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Isaac McCoy Papers

Isaac McCoy

Manuscript Collection 422



This microfilm contains the correspondence and papers of the Rev. Isaac McCoy, Baptist minister, Indian missionary, surveyor, and author, which are in the posssession of the Kansas State Historical Society.


In 1810 McCoy was ordained a Baptist minister and seven years later was sent by the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions in America to the Miami Indians, who were living on the Wabash river, 16 miles above Terre Haute, Indiana. This was his first missionary experience but he was to spend the remainder of his life in this and related fields.

McCoy established Carey Mission among the Pottawatomies on the St. Joseph river near present Niles, Michigan in December, 1822. In 1826 he founded Thomas Mission among the Ottawas near present Grand Rapids.

His work with the Indians caused McCoy to sense the need of a permanent Indian country where tribes could be free from the "corrupting influences attending association with the frontier people of that early period." Consequently he was one of the first to suggest the removal of Eastern tribes to the unoccupied areas of the West. In June, 1824, he went to Washington to submit the proposal to the Board of Foreign Missions. The board was impressed with his ideas and suggested that he present them to the President. McCoy was unable to obtain an audience but did have conversations with John C. Calhoun, the secretary of war who was in charge of Indian affairs. Calhoun received McCoy's proposals with enthusiasm and became one of their strongest advocates.

Emigration of Eastern tribes to the territories west of the Mississippi had, by choice of the Indians themselves, begun many years before. Members of the Shawnee and Delaware tribes settled in Louisiana territroy near Cape Girardeau as early as 1793. In 1809 a part of the Cherokee tribe located on the waters of the Arkansas and White rivers in Missouri territory while portions of the Choctaw and Creek tribes settled on the Arkansas and Red rivers. However, no official action had been taken by congress, prior to McCoy's proposal, to define a policy for removal of Eastern Indians to uninhabited lands in the West.

Anticipating the eventual passage of a removal bill, Calhoun arranged for the negotiation of treaties with various tribes in the Indian country which would allow the immigration of the Eastern tribes. It was to be several years, however, before such a bill was passed.

In November, 1827, McCoy again met with the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions and pressed the subject of Indian emigration. A memorial to congress was written and a pamphlet which had been prepared by McCoy supporting the removal proposal was ordered printed and widely circulated. Copies were presented to members of congress and to the heads of many governmental departments. McCoy himself was sent to Washington in December, 1827, and spent the next two months lobbying for a removal act.

In spite of the fact that a removal policy was favored by the President, now John Quincy Adams, and the secretary of war, James Barbour, as well as other influential persons, there was considerable opposition from groups which felt the Indians were being cheated of their ancestral homes and given instead an area considered by many to be nothing more than desert. The slavery question, too, was an important consideration, for Northerners felt that if the territory west of Missouri and north of the compromise line of 1820 were left open to white settlement the area would eventually become a free state and thus give the North an edge in the fight for power in congress. The question of suitability of the land for occupation was also raised. All these factors combined to defeat the 1828 attempt to pass a removal bill. An appropriation was made, however, to have the area explored, and later that year McCoy and George H. Kennedy of St. Louis were sent along with delegations of Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, Pottawatomies, and Ottawas, to examine the country.

On August 21, 1828, McCoy, Kennerly, and the Pottawatomies and Ottawas left St. Louis for the Osage river. Following the Osage up to its headwaters, they crossed over to the Neosho which they followed out to its source. Moving up to the Kansas river they then returned along its south bank to the Missouri boundary, visiting some new settlements of Shawnees in what is now Johnson county, Kansas.

Years later McCoy wrote that the trip had allowed him to acquire an intimate knowledge of the country designed for the Indian settlements. He also noted that the country was "far better than I had expected." After an absence of seven weeks the delegation returned to St. Louis. A few days later McCoy, with Kennerly and a delegation of southern Indians, toured the area south of what is now Kansas as far as the Arkansas river near Fort Gibson in present Oklahoma. Here the Indians were left to visit kinsmen already settled along the river while McCoy and Kennerly returned to St. Louis.

