Date posted:  February 3, 2016

John Ross (1790–1866) was the longest-serving principal chief in the history of the Cherokee Nation, leading the Nation from 1828 to 1866, thirty-eight years. His tenure encompassed the struggle by the Cherokee against forced removal from their original homeland, internal violence due to post-removal factionalism, the unification and rebuilding of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory, and the American Civil War. All these, as well as the chief ’s family life, are chronicled in the eleven linear feet of the John Ross Papers in the Gilcrease collection.

The papers cover a period from 1814 to 1897 and contain correspondence, legal documents, records of the Cherokee Nation, proclamations of the principal chief, petitions and protests to the U. S. government, financial accounts and transactions, records from the forced removal (including rations issued and payments made to officers of each detachment during the removal), documents that chronicle Cherokee relationships with other tribes, and records of Cherokee involvement in the American Civil War. The collection contains more than 2,000 primary documents, many written by or to Chief John Ross, constituting perhaps the singular most important record of Cherokee history during the 19th century.1
 

The Ross Family

John Ross was born on 3 October 1790 the great-grandson of Ghigooie, a member of the Bird Clan, and William Shorey, Sr., a Virginia fur trader.2 The Shoreys’ oldest daughter, Annie, married John McDonald, who emigrated from Scotland to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1766.3 McDonald opened a supply store on Chickamauga Creek in present-day Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1776, after the Overhill Towns were destroyed by the Virginia militia, Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe and the families that followed him established eleven new towns in the vicinity of McDonald’s store. They became known as the Chickamauga Cherokees. They developed a reputation as “marauders of the frontier” because of their efforts to stem the tide of encroachment on prime hunting grounds after the American Revolution. In 1785 Daniel Ross, a native of Scotland, was traveling down the Tennessee River on a trading mission to the Choctaws when he was captured by Chickamaugans. McDonald interceded, spared Ross’s life, and gave him sanctuary in his home.4

Encouraged by Cherokee friends, Daniel Ross opened a trading post at Setico and within a year married McDonald’s daughter Mollie. In 1788 Ross, Mollie, and her parents John and Annie McDonald moved to Turkeytown, near present-day Center, Alabama. There, two years later, their third child was born. As the first son he was named after his grandfather John McDonald. Thus, John Ross was seven-eighths Scottish by blood and 100 percent Cherokee by birth. In the matrilineal society, he inherited the clan of his mother, Anitsiskwa or Bird Clan. His clan and family affiliations were unbroken throughout his lineage. During the period of removal the federal government declared anyone who had one-quarter Indian blood to be Indian. John Ross was one-eighth Cherokee and did not meet the federal criterion, but he considered himself Cherokee by birth. The federal government considered him Cherokee by choice, and as a result his property was confiscated and he was removed.5

By 1797 Daniel Ross and his family had moved back to the Chattanooga area, where Ross operated a store on Chattanooga Creek near the foot of Lookout Mountain until about 1816. Wanting a good education for his nine children, Daniel built a small school and employed John Barber Davis as a teacher. After attending Davis’s school, John Ross went on to a school in Kingston, Tennessee, and later to the academy at Maryville.6

In about 1813 John Ross married Elizabeth Henley. Elizabeth, or Quatie, was the widow of Robert Henley, who was killed in the War of 1812. She had one child by Henley and six children by John Ross. Elizabeth was one-half Cherokee and her children with John Ross were five-sixteenths Cherokee.7

 

Red Stick War

In autumn 1813, a hostile faction of upper Muscogee-Creek Indians known as the “Red Sticks” joined Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnees in a rebellion against white encroachment on Native land. The Cherokee and Creek loyal to the U.S. joined local and state militia to quell the rebellion. Ross entered military service in Captain Sekekee’s (Katydid) company of mounted Cherokees as a 2nd Lieutenant under the command of Colonel Gideon Morgan.

