Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Cousin Henry George Starr 1873-1922

Henry Starr Wounded a Few Days Before He Died

  • Thrilling Events Life of Henry Starr by Henry George Starr
    • I was born near Fort Gibson, I.T., on December 2, 1873 and am of Scotch-Irish-Indian ancestry.  My father, George Starr, was a half-blood Cherokee Indian; my mother, Mary Scott, is one-quarter Cherokee.  There were three children by their union - Elizabeth, the eldest, Addie, the second, and myself, Henry George Starr, the youngest.  I might mention that I was born in a cabin, the inevitable log-cabin, close to Fort Gibson, one of the oldest Forts in the West.  It was here Sam Houston came when he fled from his beautiful wife and the governorship of Tennessee, and later married the fair Indian maiden, Talihina. Sam Houston was also famous for his ability to put much “fire-water” under his belt, and his accomplishments along that line were the envy of every Indian and soldier in that region. This is the first Chapter taken from the Book “Thrilling Events Life of Henry Starr” written by Henry Starr.  He wrote his life story while he was imprisoned in the Colorado State penitentiary.  This book was published in 1914.

    From the Oklahoma Historical Society
    He was an author, a movie producer, and a star, and maybe because of genetics, he was an outlaw, a bank robber, and a murderer. Henry Starr, just before he died from gunshot wounds suffered in his last bank robbery, claimed to have robbed more banks than anyone else in America. Henry Starr, this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.
    Around the turn of the last century, before we became a state, the eastern part of Indian Territory was a haven of outlaws and criminals. One of them was Henry Starr. Starr was born near Ft. Gibson in 1873. Early on he developed a liking for illegal activities and the lure of easy money. Starr maintained a lengthy streak as a bank robber and is considered one of the first transition outlaws, those that began on horseback but ended their careers using cars.
    When he was 16 years old, Henry was working on a ranch near Nowata when he had his first run-in with the law. He was driving a wagon to town one day when two deputy marshals caught him with whiskey and arrested him for "introducing spirits into territory." He went to court and plead guilty to the offense, although he always maintained that he was innocent because he had borrowed the wagon and didn't know the whiskey was in it.
    Back at Nowata, working as a cowboy, he had his next brush with the law. He was arrested for stealing horses, another charge he denied, and was thrown in jail at Fort Smith. His cousin paid his bail, but Henry jumped the bail. Now he turned to the life of an outlaw, joining with two other men, began robbing stores and railroad depots. Two U.S. Deputy Marshals were hot on the trail of Henry near Nowata again. In a shoot out with one of the marshals, Henry killed him and now was wanted for murder.
    With the law on his trail, he started robbing banks, first in Caney, Kansas, then in Bentonville, Arkansas. Headed to California, Henry was captured in Colorado Springs and returned to Fort Smith to stand trail for killing the marshal. It was during this stay in jail in Fort Smith, awaiting trial, that one of the most amazing deeds was accomplished. A fellow prisoner, Cherokee Bill attempted a prison break with a gun smuggled him by a trustee. There was a gun battle in which one of the guards was killed. Henry was a friend of Bill's and offered to disarm him if guards would in turn promise not to kill Cherokee Bill. The promise was made, and Henry entered the cell where Bill was at and retrieved the weapon. Because of this, he was released.
    A few years later, Starr, again in prison, wrote his autobiography. Again released from prison, in 1915 he and his gang went to Stroud and robbed both banks there at the same time, successfully. But Starr was wounded in a gun battle that ensued and was arrested. Again, he won parole. Starr moved to Tulsa, produced a movie about the Stroud bank robbery, and was offered a job in Hollywood. He seemed to have given up the life of crime, but he hadn't.
    In February 1922, Starr drove into Harrison, Arkansas, to attempt to rob the bank there. He was shot, captured and died a few days later. It is believed that it was the first time a fast car was used in a robbery and the first time a machine gun was used in a robbery. Before he died, he boasted that no one had robbed more banks than him.

  • Friday, August 23, 2013

    Sam and Belle Starr

    Samuel Starr, Son of Thomas Starr (Goodman or Badman? Post) 
    Born in 1859 in Cherokee Nation West  and Died at Age 27 in 1886  -  My 3rd Cousin 3x Removed  -  Married the Bandit Queen, Belle Starr   

    Haskell County Historical Society
    Franklin Pierce West and Sam Starr

    "The Trail of Tears was a Cherokee holocaust. Less than half the people arrived in Indian Territory alive.
    "Indian Territory was home to other Native American tribes, including Apache, Choctaw and Comanche. These tribes had to share their land and resources with the Cherokee. The white encroachment on Indian lands was spreading further and further West.
    "The West family settled in Canadian District of Indian Territory near the Canadian River. Whitefield, Stigler, Porum and Briartown are several of the towns that were established in this area. John and Ruth West were given an allotment of approximately 40 acres to homestead in Briartown. They built a three bedroom home at the top of a hill facing southwest. This house is still standing. Here, they raised their children, William, George, Martha, John Calhoun, James, Kiamitia, Ruth and Franklin. They owned horses and cows and had a garden in which they grew potatoes, tomato's, beans, carrots, strawberries, and grapevines. Pecan trees grew wild on the land, and many of them are still producing today.
    "Franklin Pierce West, youngest child of John and Ruth, was born in 1852. He married Nancy Ella Brewer, born 1853 and died 1909. They had three children, John Brewer, Richard and Ruth Ella. He and Nancy built a home for their family down the hill from the old homestead. This house is no longer standing, but in it's place is my Aunt Lucy's home. She still lives on the land that was left to her by her grandfather, although only 10 acres of this land is West land.
    "Franklin West was a deputy marshall in the Indian Territory Sheriffs Department. His cousin, Sam Starr and his wife, Belle, were notorious outlaws in the Old West.
    "Sam and Belle Starr also settled in the Briartown area, naming their homestead Younger's Bend. Younger's Bend became a haven for outlaws. Ironically, Frank West lived only a few miles away. Sam and Belle were arrested in 1882 when deputy marshalls found stolen horses in their stables. Sam was arrested on many counts of hold-ups of US Mail hacks and post offices. Belle was indicted for Larceny in stealing horses and robbery. She often wore mens clothing in her raids and was dubbed "gang leader" after a robbery in Cache of horses and about $40.
    "Sam Starr and Franklin West met often on opposite sides of the law. On September 16, 1886, Franklin West, Sheriff William Vann, Deputy Robinson and police officer John Toney spotted Sam in the Canadian Bottoms. West shot and wounded Sam, killing the mare he was riding. Vann and West hurried to a nearby farm house to get help for the wounded Starr. Deputies Robinson and Toney were left to guard Starr. They moved an unconcious Starr to a wooded area for cover from the rest of Starr's gang. When he regained consciousness, Sam cunningly disarmed both deputies, siezed Robinsons' horse and escaped. As he rode away, he shouted "Tell Frank West he'll pay for killing Belle's mare".
    "Starr holed-up at one of his brothers' homes. Belle cared for her wounded husband, convincing him to surrender before he was killed. Sam was taken into custody and arraigned on a grand jury indictment for breaking into a post office. Belle posted his bail and Sam was released. His trial was scheduled for February 1887. He wouldn't make it.
    "On December 17, 1886, Lucy Surrant, a Choctaw native who had settled in Whitefield, gave a Christmas dance at her home on Emachaya Creek, which was named after her father. She was affectionately known to locals as "Aunt Lucy". Belle and Sam decided to attend the dance. Frank West happened to arrive shortly before them.
    "Frank was warming himself by a log fire, alongside a 12 year old boy named J. Daniel Folsom. Sam Starr angrily stormed over to where West was, began cursing him and demanded he leave the dance. West refused and more heated words followed. Sam went for his gun at the same time Frank drew his weapon. Gunshots rang out, and both men fell to the ground. The young 12 year old boy was struck by a stray bullet in the face. West had been hit in the neck and died within minutes. Sam was shot in the chest and struggled for a few moments before passing on. Belle raced to the fireplace, knelt beside her dead husband and cursed Frank West. Sam was just 27 years old while Franklin West was 34.
    "Sam Starr is buried in the Starr Cemetary located in Younger's Bend. The Starr homestead is no longer standing. To reach this cemetary, one must drive through a maze of trees and shrubs on a winding dirt road.
    "Franklin Pierce West is buried in McClure Cemetary, one of many cemetaries where West family members are interred.
    "(information sources on Sam Starr for this article from "Sam Starr, A Short and Violent Life" by Michael Koch).
    "***(Editor's Note: 4-2-00 - I have been informed by a reader that J. Daniel Folsom, the 12 year old boy at the Christmas dance, did not die. He became a sheriff of Haskell County OK.  I apologize for and have amended this error.**

