program, and so

we decided to continue with Sunday school at the school-

house and that was the first Sunday in August. I

believe it was August 3, 1953 we had our first Sunday

school in the schoolhouse. We couldn't continue using

CRK 55A 4

the -schoolhouse very long. They were getting ready

for school term. So we moved over to our home and

immediately built a two-car garage with two rooms

on the end, and we used that for about two years, us

preaching and Sunday school work there. And then

moved ahead and built the churchhouse in 1956. And

moved in there then.

I: There-s one that now called Poorch Community Chapel.

W: That's the one there. That's right. You asked some

questions. You asked how I learned to know about the

Indian people. I didn't know there was any Indian

people here until I moved here working at Freemanville

and then, in the interim of time there the first year,

I believe we made a contact with the older couple.

They're both dead now, Margie and Ed McGhee lived along

this gravel road here. And we stopped there one

Sunday-afternoon. They were sitting on the porch. We

stopped and chatted with them and I was really impressed

with the old couple. Very friendly and I guess, I

think that's where we first had our first Bible study--

"in their home.

I: And was this before or after you bought the King farm?

CRK 55A 5

W: That was before we bought the King farm. But we didn't

start Bible study in their home, then, until after we

had moved here. We bought the King farm in the early

part of 1953, I believe it was.

I: I've heard some people mention that at one time there

were Mennonite services in a tent. Is that correct?

W: Yes. The year before the Bible school in the school-

house, we erected a tent and had Bible school. But I

must say that at that time response was very poor. I

think the people didn't know who we were and were rather

suspicious as to what our aims and goals were.

I: Was this before or after Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Sells

came to you?

W: That was before.

I: That was before?

W: Before. A year before that.

I: Why had you decided before that to put up the tent and

start services?

W: Well, see the policy of the mission evangelism committee

of our denomination was that we should go into any com-

munity where there are no churches, set up a tent, and

see what the interests of the people are. This led into

a lot of different communities which they may have had

CRK 55A 6

Bible school in a tent or schoolhouse for one or two

summers and the people weren't interested in this kind

of timing, so we just dropped it. Other places 0es

built it up into a congregation. There's

about a dozen different Mennonite churches in the state

of Alabama --of course, there's some few across the

Florida line--which is called the Alabama District

which all developed from this type of a program as

we did here. But the interest was not very good in

the year in the tent. But then, by the time we had

moved here and learned to know the people, communicate

with them, this changed completely from maybe twenty

people coming to Bible school in the tent, a year later

a hundred and fifty came, see. It made the difference

of learning to know the people.

I: Let me ask you a few quick questions. Was your work

in Freemanville originally intended to work with the

black people of Freemanville or the white people?

W: The white people.

I: White people.

W: Primarily the poorer class whites. The Ewings' farm

was sharecropper, large...

I: At that time it still was?

CRK 55A 7

W: Yeah, still was. See, we were asked to move in that

area and we were moved back on the Ewings' farm. We

leased a parcel of ground, a hundred acres, and farmed

ourselves to make our own living. We're not supported

by the church, we made our own living. But the six

or eight families living on that farm, all the rest

of them were sharecroppers.

I: Were they Indians or what?

W: White sharecroppers.

I: White sharecroppers.

W: And these were the ones that I was bringing to church,

working with them in that area, and Brother

was working in the Freemanville and Atmore area. And

this emerged into a congregation. And of course, then

we moved here and started our work up here.

I: Let me ask you, when you were working in Ir b e- ,

how much participation did you get from the Indian

people living over in what they call Fort Switch and

Hog Fort?

W: Not too much. We had some in the early stages, but as

the years went by, it became less and we put our thrust

into this community here.

I: Did you actively go over there trying to work with the

people in those areas?

CRK 55A 8

W: I did, -Za-the first&JI ti-i through all these

communities. And of course, there were active churches

in those areas and it's always been our policy not to try

to proselyte, take people away from their churches.

We would visit with those that were active members,

enjoy the fellowship together, share together, and many

times they'd call me even to come over and help their

problems, but I'd never...those that were active in

churches, we encouraged them to continue in their

churches, but those that were not going to church any-

where we would try to help them meet their spiritual


I: How long did stay here before you i and what were the

circumstances of your leaving here?

W: Well, the reason for leaving here was that, I'm not

quite sure what year it was that the Baptist church

from town, First Baptist Church, erected a tent over

in the other community and got an Indian preacher from

Mississippi to come and have meetings. And that's the

first I knew there was Indians in Mississippi. And it's

the first time Indians here knew there was Indians in

Mississippi! And so through that, later on traveling

through Mississippi, I stopped in and checked in with

the Choctaw Indian Agency headquarters in Philadelphia,

CRK 55A 9

Bureau of Indian Affairs office.

I: Excuse me just a minute, but it would be a great help

to me if you could sort of guess more of less what

time period when that tent did get put up in Fort


W: Um, I'd say about '57, 1957.

I: And that was the First Baptist Church in Atmore.

W: Atmore/put that tent up. And the evangelist, Indian

evangelist's name was Clay Gibson. And he mentioned

a little bit about the plight of their people there,

and Ja stirred the interest of the Indian people here

in our congregation. Why shouldn't we go over there

and see what our Indian people over there, their living

style, what are their needs, and so on. So I took ti-s- A

station wagon loaded with folks here, Mr. and Mrs. Martin,
#RDU \
and I believe Brian and Clara-ek4-i.--he's no longer

living--and one or two others. And we went and made a

tour of the various reservations and they really were

shocked at how poor and primitive these people are

living. And they began to push me pretty hard to get

over there, get something started over there. Because

the idea was that we appeal to our mission board up

in the northeast and let them send someone in there

CRK 55A 10

and get started. But this never developed, so in 1958,

well, '57 we tried. We madecontact in February of

'57. So it would have been '56 when the Indian preacher

was over here.- l bI c {( >i.