In January 1814, the Cherokee regiment trained in military discipline, weapons firing, and hand-to-hand combat at Ross’s Landing. At the beginning of the year, General Jackson began assembling his forces at Fort Strother on the Coosa River below Turkeytown. At the same time, the Creeks had amassed a force of 1,200 warriors at the Horseshoe, a bend in the Tallapoosa River fifty miles south of Fort Strother. By mid March, Jackson’s forces had reached their maximum strength of nearly 5,000 men, mostly Tennessee and Kentucky militia, but also the 39th U. S. Infantry, some friendly Creeks, and the Cherokee Regiment of 335 men.8

Menawa, the Creek commander, ordered the building of a massive stockade across the neck of the bend in the Tallapoosa River. Jackson’s strategy was to launch a frontal assault on the barricade across the narrow part of the Horseshoe. Twenty-six Americans were killed and 106 wounded in the battle. The Cherokees, who made up less than 10 percent of Jackson’s forces, lost 18 men; 35 were wounded. For the Creeks, the battle was a crushing defeat with nearly eight hundred killed. Only a few Creek warriors, including Menawa, were able to escape the carnage.9

Ross ended his brief military career two weeks after the battle, perhaps contemplating two obvious lessons: no tribe could withstand the military power of the United States, and the reward for armed resistance was annihilation. Perhaps a third lesson was “To the victor go the spoils.”
 

One of the earliest documents in the Ross Papers is a copy of the Treaty of Fort Jackson, signed 9 August 1814, by which the defeated Creeks ceded 23 million acres of land, and the Creek-Cherokee boundary was fixed in favor of the Cherokees. The next nine documents written in 1815 and 1816 relate to the reaffirmation of the new boundary between the Cherokees and Creeks.10

 

Diplomatic Service

In 1816 the National Council named Ross to its first delegation to Washington. The delegation of 1816 was directed to resolve sensitive issues of national boundaries, land ownership, and white intrusions on Cherokee land. The instructions from Principal Chief Path Killer to the delegation, claims against the East Tennessee who plundered Cherokee farmsteads on their way home from the war. A letter from delegate John Lowry to President James Madison dated 19 February 1816, also asks that Cherokees be treated the same as white soldiers.11

Of the delegates, only Ross was fluent in English, making him the central figure in the negotiations. This was a unique position for a young man in Cherokee society, which traditionally favored older leaders. Madison agreed with the Cherokee delegation that their veterans should be treated the same as white soldiers in regard to pensions for killed and wounded. Jackson protested, Jackson and he also did not want the Cherokee-Creek boundary re-drawn. He was angry with the president for acceding to Cherokee wishes, proclaiming “I will not yield with a pen what I have gained with a sword.” In the meantime, Cherokees escaping the lawlessness of the Tennessee-Carolina frontier continued to move south and west into northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama onto lands formerly occupied by the Creeks.12

 

Rossville

It has generally been accepted that the only surviving home of John Ross, relocated in Rossville, Georgia, was built by his grandfather, John McDonald, in 1797 and occupied by Ross as early as 1808. Recent evidence, however, would indicate a much later date.13 Ross’s letters suggest that he moved to the house in 1817 or 1818. His letters dated April 1817 are from Poplar Spring, Cherokee Nation.14 In December 1818 Ross gives his return address as Rossville, Cherokee Nation.15 Dendrochronological studies suggest that the logs for the house were cut during the winter of 1816–17, which corresponds to the earliest historical records for the home.16 If the house was built a year after the logs were cut and had time to season,17 then it was probably built by John Ross, who lived there for nearly a decade, until spring or summer of 1827.18

 

Rise of the Cherokee State

In 1821 Sequoyah devised the syllabary which expedited the Cherokee Nation’s rise as a political state. The Cherokee Nation had already formalized the offices of principal chief and deputy chief in 1793; they organized a national police force called the “Light Horse” in 1798 and abrogated the traditional law of blood revenge for all crimes except horse stealing and murder in 1810. The Cherokees created a bicameral legislature in 1817, consisting of the National Council and the National Committee, and established a court system with eight judicial districts in 1819. In 1822 the Cherokee Nation created a Supreme Court, ten years before the State of Georgia had one, thus completing a three-branch government, as a mirror of the United States government. The acceptance of Sequoyah’s syllabary facilitated written communication in the Cherokee language. Within a matter of months the Cherokee Nation had a higher literacy rate than its white neighbors. Laws could be written in Cherokee. In 1827, the Nation adopted a constitutional form of government. On February 21, 1828, the Cherokee Phoenix made its debut as the first national bilingual newspaper in the United States.19

