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Missionary's Pocket Watch

Isaac McCoy's pocket watch

This pocket watch was carried by Isaac McCoy, a missionary who believed the best way to protect American Indians was to move them West.

"After all our labours to put our missions into operation, we shall in a few years be driven away . . . for no band of Indian has ever thriven when crowded by white population."--Isaac McCoy, 1823

Time was precious to Reverend Isaac McCoy. As a Baptist missionary in the early 19th century, McCoy felt the greatest threat to Native Americans was continued exposure to whites. The sooner he secured lands in the West for tribes, McCoy believed, the better their chance of survival.

Born the son of a Baptist preacher in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in 1784, McCoy spent his youth in Louisville, Kentucky. He married at age 19 and moved to the Indiana Territory to preach in communities of settlers, French traders, and Indians. While there, McCoy witnessed what he considered the degradation and suffering of tribes at the hands of whites. He was one of the first to suggest the removal of Eastern tribes to the West.

McCoy achieved mild success operating missions in Michigan and Indiana Territory, and training future Kansas missionaries, such as Jotham Meeker, Johnston Lykins, and Robert Simmerwell. He spent progressively more time in Washington D.C., lobbing for the establishment of reservations in the future states of Kansas and Oklahoma. McCoy found sympathy for his proposals, and in 1830 personally surveyed future Indian lands in what would become Kansas. The following year McCoy moved his family to Westport, Missouri, near present-day Kansas City.

Isaac McCoy

McCoy wrote extensively on Indian affairs. In 1835 he authored the first book published in Kansas, The Annual Register of Indian Affairs within the Indian or Western Territory. In 1842, he and his family returned to Louisville where he died in 1846. Though an early proponent of Indian removal, McCoy never considered the violence that forced migration would create.

This pocket watch was carried by McCoy. Labels inside the cover state it was purchased and repaired in Kentucky. Its plain exterior is indicative of a Baptist missionary's modest income. Markings show it may have been manufactured in Great Britain. The watch was given to the Kansas Historical Society in 1935 by one of McCoy's descendents. It is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Missionary's Pocket Watch

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2005

Date Modified: September 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.