The report McCoy wrote was submitted to the secretary of war in January 1829, and appended to the report of the committee on Indian affairs of the house of representatives. Though the committee favored the passage of an emigration bill, it was not until May 28, 1830, that such a measure was finally approved.

The Indian Removal act authorized the President "to cause so much of any territory belonging to the United States, west of the River Mississippi, not included in any State or organized Territory, and to which the Indian title had been extinguished, as he may judge necessary, to be divided into a suitable number of districts, for the reception of such tribes or nations of Indians as may choose to exchange the lands where they now reside, and remove there; and to cause each of said districts to be so described by natural or artificial marks, as to be easily distinguished from every other."

In the meantime, in the fall of 1829 McCoy had made his third trip to the territory, visiting the Kansa nation and exploring the surrounding area. Once the bill was passed McCoy set about closing his missions in the East and transferring them to the new territory in preparation for the time when the Indians would move West. Some of the missionaries who came with McCoy were Jotham Meeker, Johnston Lykins, Robert Simerwell, and their wives.

For the next 10 years McCoy was almost constantly employed by the government in the Indian country, selecting and surveying locations for the immigrant Indians and establishing and maintaining missions and schools. In 1842 he moved to Louisville, Kentucky to direct the American Indian Mission Association, a society which he himself had organized. He continued in this work until his death at Louisville in 1846.

Contents List

Description of the Collection

The papers of Isaac McCoy were presented to the Kansas State Historical Society on July 9, 1879, by John Calvin McCoy, a son who accompanied the missionary on his early explorations and assisted in the survey of the proposed Indian lands. The collection, numbering more than 2,500 items, was bound in 38 volumes shortly after it was deposited with the Society.

The papers are concerned almost entirely with Indian missions, Indian removal, and related matters. Missionary duties at the station on the Wabash, at Fort Wayne and the missions on the St. Joseph and Grand rivers are detailed. After McCoy established himself in Kansas the papers continue to illustrate the problems that early missions and missionaries were compelled to contend with. Lack of finances was a continual trial since there seemed to be an eternal difficulty in convincing the missionary board back East that certain commodities and facilities were necessary on the frontier. Internal problems such as a rapid changeover in personnel; nagging charges of mismanagement; controlling activities of teachers, students, etc.; and interdenominational bickerings plagued the efficient operation of the missions and schools.

Beginning in 1822 McCoy's devotion to Indian removal is illustrated in letters describing his early thoughts on the subject, his appearances before the Board of Foreign Missions, his lobbying in Washington, and his authorship of various tracts about emigration. With the passage of the 1828 bill authorizing exploration of possible removal areas his correspondence covers trips to the new country, his eventual establishment of missions and schools there and his services as surveyor locating areas for the various tribes moving in.

Early printing in Kansas, done by Jotham Meeker in an Indian orthography, is well described in letters to church leaders.

The main theme of the collection, of course, is the American Indian and McCoy's continual efforts to establish a better way of life for him in the West. Elementary and higher education; physical condition of the tribes; relationships with whites and the War Department; petty controversies with head men, mission personnel, and the Baptist board; and relations with the federal government particularly over appropriations of funds, form a major part of the collection.

In the 1840's McCoy's efforts to aid the Indian through the American Indian Mission Association are illustrated in letters to church leaders and agents of the association. Following McCoy's death in 1846 the papers are concerned mainly with the business activities of his children.

For microfilming, and for more satisfactory preservation, the bindings of the papers were cut and the adhesive strips to which the letters had been attached were soaked away. In most cases the strips were completely removed, but in a few instances a residue remained which causes slight loss of definition in the film copy.

Many of the McCoy papers show the ravages of water, fire, and insects. To preserve the integrity of the collection these damaged papers have been filmed even though in some cases legibility is almost entirely lost.