 

An Elected Official

Ross’s first political position came in November 1817 with the formation of the National Council. He was elected to the thirteen-member body, where each man served a two-year term. The council was created to consolidate Cherokee political authority after General Jackson made two treaties with small cliques of Cherokees representing minority factions. In November 1818, on the eve of the General Council meeting with Cherokee agent Joseph McMinn, Ross was elevated to presidency of the National Committee, a position he held through 1827. The council perceived Ross to have the diplomatic skill necessary to rebuff U. S. requests to cede Cherokee lands. In May 1827 Ross was elected to the twenty-four-member Constitutional Committee, which drafted a constitution calling for a principal chief, a Council of the Principal Chief, and a National Committee, which together would form the General Council of the Cherokee Nation. Although the constitution was ratified in October 1827, it did not take effect until October 1828, at which point Ross was elected principal chief. He was re-elected until his death in 1866.

 

Federal Government

In 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected the seventh president of the United States, having campaigned largely on a platform of Indian Removal. Inspired by his election, the State of Georgia passed a series of anti-Indian laws on December 20, 1828. By stripping the Cherokees of their rights, Georgia attempted to pressure Congress into expediting the removal. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.20 The U. S. Senate passed the bill on April 24, 1830 (28–19), the U. S. House passed it on 26 May 1830 (102–97).21

Ross found additional support in Congress from individuals in the National Republican Party such as Senators Henry Clay, Theodore Frelinghuysen, and Daniel Webster, and Representative Ambrose Spencer. Despite this support, in April 1829, John H. Eaton, Secretary of War (1829–1831), informed Ross that President Jackson would support the right of Georgia to extend her laws over the Cherokee Nation. In May 1830, Congress endorsed Jackson’s policy of removal by passing the Indian Removal Act. It authorized the president to set aside lands west of the Mississippi to exchange for the lands of the Indian nations in the east.22

When Ross and the Cherokee delegation failed in their efforts to protect Cherokee lands through dealings with the executive branch and Congress, Ross took the radical step of defending Cherokee rights through the U. S. courts. In June 1830, at the urging of Senator Webster and Senator Frelinghuysen, the Cherokee delegation selected William Wirt, U. S. attorney general in the Monroe and Adams administrations, to defend Cherokee rights before the U. S. Supreme Court.23

Wirt argued two cases on behalf of the Cherokee: Cherokee Nation v Georgia and Worcester v Georgia. In his decision, Chief Justice John Marshall never acknowledged that the Cherokee were a sovereign nation. He did not compel President Jackson to take action that would defend the Cherokee from Georgia’s laws. The Cherokee Nation claim was denied on the grounds that the Cherokees were a “domestic dependent sovereignty” and as such did not have the right as a nation state to sue Georgia. The court later expanded on this position in Worcester v Georgia, ruling that Georgia could not extend its laws into Cherokee lands. It was not because they were fully sovereign, however, but because they were a domestic dependent sovereignty. As such the court ruled the Cherokee were dependent not on the state of Georgia, but on the United States. According to the series of rulings, Georgia could not extend its laws because that was a power in essence reserved to the federal government. The Cherokee were considered sovereign enough to legally resist the government of Georgia, and were encouraged to do so.24

The court carefully maintained that the Cherokee were ultimately dependent on the federal government and were not a true nation state, nor fully sovereign. Thus the dispute was made moot when federal legislation in the form of the Indian Removal Act exercised the federal government’s legal power to handle the whole affair. The series of decisions embarrassed Jackson politically, as Whigs attempted to use the issue in the 1832 election. They largely supported his earlier opinion that the “Indian Question” was one that was best handled by the federal government, and not local authorities.25

