Monday, June 5, 2017

The Identity of Sequoyah's Father is STILL a Mystery, Part 4

This fourth section or part of my research on Sequoyah’s parentage talks about what others researchers have written. My favorite book on the topic is as I have said many times, is C. W. “Dub” West’s “The Mysteries of Sequoyah”. Therefore, I will begin this section with excerpts from Dub’s book.

I know the title of these reports is The “Paternity” of Sequoyah, his mother’s lineage is up for question as well. Dub writes a paragraph about Sequoyah’s mother. He says;
“Most authorities indicate that Sequoyah’s mother was “a Cherokee woman” with inferrences that she was a full blood. Captain John Stuart makes that definite statement . . .”  It should be noted that she is also called a full blood on the website of the Cherokee Nation.
West continues; “Jack Kilpatrick says she was of royal blood, of the family of Matoy and the legendary warrior king Oconostota. Alice Marriot gives her name the Cherokee of Wut-tee of the Paint Clan whose brothers were Tah-lo-lee-ska and Tah-ya-ta-hee. Ethan Allen Hitchcock quotes a Mr. Payne who lived near Sequoyah as saying that Sequoyah’s grandfather on his mother’s side was part Shawnee. James Mooney gives his mother as being a mixed-blood Cherokee woman. Traveler Bird indicates that she was a full blood. John B. Davis states that she belonged to the Paint Clan and that her brother was a Chief in Echota. This is substantiated by McKinney and Hall”
I know these two brothers, Tahloleeska and Tahyatahee, were chiefs of the Old Settlers once in Indian Territory. Were they also chiefs in the Old Cherokee Nation in Echota?
Continuing; “It is a consensus of opinion that Sequoyah’s mother raised him as a widow, and that she operated a “trading house”. Davis says she never remarried.”  I can’t help but recall that the Nathaniel Gist I descend from ran “Gist’s Station” and there was a “Gist’s Station’s Camp” located in Southern Kentucky upon Indian lands in 1775. Indian hunters passed through that area all the time. They would have traded goods for furs on a regular basis, just like Sequoyah’s mother did later.
Concerning one of the suspected brothers of Sequoyah, West adds; “Kilpatrick says that Tahchee or Chief Dutch was Sequoyah’s half-brother. A number of historians give Tahchee’s father as Skyugo, a noted Cherokee chief and that he was born at Turkeytown on the Coosa River. Carolyn Thomas Foreman tells us that Tahchee and his mother migrated to Arkansas with an Uncle. If this is true, it is improbable that Sequoyah and Tahchee had the same mother.” I also have a reference that tells Tahchee’s clan, and it was not the same as Sequoyah’s, so they couldn’t have been brothers on his mother’s side. It is known that Tahchee and Sequoyah were close in Arkansas, and in Indian Territory. Perhaps they were just good friends.
Thus we also have mysteries about Sequoyah’s brother and his mother. If she was full blood Indian, she WAS NOT A “WATTS”! Many people call her “Wurteh Watts”. But the Cherokee language has no words that are supposed to end in the “consonant” sound, so Wu-te makes more sense. Even on the Cherokee Nation website she is called Wu-te-he. If you look at Sequoyah’s syllabary, we know each symbol represents a syllable. Look at each one, and see how many end in a consonant!

Sequoyah's Syllabary
Vowels sounds are in "columns", consonant sounds in rows. There are six Cherokee vowels as opposed to 5 in English. Five are the same. The sixth written as "v" is pronounced like the "u" in "us" or "uncle". As you can see, every one of them ends in the "vowel" sound. Beyond this I know nothing of the Syllabary.  Find a Cherokee speaker who understands the syllabary for more information about it.
West adds one more bit about Sequoyah's mother. He adds; “According to John B. Davis, it is supposed that his mother died sometime near the beginning of the 19th century, and that he probably married and moved to Will’s Valley about that time. Davis and Foster also state that Sequoyah took over his mother’s trading business and went on several long trips, bringing back furs that he had received in exchange for trade goods.

Sequoyah’s Father

Statuary Hall in Congress allows two statues of famous state residents per state. Oklahoma’s two statues are of Will Rogers, and Sequoyah. On the resolution to accept his statue, it describes his father; “A German trader by the name of George Gist, who dealt in contraband articles, and who abandoned his wife before Sequoyah was born.” Per West; “Mooney says that is generally conceded that his father was George Gist. McKinney and Hall, Foster, Starr, and Phillips also subscribe to the George Gist theory.” Many of the early researchers thought this German trader was Sequoyah’s father. A major problem with this theory is that there exists no historical documentation that this man ever existed, outside of Phillip's account.
Grant Foreman is the man who brought forth the idea that Nathaniel Gist was Sequoyah’s father. Per West, Foreman said; “Major Gist Blair, who was . . . a descendant of Nathaniel Gist, stated that Sequoyah was a son of Nathaniel Gist.
“In the bureau of American Ethnology a letter written by John Mason Brown of the Louisville bar, who was a descendant of Nathaniel Gist, stated that Sequoyah visited the Gist descendants on his way to or from Washington in 1828. On this occasion, he was looking for his white kin.”
When I read this, I can’t help but think that it is possible that Sequoyah knew his father’s name, and that it was “Nathaniel Gist”. He researched it, and found the descendants of a man named Nathaniel Gist. However, there was another Nathaniel Gist who had passed away long before. If this is a true story, what if he discovered the descendant of one of the Nathaniel Gist’s, but he descended from the other?
Jack Kilpatrick wrote that he didn’t think George Gist or Nathaniel Gist was Sequoyah’s father. He thought Sequoyah might be full blood Cherokee.
When was Sequoyah Born?
Again, Dub West’s works have proven to be a God-send. He gives us a pretty good idea as to just when Sequoyah was born. Let me start by saying that some people have given his date of birth as about 1760. But think about it. Records of his military service exist. He did serve in the Creek War 1813-1814. If he was born in 1760, he would have been 53 years old. He had a lameness in his leg most all his life. Do you really think a 53 year-old partially crippled old man would have served in a war fighting against twenty year old young Creek Red Stick Warriors? He wouldn’t have stood a chance. Others place his time of birth closer to 1777. That would have made him closer to 35 or 36 years old at the time of this war. Which age makes more sense? He made a trip to Mexico in 1843, where he died. If he was born in 1760, he would have been 83 years when he started this 500 mile journey, sometimes on horseback, and sometimes walking. If he were instead born about 1777, he would have been about 66 years old when making this journey. Which age makes more sense?

Some of these dates are hard to swallow. Henderson, Mooney and Goodpasture give his date of birth as around 1760. Had he been born in 1760, he would have been too old to serve in the Creek War, and it would mean an 83 year old man would have tried to walk from Eastern Oklahoma to South of the Rio Grande in Northern Mexican. It’s not reasonable.

These guys just made educated guesses. Kilpatrick puts his birth between 1760 and 1770. Hughes says he was born sometime between 1764 and 1775. 

Now we get to dates that make more sense. Starr and Phillips say he was born about 1770. Stuart who met him in 1837 said he was about 60, placing his birth about 1777. Jeremiah Evarts who met him in Washington D. C. while signing the 1828 treaty said he was about 50 years old. This makes his date of birth about 1778. Marriott gave his birth date as about the same time as our country, which would be the late 1770’s. Henry T, Malone stated his birth as 1775. These dates make sense. From 1775 to just before 1780 are the time frames when OUR Nathaniel Gist had his trading business up and running.

