Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chota, the City of Refuge, The Birthplace of Nanye'hi Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, and the Name of My Dog

Chota . . . the Cherokee town of refuge under a Tennessee lake 

July 12, 2011

By welcoming refugees from throughout eastern North America, Chota grew to become known as the Cherokee “metropolis” in the mid-1700s. Chota’s story is often a forgotten chapter of American history.
KNOXVILLE, TN – ( – In the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, the Little Tennessee River plunges out of a gorge in the Great Smoky Mountains into beautiful Lake Tellico. Beneath the indigo blue waters of Lake Tellico, 600 years ago, thrived an advanced Native American culture. The lower Little Tennessee River Valley was one of the most densely populated regions north of Mexico at that time. When the Hernando de Soto Expedition as it passed through the valley in 1541, it was under the government of the enormous town of Kusa in what-is-now northwestern Georgia.
Native American town names recorded show that its residents spoke several languages: Koasati, Itsati (Hitchiti-Creek), Yuchi, Mvskoke (Muskogee-Creek) Alabama and Chickasaw. However, the polyglot population seemed to get along well with each other. The Spanish chronicles do not mention any feuds between towns. Perhaps the towns tolerated annual tributes to the capital of Kusa because of the blessings of peace that its large army provided. The Province of Kusa was approximately 400 miles (840 km) long.
In the late 1500s, plagues caused by European pathogens swept through the Southern Highlands. Many of the towns were abandoned. Anthropologists suspect that the region’s population dropped by 90-95% because of this biological holocaust. When French and English explorers visited the upper Tennessee Valley in the late 1600s, only a few of the towns mentioned by the Spanish in 1541 were still occupied. These included Tali, Tanasi and Taskeke. There is a pre-Spanish mound at the Chota archaeologist site. This suggests that Chota may have been one of the towns visited by the Spanish, but had a different name at the time,
Chota, the town of refuge
In 1660 the Virginia House of Burgesses institutionalized human slavery and made vulnerability to enslavement to be based on race. Only Native Americans and Africans could be held in bondage. The economic and legal status of Virginia’s surviving Native Americans soon deteriorated precipitously. Unpaid debts could quickly result in perpetual slavery. Native American slavery spread to the Carolina’s when Charleston was founded in 1674. By 1710, Native American slaves composed 20% of the population of Charleston. The vast majority of Native American slaves were shipped to Caribbean sugar plantations, where they usually died within two years. It has been estimated by anthropologists that at least 600,000 Southeastern Native Americans were enslaved. Probably, almost as many died in slave raids. The Native American slave raiders typically killed all adult males, plus anybody who could not walk hundreds of miles to the coastal slave markets.
In small parties, consisting of unrelated individuals or families, the American Indians of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina escaped actual or potential slavery by fleeing into the mountains. Escaped slaves traveled far enough to be out of range of the hated slave catchers. These travels often put them in the Tennessee Valley. Chota’s population had been decimated by past plagues, so it welcomed new residents. The addition of American Indians of Algonquian, Siouan and Yuchi heritage changed the character of Chota. Many of these newcomers could also speak English, which was an advantage in trade.
Origin of Tennessee’s name: In 1679 an expedition headed by Robert Holder was sent by the Governor of Carolina to open up trade with the Tanasa-ke (Tanasqui in the de Soto chronicles.) They were one of the major ethnic groups on the lower Little Tennessee River, but also had branches in the Piedmont of South Carolina and along the lower Tennessee River in Tennessee. Their capital, Tanasa Olamikko, was probably located on Bussell Island, where the Little Tennessee River joins the Tennessee River. Satellite towns of the main town of Tanasa were often called Tanasi, which means “children of Tanasa.” The word, Tanasi was also used to describe the region where the Tanasa lived.
Holder’s party passed over the Blue Ridge Mountains and then had trade talks with the native peoples of the Little Tennessee River near Chota in a village that was called Tanasi. Holder used Creek Indian guides for the journey because at that time the most of the peoples in the North Carolina Mountains spoke one of the Creek Indian languages. The Muskogee-speaking South Carolina Creek guides called the Tanasa, theTenesaw, and their province Tenesi. When the expedition returned to Charleston, the governor’s mapmaker recorded the name of the region as being Tenesee.
The first somewhat accurate map of the Southern Highlands was published in 1584. It showed the region occupied solely by speakers of the Creek, Yuchi and Shawnee languages. This continued to be the case throughout the 1600s. In the late 1600s, more accurate English and French maps (based on direct contact,) labeled the people of the Little Tennessee River Valley as speaking dialects of Creek Indian languages. These same maps showed the northeastern corner of Tennessee being occupied by Rickohocken Indians, based in SW Virginia. The Rickohockens spoke a language very similar to contemporary Cherokee.
Because Chota contained mixed-blood Indians, who could speak English, it soon became a destination point, then a headquarters of English traders. These English traders often married local women. Their children were usually bi-lingual AND had more immunity to European diseases. The village boomed.
The earliest document that labels the occupants of the Little Tennessee Valley as being “Cheraqui” was a map published in 1718 by the famous French cartographer, Guilliam DeLisle. The first English map to use the word Cherokee was published in 1725. It does not mention Chota.
A 1720 map by Dutch cartographer Hermann Moll showed the occupants of the Tennessee River downstream from the “Cheraqui” to be Koasati, Creek and Yuchi Indian allies of the French. There was even a short-lived French fort on Hiwassee Island. That situation was to change rapidly in the 1720s. Because of British encouragement, the Lower Little River towns selected a “war leader” from the town of Tanasi. His name comes down to us only as “Tanasi Warrior.”
With the help of the British, the new Cherokee Alliance was able to, one by one, capture the Koasati, Creek and Yuchi towns in southeastern Tennessee. Due to the intrigue of the English, Chief Moytoy of the town of Big Tellico was named “First Emperor of the Cherokee Nation.” Also by 1730, the Overhill Cherokees had captured all enemy towns southwestward to the Hiwassee River. However, by 1738 all of the Koasati, Creeks and Yuchi had been swept out of southeastern Tennessee as far as Chattanooga. This was the “high water mark” of Cherokee military expansion.
In 1753 the chief of Chota, Kanagatoga, became the second “Emperor of the Cherokee Nation.” The next year the Overhill Cherokees ended their four decade long war with the Upper Creeks, who were French allies. However, the French & Indian War soon started. The British and French dispatched their “client” Indian tribes against each other. Despite heavily publicized stories of a great Cherokee victory, the real history is that the Cherokees lost a third of their towns in 1754 and 1755 from Creek attacks until the British built Fort Loudon near Chota, and pressured the British-allied Koweta Creeks to stop destroying Cherokee towns.. Relations with the British soured, which eventually resulted with the garrison being massacred. The Overhill Cherokees quickly signed treaties with the British and the Upper Creek allies of the French, to effectively take their people out of this disastrous war.
Chota continued to be the most important Cherokee town for the next three decades. Most of the Cherokee towns were destroyed in the American Revolution and the Cherokee Chickamauga War that followed. Cherokee refugees streamed out of the mountains into the Tennessee Valley. Many settled around Chota. Few, if any, residents of Chota were among the Chickamauga renegades, but the town was burned, nevertheless, by Colonel John Sevier’s Tennessee Volunteers in 1784. Chota was rebuilt in the late 1780s, but never was its former size. By the late 1790s, the bulk of the Cherokee People were moving down into their new lands in northwest Georgia. In 1798, there were only five houses at Chota. It was during this period that the famous Cherokee scholar, Sequoyah, spent part of his youth in a cabin near Chota. That part of Tennessee was sold by the Cherokees in 1819 to the United States government.
Meaning of the name “Chota”
The original name of the village of Chota was Itsati. Chota appears to have originally been a “nickname” for the village. Later, when the town became a mother town, it was known as Echota. Most Cherokee sponsored history web sites either state that origin of the word, Chota is unknown, or else, it is a corruption of Itsati.
Cherokees tend to be unaware of how relatively late, there was such a thing as “Cherokees” in Tennessee, or the preponderance of Creek Indian place names that were incorporated into their language. State sponsored web sites typically give the impression that the Cherokees were in the Tennessee Valley for hundreds of years, and also erroneously state that Tennessee is a Cherokee word.
Itsati is the name that the Hitchiti-speaking Creek Indians call themselves. It is pronounced, It-jsha-tee. In English, Itsati means Itza People – referring the Itza Maya ancestors of that branch of the Creek Indians.
Chota is the Itsati word for “frog.” The site of Chota was a flat island in a wide expanse of marshes. This would certainly be a likely place for frogs to live.
The town name, Echota, displays a grammatical form used by the Itza Maya in Central America and theItza-ti Creeks in the Southeastern United States. “E” front of the word means “important.” The capital of a province would often have an “E” in front of the province’s name. Another example of this grammar is found in the De Soto Chronicles. The capital of the Itsati Province of Chiaha was recorded by the Spanish as beingYchiaha.
An alternative explanation of Echota has been proposed by a Yuchi scholar, David Woktela, who theorizes that it meant “sacred fire tobacco” and would have been written in the English alphabet as Ici-tso-tal.
Getting to the site of Chota
The actual location of Chota is now under Lake Tellico. However, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indianshas constructed a beautiful park and memorial to honor Chota. To reach the memorial from Knoxville, take I-40 West to I-75 South, exit I-75 onto Tennessee State Highway 72 East and follow to Vonore. Turn left on U.S.411 North and follow to Right Turn on Hwy 360 at Traffic Light. Continue on Hwy, 360 to the Sequoyah Birthplace museum and thence onto the Chota Memorial.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Light Horse in the Indian Territory and Their Involvement With James, Tom Starr and other Starrs