    Myra Belle Shirley (Relationship only by Marriage to Sam Starr)

    Murderer Blue Duck and Belle Starr

    Belle Starr 
    FULL NAME: Myra Belle Shirley
    BIRTH DATE: Feb. 5, 1848.
    BIRTHPLACE: Carthage, Mo.

    EDUCATION: Attended the Carthage Female Academy, where she excelled in reading, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, deportment, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and music-learning to play the piano.
    FAMILY BACKGROUND:  Father John Shirley was a wealthy Carthage innkeeper, mother Elizabeth "Eliza" Pennington Shirley. Belle moved with her family to Sycene, Texas shortly before Carthage was burned to the ground by Confederate guerillas during the Civil War in 1864. That same year her older brother John "Bud" Shirley, who fought for the Confederacy with William C. Quantrill's guerillas, was killed by Union troops in Sarcoxie, Mo.
    DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: In the legendary period of American history known as the Old West, the law of the whole nation had yet to tame that frontier which was spottily settled. This resulted in lawlessness seen in the personage of those known as outlaws-lawbreakers whose notorious reputations often exceeded their very person to mythical proportions. Belle Starr was one such outlaw.  From her association with outlaws such as Jesse James and the Younger brothers, she reached a level of fantastic notoriety that today leaves the facts of her life not always distinguishable from the fiction.
    As a teenager during the Civil War, Belle Shirley reported the positions of Union troops to Confederacy.  One of her childhood friends in Missouri was Cole Younger, who served in Quantrill's guerillas with Jesse and Frank James. After the war these men (and later Cole's three brothers, among others) turned to outlawry, primarily that of robbery of banks, trains, stagecoaches, and people. In their flights from lawmen they would sometimes hide out at the Shirley farm, through which Belle became very tight with the James and Younger gangs. Their influence would be part of the reason Belle would turn to crime herself.
    In 1866, Belle married James C. "Jim" Reed, a former guerilla whom she had known since her childhood in Carthage. Their daughter Rosie Lee "Pearl" (who was later rumored to be Cole Younger's child) was born in 1868 and their son James Edwin "Ed" was born in 1871. While Jim initially tried his hand at farming, he would grow restless and fell in with bad company in that of the Starr clan, a Cherokee Indian family notorious for whiskey, cattle, and horse thievery in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), as well as his wife's old friends the James and Younger gangs. Then in 1869, Jim shot in cold blood the man who supposedly accidentally shot his brother in a quarrel. Wanted by the law, he fled to California with Belle and Pearl in tow. Here two years later Jim again ran afoul of the law for passing counterfeit money and with Belle, Pearl, and newborn son Ed fled to Texas.
    In November 1873, Jim Reed with two other men robbed Watt Grayson, a wealthy Creek Indian farmer in the Indian Territory, of $30,000 in gold coins. Belle was named as an accomplice, however, there was very little proof of her involvement.  Nonetheless, they both went into hiding from the law in Texas: Jim in the town of Paris and Belle and the children with her family in Sycene. Allegedly, she took Pearl and Ed and went to Dallas, where she lived off the gold from the Grayson robbery. She wore buckskins and moccasins or tight black jackets, black velvet skirts, high-topped boots, a man's Stetson hat with an ostrich plume, and twin holstered pistols. She spent much her time in saloons, drinking and gambling at dice, cards, and roulette. At times she would ride her horse through the streets shooting off her pistols.  This wild behavior was among what gave rise to her rather exaggerated image as a pistol-wielding outlaw.
    In April 1874, Jim held up the Austin-San Antonio stagecoach and robbed the passengers of about $2,500. A price of $7,000 was placed on his head and he went into hiding. The law caught up with him near Paris, Texas on Aug. 6, 1874, when Jim Reed was shot to death while trying to escape from the custody of a deputy sheriff.
    The young widow of an outlaw, Belle left Texas, put her children in the care of relatives, and took up with the Starr clan in the Indian Territory west of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Here Belle immersed herself in outlawry: organizing, planning and fencing for the rustlers, horse thieves and bootleggers, as well as harboring them from the law. Belle's illegal enterprises proved lucrative enough for her to employ bribery to free her cohorts from the law whenever they were caught. When she was unable to buy off the lawmen, she was known to seduce them into looking the other way. All of the aforementioned confirmed Belle's status as an outlaw and her reputation would supersede her with the sensationalistic writing of the day. During this period she married Samuel Starr, a member of the infamous Starr clan, in 1880.
    Judge Isaac C. Parker, a.k.a., "The Hanging Judge," of Fort Smith became obsessed with bringing Belle Starr to justice, but she eluded him at every turn. Then in 1882, charges of horse theft were brought against Belle and Sam by one of their neighbors in the Indian Territory. The jury returned a guilty verdict for each and in March 1883, Judge Parker sentenced Belle and Sam to a year in the House of Correction in Detroit, Mich. During her prison term Belle proved to be a model prisoner and won the respect of the prison matron, whereas Sam was more incorrigible and was assigned to hard labor. Nevertheless, they were both released after nine months and returned to the Indian Territory. In fact Belle proved not to have been reformed at all by prison for she-as well as Sam-almost immediately returned to their villainous ways. Belle's unrepentant attitude was best expressed in a comment to a Dallas newspaper reporter: "I am a friend to any brave and gallant outlaw."
    Over the next several years Belle Starr would continue to find herself arrested for charges of robbery, however, Judge Parker would be forced to release her for lack of evidence. A particularly memorable such arrest was in 1886, when Belle was charged with robbing a post office while dressed as a man.  That same year Sam Starr was killed by a longtime family nemesis. Shortly afterward Belle provided the legal counsel for Bluford "Blue" Duck, a Cherokee Indian indicted for murdering a farm hand.  To Judge Parker's ire, the death sentence he imposed was commuted to life imprisonment. And in 1888, when her son Ed was arrested for horse theft, her lawyers contacted President Grover Cleveland, who overturned Judge Parker's seven-year prison sentence with a full pardon.
    The notoriously unlawful life of Belle Starr came to a violent end on Feb. 3, 1889, two days short of her forty-first birthday. While riding from the general store to her ranch near Eufaula, Okla., Belle was killed by a shotgun blast to the back. Suspects included Edgar Watson, with whom Belle had been feuding over the land he was renting from her (Watson was a fugitive and Belle had been told by the authorities that she would lose all of her land if caught harboring fugitives and for once she was obeying), her lover a Cherokee named Jim July with whom she had recently had a quarrel, and her son Ed, with whom she had had a strained relationship. However, the identity of the murderer of Belle Starr was never identified.  Belle Starr was buried on her ranch with a marble headstone on which was engraved a bell, her horse, a star and the epitaph written by her daughter Pearl which reads:
    "Shed not for her the bitter tear, Nor give the heart to vain regret; 'Tis but the casket that lies here, The gem that filled it sparkles yet."
    Even in her lifetime Belle Starr had become a legend through the yellow journalism of her day. This status would be reinforced through the years by-in addition to the press-dime novel literature and the Hollywood motion picture industry. The result is that today historians continue attempting to decipher the facts of Belle Starr's life from the fiction.
    DATE OF DEATH: Feb. 3, 1889, age 40 (shot to death).
    PLACE OF DEATH: near Eufaula, Okla.
    • History Site Index: Belle Starr
    • Article from Wild West: "Bandit Queen Belle Starr"
    • Wild West Women: Belle Starr
    • The Ballad of Belle Starr

    This page may be cited as: Women in History. Belle Starr biography. Last Updated: 5/8/2011. Lakewood Public Library. Date accessed 5/8/2011 . .

