Phillip's Files Revisited: Cayuga Mission Church

By Priscilla Mace

Published 08/25 2014 08:02PM

Updated 09/01 2014 11:00PM

GROVE, OK.--- Cayuga Mission Church is a prime tourist attraction in Northeastern Oklahoma. Located just north of Grove, it was built by pioneer Mathias Splitlog. Of Cayuga and French descent, Splitlog was a Canadian who amassed a sizable fortune early on in business and industry. He was called the "Million Dollar Indian." Settling here in 1874, he founded a community he named Cayuga Springs. Work on the church began in 1886.

Under Splitlog's supervision, Seneca-Cayuga workmen built it of hand-hewn limestone brought from a nearby quarry. Over the years, iron deposits in the stone seeped out, leaving permanent rust stains. Recently, we were shown through the old church by D.A. Howard, its caretaker for the past 18 years. The sanctuary is dominated by a beautiful altar, hand-carved of cherrywood by craftsmen in England. The half-ton bell in the belfry was cast in Belgium, and can be heard over 10 miles away.

The church was dedicated in November of 1896. Splitlog died the following January, and is buried beside his wife and one son in the small cemetery next to the church. The Million Dollar Indian had left a great legacy to Oklahoma.

"His dream was to get civilization more or less in here. This is a, they call it Indian territory back then. He became friends with the Seneca-Cayuga and he helped them out. He, his wife and children, daughters taught the Indian girls how to cook our way, talk our ways and he provided work for them, like when they built this church. He was beneficial to the community and to the tribes around here," said D.A. Howard, caretaker.

Cayuga Springs soon passed into history, and the church was abandoned at the turn of the century. For many years, it was victim to vandals and weather. In the 1950's, Sapulpa Oilman R.A. Sellers bought the property and restored the historic church. Today, services are held here every summer, and are open to the public.

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