The Indian baptismal rites were always held at the slough - a beautiful pool nearby. Some of the Indians came on foot, some in wagons, some drifted quietly down in canoes to the place where the rites were held.
After the long trip from North Carolina, William felt he was already fully indoctrinated as full fledged Cherokee brave and man. Never the less, he was a sentimental, sensitive boy and the first baptizing he attended gave him a thrill he never forgot.
John Kettle, old and gray came paddling silently around a bend in his dark brown canoe in Indian dress and gray feathers. He stopped about fifty feet from where they were, resting his chin on his clasped hands. After the rites were over, he paddled on his way as silently as he came. William Freeman Keith encouraged the girls to go with him to see the Indian baptismal rites. Annie was fascinated, and remarked when she had a child, she wanted to come in a canoe and have the baby baptized the same way.
Kettle was an Indian prophet, prophesying many things which came true. Isaac Money was the first postmaster living at what is now Briartown, Oklahoma and about one and one half miles from the kettle settlement.
After reading William's description of the baptism, a friend of mine saw the old Indian in this scene as representing the last vestige of the rapid changing Indian culture and was inspired to write the following poem.
By Ed Caldwell of the Plant Speak Publishing Co. in North Ridgeville, OH. 1996
He floats, stroke by stroke, down is old stream caressed,
Silently angles round the bend in his canoe,
Dressed in his tribal best, gray feathers free
To bend in the blessing breeze, where old and new
Come to rest on the golden slough of the Cherokee,
John Kettle, Indian Prophet, comes to bless the place
Where his sons and daughters are being blessed
By the white man's blessings of Christian grace.
He pauses some fifty feet from where the waters will churn,
Leans forward, resting his chin on his clasped hands,
Watches silently as the baptism rites slowly begin.
As the last water is parted, he peaces a circling turn,
Paddles, back to the lands, as silently as he came. Without sin,
One man, in setting sun, in a stream of soft flame, impressed.
The ceremonial grounds were on top of Briartown Mountain. There was a large clearing on top. In the center stands a lone tree, There the Indians met from miles around to hold their secret business and for ceremonial affairs. The Ke-tooWah Society was led by Tom Starr.
The society had been formed in the 1859s to revive traditions of the nation that had withered after the move west. At first it had radical members that advocated violence against whites. By the time William and Anna lived there, the Ke-toowah Society had evolved into a peaceful religious society devoted to revitalizing a disintegrating culture by restoring old ceremonies and rituals, such as the green corn ceremony and the stomp dance.