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    The Tree for the Unfolding Starr Outlaws

    James Starr 1796 (Trail of Tears)

    Son Thomas Starr (Outlaw Or Good Guy?)1819                       Son (1820)  Fields Starr                                                                   |                                                                                   |
                                    Grandson                                                        Grandson
    Samuel Starr 1859 Outlaw and Husband                                 (1844) George Hop Starr                                                            of the Bandit Queen                                                    |
                                                                                                          Great Grandson
                                                                                                   (1873) Henry Badman Starr

    The "Outlaw" Tom Starr 1819 - 1890 Good Guy or Outlaw?

    The Son of James Starr and The Grandson of Caleb Starr My 2nd Cousin 4x Removed

     The Civil War Tom Starr served in the Confederate Army in the First Cherokee Mounted Volunteers. He was a scout for General Stand Watie and was acquainted with William Quantrill. After the war some of Quantrill's raiders would visit the area around the Canadian River near Tom's ranch. The visitors included Cole Younger and his brothers. This area became known as Younger Bend.

     Taken from "100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen" 1839 Tom Starr, a Cherokee rebel, opposed to the Ross faction, Starr took land between Briartown and Eufala on the Bend of the Canadian River, sired Sam Starr, and reportedly entertained such notable crime figures as Jim Reed, Jack Spaniard, Felix Griffin, Jim French, the James’s and the Younger’s. He reportedly named Younger’s Bend for Cole Younger and occasionally sheltered the James brothers following the Civil War, Starr killed his own brother-in-law, reaping a $2,000 reward after presenting the severed head to the Cherokee chief and treasurer as proof of death.

      This next story is long but well worth the read. It is an amazing story and from everything I have read about Tom, it is true. 


     Organized Band and Started War Against Anti-Treaty Full Bloods to Avenge Murder of His Father

     - On The War Path Many Years Special Correspondence to Phoenix. Vinita, Iud. Ter., October 19.—

     Many people in the Cherokee Nation remember quite well the Tom Starr war and the many incidents that are connected with it. After the removal of the Cherokees west of the Mississippi river the Cherokees divided into two parties known as the Ridge and Ross parties. The Ridge party was known as the treaty party and the Ross party as the anti-treaty party. When the Ridge party came west they settled in the Cherokee Nation under their chief, John Jolly, and the Ross party followed later after the treaty of 1835 having been moved west by the United States troops. As soon as the anti-treaty people landed in the Cherokee Nation they stirred up dissension and strife out of which grew the Tom Starr war. The anti-treaty was very much dissatisfied with the new country and were mad at the Ridge party for making the treaty with the United States and undertook to kill all the members of the Ridge party and bands of full bloods armed themselves and went in bands all over the country to murder any member of the Ridge party that they could find; they deposed Chief John Jolly and elected John Ross as chief of the Cherokees and then followed the declaration of war between the two powerful parties and the anti-treaty people declared that they would kill every man who had signed the treaty with the United States . The anti-treaty people started the blood to flow by killing the leaders of the opposite party. The full bloods rode up to the home of old-man Boudtriot and old man Ridge one morning early, shot him down in cold blood and afterwards tied John West to a tree and stripped him of his clothing and gave him one hundred lashes on the bare back. The man who executed this command of the anti-treaty people tied West to a tree and cut ten young hickory sprouts one year old and would give him ten licks with one switch and throw it down and give him some water and then take another switch and give him ten more licks and then give him water and continued in this way until the hundred stripes were applied. After this, times became very quiet until about a year later when more serious trouble followed. It soon became quite apparent to the followers of the Ridge party that they would not be permitted to live in peace with the anti-treaty Indians and they resolved to give up all their possessions in the Cherokee Nation and go west and find a new location. Accordingly, Ezekiel Starr, one of the prominent leaders of the Ridge people, gathered together a large delegation of the treaty party and secured a sufficient number of pack mules and started west to find a new location for another Cherokee Nation. They found plenty of game and what they thought was a good country. They returned in about six months and held a general council of the treaty party and it was there resolved that a delegations be sent to Washington to take the matter up with the United States and lay before the department their complaint and try to make a treaty.whereby the treaty party of the Cherokees could select their Nation in Colorado. Ezekiel Starr was selected as a delegate to go to Washington and look after their part of the matter. The Cherokees were very poor in those days and they could not afford to send a number of delegates to Washington so they selected Ezekiel Starr and sent him to Washington to confer with the government. Ezekiel Starr went to Washington in January, 1816, and remained until the following May when he took sick and died and was buried in Washington. Negotiations were under way when Ezekiel Starr died, after which the Cherokees were unable to be represented at Washington the National capitol and being without a leader they were left in total darkness. Had Ezekiel Starr lived his efforts to establish a Cherokee Nation for the treaty party in Colorado would no doubt have proved successful and there would have been two nations for' the Cherokees. The Ridge party were without a leader and they soon became disheartened in their attempt to locate in Colorado and finally they abandoned their idea and decided to take the best of a bad bargain with the anti-treaty party they could. While Ezekiel Starr and his crowd the west looking for a new location the rest of the treaty party became refugees and fled to Arkansas for protection. Gen. Arbuckle with United States troops was located on the Arkansas line for the protection of the people and to preserve the peace, but his efforts proved futile One morning early while the homemakers were still in'the west, and James Starr, father of the notorious Tom Starr, was preparing to go to White river' in Arkansas on a hunting trip a band of full bloods rode up to his house and shot him down on his porch arid his son Buck Starr, ran away and; they pursued him and shot him. several: times, but he lived about a month and died. From the Starr home the full bloods, went to the home of Pollie Rider and killed Sewell Rider in his own yard. When Sewell Rider fell to the ground mortally wounded a full blood by the name of Stan jumped over in the yard and plunged his big knife into the wounded mans heart and a few minutes later the full bloods met Wash Starr in the road and opened fire on him, he fled to the woods desperately wounded but made good his escape and afterwards recovered. Wash Starr was a brother, of the notorious Tom Starr. This occurred in Goingsnake District and the women and children of the treaty party fled to the State of Arkansas, where they received rations from Gen. Arbuckle, and the full bloods who were doing this killing fell back to their headquarters at Tahlequah, from which place their.future operations were directed.

