The First Baptist Church Among the Plains Indians of Oklahoma (Rock Springs Baptist Church)

Rev. John McIntosh, Creek Indian Preacher

Figure 1. Rev. John McIntosh, Early Indian Preacher

John McIntosh was a Creek Indian from eastern Oklahoma, born in 1833. As a young man, he strongly opposed Christianity, sometimes attending church services to mock. But one day the power of the gospel message transformed him. John McIntosh was converted to Christ and spent the rest of his life preaching the gospel he once mocked.

For some time he had desired to preach the gospel among the Plains tribes.

He knew the dangers of travel in the remote regions of Indian Territory, and that “…these were the days of notorious outlaws and horse thieves.”1 Yet he set out alone on the dangerous two hundred mile journey.

McIntosh and his horse nearly died of thirst after going for four days with no water. He found relief by chewing on a bullet to get the saliva flowing again. He finally found the Plains tribes camp near the Wichita agency. John McIntosh had feared that the Plains Indians would not receive him because of his ¼ white blood. But once he won their confidence, they received him and gladly heard his preaching.

After this first preaching trip to the Plains tribes in 1874, McIntosh would lead a missions trip back to the same area in 1877 along with A. J. Holt, John Jumper, and several other men. As a result of this gospel ministry, “…a church was later established, called the Rock Spring[s] Baptist Church.”2

Through the years, the Rock Springs Baptist Church ministered to many tribes. “The Caddo, Pawnee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw, Delaware, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians have all worshipped here.”3

In 1878, A. C. Williams, the U.S. Agent for the Wichitas wrote, “The Baptists have had a missionary [A. J. Holt] here during the past year, assisted part of the time by a Seminole Indian, and have organized a church of over 30 Indian members, a majority of them being Wichitas, who were among the wildest of their tribe a few years ago. There are many others who take a deep interest in religious matters, and their services are attended on the Sabbath by from [sic] one to three hundred persons.”4

The church desired to have their own building where they could meet. and “…in 1880 they built a church house of black walnut lumber…

Their first pastor was from their own tribe. His name was Ah-sta-Yaks. He served the church for ten years, until 1890. The church had over 100 members.”5

Many years later, John McIntosh reported, “During all these years the Creek Association has sent a missionary to minister to this church. The older members have passed on to their reward and younger people in larger numbers are carrying on the work.”6

In 1936 G. Lee Phelps told of John McIntosh’s son, Job McIntosh, who was continuing his father’s work among the Plains tribes. “This year, 1936, Rev. Job McIntosh, the youngest son of the pioneer father, is the missionary to the Wichita and Caddo people. Thus the work goes on from one generation to another.”7 The Rock Springs Baptist Church evidently left a long lasting mark on its people. As of the year 2000,  one Native American encyclopedia stated that “Most Wichitas are Baptists…”8 If you drive four miles north of Anadarko, Oklahoma, on State Highway 8, you will see a  historic marker with these words:

ROCK SPRINGS BAPTIST CHURCH
¼ MILE EAST
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
AMONG OKLAHOMA PLAINS INDIANS
ORGANIZED 1874 BY REV. JOHN MCINTOSH
CREEK INDIAN FIRST KNOWN BAPTIST
MISSIONARY TO THESE TRIBES
FIRST TRIP SUMMER 1874 UNDER AUSPICES OF
CREEK BAPTIST ASSN.
SERMON TEXT JOHN 3:16, BLACK BEAVER INTERPRETER
THIS IS THE WORD FROM THE GREAT SPIRIT ABOVE
TO ALL HIS CHILDREN—MCINTOSH

Rock Springs Baptist Church - Plains Indians - Anadarko OK

Figure 2.

Footnotes

  1. Phelps, G. Lee. Interview by Grace Kelley. “A True Story of Indian Missions.” The University of Oklahoma Libraries, University of Oklahoma, 1937. Web. Jan. 2014. p. 307
  2. Ibid., p. 312
  3. Haddock, Louise, and J. M. Gaskin. Baptist Heroes in Oklahoma. Oklahoma City: Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, 1976. p. 80
  4. United States. Office of Indian Affairs. Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1878. Dec. 2006. (eBook) https://archive.org/details/usindianaffairs78usdorich (accessed Jan 13, 2013). p. 70
  5. Haddock, Louise, and J. M. Gaskin. p. 79
  6. Phelps, G. Lee. Interview by Grace Kelley. p. 312
  7. Ibid.
  8. Pritzker, Berry M. “Wichita.” A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture and People. 2000. p. 358

Photos

  1. Rister, Carl Coke. Rev. John McIntosh, Early Indian Preacher. n. d. Baptist Missions among the American Indians. Atlanta: Home Mission Board, 1944. p 48. Print
  2. BlogOklahoma.us, Rock Springs Baptist Church 198306721_a094f7b12f_m.jpg  http://www.blogoklahoma.us/place.aspx?id=464 (accessed Jan. 15, 2014)