The arrangement of the correspondence is chronological. Undated and miscellaneous items, including Mccoy's autobiography, accounts, lectures, poetry, hymns, survey notes, maps, and the manuscript of McCoy's book, History of the Baptist Indian Missions, follow the dated material. McCoy's journal, which covers the period 1814 to 1841, has not been filmed since much of it exists in letterpress publication.

Targets have been used sparingly and except for introductory notes no editorial material has been included. Short titles on small pieces of white paper introduce each new series and are easily noticed during rapid winding of the film. Researchers will notice occasional marks such as arabic numerals on certain of the letters. These are not a part of the original but were used as indexing aids by an early and untutored researcher. Insertions, which McCoy appended to his manuscripts, have been filmed following the page to which they belong. Dates supplied by the editors have been bracketed in the upper right hand portion of letters.

Included for the use of researchers, even though it contains some errors, is a rough draft of a calendar of the McCoy correspondence. This has been filmed at the beginning of roll one.

Box List

Microfilm roll MS 604

Box 1
    folder 1    Calendar of Correspondence
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from 1808-1817
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from 1818
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from 1819
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Jun 1820
    folder 6    Index to Vol. 1
    folder 7    Index to Vol. 2
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Sep 1820
    folder 9    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Dec 1820
Box 2
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1821    
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Jun 1821

Microfilm roll MS 605

Box 2    
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Sep 1821
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1822
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Jun 1822
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Sep 1822
Box 3
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Dec 1822
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1823
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Jun 1823

Microfilm roll MS 606

Box 3    
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Aug 1823
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Oct 1823
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1823
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Feb 1824
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Mar 1824
Box 4
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Apr-May 1824
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Jun-Aug 1824
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Oct 1824

Microfilm roll MS 607

Box 4    
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Feb 1825
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Mar-Apr 1825
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from May-Jun 1825
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Aug 1825
Box 5
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Oct 1825
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1825
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Feb 1826
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Mar-Apr 1926
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from May-Jun 1826

Microfilm roll MS 608

Box 5   
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Aug 1826
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Oct 1826
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1826
Box 6
    folder 1    Account Book, 1824-1826
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Feb 1827
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Mar-Apr 1827
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from May-Jun 1827
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Aug 1827

Microfilm roll MS 609

Box 6    
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Oct 1827
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1827
Box 7
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1828
    folder 2    Manuscript for Practicability of Indian Reform, 2 vols. published 1827 and 1829
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Jun 1828
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Aug 1828
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Oct 1828
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1828

Microfilm roll MS 610

Box 7    
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1829
Box 8
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Nov 1829
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Dec 1829
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1830
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Sep 1830
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Dec 1829
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr 1831
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from May-Sep 1831
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Dec 1831
Box 9
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1832
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Apr 1832

Microfilm roll MS 611

Box 9    
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from May-Jun 1832
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Dec 1833
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Sep 1833
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Dec 1833
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Mar 1834
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1834
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Dec 1834
Box 10
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Jun 1835
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Dec 1835
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Feb 1836
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Mar 1836
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Apr-May 1836

Microfilm roll MS 612

Box 10    
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jun-Aug 1836
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Dec 1836
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr 1837
Box 11
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from May-Jul 1837
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Aug-Oct 1837
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1837
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Mar 1838
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Apr-Jun 1838
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Sep 1838
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Nov 1838
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Dec 1838
    folder 9    1838? (badly damaged)

Microfilm roll MS 613

Box 12
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Feb 1839
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Mar-Sep 1839
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Dec 1839
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Apr 1840
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from May-Jun 1840
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Dec 1840
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr 1841
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from May-Aug 1841
    folder 9    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Dec 1841
    folder 10    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr 1842
Box 13
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from May-Aug 1842
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Dec 1842