Again, I am just offering up evidence. I am not claiming proof of anything.

Harper's Magazine's 1870 Article Examined

In 1885 George Everett Foster copywrited a book, “Sequoyah, American Cadmus . . .” In it he proclaimed the father of Sequoyah was a German trader named George Gist.  But he wasn’t the first. In an 1870 article from “Harpers Monthly Magazine”, written by W. A. Phillips.

What do we know about W. A. Phillips? Foster reports the following (p. 26) in “Sequoyah, The American Cadmus”; . . . W. A. Phillips, who portrayed an extended account of Sequoyah for “Harper’s Magazine”, and who was acquainted with the family, and who even had one of Sequoyah’s sons in his regiment during the Civil War, says; “The deserted mother called her babe Se-quo-yah. His fellow clansmen, as he grew up, called him gave him an English name, that of his father, or something like it, and in English he is usually spoken of as George Guess . . .” So we know Phillips was an officer in the Union Army, and that he personally knew some of Sequoyah’s descendants. We also know he thought Sequoyah’s father was named George Guess, “or something like it”.

Phillips account is the original story about Sequoyah’s father. It is often discounted today as a work of fiction. But we must consider it if we are honest researchers with open minds. Here are a few comments about the 1870 Magazine article.

P 542 – In the year 1768, a German Peddler named George Gist, left the settlement of Ebeneezer on the lower Savannah, and entered the Cherokee Nation by the northern Mountains of Georgia . . .

Our Dutch friend Gist, was, strictly speaking, a contrabandist. He had too little money or influence to buy a license . . .

Somehow or other he managed to persuade a Cherokee girl to become his wife . . . her family had no pretention to chieftaincy, but were prominent and influential . . . some of her brothers were afterwards members of the council . . . in common with many of the Cherokees of even that early date, she had some English blood in her veins . . .

Of George Gist’s married life, we have little recorded. It was of very short duration.

The author goes on to say that she had a son of this union, Sequoyah. Sequoyah’s father left them, never to return. His mother raised cattle. Sequoyah had no father image to teach him how to hunt or go to war.

p. 544 -- Then the writer says; “She contrived to get a petty stock of goods, and traded with her countrymen. She taught Sequoyah to be a good judge of furs. He would go on expeditions with the hunters, and select such skins as he wanted for his mother.”

The author says that Sequoyah asked half-breed Charles Hicks how to spell his name how to spell his name, and he wrote George Guess rather that George Gist.

The author states; “Between 1809 and 1821, [the latter of] which was his 52nd year . . .” Thus by this article he was born in 1769. He states that these are the years used by Sequoyah to develop his Sylibary.  The next part is an interesting read; “The rude hieroglyphics or pictographs of the Indians were essentially different from all written language. These were rude representations of events, the symbols being chiefly the totemic devices of the tribes; a few general designs for war, death, travel, or other common incidents, and strokes for numerals, represented days or events as they were perpendicular or horizontal. Even the wampum belts were little more than helps to memory . . . The meagre record could only be read by the initiated . . . for the Indians only intrusted their history and religion to their best and ablest men.” . . .

p. 547 “Some narrow-minded ecclesiastics, because Gist would not go through the routine of a Christian profession after the fashion they prescribed, have not scrupled to intimidate that he as a Pagan."

The article ends with him making a trip to Mexico where he died. However rather that saying he was looking for a band of Cherokee that had gone to Mexico as do other accounts of this journey, the author says Cherokee was looking at languages of other Indian languages, and seeking commonalities between them.

The article is an interesting read. Unfortunately, he never cites the source of his information. Others have since, looked for this mysterious “George Gist”, a German trader, said to have been Sequoyah’s father,  and there is no record of him in any historical document. From the fact that we know Phillips was a Union Officer during the Civil War who served in Indian Territory, we can assume that much of the information he obtained about Sequoyah was during this time, and might have come from his descendants or others that had personally known Sequoyah.

Excerpt’s from Grant Foreman’s "Sequoyah"
Quotes from the book are Italicized. My comments on those quotes aren’t. Historically there have been two main contenders for the father of Sequoyah. One was a German peddler/trader probably named George Gist. George Everett Foster subscribed to this belief. Shortly I will go over his book, “Sequoyah, The American Cadmus and Modern Moses, A Complete Biography of the Greatest of Redmen”, © 1885, George E. Foster, Milford, N. H. The other was Nathaniel Gist, a well known figure in American history. Grant Foreman was a subscriber to the theory that Nathaniel Gist was Sequoyah’s father. The next section covers excerpts from his book, “Sequoyah”, © 1938 University of Oklahoma Press.

Page 3 – He was born in the Cherokee village of Tuskegee, in Tennessee near Fort Loudon, on the Tennessee River, about five miles from the sacred town of Echota.
Page 4 – Foreman mentions – the affidavit of Sequoyah’s widow Sally, to whom he married in 1815, and who, in 1855 at the age of 66, invoked a record of her dead husband’s service in support of her claim for bounty land, authorized by a recent act of Congress.

This implies Sequoyah’s wife Sally was born about 1789. If they married in 1815, she would have been @ 26 years old at the time.

Page 4 – In the next year, 1816, Sequoyah is found at the Chickasaw Council House, and there, under the English name of George Guess, on September 14th, joined with 14 other Cherokees in agreeing to a so-called treaty with Andrew Jackson and others, by which they were induced to yield to the United States a large part of their country. 
That treaty can be found here.

Page 5 – The Cherokee treaty of 1817 provided for the emigration to Arkansas of such members of the tribe as desired to remove west, and to join with a thousand of their countrymen who had had previously located there. In February 1818, the Cherokee agent started 19 flatboats down the Tennessee River loaded with Cherokee emigrants bound for unknown country on the Arkansas River.
I’d like to know who captained those flat boats. Remember a friend of our mixed-blood John Gist/Guess was Jason Cloud, a flat boat captain. But he wasn’t a young man, anymore. Mixed blood John Brown could also have captained a flat boat.
Recall the record left by Sequoyah’s grand-daughter in the last section, where she said he went west alone, leaving his family behind. When did his family cross the Mississippi?
Page 7 -- . . . before 1821 he again returned to the Cherokee Nation [East] . . . Sequoyah again, in 1822, departed for Arkansas . . .
Page 40 – John Alexander, a merchant of Philadelphia on a business trip in January 1840, while travelling the Military Road from Fort Gibson to Fort Smith, stopped along the way to visit Guess . . . his diary . . . yields the following . . . He has had five wives and twenty children . . . ten dead and ten alive . . .
Who were those wives and children?
Page 42 – The following are some passages written by [John Howard]  Payne; . . .

Payne was a White man and spoke no Cherokee at all. Since Sequoyah spoke no English, they could not communicate without an interpreter.
Page 43 – Mr. Ross came and remained with us.
Page 44 –  . . .  Before long, poor I seemed entirely forgotten by the rest of the audience. First one quarter of an hour, then another, and then another, and no translation came. . . . After interminable conversation between Guess and the interpreter altogether in Cherokee, Payne was told the Old man was not interrupted for fear of breaking the thread of recollections.

