Robert McGill Loughridge

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Robert McGill Loughridge
Robert Loughridge.jpg
Robert Loughridge
Born December 24, 1809
Lawrenceville, South Carolina, US
Died July 8, 1900 (aged 91)
Waco, Texas, US
Education Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio
Occupation Missionary

Robert McGill Loughridge (December 24, 1809 – July 8, 1900) was an American Presbyterian missionary who served among the Creek Indians in Indian Territory. He attended Miami University, Ohio, and graduated in 1837; Loughridge was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in October 1842. In 1843 Loughridge entered Indian Territory and established the Koweta Mission. Seven years later, in 1850, he also established the Tullahassee Mission. During his ministry to the Creek Indians he became skilled in their language, and with help from Legus Perryman translated and transcribed portions of the Bible, along with hymns and catechisms, assisted by Ann Eliza Robertson. In 1890, Loughridge published an English and Muskogee Dictionary, the first dictionary of the Creek language, with David M. Hodge.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Robert Loughridge was born December 24, 1809, in Lawrenceville, South Carolina. Growing up his parents valued education and took every opportunity that they was available. When Loughridge was fourteen years old, his family moved to St. Clair County, Alabama, where for seven years he and his brothers worked on the farm; they occasionally had the benefit of schools. When he turned twenty-one he became the assistant teacher at Dr. Beebe's school in Mesopotamia, Alabama for several months. Loughridge professed his religious faith when he was twenty-two, and became a member of the Presbyterian church, under Rev. John H. Gray, D.D. Feeling divinely called to preach the gospel, he immediately started the study of Latin and Greek under his pastor, to prepare for the Lord's calling; afterwards he went to the Mesopotamia Academy in Eutaw, Alabama for four years, preparing for college. He entered in the sophomore class in Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, and after three years, having taken all the required courses, graduated in 1837 and received a degree of Bachelor of Arts.[2]

After a few weeks at home he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey, where he stayed for only one year; but after the death of his father, he returned home and continued to receive theological studies for two more years under his old pastor, Rev. J. H. Gray. Loughridge was licensed to preach by the presbytery council at Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 9, 1841.[2]

Beginning ministry[edit]

In agreement with a call from three vacant churches of Oxford, Paynesville and Elizabeth, Alabama, Loughridge preached six months; soon afterward, Loughridge was appointed by the Presbyterian board for foreign missions to visit the Creek Indians, west of Arkansas, to find out whether or not they would be willing to allow a preaching and mission school on their lands. Loughridge set out on horse-back, November 2, 1841, from Eutaw, and rode about six hundred miles. On December 6 he met the chiefs of the Creek (Muskogee) Nation, and brought the matter before them.[3] Loughridge had to wait about three weeks for the council to meet to consider his proposal; While there he took time visiting several parts of the nation; there was not a missionary in the whole nation, nor was there an institution of learning in all the land, except a little government school which pretended to be taught by a man who was afterwards proved to be a counterfeiter. When the council met they told Loughridge that they did not want preaching, because it broke up their old customs, their busks, ball-plays and dances; but they did want him to come and establish a school. He informed them that he was a preacher, and unless they allowed him to preach to the people he would not come help them. After long conference, they finally decided that if he would establish a school they would allow him to preach at the school-house, but nowhere else; after significant uncertainty Loughridge agreed to these terms; and mounting his horse he returned to Alabama to prepare for the move to Indian Territory. After some delay in getting ready, he returned by steamer, and arrived, with his young wife, in the nation, at the Verdigris landing, February 5, 1843.[2]

Loughridge's first wife, Olivia, also served as a teacher at the Koweta school. They had two sons before she died in 1845. The following year he married a woman named Mary who was also a teacher at the Park Hill school.[4]

Koweta Mission[edit]

Koweta Mission Historical Marker, in Coweta, Oklahoma

After a few days of observation at his new home in Indian Territory, Loughridge bought a horse and saddle, and set out to find the most appropriate place for the mission; at the suggestion of the principal chief it was located in the area of present-day Coweta. Loughridge bought a vacant Indian cabin 14x24 feet, with a dirt floor and covered with clapboards. It was located on a small unfenced field and had a few fruit trees. He paid the owner ten dollars, and named it "Koweta". The Mission was situated one and one-half miles east of the Arkansas River, and twenty-four miles northhwest of Fort Gibson.[5] Very soon a larger cabin was built for school and church purposes, and the people were notified to attend church, and to send their children to school; fifteen or twenty children were enrolled. His wife, an experienced and well-qualified teacher, commenced the school; only a few of the neighbors were disposed to attend preaching, while most of the Indians were devotedly attached to their old customs and religions.[2]