'57, February, we went over there and looked at the

various reservations. We tried to...well, the chairman

of the Choctaw Indian Agency told us that he dare not,

being a federal employee, advise us as to mission and

church work. But he said if you want to see some of

the most primitive and poor Indians, go to Neshobaville.

And so we went out there and very poor. And

so there's an old chief had control of that community,

Cameron Wesley, Chief Cameron Wesley. And he was very

friendly. He was very happy to meet these Indian people

from Alabama. e--was a great joy to him because he

didn't know there were overhere. So he then...well,

I asked him, I said, "Could we come and have a Bible

school with your people sometime?" And he finally

said, "Well, maybe so. We'll try and work it out."

But every time I'd write to him he'd write back and

say, "No, can't have this." And I found out what it

was. lHe a+- some of the other older IndiarS9did not

CRK 55A 11

want anything to do with the white man's religion.

They don't want the white man's Bible. They had

their own tradition, legends that they were holding

on to, promoting among the younger Indians of that

time. And so it was in 1958 that I went back over

with a fellow helper, Paul Dagin, and visited with

the old chief. When we came there he was very happy

to see us because he was planning a big Indian meeting

and he wanted us to bring the Creek Indians over for

his big meeting. And so, I finally put it this way

to him, "All right, chief. I'll bring the Creek

Indians if you let us come and have a Bible school

a week before your big meeting that Sunday." And

that's what broke the ice. And he finally said,

W all right /We'll let you do that." And we

got started g&AA Ite aC^Phy t 4 W rLt/ .

And then, of course, we tried to find someone to move

in to take over the place there as a missionarybut

it was impossible to find. The mission board asked

us if we would do it, go over and start the work there.

So we moved there in 1959. June of 1959.

I: I'll come back there in just a moment. What was the

CRK 55A 12

nature of the meeting they were having there?

W: All right, this was a thing that surprised us. During

that week in visiting in the Indian homes over there,

the Choctaw people, they were talking about their plans,

asking about their plans for Sunday. Well, "We make

cry." Well, we didn't knowA We thought maybe it was

a term they used for some kind of food they prepare.

So that Sunday morning when I got to the chief's house,

we had the Bible school at the chief's house, rather,/

his son's house right here by his own house, he came

to me, he said, "You have your meeting first then we

have ours." And so we had just the regular preaching

service. People had settled on the porch and

out in the yard and I stood out in the yard and

preached to them. But I noticed while I was preaching

some of the Indians were walking around with quilts

folded neatly hanging over their arms. And while

I was preaching a truckload of Indians pulls up there

and they get off and the women were carrying quilts.

And so after we-were through, the old chief got out in

the yard and made a speech. They used their Choctaw

language which I don't understand. Made a long speech,

CRK 55A 13

and while he was speaking I noticed 2P 'Z '

-PC Vn C out in the yard, middle of the yard, there

were three planks on blocks. And when he was speaking

to the group, they started...the women started first

assembling to these blocks. And as many as could sit

on these planks sat on them and the others sat around

them on the ground. And a few of the men on the outer

circle of this group. And then all of a sudden they

unfolded these quilts and they covered themselves com-

pletely over--as many as had quilts, some didn't have

quilts--but they all sat there and they literally cried.

They wailed. And Benny, that's the chief's son, was

sitting on the porch with me and I just...I'll tell you,

I couldn't figure what was going on, you know. I said,

"Benny, what is this?" "Well," he said, "this is our

cry." I said, "Well, what's it all about?" "It's our

funeral." Then he explained his daddy is a medicine

man for the tribe and some woman from down on the reser-

vation was brought to their house and he doctored on

her. She died there. So they buried her and now they

were having their funeral. And then, studying back and

doing some research on their history, I found out that

this was a custom of the tribe, and years ago before the

CRK 55A 14

white man came that if somebody died, they were for-

bidden to shed any tears or show any sign of grief at

the burial. They just sent the runners out across their

Indian country and then they'd come together a& a cer-

tain day, and then they'd have their cry. And this is

a carryover.of that thing, that's what 4&ie W&Ut kolu'

I: Who were some of the Creek Indians that you took along

with you over there?

W: Uh, well, let's see. Brian and Clara Rolin. I believe

Willis McGhee and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Martin. I

believe there's six of them had been along to that meeting.

I: What was their reaction to the cry?

W: Well, same as mine. They were just astonished, you know.

Andlof course, looking back on the Creek tribe, they V4-^

probably had similar traditions that were lost unto the

years where there they had been keeping, hanging on to


I: Just out of curiosity, did any of the people from here

make any kind of comparative comments between that and

their custom of sitting up with the dead at all?

W: No, they did not. They did raise some question as to

"Did our people do this thing, too?" Years ago, you

CRK 55A 15

know. This kind of ,thing.

I: After you left, was there anyone to come to replace

you to pick up the work?

W: Yes. This Dagin had come in the year before to help

and so he stayed here as the pastor.

I: And how long did he stay here?

W: Well, he stayed several years until he was ordained

bishop, as they call them, in this district here.

The general overseer of the whole total area. And

then he was replaced by a man, we sent him here from

Pennsylvania, by the name of Paul rMlmono.

I: About what year was that?

W: I don't know. Paul may have come about '61, '62,

Along there. I believe so.