David Crockett was the only Tennessee congressman to vote against the Indian Removal Act. Crockett, a veteran of the Red Stick War, grew up in east Tennessee and developed friendships with and respect for Cherokees during the campaign. In 1830 Crockett was a freshman congressman from Tennessee. He argued vehemently against the Removal Act on the floor of the House. “Compelling the Indians to forsake their land” represented “oppression with a vengeance,” he said. Crockett insisted that he would rather be “honestly and politically dead, that hypocritically immortalized, by supporting a wicked, unjust measure.”25 He later recalled, “I gave a good honest vote, one that will not make me ashamed in the day of judgment.”26

Ross wrote to Crockett on 13 January 1831, “To those gentlemen who have so honorably and ably vindicated the rights of the poor Indians in Congress, this nation owes a debt of gratitude, which the pages of history will bear record until time shall be no more.”27 Crockett’s enemies rallied against him. He was defeated in his bid for reelection in 1831, won in 1833, and was defeated again in 1835. Ross appreciated Crockett’s friendship and found inspiration in his words as indicated in a letter to William Underwood in 1834.28

Crockett’s frustration with partisan politics in Washington compelled him to head for Texas, following in the footsteps of another Tennessee politician and friend of the Cherokees, Sam Houston. Both were caught up in the movement for Texas independence. Crockett died at the Alamo on 6 March 1836, and Houston went on to become president of the Republic of Texas and later governor of the State of Texas.

 

Forced Removal

The government’s case for removal had been debated in the halls of Congress and in the public media for decades before the event. On 29 December 1835 representatives of the United States government, unable to conclude an agreement with the duly authorized leaders of the Cherokee Nation, signed a treaty with a minority faction willing to cede the last remaining portion of the original Cherokee homeland. Despite the protests of the overwhelming majority of Cherokee people, the United States Senate ratified the fraudulent “Treaty of New Echota” on 23 May 1836. The Cherokees were given two years from that date to remove to the Indian Territory. When the time had expired, only 2,000 of the more than 17,000 Cherokee remaining in the east had voluntarily emigrated.29

The papers of Chief John Ross contain letters, receipts, muster rolls, and spoliation claims chronicling in detail the Trail of Tears.30 In late May 1838 General Winfield Scott and 7,000 federal and state troops arrived in the Cherokee Nation to enforce the removal. Cherokee families were forced from comfortable homes into 31 stockades and open military stations scattered throughout the Cherokee Nation in southeast Tennessee, western North Carolina, northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. From the stockades, the Cherokee were sent to the principal emigrating depots near Ross’s Landing at Chattanooga, Tennessee, Fort Cass, near Calhoun, Tennessee, and a camp south of Fort Payne, Alabama.

On 25 May two regiments of Georgia Militia began rounding up all the Cherokee remaining in the state. By 9 June more than 3,600 were captured and sent to Ross’s Landing for deportation to the West. On 6 June 1838, the first group of 489 individuals departed on the Steamboat George Guess, escorted by Lieutenant Edward Deas. On 12 June another detachment under Lieutenant R. H. K. Whiteley departed from Ross’s Landing by boat. Both groups traveled a portion of the distance by rail, sixty miles between Decatur and Tuscumbia, Alabama, to avoid the most treacherous shoals in the Tennessee River.31

The third detachment, with 1,072 people conducted by Captain Gus Drane, left Ross’s Landing 17 June. With no boats available, this group was forced to travel overland to Waterloo, Alabama, a distance of some 200 miles. By the end of June, more than a dozen were dead and 293 had escaped to make their way back to the concentration camps in east Tennessee. They began their journey again with other detachments later in the year. On the Arkansas River, steamboats carrying the Whiteley and Drane detachments were both stranded by low water on sandbars downstream from Lewisburg (present-day Morrilton), Arkansas. From there they traveled overland through western Arkansas during the peak of the summer. In addition to hot, dry, dusty conditions, both detachments suffered from excessive sickness along the way. Towards the end of the journey, Whiteley had to halt the detachment because more than half the members were sick. Whiteley reached the head of Lee’s Creek in the Flint District on 2 August 1838 and reported 72 deaths on the 1,554-mile journey.32