Microfilm roll MS 614

Box 13    
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr- 1843
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from May-Aug 1843
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Sep-Dec 1843
    folder 6    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr 1844
    folder 7    Correspondence and papers from May-Sep 1844
    folder 8    Correspondence and papers from Oct-Dec 1844
    folder 9    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Jun 1845
    folder 10    Correspondence and papers from Jul-Oct 1845
    folder 11    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1845
    folder 12    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Apr 1846
Box 14
    folder 1    Correspondence and papers from May-Oct 1846
    folder 2    Correspondence and papers from Nov-Dec 1846
    folder 3    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Dec 1847
    folder 4    Correspondence and papers from Jan-Dec 1848
    folder 5    Correspondence and papers from Jan 1849-Aug1874

Microfilm roll MS 615

Box 14   
    folder 6    Undated correspondence
    folder 7    [Calendar of] Letters sent, 1843-1846
    folder 8    Fragments undated
    folder 9    Fragments undated
    folder 10    Autobiography of Isaac McCoy
    folder 11    Miscellaneous undated accounts, receipts and drafts    
    folder 12    “Traditionary History of the Origin of the Ottawa Indians”
    folder 13    Notes on Indian Reform
Box 15
    folder 1    Lectures on Moral Philosophy by Rice McCoy
    folder 2    Unidentified Lists of Names, Primarily by States
    folder 3    Manuscript of Hymn Book
    folder 4    Poetry by Sarah McCoy
    folder 5    Undated Statements Controversy over Shawnee Baptist Mission
    folder 6    Undated Survey Notes
    folder 7    Miscellaneous Items

Microfilm roll MS 616

Box 15    Manuscript of Isaac McCoy’s History of Baptist Indian Missions.
    folder 8    chapter 1-3, pages 1-68
    folder 9    chapters 4-8, pages 68-186
    folder 10   chapters 9-13, pages 187-322
Box 16    
    folder 1    chapters, 14-17, pages 323-412
    folder 2    chapters, 18-Apdx, pages 413-Appendix
    folder 3    Synopsis and index

Material that is not on microfilm

Series 1: Originals
Box 17
     Autobiography of the Rev. Isaac McCoy, 1784-1817 (typed copy)
     Autobiography to about the year 1816/Journal from May 29, 1820 to March 3, 1823
     Journal of Isaac McCoy
        Mar 31, 1816 – Dec 8, 1816
        Jan 12, 1817 – Dec 23, 1817
        Jan 3, 1818 – May 28, 1820
Box 18
     Journal of Isaac McCoy, 1818-29
     Journal of Isaac McCoy, 1828-1841

Series 2: Copies
Box 19    Typed Copy
    folder 1    Autobiographical statement to the year 1816 – addressed to W. Polke
    folder 2    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Mar 31, 1816-Dec 8, 1816
    folder 3    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan12, 1817-Dec 23, 1817
    folder 4    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 3, 1818-Aug 18, 1818
    folder 5    Journal of Isaac McCoy, May 29, 1820-Dec 1820
    folder 6    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 1, 1821-Apr 21, 1821
    folder 7    Journal of Isaac McCoy, May 7, 1821-Jul 31, 1821
    folder 8    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Aug 2, 1821-Dec 31, 1821
Box 20
    folder 1    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 1, 1822- Apr 30, 1822
    folder 2    Journal of Isaac McCoy, May 1 1822-June 30, 1822
    folder 3    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jul 2, 1822-Sep 30, 1822
    folder 4    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Oct 5, 1822-Dec 31, 1822
    folder 5    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 1, 1823-Mar 3, 1823
    folder 6    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Oct 13, 1828-Dec 30, 1830
    folder 7    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 4, 1831-Dec 29, 1831
    folder 8    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 17, 1832-Dec 16, 1832
    folder 9    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 2, 1833-Dec 31, 1833
    folder 10   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 1, 1834-Dec 23, 1835
    folder 11   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 7, 1836-Jul 8, 1837
    folder 12   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Mar 5, 1838-Oct 20, 1838
    folder 13   Autobiography of Isaac McCoy, 1784-1817
Box 21    Reference Copy
    folder 1    Autobiographical statement to the year 1816 – addressed to W. Polke
    folder 2    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Mar 31, 1816-Jan 12, 1817
    folder 3    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 23, 1817-Dec 23, 1817
    folder 4    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 3, 1818-Aug 18, 1818
    folder 5    Journal of Isaac McCoy, May 29, 1820-Dec 30, 1820
    folder 6    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 1, 1821-May 7, 1821
    folder 7    Journal of Isaac McCoy, May 11, 1824-Aug 9, 1821
    folder 8    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Aug 10, 1821-Dec 31, 1821
    folder 9    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jan 1, 1822-Apr 30, 1822
    folder 10   Journal of Isaac McCoy, May 1, 1822-Aug 2, 1822
    folder 11   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Aug 3, 1822-Mar 3, 1823
    folder 12   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jul 2, 1828-Oct 12, 1828
    folder 13   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Oct 13, 1829-Oct 15, 1829
    folder 14   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Oct 17, 1829-Jul 13, 1830
    folder 15   Journal of Isaac McCoy, Jul 15, 1830-Oct 14, 1832
Box 22    
    folder 1    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Oct 15, 1832-Dec 4, 1835
    folder 2    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Dec 14, 1835-Apr 10, 1838
    folder 3    Journal of Isaac McCoy, Apr 11, 1838-Oct 28, 1838

