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A Few Days at Nashotah.

by Bishop William Ingraham Kip

[Albany, NY: J. Munsell, 1849. 31 pp pamphlet.]

Letter I
First Impressions.

[pp 1-10]

The three following letters were written at Mackinaw, in August, 1847, shortly after my return from spending "a few days at Nashotah." Their object was to correct certain erroneous views of the Institution, which were current among Churchmen. They were sent to The Calendar, and from thence copied by the editors into other Church papers. I supposed that then their work was accomplished, and they would pass into oblivion with other newspaper articles. During the past year, however, enquiries have so often been made for them by those wishing information on this subject, that the friends of Nashotah have urgently requested their reprint in a pamphlet form for circulation, and I feel it a duty to acquiesce in their judgment on this point. I have also added my name, that any responsibility for the statements made, might rest upon me.

It was first intended to rewrite the articles, and interweave an account of the present state of the mission, but upon reading them over, I find it would be impossible to do so. A few notes, therefore, have been added, (enclosed in brackets,) while in an appendix the progress of the institution for the last eighteen months is given, and also the changes which have been made in its organization.

Albany, March, 1849.

It was on the morning July 27th, that we left Milwaukie, on our way to Nashotah. A shower which had just passed over imparted a freshness to the landscape, while the cool breezes which swept over Lake Michigan gave the promise of a pleasant ride. As we left the city, we passed a group of Indians"flaunting in the gay colors they so much prize"a remnant of the powerful tribes which a few years since occupied this beautiful territory.

A short ride and we entered the broad belt of forest which for hundreds of miles stretches along the western shore of the lake. Occasionally we passed heavily loaded wagons, filled with the household utensils of German immigrants, who are crowding into the North West. Women, still wearing the picturesque head-dress they used at home, and young children, were sitting among the furniture, while the men, in their blue frocks, were trudging along wearily on foot. It was a sorrowful contrast to a scene I once witnessed on the Rhine. We were descending the river in a steamer which also carried some hundreds of emigrants who had just left the Fatherland for the distant regions of the New World; but notwithstanding their recent parting from the old familiar scenes of home, they seemed cheerful and buoyant, and beguiled the time by singing their national songs. They were looking forward to a new home, which the imagination represented to them as an El Dorado. But with these, the feeling was far different. They appeared sad and dispirited. Worn down by the long confinement of their sea-voyage, they were now in a land whose very tongue to them was strange, and they were beginning to encounter the realities of Western life.

For miles our road led through the forest--sometimes, entirely unbroken, its giant trees towering high above us--then a partial clearing, with the log-cabin of the first settler"then a better house of wood, being the second generation of buildings"or more generally, the wooden house built adjoining the log cabin, so that the latter could be used for the kitchen. The corn of the settler was growing among the charred and blackened trunks of trees, which the fire had left unconsumed, while the road at times wound among the stumps which remained as they had been left by the axe of the first emigrant. Then we would come to a tract covered with giant trees, dead and leafless, presenting the appearance of a winter forest. They had been girdled the previous year, and thus killed, while the owner of the soil had not yet had time to fell them.

Fourteen miles from Milwaukie, we reached Prairieville, a small village scarcely seven years old, the inhabitants of which have now with good taste restored to it the old Indian name of Waukeshaw. It is beautifully situated, with hills overlooking it on one side. During the half hour we remained to rest the horses, I accidentally met with our Missionary at this point, and was shown by him the church building. It is small, and plain as possible, with accommodations for less than a hundred people, while in its neighborhood the Romanists are erecting a large and substantial stone church. In this way it is that, through the mighty West, we permit them to be the first "to inherit the land."

From Waukeshaw it is eighteen miles to the residence of Bishop Kemper. Most of the way is through oak openings, by which in the West they mean, country covered with oak trees in clumps, and without underwood, presenting the appearance of a natural park. Here they stretch on, mile after mile, far as the eye can reach, so that we could imagine ourselves in the middle of one of the beautiful parks of England. They present, indeed, precisely the same appearance. At last through an opening among the hills, we began to catch distant glimpses of lakes, from which we knew that our journey was drawing to its end. About three o'clock we reached a tavern, surrounded by a cluster of a dozen houses, the beginning of a town to be called Delafield, where we were directed to take a side road into the forest, with the information that the second house was Bishop Kemper's. A mile farther brought us to the gate, and in a moment the Bishop, attended by the Rev. President of the Nashotah Mission, came forth from the house to meet us.

Would my readers like a description of the Episcopal Palace? or do those who are living amid the luxury of the East desire to know how a Missionary Bishop lives in the far West? We might tell them to imagine a clearing of a few acres in the depth of a mighty forest, and then on the verge of the woods a small cottage-like building, which as you stand in front of it, presents the appearance of a single story, with but three windows and a door. It was the first building erected by a settler, from whom the Bishop purchased the land for a farm for his son, and then at the expense of a few hundred dollars he endeavored to make the house habitable. For probably eight months of the year he is travelling incessantly over his wide-spread Diocese, "in perils by land, and perils by water,""now, under the burning sun, crossing a prairie two hundred miles in length, without a sign of habitation"now, in districts where roads there are none, following the deep worn Indian trail through the otherwise pathless forests"and now, on some of the swelling rivers of the West, trusting himself to a frail canoe"always, unwearied in labor, "seeking for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad," far from the sound of the Church going bell, that he may win them to the true fold. I was told by a layman of the diocese, that the Bishop would land at Milwaukie, after a two months' tour of duty in Indiana, and without even taking time to go home, set out at once for the most distant West, to confirm the scattered Churches in Iowa. Were he to hear that five persons desire confirmation at a thousand miles distance, he would set off in three hours.

