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Oklahoma Biographies

Peter P. Pitchlynn was born in Noxubee County, Mississippi, January 30, 1806. His father, a white man, was the Government interpreter for the Choctaw Nation, having been first commissioned as such by President Washington. Thirsting for an education before any schools were established among the Choctaw, he was sent to Tennessee, where he attended an academy, and afterward the University of Nashville, from which institution he graduated. Returning home from school once as a boy, he found his people making a new treaty with the Government, of which he so strongly disapproved that he refused to shake hands with Gen. Andrew Jackson, the Government commissioner. Although he afterward became a very warm friend of General Jackson, he never became reconciled to the treaty. In 1828 he was selected by the Government as the leader of a Choctaw party to explore the proposed Indian Territory and make peace with the Osage. Although but little more than a youth at the time, he discharged the duty thus imposed with a degree of courage and diplomacy that would have done credit to a man many years older. At the beginning of the Civil War he was in Washington on public business and assured President Lincoln that he hoped to hold his people neutral. He remained loyal to the Union throughout the War, though three of his sons were in the Confederate Army. As a result of the War, he lost a large amount of property, including 100 slaves. He was a friend of Henry Clay and of Charles Dickens. The latter described him as a man of great physical beauty and a natural orator. Pitchlynn died in the city of Washington in 1881 and was buried in the Congressional cemetery, Gen. Albert Pike pronouncing the eulogy. ["A History of Oklahoma" by Joseph B. Thoburn and Isaac M. Holcomb, Doub & Company, San Francisco, 1908, Page 99 - Submitted by Jim Vandermark]

Peter Perkins Pitchlynn (30 January 1806 17 January 1881), or Hat-choo-tuck-nee ("The Snapping Turtle"), was an American Indian/European-American Choctaw chief.  Peter P. Pitchlynn was born in Noxubee County, Mississippi, January 30, 1806. His parents were Colonel John Pitchlynn, a white man, and Sophia Folsom, a Choctaw. He began his education by attending a Tennessee boarding school about 200 miles from his home in Mississippi. Later he attended an Academy in Columbia, Tennessee. To complete his education he became a graduate of the University of Nashville. After he obtained his degree he returned to his home in Mississippi and became a farmer. Pitchlynn was well educated in both white and Choctaw traditions and served as an effective liaison with the federal government. Impressive in his bearing--"as stately and complete a gentleman of nature's making as ever I beheld," wrote Charles Dickens--he became principal chief in 1860. Pitchlynn was in Washington, D.C., in 1861 when the war started. He immediately left, hoping to escape the expected strife. He had gone to Washington to address national affairs of the Choctaws but immediately returned home. The Choctaws were not permitted to occupy neutral grounds but were forced into the fratricidal strife, some on the one side and some the other, to the inconceivable injury of all. Peter P. Pitchlynn was elected Principal Chief of the Choctaws in 1864 and served until 1866. He then retired in Washington and devoted his attention to pressing the Choctaw claims for lands sold to the United States in 1830. In addition to being a regular attendant of the Lutheran Church, he was also a prominent member of the Masonic Order. In regards to the origin of the Choctaw, Pitchlynn said "according to the traditions of the Choctaws, the first of their race came from the bosom of a magnificent sea. Even when they first made their appearance upon the earth they were so numerous as to cover the sloping and sandy shore of the ocean ... in the process of time, however, the multitude was visited by sickness ... their journey lay across streams, over hills and mountains, through tangled forests, and over immense prairies ... so pleased were they with all that they saw that they built mounds in all the more beautiful valleys they passed through, so the Master of Life might know that they were not an ungrateful people. Pitchlynn addressed the President and several congressional committees in defense of Choctaw claims. He died in Washington in 1881 and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery, where the Choctaw nation placed a monument in recognition of his service and allegiance to his people.  Pitchlynn's mother Sophia Folsom Pitchlynn has the oldest known date on a tombstone in the state of Mississippi. His cousin Frances Folsom (1864-1947) married President Grover Cleveland in the White House.