I: All right. How long did he stay?

W: He stayed until--should have some dates here--about

three years ago. I'd say around '69 or '70 )hen.he

left. And he went back to Virginia. He went back

to seminary, really. He's up there at the present


I: Now, just very frankly, I've heard that there was...

at some period of time there was a fair number of

people in the community who turned away from the

CRK 55A 16

Mennonite religion. What was that all about and when

did that happen?

W: That's the time when Brother Lemmon left. I'm not sure

it's a proper thing to put on there, but...

I: Well, I need...

W: ...you can __ -__ it out if you want.

I: Yeah.

W: What really happened was in the very early stages of

the church work here, we immediately recognized the 0a

problem that is predominan t n this area here, and

that was of marriage breaking up, remarriage--divorce

and remarriage. And the Mennonite church the last

seventy-five years has taken a pretty stern stand that

anyone who has been divorced and remarried could not

be a member of the church. And that was the issue.

Of course, with me living with the people and working

with them, sharing with their problems, I came up

with a different idea. Not I alone, I mean this is

a trend within the church, re-thinking, re-studying

the whole divorce issue. This worked all right in

our Mennonite society where you had very, very seldom

ever had a marriage break up. And so, we didn't

i r, face the problem. We get out here in the

CRK 55A 17

mission field it's something else. It's like one man

told me, one Indian man told me here soon after I

started, said, "If this has been a Bible fact, where

have you people been thirty years ago? Why didn't

you come and tell us? We could have avoided some

of these problems, you know." Kind of shook me
of co uvs *4
up. And so, I was over in Mississippi and I was

out of it. See, when I was here, there were a num-

ber were converted to the faith. And in one case,

it was tried to advise that they have to break up

their relationship or they can not become members of

the church, and they did this for a period of time.

Maybe a year.

I: Some of the people actually did this?

W:' They did this. And it didn't work out. Here's a

family. The father's away from the mother and the

children and parental care and all that. Well, it

didn't work. I knew it wouldn't work.

I: How many couples actually did that?

W: Just one.

I: Just one?

W: One couple. Of course, then, the thing that bothered r-'

CRK 55A 18

was we couldn't reach these people, so...

I: Which couple was that?

W: So...of course, I was out of it when I moved over, of

course. But up to that point, I recognized them as
Christians and used them in the church work,'(l Sun-

day school teachers, Bible school teachers.

I: Did you have to keep quiet about this with your higher-


W: Well, there's some...no, it wasn't kept quiet. And some

of the higher-ups really felt badly toward me because

of this. I mean, I went through a lot of pressure

because of this. And of course, then, when I moved

out, Brother Dagin continued the same policy. But

then pressure came on and as more people moved in

from Pennsylvania and other areas that had this strong

idea on this to the extent that some of them didn't

want the fellowship with the church because we had

these people involved ,in the church work. And when

the report got out in the Indian community that these

Mennonite people that moved in here from Pennsylvania

more recently would not help Bible school because some

of these were helping with Bible school. And that's

CRK 55A 19

what broke the thing off. They left. They fled the

Mennonite church.

I: And that was about three years ago?

W: Uh, four years ago.

I: Four?

W: Well, see, I came in, back in, three years ago. I was

asked then, but the amazing thing about it, the bishops

of the conference--which is called the Lancaster conference

in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the headquarters is--

and their Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions appealed

to me to come back and-4 bring healing to the congregation.

And that's when I came back in, only about three years


I: How long were you here when you came back three years ago?
) tLA
W: Well, see, I came...I lived here in Mississippi. I drove

here every two weeks.

I: Oh.

W: And re-established the church. Well, they had started

their own services then.

I: At the same...?

W: No, they had a...

I: At Roberta Sells' place.

W: That's right. And that's when they asked me to come back

CRK 55A 20

and I counseled with the leaders of this conference

that's responsible. See, I'm not under the same

conference over there. Different ..same denomination,

but different organizations here.

I: What conference are you with there?

W: We're with the Eastern...the Ohio Eastern Conference


I: Um-hmm. This is Pennsylvania Conference?

W: This is Pennsylvania. Lancaster County Conference

actually has charge of this area here. And so I

counseled with these leaders of both the mission

board and the secretary of their conferences awd I

told them that they'd asked me to come back to help

them establish a church. And they said if they have

asked you, you go. They said they are afterall our

brothers in the Lord and they need help and you shall

go. And so I did come back.hea..s ne year I drove

over here every two weeks and had preaching service

and organized the church again...

I: To re-establish this...

W: And then we appealed to their conference to give the

Indian folks back their church. What had happened Wkb

a number of families had moved in from Pennsylvania

CRK 55A 21

which became the controlling factor in that church.

And then, T+ course, lt^>K Indians walked out, they

had the church. The other group had the church. And

yet the church was built for the Indian people alone.

I mean, that was an Indian congregation when I was here.

My wife and I were the only whites--well, our children--

the only whites that were in this church other than the

local people. And so, of course, what happened was it

became a white man's church and they controlled it then.

But the conference leaders and the mission board leaders

were open enough to see that this is not the proper

thing. Down the road five miles there is a Mennonite

church primarily for whites.

I: Freemanville.

W: Freemanville. And so we appealed to them, then, to give

us back the church. And it took a negotiation of...well,

they first agreed to lease it to us. Their leaders came

down, they talked with us and they talked with the others

involved here and they felt strongly that it should go

back to the Indian people. And there's no need to have

two competing congregations in the same area. In other

words, they continue in that church and we'd have to

build another church because we had a strong congregation

CRK 55A 22

emerging there. nVFYt Ar- sixty people

attending church at that time.