Early reports of the suffering by the Drane and Whiteley detachments caused the military and the Cherokee leaders to rethink the strategy of the removal. General Scott gave permission to delay the removal of the other groups until fall.33 He also transferred authority for supervising the removal to Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross.34 Most of the citizens of the Cherokee Nation spent the summer of 1838 in concentration camps in Tennessee and Alabama, where they were organized into thirteen detachments of about a thousand people each for the journey west. They all had Cherokee conductors. After enduring an extremely severe winter, all of the Ross detachments arrived in the Indian Territory between January and March 1839. Most disbanded at one of the issuing depots established to provide rations during the first year in the Indian Territory.35

Of the nearly 15,000 immigrants subjected to the forced removal, nearly 2,000 died as the result of the arduous conditions of confinement or travel. Another 1,000 managed to avoid removal by escaping to the Great Smoky Mountains or claiming citizenship under previous treaties. The highest mortality rates were among the very old and the very young. No families were immune to the suffering. Quatie Ross, the wife of the principal chief, died on the steamboat Victoria at Little Rock, Arkansas, on 1 February 1839.

 

Indian Territory

In the Indian Territory plans were quickly drawn up to reunite the Cherokee people and reestablish the government.36 Despite official reunification, the three factions — the Old Settlers (about 8,000 people who emigrated before 1835), the Treaty Party (about 2,000 who favored exchanging lands), and the Ross Party (about 13,000 who were opposed to leaving their homelands) — had differing opinions about the future of the Cherokee Nation in the Indian Territory.

Many of those who opposed the removal blamed the treaty signers for the collective suffering of the Cherokee people. On 11 June 1839, Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot, were killed, ostensibly for signing the treaty and advocating removal.37 Over the next seven years as many as 150 people died as a result of post-removal factionalism. The factionalism temporarily ended with the Treaty of 1846, when a general amnesty was granted to all those who had participated in the violence, and the Cherokee Nation received payments promised by the federal government under the terms of the Treaty of New Echota.

For much of the 1840s and 1850s, the Cherokee Nation enjoyed a golden age of prosperity and enlightenment. Funds from the treaty were used to construct public buildings in and around Tahlequah. Male and female seminaries were opened and the Cherokee Nation school system flourished. The post-removal factionalism may have remained buried forever had it not been for the American Civil War.

 

American Civil War

Chief John Ross first attempted to maintain neutrality of the Cherokee Nation, but on 7 October 1861 the Cherokee Nation aligned with the Confederacy. A declaration repudiating all treaties with the federal government was ratified. The treaty with the Confederacy, signed by Ross and Albert Pike, was violated when the Cherokee soldiers, led by Pike, were asked to fight outside their own territory at Pea Ridge, Arkansas. The more than 11,200 federal troops massed on the high ground at Pea Ridge and the 17,000 Confederate forces attacked the flanks. After some initial success on 7 March 1862, the Confederates were repulsed and withdrew from the field.

As the federal Army under Colonel William Weer approached the Indian Territory, Ross asked the colonel for a “civilized and honorable warfare” by the army invading the Cherokee Nation. He declined Weer’s invitation for an interview in his camp.38 On 15 July Ross welcomed Colonel Weer and his officers at Rose Cottage. For the next two weeks Ross was guarded by a strong force of Colonel Drew’s Cherokee Regiment. Soon the regiment would give their allegiance to the northern cause, adding 1,500 men to the Union Army.

