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Spring Indian Baptist Church
Seminole County, Oklahoma

Records indicate
12,523 Seminoles
live in Oklahoma

John C. McCornack
Yukon, Oklahoma



Spring Indian Baptist Church

Every Sunday members of thirty seven different Indian tribes gather to worship at Spring Indian Baptist Church, where hymns are still sung in Creek and Seminole and prayers said in English and then translated. The doors were opened in 1850 and have never been closed, making this the oldest established Baptist church still in service in the state of Oklahoma.

A six-day celebration in June will honor its one hundred fiftieth anniversary by featuring Native singing, artifacts and photos that have been collected over the years, Native services by Reverend Richard Pickup, and homemade food such as Indian fry bread.

Although many Native American traditions remain the same, the church it self has gone through quite a few changes, over the years. "When the church was first built, the pews faced each other. The men sat or one side, and the women sat on the other side. Today all the pews face the pastor and the men and women sit together, says Head Deacon Lee Puntka.

Jane McKane, a member for sixty-one years, remembers going to the church as a young girl. "One of my earliest childhood memories of the church was how strict the deacons were to the children, If they misbehaved during the church service, the deacons tapped them on the shoulder with a cane in order to make hem behave," she says. "Once when my cousin misbehaved, one of the deacons made him sit up next to the altar in front of the entire congregation [throughout the service]."

The newest church, a yellow brick, one-room building, was built in 1936,

Four magnolia trees were planted next to the church in honor of four members who were killed in action during World War 11. The trees divide the church from the fellowship hall, where the adult Sunday school classes are taught entirely in Creek and Seminole. Lunch is served every Sunday after the service at the camp houses surrounding the church, which used to house visiting members.

"We have over six hundred members, most of whom live out of state but still contribute regularly to the church and attend services whenever possible," says Amy Owings, a member for fifty three years.

The church does look a bit different than it did in 1936. The front porch has since been enclosed, making room for Sunday school classrooms and offices. "Up until the early 1980s, members were baptized in a pond behind the church; now the baptistery is located inside," says Puntka.

One thing that hasn't changed much, though, is the pastor: Spring Indian Baptist church has had only six pastors since its establishment. The first 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 his pastorate until he died in 1894. Chief Jumper was succeeded by his son-in-law, John F. Brown, who was principal chief of the Seminole Nation for thirty-four years and one of the best known Seminole chiefs. He held the pastorate frorn 1894 to 1919. Reverend George J. Jesse was the most recent pastor of the church. He served for thirty six years until his death in 1998. "Over six thousand people attended George Jesse's funeral," says Jack Cully, member of Spring Indian Baptist Church. Several of the ministers who spoke at Jesse's funeral referred to him as a prince. Currently, Lee Puntka is holding up the pastoral duties until a new pastor is named.

This spiritual staple of central Oklahoma has a lot of history and culture to share during its anniversary celebration and during its regular Sunday morning services, where all are welcome.

Source: Priscilla Mohnkern - Oklahoma Today

Spring Indian Baptist Church is located eight and a half miles east of Highways 99 on Highway 56 near Sasakwa. The 150th Anniversary celebration will be held June 5-10, 2000.


The Church bell is a key part of the Church services

Ringing the Bell

The appropriate number of bell rings to begin a service is about a dozen. one deacon laughed as he told of a deacon trainee who was given the task of ringing the bell for the first time. The trainee rang the bell so many times that after the service, members asked him who had died (after a funeral, the bell is often rung until all of the cars in the funeral procession are out of sight of the church grounds). The next time, afraid that he would ring too many times, the trainee rang the bell only a few times. After this service, members said to him, "I thought we were going to have refreshments before the service" (the bell is rung two or three times to announce that the camps have been prepared and refreshments are about to be served).



Old Church well

The Spring Church

The Spring Church is the "mother" of all the Seminole Baptist churches. All other Seminole Baptist churches are considered "daughters," or "granddaughters," of Spring Church.