Page 44 – Within a year of Payne’s visit, General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, a distinguished Army officer, came to the Cherokee Nation on a tour of investigation. Here he met and observed Sequoyah . . . in his diary and in a letter to the Secretary of War he wrote his impressions and information imparted to him by Chief John Ross and other Cherokee.

Page 45 -- [Speaking of Sequoyah] Mr. Ross told me last night that he is of mixed blood. That General Taylor of Cincinnati told him in Washington City some years ago that a Virginian, a Mr. Gist had been sent among the Cherokees on some mission where he remained for some time and expressed his belief that the Cherokee Guess was the son of Mr. Gist.

Now this is an interesting story. John Ross expressed his belief that Nathaniel Gist was the father of Sequoyah based on a story he’d heard from General Taylor of Cincinnati. What story was that? I have found it online at

A valuable sidelight is thrown upon the problem dealt with in this paper by the narration of Gen. James Taylor, of Kentucky, found in the Draper Collection:

"When I was moving out to Kentucky in the spring of '93 I left my company some distance before we reached Redstone (now Brownsville). I understood Col. Gist had arrived with a large number of slaves and was encamped about a half mile above the creek from which the old fort had taken its name. I called on Col. Gist at his encampment. I found him sitting under his markee which, no doubt, had protected him and his brother officers from the storms of many a cold and dreary night. He was a venerable looking man, I should think near 60 years of age; stout-framed and about six feet high and of a dark complexion. It was the first time I had seen him, but, on making myself known to him, he informed me he was well acquainted with my father and had served, I think, in the Virginia legislature or in the state convention together, and perhaps in both. 
"While I was with him a good looking youth, who appeared to me about 16 or 17 years of age, come to the market and was invited in. He was dressed in home-spun clothes, quite neat and was a fine, tall, well-looking youth. He appeared to wish to say something to the Colonel. At length he inquired if he had any business with him or wanted to say anything to him; and the colonel inquired his name. 'My name is Gist, sir,' said the young lad. 'Aye,' said the colonel, 'and who is your father?' 'Why, sir,' says he, 'I am told you are my father.' 'Ah, indeed,' says the colonel, 'and who is your mother? Betsy—Oh, very likely it may be so then; I was well acquainted with a girl of that name some years ago when I commanded Redstone fort. The young man appeared somewhat embarrassed and the colonel appeared somewhat stumped, and I concluded to take my leave as it might be more agreeable to have their conference alone on that delicate subject.
So based on General James Taylor’s story, Chief John Ross believes that Sequoyah is a son to the famous Nathaniel Gist. There are two readily available flaws with this. ONE is that everyone who knew Sequoyah said spoke no English. This sixteen or seventeen-year-old youth apparently spoke fluent English. The second flaw is that this boys mother is named “Betsy”. NOWHERE is Sequoyah’s mother called “Betsy”.
Page 46 – Mr. Payne says that Gist’s grandfather on his mother’s side was part Shawnee and that his father was a White man, so that he had very little Cherokee blood in him. He tells me he is in precisely the same situation.
Page 75 – Thinking of Sequoyah and his achievements the mind is bewildered in trying to conceive the background that produced this miracle. While it is agreed that his mother was an Indian woman of the Cherokee tribe, conflicting theories of the paternity of Sequoyah have flowed from the pens of many writers.
The most convincing testimony on this point made contemporaneously with the living Sequoyah was the previously quoted statement made by General Ethan Allen Hitchcock while he was in the Cherokee Nation in 1841. Like many others he was curious about the parentage of this remarkable man. He wrote in his diary what he heard on the point from the lips of Chief John Ross.
So one of the most compelling arguments Grant finds saying Nathaniel Gist was Sequoyah’s father was the story General Ethan Allen Hitchcock tells him. And that story was a story General James Taylor had told Chief John Ross while he was in Washington DC. And I have repeated that story above of a boy who spoke perfect English whose mother was named Betsy. They are saying this boy was Sequoyah. Sequoyah as a boy spoke no English and his mother was named Wu-te-he, not Betsy. I ALWAYS tell people when studying genealogy, you HAVE to map a name to a location to a date. These three HAVE to match. This boy’s name is NOT given, and his mother has the wrong name. We are missing two of the three variables we need. We can NOT coclude that this boy was Sequoyah.
Page 76 – The arguments that have been adduced relating to this subject are too extended to be set out here but they are sufficient in the mind of the author to establish that the father of Sequoyah could not have been the German clod whose existence even is not established, but must have been Nathaniel Gist, progenitor of many other distinguished Americans.
Page 77 – In the Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington is a letter written by John Mason Brown of the Louisville Bar, a descendant of Nathaniel Gist, who stated that Sequoyah had visited the Gist descendants in Kentucky, probably to or from Washington in 1828; on this occasion he was looking for his White kin. Major Gist Blair told the Author that when he was a youth about 1878 he went to Kentucky to see some of the Gratz relatives, and there learned of the accepted fact that Sequoyah was the accepted son of Nathaniel Gist.
This, if true, compelling evidence that Sequoyah thought his father was named “Nathaniel Gist”. But Brown also said some things that make is work questionable.
In another article published in “Chronicles of Oklahoma”, we see excerpts of Brown’s statements; 
"Only one other man—Nathaniel Gist—has ever been suggested as the father of Sequoya, and his claim has not received serious consideration on account of the manner in which it was presented. The story as told by John Mason Brown is that Nathaniel Gist was captured by the Cherokees at Braddock’s defeat in 1755, and remained a prisoner with them for six years, during which time he became the father of Sequoya. On his return to civilization he married a white woman in Virginia by whom he had other children, and afterwards removed to Kentucky, where Sequoya, then a Baptist preacher, frequently visited him, and was always recognized by the family as his son. In reply to this claim Mooney points out that the Cherokees were allies of the British during the war in which Braddock’s defeat occurred; and that Sequoya, so far from being a Baptist preacher, was not even a Christian. For these positive errors, and some other improbabilities in Brown’s story, he classes it as one of those genealogical myths built on a chance similarity of name.
So there are holes in the theory that the well-known Nathaniel Gist was Sequoyah’s father. The actual father of Sequoyah has not been proven. 
Sequoyah, American Cadmus, by George Everett Foster

In 1885 George Everett Foster copywrited a book, “Sequoyah, American Cadmus . . .” In it he proclaimed the father of Sequoyah was a German trader named George Gist. 

In the preface to Foster’s book, he says, speaking of Sequoyah; “A love of research finally induced me to collect from all possible sources the leading events of his life.” Since he spoke of sources, I an anxious to discover them. A couple of pages later, Foster gives us a clue as to the sources he used; “I am also under obligations to the writings of Dodges, Drake, Schoolcraft, W. A. Phillips, C. C. Jones, Ramsey and others.” Had Foster lived today, he would have known that he must list ALL his references, and properly map each comment in his book to a citation he discovered in writing his discourse. Unfortunately, they didn’t do that a hundred and thirty-two years ago, when he wrote it. And the people he might have talked to are no longer with us. And just who was “Ramsey”? He just list’s a surname as a source. Who were “the others”? I must be critical of lack of providing primary sources. But as Isaac Newton said long ago, he saw further because he stood on the shoulders of giants, meaning previous researchers provided a foundation for his research. It was people like Foster who opened the door for others to take an interest in Sequoyah. If we couldn’t see the shortcomings of previous generations we wouldn’t know that we can do better, but we do, and we do so because of them. What does Foster tell us of Sequoyah? Let us see.