When a visitation is finished, and he is able to return for a short time to his family, this is his home. Without a room large enough to contain his library, with his books and papers often most inconveniently packed away in boxes"exposed to difficulties which would horrify our dwellers at the East"he cheerfully furnishes to his fellow-laborers an example of primitive simplicity and self-denial"sharing their hardest toils, and showing himself every where, the first Missionary of the Diocese. His own private means and his missionary salary, are devoted unsparingly to this cause. In making these statements, I trust I am not passing the bounds which delicacy would prescribe, for I am only writing what I every where heard through the Diocese. Neither is it to honor the individual that it is done. His record is on high, and there will he receive his reward. But it is well that our brethren at the East should know how it fares with those who are laboring beyond the Great Lakes, and while they too often give to this cause with stinting avarice, let them compare their self-denial with that endured by those who are here breaking up the fallow ground, and striving to sow the seed, where a few years will see a scattered population expand into a great nation.

We might add that the Bishop shows not only the simplicity, but also the open hospitality of early times, where the hearty welcome placed us at once at ease, while the taste and refinement which his accomplished daughter has imparted to her home, made us forget that we were fifteen hundred miles from the capital of the Empire State, in the far West, with its primeval trees rustling around us.

The lands of the Nashotah Mission join those of the Bishop, and after dinner I proceeded thither to take up my residence, leaving the rest of the party to enjoy the hospitality of the Bishop. The President conducted me by a foot-path of about half a mile through the woods, and I availed myself of our walk to obtain from him some information with regard to the past history of the Institution.

It was in Sept, 1841, that Messrs. Breck, Adams and Hobart, came to the Territory, and made their head quarters at Prairieville, while a circuit of thirty miles around was allotted to them as their Mission. At that time there was scarcely a house between Milwaukie and Prairieville, while they were often obliged, in seeking out the scattered settlers, to thread their way through the forests by the old Indian trails which had been trodden for centuries before the white man came. In the course of the second year Mr. Hobart returned to the East, but Messrs. Breck and Adams have continued to this hour devoted to the enterprise"the former as Head of the Mission, the latter as Professor. They remained but nine months at Prairieville, when it was thought best to obtain a situation of their own in the country, and with the consent of the Bishop, they settled at the Nashotah Lakes.

We had now reached their residence, a correct idea of which it would be difficult to give on paper. The whole of this part of the country is intersected by the most beautiful lakes, so that from a hill a few miles distant, eleven can be counted in sight, while more than double that number can be found in a circle of twelve miles. They are of various sizes, the largest being about two miles in length"some dotted with islands"the water perfectly clear"and the shore generally a high bluff, rising many feet above the surface. Two of these, which approach within a hundred feet of each other, and are united by a little brook, have retained the Indian name of Nashotah or Twin Lakes.  On the bank of one of them, where the shore rises fifty feet above the water, and then spreads out into a level plateau, covered with oak trees standing in clumps, are the Mission buildings. The smooth and placid lake, clear as the famed waters of St. George's Lake in our own State, stretches out before them, about a mile in length, and half a mile in breadth. The noble forest trees wave around its banks on every side, while from the high grounds on the opposite shore, a small prairie spreads out for a couple of miles, having on its centre the old sepulchral monuments of the Indians. These are high mounds of earth, piled up, perhaps, a dozen feet, and arranged in the shape of various animals, the outline of which can be readily traced. One represents a tortoise"another a serpent"another a bear"while some, from the large trees growing on them, must be of great age.

Scattered over the grounds of the Mission, under the lofty oak trees, are eight or ten low wooden buildings, devoted to its use. Chapel, dormitories, dining-hall, workshops, recitation-rooms, are all, here, constructed with that simplicity and plainness to which their poverty has compelled them to adhere. In the centre of the grounds, a low paling surrounds an Indian grave. Who sleeps below they know not; probably some chieftain of the powerful tribe which once lorded it over these beautiful shores, but has now been driven towards the setting sun. The members of the Mission found it when they came. They have preserved it from desecration, and probably it will remain long after the mighty mounds on the other side of the lake have been levelled to the surface of the surrounding prairie. They view from this spot is probably one of the most enchanting that the world can furnish. It has been the lot of the writer of these lines to look upon many of the landscapes which, in our own and other lands, are celebrated for their picturesque effect, yet never any where, among the far-famed lakes of England and Scotland, or even the sunny glades of Italy"has he found a scene more beautiful than that presented by the Nashotah lakes.

