Rev. William Philip Pipkin. Methodism profited and the fraternity of painters lost a valuable member thirty years ago when William Philip Pipkin severed relationship with the latter and gave his life to the former. Thirty years have wrought marvelous changes in the Indian country. It was at Vinita, Indian Territory, that this pioneer Methodist gave his heart and hand to the Lord and the church, and he has been a factor of no little consequence in the development those changes produced.
“I don’t know just what the Methodist Church has gained,” remarked Mrs. W. C. Patton, mother of Mrs. F. B. Fute, the wife of one of the poineer physicians of Indian Territory, who now lives in Muskogee, “but I do know that Vinita has lost its best painter.” This was not literally true, however, for the young minister was paid only forty-one dollars by his parishioners the first year and it became necessary for him frequently to resort to his paint brush to earn enough for himself and wife to get the barest necessities of existence. While there has been no evidence of a lack of appreciation of his ministry, it is perhaps significant of his devotion to his calling that in thirty years he has not accumulated any worldly goods, and not infrequently has gone without necessities in order that those dependent upon him might faro the better. However, he is a happy and contented superannuate.
Rev. William Philip Pipkin is the youngest son of Paris and Frances Elizabeth Pipkin. Paris Pipkin was the son of Philip Pipkin, who was a colonel of a Tennessee regiment in the War of 1812-15, and took part in the battle of New Orleans. Paris Pipkin was born July 14, 1811, moved with his father from Tennessee to Missouri when seventeen years old, and on December 26, 1832, was married to Miss Elizabeth Frances Berry. To this union were born eight children, of whom William Philip was the youngest. When this son was six years of age his mother died, and when he was nine his father went to the war, remaining three years, and on his return moved to a farm in Crawford County, Missouri. After the death of his mother the Rev. William P. Pipkin went to the home of n sister in St. Louis, where as a small boy on the streets he earned his first pennies selling the St. Louis Republic and the Missouri Democrat, working for his own support and to get what education he could. He was then with his father on the Crawford County farm for three years, and returning to St. Louis at the age of fifteen, learned the trade of a printer, serving three years and four months with Wilgus & Tackett.
In November, 1874, Reverend Pipkin came to the Indian Territory to take charge of a coal mine seven miles northwest of Vinita for Hubble & Knott, of Springfield, Missouri, and it was there he met Miss Mary Elizabeth Wingfield, a daughter of Charles B. Wingfield. a veteran of the Mexican war and a pioneer of the Cherokee Nation, he having lived here before the Civil war. They were married on the 23d of September, 1875, and to the union five children were born, four of whom are living: Mis. Bertha Wright, Charles Band, Paris and Mrs. Kate A. Wallace. In 1881 the Rev. Mr. Pipkin opened a paint shop in Vinita, and he continued that occupation for about six years.
It was in the fall of 1875, while visiting in Joplin, Missouri, that the Rev. William Pipkin was converted, and he afterward joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In August, 1884, he was licensed to preach at a Quarterly Conference held in Vinita, the Rev. E. R, Shappard being the presiding elder. At the conference held in Eufala in 1886 he was appointed by Bishop Charles B. Galloway to the Cabin Creek circuit, but as this charge paid him for the year’s work only $41.75, he had to work at painting to supplement his salary. In the fall of 1887 he joined the Indian Mission Conference, where he was appointed by Bishop Galloway to the Sansboy circuit.
In the fall of 1888, at White Bead Hill, Chickasaw Nation, he was ordained deacon by Bishop Joseph S. Key, of Sherman, Texas. A year later at Atoka he was received into full connection by Bishop E. R. Hendrix of Kansas City, and in 1891 was ordained elder by Bishop Hendrix at Oklahoma City. During his ministry he has witnessed more than a thousand conversions and additions to the church.
Up and down the Indian Nation this itinerant preacher has traveled more than a quarter of a century. With the exception of four years spent as presiding elder of the Choctaw-Chickasaw District, 1903 to 1907, and three years filling stations at Hugo, Afton and Wagoner, he has been a circuit rider. During his labors on the two nations district, Indian and white charges were combined and the services of an Indian interpreter frequently were required. Among the interpreters with whom he was associated was Willis Folsom, who probably was the greatest Methodist preacher the Choctaw tribe has produced.
Willis Folsom preached for forty-eight years. Once while Rev. Mr. Pipkin was on the San Bois Circuit, where he became an intimate friend of Principal Chief Green McCurtain of the Choctaw Nation, Mr. Folsom in the midst of the Pipkin sermon, which he was interpreting to the red men present, took his seat in apparent disgust. “Go ahead,” he said to the white preacher, who looked at him in amazement; “you talk too fast; I can’t interpret.” While on the Sail Bois Circuit Mr. Pipkin frequently had the noted Belle Starr as a member of his congregation. A member of her band once stole a slicker off his saddle.
His district work required long drives into the sparsely settled and mountainous Choctaw Nation. On one of these he and his son were lost for a day in the Kiamichi Mountains. It was winter and storming and they slept under a buggy curtain and laprobe at night. They were searching for a little meeting place the Indians called Salt Creek Church. His Indian brethren fed him well, as they always have done in case of presiding elders, though he had to eat in the open or under a cover that was little shelter against rain and snow.
While on the district he built churches at Idabel, Garvin, Fort Towson, Soper and other places. The little Methodist edifice at Fort Towson was the first his denomination ever had erected at that historic place. Ho also built many parsonages. As a circuit rider he built churches at Texanna, San Bois, Paola, Noble, Briartown and other places and parsonages at San Bois and Noble. He had the church at Hugo remodeled while he was stationed there, and a parsonage built.
Three years ago Rev. Mr. Pipkin took a supernumerary relation with the conference, but on request of his presiding elder organized churches at Ida, Mover, New Hope, Finley, Cloudy and Nelson. Two years ago he was superannuated, but the first year he filled the Antlers Circuit on account of the pastor assigned to that circuit having failed to arrive. During 1915 the pastor assigned to the Tuskahoma Circuit failed to arrive and Mr. Pipkin has that charge. He preaches at Tuskahoma, capital of the Choctaw Nation, and at the Choctaw Female Seminary, four miles from Tuskahoma.