Three Forks History: Lindsey was early Creek teacher

Lilah Denton Lindsey was born at her family’s homestead on Blue Creek near Coweta in 1860. Her parents were John Denton, who was Cherokee, and Susan McKellop Denton, who was Creek. Both had been born in Alabama and removed with their families to Indian Territory. Susan was a descendant of the Perryman family who were Creek political leaders and founders of Tulsey Town.

Lilah attended school at nearby Tullahassee Mission and proved to be an excellent student. She also received an education from her mother who served as a medicine woman in the Choska Bottoms area. Lilah often accompanied her mother on horseback when she called on sick neighbors.

Because she had excelled at school, Lilah earned a scholarship to a female seminary in Missouri and completed her secondary education there. She then earned a teaching degree from Hillsboro-Highland Institute in Ohio and became the first Creek woman to graduate from college. While at college, she also took a medical course and learned nursing in honor of her mother who had died when Lilah was 16.

With her teaching degree, Lilah was appointed by the Presbyterian Mission Board to work at Wealaka Mission. This mission had just been established in the Creek Nation to replace Tullahassee Mission after it burned. While teaching at Wealaka, Lilah met Colonel Lee Lindsey who was living in the little settlement around the mission. He was stonemason, building contractor and Civil War veteran from Ohio. They were married in 1884.

For a time, the young couple lived in Okmulgee and Lilah taught at a Creek school there at the Muscogee capital. Her husband helped to construct the Creek Council House while they lived there. They moved to Tulsa in 1886 where Lilah had many relatives.

Here she taught at the Tulsa Mission School for three years. When allotments were made, Lilah took her 160 acres in the Tulsa area. She later donated a part of her property for Riverview School, overlooking the Arkansas River.

The Lindseys sold part of the allotment and used the funds for building several structures in Sulphur. In 1907, they built their two-story home in Tulsa in an addition that came to be called the Lindsey Addition.

Lilah was very involved in civic enterprises in Tulsa, working on beautification and charity projects. She organized the Tulsa chapter of the Women’s Relief Corps, an arm of her husband’s Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). She also served as president of the Indian Territory Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

The teacher and civic leader, who followed the native tradition of strong women, was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1937. She died in 1943 and a Tulsa school later was named in her honor.

Reach Jonita Mullins at jonita.mullins@gmail.com.

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