Sasakwa, August 14, 1950 – A hundred years ago, a group of Seminole Indians founded a Baptist church near Sasakwa a short time after they arrived in Oklahoma from their old homes in Florida.
This week, about 1,500 members of the Indian Baptist churches from several parts of Oklahoma will meet at Sasakwa for a meeting will be highlighted by the observance of the 100th birthday of the Church.
The 100 year-old religious institution was moved to Purcell a short time after its establishment. After a short stay at Purcell, the congregation moved it back to Sasakwa.
Known now as the Spring Indian Baptist Church, the institution has as large a congregation now as it ever had. It has had only four different pastors since it was founded.
The principal founder and first pastor was John Jumper, great Chief of the Seminole Nation and Colonel in the First Regiment of Seminole Mounted Volunteers for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He retained the pastorate until his death in 1894.
Jumper was succeeded by his son-in-law, John F. Brown, one of the greatest and best known Seminole Chiefs. Brown was Principal Chief of the Seminoles for 34 years. He held the pastorate of Spring Church from 1894 to 1919.
The homes of both great chiefs are still standing near Sasakwa.
Brown was succeeded in the pastorate of the church by Reverend Louis Harjo, who served from 1919 to 1937. One of the ministers who served under Reverend Harjo was George Harjo, no pricipal chief of the Seminole Nation. George Harjo still holds his post as minister, the second highest office that the church has.
Wilsey Palmer, a deacon during the pastorate of Reverend Harjo, became pastor December 25, 1937 and serves in that capacity now. Ministers at the time Palmer was ordained included: George and Fulkah Harjo and Louis Brown. Deacons were Chippie Harjo, Abler Coon, Peter Narcome, Sentevey, Punta Harjo, Jonah Harjo, Abler Davis and Ramsey Harjo.
Ministers now are George Harjo and Ben Daney. Deacons are Billy Coon, Sentevey, Ena Green, Timmie Harjo, Jonah Harjo and Peter Narcome.
The history of Spring Church is to a great extent the history of the Seminole Nation since 1850. Much of the history is not recorded and is known only to a few old members of the Tribe like Millie Tiger who remembers the Church’s earlier days after it was moved from Purcell to Sasakwa.
Colonel Jumper and John Brown would be pleased with the Spring Church of today. It remains a Seminole Indian Institution and services are conducted in the Indian language for its older members. Young people, however, play a big part in its existence and they have caused such un-Indian innovations as B.T.U. banners to be hung on its walls along with the old formal pictures of Jumper and Brown.
Next Wednesday, representatives of 28 Indian churches from the Muskogee-Seminole-Wichita Association will begin a fine-day camp meeting on the grounds of Spring Church, one and one-half miles west of Sasakwa. Representing several tribes, the Indians will come from Caddo, Creek, and Seminole counties and from Florida. They will feast and worship until Sunday, living during that time in tents and in the 17 permanent camp houses on the church grounds.
Perhaps one day, Brown’s mansion or one of the buildings at the church site will be turned into a museum. The history of Spring Church and the great Seminole Nation would be displayed in the form of collected relics and photographs. Until then, people with a love for history and Indian folklore can find an abounding treasure in visiting the old Spring Church and in talking to people like Wilsey Palmer.