I: And those whites that went to that church were the

Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference.

W: Um-hmm [affirmative].

I: And you reorganized the Indian congregation as Eastern


W: That's right.

I: ...Conference.

W: Well, I just reorganized it as an independent congregation.

I: That's right.

W: But it took-m several years now, well, a year ago they

beganAtalking that since I'm so deeply involved with them

and I'm...actually they appealed to the Ohio Conference

that-Ishould become their overseer. See, I, we finally

found a man to help on at least a temporary basis '?, f W

And so they appealed that

I should not forsake them and they appealed to the executive

committee of the conference that I should be appointed by

them as their overseer, which I am serving that capacity

at the present time.

I: Let me get something straight. When you first came here,

CRK 55A 23

were you in the Lancaster Pennsylvania Conference.yourself?

W: That's right.

I: Were you in that until the time you went to the Choctaw?

W: Th'-s right.

I: Well, what was the reason for the-change of conference

when you went to the Choctaw?

W: One reason, the primary reason was that the Lancaster

Conference felt it was out of their area. They felt

that, see, there were other...on the Gulf Coast in

Mississippi there are other Mennonite churches. And

they felt that they were actually getting across the

boundary to somebody else's territory. But they did

send us over there and give us support for a half a

year just to try and see what would happen. And

at the end of that half-year they came back and said

that we feel we can not continue, you can go

back to Poorch. And I told them...they actually

urged us to come back. But we felt that it took us

that half a year-or a little bit more than a half a

year when they came on the scene--to win the confidence

of those Indian:people, and for us to walk out would

be letting them down severely. And we felt we shouldn't

CRK 55A 24

do that. So they said, well, go ahead and continue

then, but be looking for someone else to take up the

support and the work. And that's what happened, then.

The Ohio Conference..factually it's a congregation in

Ohio was looking for a mission out station as they call

it to support, and through that that brought us into

the Ohio and Eastern Conference.

I: And conferences are just simply organizational devices.

W: That's right, yeah. They...

I: There's no doctrinal differences in these conferences.

W: No, there may be variations as on this divorce question.

I: Uh-huh.

W: The Ohio Conference has a different position which came

up, .oh, mostly within the last ten years. It was very...

the same up until that point. Our conference decision

was that a person who has been divorced and remarried and

then finds the Lord, if they give evidence of a real

experience of salvation, that we accept them on their

experience. Where the Lancaster Conference has not

officially taken this step, but they are doing this in

several cases. They have done it without official action

of conference.


I: So, this church, Poorch Community Church, is in

actuality a Mennonite church.

W: That's right, yeah. That was their own decision. I

never pushed for that.

I: And two of the women, Clara Rolin and her daughter

Ella, are still in the Lancaster Conference.

W: That's right. Now that was....their attachment to the

ones, to the Mennonite families that came here from

Pennsylvania was that deep that they preferred to

continue with the Lancaster Conference group. And

they were the only two that that happened LgA ..

I: Now, when you had your church here, at the strongest

point, who were some of the main members of the Indian

community? Just so you can sort of list off some of

the names...

W: You mean here in this local community?

I: In this Indian community.

W: All right. You're referring to our church program


I: Right. The time that you were here.

W: Well, in the early stages, these emerged: Mr. and Mrs.

Martin--Edie and Willie Lee Martin, Brian and Clara

Rolin, Willis McGhee and his wife Rentha, and then their

CRK 55A ;2&

mother, Bessie McGhee. Now, the father, Will McGhee,

attended church regularly but he never became a member.

Those were the real strong element in the Indian

community there, in our church.

I: What about Margie and Ed McGhee?

W: Uh, Margie and Ed attended regularly until the Baptist

church started, then they transferred to the Baptist

church. And then, at the time when this division came

here and the new church emerged, they came back...well,

just before that, they came back into the Mennonite

church, then, broLuJ' their membership here. I

had Y-Vj\ \ meetings here at the ti-e I

guess they made their decision to transfer their mem-

bership here. But then at that time is when this division

came and Margie died. I'm not sure what year that was.

She was still a member of the group that remained the

Lancaster Conference. But then, right after that is

when we started having service here and Ed brought his

membership into our church. Now he's not living anymore


< .............................. ...........................

I: Uh, what about Eugene and Roberta Sells? Were they ever

in your church?

CRK 55A 4

W: They were not until. since we have reorganized. They

have become members. Now, they attended faithfully for

a long time.

I: Roberta was one that came with Willie Lee originally to

get your...

W: That's right. That's right, yeah. She was the one

that had Oi. interest to getAthing started and never

officially united with the church. I think there was

a problem of accepting sore ..in the early stages of

the Lancaster Conference work here when I first began,

we had a very rigid...actually, that conference operated

more on a rigid basis of, well, rules and regulations

set up by the bishops of the conference. And there

were some of these things that were actually cultural

carry-overs from our German background, Swiss-German

background. And some of this was not acceptable with

our Indian people. I think this is one of the hang-ups

that Ed and Margie hadand maybe Roberta and Eugene had.

I: What were those specific cultural carry-overs?

W: Well, it was in the type of dress that were required.

And I was under pressure to initiate a program of

redressing these Indian people in a cultural pattern


that came through a Swiss-German culture, see. And

I wasn't minded that way. I might add some of the

other church leaders in Alabama didn't feel the kindest-

nees toward me because I did not adhere to a strict

standard of what they were trying to present.

I: Were there dress standards other than the women's


W: No, there was other standards.

I: Oh?