On 3 August 3 1862 John Ross, with his family and a number of Cherokee refugees, departed for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under federal escort. Ross took with him the national papers that he was able to pack. He was encouraged to go on to Washington to gain President Lincoln’s sympathies for the Cherokees. The party made its way to the Stapler homes in Philadelphia and Wilmington that Mary had inherited. Ross’s first meeting with President Lincoln was on 12 September 1862. He detailed Cherokee needs and stressed that the Cherokees had placed themselves under the protection of the United States and when that protection was withdrawn they had no choice except to align with the Confederacy. They were unable to assume their true position until summer 1862 when a “great mass of Cherokee people rallied spontaneously around the authorities of the United States.39

For the next three years, John Ross and his family were refugees. John spent most of his time in Washington pleading the case before elected officials. His son, John, Jr. (b. March 1847) attended a boy’s academy in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and high school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. His daughter, Annie Bryan (b. June 7, 1845) stayed with Mary at the Stapler homes. Ross lamented the separation from his family, fearing he had become an “old crusty homeless Bachelor.”40

The war was a tragedy for the Ross family. The older sons, James, Allen, Silas, and George, served in the Third Regiment of Federal Indian Home Guards organized from former Confederate forces under Colonel John Drew. Allen was captured by Confederate troops in 1862 while returning to Park Hill to take badly needed supplies to his family. He was sent to various prison camps and died a prisoner in 1864. The home of John Ross’s daughter Jane was attacked by Confederate marauders in 1863 and her husband Andrew Nave was shot and killed while trying to flee.

In 1863, in Ross’s absence from the Cherokee Nation, Confederate sympathizers gathered in Tahlequah and elected Colonel Stand Watie principal chief. After burning the National Capitol Building, Watie’s troops proceeded to Park Hill and burned Rose Cottage, the home that Ross had built for his new wife, Mary Stapler, in 1844.

The end of the war did not bring the end of the suffering for the Ross family. On 20 July 1865, Mary Stapler Ross, the 39-year-old wife of the aging principal chief, died of “lung congestion,” possibly tuberculosis. Two months later the grieving chief attended the Grand Council of Southern Indians at Fort Smith, where new treaties between Cherokee and the Federal government were prepared. During his travel he wrote to his sister-in-law, Sarah Stapler:

“I know that I am fast approaching my country & my people, and I shall soon meet with my dear children, relatives & friends who will greet me with joyful hearts — but where is that delightful Home [Rose Cottage] & the matron [Mary B. Ross] of the happy family who so kindly and hospitably entertained our guests. Alas, I shall see them no more on earth. The loved wife and mother is at last in the Heavenly mansions prepared for the redeemed — and the family Homestead ruthlessly reduced to ashes by the hand of rebel incendiaries. And Whilst the surviving members of our family circle are scattered abroad as refugees — I am here journeying as it were, alone to find myself, a stranger & Homeless, in my own country.” 41

In October Ross visited Park Hill for the last time. In his annual address to the Cherokee Nation from Park Hill on 28 October 1865, he noted that the feeble state of his health would allow him to address them only briefly.42 Soon he was back in Philadelphia and then went back to Washington.

 

Last Days

In March 1866 Ross confided to his sister-in-law Sarah that his health was declining and encouraged her and his 19-year-old daughter Annie to come and stay with him for a while. In April Ross reflected on his 50 years of service to the Cherokee people: “Not one act of my public life rises up to abraid me. I have done the best I could, and today, upon this bed of sickness, my heart approves of all I have done. And still I am, John Ross, the same John Ross of former years, unchanged.”43

Ross wrote his last letter on 28 June 1866 to then President Andrew Johnson, proclaiming his unwavering loyalty to the Union.44 On 11 July he finalized his last will and testament.45 On 19 July he signed the Treaty of 1866, his last public act for the Cherokee Nation.

Less than two weeks later, on 1 August 1866, John Ross died at Medes Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue across the street from the present-day U. S. National Archives. His work is chronicled in the voluminous documents he left behind. His hopes for the prosperity of the Cherokee Nation through ingenuity and education are still felt today.

 

Bibliography

 

1 H.H. Keene, A Guidebook to Manuscripts in the Library of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art (Tulsa, OK: Gilcrease Institute, 1968),

70–71.

