AN INDIAN CAMP MEETING.
REV. N. B. C. LOVE.
The greater part of the following data the writer had from
Levi Savage in 1885. He was at this time old and blind, but
in possession of his mental faculties. His memory seemed clear
and tenacious. I wrote down at the time what he said, word for
word and from this written account I draw also from govern-
ment and church publications. A camp meeting was held by the
Christian Wyandots on the east side of the Sandusky river, op-
posite the "big spring," in August, 1839. We must remember
that the various Indian tribes of Northern and Western Ohio had
only a few years before been deprived of their reservations and
the Wyandots a few years later, in 1842, of theirs.
In all this the Indians were greatly wronged by the govern-
ment. The Wyandots' reservation was twelve square miles with
Upper Sandusky near the center. There was less than a thousand
Wyandots on the reservation. There were a few located over
Ohio and Canada. The whites were settling all around and land
speculators were clamoring for the Wyandot's fair heritage. The
instinctive desire of this tribe to perpetuate their tribal character
prevented them becoming citizens and receiving land in server-
Many whites lived in the bounds of the reservation, but did
not own a homestead, but were there for hunting and traffic.
The camp ground was beautifully timbered and located near
the river. The large native trees, the white oak, walnut, the
hickory nut, elm and sugar were there in all their primal gran-
deur. The banks of the river were hedged with sycamore, buck-
eye and iron wood, while the grapevines in rich profusion en-
The underbrush was cleared away, including the saplings of
dogwood and pawpaw, while the more stately trees were left
standing. They stood like columns in a great temple, while their
large limbs from forty to seventy feet above the ground entwined
40 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
and bore aloft the domes of green leaves. So dense was this
covering the rays of the sun seldom came through.
The tents were the Indian wigwam, bark structures of poles
and bark, and log cabins built of poles. The wigwams were in
appearance like large corn shocks, and the bark tents were
built square with upright poles with crutches at the upper end,
on which were poles, and on these long strips of elm bark newly
pealed from the tree.
The chinking of the cabins was of moss and coarse grass.
Of course the furnishings were rude and simple, although the
Christian Indians had adopted the customs of the whites in their
homes, cooking and dress. The cooking was done out doors.
The tents were arranged so as to enclose about half an acre of
ground. At one end of this wall of tents was the preacher's tent.
It was about sixteen feet long and on its side facing inward was
the preacher's stand or pulpit. The Indian saw mill supplied
the plank for its elevated floor and front and seats for the speak-
ers. It was the place of honor. The altar in sight of all the
people where the called prophet of God served to the Master's
sheep in the wilderness the bread of life.
Besides these structures were a few cloth tents, made of linen
and white which added to the picturesqueness of the whole scene.
Five stands, made of poles and covered with clay, had on
them at night the glowing fires lighting up "God's own temple"
as were lighted the forests before with fires of burning captives.
The Indians had learned to cultivate the soil, and their squaws
and daughters to spin, weave and cook. The Christian Indians
were industrious and had at this time an abundance of the
products of the soil.
The men and women sat apart in the congregation. The
children were with their mothers and the dogs which were plenty,
remained with their masters or in or about the tents. These were
taught good behavior on public occasions. There was service
before breakfast and at 10 a. m., 2 p. m., and night. There was
seldom less than 200 people present at even the smaller meetings
and in the great congregations as many as 2,000 on the Sabbath-
Indians, whites and negroes. They were then from Negrotown,
The Indian Camp Meeting. 41
above Fremont, Wyandot and Round Head and Solomon Town,
near Lewistown, and points east and south in Ohio.
There were a few Indians of other tribes present, for they
did not all leave their reservations together. Some were slow to
leave the land God gave them and the graves of their fathers.
The Wyandots, with the other aborigines of Ohio, felt a griev-
ance that the government was fully set on dispossessing them of
Three years later, 1842, the Wyandots sold out to the gov-
ernment for a mere trifle of a price, a part of which was a large
area of land beyond the Mississippi, which they failed to get,
but bought a few thousand acres from the Cherokees. It is true
the government gave each Wyandot, after years have passed land
in severalty and some money, making them citizens and no longer
wards of the nation. The Christian Indians did not hold the
Christian people or ministers responsible for their political mis-
fortunes. They knew the spirit of Christianity was kindness, good
will and justice. When they assembled they prayed not only for
the conversion of the Indians but the whites also.
No doubt Mononcue, Summendewot, Between-The-Logs, Big
Tree, and other noted chieftians were here. There were also pres-
ent missionaries. James Wheely at this time was one of the mis-
sionaries. Levi Savage said that Jonathan Pointer was there as
interpreter and was in his glory. He was a negro, and had a
large amount of vanity. Wm. Walker, the Sub-Indian agent
acted as interpreter. Of course the Indian preachers needed no
interpreter when preaching to Indians. The audience was at-
tentive and orderly, although many were heathen Indians. "Big
Tree preached a sermon," said Mr. Savage, "I shall never forget.
He preached in Wyandot, and it was interpreted. He became
very eloquent and at one time shouted the praises of God. The
congregation caught the spirit, and many joined him in praise.
The white Christians, too, felt that to them a day of pentecost
had come. They were under the influence of the gospel at this
camp meeting and many convicted of sin. They realized the
fact of their sinfulness as never before, and the blessed Christ
heard them and set them free, causing them to rejoice instead of
42 Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.
weep. The gospel is ever the power of God unto salvation to
every one that believeth."
No doubt the soul of John Stewart, who died in 1837, two
years before, was happy in heaven when the news of the salva-
tion of the heathen, at this camp meeting, was reported by and
to the angels of God.
An Indian with stentorian voice called the worshipers to-
gether, when songs in English and songs in Wyandot were sung,
alternating so in prayer and speaking.
Mr. Savage thus described the well-dressed heathen Indians
who were present and were in behavior perfect gentlemen. "The
men wore a breech clout or cloth, covering their hips up to the
waist and hunting shirt of blue, with fringes of silver ornaments,
leggings of dressed buckskin and moccasins of heavy buffalo
hide. Over all these was worn gracefully a blanket. Many of
the men and most of the women had their hair plaited and hang-
ing outside the blanket. These well dressed Indians generally
went bareheaded or else wore a bandana handkerchief. When
at their dances and feasts they painted and wore head dresses of
feathers and brilliant beads. The women wore a shirt or gown,
which came below the waist, about their person from the waist
down below the knees, they wore wrapped about them several
yards of cotton cloth, or a petticoat, then leggings of buckskin
and moccasins. The blanket or shawl was worn over their heads.
Although this camp meeting had been held twenty years be-
fore I was first at Upper Sandusky, yet on the old camp ground
on the river bank there were the remains of some cabins built
by the Indians; and hunting in the mound I only found a gun
The historical incidents connected with the Wyandots, and
their wars, civilization, exodus, and final settlement in Kansas
has been only partially published. There are in the hands of
descendants of the pioneers who were contemporary with the
Wyandots old letters, memorandums, account books, and news-
papers and other documents of interest, if collected. The writer
has quite an amount of this kind of material and would be glad
to have more.
The Indian Camp Meeting. 43
Christianity did much for the Wyandots. It saved them
from annihilation by drink and licentiousness, and while they
ceased to be a tribe, yet some of the best blood of the nation is
Wyandot. Intellectually they were at the head of the Indian
tribes. In all the treaties with the Indians of Ohio they are the
first mentioned and at Wayne's treaty in 1795 and before and
afterward their chieftains stood at the head as orators and diplo-
mats. Many of the Indian tribes are now under Christianizing
and Americanizing influences and are increasing in numbers and
attaining to intelligence and property.