He reached out to many people who congratulated him on his desire to write about Sequoyah’s life. Many were missionaries. They said they’d help in any way they could. But since Sequoyah was never a convert to Christianity, there is little they could tell Foster some forty plus years after Sequoyah’s death. One of these congratulatory messages stands out above the others. It says; “From W. P. Boudinot, Executive Secretary, I shall take great pleasure in giving you what information I can in relation to your subject at the direction of Principle Chief, D. W. Bushyhead. Sequoyah’s invention made him a hero with his people and he now occupies among the Cherokees, by far the highest place among the celebrities of the Red Race. It is well that the American public should, if possible, be given a correct idea of Indian life, which varies of curse, in different localities.” So it is possible that he obtained some of his information from the Cherokee.

But most of the congratulatory comments came from Missionary sources. Here is a sad commentary on how they thought of American Indians; “Reverend Timothy Hill, Supt. of Presbyterian Missions in the Indian Territory, writes; I am glad that your attention is called to Sequoyah, for he is one of the most remarkable men of the present century.” . . .  after praising Sequoyah, Rev. Hill reverts to the inevitable conclusions of the thinking of the day; “As matters are now, the Cherokee language itself must, in the nature of things, soon give place to the English, and Sequoyah’s alphabet and Sequoyah’s people will no longer be separated from the great mass of the American people, but blend into one, and thus fade away.” When the bulk of your information is derived from sources such as this, how reliable is that information? But I am not just discussing Foster’s work. The general attitude of ALL Americans of earlier era’s was similar. They’ll speak of genocide as the inevitable end of things, and not even realize that this Christian faith they profess to believe in should oppose that inevitable end.

What does Foster say? 

In the first chapter of his book Foster talks of the founding of Georgia by Oglethorpe in the 1730s. He tells of German immigrants from Salzburg. Because of religions wars in Europe between Lutherans and Catholics, many Germans immigrated to the newly established colony of Georgia, and founded a community called Ebeneezer. A son was born to a family in that community and his name was George Gist. Foster comments, “by some authorities called “GisB”. With my keyboard and the fonts I presently have installed, I can not accurately create the letter from the German alphabet. I have asked people who speak German, and was told this letter makes a “long s sound”, or “sssss”. This makes it sound as though other people told him this story about a young German boy. In the book, there are times when he calls him a Dutch boy. Salzburg is in Austria, but they also speak German and all Germanic peoples are sometimes called “Deutsch”. Immediately I think of a man often called Sequoyah’s half-brother, known as Datsi, Tatsi, Captain William Dutch, and Tahchee. I noticed a record of him that said he was NOT of the same clan as Sequoyah – meaning they had different mothers. In a book about the Moravian missionaries near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I noticed a comment saying the Indians called these settlers “Datsi” meaning Dutch, or German. Were Sequoyah and Captain Dutch half-brothers on their father’s side? I have no idea! It is a far-fetched idea! But as a researcher, I have to mention the possibility. I’d be a poor researcher if I didn’t.

Foster tells pretty much the same story as is told in Harper’s Magazine in 1870, fifteen years earlier. He does add a little something however. Foster says on page 20; “But Gist soon wearied of Indian life, . . . and one night suddenly gathered his effects and he went away. He never returned, nor is there any record that he was ever heard of more.” Foster mentions that Gist went to live among the Cherokee in 1768, just as did the account in Harper’s Magazine. But Foster says that one day he just left, and no one ever heard of him after that. A lone white man alone wondering through the Cherokee Nation? Not a wise choice of action. If this is a true story, well he was probably killed. Oh but there was a Nathaniel Gist killed in 1780. Hmmm . . .

Per Foster, Sequoyah was born in 1770. In an interesting note, on page 26, he added; “Authorities differ on the naming of Sequoyah. Reverend C. C. Torrey, for many years a missionary among the Cherokees, in a personal letter writes us, that it was not given until after the invention of the alphabet, and had reference to “guessing it out”. But W. A. Phillips, who prepared an extended account of Sequoyah for Harper’s Magazine, and who was acquainted with the family, and even had one of Sequoyah’s son’s in his regiment during the Civil War, says; “The deserted mother called her baby boy Sequoyah. His fellow clansmen, as he grew up, gave him an English name, that of his father, or something like it.” But why would Cherokee boys call him by an English name? I have a hard time with that.

The middle of the book are a lot of stories and such and it is an interesting read -- some of it has nothing to do with Sequoyah. He talks about some Cherokee history, and talks much about Sequoyah every once in a while, but sheds little light as to his paternity after this point in the book.

Has Foster convinced me Sequoyah’s father was a German peddler named George Gist? No. But I’m not convinced that his father was named Nathaniel Gist, either, and I have talked of both the men named Nathaniel Gist, both the famous one, and my own ancestor. Evidence exists for all three, but there is proof for none of them. I think my ancestor is just as likely as the other two. This is all I've ever said, and all I intended to imply.

Early on in "Part 1" I said I thought this project would take a year or more. well, it took three weeks. :). Once started, I couldn't put it down. And I might still tweak it, a little oil here, a little paint there. But for the most part -- I'm done.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Identity of Sequoyah's Father is STILL a Mystery, Part 3

Who were Sequoyah's parents? The first of these reports was simply me looking and discovering our family stories that mention our relationship to Sequoyah. The second report was discovering our ancestors. I was disappointed. Since my great uncle wrote about us living either in Sequoyah County or it's neighboring Leflore County to the south. I expected that we would find something quickly -- but we didn't. Each generation we kept going further east. Finally we came to an ancestor surnamed "Guess/Gist" that was said to have been of mixed-Indian-ancestry and was said to have been "some relation" to Sequoyah. It wasn't when, where or what we expected. In performing research, you go where the evidence leads you. I had wondered away from where I was expecting the trail would lead me. But by staying the course and not wavering from it, we were able to discover our ancestors. We found a possible link to Sequoyah. We're not there yet -- we may never get there -- but we understand more than before. Maybe that's all that we can do.

In college I was a math major. We were given difficult problems to solve. Occasionally a text book would have the answers in the back.  If I had a difficult differential equation to solve and became baffled by it, I'd look at the answer in the back, as did others. Knowing the form of the answer would help you know the procedures to use to arrive at that conclusion. I did the same thing in researching Sequoyah. Researching my family took me closer to Sequoyah, but not all the way there. Maybe by researching the actual Sequoyah, we can obtain clues to help us bridge the gap. I needed to know about  his known family, and see when, how and even if we connected at all.