2 Ghigooie was born about 1730; William Shorey was born about 1720 and died aboard the frigate L’Epreue on 4 June 1762, according to the ship’s log kept by Captain Peter Blake. A microfilm copy can be found in the Museum of the Cherokee

Indian Archives. Shorey’s death on the way to England left a three-member Cherokee diplomatic mission along with Ensign Henry Timberlake and Sergeant Thomas Sumter without a competent interpreter. Timberlake, who had spent three months in the Overhill country, attempted to fill the role. A British newspaper, after the Cherokee audience with King George III on 8 July 1762, noted that the interpreter was so confused that the King could ask but few questions.

3 The Shoreys’ oldest daughter Annie Shorey was born about 1746 and died on 28 1825. Annie married John McDonald (ca 1747–ca. 1824), who emigrated from Scotland to Charleston, SC, in 1766. In 1770 he was appointed assistant superintendent for Indian Affairs. Their daughter Mary Molly McDonald was born on 1 November 1770 and died in 1808.

4 See John P. Brown, Old Frontiers: The Story of the Cherokee Indians from the Earliest Times to the Date of Their Removal to the West, 1838 (Kingsport, TN: Southern Publishers, 1938), 163; In 1779 another frontier army laid waste to the Chickamauga Towns and confiscated all the supplies from McDonald’s commissary. Bickering among the troops over the division of the loot forced the army to stop at a place henceforth called Sale Creek to auction the looted property. The item that commanded the highest bid was McDonald’s prized white horse.

5 Gary Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief (Athens: University of Georgia Press,

1978), 5–6. 6 Samuel Cole Williams, “Christian Missions to the Overhill Cherokees,”

Chronicles of Oklahoma, volume 12 (March 1934), page 66.

7 Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folklore

(Oklahoma City: The Warden Company, 1921), 410.

8 Moulton, John Ross, 10-11.

9 Ibid., 10-12.

10 John Ross Papers. Treaty of Fort Jackson, 9 August 1814. GM4826.2.

11 Pathkiller to Cherokee Delegation, 10 January 1816, 4026.18a; William C.

Crawford to Return J. Meigs, 2 March 1816, 4026.22; John Lowry to James Madison,

19 February 1816, 4026.19a; Conversation between John Lowry and James Madison, 22 February 1816, 4026.17, John Ross Papers,

Gilcrease Institute.

12 John Ross Papers. Copy of Remarks of Andrew Jackson, no date. GM4026.1978.1.

13 The 1797 date seems to have emerged in the 1950s when fundraising efforts were underway to save the historic structure. See Gary E. Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief, 6.

14 John Ross to Return J. Meigs, 11 April 1817, Record Group 75, M 208, Roll 7, National Archives; Gary Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, vol. 1 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 30.

15 John Ross to Calvin Jones, 8 December 1818, Miscellaneous Collections, Tennessee State Historical Society, Tennenesee State Library and Archives, Nashville, as published in Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, 31.

16 Georgina G. DeWeese, W. Jeff Bishop, Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, Brian Parrish, and S. Michael Edwards, “Dendrchronoloigcal Dating of the The Chief John Ross House, Rossville, Georgia.” Southeastern Archaeology 31 (Winter 2012), 221–30.

17 Builders of log cabins agree that trees should be felled in early winter. Cool temperatures make for slower drying time, which reduces log cracking, and splitting. It’s also easier to haul logs over hard or frozen ground. Logs are seasoned by stacking off the ground with stickers or smaller logs in between the courses for maximum air flow around the logs and allowed to air-dry for one to two years before use.

18 The last letter from Ross with the Rossville address was to Hugh Montgomery February 23/27, 1827, Record Group 75, M 208, Roll 10 dated February 23 and Record Group 75, M 234, Roll 72, 373–374, February 27, National Archives; On August 1, 1827, Ross wrote to James Barbour from his new home at the Head of Coosa, Record Group 75, M 234, Roll 72, 251-3, National Archives; See also Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, 129–30.

19 John Ross Papers. Resolution of National Committee and Council, 31 October 1831, GM026.99; the Constitution and Laws of the Cherokee Nation (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1840), 6–15; 22–25; 33. See also Duane King, “Sequoyah or George Guess (Gist),” in Dictionary of Georgia Biography, ed. Kenneth Coleman and Stephen Gurr (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), 878–880.