Series 3: Published Journals, 1828 and 1830
    Published in the Kansas Historical Quarterly, Volume 5, 1936

Series 4: Miscellany
    folder 4    McCoy’s report of his exploring trip of 1828 (typed copy).
    folder 5    McCoy-Lykins letters to John Tipton and C. A. Harris, 1825-1839 (typed copies)
    folder 6    Remarks on conditions of surveys in McCoy’s Journal, 1839
    folder 7    Indian grammar
    folder 8    Notes on Missions in General.
    folder 9    Constitution of the Muscogee [?] Baptist Church, 1832
    folder 10   John Calvin McCoy – Fragmentary papers
    folder 11   Farm accounts simplified

Related Records and Collections

Related Secondary Sources

Adams, Franklin G. "Rev. Isaac McCoy," Kansas Historical Collections, Vol. 1-2, pp. 271-275.

Barnes, Lela. "Isaac McCoy and the Treaty of 1821," Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5, pp. 122-142.

Barnes, Lela. "Journal of Isaac McCoy for the Exploring Expedition of 1828," Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5, pp. 227-277.

Barnes, Lela. "Journal of Isaac McCoy for the Exploring Expedition of 1830," Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5, pp. 339-377.

Lyons, Emory J. "Isaac McCoy: His Plan of and Work for Indian Colonization," unpublished master's thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1937.

McCoy, John C. "Survey of Kansas Indian Lands," Kansas Historical Collections, Vol. 4, pp. 298-311.

McDermott, John Francis, ed. "Isaac McCoy's Second Exploring Trip of 1828," Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 13, pp. 400-462.

Roustio, Edward. "A History of the Life of Isaac McCoy in Relationship to Early Indian Migrations and Missions as Revealed in His Unpublished Manuscripts," unpublished doctoral dissertation, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Kansas, 1954.

Starburg, Robert E. "Baptist on the Kansas Frontier," unpublished bachelor's thesis, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Illinois, 1960.

Yeager, Randolph O. "Indian Enterprises of Isaac McCoy, 1817-1846," unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 1955.

Related Manuscript Collections

MS 617 & MS 618 Jotham Meeker Collection

This guide and the microfilm it describes were made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications &

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions on Use

The Isaac McCoy papers are the property of the Kansas State Historical Society. Brief quotations are authorized without restriction but publication of any major portion of the material on this film must be approved in writing by an officer of the Society. Literary rights are not owned by the Society and therefore cannot be conveyed.

It is suggested that the following citation be made to this microfilm publication: "Isaac McCoy Papers" (microfilm edition), manuscript division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

The microfilm of the Isaac McCoy papers may be used in the Research Room of the Kansas State Historical Society, borrowed through interlibrary loan, or purchased.