Part three of this research it an attempt to find out what was written about Sequoyah. White's don't understand Indian culture very well, so any primary source about Sequoyah must come first from his known family. Secondly, other Cherokee. Writers who ignore the people they seek to learn from usually live to regret it. Third, other people of any race who knew or met him. And lastly, others who write about him. Learn where they obtained their information. I and many others today who write about him must humbly fall in this last category. Even his descendants and today's Cherokee's use older sources to learn about him. What we write today has no relevance without proper citation. In most cases, if one person shares twenty citations and another shares but one, and what they say is clear, relevant and thorough, I'll take the person who shares twenty sources over the person with only one source every time.  Part three covers other sources written by his family, by the Cherokee, or by others during his lifetime.

I must write my thoughts down while they are fresh in my mind. Who knows? I might forget it all, tomorrow.

From the Cherokee Nation’s Official Website

The following was taken straight off of the web page of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma where they speak of Sequoyah and the Syllabry.

"Family tradition tells us that Sequoyah (S-si-qua-ya) was born west of Chillhowee Mountain, which is approximately one and a half miles east of Tasgigi, Monroe County, Tennessee. This location is only about 8 miles from Echota, the capital of the old Cherokee Nation. As far as his birth year, the best estimation is from 1760 to 1765. Sequoyah stated that when an Iroquoian Peace Delegation visited at New Echota in 1770, he was living with his mother as a small boy and remembered the events. While in Washington in 1828, he told Samuel Knapp he was about 65. [note: Sequouah simply stated he remembered the Iroquoian delegation and others assumed he meant a delegation that arrived in 1770 -- but the Iroquoia visited the Cherokee on other occasions that would have made Seqyoyah a small boy into the 1770s as well].

"As the traditional Cherokee society is matrilineal, and one's clan is obtained through the mother, this information is of most relevance when researching the man's history and background. Her name was Wu-te-he, and she belonged to the Red Paint Clan. She had two brothers, Tahlonteeska and Tahnoyanteehee. The only certain information regarding his father is a statement made during Sequoyah's lifetime about his father, which appeared in the Cherokee Phoenix (August 13, 1828). This stated his paternal grandfather was a white man. Sequoyah's father was half Cherokee and his mother a full blood. His father's name has been identified as either George Gist, a German peddler, or Nathaniel Gist, a friend of George Washington's and ancestor of the Blair family of Washington, D.C. Sequoyah also had at least two brothers; one was named Tobacco Will who was a blacksmith in Arkansas and also a signer of the Cherokee Constitution. The Old Settler Chief, Dutch (U-ge-we-le-dv), was another brother."               

Copyright ©1998-2002. Cherokee Nation. All rights reserved

Please know Sequoyah read every issue of "The Cherokee Phoenix", and you know he didn't miss the part where it said his grandfather, not his father, was a White man. So according to the Cherokee themselves, Sequoyah had a little White blood, but not much. They say that his mother was a full blood. His mother was Wut-tee or Wu-te-he, and his father was either Nathaniel Gist or a German peddler named George Gist. The truth about his parentage is we really don’t know much about them. One man claiming to be his White kin said he was a Baptist Minister but both White's and Cherokee people who personally knew him said he wasn’t even a Christian. There are so many contradictions.

About Captain Dutch being Sequoyah's brother – we have

"The Cherokee War Path, Written by John Ridge in Washington City as Narrated by the Cherokee Warrior of Arkansas, John Smith who was present and principal actor in the Warlike Expeditions in the Pararies of the Far West. March 25th, 1836". It says:

The Cherokees are divided into 7 clans; each clan having a peculiar name, & are considered one family & are not permitted to intermarry in their own clan under the penalty of death. It is an ancient, civil institution of our forefathers. The names of these clans are the Wolf, the Deer, the Paint, the Blind Savana, the Green Holley, with the sharp thorney leaf, The Long Flowing Down Hair, and the Deaf. The last of these is mine & that of Dutch—we are brothers.

            Sequoyah’s mother (and thus Sequoyah) was said to be Paint Clan. Dutch and Sequoyah have different clans! This means they have different mothers.  The only way we can have them being brothers is if they had the same father. As I have said before and will continue to say, there are many contradictions.

I have previously only heard of two men who have been said to be Sequoyah’s father.

In the September 1870 issue of Harper’s Magazine by Phillips, the first is mentioned. Phillips was a Union officer during the Civil War. During the war he served in Indian Territory. He claims he became acquainted with members of Sequoyah’s direct family, including Sequoyah's son, whom Phillips claims served in his regiment. Sequoyah's possible family and other Cherokee who knew him are the source of much of what he wrote about Sequoyah. Phillips tells of the son of poor German immigrants – actually they were Salzburger’s making them Austrian. They were lured to America when Oglethorpe advertised for settlers to open up the new colony of Georgia in the 1730s. He says their son “George” later became Sequoyah’s father.

According to Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 1, No. 2, October, 1921, THE PATERNITY OF SEQUOYA, THE INVENTOR OF THE CHEROKEE ALPHABET,  By Albert V. Goodpasture, we have a discussion of another possible father of Sequoyah, Nathaniel Gist. It says --

"Only one other man—Nathaniel Gist—has ever been suggested as the father of Sequoya, and his claim has not received serious consideration on account of the manner in which it was presented. The story as told by John Mason Brown is that Nathaniel Gist was captured by the Cherokees at Braddock’s defeat in 1755, and remained a prisoner with them for six years, during which time he became the father of Sequoya. On his return to civilization he married a white woman in Virginia by whom he had other children, and afterwards removed to Kentucky, where Sequoya, then a Baptist preacher, frequently visited him, and was always recognized by the family as his son. In reply to this claim Mooney points out that the Cherokees were allies of the British during the war in which Braddock’s defeat occurred; and that Sequoya, so far from being a Baptist preacher, was not even a Christian. For these positive errors, and some other improbabilities in Brown’s story, he classes it as one of those genealogical myths built on a chance similarity of name. "

Hmmm . . . I know of another "chance" similar name. There was another man named "Nathaniel Gist" . . . But I just bring him up as a possibility . . . there are still too many question marks to think otherwise.

"So Nathaniel was never captured by the Indians for six years, and he was never a Baptist Minister. With some falsehoods, can’t we suspect there might be others in this account? Yet it is the most popular story as to just who was Sequoyah’s father.

From Mysteries of Sequoyah, by Dub West, p. 2 and 3:

"The house resolution accepting Sequoyah's statue for Statuary Hall gives his father as "a German trader named George Gist who dealt with contraband articles, and who abandoned his wife before Sequoyah was born ."Mooney said it is generally conceded that his father was George Gist. McKinney and Hall, Foster, Starr, and Phillips also subscribe to the George Gist theory. Foreman is the proponent of the theory that Sequoyah's father was Nathaniel Gist. He says that Major Gist Blair, who was owner of the Blair House in Washington at the time and a descendant of Nathaniel Gist, stated that Sequoyah was a son of Nathaniel Gist. In the Bureau of American Ethnology in a letter written by John Mason Brown of the Louisville Bar, who was a descendant of Nathaniel Gist, stated Sequoyah visited the Gist descendants on his way to or from Washington in 1828. On this occasion, he was looking for his White kin . . .

"Jack Kilpatrick rejects the paternity of either George Gist or Nathaniel Gist, indicating that he possibly had some Caucasian blood, but very little -- that he appeared to be a full-blood. He further says that it is a mistake to emphasize the father of a Cherokee family, as the Cherokee society is matrilineal. Weaver says that Sequoyah appeared to be a full-blood."