W: What was callai the APCf -dress for the women. And men...

they had tried earlier what was called the plain coat

for the men--standing collar, straight collar--which

is not practiced in the anymore and the

CAPPE -dress is not. But that's why they were

requiring that we should promote this kind of thing.

In fact, the first converts that we had were dressed

in these cape-dresses. My wife had to make them. And

I couldn't see this. They were very conservative in

their dress. They were not then fully dressed as their

nature was that they wanted to be s eseA., you know.

So when they changed bishops from Pennsylvania--see,

at that time they had bishops from Pennsylvania serving


us--the older bishop was very, very considerate. He

said he sees our point and is not requiring that they

do this. There are some of these things I think were

a little bit hard for some of the Indians to accept

as their pattern of dress for life, for their life,

you know. And so then since that time after the

church has been reorganized, now these have come into

the church.

I: Did you ever have any conferences or visits with the

Pentecostal and Holiness preachers?

W: Oh, yes. I've had quite a few..

I: How did you get along with them?

W: Well, with the Pentecostal church over here in the

first Fort Switch community, we had a very good relation.

I: Was Mace McGhee the minister at that time?

W: No, Brooks Rolin was.

I: Brooks Rolin.

W: Brooks Rolin was and it might be 'i to you-

after Brooks left;,/here's no need to go into what happened,

it was a very bad situation.

I: I know.

W: They were without a pastor and the folks there were

talking to the Indian people, members of our church

CRK 55A 1sP

or I believe primarily Willis McGhee, that they just

don't have...well, they tried to have service by them-

selves but they had no real leader. And Willis asked

me if I'd be willing to preach in the Pentecostal

church. I said if they want me to preach I'll sure

do it. I'll help them all I can, not try to draw from

them but help them keep their church intact, you know.

And so this worked out that I had every other Sunday

night, that was the only night I had open on a Sunday,

I preached for them and then every Thursday ora I

believe it was Thursday night of the week I had a service

for them and I did this for the whole summer until

another Pentecostal preacher came in.

I: Who was the preacher that came in?

W: Well, I tell you, it was a white man. I'm not sure

if I can recall his name anymore. He heard that I

was coming in there and he...I think it was kind of

a...he was afraid I might influence them. And Mace

was attending church but he was not a preacher at that

time. But I and Mace have had very good relations.

I: What year was that that you did that service for them?

W: I would say about 1957. I believe so.


I: About the same time you were starting contact with

the Choctaws.

W: That's right. Before I moved over there then. And

the other church at Hog Fort over there, a lot of the

members I'eve been very personally acquainted with, you

know, we're very good friends, visit in their homes,

this kind of thing. Butwith their church leaders

we could not have any fellowship. Indeed, they took

the idea that they are the only right church, this

kind of thing, that tS ei. \ rC\1 V

We-ditdrLt- believe in this kind of thing and so they

didn't want...

I: The _

W: Yeah, yeah. __ yeah. When we first started

Bible school, their families came over. When those

ministers--they had no local minister then.-but their

preacher found out, you see, from down in Pensacola,

I believe, and he came in and stopped the whole thing.

But they didn't never associate with us. Now, the

other church, we have very good relationships and

fellowship and dinners together, this kind of thing.

There's a lot of going back and forth.

I: Now, the Church of God of Prophecy has come in since


your time, I guess.

W: That's right, yes. I know some of the folks that

attend there. I don't know if it's active anymore

or not.

I: They just built the new building.

W: They have. I've seen it, been over there.

I: Did you ever engage in any kind of what we might call

social or welfare-type projects as well as religious?

W: Yes, we have this. One of the first problems we faced

when we started working here, moved here and started

the church, the Indian folks were somewhat amazed at

the amount of money we could collect through offerings.

Sunday school offerings accumulated an we used to buy

our material and have some left over. And they came

to me one day and said why can't we do something for

our people who have to go to the hospital and don't

have any money? At that time, there were actually

some of the folks that were...they wouldn't accept

them unless they had so many dollars to put down.

And some of the folks did not get the hospital service

locally here because there just was no money. And so

CRK 55A 4r

I worked out a plan and drew up a set of guidelines.

And once a month we'd take a special offering for

hospital which is to be kept in reserve. And this

became operative I believe in about 1953 or '54, it

would have been '54 at least. And it was kept active

even after I was gone up until.the church divided here.

They had...it served the people all those years and had

accumulated a balance le-I think nearly a thousand

dollars in the treasury. I think it was disbanded.

That was not only confined to our membership or to

those that attend ...it was not confined to membership.

It was primarily for those that were in faithful

attendance in the church Sunday school work. And

then those that were of other communities, there

were some needs and our Indian people, compassionate

as they were for their people, came and said) well,

can we take some of our funds, you know, to help

over there if somebody is very desperate in need.

And this was done in a number of cases by the vote -of

the congregation if they agreed that, let's say,

so many dollars could be used for that.

I: Did you ever cooperate with the Episcopal church in


any education or social programs of any kind?

W: Not...well, we did cooperate. Not really in any

specified programs. We had a lot of things in common

and the Episcopal people were very good friends of

ours, and we...

I: Was it Reverend Merkel who was...

W: Merkel?

I: ...the minister most of the time you were here?

W: Yeah. He was minister the time I was here, and we

counseled with him before fit-ever start when the

Indians came to us. Now, he tried to deny it. He

got in trouble with the Indian people because of

what he told us. And I guess we weren't careful

enough not to share. He didn't tell us not to say

what he said, but after some of the Episcopalian

people here when we started raised some questions

why we didn't go ahead and help them up there. And

the reason was it's not that...of course we're a

different denomination, that's one reason. But it

wasn't that...we were very cautious about beginning

because we didn't like the idea of railroading our-

selves in ove- another church ____t- But what


had happened that time, the Episcopdj church had all

but died out. We attended their services several

Sunday by the invitation of our Episcopal neighbors.