     When the killing occurring in Goingsnake District Tom Starr was living about two miles from his father's house and when his father was killed a younger brother named Creek Starr ran as hard as he could to the Tom Starr residence and conveyed the sad news to Tom Starr. Tom Starr, and his older brother fled to the woods and could not go to his father's funeral. Tom Starr had twenty-one brothers and sisters and the younger brothers and sisters attended the funeral but the older brothers dare not attend because they would be killed by the anti-treaty people. Upon hearing of the death of his father Tom Starr a few days later visited the burying ground and over the grave of his dead father he made a solemn vow that he would avenge his father's death and that he would kill every full blood who had anything to do with the death of James Starr, his father. Tom Starr organized a band of followers composed of his brothers and cousins and a white man named Gerring and started out on his career as an outlaw to avenge his father's death. Tom Starr and his band heard of the full blood Stan, who killed Sewell Rider by stabbing him to the heart after he was mortally wounded Stan was located at an Indian dance and Tom Starr took a man by the name of Wheeler Fought, who was friendly to both parties, to the dance. Tom Starr and his band hid out some distance from the place where the dance was and instructed Wheeler Fought to go to the place and give Stan a drink of whiskey and to continue drinking with him until he got well under the influence of whiskey, and then to tell him that there was a jug of whiskey hidden in a certain top of a tree that had fallen and to persuade Stan to go there and get the jug. The scheme worked and later on in the night Stan came up to the tree top in search of the jug of whiskey and met Tom Starr and his band. Stan was shot from his horse by Tom Starr's band and then stabbed to death in the same manner that Sewell Rider was killed by Stan. On the morning following the killing of Stan the full bloods gathered and held a council of war and accused Wheeler Fought of being a member of Tom Starr's band and had him arrested, and they gave him a speedy trial out before their council fire the next night and he was hung the following day. Tom Starr heard of what was going on and tried to get up a band of at least thirty brave men and and make a wild rush into the full blood camp and rescue Wheeler Fought but he could not get enough men together to justify the attempt and Wheeler Fought paid the penalty with his life.

     After this a reign of terror followed and Tom Starr and his band were declared outlaws and the anti-treaty Indians chased them from pillar to post and the United States troops were scouring the country in search of them. When the full bloods would come to the conclusion that Tom Starr and his band were driven from the country the wily Tom would steal into the midst of the full blood settlement and in one night kill several of the leading full bloods who took a part in the murder of his father and then make good his escape and this continued for several years. A man would be killed some night and his house burned or some prominent anti-treaty full blood would be killed by the wayside and no one knew who did it. In this way Tom Starr waged his war with the full bloods until he was satisfied that every man who had anything to do with the murder of his father was killed. All efforts to capture him failed and he fought the Indians-in true Indian style

     Tom Starr heard of one of the men who took a leading part in the murder of his father and he rode one hundred miles to get to kill him. He waylaid him at his spring for two days before he got an opportunity to kill him. He could not get the man out so he decided to kill him in his house, so he crept up to the house and had who was with him to hold the horse. Tom Starr stood by the side of the door, and gently knocked on the door. A.voice from the inside said who is there? Tom Stan replied "A Friend." The Indian on the inside shot through the door. Tom Starr seized a fence rail and broke the door in and entered the house with a drawn knife.. The Indian had three other men in the house with him and they ran under the bed for protection. Tom Starr killed the Indian with his knife and then went after the men {under the bed and killed all of them and mounted his horse and escaped.

    It appeared to Tom Starr that his end was near at hand and he concluded to visit the Indian medicine man whom he called conjurers. He went to see a woman who was a conjurer to see what she could tell him. This woman advised him not to go north that he would get hurt, to go any course but north and he could escape. The next day he met two of his friends in the road with a jug of whiskey and they gave Tom Starr some whiskey to drink and wanted him to go north with them. Tom tried to beg off but his pleas availed nothing and they called him a coward for being afraid to go north. He became well under the influence of whiskey and concluded if his friends could make the trip he could too, so they set out and came to a narrow pass between a hillside and a fence. Tom Starr wanted his friends to go around that place, but they would not and started to ride through the pass when they were fired on by the Indians in ambush and the friends of Tom Starr were riding ahead and'escaped without injury, but Tom Starr's horse was shot from under him and he was wounded in the foot. His horse fell on his foot, but he extricated himself and climbed up the hill. While on the hillside, it being very dark, he would throw stones down the hill in another direction to mislead the Indians. Every time he would throw a stone down the hill the Indians would fire on the place where the stone would fall and in this way Tom Starr deluded them until he made good his escape in the darkness over the hill. He soon discovered that he was about to bleed to death and he stopped and bound up his wound with his handkerchief but this did not give him much relief so he went away from that place until he came to a place where he would not be discovered and built up a fire, end heated his knife and burned the wound and made it quit bleeding in that way. Tom Starr said that the only thing thing he regretted was having to ruin his knife by heating it and taking all of the temper out of it. The next day Tom Starr was lying sick in the top of a fallen tree and the full bloods rode all around him, searching for him but they did not find him, and afterwards went to a spring and finally escaped and joined his baud. He was not betrayed when he rode into the pass as one of the men with him.was a faithful brother. After this incident Tom Starr had some superstition about the conjurers and he believed in them to some extent.

    The hill that Tom Starr had climbed on the memorial night that the full bloods fired on him. from ambush is located near Siloam Springs, Arkansas, near the state line and is known to this day as Tom Starr Hill. After leaving the Tom Starr Hill, Tom made his way to the home of Tom Rider, a friend of the treaty party and a peaceful and good citizen. Mr. Rider gave Tom the best horse he had and told him to make good his escape. The Indians came along in pursuit and some of them saw Tom Starr riding John Rider's horse. They decided to kill John Rider. A friend of Rider's came about midnight one night and told him to make his escape or he would be killed because the Indians knew he had furnished a horse to Tom Starr. Rider got right up out of bed and mounted his horse and set out for Fort Gibson to place himself under the protection of the soldiers. At daylight the house was surrounded by a band of about three hundred full bloods, and one full blood with a drawn pistol walked into the Rider home and searched for Mr. Rider, but the bird had flown. The full blood stepped out into the yard and gave a yell and the full bloods came up to the house from all directions. They took the trail and followed John Rider horse's tracks until they discovered the course he had taken and then set out towards Fort Gibson. Rider stopped at a blacksmith shop to have his horse shod and while this was going on the Indians located him and got in ahead of him and hid at a narrow pass in the road. Rider made a wild rush to beat them to the pass but to his surprise when he rode into the pass a full blood by the name of Glory stepped out and caught his horse" by the bit and stopped him, and the Indians, soon surrounded him. This pass was in Tahlequah District and the full bloods decided to take Rider back into the Flint District, a distance of about a mile to kill him. They used flint lock guns and it was a very damp day and Rider noticed the Indians commence picking dry powder into the fire pans of their guns and he knew that this meant that they were preparing to do some shooting, .and. while they were all busy at work he drew his big knife and made a stroke at Glory's bands which caused the big Indian to let loose of the horses bridle and then Rider put spurs to his horse and rode rapidly away amid a storm of bullets from the guns behind him. Rider was shot' in the.shoulder but kept going until he arrived at Fort Gibson and was out of danger. Rider at once joined Tom Starr and his band, and afterwards did his share in slaughtering; the full bloods who came so near taking his life.

     The full bloods, in order to carry out their declaration to hang or kill every man who signed the treaty of 1835, or took any active part in the treaty captured Jake West and sentenced him to be hanged by the neck until dead. A guard of five hundred full bloods Cherokees was placed over West until the time set for his execution, and they finally hanged him and those who saw the execution all say that a white dove lit on the gallows just as the trigger was sprung and West launched into eternity.

     Whenever Tom Starr and his band would find an enemy in the possession of slaves they would make a raid on them and take the slaves to Alabama or other places and sell them. When hard pressed Tom Starr and his band would go west and join the wild Indians. They found no trouble in joining the wild Indians but the trouble came when they wanted to leave them and come back to the Cherokee Nation. The wild Indians did not want to give up their friends, the Cherokees and wanted them to remain on the plains, but Tom Starr had not yet avenged his father's death and would occasionally make a dash into the Cherokee anti-treaty camps and kill a few of his enemies and escape to the plains again.