Here is another contradiction. There was a piece written about a couple of Sequoyah's relatives during the dust bowl era. President Roosevelt helped get us out of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl by providing us with jobs and taxing the wealthy. One such job was for writers. Each state developed jobs for writers. Oklahoma chose to interview old timers, people who'd lived in Oklahoma since the days it was known as "Indian Territory". Grandma's brother wrote a little something about our family. But so did Sequoyah's granddaughter and her son -- they wrote a little something about their families.

IPP Papers Written by Two of Sequoyah’s Descendants 


Texanna, Oklahoma
Interview - July 12, 1937
Indian-Pioneer History
Jas. S. Buchanan, Field Worker

Note - the following statement of Mrs. Susan Toney, who does not speak English, only the Cherokee language, was interpreted through her son, Calvin Toney.

I (Susan Toney) was born in a refugee camp on Red River in the Choctaw Nation January 6, 1862, where my parents, with other Cherokees, had fled to escape the dangerous conditions that existed in the Indian Territory brought on by the Civil War.

My father was William Fields, fullblood Cherokee and my mother was Sallie (Gist) Fields, the daughter of Teasy Gist, the son of George Gist, or Sequoyah, Cherokee.

After the Civil War my parents moved back to their home place at the mouth of Dutch Creek on the Canadian River where my grandfather, Teasy Gist, died in 1869, when I was seven years of age.  I remember his burial in the old Cherokee burial ground on the hill beside the old Dutch Creek trail two and one-half miles southeast of Texanna, or one and one-half miles west of the old home place.  I have known of the old burial ground of the Cherokees since my earliest recollection and it was a very old burial ground at that time.  It was abandoned about fifty years ago.  There are only two white people buried in the place.  They were two little white girls, children of a poor family that was living in the vicinity when their children died about 1911.  

There were many of the early Cherokee buried at that place and it was always known as the Cherokee burial ground and no other name.  There never was any grave markers with inscriptions at any of the graves, as the Indians in the early days kept the burial place of their dead sacred in their memory and the location designated by land-marks. 

My great-grandfather, George Gist, prominent in Cherokee history, was born in Tennessee about 1760, and at an advanced age he came to the Indian Territory alone, leaving his family east of the Mississippi River.  His short time in the Indian Territory was among the early Cherokee settlers.

Shortly after he came to the Territory he was joined by his son, Teesey Gist, my grandfather.  Shortly thereafter George Gist (Sequoyah), Teesey Gist, his son and another Cherokee by the name of Ellen Boles, for reasons unknown, left the Indian Territory for Old Mexico.  George Gist died on that journey somewhere in Mexico about 1847.  After the death of Sequoyah, Teesey Gist and Ellen Boles left Mexico and went to Texas where they remained for some time and through a transaction of some description acquired a tract of land from Mexico, then attempted to colonize it with Cherokees which involved them in a difficulty with the Texas government that lead to the killing of Boles.

The story as it was handed down through my mother, that when they were involved in the trouble with the Texas people over the treaty they had made with Mexico, Boles and Teesey Gist attempted to escape from Texas with the treaty and was being pursued by their enemies when Boles was shot.  Boles took the treaty from where he had it hid in the fold of his saddle blanket, handed it to Teesy Gist and said;  “They have got me, you take this and ride for your life for this is what they are after.”  Teesey Gist made good his escape with the treaty, though he never returned to Texas.  I remember seeing the paper many times in later years as I grew up, I don’t know what became of it.

Page 415 - - Three family charts showing various relationships, as follows:

Teesey Gist (died 1869 Dutchers  Creek)

Daughter Sallie Gist married William Fields

Daughter of Sallie Gist and William Fields was Susan Fields Toney, born 1862

Teesey Gist

Daughter Kate Gist married Downing, children of Kate Gist Downing:

1.  Joseph Edward Downing (youngest 1883)

2.  Nannie - -  married L. McClure

3.  Lucile - - - married Van Jargill

4.  Teesey Downing

5.  George Downing

6.  Maude Downing

Lineage of Calvin H. Toney 

George Guess

Teesey Gist (Guess)

Sallie Fields

Susan Fields Toney

Calvin H. Toney, children of Calvin Toney are:

            Lucy Toney

            Ellis Toney

            Susie Toney 


Calvin Harrison Toney, Cherokee.
Texanna, Oklahoma.

August 11, 1937.

Indian-Pioneer History.

Jas. S. Buchanan, Field Worker.

The following, including genealogy of descent from Sequoyah, is compiled from authentic information and through the cooperation of Calvin Toney and his mother, Susan (Fields) Toney, she being the grand-daughter of Teasey Guess, the son of Sequoyah.

Sequoyah was born about 1770, in the old Cherokee country, within one of the present states of Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama; the exact location is unknown.

His father was a German peddler by the name of Gist, who, like many wandering traders of those days, came among the Indians to ply his trade, and during his stay among the Cherokees he chose a wife from among the Indians,  He, being an obscure wanderer, a part of the adventurous flotsam of the border of civilization, eventually deserted his wife.

Sequoyah was born soon after his father had deserted his mother, and he grew to manhood among the Cherokees and as his mother spoke only the Cherokee language, Sequoyah grew up without learning the English language.  His knowledge of English was gained in later years of his life, Sequoyah, from his father’s name, Gist, acquired the name George Guess.

During his boyhood he was afflicted with what is commonly called “white swelling” in a knee joint which caused a lameness that remained with him the remainder of his life.  Sequoyah was about five feet and nine inches in height, slender in form, a light sallow complexion and grey eyes.  In his dress he clung to the customs of his people, wearing a turban, hunting shirt, leggings and moccasins.  The Turban was a strip of cloth or a small shawl twisted about his head.  The hunting shirt was a loose sack coat made of buck skin or home spun woolen cloth that was made by the Cherokee women.  The moccasins were made from tanned buckskin.

The first vocation to which he adapted himself in early life was that of a blacksmith, later that of a silversmith.

Sequoyah’s first wife was Sallie of the Bird clan and his second wife was U-ti-yu of the Savanah clan.

His four children by his first wife were:

Tessey Guess, who married U-ti-yu and Rebecca Bowl.  He was born in 1789 and died September 17th, 1867.  His second wife, Rebecca Bowl was the daughter of Bowl, who was the leader of the band of Cherokees that emigrated from Mussel Shoals, on Tennessee River, to the St. Francis River country (now southeast Missouri) in 1794; moved to Petit Jean Creek on the south side of the Arkansas River in the winter of 1811-1812, finally removed to Texas in 1822 and became the leader of the Texas Cherokees.  While with Teesey Guess, resisting expulsion from Texas, Bowl was killed July 16th, 1839.

Sequoyahs’s second child by Sallie was George Guess, who lived to be grown but died without descent.  Richard or Chusaleta, the fourth child and third son, also lived to be grown and died without descent.

Sequoyah’s third child by Sallie was his daughter Polly who married Flying and Thomas Brewer.  She only had one child, Annie, who married Joseph Griffin and was the mother of Ti-du-gi-yo-sti.

Sequoyah had three children by his second wife, U-ti-yu, the eldest of whom was A-yo-gu Guess, who married George Starr and they were the parents of one son, Joseph Starr, who was born December 25th, 1873, and died without issue inn 1895.

