|City/Town: • Cache|
|Location Class: • Church|
|Year Built: • 1903 | Year Abandoned: • 1963|
|Historic Designation: • Native American Heritage Site|
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered|
|Photojournalist: • Billy Dixon • Johnny Fletcher • Jennifer Burton • Leslie Flaming|
Thirty-one-year-old Isabel Crawford from Sedan, Oklahoma arrived in Saddle Mountain, Oklahoma in April 1896. She set out on a journey to establish a Baptist Mission in the town with the help of Lucius Aitsan, a Native from the Kiowa Tribe. She educated the Kiowa tribe on “the Jesus road” converting them to Christians but those that had turned to the Lord had to travel seventeen miles away to the nearest church. The converts gathered together and wanted to create their own church, Crawford secured a 160-acre parcel of land from the government for the Saddle Mountain Indian Baptist Mission.
Isabel taught the women in the tribe to sew quilts to sell as a fundraiser for the $1000 building, together they raised $311.63 from the quilts. Other means of getting the money included $355.98 from Indian contributions, $250 unsolicited, $65.69 from missionaries, and $16.70 miscellaneous. The church was completed and dedicated on Easter of 1903 with a congregation of sixty-four people to start. The converts wanted to celebrate Eucharist but the new church had no pastor, Crawford told them to select one of their own to perform the ceremony, Lucius Aitsan was elected. The denominational mission board and nearby Baptist Missionary Pastors disapproved of this act. This didn’t stop them from doing so anyway and electing their own officials when the visiting Pastor couldn’t make it. Just a year after opening the Saddle Mountain Mission was censured by the Oklahoma Indian Baptist Association for “deviating from the orderly practice of Baptist churches in the administration of the Lord’s Supper,” meaning they had held services without an ordained White minister.
The censorship and dispute went on for some time and led to Isabel Crawford’s departure from Oklahoma in 1906. Saddle Mountain was notable for the number of Kiowa missionaries and pastors it produced, including George Hunt, Ioleta McElhaney, and Sherman Chaddlesone. The Saddle Mountain Indian Baptist Mission church remained important within the tribe and became a Sunday School during the day for the children as well. But it was in 1963 that after a few years of decline in attendees that the church was closed and the building and land were sold. The church was then moved to Eagle Park, in Cache Oklahoma to join a handful of other historic buildings including the Quanah Parker Star House. The Saddle Mountain Mission church has remained on the defunct amusement park grounds and has since fallen in on itself.
Article by AOK Photojournalist Emily Cowan.