     While out on the plains with their wild Indians, Tom Starr had many ups and downs and he told the writer a few years before he died that on one occasion he and his crowd and a crowd of wild Indians were trying to capture a small buffalo and the the buffalo would run around a hill ahead of them and not leave the hill. Tom Starr hid by the side of the route taken by the buffalo and the rest of the crowd chased the buffalo around the hill. When the buffalo came in range Tom raised from his hiding place and took aim with his rifle, but his gun failed to fire and the buffalo showed fight and Tom ran for his life and some of the wild Indians shot the buffalo and saved Tom's life. The wild Indians made sport of him for having to run from the the buffalo so the next day a large buffalo came feeding along near their camp so Tom called out and the buffalo took after him and he ran for his life and jumped into a swollen creek near by, and the buffalo jumped in after him and while the buffalo was swimming around in the water Tom Starr got on his back and was joined by the wild Indians and they captured their buffalo alive.

     After the buffalo chase Tom Starr and his band, with the permission of the wild Indians, made a dash into the Cherokee Nation and killed some more of the Indians who were his enemies and started back to the plains. The full bloods were following in close pursuit, so close that one night Tom Starr and his men crossed a creek and went into camp, and the full bloods came up to the creek and camped within a half mile of the Tom Starr camp. The Starr men were out early after their horses and they found them mixed with the horses belonging to their pursuers. The Indians were riding good horses while the Starr crowd has poor ponies, so Tom Starr ordered his men to select the best horses that belonged to their pursuers and they did so and set out on their journey to the plains delighted to know that they has exchanged horses with their pursuers.

     Tom Starr's war with the anti-treaty full blood Cherokees over the murder of his father lasted about five years and the full bloods finally concluded that they could not capture him and his band and realized the full bloods would finally all be killed and they made overtures of peace which were accepted by Tom Starr and his men and the condition imposed was that Tom Starr ad his men all be pardoned and allowed to return to their homes and live in peace the rest of their days. This was agreed to and a treaty of peace was accordingly made and signed and a pardon granted to Tom Starr and his men in accordance with the terms of the treaty of peace. As soon as this was done Tom Starr and his men returned to their homes in Goingsnake district.

     They were not allowed to live in peace, however, because some of the half blood Cherokees took the matter up and in violation of the treaty of peace commenced a new war on Tom Starr and his men and made desperate efforts to kill them. Early one morning soon after the treaty of peace was concluded a number of half blood Cherokees went to the home of Mat Gerrings who had been with Tom Starr through his war, and killed him. The next day they came to the place where Ellis Starr was staying and called him out in the yard and killed him and from this place they went to Sallisaw and captured Washington Starr and took him out of his sick bed and returned to the very spot where they had killed Ellis Starr and there killed him. They then went to the Choctaw Nation to capture Creek Starr and Ike Gerring and when they captured these men Ike Gerring was killed and Creek Starr made a prisoner. They started to take Creek Starr back to Goingsnake district to kill him and while en route they stopped to feed their horses when Creek Starr mounted a fine horse and made a dash for liberty and escaped unharmed amid a shower of bullets and was afterwards killed in a duel with a Creek Indian. Afterwards the Cherokees made a disparate attempt to kill Tom Starr but all efforts failed and Tom Starr had enough of the war and he concluded not to make war on the half bloods if he could possibly avoid it. The half bloods found out that it would not pay them to try any more to take the life of Tom Starr so they finally gave up the idea and in order to avoid further trouble with these people who so flagrantly violated the terms of the treaty of peace, he moved west to the Canadian Rived in Canadian district on the west side of the Arkansas river where he spent the remainder of his days in peace and became wealthy. Tom Starr could slaughter an enemy with ease and did not think anything about it, but at home his only aim in life seemed to be to please his wife to whom he was thoroughly devoted and for whom he would do anything in the world he thought would afford her any pleasure. Tom Starr raised a large family on the quiet banks of the Canadian river, but his sons are all dead now and only two daughters are yet living. Sam Starr, a younger son, became noted because he married Belle Shirley who is it said to have at one time been the wife of Cole Younger. This woman was very desperate and soon got Sam Starr into trouble and he got killed and she was later assassinated near the Canadian river. Tom Starr lived few years longer than his wife and became a peaceable and good citizen During the last years of his life he lived with his younger son whose name was Thomas Starr Jr. and always slept with two six shooters under his head and every gun about the place was always in shooting order. Tom Starr took great pleasure in entertaining his friends in his olds days and recounting to them his daring exploits and hair-breath escapes. It has been only a few years ago since he passed over the river of death and now sleeps in the green cemetery on the beautiful banks of the Canadian river, where peace, and quiet, law and order reign supreme. J. C .Starr Good Guy or Bad Guy - Tom Starr? Blood revenge The blood revenge custom, an ancient Ah-ni-ku-ta-ni belief, was usually carried out by an older male of the victim's clan if it could not be taken by his oldest brother. The Cherokees believed that balance had to be restored in order to preserve the balance of forces between the two worlds, the spirit world, and the world of physical reality. Blood revenge was to free the soul of the victim and to let it pass from this world to the next. (It was the practice to avenge the victim by taking the life of the murderer himself, however, a close relative of the murderer would satisfy the revenge.) The Ancient Law of Blood Revenge was abolished by the Cherokee National Government on September 11, 1808. This act of abolishment was seen to have advanced the Cherokees in civilization, and it was universally accepted by the Cherokee People. When James Starr was assassinated, son Tom swore vengeance and carried out his oath with 20-plus murders. He was later pardoned because of a unique quirk in a federal peace treaty.


    On 15 September 1937, John Henry West (born 1866) was interviewed by a Historical-Indian Research Worker, Mr. James S. Buchanan. The interview covered many topics, including West's boyhood recollections of his infamous neighbor, Tom Starr.  Pertinent excerpts from that interview are as follows:

    I, John H. West, was born July 31, 1866 two miles west of the present site of Briartown, on the Canadian River.

    My father was John C. West, the son of John W. West, an Irishman who came with the Cherokees from Tennessee to the Indian Territory in 1832. His wife was a Cherokee by the name of Ruth Fields.

    My grandfather, John C. West was considered the most powerful man in the Cherokee tribe. During the prime of his life the Cherokee Council passed a law forbidding him to hit a man with his fists for they were considered deadly weapons.

    My mother was Margurette Elizabeth Hickey West. She was part Cherokee, the daughter of J. H. Hickey, a white man who married a Cherokee woman and came to the Territory with the Indians in 1832. ...

    ... When I was about three years of age, father established a new claim at the foot of the mountain, three-quarters of a mile southwest of where the town of Porum was later established. It was at this place that I, my brothers and sisters were reared. The old settlers of that community and neighbors were Tom Starr and his family, Sam Campbell and his family, Charley Lowery and his family, and the John Robertson family.

    It has been written by misinformed writers that Tom Starr, during his early life, was a common outlaw and guilty of many crimes, which is untrue. Tom Starr was not guilty of anything except what he was driven to in the defense of his people or himself. I never knew a better man nor had a better neighbor. I knew Tom Starr from my earliest recollections until his death, which occurred when I was about twenty-three years of age.

    All of the old settlers in this part of the country in those days were good people because they had to be good if they were able to stay here long enough to be Old Settlers.

    In the early part of my life this was a wonderful country. It was sparsely settled, open range for stock, and the prairies covered with blue stem grass as high as a horse’s back. All kinds of game such as deer, turkey, prairie chicken, etc. were here. Wild fruit and nuts grew in abundance and the Indians and early settlers put forth every effort to protect those natural resources ...