20 John Ross Papers. Letter from J. H. Eaton to Colonel Ward, 2 August 1830, 4026.77; Letter from John E. Wool to Cherokee People, 19 September 1836. GM4026.345.

21 Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 206.

22 John Ross Papers. Note from Kooweeskoowee, no date. GM4026.3047.

23 Letter from W. W. [William Wirt] to Geo. R. Gilmer, Governor of Georgia. Concerning legal representation of Cherokees, 4 June 4 1830, 4026.71; William Wirt to John Ross, 4 June 1830, 4026.72, as cited in Mouton, The Papers of Cherokee Chief John Ross, 189-90.

24 John Ross to William Wirt June 8, 1832, Wirt Papers, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, as cited in Moulton, The Papers of Cherokee Chief John Ross, 244-6.

25 Samuel Rhea Gammon, Jr., The Presidential Campaign of 1832 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1922) .

26 James Atkins Schackford, David Crockett: The Man and Legend (reprint ed., Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981), 116–17; see also Donna Akers, “Native Nations in an Age of Western Expansion, 1820–80” in American Indians American Presidents: A History, ed. Clifford Trafzer (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2009), 76.

27 John Ross to David Crockett, 13 January 1831, Ross Papers, Newberry Library, cited in Gary Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, 210-12.

28 John Ross Papers. John Ross to William H. Underwood, 22 June 1834. GM4026.152.

29 Duane H. King, The Cherokee Trail of Tears (Portland: Graphic Arts Books, 2005), 11–31.

30 In 1987, Congress designated the Cherokee Trail of Tears a National Historic Trail. At that time, the emigration routes were virtually unknown. In 1989, I was asked by the National Park Service to undertake a study of the trail routes and historic sites along the trail. I began my research with the John Ross Papers in the Gilcrease archives, which I considered to be one of the most important sources of primary material related to the forced removal of the Cherokees. Over the years, the collective research by many people has resulted in a corpus of data that has made it possible to ascertain, with a high degree of confidence, most of the routes used by seventeen Cherokee detachments during the period of Forced Removal.

31 The Papers of Winfield Scott,Record Group 75, National Archives.

32 Robert Hodsden, the physician for the Whiteley detachment, reported an even higher number. He stated that either seventy-three or seventy-four of the 875 members of the detachment died en route. His Journal “Medical Report of Dr. Robert Hodsden” is in the collection of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

33 John Ross Papers. General Winfield Scott to George Lowrey, 19 June 1838. GM4026.587.

34 John Ross Papers. General Winfield Schott to John Ross, Elijah Hicks, J. Brown, E. Gunter, Sitewakee, White Path, and Richard Taylor, 25 July 1838. GM4026.603.

35 John Ross Papers. John Rossto Matthew Stokes, 5 April 1839. GM4026.728a and b.

36 John Ross Papers. Resolution for Plain of Union, 13 June 1839. GM4026.751a and b.

37 John Ross Papers. John Ross to General Matthew Arbuckle, 22 June 1839. GM4026.757.

38 John Ross Papers. Park Hill to Colonel William Weer (U. S.) 8 June 1862. GM4026.1352.

39 John Ross Papers. John Ross, Lawrenceville, NJ, to President Abraham Lincoln, 16 September 1862. GM4026.1353a, b.

40 Gary E. Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1978), 175.

41 John Ross Papers. John Ross to sister-in-law Sarah Stapler, from the steamer Iron City, five miles below Van Buren, AR. 13 August 1865. GM4027.1521.1.

42 John Ross Annual Message to the Cherokee Nation, Park Hill, 28 October 1865, Ballenger Collection, Newberry Library. Chicago. In Moulton 1985. 653-57.

43 John Ross Papers. Daniel Ross, Washington, D.C., to William P. Ross, 3 April 1866. GM4026.1878.

44 John Ross Papers. John Ross, Washington, to President Andrew Johnson, 28 June 1866.

45 John Ross Papers. John Ross, Last Will and Testament, Washington, 11 July 1866. GM4026.1884.