The term "light-horse" is a familiar one in connection with Light-Horse Harry,  a nickname conferred upon General Henry Lee, because of the great rapidity of his cavalry movements during the Revolutionary War. This expression was a common one in the Indian Territory where the Five Civilized Tribes were equipped with a body of men known as the "light-horse,” who served as a mounted police force. The name appears frequently in the law books of the different nations as acts were passed directing the organization of such bodies of men to carry out the laws, the length of terms they were to serve, the funds appropriated to pay for their services, the number of men in each body and the captains who commanded them. The light-horsemen were given considerable latitude in enforcing the judgments of the court as much reliance was placed upon their discretion.

On February 23, 1839, Hon. A. H. Sevier of Arkansas delivered a speech in the United States Senate in which he quoted the Reverend Isaac McCoy who in writing of the Choctaws had asserted that two judges belong to each of the four districts in their nation west in the Indian Territory, and that "Two officers, denominated light-horsemen, in each district, perform the duties of sheriffs. -1 company of six or seven, denominated light-horsemen, the leader of whom is styled Captain, constitute a national corps of regulators, to prevent infractions of the law, and to bring to justice offenders."'

"In 1808 the chiefs and warriors of the Cherokees passed an act appointing regulators, who were authorized to suppress horse stealing and robbery, to protect the widows and orphans,' and kill an- accused person resisting their authority.  These regulators were evidently the forerunners of the light-horsemen.
Major George Lowery who was born at Tohskeege in the old Cherokee Nation about 1770, was a captain of one of the first companies of light-horse appointed to enforce the laws in 1808 and 1810. He was one of the most useful and distinguished members of the "Old Settler" faction; he held several tribal offices and served as assistant principal chief for many years. He died October 20, 1852 and was buried in the Tahlequah cemetery.

In November, 1845 the Cherokee Advocate was aroused over articles appearing in western Arkansas newspapers regarding the killing of James Starr and Suel Rider. One whole page in the edition of September 27 was devoted to the subject. In a long letter signed "Citizen" the case was set forth in the following words:
. . . . If the killing of Starr and Rider is a party affair, and we see how anxious their friends wish it to be so understood, they certainly will admit that all the murders and outrages committed by the Starrs and their connections was also a party affair. It is a bad rule that does not work both ways.
Now are those who have fled across the line are any of them prepared to say that the murder of Charles Thornton was a party move? Was the recent and inhuman butchery of Crawford and A-to-la-hee, and the attempt on Mr. Meigs' life and the burning of his residence a party affair? It is well known that the perpetrators of these and numerous other crimes belong to the "Treaty party," but the authorities of the Nation and the people have never held the party responsible, nor do they now. It is a miserable expedient of reckless men to subserve sinister purposes at the expense of the Peace and character of their own race . . . . When did the Treaty party or those who now claim so much for them of right, purity, and protection, ever attempt to aid in the arrest of the notorious bandit who had long escaped.