Sequoyah’s second child by U-ti-yu was Oo-loo-tea, a daughter, who left no descent.

Sequoyah’s third child by his second wife was Gu-u-ne-ki, who married Tsu-du-li-tee-hee or Sixkiller and had one daughter, Araminta Sixkiller.

Sequoyah’s eldest son, Teesey, had three children by his first wife and three by is second wife.  His oldest child by his first wife, U-ti-yu, was George Guess, who married a Girty and they were the parents of two children, the elder of whom was Mary Guess, who married George Mitchell and Andrew Russell, and by the latter was the mother of one child only, George W. Russell, who was born on July 18th, 1880, and married Minnie Holston.

Teesey Guess’s second and third children by his first wife were respectively Richard and Joseph Guess, both of whom lived to be grown but died without issue.  

Teesey Guess’s children by Rebecca, his second wife, were first, Sallie, who married William Fields, whose Cherokee name was Tu-noo-ie.  They had one daughter, Susan Fields, who married Levi Toney and they were the parents of consecutively: Calvin Harrison Toney, Cicero Davis Toney, Margaret Toney and the twins, Catherine and Sallie Tooney.

Teesey Guess’s second child by Rebecca was a son, Joseph Guess, who lived to be grown but died without issue.

Teesey Guess’s third child by Rebecca was Catherine Guess.  she was born in 1851 and married on March 11th, 1867, Joseph Downing.  they were the parents of six Children as follows:

Nannie Downing, born February 1st, 1878.

Loucile Downing, born July 28th, 1881

Joseph Edward Downing, born march 22, 1883. Joseph Edward Downing is living in Texanna.

Teesey Downing, born ______ 
Maud Downing  
G. Downing, born February 13, 1890

At the time of this writing (1937), Susan (Fields) Toney, her son, Calvin Harrison Toney and his wife, who was Leona Davis, the daughter of Jug Davis, whom he married in 1906 and their five children, Lucy, Ellis, Susie, Surphronia and Sanders are all living on the original allotment of Susan (Fields) Toney, two and one half miles southeast of Texanna.  


One can't help but see mother said Sequoyah was born about 1760 while her son and interpreter said 1770. This was written in 1937. Notice than in 1937 there were still Cherokee who spoke no English at all. The great-great-grandson of Sequoyah said Sequoyah's father was a German peddler, NOT Nathaniel Gist of Kentucky. There are contradictions all over the place with respect to Sequoyah's parentage.
Another point of interest that I almost overlooked was that Sequoyah's granddaughter wrote that when he moved to Arkansas, he left his family east of the Mississippi. Did they remain in Alabama? Did they come to Oklahoma? I suspect that some move West and some might have remained in the East, as did many Cherokee of that era.

Cherokee Phoenix; Invention of the Cherokee Alphabet

This was written in 1828 by an acquaintance of Sequoyah’s, a Cherokee. It was published in the Cherokee Phoenix in both English and in Sequoyah’s own syllabry.  He was still alive at the time and he was a reader of every issue of the Cherokee Phoenix. Had he disagreed with what was said about his family, don’t you think he would have responded to it? It says that although he appeared to be full blood Cherokee, his paternal grandpa was a White man.

Sequoyah - according to an acquaintance

CHEROKEE PHOENIX Wednesday August 13, 1828 Volume 1 No. 24 Page 2 Col. 1a-2a


Mr. Editor- The following statement respecting the invention of the Cherokee Alphabet, may not be altogether uninteresting to some of your readers. I have it from a particular friend of Mr. Guess, who lived near him at the time he made his invention.

Mr. Guess is in appearance and habits, a full Cherokee, though his grandfather on his father's side was a white man. He has no knowledge of any language but the Cherokee, consequently, in his invention of the alphabet, he had to depend entirely on his own native resources. He was led to think on the subject of writing the Cherokee language by a conversation which took place one evening at Sauta. Some young men were making remarks on the superior talents of the white people. One said, that white men could put a talk on paper, and send it to any distance, and it would be understood by those who received it. They all agreed, that this was very strange, and they could not see how it could be done. Mr. Guess, after silently listening to their conversation for a while, raised himself, and putting on an air of importance, said, "you are all fools; why the thing is very easy; I can do it myself:" and, picking up a flat stone, he commenced scratching on it with a pin; and after a few minutes read to them a sentence, which he had written by making a mark for each word. This produced a laugh and the conversation on that subject ended. But the inventive powers of Guess's mind were now roused to action; and nothing short of being able to write the Cherokee language, would satisfy him- He went home, purchased materials, and sat down to paint the Cherokee language on paper. He at first thought of no way, but to make a character for each word. He pursued this plan for about a year; in which time he had made several thousand characters. He was then convinced that the object was not attainable in that way: but he was not discouraged. He firmly believed, that there was some way in which the Cherokee language would be expressed on paper, as well as the English: and, after trying several other methods, he at length conceived the idea of dividing the words into parts. He had not proceeded far on this plan, before he found, to his great satisfaction, that the same characters would apply, in different words, and the number of characters would be comparatively few. After putting down, and learning all the syllables that he could think of, he would listen to speeches, and whenever a word occurred which had a part, or syllable, in it, which he had not before thought of, he would bear it on his mind, until he had made a character for it. In this way he soon discovered all the syllables in the language. In forming his characters, he made some use of the English letters, as he found them in a spelling book, which he had in his possession. After commencing upon the last mentioned plan, I believe he completed his system in about a month.

During the time he was occupied in inventing the alphabet, he was strenuously opposed by all his friends and neighbors (sic). He was frequently told that he was throwing away his time and labor (sic), and that none but a delirious person, or an idiot, would do as he did. But this did not discourage him. He would listen to the expostulations of his friends, and then deliberately light his pipe, pull his spectacles over his eyes, and sit down to his work, without attempting to vindicate his conduct. After completing his system, he found much difficulty in persuading the people to learn it.- Nor could he succeed, until he went to the Arkansas and taught a few persons there, one of whom wrote a letter to some of his friends in the Nation, and sent it by Mr. Guess, who read it to the people. This letter excited much curiosity. Here was a talk in the Cherokee language, which had come all the way from the Arkansas sealed up in paper, and yet it was very plain. This convinced many that Mr. Guess' mode of writing would be of some use. Several persons immediately determined to try to learn. They succeeded in a few days, and from this it quickly spread all over the nation, and the Cherokees ( who as a people had always been illiterate,) were in the course of a few months, without school, or expense of time, or money, able to read and write in their own language.

This astonishing discovery certainly entitles Mr. Guess to the warmest gratitude of his country; and, should the Cherokee language continue to be spoken, his fame will be handed down to the latest posterity.


Please know that Sequoyah was still alive when this was written. He is known to have read every article and edition the Cherokee Phoenix ever published while he was still alive. He knew that it was written that his paternal GRANDFATHER was a White man, and NOT his FATHER. The Cherokee Nation's own website says Sequoyah's father was HALF Indian and his mother was a full blood. If she was full blood, she WAS NOT A WATTS! And if his father was half-Cherokee as is stated on the Cherokee Nation's website, then his father WAS NOT Nathaniel Gist of Kentucky! There is one more writing about Sequoyah I want to find online. Hope to find it. 

