Between 1884 and 1888, John James of Alvarado, Texas, returned to the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory from his home in Wise County, Texas. He came to Stockbridge Academy, found today at Eagletown, Eagle County, Oklahoma, to fulfill his dream of being with the Choctaw, a dream he held to since his first encounter with them on his family’s migration from Illinois into Texas Territory when he was fifteen.
John’s first wife, Mary Elizabeth Rosaline “Ross” Bradley, died in 1879, leaving him with four children.
Two months later, John quickly remarried to Louisa Ellen Sutton. By 1884, Louisa had given John two more children. But soon, John would find himself at Stockbridge surrounded by many more than his own six children.
Stockbridge was founded by Cyrus Byington, who named the Choctaw school after his birthplace in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Byington migrated to Mississippi in 1821, where he became a missionary to the Choctaw. Finding the Choctaw had no written language, Byington set about to create a grammar, dictionary, and speller.
Byington followed the Choctaw in 1832 in their removal to Oklahoma. There, for another thirty-one years, Byington preached and taught among the Choctaw. Byington died in 1876.
John James was invited to Stockbridge by Judge James Hudson. John arrived sometime in 1884. At Stockbridge, John and Louisa would add two more children to their growing family. Among John’s students were the children and grandchildren of Judge James Hudson, some of whom found their way into John’s book My Experience with Indians, published in 1927 right before John died.
In 1888, John James acquired a portion of the estate of his former father-in-law Jackson Bunyan Bradley, who died the previous year. Bradley and his family came to Texas from Mississippi in 1851, accompanied by his brother-in-law Sam Myers. In Johnson County, Texas, Bradley built and operated a school at Mountainview, where John would live and teach next.
Though John James left Stockbridge for Mountainview, he also retained his love of the Choctaw. When he wrote My Experience with Indians he wrote of them in particular “that my children and grandchildren may know of them.”
Six years later in 1894, after leaving Stockbridge, John James received a letter from one of his former Choctaw students, Elliston E. Dyer.
Hon. J. James, Alvarado, Texas.
“My dear old time friend:
“I have just received a copy of the Cleburne Daily Times, and in it I find your picture, and note that the paper states that you spent several years among the Choctaw Indians, as a missionary…This of course calls to my mind the days of long ago, when you were at old Stock Bridge, trying to guide to the right direction, the destinies of a bunch of more or less ignorant boys and girls…Of the Choctaw tribe, I am one, and I have often thought since then, what a pity that men like you weren’t scattered all over this country…”
On December 29, of that same year of 1894, Louisa bore John a son, the last of the couple’s thirteen children. John and Louisa James named the child Elliston Dyer James.