 General Matthew Arbuckle from his Headquarters, 2d Military Department at Fort Smith wrote to Acting Chief George Lowery on November 15, 1845 that he had "received intelligence of the recent commotion in the Flint District of your nation." He had sent Major B. L. E. Bonneville, "an officer of rank and experience to the scene of the disturbance and he learned from his report . . . . that the murder of Starr and Rider, and the wounding of two of Starr's sons, and the consequence of disturbance in the Cherokee nation, have resulted, directly or indirectly, from Resolutions of the National Council, or orders issued in pursuance thereof.

It appears from the evidence in my possession (acknowledged to be correct by the Captain and Lieutenant of the Light Horse Company which committed the murders,) that no resistance was made on the part of any of the victims; in fact, nothing was done in the remotest degree to justify these outrageous proceedings. That a lad of 12 or 13 years of age, was pursued and dangerously, if not mortally wounded, proves that the Police must have had some other object in view besides the vindication of the laws. Agreeably to the law, Resisting or aiding, or abetting &c., only authorized the Light Horse to take violent measures. No resistance was offered, yet the Light Horse went to the extreme of committing murder, in violation of the very law of the nation, under which they claimed to be acting . . . . .

The result of these proceedings has been to drive from their homes more than 100 men. From the reckless proceedings of the Light Horse, or Police, they fear, I think very justly, to return, having no guarantee, however Innocent they may he, that they may not fall victims, like their friends, to the illegal and savage acts of an armed and irresponsible body . . . . .

After a scathing diatribe against the affairs in the nation, Arbuckle continued:
The Light Horse must be disbanded at once, and the persons concerned in the murder of James Starr and Rider, arrested. Nothing short of this would he becoming a country of law; the guilty individuals must be tried for murder; otherwise the Cherokees must cease to think they lived under a government of law.
The peace of the Cherokee nation must be secured; . . . . I have already sent a company of Dragoons to the disturbed District, for the purpose of preserving order . . . . . I desire you will submit this communication to the National Council, and inform me, as soon as may he, of the measures taken to secure peace to the nation.

Acting Chief Lowrey, on November 26, 1845 addressed a letter to Colonel *James McKissick, Cherokee Agent, in which he wrote: . . . . The information communicated to Gen. Arbuckle, must have been entirely exparte and incorrect, to have authorized the harsh terms in which his letter abounds. There is no wish on our part to enter into a correspondence or controversy with the Gen. on the subject, and we are content to pursue the hitherto usual and long established medium of communication through the U. S. Agent.

The object, therefore, of this, is to furnish you with sound information as may be deemed necessary in vindication of the punishment? . . . .

This information was extracted from the Chronicles of Oklahoma in the Library of OK State.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Bevy of Newspaper Articles from The Cherokee Advocate - Starr Bad Buys - News of the Day

Samuel Starr 1859 - 1886

 Wednesday, September 29, 1886 


Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  


Sam Starr shoots Frank West

 Wednesday, January 5, 1887



 Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

Henry Starr 1873 - 1921

      Date: Wednesday, September 4, 1895 


Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  


Date: Saturday, July 22, 1893 


Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  



Date: Saturday, August 12, 1893
 Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK) 

Date: Saturday, August 12, 1893
Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

Date: Saturday, October 7, 1893

 Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK) 

Date: Saturday, November 18, 1893 

Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

Henry Starr Convicted

Date: Saturday, October 28, 1893 

Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

 Henry Starr Granted New Trial

Date: Wednesday, May 23, 1894 


Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

Supreme Court Reverses Decision

Date: Saturday, January 9, 1897
Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  



Thomas Tak-o-Tos Starr 1819 - 1890

Wednesday, December 14, 1892 
 Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

James Starr 1796-1845

 Wednesday, February 5, 1890
 Paper: Cherokee Advocate (Tahlequah, OK)  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Trail of Tears Stories That Should Not Be Forgotten

American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research CenterFrom The American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center

Woodall, Bettie

September 20, 1937
James R. Carselowey
An Interview with Bettie Perdue Woodall
Welch, Oklahoma

Old Indian Days

My name is Elizabeth Perdue Woodall, but I have always been called "Bettie". I was born near Westville, Indian Territory, December 6, 1851. My father's name was James Perdue, a half-breed Cherokee Indian. My other, Dollie Thornton Perdue, was a white woman. Both were born in Georgia. They were married in 1838, and came immediately with the eastern emigrants over the Trail of Tears to their new home west of the Mississippi, settling in Going Snake District, in the new Cherokee Nation.

The Trail of Tears.

Some histories say that on the Trail of Tears all the women and children were allowed to ride; but my mother told me that not a single woman rode unless she was sick and not able to walk. My mother walked every step of the way over here.
The Government furnished green coffee in the grain for the Indians along the route. Many of them had never seen coffee and did not know how to make it. Some of them put the coffee in a pot with meat and were trying to cook it like beans when my mother came along and some Indian woman said, "Ask her, She white woman." My mother said she just had to laugh the way they were trying to cook that coffee. She took some of the green coffee, roasted it in a pan over their fire, put the parched grains in a cloth and pounded it up, and made them a pot of coffee. They all liked it and said she was a smart white woman.
She also showed them how to cook their rice. It seems they all thought everything had to be cooked with meat, but in this way the young white woman became very popular and much loved by her newly made friends.
My mother told me about many of the hardships and privations she and the rest of the women suffered while on their way from Georgia. Some of them were almost unbelievable, yet I know they are true, for my mother would have had no motive in telling it if it had not been so.
On one occasion she told of an officer in charge of one of the wagons, who killed a little baby because it cried all the time. It was only four days old and the mother was forced to walk and carry it, and because it cried all of the time and the young mother could not quiet it, the officer took it away from her and dashed its little head against a tree and killed it.  