There is another article written during Sequoyah's lifetime. The following was written in the Arkansas Gazette in 1837.

Chronicles of Oklahoma; Volume 11, No. 1; March, 1933

The Arkansas Gazette for June, 1837 carried the following advertisement:

"Just published and for sale at office of Arkansas Gazette 'Sketch of the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians,' by John Stuart, Captain U. S. Army, price 37 ½c."

I found this advertisement a number of years ago and have been searching since then in all the libraries of the country and book lists of rare book dealers to locate a copy of this sketch, but in vain. The following extract from the Arkansas Gazette gives a suggestion of the interesting content of Stuart's pamphlet.

We will give another interesting extract. It relates to the struggles and the triumphs of genius, and shows that intellect is not confined to any particular color, and that, in the difficulties he had to encounter, in the perseverance he evinced, and in the success he experienced, George Guess may be ranked with those early pioneers of type and letters, Wynken de Worde and John Caxton.

"George Guess, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, is a man of about sixty years of age. He is of a middle stature, and of rather a slender form, and is slightly lame in one leg, from disease when young. His features are remarkably regular, and his face well formed, and rather handsome. His eyes are animated and piercing, showing indications of a brilliancy of intellect far superior to the ordinary portion of his fellow men. His manner is agreeable, and his deportment gentlemanly. He possesses a mild disposition, and is patient, but is energetic and extremely persevering and determined in the pursuit or accomplishment of any object on which he may fix his mind. He is inquisitive, and appears to be exceedingly desirous of acquiring information on all subjects. His mind seems to soar high and wide; and if he could have had the advantages of an enlightened education, he would no doubt have brought himself to rank high among the acknowledged great men of the age in which he lives. He has been in the habit, ever since he could apply his language in that way, of keeping a journal of all the passing events which he considered worthy of record: and has, at this time, (it is said), quite a volume of such matter.

"His connection in blood with the whites, is on the side of the father. His mother was a fullblood Cherokee; and he was raised entirely among the uncultivated portion of the Cherokees, and never received much, if any, advantage from an intercourse with the whites. He does not speak one word of the English language. From a very early age, he has possessed a natural talent for drawing, and very far surpasses any man in his nation in that art; but he never received any kind of instruction from any practical artist. He can draw a horse, hog, deer, &c. remarkably well; and no man in the United States can surpass him in drawing a buffalo. He can also draw rough portraits, a circumstance which, connected with his fondness for drawing, contributed very much toward inducing him to attempt the formation of a type for his language.

"Mr. Guess, when engaged in the very laudable purpose of inventing his alphabet, had to encounter many very serious obstacles, and which but few men would have surmounted. No one had the least confidence in the success of his project, and thought him to be laboring under a species of mental derangement on that subject. He was laughed at by all who knew him, and was earnestly besought by every member of his own family to abandon a project which was occupying and diverting so much of his time from the important and essential duties which he owed to his family—they being, in some measure, dependent on his daily labor for their subsistence. But no argument or solicitation could induce him to change his determination. And although he was under the necessity of working much at night, by lights made from burning pine, he persisted until he accomplished fully the object of his desire. Even after he had completed the alphabet, and the art of applying it to writing, and when he was fully able to write any thing that he might wish, and when he made records in books, and kept a running book account of his monied transactions, &c.— even then, it was with great difficulty that he could induce the members of his own family to believe that it was any thing more than a wild delusion. At length, however, he prevailed upon one of his young daughters to learn of him his newly invented alphabet, and its arrangement, she being the only one of his family, and in fact the only person, he could prevail on to undertake the supposed useless task. She made rapid progress in learning, and soon became able to write and read with ease and fluency any thing the father would write. This began to open the eyes of the family and of some of the neighbors, but did not prove to be entirely satisfactory. A meeting, therefore, was held, of the people, on the subject, and by separating the father and daughter, and requiring them to write, as dictated to, by the company, and to read, while separated, the writing of each as dictated to them by others, and that being accordingly done in every instance, led the persons present into a full conviction of the truth, as well as the utility, of the invention. And several of the most influential men in the nation immediately learned it, and discovering all its practical advantages, recommended it in high terms to the people. From that time it spread into a general use; and the people of the nation are at this day in the full enjoyment of its great benefits.

"George Guess, in forming an alphabet for the Cherokee language, found that eighty-six distinct characters would be necessary. To make so many distinct figures differing so much in their shape, as to be easily distinguished from each other, and, at the same time, to be easily and quickly made with a pen on paper, was a matter of much difficulty. But, being one day on a public road, he found a piece of newspaper, which had been thrown aside by a traveler, which he took up, and, on examining it, found characters on it that would be more easily made than his own, and consequently picked out for that purpose the largest of them, which happened to be the Roman letters, and adopted them in lieu of so many of his own characters—and that, too, without knowing the English name or meaning of a single one of them. This is to show the cause and manner of the Roman letters being adopted."

We would fain give some extracts from the Choctaw sketches, but must delay it to another time. We hope Captain Stuart will favor us soon with as interesting a sketch of the other prominent Indian tribes already west. His position gives him favorable advantages for the task, and we doubt not his ability will be competent to the task.


Sequoyah lived in Arkansas from the mid/early 1820s until 1828 when the Cherokee were ordered to leave Arkansas for Oklahoma. However once in Oklahoma he lived between Sallisaw and the Arkansas border. Since Sallisaw is less than ten miles from the Arkansas border, and since the Arkansas newspaper in question came from Ft. Smith, which is also on the order of the two states, he lived but a few miles from the area where the newspaper was printed.

Again, we have that his Caucasian blood was on his father's side. Again it is recorded that his mother was a FULL BLOOD! Was she a Watts, or not? We have conflicting information as to whether her mother was a Watts or not just as we have information about his  father that often conflicts. Also of note is that the author of this article, a soldier from the Fort Gibson/Fort Smith area, a Captain John Stuart, says that he was about 60 years of age. Since this was written in 1837, that would put his birth about 1777. Some accounts place his birth at closer to 1760 or 1765. People who just read one article about him will miss all the conflicting information. You must dig deeper or you will be fooled.

Last Minute Addendum

There is also some confusion as to when Sequoyah migrated west of the Mississippi. Per haps some of that confusion is die to the record left in the Cherokee Emigration Rolls 1818-1835. My copy was Transcribed by Jack D. Baker. On page 5 there is listed: Date: 21 May 1818; #187; Sequoyah or Sand Hill Crane; # in family: 1; residence: Willstown. Beside his name is an asterick. At the beginning, on page one, there is an editors note -- [editor's note: Those names proceeded by an asterick indicate that those individuals are not on the list of families who actually did emigrate to the west.] From this account, one might suspect that Sequoyah did not emigrate west at that time.

However if that is all we look at and all we conclude, we would be mistaken. Look forward to page 7 where we see the following record: Date: 23 May 1818; name: George Gess; # in family: 12; residence: Willstown. There is no asterick by his name. This means he DID travel to Arkansas at that time. It is possible he went on the 21st alone just to ask questions, and returned two days later. It is more prepared for his long journey. He was known to have return East, I believe in 1821, stayed a short while, then returned to Arkansas.