    The Grant Foreman Collection contains a 1937 interview with a certain Dr. George Washington Culledge who practiced medicine in Briartown in 1894. He graduated in medicine from Vanderbilt University in 1885 and served as a intern assisting his brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Niddly at Silcam Springs, Arkansas, until June, 1886.  He had this to say about his practice at Briertown in Indian Territory and his acquaintance with Tom Starr:

    I decided to embark on my own career in Indian territory, I rode horseback from Washington County, Arkansas, via Tahlequah, over the old stage road through Ft, Gibson to Muskogee, crossing the Arkansas River on a ferry at the mouth of Grand River,. Leaving Muskogee, I started south with Briartown as my intended destination. When I had ridden a distance over the open country which I thought should be near my destination, I saw a cabin near the trail so I decided to inquire as to the distance to Briartown. I rode up to the house and saw a man lying on a pallet by the door of the cabin. I asked him to tell me the distance to Briartown. He raised up and looked at me in amazement and said, "Mister you are right in the middle of Briartown."

    To my surprise I learned that Briartown was a community, instead of a village as I had visualized it. This man, Lacy Crane, was my first acquaintance at Briartown. The Briartown post office at that time was in the home of Isaac Mooney, the postmaster. His place was situated about three quarters of a mile northeast of the present site of Briartown. I was fortunate on my arrival to finding lodging and board in the home of Jim McClure, about two and one half miles east of the present site of Briartown.

    The country at that time was very sparsely settled and I was the only practicing physician in the territory between Texanna, Muskogee and Webber Falls. The few roads through the country were nothing more than trails. Many of my calls were several miles over which there was not even a trail. I practiced medicine there for two years, then I returned to Arkansas to marry Martha Williams.

    Immediately after our marriage we started back to Indian Territory in a two-horse wagon. We were thirteen days making the trip of two hundred miles, which we enjoyed as our honeymoon. On my return to Briartown we boarded in the home of a Cherokee Indian by the name of Bill Phillips a short time, then moved to the home of Jeff Surratte where we boarded for three years. I continued my practice here until 1894.
    I then returned to Vanderbilt where I studied for one year. I returned to Indian Territory, this time stopping at Whitefield, across the river from Briartown. I stayed one year in this community, then moved to the little town of Starvilla about three miles east of where Porum now stands. I lived and practiced Medicine there until 1901, then moved back to Briartown and continued my practice there until 1919.

    I discontinued my medical practice and farmed in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas until 1931, when I returned to Briartown and resumed my medical practice until the present time (1937).
    Tom Starr was one of my closest friends and I made professional calls to the home of "Uncle Tom" as he was familiarly known. Dr. Lindsey, who was a physician at Texanna for many years was Uncle Tom's family doctor. During the time I was located in Whitefield, I made many calls to his home.
    There have been many exaggerated stories about the early life of Tom Starr. I would like to brand as false any story that gives the impression that Tom Starr was an outlaw at heart or that he had any criminal or cruel characteristics. I knew Tom Starr well, I never knew him to make a false statement. He told me of his early life and troubles after they moved to Indian Territory from the old nation in Georgia. The murder of his father, James Starr and his little brother, the burning of his mothers home etc. (The story Dr, Culledge told was much the same as told in the book, Belle Starr, so I won't repeat it here.) But Dr Culledge emphasized, "I am confidant that what he related was true."
    Dr, Culledge went on to tell more about Tom Starr. He said Tom Starr was a very clever character, he also had a great sense of humor. He seamed to have a great influence over the superstitions of the Indians. On one occasion one of Uncle Tom's fat hogs that he was intending to kill for meat, suddenly disappeared. He waited three or four days, in his characteristic way of silently figuring things out, and yet the hog did not show up.
    Finally Uncle Tom strolled over to the cabin of an Indian, who lived a short distance away. When he came in view of the cabin, where he was sure to be seen, he stopped and stood erect in the trail, looking toward the sky, taking long drafts from his pipe and blowing the smoke in the direction of the cabin. He repeated this several times before he reached the door of the cabin. The Indian had been watching and wondered what he was doing.
    The Indian asked him in, Tom entered the cabin in a slow and mysterious way, took a seat near the cellar door in the floor of the cabin. He continued to take an occasional draw at his pipe. Finally he broke the silence by saying "The medicine I make through my smoke say to me my hog is in the cellar"
    The Indian, in a state of superstitious fear confessed to killing the hog and begged to be permitted to pay for it. Uncle Tom at that time was fencing some land. He let the Indian make one thousand fence rails at $1.00 per hundred and every thing would be forgiven. Tom never lost any more hogs.
    One trait I admired in Tom was that he would never speak ill or slander any woman, nor would he engage in conversation with anyone who was doing so. If he was talking to his closest friend and the friend happened to make an ill remark about some woman, Tom would immediately walk away from him. I remember one day when a bunch of men had been standing around in idle conversation, and some one made remark about a woman, Tom turned to me and said, "No man should speak evil of any woman, our mothers were women."
    "Dying is but going home." is written on Tom's tombstone. He married twice. He married Caty Mouse. Caty was the daughter of Lacy Mouse and Caty. He married Catherine Reese about 1840 in Canadian District, Indian Territory, Cherokee Nation.. Catherine died 4 JUL 1884 at age 65. Her body was interred after 4 JUL 1884 at Starr Cemetery in Brairtown, Muskogee, OK.(2423). Thomas Starr II and Caty Mouse had two children and Catherine Reese and Tom Starr had 11 children. From all accounts "Old Tom" was a devoted husband. 

    Saturday, August 17, 2013

    Garrett Lane (1820) My 2nd Great Grandfather And Father of my Grandmother Tennessee Almira James

      • The story of Tennessee's father Garrett Lane as told in the Pioneer Papers of Oklahoma

    • Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
      Tennessee Almira Lane JAMES was born on the Cherokee Neuter Strip, four miles up from the mouth of Shoal Creek near Baxter Spring, Kansas, February 16, 1849, at her Grandfather, David M. Harlan's home.

      My mother was Jane M. HARLAN, a Cherokee.

      My father, Garrett LANE of English and French descent. They came with the Cherokee here from North Carolina, I think, and to the best of my knowledge were married near Maysville. When I was two months old, my father left my mother and a sister, two years old with my grandfather and in the Spring of 1849 started wagon-train overland to California. I am told that the people who composed this company had been gathering along waiting till the grass was old enough to feed their oxen, cows were taken along with the oxen. The trip took all summer and they reached California that fall, that is my father did but I had two uncles who died of fever on the way and were buried on the plains. My father with his Partner Ed Crutchfield, a half-breed Cherokee, worked two years together and then my father fell in the mime and was killed by the fall. My father's Partner made a division of their earning and mother received half of it but my sister and I did not get ours till we were twenty-one years old. It (our money) was handled by various public administrators and finally I was paid by a public administrator of Missouri after I was married. I only received $130.00 or $135.00.

    Garrett's  father and mother are unknown. Little else is known about him except that he died while mining gold in California.

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Samuel Cloud's a 9 year old on the Trail of Tears

    The memories of Samuel Cloud who was nine years old at the time of the Cherokee removal; told by his great-great grandson.

    The Trail of Tears

    This is what I remember. It is the bits and pieces of the memories of a young boy, full of feelings and observations, but without complete comprehension. The boy is my  great-great-grandfather, Samuel Cloud. The memory is from his vantage point, so I will share it with you in the same way.
    It is Spring. The leaves are on the trees. I am playing with my friends when white men in uniforms ride up to our home. My mother calls me. I can tell by her voice that something is wrong. Some of the men ride off. My mother tells me to gather my things, but the men don't allow us time to get anything. They enter our home and begin knocking over pottery and looking into everything. My mother and I are taken by several men to where their horses are and are held there at gun point. The men who rode off return with my father, Elijah. They have taken his rifle and he is walking toward us.