Alexander, Jobe

May 3, 1938
Jesse S. Bell-Investigator
Indian-Pioneer History, S-149
Interview with Jobe Alexander
Proctor, Oklahoma
I am a full blood Cherokee Indian born in Going-Lake District, Indian Territory, Cherokee Nation, March 10, 1854, and raised there. My father, Dun-Ev-Nall Alexander was born in Georgia and was driven West during the immigration. All the Indians were gathered up or rounded up by Federal soldiers and put in pens and guarded until ready for the move; they were gathered up by the "Clans" and left their gardens and crops, and some of the old homes of the Cherokee are still standing in Georgia.

The last group that was rounded up revolted; the leader gave the signal to revolt and all turned on the guards and took their guns away and murdered the guards and they made for hide aways in the mountains. That is why the Indians are back in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. They never were found or hunted much.

Anderson, Lilian

August 20, 1837
Margaret McGurie
Field Worker
An Interview with Lilian Anderson
Eufaula, Oklahoma

Life story of her grandfather, Washington Lee, Cherokee Indian

In 1838, my grandfather, Washington Lee, came to the Territory and stopped at Westville. He was driven from his home in Georgia over the Trail of Tears with all the other Cherokee Indians and while on the trail somewhere he lost his father and mother and sister, and never saw them any more. He did not know whether they died or got lost.

The Cherokees had to walk; all the old people who were too weak to walk could ride in the Government wagons that hauled the food and the blankets which they allowed to have. The food was most always cornbread or roasted green corn. Some times the men who had charge of the Indians would kill a buffalo and would let the Indians cut some of it and roast it.

The food on the Trail of Tears was very bad and very scarce and the Indians would go for two of three days without water, which they would get just when they came to a creek or river as there were no wells to get water from. There were no roads to travel over, as the country was just a wilderness. The men and women would go ahead of the wagons and cut the timber out of the way with axes.
This trail started in Georgia and went across Kentucky, Tennessee and through Missouri into the Territory and ended at Westville, where old Fort Payne was. Old Fort Wayne was built to shelter the Indians until some houses could be built.

Aunt Chin Deanawash was my grandmother's sister and she came from Georgia on the Trail of Tears. Her husband died shortly after they got out of Georgia and left her to battle her way through with three small children, one who could not walk. Aunt Chin tied the little one on her back with an old shawl, she took one child in her arms and led the other by the hand; the two larger children died before they had gone so very far and the little one died and Aunt Chin took a broken case knife and dug a grave and buried the little body by the side of the Trail of Tears.

The Indians did not have food of the right kind to eat and Aunt Chin came on alone and lived for years after this.

Chambers, Jennie McCoy

Mary D. Dorward,
Field Worker
Jennie McCoy Chambers
A Biographical Sketch
From a personal Interview with the Subject.
(1530 East 14th Street; Tulsa, Okla.)
(The subject of this sketch was very difficult to interview, for, while she was very willing to talk, she is very deaf, is eighty-three years old, and her mind seems to wander.)

Jennie McCoy Chambers was born April 24, 1854, in the Koo-wee-skoo-wee (her spelling) district of the Cherokee Nation, near the town of now Claremore. The house, a log cabin, still stands. It is at the north end of Claremore Lake on Dog Creek, has two large rooms and a small room downstairs and a room upstairs. Has clapboard doors.

Mrs. McCoy is about half Cherokee (which she calls Cher o 'kee, just as she says Tahl ee 'quah), her mother, Mary Hicks, coming over the Trail of Tears from Alabama when a child. Her father, Joseph McCoy, was a rancher and the family lived on the place near Claremore until the Civil War when they went over near Saline, and "refugeed" in the Cherokee Nation until the close of the War. Evidently they did not remain at Saline because she said that she and her sister many times walked from Tahlequah to Fort Smith and back for supplies from the Government, and many times they almost starved. Her people sympathized with the Union.

Incidents of the Trail of Tears

Mrs. Chambers' grandfather and grandmother Hicks, together with her own mother, came in the emigrant train over the Trail. On the way they picked up to children who were lost. One, a boy whose people had all died of smallpox, came to them when they were encamped along a creek. He was known as S. S. Stevens and never knew but what he was an Indian. The other child was a little girl who knew no name but Polly. When she grew older she married and was known as Aunt Polly Myers.

Cook, Wallace

March 17, 1937
Cook, Wallace
Grace Kelley, Field Worker

When my grandfather, Emeithle Harjo, was twenty-five or thirty years old, he was removed to the Indian Territory, from Alabama. The boat that he was to cross the Mississippi in was a dilapidated affair and sank in the Mississippi River. He swam pretty near all night saving the women and children. They were all brought here and turned loose like something wild. He had to walk from here to the Fort Gibson to get the axe and gun that the Government promised and gave to him. He built his home across the highway from here. There are some house there but they are not the ones he built, they burned, and rotted down

Jones, Joanna nee McGhee

July 15, 1937
Interview with Mrs. Joanna Jones nee McGhee
128 K, N. E.
Mrs. Thos. Walker
Miami, Oklahoma
Mannie Lee Burns, Interviewer
Indian-Pioneer History S-149
Grant Foreman, Director
My mother was Susie Beck, a Cherokee and the daughter of Charlotte Downing and Ellis Beck and she was born in Georgia. My father was Albert McGhee. I do not remember the dates of their births.

Removal to Indian Territory

My mother was about twelve years old when they were forced to leave Georgia and I have heard her say that before they left their homes there that the white people would come into their houses and look things over and when they found something that they liked, they would say, "This is mine, I am going to have it", etc. When they were gathering their things to start they were driven from their homes and collected together like so many cattle. Some would try to take along something which they loved, but were forced to leave it, if it was of any size. The trip was made in covered wagons and this made many of the women sick, but they were forced along just the same. When they reached streams and rivers, they did not want to cross and they were dragged on the boats.
Grandmother always remembered it and I have often heard her say, "Some day you will be taxed out of your homes here just as we were."  