The outlook was truly discouraging, and was literally "a day of small things;" the people were very friendly, but shy, and seemed afraid to attend preaching. During the following year Loughridge built a large, hewed-log house, and at the urgent request of some people living at a distance they received eight or ten children, boys and girls, to live with them to attend school; this was the beginning of the system of manual labor boarding schools, which proved to be the most effectual means of civilizing and Christianizing the Indian youth. Gradually, the number of boarding scholars was increased until the Mission had forty; and when the people becoming more interested in religious exercises they attended preaching more regularly and a number of them became converted, and in about two years Loughridge had the pleasure of organizing a church.[2][5]

Tullahassee Mission[edit]

Tullahassee Mission 1st Floor
Tullahassee Mission 2nd and 3rd Floors

The Seminoles, who spoke the same language as the Creeks, did not have any schools or churches; the board of foreign missions directed Loughridge to visit them and learn whether or not they were willing to establish a mission and school. In the summer of 1846, he visited them with his interpreter, and learned that the most of their chiefs were willing to have schools and allow preaching in their nation.[2] In April 1847, Hon. Walter Lowrie, secretary of the board of foreign missions, New York, visited the mission, and gave new life to the Christian cause of education by entering into an agreement with the chiefs to enlarge the Koweta Mission, and to establish the Tullahassee Mission, that would accommodate eighty students, forty boys and forty girls; the schools were funded by both the Presbyterian Church and the Creek school fund.[6]

There was a large brick building, three stories high, erected for the Tullahassee school; the building was "admirably arranged", for a boarding school for both boys and girls; it was located on a ridge, in the Arkansas district, one and a-half miles north of the Arkansas River. Rev. H. Balentine was sent by the board to be in charge (with other missionaries) of the Koweta Mission, while Loughridge was appointed as superintendent of the Tullahassee Mission.[2] As a result of his transfer he moved to Tullahassee to supervise the construction of the building and make other preparations before opening the school. William S. Robertson, A. M. of New York, was appointed as principal teacher, and other assistant teachers were sent by the board.[7] The first day of March 1850, the school was commenced; the main building had out-buildings, stables, corn-cribs, fences, etc.; cattle, horses, wagons and teams were all purchased; furniture for the building, and all kinds of supplies, books, papers, etc. had been provided. The school opened with thirty students, both boys and girls. The missions full number of eighty was not reached until the fall, Loughridge and Robertson decided it was best to start with just a few students, and let the teachers become more experienced before all the students arrived. The school had a large bell that was donated by the board and hung in the cupola of the building, and was used for a range of different activities at the school and the church. A supporter of the mission, Dr. Wells from Fort Gibson, donated a weather vane designed as an Indian standing with a bow and arrow, pointing the course of the wind as it blew past the top of the main building. A number of excellent and well-qualified teachers and assistants came from time to time, as Loughridge wanted the best staff for the school. The students' exercises were conducted on the manual labor plan, and six hours each day were spent studying.[2]

The students did chores for two hours each day: the boys worked on the farm, in the garden or chopped firewood, while the girls did household duties, assisted with sewing, cooking and washing, and took care of the dining room. The students were provided with three meals a day, and were given plenty of time to sleep and play. Religious study was regularly kept up, and included church on Sunday and praying each morning and evening every day of the week. Every night at dinner, along with singing and praying, every student had to recite a verse, or part of a verse, of Scripture from the Bible.[2]

The school was well maintained and fully equipped all of the time, "self-denying, devoted teachers and assistants, worked faithfully and cheerfully, and were content with salaries of only $100 per year".[2]

Mission closings[edit]

The Tullahassee Mission continued to grow and do a job in educating the children of the Creek Nation until July 10, 1861, when it was suddenly closed due to the outbreak of the Civil War.[7] All of the mission property, (which amounted to $12,270 in 1861), was taken possession by the chiefs of the nation. The same thing happenend with the Koweta Mission. The Creek children were sent back to their homes, while the dedicated teachers took a mournful leave of each other and went back to their homes in the Northern and Southern parts of the country.[2]

After eleven years of successful operation, both of the Missions were abandoned. The Koweta mission was never re opened; but towards the end of the Civil War, November 1866, one of the former teachers, Rev. William S. Robertson (who was ordained an evangelist during the war), was sent out by the board, along with others, and revived the school to something like its former size and usefulness in March 1868 after relentless hours of work. The school continued in operation, doing good work in educating many of the Creek children, for twelve more years until December 19, 1880 when, from a defective flue in the chimney, the building caught fire and was burned to the ground; almost all of its contents were consumed.[2]

