Baptist Missionary - Friend to the Indian
Isaac McCoy was born near Uniontown, Pennsylvania June 13, 1784, the son of William and Eliza Royce McCoy. His father moved the family to Kentucky where Isaac was converted during the revival of 1800.
Several important events occurred during the next ten years that would set the stage for McCoy to begin his great and extensive work among the American Indians.
Baptized in 1801, he married Christiana Polke October 6, 1803, and moved to Indiana in 1804. He united with the Silver Creek Baptist Church, Clark County, in 1805. The McCoys moved to Vincennes, Indiana in 1809 where Isaac became pastor of the Maria Creek Baptist Church. While on the frontier, McCoy’s labour as a pastor and church planter brought him into contact with the Indians. He requested and received a one year appointment from the Baptist Missionary Convention to serve as a missionary.
He stated, “I resolved that, notwithstanding I had no assurance of patronage beyond the current year, I would, the Lord willing, make an effort to establish a mission, and to employ the remainder of my life and labours in the promotion of their temporal and eternal welfare.” This he did with uncommon zeal and incomparable sacrifice.
McCoy and his family suffered often from hunger, infirmity, disease and sorrow. While McCoy was away prosecuting the work, his faithful wife, Christiana, was at home tending family and mission. Eleven of their fourteen children were buried on the mission field, and such was the character of this remarkable woman that often, she bore and buried them alone.
Insufficient support, distance from civilization, lack of fellowhelpers, and peril from the natives further hindered their efforts, yet they undauntedly persevered.
McCoy wrote, “Missions to the Indians are unpopular things, and he who does not possess resources within himself to work alone, or with few associates, to sow much and reap little, to work hard without the reward of worldly honour or money, to remain poor all his life for the sake of making the almost friendless Indians rich, and to wait for his pay until he shall get to heaven, had better not enter upon a mission to the Indians.” Isaac McCoy arrived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, May 15, 1830, and founded its first church, known today as the First Baptist Church. He also founded the first school in Fort Wayne. He lived among and ministered to various Indian tribes. The McCoy’s fed, clothed, taught and lodged the Indians. From Fort Wayne, McCoy journeyed into Michigan where he founded the Carey and Thomas Mission Stations. McCoy, and faithful associates in the ministry, also founded missions in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. On September 9, 1832, McCoy constituted the Muskogee Baptist Church and Ebenezer Mission Station. This was the first Baptist Church organized in Oklahoma. The Indian Territory was his idea and he is credited with its formation. He made thirteen trips to Washington to persuade the House and Senate to adopt the plan of colonization. His unselfish devotion and untiring efforts on their behalf saved the Indians from certain extinction, while many of them were saved from everlasting destruction as a result of his faithfulness to preach unto them the gospel.
He was known and respected by chiefs and presidents alike.
The scene depicted occurred June 8, 1832. It was selected because it best illustrates the varied trials and triumphs of the McCoy family. Isaac McCoy has just returned from a trip to Washington on behalf of the Indians. On the way home, he received news of the death of his eldest son, Dr. Rice McCoy. This was the seventh child for which the Lord had called and the fifth which died while McCoy was away. He described the reunion on this sad occasion as a “meeting never to be forgotten”. In his journal he wrote, “For some time scarcely a word was spoken, while every face was suffused with tears, and every bosom heaved with sighs”. Within weeks, in spite of their sorrow, these determined labourers once again continued the work to which they had been called as they entered Kansas and began to build the Shawnee Indian Mission. May the life of these faithful saints be an inspiration to every Baptist! Isaac McCoy died June 21, 1846. His last words were, “Tell the brethren to never let the Indian Mission decline.” He is buried in Western Cemetery- Louisville, Kentucky.
Christiana McCoy died in August of 1851. She is buried in Union Cemetery – Kansas City, Missouri. Scene painted by nationally known artist, Ron Adair of Colorado Springs, CO.