Lewis, D. B.

Thomas and Lewis Stories
An interview of D. B. Lewis, age 36, of Eufaula town
 Henryetta, Oklahoma.

The story of a singing river was told by an old man by the name of Holly Thomas who use to live three or four miles southeast of Eufaula, but he has been dead for some years. His father and mother had come over to the new country from the eastern home during the removal and so the story had been told to Holly of the sorrows at the time of the removal and what the conditions were at that time. He was a small child during that time but he was told all stories about the times when he had become a young man. Those old folks never could cease from talking about and telling of the hardships they experienced along their trip often known as the Trail of Tears.

This story of the singing river was told to Holly by his father. It is not exactly known whether the incident connected with this story happened in the Mississippi River or the Tennessee River but it was the Creek Indians that it was told about. This was told as it actually happened but it was a very strange incident. As some of the Indians had been brought to the river to be put aboard the ships that were to carry them part of the way by a water route, some began to form ideas that they did not fully want to leave their old homes and further, some resolved never to set foot on the ships so that they couldn't be forced to suffer any more hardships.
They thought it would be best to end all relations with their superior officers so that they began to fight them. In the attempts to check the rebellion the officers had to use weapons and some of the Indians were killed as they tried to run off into the woods. Seeing the rebellious attitude of the Indians the white officers grabbed any Indian and pushed or forced them into the ships. The officers readily killed any Indian on board the ships that seemed to be in a rebellious attitude, but there were some Indians who did not take part in the uprising but they were the eye witnesses to those Indians who were killed on board the ships and thrown overboard into the waters of the river. Some of them that were left unharmed said, "Even we will die here but not by guns." With this, they took hold of one another's hands and stepped off into a large suck hole that was in the river and went to their deaths singing a song. It is told that many years later, the words of the song which had been sung by those Indians could be heard at certain times so that many people from foreign countries and people from different places in this country have made trips to this vicinity in attempts to record the tune and words of the song, but no one has ever been successful. 

Lewis, S. R.

Chauncey O. Moore, Supervisor
Indian-Pioneer History S-14
Lawrence D. Hibbs
Field Worker
Interview: S. R. Lewis

Old Timers

Major Ridge, a full blood Cherokee Indian, who married a white woman and his son, John Ridge, who also married a white woman, came to what is now Delaware County, Indian Territory, from Georgia in the year of 1835. John Ridge, the son, had a college education and both men were considered rich men.
They opened a trading post near the Arkansas State line. (This store may have been called Ridge's Store.) They employed one, William Childers, as a clerk in this trading post. Later they gave William Childers $8,000.00 to go to New Orleans to buy supplies for this store. He made the trip by way of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers, buying the supplies and returning to the trading post.

The Ridges, father and son, were signers of the Treaty of 1835, and which, later, was the cause of their deaths.

After the general removal of the Cherokees to Indian Territory in 1838, the two Ridges (Major and John) were assassinated by their own tribe, the reason being that because these two men signed the treaty disposing of the Cherokee country east of the Mississippi River for land in Indian Territory, the tribe thought they had been betrayed and sold out by their supposed friends. They were killed in different sections, but on the same day. Major Ridge was killed somewhere near the Arkansas State line, on the same day a relative of theirs was killed near Parkhill, which is about six miles south of Tahlequah.
The wives of the two Ridges, being white women, feared for their lives after the death of their husbands and they moved to Arkansas, remaining there until their deaths.

Mann, Richard

O. C. Davidson
I was born Jan. 20, 1872 in the Going Snake District of the Cherokee Nation, at Oaks, one of the two oldest towns in the Cherokee Nation. I am a full blood Cherokee; my mother, Elizabeth Miller came from Georgia in the Trail of Tears in 1832, when the Indians were driven out of Georgia at the point of bayonet and brought here like live-stock.

They came here by boats, landed at the mouth of the Verdigris River. A rock with the date of their landing carved on it still marks the spot of their landing.
Upon their arrival here the Creek and Cherokee tribes separated. The Creeks going west of Grand River and the Cherokees settling east of the Grand River.

Upon coming here the Cherokees were permitted to take claims at the land they wanted, anywhere east of Grand River. The stipulations of the treaty were that this land was to be theirs as long as grass grew and the waters run. But later, the white mans greed for this beautiful and valuable country became so strong that, they went to work and legislated laws in Washington where by this country might be surveyed and divided up, allowing each Indian just so much land as a homestead and certain allotment of surplus other than their homesteads.

The full blood Indians never did agree to this allotment system but were forced to accept it.

Payne, Mary

May 10, 1937
Miss Ella Robinson
Research Field Worker
Mrs. Mary Payne
521 South Third
Muskogee, Oklahoma

Life and Experience of a Cherokee Woman

My father was David Israel, a full-blood Cherokee and my mother was Martha Jane Miller Israel, a quarter Cherokee. They were born in Georgia. My mother in 1836 and my father in 1837. They were brought to Indian Territory by their parents over the "Trail of Tears" when the Indians were driven from their eastern homes by the United States Troops.

They were too young to know of the tragedies and sorrows of that terrible event. My aunt, who was 15 years old at the time, told me of the awful suffering along the journey. Almost everyone had to walk as the conveyance they had were inadequate for transporting what few possessions they had and their meager supply of food. Only the old people and little children were allowed to ride. They died by the hundreds and were buried by the roadside. As they were not allowed to remove any of their household goods, they arrived at their destination with nothing with which to start housekeeping

Pennington, Josephine

October 12, 1937
D. W. Wilson
Interview with Mrs. Josephine Pennington
Hulbert, Oklahoma
The scene of this story as given by Mrs. Pennington starts far back in the dawn of Cherokee history. It deals with her forefathers before wrongs were done to these proud Cherokee back in Tennessee and Georgia; with their weary journey westward over the Trail of Tears. The Cherokees' first constitution according to the Cherokee laws; the Cherokees' first Principal Chief, John Ross; stirring events of the Civil War; the coming of the wild bands of painted Indians from other parts of the United States brought by the Government into the Indian Territory to occupy a part of the Cherokee lands that they were compelled by the Government to sell for this purpose.
Progress is to be noted in Mrs. Pennington's recital, for they builded schools and churches, towns and cities, from savagery among the wild Indians to our present great state we have today.
Every individual has back of him things of which they are justly proud and Mrs. Pennington is proud to know that she is a direct descendant of the principal characters of the Cherokees.
After the Ridges made this treaty and those who favored it moved west. Chief Ross and his band of 12,000 still refused to move and they met abuse and troubles indescribable and finally the United States Soldiers were sent to move Chief Ross and his people.