And there were very few...I think there's just...the

most that were there any time we were there was about

twelve people in a community where there were a hundred

and fifty to two hundred people. So we knew that a

lot of people were not being reached. And then of

course, because of these people asking us to start,

we went and talked with Preacher Merkel. And he said

to us right away, he said, "Well, if they want you to

have a church, then go ahead." He said, "I'll just

admit I've been working with them so many years, I

forget what he said 3)and he said,"I've just had no

success with those peopleout.there." And later on

this got out. You know, I shared it with some of

our intimate friends and they jumped him about it.

And he didn't want to admit it then, and they claimed

that I was lying about it. They said that

And we did try

to have good relations with them. Their Bible school

teacher they sent in, we attended some of their Bible

CRK 55A aS

schools as best we couldcpand we did not discourage

our people from attending their Bible schools and

the services when we didn't have services. We did

it ourselves, you know.

I: Had Mrs. Bradshaw begun her work the time you were


W: Yes. Let's see. Was she one of the first ones....?

Yeah, she was...I believe there was somebody ahead

of her, though. I'm not quite sure. I know we had

them down at our house, Mrs. Bradshaw and the other

teachers 4iad come and had supper at our house. We

sat down and had a real good time together.

I: This is really just an opinion question. Do you feel

like your work in any way stimulated the Episcopal

church to send in those people?

W: Oh, yes. Yes. They were dying at that point. And

soon after we had started...well, I'd say in the

third year of our work, maybe, that it was going

very badly up there. And they had so much dis-

satisfaction among them, discord, they couldn't

get along together, this kind of thing. And I

know they called a special meeting and they had the


bishop from up in Birmingham down, a young man. I

forget what his name was. Very fine young man.

Anyway, our Episcopal neighbors came by and said we're

having a special meeting in our church this afternoon,

why don't you come up?" And, well, out of respect

we went, you know. Never had any idea what was being...

going to be done. And here you had a...called this

man in and he called the community people of their

church together to find out what they can do to get

their church back on its feet again. And well,

there I sat. I guess I really should have been out.

And they brought up their church problems, you know,

and then he, of course, dealt with some of these things

right there. And one of the...finally, he said to them,

"1ow, you aren't telling me actually about what you have

been talking among yourselves and to me privately. And

he said,."Some of the folks have been telling me that

what the Mennonite church did is what we need for the

Episcopal church." And said.would it be helpful if he'd

find somebody to buy a small piece of property and live

here with you people just like the Mennonites have done?

And I didn't know if I should get up. which would be the

least embarrassing for me, to get up and walk out or to


stay there, you know. And so that was the result of

that meeting that they brought these in. TheyKbuilt

that little building there and brought workers in

and tried to rebuild their church. I don't know what,

how much they-i. )' t.i A have in their church at

the present time, but even today...I mean, last night

I had preaching up here at the community church. There

were three or four of the Episcopalian people there

in the service. They're very personal friends of mine.

And a thing that may kind of surprise you, after we had

organized, reorganized the church here and the first

communion service that I had...they called me and

said they'd like to have communion served and wondered

if I'd come over and serve the...which I did. When

I came over, the churchhouse was packed full. And

there were Pentecostals, the Episcopalians, Baptists,

and the Mennonites. And it's not our custom to have

open communionbut I did that night. They all communed


I: Uh, speaking of communion and other sacraments, do you

baptize by immersion the Mennonites?

W: Both ways. Now...

I: Have you done it here?


W: Here it's been primarily by what we call pouring,

and that is literally pouring water on the head of

the applicant. We would have baptized by immersion

if the hierarchy of our church would have permitted

it. We Irak-. e with that thing and actually lost

some people to other churches because they could

not see our mode of baptism. And I felt since we

accept people on their former baptism when they

have been immersed and do not re-baptize them to

accept them in our church, we were inconsistent

not baptizing that way if they could see no other

way. And so we couldn't do it here because the

Lancaster Conference _u oat_ \i o .

But under our Ohio Conference we are permitted to do

thisoand the new mission I just began last year

among the Choctaw people, I baptized seven about

two months ago and every one was by immersion.

I: In your church, what constitutes becoming a member?

W: We stress rather stronglytpersonal experience of

salvation, recognizing of our sinfulness without

God, confession of this to the Lord, and accepting

forgiveness for the sins of the past. We do believe

CRK 55A 40

very strongly the fundamental view of conversion,

regeneration, and justification.

I: And this must be done publicly at a church meeting

before a congregation?

W: It doesn't have to be. We require)if somebody has

found this experience private in the home, a testimony

before the congregation.

I: And so that's a very personal experience?

W: It's a very personal experience. We accept their

testimony. We can't determine what's in the heart.

A person, if he come even...the Pentecosts have an

altar call, you know. We do give an altar call, but

we don't require that a person come to the altar and

pray and weep like they do. A person can decide for

themselves in a public meeting that they want to take

this step of faith and express either by standing or

coming forward. And then we'll deal with them, talk

with them and find out where they're at ii their desire

their experience.atd we just have to accept what the

people tell us.

I: And after that experience and testimony to that ex-

perience, if the person had been previously baptized

CRK 55A 41

in another church by immersion, that would be accepted?

W: Oh, yes.