    I can feel his anger and frustration. There is nothing he can do. From my mother I feel fear. I am filled with fear, too. What is going on? I was just playing, but now my family and my friends families are gathered together and told to walk at the point of a bayonet.

    We walk a long ways. My mother does not let me get far from her. My father is walking by the other men, talking in low, angry tones. The soldiers look weary, as though they'd rather be anywhere else but here.

    They lead us to a stockade. They herd us into this pen like we are cattle. No one was given time to gather any possessions. The nights are still cold in the mountains and we do not have enough blankets to go around. My mother holds me at night to keep me warm. That is the only time I feel safe. I feel her pull me to her tightly. I feel her warm breath in my hair. I feel her softness as I fall asleep at night. As the days pass, more and more of our people are herded into the stockade. I see other  members of my clan. We children try to play, but the elders around us are anxious and we do not know what to think. I often sit and watch the others around me. I observe the guards. I try not to think about my hunger. I am cold.

    Several months have passed and still we are in the stockades. My father looks tired. He talks with the other men, but no one seems to know what to do or what is going to happen. We hear that white men have moved into our homes and are farming our fields. What will happen to us? We are to march west to join the Western Cherokees. I don't want to leave these mountains.

    My mother, my aunts and uncles take me aside one day. "Your father died last night," they tell me. My mother and my father's clan members are crying, but I do not understand what this means. I saw him yesterday. He was sick, but still alive. It doesn't seem real. Nothing seems real. I don't know what any of this means. It seems like yesterday, I was playing with my friends.

    It is now Fall. It seems like forever since I was clean. The stockade is nothing but mud. In the morning it is stiff with frost. By mid-afternoon, it is soft and we are all covered in it. The soldiers suddenly tell us we are to follow them. We are led out of the stockade. The guards all have guns and are watching us closely. We walk. My mother keeps me close to her. I am allowed to walk with my uncle or an aunt, occasionally.

    We walk across the frozen earth. Nothing seems right anymore. The cold seeps through my clothes. I wish I had my blanket. I remember last winter I had a blanket, when I was warm. I don't feel like I'll ever be warm again. I remember my father's smile. It seems like so long ago.

    We walked for many days. I don't know how long it has been since we left our home, but the mountains are behind us. Each day, we start walking a little later. They bury the dead in shallow graves, because the ground is frozen. As we walk past white towns, the whites come out to watch us pass. No words are spoken to them. No words are said to us. Still, I wish they would stop staring. I wish it were them walking in this misery and I were watching them. It is because of them that we are walking. I don't understand why, but I know that much. They made us leave our homes. They made us walk to this new place we are heading in the middle of winter. I do not like these people. Still, they stare at me as I walk past.

    We come to a big river, bigger than I have ever seen before. It is flowing with ice. The soldiers are not happy. We set up camp and wait. We are all cold and the snow and ice seem to hound us, claiming our people one by one. North is the color of blue, defeat and trouble. From there a chill wind blows for us as we wait by a frozen river. We wait to die.

    My mother is coughing now. She looks worn. Her hands and face are burning hot. My aunts and uncles try to take care of me, so she can get better. I don't want to leave her alone. I just want to sit with her. I want her to stroke my hair, like she used to do. My aunts try to get me to sleep by them, but at night, I creep to her side. She coughs and it wracks her whole body. When she feels me by her side, she opens her blanket and lets me in. I nestle against her feverish body. I can make it another day, I know, because she is here.

    When I went to sleep last night, my mother was hot and coughing worse than usual. When I woke up, she was cold. I tried to wake her up, but she lay there. The soft warmth she once was, she is no more. I kept touching her, as hot tears stream down my face. She couldn't leave me. She wouldn't leave me.

    I hear myself call her name, softly, then louder. She does not answer. My aunt and uncle come over to me to see what is wrong. My aunt looks at my mother. My uncle pulls me from her. My aunt begins to wail. I will never forget that wail. I did not understand when my father died. My mother's death I do not understand, but I suddenly know that I am alone. My clan will take care of me, but I will be forever denied her warmth, the soft fingers in my hair, her gentle breath as we slept. I am alone. I want to cry. I want to scream in rage. I can do nothing.

    We bury her in a shallow grave by the road. I will never forget that lonesome hill of stone that is her final bed, as it fades from my sight. I tread softly by my uncle, my hand in his. I walk with my head turned, watching that small hill as it fades from my sight. The soldiers make us continue walking. My uncle talks to me, trying to comfort me. I walk in loneliness.

    I know what it is to hate. I hate those white soldiers who took us from our home. I hate the soldiers who make us keep walking through the snow and ice toward this new home that none of us ever wanted. I hate the people who killed my father and mother.

    I hate the white people who lined the roads in their woolen clothes that kept them warm, watching us pass. None of those white people are here to say they are sorry that I am alone. None of them care about me or my people. All they ever saw was the color of our skin. All I see is the color of theirs and I hate them. The forced removal of the Cherokee in 1838-39 from their homelands in the east to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) is known as the "Trail of Tears" or "The Trail Where They Cried".

      Of the 16,000 Cherokees who were herded into stockades and marched west by U.S. troops, about 4,000 died of disease, exposure, or fatigue.

    A U.S. soldier, John Burnett, recalled in later years, "I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven by bayonet into stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west"

    Sunday, August 11, 2013

    The Trail of Tears - A Tremendously Moving Account Written by Private John G. Burnett