The Migration

After the soldiers appeared, they began to build stockades to house the Cherokees until they could get them moving. All over the Cherokee country they went, bringing in all of them, old and young, male and female and their babes, the sick, the lame and the halt. They hunted them down like hunting wild beasts and when they found them, they drove them under threats and blows like cattle to these stockades. These stockades were over crowded, disease broke out among them and many of them died with dysentery. Poor food and poor water, no doctors and no medicine.

In due time parties were started west, under the charge of soldiers. These parties were driven through like cattle. The sick and weak walked until they fell exhausted and then were loaded in wagons or left behind to die. When streams were to be crossed if not too deep all were compelled to wade. The water often times was to the chins of the men and women, and the little children were carried high over their heads. If the water was over their heads they would build rafts and cross on them.

Chief Ross and the Council begged the Government to let them take over the moving after a few parties had been moved by the soldiers and this was agreed upon. They began to establish camps and their health got better. It was only a short time until Chief Ross had worked out the details for the removal and he moved his people in groups through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and then into the Indian Territory. This journey was called the "Trail of Tears".

Unlike the moving by the army, arrangements were made whereby the old, sick and afflicted and the babies rode on the wagons hauling provisions and household goods. The others walked or rode horseback. These wagons hauling provisions were Government property.
Even with these arrangements many died on account of cold and hunger enroute and were buried in unmarked graves.
One of those who died on the Trail of Tears was Jim Ross Jr., the son of Jim Ross who was the son of Chief John Ross as aforementioned.
Jim Ross Jr. was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere near the present town of Aurora, Missouri.
Those who survived the hardships of the long trek, finally came to meet the Cherokees west. After they arrived here all that they possessed were a saw, an axe, a very little bedding and a big-eyed hoe and a small amount of corn, enough possibly to plant an acre of ground.

Having located in the Ozarks of the eastern part of the Indian Territory, many of them dug caves or dugouts in the hillsides in which to live until with their axe and saw, they built a little log cabin. They lived on wild fruits and berries. They made themselves bows and arrows to kill their game.

Some were a little more fortunate for they had a horse and with a deer tongue of wood and the big-eyed hoe they planted their corn in little clearings.

Chief John Ross and his family settled and builded their first home near the west bank of the Illinois. 

Vann, E. F.

March 20, 1938
D. T. Wilson
An interview with Mr. E. F. Vann; Muskogee, Oklahoma

I am the son of Turnip and Martha Vann and I was born in the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation of the Indian Territory, June 20, 1870. The present location of my birthplace would be in Adair County near the present town of Stilwell. I am a full blood Cherokee Indian and am now the day jailer at the Muskogee County jail in Muskogee.

My father was born in North Carolina about 1825, and my mother's name was Martha Hood before her marriage and she was born in Georgia, September 14, 1835. My father is now dead and is buried some few miles south of Stilwell. My mother is also dead and is buried in McIntosh County, near Chocotah.
In 1890 I married a white woman of the name of Alice McTheney who was born in Crawford County, Arkansas, June 6, 1874.

My father and grandfather moved to Georgia before the removal of the Cherokees to the Indian Territory from North Carolina and my mother's parents lived in Georgia. There has been much told to me by my parents and grandparents as to the way in which the Cherokees were treated and were driven from their homes in Georgia, all of which history has recorded; however I feel that I should say my parents were of two different clans or factions. My mother's parents were favorable to the Treaty or the Ridge Party and on account of a treaty made with the United States Government, my mother's people were moved west by the Government, by steamboat and wagons and settled in Western Arkansas, north of the present town of Fort Smith, in 1835. Mother was but a baby two years old at this time. These Cherokees were called emigrants or the Western Cherokees.

My father's people would not abide by the treaty and were known as members of the Anti-treaty or Ross Party who refused to leave their homes back in Georgia, because the land was fertile and had many improvements and furthermore because their loved ones were buried there. In all, the members of the Ross or Anti-treaty party were satisfied and content in Georgia and did not care to take up new homes in a country of which they knew nothing. All the story of their sufferings in Georgia and across the Trail of Tears has already been written. My father while only thirteen years old came on the Trail of Tears with his parents and while on this trail, he lost one of his brothers. Father's people settled in the Flint District where I was born. It was in 1838 that this removal occurred and it was only a few years until my mother's people who had settled in Arkansas were again compelled to move into the confines of the Indian Territory. They settled in the Flint District where Father and Mother grew up and were married.

I have heard my grandparents and parents say, that after the troublesome times of enforced migration and settlement in their new lands in Indian Territory, there followed at last a period of peace and prosperity among the Cherokees. The younger Indians such as Father and Mother became reconciled to the change but my grandfather never did.

Walker, Henry J.

Interview with Henry J. Walker
Welch, Oklahoma, Star Route
James R. Carseloway, Field Worker
My name is Henry J. Walker, and I live at Welch, Oklahoma, Star Route. I live on the farm my father settled on, when the Kansas line was re-established, located on Big Cabin Creek.
My father's name was George Washington Walker. My mother's name was Mary Jane (Harlow) Walker.
My grandfather was Timothy Migs Walker, and my grandmother was Elizabeth Neely (Adair) Walker.
My father was born in Tennessee in 1823 and came to the Indian Territory when a boy 12 years old with his parents, brothers and sisters, along with the eastern emigrants, from Georgia about 1838.

Men and Boys Walked

My father told me that all the men and boys walked all the way from Georgia, and the women and children were allowed to ride in the ox wagons. It was a long hard journey and many took sick and died on the road. It took so long to make the trip, longer than the government had figured, that about all the money the Cherokees were given to live on after they arrived was used up on the way.

