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COLLECTION Identifier: ABC 18.3-18.8

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions North American Indian missions records


Letters from missionaries and other documents originating in the various missions to American Indians of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.


  • 1803-1883

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Portions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives will be temporarily closed to researchers starting on September 18th, 2023. Finding aids will be updated as possible. Please contact with questions regarding access to these materials.

The microfilmed portions of the collection will continue to be available to view in Lamont Library.

Restricted items in the ABCFM collection are materials of the last forty years and some materials specifically marked "Restricted". There are no such materials in this series.

Most items in this series are on microfilm (for which see below), permission of the curator is required to consult the original documents.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to quote from the ABCFM archives for publication should be requested from both Houghton Library and the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries.


40.5 linear feet (83 boxes)

Letters and other documents originating in the American Board's missions to North American Indians, including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Sioux, Dakota, Mackinaw, Maumee and other tribes.

Biographical / Historical

For a general note on the history of the Board and the importance of its archives, see the finding aid to the main collection.

Missions to American Indians began in 1817 with a mission station in Brainerd, Tennessee, to serve the Cherokees. Other tribes were added to the Board's deployment up to 1836, but the work met many obstacles, including the dispersal of tribes by the U.S. government, and the Civil War put an end to almost all mission activity. The following is a chronological list of the American Indian missions, taken from the later Board year books:

  1. 1817: Cherokees in Tennessee. Tribe deported west, 1838.
  2. 1818: Choctaws. Discontinued, 1859 because the tribe had become a Christian tribe.
  3. 1821: Cherokees in Arkansas. Discontinued, 1860.
  4. 1826: Maumee Indians. Discontinued, 1835.
  5. 1826: Osage Indians. Discontinued, 1837.
  6. 1826: Mackinaw Indians. Discontinued, 1837.
  7. 1826: Tuscarora Indians. Discontinued, 1860 as the tribe had been evangelized.
  8. 1826: Seneca Indians. Transferred to Presbyterians, 1870.
  9. 1827: Chickasaw Indians. Discontinued, 1835.
  10. 1828: Stockbridge Indians. Discontinued, 1848.
  11. 1831: Ojibwa Indians. Transferred to Presbyterians, 1870.
  12. 1832: Creeks. Discontinued, 1837.
  13. 1834: Pawnees. Discontinued, 1847.
  14. 1835: Abenaquis in Quebec. Discontinued in 1858 when the tribe had nearly died out.
  15. 1835: Dakota Indians. Part transferred to Presbyterians, 1870, and part to American Missionary Association, 1883.
  16. 1836: Oregon Mission. Discontinued after the massacre of the missionaries, 1847.


Organized into the following series:

  1. ABC 18.3 Missions to the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Dakota Indians
  2. ABC 18.4 Missions to the Ojibwa, Chickasaw, Creek, and Osage Indians
  3. ABC 18.5 Missions to the Pawnees, Oregon, Mackinaw, and Stockbridge Indians
  4. ABC 18.6 Missions to the Maumee and New York Indians
  5. ABC 18.7 Number not used
  6. ABC 18.8 Miscellaneous

Note that for some items that are bound volumes, there is a number in square brackets at the end of the description in this finding aid . This is a number on the spine of the volume, following an old scheme of classification in the ABCFM's own library. Numbers after the names of correspondents refer to the item-numbers of the documents within the volume.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100, Phone: 216/ 736-3200; Fax: 216 736-3203.

Wider Church Ministries is a ministry of the United Church of Christ and successor of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

This series is part of the ABCFM collection received on deposit from the ABCFM in 1944.

Existence and Location of Copies

Research Publications Ltd. (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) filmed a considerable part of the ABCFM collection in the early 1980s, their focus being the correspondence to and from the field before 1919. For the contents of the 858 rolls of film, download the reel listing, or see the printed edition Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Guide to the microfilm collection (1994), shelved in the Houghton Reading Room. A set of the microfilm is in Lamont Library, call number Film A467 (see HOLLIS record 1113915 ). Some papers in this series have also been microfilmed by historical societies in the states where the ABCFM Indian missions operated.

Related Materials

This finding aid is a detailed guide to part of one series (ABC 18.3-8) within the Archives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABC 1-91). Documents originating in the Board offices, such as copies of outgoing correspondence to the missions, as well as personal papers of the missionaries, photographs, and maps, are not covered here. For all these, consult the finding aid for the main collection.

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions North American Indian missions records, 1803-1883: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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