A Story of Horses and Hippos

In the 1830 and 40s, Baptist and Presbyterian bodies began wholesale work among Creeks. Baptists established an Indian Mission Board at Marion, Alabama. In the late 1840s or early 50's, some Creeks were taken to New York City on "gov'nt bizness." They attended this new thing called a circus. Performing were some beautiful horses, Arabians I suspect. "My, that's a beautiful work of Creator" said the Creeks. Next they saw a hippopatomous. When they asked what that was, they were told it was a kind of horse. "Hummpf," they said, "Europeans [white people?] ought not to be trying to do Creator's work."

Years Later, Dr. Loughridge, a famous Presyberian missionary to the Creeks, wrote up a little catechism featuring animals with neat little bible stories designed to promote conversion and salvation amongst them. Loughridge borrowed freely from Creek mythology along with bible stories. Of great interest was a snake in a garden with a pretty young (and probably blond) woman. Loughridge, who perfected his knowledge of Muskogee, told them the Adam and Eve in the Garden story. By all accounts, he did a commendable and accurate job.

The Creeks held an animated discussion amongst themselves and chose High Hand Jim to speak for them. (Now back in the old days in Alabama, HH Jim was a fierce and feared warrior, who did much to save his people, spoke damn good English and died in ancient age as a minister in Oklahoma living in a fine carpenter built house) But, This happened, it is said, in what were still HH Jim's pagan days.

On behalf of the Creeks Ol' HH Jim said. "We know about our Creator but we aren't so sure about your God. You see, as we understand this story--and its a good one, the snake tells the truth and your God lies. We think your God should speak to our Creator about some things." "No, no--you don't understand," said Loughridge.

Remembering their years earlier trip to "Nuyaka" (as they called New York), HH Jim replied, "Our Creator gave us the Horse (never mind the Spanish influence here) but yours allows the hippopatomous!" Yep, old time Creeks think about things differently [...and never forget!].


This originally appeared in the summer issue of the "MUSKOGEE CAMP CRIER" (Pine Arbor's Tribal Town newspaper) about 1969 or so. It was told to Lady Clare Bowan (whose father had owned the Tallahassee Democrat Newspaper in the mid to late 1800's and was an original trustee of the West Florida Seminary--now Florida State University). It was told to her by the Black Creek, John Proctor (1840 - 1947), son of famous Florida Black freedman George Proctor who made a major California gold strike and founded a still running California-based Black newspaper. John was also the son of Antonio Proctor, official interpreter for the federal government when dealing with the Creeks--the treaty of Moultry Creek, and others, earned Antonio a place in 19th c. history. Many of Tallahassee's famous antebellum homes were built by George and Antonio. Many of FAMU's (Florida A & M ) original university brick buildings were also built by John Proctor who served as our state postmaster, in the legislature and who was also the customs inspector of the Port of St. Marks for much of his life; an active Episcopalian, he also served as a warden at the local Episcopal church, St. John's, which never did that segregation thing so many other churches did. "Them Creeks are everywhere!

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