Later ministry[edit]

During the time the Tullahassee Mission was broken up, in 1861 Loughridge moved his family East into the Cherokee Nation, and preached to the churches there for one year, which had been left by other missionaries, who returned to their homes in the North because of the dangers during the Civil War. The Indians themselves, both Creek and Cherokee, were divided on the war question; some joined the South and others the North. It also became useless and very dangerous for Loughridge and his family to remain in the territory any longer. So, on July 17, 1862, Loughridge packed up his belongings, along with his family, in two small wagons, and went south to Texas, where most of his relatives were living. In Texas during the war, and afterwards for eighteen years, Loughridge was regularly employed in preaching to churches in different parts of the state. His wife was also employed as a teacher and taught in several different schools. During this time while Loughridge accomplished a lot of good for others, and also was able to provide his children with an education.[2]

A page from Loughridge's Dictionary

Return to Indian Territory[edit]

Loughridge received a word from the board of foreign missions, and also from several of the prominent Indians, wanting him to return and continue mission work among the Creeks. Loughridge decided that he would return along with his wife on January 5, 1881. He began preaching for the Wealaka church, in the Broken Arrow district; during the two years that he preached in this district, ten people joined the church, and twenty-eight children of believing parents were baptized.[2]

After the Tallahassee Mission was burned, the council decided to rebuild and on a bigger scale, and to locate it further west, where more of the Creek people lived. The trustees selected a beautiful site on the south side of the Arkansas River, surrounded in the distance by several grand old mountains. Named for a nearby Creek town, it would be known as Wealaka Mission. A large and magnificent brick building, 110 feet (34 m) x 4242 feet (13 m) and three stories high, was erected and was soon occupied by 100 children who were boarded and taught there. Having been appointed superintendent of the school, Loughridge opened it on November 1, 1882, and continued in charge for two years before he resigned from his position. After his two years at the Mission he began to preach in different places in the Creek Nation.[8] Loughridge preached the first sermon in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1883, standing on the front porch of a local store[9] and in 1907 Loughridge founded and built the First Presbyterian Church of Coweta,check source - see Discussion which is now a museum and listed on the National Register of Historic Places list.[10] He also translated books in the Creek language. The books prepared and published by Loughridge, with the assistance of his interpreter, were a hymn book, a catechism, translation of the Gospel of Matthew, a treatise on baptism, and a dictionary in two parts, Creek and English, and English and Creek.[2] In honor and memory of Loughridge's efforts in the Indian Territory, Camp Parthenia in Tulsa, Oklahoma was renamed Camp Loughridge in 1959.[11]

Final years[edit]

Toward the end of his life Loughridge was still loyal to his Christian beliefs. In 1881 during an autobiographical sketch of his life Loughridge wrote, "…during my long pilgrimage of nearly eighty-two years, many have been the afflictions I have been called to bear. Three of my six children have passed over the Jordan of death, and I am now living with my third wife, who is seventy-three years of age. But in all these bereavements, we are comforted with the assurance that all the dear ones thus taken away, are safely housed in their Heavenly home, where we shall meet again, and be forever with the Lord".[2]

On June 26, 1886, Loughridge was honored by his alma mater, Miami University, which conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.[2] Robert McGill Loughridge spent his last years in Waco, Texas, where he died on July 8, 1900.[12]


  1. ^ Creek Languaga Archive - The Bookshelf, The College of William and Mary. Accessed January 22, 2008. "For almost a hundred years, there was only one Creek dictionary, first published in 1890"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Loughridge R.M. "Autobiographical Sketch" (1891).
  4. ^ TulsaGal. "Reverend Loughridge." August 28, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2013.[1]
  5. ^ a b Lee, Victoria. "Coweta Oklahoma The first 100 years" (2004), p.12.
  6. ^ "Tullahassee Manual Labor Boarding School". OkGenWeb. Archived from the original on January 8, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  7. ^ a b "WILLIAM SCHENCK ROBERTSON" (PDF). Althea Bass. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  8. ^ Loughridge R.M. "Autobiographical Sketch" (1891)
  9. ^ "Religious History". Janet and Graham- The Ford Team. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  10. ^ Lee, Victoria. "Coweta Oklahoma The first 100 years" (2004), p.32-33.
  11. ^ "A History of Camp Loughridge". Camp Loughridge. Retrieved 2009-03-17. [dead link]
  12. ^ "LOUGHRIDGE, ROBERT McGILL (1809-1900)". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-01-18.