My father said each head of a family was given $100.00 in money to live on until they could get started up in their new homes, and that the soldiers in charge of the movement were given feed and food enough to carry them through. It ran out long before the journey's end was reached and the government officers had to borrow from the Indians to buy food and feed to continue the trip. By the time the Territory was reached about all the Indians money was used up, many of their families were reduced by death, and they were here without a thing to live on.

My father said the Government men in charge of the "Trail of Tears" promised to turn in their claims and pay back the money they borrowed from the Cherokees on the way over here, but they never did. I am told that the Cherokees now have in a claim against the government for this money with 5 per cent interest from 1838.
My grandfather, Timothy Walker, was a full blood Cherokee and settled with his family near Tahlequah in 1868, where he lived until his death several years later.

My father, George W. Walker, was almost a full blood Cherokee, and spoke languages fluently. 

Waterkiller, Ellis

Interview with Mr. Ellis Waterkiller

Mr. Waterkiller was born in the Cookson Hills of Eastern Oklahoma, near White Oak School, in Cherokee County, Oklahoma and now lives six miles east of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, near the present Perkins School in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, on highway #62.

He is a full blood Cherokee Indian and 73 years old.

All of his known relatives were buried in the Cookson Hills of eastern Oklahoma, near the White Oak School. No markers mark their graves.
Father - Waterkiller - Born North Carolina (year unknown) Died 1870.
Mother - Nancy Parsons Waterkiller, born Cookson Hills 1873 and died 1890.
Grandfather - (First name unknown) last name, Parsons. Born North Carolina, (date unknown) Died 1840.
Grandmother - Sallie Parsons, born North Carolina (date unknown) Died 1885.


Don't know much about Father's people. Grandma (Parsons) tell me lot, like I tell you.
Grandpa and Grandma leave North Carolina, in old country, come Georgia, that old country too, stay there year. . . . 1837, soldiers drive um West. . . . Grandpa and Grandma no want come. Soldiers say go or kill you. Stick bayonet in you. They get things one night, skillet, pot, dishes, clothes, bedclothes too. . . . got dish grandma bring. I eat beans out em, I boy. It was an old piece of pottery, highly polished. Bowl was fashioned with handles, handles broken off, but designs on it were beautiful. See bowl, is over hundred years old. Next day soldiers drive um out. Easy first day. Make soldiers feel good. Every day worse. Just drive um like cattle. Grandma say she walk, grandpa walk too or soldiers run bayonets through um. They walk, wade creeks to chin, lots mud some places. Cross rivers in canoes. Soldiers save canoes, sometimes hollow logs, made um boats, go cross river. Yuh, soldiers have wagons. Feed um two times some days, sometimes feed um one time. Soldiers eat all time, take care horses better than my grandma-grandpa. Yuh-they bring skillet some things grandma had. Yuh - lots die, lots sick, lots die, two week walk, they die, bury em where they die, any place. Yuh - clothes bad, tore em, dirty too, clothes all gone when get here. Throw lot way on road, no good.

They get here, lots timber, land no good in hills, all right in valley Yuh - Grandma hate white man. Give all land, good land, in old country meaning North Carolina and Georgia. . . . white man say "Trail Tears", she say: "Trail Death". . . . grandpa die next year, mother born. (meaning his grandmother died one year after the birth of his mother.)

Life and Customs after Migration

Grandma say, her and grandpa come in hills. Soldiers say live, work, die.
Soldiers give em, ax, saw, big eye hoe, flint makin firs, corn, cotton, beans, mellon seed. Some soldiers give em nothin. (He had in his mind that some of the emigrants received nothing after their arrival, but was promised they would get theirs later). My folks lucky. Others never get nothin. .......

Watts, Elizabeth

April 27, 1937
Mrs. Elizabeth Watts
A Biographic Sketch
Route #2, Box 168, Muskogee, Oklahoma
By L. D. Wilson, Field Worker
Indian-Pioneer History

Source of Information received from a personal interview.

Mrs. Watt's maiden name was Elizabeth Miller. She was born in 1859, in the Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation and is a full-blood Cherokee Indian. Her first marriage was to a Mr. Whitewater, now deceased, and in 1894, she was married to Mr. Watts. Each marriage was consummated under the Cherokee Laws.

Her mother was Mrs. Nancy Tony - Miller and she was born on the East bank of the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee, in 1837. Her grandparents were enroute from Georgia on the "Trail of Tears". They camped at the river several weeks waiting for the river to recede. Disease broke out among them and many died, but Nancy was born and she, at least replaced one of those who died.

Mrs. Miller died in 1876, and is buried in Goose-Neck Band neighborhood, east of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Her father, Wilson Miller, was born in the Cherokee Nation. Was an orphan. He was reared by Uncle Joe Robertson, who was the father of Miss Alice Robertson, late Congress-woman from Oklahoma. His home was with the Robertson's at the old Tallahassee Mission, in the Creek Nation at the present town of Tallahassee, Oklahoma. He knew little of his parents, and likewise, Mrs. Watts knew nothing of her grand-parents on her father's side. He is buried three miles south of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Grandparents on Mrs. Watts' mother's side were named Richard and Nellie Tony and they came to the Indian Territory in 1837, due to the removal of all Cherokees west of the Mississippi River.

The Removal as told to Mrs. Watts by her Grandparents

The Cherokees owned a large acreage in Georgia. After Jefferson was elected President by the United States, he had agents to come to the different Tribes to induce them to come west. Their inducement was much more land than they had there. They had lived there in Georgia for years and years. They had good land, that was left, for already the white people had encroached and taken much of their land. Naturally, most of them did not want to leave and go out into the wilderness and start life anew. To do so, was like spending a nickel these days for a grab bag, or like the saying, "Buying a cat in a sack". They did not willingly want to do this. Time passed. The War of 1812 came, and removal was delayed. A new President, Madison, was elected and he traded land in Arkansas, north of Fort Smith, for their land and agreed to move them and give them supplies, guns, clothing, ammunition, and utensils. A few of them agreed and came. The most of them still refused. This greatly separated the Cherokees. Those that came to Arkansas, had trouble there. The Government then moved them to what we call the Strip Country.
Those left in Georgia began building larger homes, put in larger crops, planted orchards, and advanced by leaps and bounds. It was during this period the Cherokees adopted the Sequoyah alphabet in Georgia. Sequoyah also came west to the ones in the Strip country and taught it there.

