"Father Murrow" of the Creeks, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminoles

"Father Murrow" of the Creeks, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminoles

Joseph Samuel Murrow was born to a Methodist pastor and wife, John and Mary Badger Murrow, on 7 June 1835 and was reared in a devout home. He trusted Christ at age nineteen and joined the Baptist church nearby. Joseph was called to preach and trained for the ministry at Mercer University. At age twenty, he was ordained the same year he proposed and married his bride, Nannie Elizabeth Tatom, of Fulton, Mississippi.

Joseph was friends with Henry Frieland Buckner, oldest brother of Baptist pastor and soon-to-be orphanage founder, Robert Cooke Buckner of Texas. Henry was a missionary to the Creek Indians near Eufala, in what was then called Indian Territory (later Oklahoma). Henry asked Joseph and Nannie to come help with the work among the many tribes who were settling there. The Rehoboth Baptist Association of Georgia agreed to assist with a salary, so Joseph and Nannie waved goodbye to their wedding guests to travel to the Indian Territory. They would spend the rest of their lives as missionaries there.  

The Murrow's first home was near the North Fork Town in the Creek Nation. The Creeks welcomed him warmly and many became Christians, forming churches in that region. He then traveled to Little River Mission Station in the Seminole Nation, and finally lived among the Choctaw Nation in a village he founded, called Atoka. Together with leaders among the Tribes, ministry with the first peoples flourished. They learned from each other. During his lifetime, Joseph helped brothers and sisters to organized more than seventy-five Baptist churches in the Indian Territory. He assisted with the ordination of more than seventy Indian ministers and baptized more than two thousand people, most of whom were Native Americans.  

In May of 1869, Joseph formed a little band of believers into the Atoka Baptist Church and remained there as pastor for the next twenty-three years. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Baptists established the a Baptist Association in 1872, which was instrumental in founding the Baptist Orphans Home for Indian Children in Atoka in 1902, the first of its kind in the nation. Joseph was invited to serve as its first superintendent until 1907. The Home held 4,500 acres, mostly provided by Native American Baptist landowners who donated the farmland for their tribes' children. The Board was comprised of tribal leaders and representatives from the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Joseph also helped Almon C. Bacone to found Indian University in 1880, which was moved from Tahlequah to Muskogee in 1885, the year its name was changed to Bacone College. The Baptist Academy in Atoka was also founded in part by Joseph Murrow's ministry.
Despite his personal losses, which were heavy, Joseph remained faithful to Christ and served him with compassion toward others. Four wives succeeded him in death, and all of his children except a daughter, Clara, who loved him dearly. She was not the only one who mourned him at his death when he was ninety-four years old. The Tribes also came from far and wide to mourn the passing of their "Father," who had walked with them in the way of Jesus, and who was buried among them in Atoka.

-Karen O'Dell Bullock
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