“I want all my children [the Seminoles] to know about this.”1
-The words of John Jumper when he first believed on Christ, and rejoiced in the Christian hope.
Warrior from Florida
Born around 1820 in the everglades of Florida, John Jumper (Hemha Micco) grew up as the nephew of the Seminole war chief, Micanopy. Jumper fought against the U.S. in what is known as the U.S. military’s costliest Indian war. The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) cost the U.S. military thirty million dollars and fifteen hundred soldiers. Marked by intense swamp warfare, ambushes, and raids, this war dominated national news headlines.2
Jumper’s enemies must have seen him as a fearsome warrior, as he was said to have stood 6’4” tall and weighed three hundred pounds.3 Jumper was later called “the most famous Indian in the entire Indian Territory.”4 In later years he served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Confederate Army during the War between the States.
Jumper came to Oklahoma as a military prisoner in his early twenties, around 1843. Soon after his arrival he began serving as chief.
Influenced by a persecuted Seminole Christian
Jumper’s friend and fellow chief, James Factor, had become the first known Seminole Christian. The tribal council was outraged and arrested Factor, accusing him of being “bewitched.”
The council discussed whether they should brutally beat James Factor until he renounced Christ, or whether to execute him by shooting, or banish him. In the face of these threats, James Factor “remained firm, and declared that he would never renounce his new-found joy and hope.”5
John Jumper had secretly become interested in the gospel as a result of Presbyterian missionaries preaching in the Seminole Nation. As chief, Jumper defended James Factor to the tribal council, and they decided to simply expel him from office rather than punishing him more severely.
Jumper said that he knew Factor was a better man than himself, and went to personally inquire about Factor’s so-called “bewitchment.” As a result of this meeting, John Jumper himself was gloriously converted to Christ!
“When Jumper professed conversion, he boldly avowed his belief in Jesus as his Savior and began at once to proclaim him.”6
Since Jumper had been a hereditary Seminole chief since before their removal from Florida, the council did not persecute him as they had done to Factor.
Warrior in a spiritual army
Jumper had become a warrior for another army, with his only weapon—God’s Word, and his only enemies—the spiritual powers of darkness.7
In the past, John Jumper had grown to hate all white men because of the U.S. aggression against his people in Florida. But now his hatred melted away, and he spent the rest of his life declaring the gospel of Christ to his people.
Gospel witness and Baptist preacher among his people
History tells us, “Jumper had been a Presbyterian, but found that he could not harmonize their doctrine [of baptism] with the third chapter of Matthew, so he joined the Baptist church.”8 Jumper was baptized by John Bemo, a Seminole Baptist preacher who had formerly been a Presbyterian.9 Missionary J. S. Murrow ordained John Jumper into the gospel ministry. Murrow had started the first Baptist church among the Seminoles, and Jumper named his fourth son after him. Jumper later became pastor of the Spring Baptist Church, 1.5 miles west of Sasakwa, Oklahoma. We’re told that in these early years “the church grew rapidly” and “baptisms were frequent.”10 The gospel had been making powerful progress among the Seminoles in Indian Territory. J. S. Murrow had baptized more than two hundred Seminoles in just a few years.
Great joy and Godward zeal marked this first generation of Seminole believers. All night revival meetings became common in Seminole churches.
J. S. Murrow said of Jumper, “He has ever since been a tower of strength to our Baptist interests among the Muscogees [Creeks], Seminoles, and the wild [Plains] tribes on the western border of this Territory. John Jumper is a deep thinker. I have heard him deliver in his own language sermons that abounded in profound thought; solid truth, delivered in the most tender and [heart-rending] style…”11 Confederate General Albert Pike testified, “John Jumper is one of the noblest men I have ever met in my life.”12
Mission work among the Plains tribes
In 1877, Jumper accompanied Missionary A. J. Holt and Creek preacher John McIntosh on the long dangerous horseback journey to preach the gospel to the Plains tribes in the western region of Indian Territory (near present day Anadarko, Oklahoma). This mission marked one of the first entrances of the gospel among the Plains tribes, and as a result many were converted and Rock Springs Baptist Church was started among the Wichitas.13 The church is still going strong today.
Great hope during afflictions
John Jumper experienced Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…” Four of his sons passed away between ages twenty and twenty-two. His wife passed away and was buried beside her sons. But for John Jumper, there was great hope in the midst of these afflictions, for his wife and sons “all died in the Christian faith.”14
“I have fought a good fight”
J. S. Murrow wrote of Jumper,
“His last days are being spent in securing a correct translation of the New Testament into his Native tongue, the common language of the Muscogees [Creeks] and Seminoles.”15
Having served his people as chief for more than twenty-five years, Jumper declined reelection so that “he might devote himself more fully to the preaching of the Gospel among his people.”16 Jumper pastored until two years before his death in 1896. His son-in-law, John F. Brown, continued pastoring in his stead for the next twenty-five years. Spring Baptist Church is still going strong to this day. – J. D. B.
- Wyeth, Walter N. Poor Lo! Early Indian Missions. A Memorial. Philadelphia, PA: W. N. Wyeth, Publisher, 1896. p. 108
- Pritzker, Berry M. “Seminole”. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture and People. 2000.fx. p. 390
- Prestridge, J.N. Modern Baptist Heroes and Martyrs. n. p. The World Press, Louisville, KY, 1911. p. 315
- Holt, A. J. Pioneering in the Southwest. Nashville: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1923. p. 120
- Wyeth, Walter N. Poor Lo! Early Indian Missions. A Memorial. p. 112
- Holt, A. J. Pioneering in the Southwest. p. 110-11
- The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, Vol. XIV. January, 1892. No. 1. p. 25
- Rister, Carl Coke. Baptist Missions Among the American Indians. Atlanta: Home Mission Board, 1944. pp. 92-93
- Foreman, Carolyn Thomas. “John Jumper.” Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 29, No. 1 (1951) p. 139. Oklahoma Historical Society’s Chronicles of Oklahoma. (eBook) http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Chronicles/v029/v029p137.pdf (accessed Jan. 16, 2014)
- Wyeth, Walter N. Poor Lo! Early Indian Missions. A Memorial. A Memorial p. 113
- The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, Vol. XIV. January, 1892. No. 1. p. 26
- Routh, E. C. The Story of Oklahoma Baptists. Oklahoma City: Baptist General Convention, 1932. p. 53
- See The Baptist Arrow No. 14, Jan. 2014 articles: “We were warriors, chiefs, and a medicine man. This is our testimony of Christ” and “The First Baptist Church among the Plains Indians of Oklahoma. Rock Springs Baptist Church.”
- The Baptist Home Mission Monthly, Vol. XIV. January, 1892. No. 1. p. 26
- Wyeth, Walter N. Poor Lo! Early Indian Missions. A Memorial. p. 109
- John Jumper, Principal Chief of the Seminoles. n. d., Image OHS #1660, Alice Fleet Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division. Used by permission.
- King, Charles Bird. Micanopy. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7152142M/History_of_the_Indian_tribes_of_North_America (10 Nov. 2014).
- T.F. Gray and James. An Indian town, residence of a chief : Florida. rc07272.jpg. http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/reference/rc07272.jpg (10 Nov. 2014).
- [Cover Image] USMC. Seminole War in Everglades. Seminole_War_in_Everglades.jpg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seminole_War_in_Everglades.jpg (10 Nov. 2014).