Here it was our good fortune to meet with the Rev. Dr. Muhlenburgh, of New York, who had preceded us a few days, and was staying at the Mission. Years ago, at St. Paul's College, Flushing, the one who now acts as Head of this Institution was his pupil, and this is far from being the first time that Dr. M. has been called to rejoice with thankfulness as he beheld the good seed he formerly sowed, now bringing forth abundant fruit for the benefit of the Church and the world.

Being joined by the Bishop and the ladies of the party, we proceeded to go the rounds of the Institution, under the guidance of the President. The first buildings to which we came were those devoted to the laundry department. They are on the borders of the lake"one being for washing"another, which contains a furnace, being used for ironing"while the third is occupied as a bed room by the student who is over this department. As this matter has been the subject of more comment than any other connected with the Mission, it may be well to explain it fully.

In the poverty of the Institution and of the students connected with it, it is of course necessary to have every thing they can, done by their own members, that they may pay out as little money as possible. The washing, however, was at first put out, and the President informed me that he always expected that it should be. In the difficulty, however, of procuring servants in a new country, it was no easy work to find any one to discharge this duty. [1] In addition to this, it was expensive. Some of the students, therefore, came to the President, and proposed that they themselves should do it. He found upon calculation, that this would save the Institution $500 a year"no slight sum to them"and therefore assented. And now, he says, there are always those accustomed to outdoor employments, who request to be put on this department, preferring it to other kinds of labor that would be allotted to them.

Every thing else connected with the clothes, their making, mending, &c., is done in the neighborhood, out of the Institution.

A short distance further, on the borders of the lake, is the Baptistry. It is a flight of steps leading to the water at a convenient depth for immersion, where a platform has been placed at the bottom. Many of the settlers around are Baptists. The Rev. President has therefore, wisely made provision to meet their difficulties at the outset. When he encounters those with whom immersion is a sine qua non, he takes the true ground, that the Church authorizes this form, and he therefore offers to perform it. In this way many are won, who otherwise would be driven into schism, and he informed me, that during the past year he received into the Church at this spot, twenty-five individuals, who thus by baptism put on Christ in the crystal waters of this lake, worthy of the name of St. Sacrament, which the early Jesuits in New York bestowed upon Lake George. The first portion of the service is performed in the Chapel, and the remainder at the Lake. The form of immersion, too, is different from the way in which it is performed among the Baptists, where the individual is immersed backwards. Here, he kneels in the water, the officiating Priest places one hand behind his head, taking him at the same time by the hand, bends him forward till the immersion is complete, and then aids him in rising.

We happened to have arrived during the vacation, which lasts from the middle of June to the middle of August. During this time, though the students remain, the regular studies are suspended, and eight hours labor a day substituted in their place.Many of the students were in the harvest field, whither we walked. We found about a dozen employed in getting in the wheat, on a tract which had been cleared and brought into cultivation since the Mission was established.

At 6 o'clock all assembled in the Chapel for Evening Prayers. The service was performed by the Bishop and Dr. Muhlenberg, the Lessons being read by a Deacon residing at the Mission, a graduate of the last class.

The Chapel is a wooden building, holding about one hundred and fifty persons. It is painted stone color, and arranged with such attention to ecclesiastical architecture as the means of the builders would allow. The chancel is a recess entirely separate from the nave"the windows are pointed"and the ceiling is a pointed arch, which they were at this time employed in ornamenting with wood work, to produce something of the effect of an open roof. Prayers are read at the altar, and the Lessons at a lectern without the rail, on he opposite side to which stands the pulpit. At the lower end is a gallery, containing a small organ, a gift of the family of the late Rev. Mr. Hull, of Milwaukie. Just inside the door stands the font, made by a Norwegian, from the red cedar wood of the country, and so large as to be used for immersion in the case of infants.

At the close of the service notice was given of the administration of the Holy Communion at 6 o'clock the next morning. Then came the hour of tea, and at ten o'clock the bell rang, when all the students were expected to retire. So ended my first day at Nashotah.


[1] The difficulty, almost the impossibility of procuring servants in the West, can scarcely be realized by those who are living at the East. Where land is only a dollar and a quarter per acre, every settler becomes of course a landed proprietor. His family therefore, feel above discharging any menial office. Even the cook, a colored man, who now is employed at Nashotah, had to be procured from one of the lake steam boats, at the enormous wages of $20 a month. And this is for doing the simplest kind of cooking, without including baking. A servant could be procured at the East to discharge all his duties, for $6 a month. This statement will show the reason why the washing of the Establishment would be so expensive.

The reader must indeed bear in mind, through the whole of these articles, that it is the account of a state of things widely different from any thing to which he is accustomed. As the country fills up, and a different class of settlers come in, some of these features of Nashotah might be remodelled. At present, surrounded only by the log cabins of the recent settlers, it seems to be difficult to arrange it otherwise. We have mixed much with those who have gone to the country, and been told again and again by those brought up in refinement at the East, "Here we can not get servants, we are obliged to do our own work." Why then should this be used as an argument against Nashotah"as we have often heard it"because they have the same necessity forced upon them? At some future day it will not be so.

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