Cephas Washburn (1793-1860) was a noted Christian missionary and educator who worked with the Indians of northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. He is often referred to as "The Apostle to the Cherokees" and "Builder of Presbyterianism in Arkansas".
Cephas Washburn was born in 25 July 1793 in Rutland, Vermont. He graduated from the University of Vermont and the Andover Theological Seminary. Washburn married Abigail F. Woodward of Randolph, Vermont on 6 October 1818. He was ordained in 1818 in Waitsfield, Vermont by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to serve as an Indian missionary.
Served as a missionary to the Cherokee Indians at Brainerd, Georgia for a short while and migrated with them westward, arriving in Arkansas around 1820.
Washburn founded Dwight Presbyterian Mission near Russellville, Arkansas in 1821 to serve the newly arrived Cherokee. Dwight was the first American mission to the Indians west of the Mississippi River. The mission was later moved to what is now Sallisaw, Oklahoma. It was named for Rev. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College and a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Washburn was the driving force in establishing the Far West Academy in Washington County, Arkansas in 1844 which was a short-lived attempt to establish a college where both white and Indian students could achieve and education together.
Washburn served as the primary Indian missionary in the region until he resigned in 1850.
From 1850 to 1856 he served as minister for the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Cephas Washburn died at Little Rock, Arkansas on 17 Mar 1860 of pneumonia. He is buried at the historic Mount Holly Cemetery in downtown Little Rock.
Washburn's son Edward Payson Washburn was the artist who painted the famous Arkansas Traveller painting that was later immortalized as a Currier & Ives lithograph. The painting was inspired by the humorous song Arkansas Traveller by Colonel Sanford 'Sandy' Faulkner.