Baptist Mission historical marker

Baptist Mission (Q-40)

For Cherokee Indians, established in 1817, consisting of a chapel, school, farm, and mills. Was 3 1/2 miles north.

Location: US 64 southeast of Murphy
County: Cherokee
Original Date Cast: 1951

In 1820, the American Baptist Foreign Mission Board appropriated funds for a church, boarding school, and model farm for the Cherokee Indians at Aquonatuste, a small Natchez Indian community in present-day Cherokee County. The Aquonatuste site was one of five such missions established in the area and was constructed with the aid of a prominent local mixed-blood chief named Currahee Dick.

Under the supervision of Evan Jones, who translated the New Testament into the Cherokee language using the Sequoyah alphabet, the mission opened its doors in November 1820. Soon afterwards, as many as fifty Cherokee children were brought to the school by their parents to learn English and practice Christianity. A mixed-blood pupil named James Wafford aided Jones in compiling a spelling book that utilized both English and the Sequoyah alphabet.

Humphrey Posey, a Baptist preacher and teacher from Burke County, was appointed the school principal in 1822. Shortly thereafter, he organized Valleytowns Baptist Mission School, as it became known, into the most successful and popular such Protestant institution within the Cherokee nation. In addition to the model farm, Posey also organized the construction of a blacksmith shop and gristmill to offer further vocational education to the Cherokee. Under Jones and Posey’s supervision, the mission trained future Cherokee leaders such as Peter Oganaya, John Wickliff, and James Wafford who led the political resistance to the New Echota Treaty and eventually took part in the Trail of Tears.

When the United States military began the removal of the Cherokee, they disbanded the mission. In 1836, the Federal government expelled Evan Jones from the Cherokee nation for continuing to administer to his congregation and students, and for inciting and aiding rebellious factions. However, he joined his former pupils at Fort Cass and in 1838 left for Oklahoma with one of the emigrant detachments. He settled on the Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma and attempted to rebuild the Valleytowns Baptist Mission there.

Brett H. Riggs and Barbara R. Duncan, Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook (2003)
John Preston Arthur, Western North Carolina: A History, 1730-1913 (1914)
Sadie Smathers Patton, The Story of Henderson County (1947)

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