First located near present-day Lexington, Spring Church was later moved to its current location near Sasakwa. Murrow (quoted in Foreman'1951:147) described a Spring Church meeting:

"it is a beautiful site, and when it first came in view with its well constructed eating arbors in a square around the large preaching arbor, all covered with hay, the white tents and covered wagons-the whole covering some ten acres of ground or more, it was a beautiful site. But few visitors from other Nations were present, but the attendance from all parts of this Nation was large, and the services were good.... At the all-night meeting last night the colored people became so enthused that they formed a large procession and marched around the encampment singing and clapping their hands. it was a wild and weird scene ... yet there was a charm and solemnity about it that forbad condemnation."

The arbors have since been replaced with permanent camp houses, and Spring Church still attracts many participants to its services. Spring Church is the largest contemporary Seminole church. it does, however, have a large non-Indian membership.



A necessary place
known as cokuce in the native Mvskoke language

The World of Mom:

My mom taught me

Money is a means to the greater end
of glorifying God
as we demonstrate
practical Christianity in our lives

Camp House

A camp house for visiting members
A typical Seminole Church complex has 3 to 20 houses
that belong to the Church


Cherokee Feast of Days
by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

This morning the sun spilled pale gold over the horizon and filled all the space beneath the great oaks. High above, the red-tail hawk, known to the Cherokees as 'ta wo di', sailed lazily along air currents. Even though spring is still many weeks away, the land is beautiful to see. Now, while the trees are bare, there is a wider view of hills and valleys. The colors are all muted shades of beige and gray and the hills are swathed in blue mist. Even the deer are outfitted by nature to be the same subtle shade of browns and tans to give them protection. A restful moment is a perfect moment. But we have to be open to it, and receptive to anything that gives us peace of mind with no side effects. It can't happen if our minds are set to be drab and dreary.

The old Lakota was wise.  

He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard.

~ Standing Bear ~


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John McCornack

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  Lightning bugs

I was facinated with this story as I am with most of your pages. This one I especially enjoyed. My daddy was part Indian and so was my mother. She was mostly German and she was told her grandad came over as a stowaway on a ship to Ellis island. I am not sure how my folks wound up back there. My daddy was born somewhere in Missouri and like I said in my letter, mama was born in Lincoln Arkansas. I was born in Henryetta Oklahoma, my oldest sister in Punkin center, my only brother was born in Keefton and my younger sister was born in Lincoln Arkansas.

We went back to Lincoln Arkansas to the old Heyne place and lived there a few years. Daddy and mama figured we would at least have a place for a garden there. This was the place grandpa Heyne built for his family and all of the children were born there. Heyne was my mothers maiden name. We went back to Keefton when my younger sister was aboout four years old. then we went to California from there. It was quite an experience. I know our car rides had been very limited as our daddy didn't have a car or a truck of his own and we was scared to death when we came to a canyon.

All three of us girls would pile on top of each other on the side of the car away from the canyon. We were some of the Okies who drove the Bologna route. It got it's name from all the Okies having Bologna sandwiches and throwing the Bologna skins out there on the highway. We wound up in Bakersfield Calif and had run out of money and food, so daddy wired my uncle for five more dollars. To make a long story short, We finally came to rest in a place called Pollock Pines Calif. and there we kids were raised until after WW11 started. Pollock Pines is about fourteen miles toward Lake Tahoe, from Placerville California. All of that country was gold country, as you probably know. We ran those mountains like a bunch of wild Indians. We had a great childhood.

I know this most likely just leaves you more confused but, We had so much fun in Oklahoma and Arkansas, I can imagine myself in your special places. I am having a ball writing my memories. I have quite an imagination so have done a lot of embellishment in my story, which I don't know if that's good or bad. I can waste an hour telling about our experiences of Lightning bugs, Doodle bugs etc.

Thank you for the nice letter. I really just wanted you to know how very much I enjoy your sites.

Wonderful reading. That is really a old Church . About as old as the Salt Lake Temple.



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