Reverend Father Francis Stanley Rother

Father Francis Rother and his headstone, located at the
Holy Trinity Cemetery, Okarche, Oklahoma
Biography written by Jeanne Vogel
(used by permission)

Ordained May 25, 1963
Francis Stanley was born March 27, 1935 at the Rother home, the son of Franz and Gertrude Smith Rother. He was reared on a farm near Okarche as a member of Holy Trinity Parish. He attended Holy Trinity School.  When he told his dad after high school that he wanted to be a priest his dad said, "Why didn't you take Latin instead of working so hard as a Future Farmer of America?" But he and Gertrude were glad that Stanley wanted to be a priest, and their daughter, too, now Sister Marita, wanted to become a Sister, though she and Stanley had not discussed their vocations with each other. "Religion was so much a part of our home and our lives that we didn't need to talk about it," Sister Marita said. God was central to our lives."  As a seminarian young Stanley was such a craftsman that in short order he was sacristan, groundskeeper, bookbinder, plumber, and gardener at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. He was strong. He could do just about anything. He was an asset to the seminary. But he didn't have enough time for his studies, and he needed time. So after five and a half years he was told it would be better for him not to continue his studies for the priesthood.That was a blow.But Stanley and his father and Father Edmund Von Elm, the pastor at Okarche, went to see Bishop Victor Reed."Do you want to be a priest, Stanley?" Bishop Reed asked.  "Yes, but it's all over for me, isn't it?" Stanley said."No, it isn't," the bishop said. "It's not my smart priests that are my best priests, it's my good priests. We'll send you to another seminary."Bishop Reed kept his word. He arranged for Stanley to go to Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and when it was time for ordination, the rector, Monsignor George D. Mulcahy, wrote to Bishop Reed on February 14, 1963: "Mr. Rother has made excellent progress at this seminary and should be a very valuable parish priest." Bishop Reed ordained him on May 25, 1963.The first five years of his priesthood were spent at Saint William's, Durant; Saint Francis Xavier, Tulsa; Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa; and Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City. While he was at Corpus Christi, Father Rother heard that a priest was needed at the Oklahoma mission with the Tzutuhil Indians in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. He immediately volunteered, and Bishop Reed chose him to go. That was in 1968.Father Rother had always gravitated toward the poor, the Mexicans in San Antonio, the blacks at Corpus Christi, and now the Indians in Guatemala. He set to work to learn Spanish and then to learn the Tzutuhil language, an unwritten, language until Father Ramon Carlin had set about putting it into written form. Father Rother went to live with a native family for a while to get a better grasp of practical conversation. An Indian offered to tutor him.  Father Rother worked and mastered the difficult Tzutuhil language so that he could be in close touch with his people. After Father Carlin's death he continued on with the translation of the gospels into that language and then the Mass prayers. He worked with the people to show them how to read and write. He supported the radio station located on the mission property which transmitted daily lessons in language and mathematics.  "Father Rother grew like I've never seen anyone grow in the priesthood," Jude Pansini, who worked with him many years in Guatemala, said of him. He went from being an ordinary person like the rest of us to someone very special. Most of all, he knew the law of Christ," Pansini said. "He was a transformed wheat farmer. He really understood the theology of the sacramental system better than just about anyone I know."  Within the last year of his life, Father Rother saw the radio station smashed and the director killed. His catechists and parishioners disappeared and were found dead after having been beaten and tortured. Father Rother knew all this when he returned to Guatemala in May 1981. It didn't matter. He stayed with his people, supporting them in all their needs. He stayed until he was murdered.Father Rother was shot to death late on the night of July 28, 1981 in the rectory at his church in Santiago, Atitlan Guatemala.  Fr. Rother's body was flown back to Oklahoma City and buried in his home town of Okarche. At the request of his Guatemalan parishioners, however, his heart and blood was interred beneath the floor of the parish church in Santiago Atitlán.  A memorial Mass was celebrated at Okarche Holy Trinity Church on Sunday, August 2, 1981.

Let us pray for the Canonization of Father Stanley Rother Oklahoma Martyr
Heavenly Father, source of all holiness, in every generation you raise up men and women heroic in love and service.
You have blessed your Church with the life of Stanley Rother, priest, missionary, and martyr.
Through his prayer, his preaching, his presence, and his pastoral love, you revealed Your love and Your presence with us as Shepherd.
If it be your will, may he be proclaimed by the universal church as martyr and saint, living now in your presence and interceding for us all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

According to Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, named by the Vatican as the Postular for this canonization case, three prerequisites must be met for a person to be named a martyr.

1) The person who committed the assassination must have had the motive of killing the victim only because of the victim's faith.
2) The person who was killed must have accepted to die for the faith.
3) The death of the person must have been violent.
In a July 4 meeting with Dr. Ambrosi, several members of the commission made arguments that the circumstances surrounding Father Rother's death would satisfy all three requirements.

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