- Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Volume 7: March to Removal, Part 2, Death in the Land and Mission, 1825-1827 ed. by Richard W. Starbuck
The correspondence in this volume of the Moravian records continues to reveal the day-to-day efforts of the Moravian missionaries in spreading their religion among Native Americans in a time of great uncertainty and stress for the Cherokee Nation. The missionaries, Johann Renatus Schmidt at Springplace and John Gambold at Oochgeelogy mission, detail a variety of their problems: incompetent assistants, poor finances, competition from the Methodists and Native leaders, and even an overabundance of venomous serpents in their gardens and kitchens. But the men also speak of successes: the building of a mission house and new school for Cherokee youths at Oochgeelogy, the strong support of the nation's two principal chiefs, the new converts, and a wave of religious fervor sweeping the Cherokee country aided, no doubt, by the Second Great Awakening and, more particularly, by the work of Methodist evangelists and their emotional appeals.
Nevertheless, the doom "cloud of removal" hung over the Moravian missionaries and the Cherokees during this period (p. xvii). In 1825 the Creek headman William McIntosh, who had close ties to the Cherokees, accepted a $50,000 bribe to cede all of the Creek lands to the United States. Creek leaders executed McIntosh for his treachery, but the Creek country bordered that of the Cherokees, and Natives and missionaries alike knew that if the federal government allowed the treaty to stand and forced the Creeks to move to the West, the Cherokees would be the next targets of fraudulent dispossession. In fact, Brother Schmidt stated that he believed the government's treaty commissioners could certainly find '"Halfbreeds and other Speculators'" willing to take bribes to cede land (p. 3319). But at first, Schmidt seemed to secretly support removal as a cure for the Cherokee Nation's problems. He decried the fact that wealthy slave-owning Cherokees of mixed descent controlled the nation's affairs, while the poor Indians starved in a country depleted of game. He saw murders increasing in the land along with corruption spread by intruding white settlers. All helped convince Schmidt that the movement west would give the Cherokees and missionaries a fresh start and a brighter future.
Fortunately, the federal government did not honor McIntosh's treaty and compel the Creeks to move beyond the Mississippi River. Accordingly, the furor over removal died down somewhat in the Cherokee country. In the interim, Schmidt had time to further assess Cherokee public opinion and decided that they were determined to stay where they were and defend their country. Consequently, he changed his view of emigration and, like most Moravians, proclaimed that removal would actually demolish everything the Cherokees and missionaries had built. And, indeed, the Cherokees did continue to build their own republic as a means of holding on to their nation as it existed in portions of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
The Moravian correspondence notes that Sequoyah invented his syllabary in 1825, allowing the Cherokees to read and write their own language and the missionaries to produce Cherokee hymnals and bibles. The Cherokee National [End Page 434] Council also authorized the printing of a national newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, as well as building a national academy at New Echota, the Cherokee capital. Then, in 1827, the National Council adopted a constitution similar to that of the United States, adding to all their other accomplishments as a "civilized" Indian nation. However, the Moravians and Cherokees suffered great losses that year. The Cherokees' longtime principal chief, Pathkiller, and his successor and friend of the Moravians, Charles Renatus Hicks, died within two weeks of each other. And following those two men, Brother Gambold passed to his reward after many years of service in the Cherokee country. Moreover, the Cherokees and Moravians had to know that...