From the Philadelphian.
Volume 1, SIT TO THE CHEROKEES ON THE ARKANSAS
Extract of a letter to the Rev. E. S. Ely, dated
LITTLE ROCK, July 3d 1832
Dear Brother, I have just returned from a visit to the Cherokees on the Arkansas, the circumstances of which have been so novel and interesting that while writing to you I cannot but communicate a few of them. That part of the road which passes south of the Arkansas River, leads through a country in many places exceedingly delightful. It is intersected with numerous prairies, some of which are about the size of an ordinary plantation, while others are several miles in extent. The beauty of these great natural meadows of the west far exceeds description. Instead of presenting to the eye a monstrous plain of unknown extent, like some I have seen, these are undulating and diversified. Hills rise and valleys intervene. At this season they are all covered with a mantle of the richest green, while flowers, countless in variety and most beautiful in their color are scattered in endless profusion. Here and there at unequal distances is frequently seen a low and branching tree covered with a dark foliage, planted by the God of nature, to refresh for a season the weary traveller, and protect him from the burning rays of a summer's sun. At other times you see a beautiful, small grove, with intertwining branches covering a small spot of ground, and no others growing near. Again you see a row of trees extending for many a mile, generally following the meanderings of some narrow brook. And from the midst of this enchanting scenery you often descry at an unknown distance, the summit of some lofty mountain rising half viewless, above the dim horizon.
But like every other part of our sinful world, these lovely spots have their inconveniences and annoyances. The rose is not without surrounding thorns. One of the greatest annoyances in the prairies at this season is occasioned by an insect call the prairie fly. This insect is nearly as large as common bee. Some have black ' some green heads. In some of the larger prairies as soon as a horse enters, they rise like a swarm of bees and alight on the animal as if famished for his blood. The most gentle horse becomes frantic, and either makes his way to the nearest wood, or falls and rolls and rages until overcome by exertions and loss of blood he dies. To prevent this, travellers when they come near the edge of a prairie, at particular seasons are obliged to encamp during the day, and wait until the shades of night have reposed these merciless assailants when they can proceed with safety.
Another inconvenience arises from the vacancy of surrounding objects. The eye stretches onward and all around, but in some places, for many miles, all is empty space. an occasional tree at a distance affords but little satisfaction to the craving vision. It is like being on the vast ocean in an open boat. The eye at last becomes languid, and wearied for want of some object on which to rest. I have sometimes after riding in them for several hours, experienced most painful sensations from the cause now mentioned. And it is asserted that there have been many instances of Indians having irrecoverably lost their eye sight while attempting to cross the great western prairie reaching towards the Rocky mountains, which is several hundred miles across. How little do we think of the wisdom of the great Creator, even in the irregularities of his works.
After I had left these timberless regions, and had travelled many a lonely mile in the deep forest on the north side of Arkansas, I came to a spot still more interesting. On the eastern side of a hill and near its base, there is a level of several acres in a semicircular form bounded by a steep descent. It seems, as if formed for no ordinary purpose. On this level are two rows of neatly constructed log buildings. And in these reside the devoted and zealous missionaries to the Cherokees.
The state of the mission is at this time peculiarly prosperous. For a number of months there has been a glorious work of the Holy Spirit in progress, both in the schools and among the natives in various parts of the Nation. More than fifty are already hopeful subjects of grace, and a still greater number are inquiring the way to Zion with their faces thitherward. The day after I arrived, I accompanied the Rev. Mr. Washburn to an appointment for preaching a few miles distant from New Dwight. The meeting was held in a new house neatly built by a Cherokee for a dwelling. Here in a little while a respectable congregation assembled for Divine service. All were Cherokees excepting one or two. They were decently and neatly dressed; they seated and conducted themselves with the utmost propriety and respect. A more interesting assembly I never saw. Here sat the hoary headed warrior, not to deliberate on schemes of cruelty and deeds of blood, here sat the little child, not to hear the traditions of savage forefathers but to listen to the story of the cross. Before service commenced, they were asked to sing a hymn in their own language, which they without hesitation commenced, each one holding a hymn book printed in the Cherokee characters. I can say with the strictest truth, I never listened to vocal music more melodious or so much adapted to effect the heart. The tones were delightful, while association of ideas no doubt did much. Some of their voices had no distant period aided in raising the horrid whoop of war, or contributed to encourage the dance of revelry; now they swell with the names of a Savior in songs of salvation. After they had sung, I preached to them through an interpreter. All were attentive and solemn, and some affected to tears. After sermon, Br. Washburn called on one of them to pray, which he did in his own language apparently with great solemnity and propriety