[Narrator 1:] His ancestry was English but Samuel Worcester life was spent working with Native Americans. He was a pioneer, a publisher and a missionary and he vitalized the "miracle of the talking leaves". The Cherokees named him "The Messenger" and he was an early part of the Oklahoma Image.
[Narrator 2:] They came to Oklahoma from many nations. Newcomers to a new land, looking for better opportunities, a chance to begin again and what remains is their heritage. A rich heritage, that has become the Oklahoma image.
[Narrator 1:] Samuel Worcester's life work as a missionary was meant to be. In his family, seven generations of preachers had preceded him. He grew up in Peacham, Vermont in the early 1800s and he knew that someday he would get his calling to enter the Lord's service. When the call came, young Sam entered Andover Theological Seminary. He finished in 1823 and two years later he was ordained and assigned to the Cherokee Nation as a missionary. It was a role for which he was well prepared. Not only did he have a deep religious faith and an adventuresome spirit but being an industrious youth he had acquired a number of useful skills. He could set time which he learned from his father, he could build a house or cure a beef and he was an expert at linguistics.
[Narrator 1:] In 1825 with his bride Ann, Sam set out on the long journey to the Cherokee Nation and the area of Tennessee and Georgia. There he would be a missionary, a teacher and, above all, a translator. An extraordinary thing had happened to the Cherokees. Sequoyah, an uneducated mixed blood, had invented the Cherokee alphabet and written language. The Cherokees could now seek an equal standing with other peoples but they needed a printing press. Samuel Worcester would make it happen.
[Narrator 1:] Quickly after he and Ann arrived on the Cherokee Nation, he became the prime motivating force behind the purchase and operation of a press. In 1828, the first newspaper to be printed in the Cherokee alphabet and language was published. It was called the Cherokee Phoenix. The significance of the printed word or "miracle of the talking leaves", as the Cherokees called it, was enormous. It meant literacy and a flowering of Cherokee culture overnight.
[Narrator 1:] Yet the white man had other plans for the Cherokees. In 1838, 15,000 Cherokees were forcibly removed to Indian Territory along the Trail of Tears, a trail of death and shattered hopes. Only 11,000 survived the journey. When the Cherokees arrived in Indian Territory, Samuel Worcester's mission at Park Hill had been open for two years.
[Narrator 1:] In 1835, Worcester, who had served a prison term in Georgia for befriending the Cherokees, came west to Indian Territory. At Union Mission, he temporarily set up the first printing press in Indian Territory. Also in 1835, he published several religious works in the Choctaw and Creek languages and in 1836 he published the Cherokee Almanac. Worcester then moved his press to a permanent location at Park Hill where he printed and published numerous Indian materials. It was his influence which led to the publication in 1884 of the first newspaper in Indian Territory, The Cherokee Advocate.
[Narrator 1:] Samuel and Ann Worcester, as other missionaries in early Indian Territory, provided a vital helping hand to the dislocated Indians. In addition to preaching religion, they taught the three R's and they cared for the sick but the Worcester experience was unique. As pioneer printer and publisher, Samuel played a key role in the mass printing of Indian materials. Before his death in 1859, he had issued from the small press on Park Hill an unbelievable number of 13,900,000 pages of newspapers, almanacs, textbooks and bible texts in the Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek languages. Samuel Worcester had earned his Cherokee name, The Messenger.
[Narrator 2:] This program was produced by the Oklahoma Image Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and brought to you as a public service by this station. Oklahoma Image is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association.
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Part of the Oklahoma Image Statewide Humanities Project, promoting Newcomers to a New Land book series and the Oklahoma Image Project.
Copyright of this digital resource, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2008. For further information regarding use please consult the Rights and Permissions page, http://www.crossroads.odl.state.ok.us/shell/rights.php or contact the holding institution of the digital resource.
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