Rev. James Sapulpa. Of what may be accomplished by courageous enterprise there is no better example than that furnished in the history of Oklahoma. Here the spirit of American progress has been shown in unrivaled glory, and a trackless wilderness, the travois of the Indian, has given place to the wagon of the farmer, the network of railroads, the electric lines and the automobile. Social and commercial growth have kept pace with this advance, and everywhere can be seen and heard evidences of progress, voicing the energy of an aspiring commonwealth. Hero nature has been lavish in her benefices, here the willing soil yields forth its generous stores; here the mineral resources, great though the development has already been, offer boundless opportunities for future exploitation; and here are the homes of a loyal, appreciative and progressive people, who honor and receive honor from the whole noble sisterhood of states. No other commonwealth of the Union has a history that so closely touches the life records of those whose first was the American dominion, for the Oklahoma was the final domain of our country that was left to the Indians and that constituted the former Indian Territory. There is thus much of romance touching the development of an enlightened commonwealth in this great domain, and all who are in the least appreciative must view with great satisfaction the large and worthy part the Indians themselves have played and continue to play in furtherance of the industrial and general civic progress of Oklahoma, in which last stronghold they have as a whole responded nobly to the voice of destiny and to the limit of their powers are proving valuable to the state. In this connection there is surpassing interest attaching to the virile and noble man whose name initiates this review and who is proving a true and worthy apostle of righteousness and enlightenment among his own people, the Indians of the former Creek Nation, and who is laboring with all of consecrated zeal and devotion as a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and that with headquarters in the City of Sapulpa, which was named in honor of the Indian family of which he is an honored and really distinguished member. He preaches to the Creek Indians in their own language and is not, in fact, conversant in any appreciable degree with the English tongue, though he has learned well the great gospel which he preaches and is a man of fine mental and moral powers.
Rev. James Sapulpa, whose Indian name, given him in childhood, is Wah-lakeyahola, signifying “sweet potatoes,” was born not far distant from his present place of residence in Sapulpa, in the winter of 1847, and is a son of the well known old Creek Indian, Sapulpa, who was a leader in the Creek Nation and who eventually embraced the Christian religion, though he never received a personal name other than the one cognomen, Sapulpa, which is perpetuated in the fine little city that has been reared near his former home. He came with other members of his tribe to the section now compassed by Creek County at the time when the Seminole Indians were on the war path, and after the conflict had ceased he here established his permanent home, the Creek tribe having been transferred to this region by the Government. Here Sapulpa married a woman of his tribe who bore the name of Tenafe, and she was an aunt of the wife of the subject of this sketch, Rev. James Sapulpa. For his second wife he married Nekette, who later was given the Christian name of Eliza. No children were born of the first marriage, and of the seven children of the second union the second was James, to whom this article is specifically dedicated; Hannah became the wife of Ahulak-haco; Sarah is the wife of Timmie Fife, of Sapulpa, arid the other children died young. Sapulpa, in accordance with Indian custom, parted from his first wife, who bore him no children, and thereafter he married not only the mother of the subject of this review but also her sister, Japakese, this having likewise been in accord with the tribal customs. He thus had two wives at one time, and his total number of children by the two wives, the sisters, was twenty-four. The greater number of the children by Japakese died young, only one of the number now surviving, William A. Sapulpa, who is a well known and highly esteemed citizen of Creek County and who resides near his half-brother, Rev. James Sapulpa, of this sketch. The father died in Creek County, before the same was thus constituted, on the 17th of March, 1887, at which time he was seventy-five years of age. His wife Eliza, mother of Rev. James Sapulpa, died January 12, 1889, both having become converted to Christianity, and Eliza having been retained as the only wife, her sister having been put aside, in furtherance of the Christian ideals, but ample provision having been made for her.
Sapulpa was a fine type of the Creek tribe, and became an earnest exemplar of its progressive element, though ever loyal to tribal laws. He had one time brought home a small buffalo from the hunt and the same was raised by his son James, who retained the animal until it became unruly and attacked him, when he showed discrimination by selling it.