    Letter Written by Private John G. Burnett Captain Abraham McClellan's Company 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade ~ Mounted Infantry Cherokee Indian Removal,1838-39. One can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. Chief John Ross led in prayer and when the bugle sounded and the wagons started rolling many of the children rose to their feet and waved their little hands good-by to their mountain homes, knowing they were leaving them forever. Many of these helpless people did not have blankets and many of them had been driven from home barefooted. On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th, 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold, and exposure. Among this number was the beautiful Christian wife of Chief John Ross. This noble hearted woman died a martyr to childhood, giving her only blanket for the protection of a sick child. She rode thinly clad through a blinding sleet and snow storm, developed pneumonia and died in the still hours of a bleak winter night, with her head resting on Lieutenant Greggs saddle blanket. I made the long journey to the west with the Cherokees and did all that a Private soldier could do to alleviate their sufferings. When on guard duty at night I have many times walked my beat in my blouse in order that some sick child might have the warmth of my overcoat. I was on guard duty the night Mrs. Ross died. When relieved at midnight I did not retire, but remained around the wagon out of sympathy for Chief Ross, and at daylight was detailed by Captain McClellan to assist in the burial like the other unfortunates who died on the way. Her unconfined body was buried in a shallow grave by the roadside far from her native home, and the sorrowing Cavalcade moved on. Being a young man, I mingled freely with the young women and girls. I have spent many pleasant hours with them when I was supposed to be under my blanket, and they have many times sung their mountain songs for me, this being all that they could do to repay my kindness. And with all my association with Indian girls from October 1829 to March 26th 1839, I did not meet one who was a moral prostitute. They are kind and tender hearted and many of them are beautiful.The only trouble that I had with anybody on the entire journey to the west was a brutal teamster by the name of Ben McDonal, who was using his whip on an old feeble Cherokee to hasten him into the wagon. The sight of that old and nearly blind creature quivering under the lashes of a bull whip was too much for me. I attempted to stop McDonal and it ended in a personal encounter. He lashed me across the face, the wire tip on his whip cutting a bad gash in my cheek. The little hatchet that I had carried in my hunting days was in my belt and McDonal was carried unconscious from the scene.I was placed under guard but Ensign Henry Bullock and Private Elkanah Millard had both witnessed the encounter. They gave Captain McClellan the facts and I was never brought to trial. Years later I met 2nd Lieutenant Riley and Ensign Bullock at Bristol at John Roberson's show, and Bullock jokingly reminded me that there was a case still pending against me before a court martial and wanted to know how much longer I was going to have the trial put off?McDonal finally recovered, and in the year 1851, was running a boat out of Memphis, Tennessee.The long painful journey to the west ended March 26th, 1839, with four-thousand silent graves reaching from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains to what is known as Indian territory in the West. And covetousness on the part of the white race was the cause of all that the Cherokees had to suffer. Ever since Ferdinand DeSoto made his journey through the Indian country in the year 1540, there had been a tradition of a rich gold mine somewhere in the Smoky Mountain Country, and I think the tradition was true. At a festival at Echota on Christmas night 1829, I danced and played with Indian girls who were wearing ornaments around their neck that looked like gold.In the year 1828, a little Indian boy living on Ward creek had sold a gold nugget to a white trader, and that nugget sealed the doom of the Cherokees. In a short time the country was overrun with armed brigands claiming to be government agents, who paid no attention to the rights of the Indians who were the legal possessors of the country. Crimes were committed that were a disgrace to civilization. Men were shot in cold blood, lands were confiscated. Homes were burned and the inhabitants driven out by the gold-hungry brigands.Chief Junaluska was personally acquainted with President Andrew Jackson. Junaluska had taken 500 of the flower of his Cherokee scouts and helped Jackson to win the battle of the Horse Shoe, leaving 33 of them dead on the field. And in that battle Junaluska had drove his tomahawk through the skull of a Creek warrior, when the Creek had Jackson at his mercy.Chief John Ross sent Junaluska as an envoy to plead with President Jackson for protection for his people, but Jackson's manner was cold and indifferent toward the rugged son of the forest who had saved his life. He met Junaluska, heard his plea but curtly said, "Sir, your audience is ended. There is nothing I can do for you." The doom of the Cherokee was sealed. Washington, D.C., had decreed that they must be driven West and their lands given to the white man, and in May 1838, an army of 4000 regulars, and 3000 volunteer soldiers under command of General Winfield Scott, marched into the Indian country and wrote the blackest chapter on the pages of American history.Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades. Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they could not understand. Children were often separated from their parents and driven into the stockades with the sky for a blanket and the earth for a pillow. And often the old and infirm were prodded with bayonets to hasten them to the stockades.In one home death had come during the night. A little sad-faced child had died and was lying on a bear skin couch and some women were preparing the little body for burial. All were arrested and driven out leaving the child in the cabin. I don't know who buried the body another home was a frail mother, apparently a widow and three small children, one just a baby. When told that she must go, the mother gathered the children at her feet, prayed a humble prayer in her native tongue, patted the old family dog on the head, told the faithful creature good-by, with a baby strapped on her back and leading a child with each hand started on her exile. But the task was too great for that frail mother. A stroke of heart failure relieved her sufferings. She sunk and died with her baby on her back, and her other two children clinging to her hands.Chief Junaluska who had saved President Jackson's life at the battle of Horse Shoe witnessed this scene, the tears gushing down his cheeks and lifting his cap he turned his face toward the heavens and said, "Oh my God, if I had known at the battle of the Horse Shoe what I know now, American history would have been differently written.At this time, 1890, we are too near the removal of the Cherokees for our young people to fully understand the enormity of the crime that was committed against a helpless race. Truth is, the facts are being concealed from the young people of today. School children of today do not know that we are living on lands that were taken from a helpless race at the bayonet point to satisfy the white man's greed.Future generations will read and condemn the act and I do hope posterity will remember that private soldiers like myself, and like the four Cherokees who were forced by General Scott to shoot an Indian Chief and his children, had to execute the orders of our superiors. We had no choice in the matter.Twenty-five years after the removal it was my privilege to meet a large company of the Cherokees in uniform of the Confederate Army under command of Colonel Thomas. They were encamped at Zollicoffer and I went to see them. Most of them were just boys at the time of the removal but they instantly recognized me as "the soldier that was good to us". Being able to talk to them in their native language I had an enjoyable day with them. From them I learned that Chief John Ross was still ruler in the nation in 1863. And I wonder if he is still living? He was a noble-hearted fellow and suffered a lot for his race.At one time, he was arrested and thrown into a dirty jail in an effort to break his spirit, but he remained true to his people and led them in prayer when they started on their exile. And his Christian wife sacrificed her life for a little girl who had pneumonia. The Anglo-Saxon race should build a towering monument to perpetuate her noble act in giving her only blanket for comfort of a sick child. Incidentally the child recovered, but Mrs. Ross is sleeping in a unmarked grave far from her native Smoky Mountain home. When Scott invaded the Indian country some of the Cherokees fled to caves and dens in the mountains and were never captured and they are there today. I have long intended going there and trying to find them but I have put off going from year to year and now I am too feeble to ride that far. The fleeing years have come and gone and old age has overtaken me. I can truthfully say that neither my rifle nor my knife were stained with Cherokee blood.I can truthfully say that I did my best for them when they certainly did need a friend. Twenty-five years after the removal I still lived in their memory as "the soldier that was good to us"However, murder is murder whether committed by the villain skulking in the dark or by uniformed men stepping to the strains of martial music. Murder is murder, and somebody must answer. Somebody must explain the streams of blood that flowed in the Indian country in the summer of 1838. Somebody must explain the 4000 silent graves that mark the trail of the Cherokees to their exile. I wish I could forget it all, but the picture of 645 wagons lumbering over the frozen ground with their cargo of suffering humanity still lingers in my memory.Let the historian of a future day tell the sad story with its sighs, its tears and dying groans. Let the great Judge of all the earth weigh our actions and reward us according to our work.Children,This is my birthday, December 11, 1890, I am eighty years old today. I was born at Kings Iron Works in Sulllivan County, Tennessee, December the 11th, 1810. I grew into manhood fishing in Beaver Creek and roaming through the forest hunting the deer and the wild boar and the timber wolf. Often spending weeks at a time in the solitary wilderness with no companions but my rifle, hunting knife, and a small hatchet that I carried in my belt in all of my wilderness wanderings.On these long hunting trips I met and became acquainted with many of the Cherokee Indians, hunting with them by day and sleeping around their camp fires by night. I learned to speak their language, and they taught me the arts of trailing and building traps and snares. On one of my long hunts in the fall of 1829, I found a young Cherokee who had been shot by a roving band of hunters and who had eluded his pursuers and concealed himself under a shelving rock. Weak from loss of blood, the poor creature was unable to walk and almost famished for water. I carried him to a spring, bathed and bandaged the bullet wound, and built a shelter out of bark peeled from a dead chestnut tree. I nursed and protected him feeding him on chestnuts and toasted deer meat. When he was able to travel I accompanied him to the home of his people and remained so long that I was given up for lost. By this time I had become an expert rifleman and fairly good archer and a good trapper and spent most of my time in the forest in quest of game.The removal of Cherokee Indians from their life long homes in the year of 1838 found me a young man in the prime of life and a Private soldier in the American Army. Being acquainted with many of the Indians and able to fluently speak their language, I was sent as interpreter into the Smoky Mountain Country in May, 1838, and witnessed the execution of the most brutal order in the History of American Warfare. I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west. Children, thus ends my promised birthday story. This December the 11th 1890.