James Jenkins Trott was the first preacher from the churches of Christ to evangelize among the Cherokees. At the age of fifteen, his parents moved from North Carolina to Tennessee where Trott joined the Methodist Episcopal church in 1821./1 The Methodist Episcopal “traveling connection” licensed Trott to preach in 1823 and sent him to minister among the Cherokees in Georgia in 1828. While in that state, he established many Cherokee congregations and was held in high esteem by the tribal chiefs when he married into the tribe./2
During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, an oath of allegiance was created in Georgia requiring all Cherokees and missionaries to pledge their allegiance to the state. Refusing, Trott got into serious trouble with the authorities. Writing under the pseudonym of Cherokee, he described his trouble: “I have been arrested, chained, imprisoned, condemned, reprieved, and banished from the territory of the state, because I refused to take what I believe to be an unconstitutional and impious oath.”/3
While in prison, he was able to read some of the writings of Alexander Campbell and was impressed with Campbell’s thought of returning to the primitive gospel. Using the Bible as his only authority, Trott was baptized after his release from prison. Departing from the Methodist Episcopal Church, he continued working in Georgia until the Cherokees were deported to Indian Territory in 1837. He spent the next twenty years preaching among the whites of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
In 1860, Trott wrote to Campbell: “My dear brother, I shall, perhaps, see your face no more in the flesh. I am much indebted to you, as the able and successful and persevering and successful advocate of the Reformation, for my redemption from sectarianism, and my present position as an humble preacher of the primitive gospel. I acknowledged that indebtedness long ago, but it affords me pleasure to repeat it, and I hope you will receive it in the same fraternal feeling in which it is tendered. I hope you will grant me another favor. My destiny and that of my family is once more connected with that of the Cherokees. I feel much interest in the success of the Indian Mission. The favor is this, something from your pen in favor of the Indian Mission. If you feel free to commend it to the favorable consideration of our Missionary Society, I would be pleased to see something in the Harbinger on the subject. The Lord sustain you in the evening of life, and prolong your labors of love among us, is the prayer of your brother in Christ, J.J. Trott.”/4
(TO BE CONTINUED)
1/ Tolbert Fanning, “Obituary of J.J. Trott,” Gospel Advocate 11 (March 18, 1869), 271.
2/ Edward J. Moseley, Disciples of Christ in Georgia (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1954), 123.
3/ Cherokee, “Letter,” Millennial Harbinger 3 (February 1832), 85.
4/ James J. Trott, “The Indian Mission,” Millennial Harbinger 9 (September 1860), 505.
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