The white people used all means to get the Indians out of Georgia. Claimed they were barbarians, and they, the Cherokees, made new laws, just like the ones we had here in the Nation. John Ross was elected Chief of all the Tribes of Cherokees. Ross did all he could to get to stay there, but the Georgia white man passed laws and more laws, and law or no law, they destroyed the Indian's fences, and crops, and killed their cattle, burned their homes and made life a torment to them.

The Cherokees began to think of joining the West Cherokees. They simply could endure no longer. Like everything, it took a leader, and Major Ridge, his son, John Ridge, and two nephews, Elias Boudinot and Stan Natie became leaders. Of course, John Ross was the Chief and they all got to squabbling. Ross did not want to move his people, but by some hook or crook, Boudinot and Ridge signed a treaty to move, and claimed it was the will of the majority, but it was not, and the Government united a little while and sent Gen. Scott and two or three thousand soldiers. The soldiers gathered them up, all up, and put them in camps. They hunted them and run them down until they got all of them. Even before they were loaded in wagons, many of them got sick and died. They were all grief stricken. They lost all on earth they had. White men even robbed their dead's graves to get their jewelry and other little trinkets.

They saw to stay was impossible and the Cherokees told Gen. Scott they would go without further trouble and the long journey started. They did not all come at once. First one batch and then another. The sick, old, and babies rode on the grub and household wagons. The rest rode a horse, if they had one. Most of them walked. Many of them died along the way. They buried them where they died, in unmarked graves. It was a bitter dose and lingered in the mind of Mrs. Watts Grand-parents and parents until death took them. The road they traveled, History calls the "Trail of Tears". This trail was more than tears. It was death, sorrow, hunger, exposure, and humiliation to a civilized people as were the Cherokees. Today, our greatest politicians, lawyers, doctors, and many of worthy mention are Cherokees. Holding high places, in spite of all the humiliation brought on their forefathers.

Yes, they reached their Western friends and started all over again.

Lands promised, money promised, never materialized only with a paltry sum, too small to recall, for what they parted with and the treatment received

Whitmire, Eliza

February 14, 1938
Interview with Eliza Whitmire (Ex-slave woman), Estella, Oklahoma

Giving her experience on the removal of the Cherokees from Georgia and other experience of Pre-War Days.

My name is Eliza Whitmire. I live on a farm, near Estella. Where I settled shortly after the Civil War and where I have lived ever since. I was born in slavery in the state of Georgia, my parents having belonged to a Cherokee Indian of the name of George Sanders, who owned a large plantation in the old Cherokee Nation in Georgia. He also owned a large number of slaves but I was to young to remember how many he owned.
I do not know the exact date of my birth, although my mother told me I was about five years old when President Andrew Jackson ordered General Scott to proceed to the Cherokee country, in Georgia with two thousand troops and remove the Cherokees by force to the Indian Territory. This bunch of Indians were called the Eastern Emigrants. The Old Settler Cherokees had moved themselves in 1835 when the order was first given to the Cherokees to move out.

The Trail of Tears

The weeks that followed General Scott's order to remove the Cherokees were filled horror and suffering for the unfortunate Cherokees and their slaves. The women and children were driven from their homes, sometimes with blows and close on the heels of the retreating Indians came greedy whites to pillage the Indians' homes, drive off their cattle, horses and hogs, and they even rifled the graves for any jewelry, or other ornaments that might have been buried with the dead.

Divided into Detachments

The Cherokees, after being driven from their homes, were divided into detachments of nearly equal size and late in October 1838, the first detachment started, the others following one by one. The aged, sick and the young children rode in the wagons, which carried the provisions and bedding, while others went on foot. The trip was made in the dead of winter and many died from exposure from sleet and snow, and all who lived to make this trip, or had parents who made it, will long remember it as a bitter memory.

Woodall, Bettie

September 20, 1937
James R. Carselowey
An Interview with Bettie Perdue Woodall
Welch, Oklahoma

Old Indian Days

My name is Elizabeth Perdue Woodall, but I have always been called "Bettie". I was born near Westville, Indian Territory, December 6, 1851. My father's name was James Perdue, a half-breed Cherokee Indian. My mother, Dollie Thornton Perdue, was a white woman. Both were born in Georgia. They were married in 1838, and came immediately with the eastern emigrants over the Trail of Tears to their new home west of the Mississippi, settling in Going Snake District, in the new Cherokee Nation.

The Trail of Tears.

Some histories say that on the Trail of Tears all the women and children were allowed to ride; but my mother told me that not a single woman rode unless she was sick and not able to walk. My mother walked every step of the way over here.

The Government furnished green coffee in the grain for the Indians along the route. Many of them had never seen coffee and did not know how to make it. Some of them put the coffee in a pot with meat and were trying to cook it like beans when my mother came along and some Indian woman said, "Ask her, She white woman." My mother said she just had to laugh the way they were trying to cook that coffee. She took some of the green coffee, roasted it in a pan over their fire, put the parched grains in a cloth and pounded it up, and made them a pot of coffee. They all liked it and said she was a smart white woman.

She also showed them how to cook their rice. It seems they all thought everything had to be cooked with meat, but in this way the young white woman became very popular and much loved by her newly made friends.

My mother told me about many of the hardships and privations she and the rest of the women suffered while on their way from Georgia. Some of them were almost unbelievable, yet I know they are true, for my mother would have had no motive in telling it if it had not been so.

On one occasion she told of an officer in charge of one of the wagons, who killed a little baby because it cried all the time. It was only four days old and the mother was forced to walk and carry it, and because it cried all of the time and the young mother could not quiet it, the officer took it away from her and dashed its little head against a tree and killed it.