Despite James Trott’s effort to raise interest in his work, his expectations were never reached. When fighting broke out between the northern and southern states in 1861, the ministry was interrupted. The Civil War divided the Cherokee Nation as Union and Confederate troops entered Indian Territory.
Trott recalls the early days of the invasion: “In 1862, I still continued my missionary labors in the Nation and Arkansas till July. Up to this time the public schools and churches continued in appreciation. But after the reverses of the Confederate army at Pea Ridge and other places, it was not long till signs of a second revolution began to appear. The Union army had invaded the Nation, and was now in the midst of the country. The explosion began. Col. Drew’s regiment deserted and fled to the Federal army. The whole country was filled with robbers and murderers. On the 7th of July, according to previous arrangement, no doubt a general robbery and murder commenced and continued to rage till many of the more civilized citizens of the Nation were slain or driven from the country, and their property destroyed or converted to the use of others. Schools, churches, and everything else, were now in ruins, and missionaries, teachers and people were fleeing from the land of blood and death, in order to save life and what little property was left.”/1
Driven to Arkansas, Trott hoped to find relief for his family. Once there, he managed to rent a small farm and raise a few crops, but soon, he was forced from this location. Trott’s family wandered across the countryside, living off the land. During the battle of Prairie Grove, he was captured by the Union army and held prisoner for two weeks. Upon his release, he learned that his son Timothy had been murdered and his daughter Elizabeth had died from exposure. By the close of the war, the remaining Trott family had migrated to Bellmont, Kansas.
Feeling that he could continue his work, Trott set out to resume his ministry among the Cherokees. Returning to Indian Territory in the summer of 1866, he found new treaties had been placed upon the Cherokees, and the United States wished to move other tribes into the area. Under these circumstances he resumed his preaching. Finally with his health impaired, Trott returned to Tennessee in the company of Joseph and Benjamin Harlan. Nearing Nashville on December 10, 1868, he died of pneumonia./2
Today the churches of Christ are located in every county of Oklahoma./3 This did not happen by chance, for it was the work of several dedicated men who made it possible for the gospel to enter Indian Territory. Lack of documentation makes it impossible to the tell the full story. J. Ellis, J.R. Frame, Isaac Mode, and George Owen tried to revive Trott’s ministry after his death; however, no records survive to give a permanent account of their efforts.
1/ James J. Trott, “The Cherokee Mission as Connected with the War,” Gospel Advocate 9 (October 24, 1867), 853.
2/ Joseph Harlan, “Death of Bro.Trott,” Gospel Advocate 11 (January 7, 1869). 15.
3/ Mac Lynn, “The Church in America,” Missions Bulletin 30 (October 1981). 2.
The Restoration Movement