I: And if he had not ever been baptized, then he would be

baptized at that ____ ?

W: um-hmm [affirmative]. The only exception

made to baptism, we do not accept those who have been

baptized as infants. We do believe in believers'

baptism and in those cases we do re-baptize.

I: You wouldn't accept either someone who had been baptized

as an adult by sprinkling?
W: Oh, yes.

I: You would?

W: Oh, yes. If they're satisfied with their past baptism

experience. We do not accept infant baptism. We believe

in believers' baptism. If that person has been sprinkled

as an adult and has no feelings that ___ interfere

with his personal commitment at that time to the church,

to the Lord, we would accept him on that.

I: Let me ask you very quickly, what kind of interest did

Calvin McGhee and all of his land plans work have in

your work?

W: We had a very close contact with Calvin McGhee. And we

tried to...he asked us to help the Indian people in

CRK 55A 42

our community to find their way as to making their

claims and so on. Of course, we were in the thing when

the....actually we came here soon after the .thing got

started. remember the big meeting we had up here in

the schoolhouse. And the federal government claimed

there were no Indians in Alabama. And so they sent

three men down and they had the big meeting. We just

had moved on the farm right behind the schoolhouse


I: Three federal men.

W: Three federal menffrom Washington came down, and they

came with a claim that there are no Indians in Alabama

so they had no claim on the federal government for the

land they took from them back laa many years ago. And

that time I remember I was...I wasn't inside. I went

up, but there were so many Indians, that;schoolhouse was

packed tight. They couldn't even get in that place.

And they took pictures that night of the Indian people.

They said, "We'll have to admit you're Indians," even

though the government said they're all in Oklahoma, you

know. We did work closely with Calvin on eame things.

He was very friendly to us. The only thing that he ever

CRK 55A 43

kicked up about was when we had asked for the use of

the schoolhouse, he gave permission. And then later,

somebody who tried to interfere with what we were

trying to do.. .our hearts were clear. I mean, we

didn't have any...he claimed that he was told, informed,

that the reason we asked for the schoolhouse was because

the Indians were not accepted in the congregation down

the road. There was discrimination. He was very much...

he was heated that time he eane to me. I

tried to explain to him that that's not the case, even

though there might be some be some white folks in A /i-t4

/_____ that don't like to well the Indians...

I: You mean not //tJUt/tl but...

W: I mean Freemanville. Neshobaville is a place over in

Mississippi. Freemanville. But that we do this every-

where.i.Where there's a community open we will go in,

even though they may not be very far apart, just like

Freemanville is just north of Atmore. And then _u_ vil

5s just south and east of Atmore in Florida there.

And he began to understand. And then afterwards he told

me that he appreciated the way that we had tried to help

the Indian people so many different ways. And he one

time suggested that maybe they ought to do with us like

CRK 55A 44

they have done in some other places. They have

adopted some of the white folks into their tribe and

I'd become an Indian. I never got that far!

I: But he took that on his own initiative to come and

challenge you about this...

W: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. He did.

I: And the kind of th igs he was referring to,very quickly)

that you have done to help the people. What do you

think he had in mind?
W: Well, in the community, we helped .the a number of

different ways. For instance, some of the people were

that poor they had no credit to even...they had land

but they couldn't farm the land. They couldn't get

the credit to get fertilizer and seed, and so I just

helped them out. In other words, I at

the bank. The bankers were very slowAeven to endorse.

I did this in several cases and I got caught on one

case where the person was buying a property and they

had to have so many dollars and I never got all paid

back. Of course, that's water over the dam. But in

these cases...that was not in this community, h-W

was in the other community. But in this community

here, I helped them out by using my credit to furnish

CRK 5JA 45

the- fertilizer and seed for their crop until the crop

was harvested and I'd get my money out and they'd have

the balance as their own income. Trying to get chil-

dren into school, keep them in school. This kind of

thing. The hospital plan. That benefited some of

Calvin's people over in his community, you know. And

even after I was in Mississippi, he never came to pay

me a visit. He was over there, but if I was over here

he'd get in contact with me and find out what we were

doing over there. He was really interested in what

things we had actually we were more involved

in Mississippi than we were here, because there's

more things to be done over there and more agents to

work through. I'm working very closely with the Choctaw

Indian Agency in their social and welfare work. Such

as finding homes for Indian children from homes where

parents...well, they're either broken-up homes or

drunkenness where they're not able to take care of

their children. And the schools, they have no schools

over there in Neshoba. 1 children .ae' go to school

anywhere over there. They weren't accepted in the white

school and they couldn't go in the black schools either

CRK 55A 46

"ard .o they finally kept prodding them over there until

they finally brought a school into the community.

I: Did I understand you correctly that the people, the

Creek Indian people here encouraged you to leave them

and go to the Choctaws?

W: No, they encouraged us to go over there and see what

the needs are. And when they saw the needs, they were

on my neck all the time to get somebody in there and

help those people, you know. They didn't think at that

time that I was going to leave them, but after we really

came down to itI brought it before the congregation--
Vt 0 4. J({-aOL
to-ithe- congregation, but primarily the members

of the church--and told them what's coming and asked their

advice. In fact, it was pretty difficult for me to go.

We were a very close....actually, these people here became

as close or closer than my own blood brothers and sisters.

They were just...I was just...we were just part of the

family.s the people. And after--they didn't want us to

go, that was the truth--but after they talked about me,

prayed together, they said, "Well, it is the Lord's will,

we'll let you go." And that's the way it was.

I: Now, I understand that some like Clara Rolin had gone

over to Bible school in Mississippi a summer or two?

