Chuala Female Seminary/Pine Ridge Mission School
|Pine Ridge Mission School|
The Presbyterian minister Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury established the Pine Ridge Mission 1 mile North of Doaksville, Indian Territory in 1818. The Choctaw Council established a school for girls, Chuahla Female Seminary, at the mission in 1842, which Kingsbury supervised. Kindsbury was called "NachobaAnowa" by the Choctaw, meaning limping wolf, because of a limp due to a deep but to his foot as a child. Kingsbury and his co-workers, devout New Englanders, held strongly Calvinist views; the doctrine that the Christian God alone condemned or saved human beings. Choctaws, on the other hand, believe that men could communicate directly with the spirits of nature and gain power from them. The Choctaw language was learned by Cyrus Byington, who had joined as a missionary in 1821, and the first sermon in Choctaw was given in 1823. After 1825 Byington left Doaksville and opened his own Mission called Aikhvnnah. He also translated portions of the Old and New Testaments into Choctaw, and published a Choctaw spelling book for the mission schools. By 1829 the American Board of Commissoners for Foreign Missions had 13 schools and missions, but could claim only 360 conversions to Christianity. After a Methodist preacher had great success, claiming 1300 converts through camp-style meetings that attracted large numbers of Choctaws, the Presbyterians also began holding camp meetings where sermons were given. BY 1830 250 adults had been taught to read in their native language. A report in 1926 showed Pine Ridge had a day school of 13 pupils. In 1841 Electa Mae Kingsbury reported 18 pupils in day school and 14 in Saturday school. In the many weeks around 1841 when Mr. Kingsbury was absent from Pine Ridge, besides her teaching duties, Mrs. Kingsbury had the responsibility of the entire station as well as the countless household tasks. Included was the boarding of a number of children and youths. One of these young men who joined the household December 14, 1840, was Allen Wright. Destined to become Chief of the Choctaws from 1866 to 1870 and to have profound influence upon Choctaw education, the young Allen Wright went to live and study with Kingsbury until Fine Ridge became a female boarding school under the 39 Act of 1842 by the Choctaw Council. In the middle of January, 1844, a seminary was officially located at this place and the name was changed to Chuahla Female Seminary. On March 1, 1844, the seminary was opened with a final enrollment of thirty-five. The following summer and fall a dormitory was constructed. This building was 40 x 20 feet, two stories high, with a piazza on each side. The one at opening teacher was Miss Harriet Arms. Mary Dickinson arrived in the fall of 1844, to instruct the girls in sewing and handwork. Mr. Lewis Bissel, teacher and farmer, and Mrs. Bissel, who assisted Mrs. Kingsbury in the kitchen and dining room, reached the school in 1845. Miss Harriet Goulding came late in 1845, taking charge of the classroon about January 1, 1846, after the departure of Miss Arms. In 1844-45, a commodious framed schoolhouse, 36 x 24 feet, with a piazza on each side, a good height, well-lighted, was built. In 1846-47, Chuahla had 44 scholars; 33 boarders, 11 day students; 24 supported by the Nation; the remainder by friends or their own labor. On the night of March 19, 1848, the mission station was struck by a terrific and destructive tornado. The schoolhouse was entirely unroofed and otherwise greatly damaged. The dormitory, occupied by the pupils and ladies who had charge of them out of school, was entirely demolished. Host of the outbuildings were destroyed or badly damaged. Although suspended for eight months, classes were resumed on the last day of November with 35 students. Kingsbury reported expenditures for a new house for teachers and pupils and repairs on other buildings amounted to $4,300. due to increased financial burdens imposed by the tornado, 1849-50 was a period of even greater hardship. No outside help was employed; under supervision, the girls themselves did all the chores. In the fall of 185Ç», tragedy again struck Pine Ridge- "A severe and fatal sicknessV swept Che school. In spite of the employment of the best physicians from Doaksville, in the last week of October and the first week of November, three scholars died; one lingered until January, making four deaths in all. In 1860, Cyrus Kingsbury declared that the "Choctaw Nation was to all intents and purposes a Christian one." Traditional funerary rights had been abandoned for Christian burial, Council meetings opened and closed in Christian prayer, business was not conducted on the Sabbath, and no one who denied Christ could hold court or civil office. Other problems pressed in upon Pine Ridge and the Nation. The drought, which had persisted in varying degrees for several years, became more critical. In 1859-60-61, the Choctaws were near starvation. Kingsbury, and the other missionaries, met the situation as best he could. "At Pine Ridge," he wrote, "we feed all who come to us hungry. And if they will work, we employ them to chop wood, to cut bushes, or to pull weeds and, in payment, give them some provisions to carry home."
Along with other schools of the Nation, at the end of the 1860-61 session, Chuchla Female Seminary closed.
Some of the buildings were abandoned/ruined during the Civil War, and the school never re-opened. Some buildings were there as late as 1875; when they had preaching there but no Mission School. Now nothing stands at the spot but an Oklahoma Historical Marker.