Rev. James Sapulpa has passed his entire life in the section of Oklahoma about the present City of Sapulpa, and his progressiveness was early shown through his extensive and successful activities as an agriculturist and stock-grower. Prior to the Civil war he was sent to one of the Indian schools for a period of six months, and this is all the specific education he ever received in the school room. From a hymnbook published in the Creek language he learned to write his native language, this hymnbook having been given to him by a Methodist missionary, and from that time forward he has taken a deep interest in church work. he and his wife, who has been his devoted companion and helpmeet, erected at their own expense the Sapulpa Methodist Chapel, which is situated on their homestead farm. At his home he began holding religious services for fellow members of his tribe even before the church building was erected, the meetings having been held on the grounds of his present residence, and an arbor having been built to afford to the congregation protections from the weather. In the winter season the meetings were held in his log house, which is still standing and in excellent preservation. After continuing his services as a preacher to his people under these conditions for a period of about ten years Mr. Sapulpa erected the present church edifice, a frame structure. Hero members of the neighboring Ute Indian tribe attended religious services until they erected a church of their own, and a number of them were converted under the guidance of Mr. Sapulpa. the Ute Church, about five miles distant, being still in prosperous condition. Mr. Sapulpa and his nephew, Marchie Hayes, who is a class leader of the Methodist Church, are now the only two remaining members of the original church organization over which Mr. Sapulpa presided. On the 12th of March, 1871, Mr. Sapulpa was baptized by Reverend Joshua, who likewise was a full-blood Creek Indian, and in 1897 he received license from the Methodist Church as an exhorter and in 1900 he received from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, his license as a local preacher. He has been an earnest, faithful and successful worker in the vineyard of the Divine Master, and the title of good and faithful servant well applies to him.
The early life of Mr. Sapulpa was marked by active identification with the live stock industry on the great open range, and his present residence stands near the site of the old home of his father who had large herds of cattle and at one time controlled a large area of land, including the present site of the City of Sapulpa, which was named in his honor, at the instance of Gen. Pleasant Porter, who was made an Indian chief.
Mr. Sapulpa is the owner of a quarter section of well improved land, 1½ miles southwest of Sapulpa, and on a fine elevation that affords an excellent view of the city and the surrounding country he erected, in 1908, his present pretentious and imposing frame residence, which is three stories in height and has thirteen rooms. It is not only one of the finest dwellings in Creek County but its sightly location makes it an imposing landmark that is visible for a great distance in each direction.
On the 6th of November, 1893, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Sapulpa to Miss Elizabeth Barnett, who was born at Walnuttown, twelve miles south of Okmulgee, Creek Nation, on the 17th of August, 1876. and who, like himself, is a full-blood Creek Indian. She was seven years old at the time of her father’s death, and her widowed mother sent her to the Wealaka Mission. While she was at the mission her mother was killed, and so her schooling was limited, but her alert mentality has enabled her to make definite progress in knowledge in later years, and she reads and writes well in both the Creek and English language, the latter of which she speaks fluently also, so that she is able to assist her husband greatly in both his business affairs and church work, as he speaks only the Creek tongue. She is most earnest and zealous in her religious activities and is a devout member of the church of which her husband is in pastoral charge. Mr. and Mrs. Sapulpa have no children of their own, but their kindliness and true Christian devotion have been shown in their rearing in their home eight orphan children. Joseph McCombs was adopted by them when fourteen, but they had reared him from the age of six years. He was educated at Eletsie Mission here and Weleetka Boarding School at Weleetka, Lawrence, Kansas, and Conway, Arkansas, Methodist College. Susanna Sapulpa, now four years of age (1915), was taken by them when she was but four months old and was legally adopted by them. She is the life and light of their home, and though she is a full-blood Creek Indian, she as yet speaks only the English language.
In the various operations of his well improved farm Mr. Sapulpa avails himself of scientific methods and the best modern machinery, and he is one of the enterprising and specially successful agriculturists and stock growers of the county, within whose limits he has lived from the time of his birth and in which he commands the high regard of his own people and also of the white population. Among the Indians of the county he is a recognized leader and his influence has been large in the promotion of their social, material and spiritual welfare.