CRK 55A 47

W: Yes.

I: What were the conditions of that, or how did that


W: That was in the early stages that they helped in Bible

school. Willie Lee here, she helped, and Clara....I'm

not sure who all. We needed some help for teachers, and

of course,

the tirst year before we lived there. And then the first

year we lived there in a tent. We put up a tent. They

came over and helped us in the summer Bible school work


I: Let me ask-you whether you as a person or your church

as a matter of doctrine had any objections to the

beginning of the Indian dancing and wearing feathers

and all those-kinds of things?

W: Oh, as a church, there would be an objection to this

kind of thing. We've taken a somewhat lenient view about

this, you know. As a church we would not promote dancing

of any kind, but I kind of take the view that their tribal

dance is a part of their culture, and to separate them

from that would be a pretty difficult thing. So we

haven't made that dA/ Ps-tC as far as church member-

ship is concerned. \ tj R,` .ta\\. dances.

CRK 55A 48

I: What about the kind of show dancing that some of the

younger ones started here in the Creek community?

W: Well, the Choctaws are doing that, too.

I: Well, just one last question and sort of a summary

statement. What would you say had been the biggest

kind of change that you've seen take place in the

community in the past twenty-three years?

W: Well, there's a lot of changes that have taken place.

When we came here, the majority of them lived in small

huts. There was a few of them had little better houses,

but the majority of them were very, very poor, Xmall

housing, very poor furnishings. And it was a gradual

process through the years. I think I would say that

this is one of the outstanding things. I come back here
aed-see all these new houses around here. It just

wasn't...it was nothing like that in those days.

Education, higher education. It:was very few of them

that were going to this when we first came here. They

did have their Indian school up to sixth grade, and

that's where most of them stopped. Some of them didn't

even go that far. They just dropped out. And now I see

them going on through. And I come back and what little

CRK 55A 49

boys that were in our Sunday school now are working for

Western Union, having good jobs putting in this telephone

work, and that was just an unheard-of thing. A few of

themmaybe,worked in town, but didn't have very good jobs

at that. I-f was mostly trying to make a living in pulp-

wood or a little bit farmland they had ia farm-lg- the

best they could. Mules and plows in them days.

I: Can you think of any house that's still standing today

that might be sort of an example of an average type

house, say, in 1950?

W: I have to think a little bit. Uh...

I: Say Sam and Thelma Lyons' house. Would that have been

about average in 1950?

W: Now, where do they live? I'm not sure...

I: They're the ones who live dwn the road just below the

hill, where Roberta And Eugene lived a long...?

W: Uh-huh, yeah. Yeah.

I: It's an older house...

W: Yeah, that'd be a pretty well example of what most of

them lived in those days.

I: That was average, it wasn't better than average?

W: No, I...I believe they're living in the house that Clay

and Alice McGhee had lived in. Now they were a little...

CRK 55A 50

that was a better house than some of them had.

I: Well you know, there's a little bitty house sort of

right neat door to that one.

W: Right, that was...a lot of them lived in those kind of

houses. Now a few of them had....now, Will McGhee, the

old couple, the parents of Mrs. Martin here, they had

a similar house, but I think they added some to it and

it really had some kind of strip shingle on the out-

side. It was a little bit above the average when I

came here. But the majority of them had very poor


I: Was there any difference in the housing between \2i-L4;4A

Fort Switch, and Hog Fort that you noticed?

W: Oh, I'm not quite sure. I'd say it'd be pretty general

all the way across. I think a few of them over there

had gotten a little bit ahead of here at that time.

I: o Fort Switch?

W: Yeah. Jim Presley, I think he had a little better house.

He was a pulpwood man that actually worked a crew of

men. I think he had gotten ahead a little bit more.

But they generally had the small, very small housing,

not very good shape. Oh, a few had been fixing up.

But they were poor people. There's no question about it.

CRK 55A 51

I: Let me ask you now just one last question. Before I

ask that specific question, is Brother

assigned full-time to work with these people now?

W: Well, it's not on a full-time basis. He is pastoring

the church, but he is limited in his WS cabinet, I

mean his camper business downtown where he's building

campers. And so he can not...he's not giving the time

that he would like to, I'm sure. And I know I would

like to see him put a whole lot more time. He does

not get into the homes. When I lived here it was a

regular practice. We were part of the community, we

visited in the homes in very close contact. He does

not have that contact.

I: Let me ask this last very general question. Now that

you've worked with the Choctaws, do you see any kind

of, in the most general sense, of similarity between

those people and the Creeks that somehow makes them

Indians in contrast to other people?

W: Well, there is some similarity. However, the Choctaw

people are much more primitive, hung on to their old

way of life where the Creeks have left that through

CRK 55A 52

that there were very poor people, and the problem of

strong drink is very prevalent with them over there

in Mississippi. There are certain things that are

similar. But there is....you look at the Creek Indians.

They're so much more advanced than the Choctaw, on

the average.

I: Are the Creek Indians more hospitable than the Choctaw,

W: Yes.

I: They are.

W: Yes. I mean, talking about that veryclose contact in

the community life here, we haven't had that over there.

Now, it's just beginning the last three years that they

are more open. Here, I lived here, you'd be amazed at

the many times I've been called on family problems. They

come share with me their problems. In one case they

asked me to come in and try to rectify some of the difficulties

they had betweejseveral families, you know. This kind

of thing. Over there, you didn't find anything out about

their family problems. They wouldn't shlre with me. It's

just the last three years now that this has happened.

I: With the Choctaws.

W: The Choctaw people. They- seemed to -take almost ten years...

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