Sunday, March 10, 2013

Misconceptions: Doublehead, Priber, and Yahoo Falls

            Now I don't like eating too much fat. So in order to get mostly meat I usually cut off most of the fat. Likewise, to get at the truth, which is the meat, first you have to cut off the fat, which are the lies.
            Did Doublehead die in Kentucky or the Cherokee Nation? Was Priber important to the Cherokee or was he just hated by the English, so they invented tales about him? And was there a yahoo Falls massacre, mentioned by Collins but not Troxell? Just do an internet search and you’ll see true believers all over the internet. This paper covers all three topics.
The following is part of a conversation I once had online with Jerri Chastain, former registrar of the Cherokee Elder Society, now deceased, and deeply missed by all who cherish rational genealogical research. Now that her voice is stilled, more and more nonsensical genealogical comments go unchallenged.
Dated August 21st and 22nd, 2004
Vance (me):
I found the following online --
I have a couple of questions about this account (below) that I'll ask in the next post, as this one is long enough as is for now.
In 1796, Chief Doublehead had become the Speaker for the Cherokee Nation and became the chief spokesman for all negotiations with the Federal government. There were 3 cessions made of Cherokee lands in 1798 and it was common knowledge that Doublehead had prospered as a result. By 1804, he had become a prosperous land owner with about two dozen slaves. The Secretary of War, Dearborn, in fact, had given instructions that all agents were to deal specifically with Doublehead on the assumption he could be bribed. In 1805, Dearborn had Col. Return Jonathan Meigs acquire several valuable tracts of land with the promise that two tracts at the mouth of the Clinch and Hiwasee Rivers be exclusively for Doublehead's use. To add fuel to the fire, Doublehead had also leased several tracts at Muscle Choals to white farmers from a treaty he signed in Dec. 1806.
By this time, a Cherokee faction led by James Vann, Major Ridge, and Alexander Saunders decided Doublehead should die for his crimes. Vann had a family score to settle. Doublehead had married a sister to Vann's wife and had treated her brutally, beating her to death while she was pregnant.
Therefore, the three men decided to execute the traitor in Aug. 1807, when the Cherokees collected the annual annuity from the Federal agent. However, on the way, Vann fell ill and could not continue. On Aug. 9, 1807, Ridge and Saunders arrived at McIntosh's Tavern on the Hiwassee and waited for an opportunity. Doublehead had been playing ball 3 miles away where he had killed a man called Bone-Polisher who had become abusive. Therefore, he didn't arrive until after dark, half drunk. Suddenly, Ridge blew out the candle in the Tavern and fired a shot at Doublehead which shattered his jaw.
Having thought they killed him, they slipped out into the dark. However, they soon learned the tavern keeper had moved the wounded Chief to his house and then again to the loft of a Mr. Black, who taught in Gideon Blackburn's school.
             [Vance’s note: Jonathan Black DID teach there. In COLONEL RETURN JONATHAN MEIGS;  Day Book Number 2; By James L. Douthat; we have the following -- To cash d'd [delivered] to Jonathan Black, the School Master by request of Mr. Gideon Blackburn 100 dollars. Now back to Jerri’s reply to my querry].    
By then, two men from Bone Polisher's clan had joined them and together they rushed the room where Doublehead lay. As they approached, the wounded chief sprang up, drew a dirk, and tried to draw a pistol but was caught up in the sheet around him. Both Ridge and Saunders leveled their guns at him but misfired. Doublehead then grappled with Ridge but Saunders drove his tomahawk into Doublehead's skull so hard that it took two hands and a foot to pry it loose.
After the killing, most of the Cherokees felt it was justified and his relatives were not forced by clan responsibility to exact revenge. This led to the abolition of clan revenge at the Council of Broomstown on Sept. 11, 1808. However, James Vann was killed in 1809 possibly for his part in the execution."
have these questions --
i.] Is the previous account true?
ii.] What is the source of it? It wasn't given.
iii.] I have an ancestor John Brown who married Polly Black, 1820, Lawrence County, Alabama. Their son David B Brown married Harriet Guess and they moved to Arkansas David and Hariet had a daughter Josephine Brown, who married my great grandpa and they moved into IT in 1872.
I was wonderin' if anyone knew anything more about Jonathan Black, I believe he was a White school teacher at Hiwassee School. I read that school existed from @ 1804-1814. It was to Jonathan Black's house (according to the previous account) that Doublehead fled after being wounded. He was killed apparently at the Black's home.
Question -- I can't find where Jonathan Black lived before he became a teacher or where he went after the school closed down -- nothing at all. It was a Presbytarian School and there are many Cherokee Brown's associated with the Presbytarian Brainard Mission of that same time frame. So I was wonderin' about it. Jonathan Black may or may not have been Polly's dad -- but I'd like to find out if he was, and if he was Polly's dad, who was her mother?
Thanks. This might just be another wild goose chase, but I don't know any other way to find out.
all help appreciated
Vance Hawkins
            Now I ramble and ramble, often rattling on long after I should shut up. I know this. Jerri was more to the point.
Jerri Chastain:
The account- with a few deviations- corresponds with the account told to the missionaries and recorded in the Spring Place Moravian Diary. However, in that account Doublehead was accosted in the home of Mr. Black (NO first name!). A couple of shots missed, then the lights went out. When the light was restored, Doublehead lay dead from the blow with the hatchet. Only three people was present, and all three denied striking the fatal blow.
I have no further information on your Jonathan Black- but as I said above- there was no first name listed for this "Mr. Black".
P.S.-- Those people who are trying to claim descent from someone called "Princess Cornblossom- the daughter of Doublehead" and have visited "Doublehead's grave" IN KY, should note that the place of his death -- and burial was NOT in KY, it was in the part of the Cherokee Nation that became GA and there is no evidence that he had a daughter named "Cornblossom".

            About Jerri
            At the website below is found her obituary --
            Pryor, Oklahoma; The Daily Times; Thursday July 23, 2009
Jerri Gearldine Chasteen
Graveside funeral services for Jerri Gearldine (Rogers) Chasteen, 81, Claremore, are Friday, July 24, 10 a.m., at Fairview Cemetery in Pryor. Services are under the direction of Key Funeral Home of Pryor.
She was born May 28, 1928 in Pryor, to Earl Jessie Rogers and Olga Nancy Williams. She died July 21, in Claremore. She attended the first eight years of school in Pryor and completed her education in California, where she achieved an associates degree in Business Administration and Accounting. She enjoyed several occupations in her professional life. She worked for American Airlines and Douglas Aircraft. She became a licensed private investigator and worked for the Fletcher detective agency in Tulsa. She and her husband later ran the CB shop and Truckers store in the Cherokee Truck Stop at Big Cabin. They became known from coast to coast by the truckers as “Copperhead and Deacon.” “Deacon,” Cloys Dwight Chasteen preceded her in death in 1984. She retired from the truck stop after Dwight died and decided to focus her passion on Cherokee Tribal history and became a certified professional genealogist. She worked closely with Lee Fleming HR, and the Cherokee Nation to promote accurate research practices. She also worked with the National Archives and the Mormons library in Salt Lake as she established the Cherokee Archival Project, collecting and translation of historical records relating to all of the 5 civilized tribes. She became the first Head Registrar for the Cherokee Elders Society, and worked as Vice President of the Twin Territory Historical Society for several terms. She was a board member of the Native American Arts Council. During the 80s and 90s, the Oklahoma Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court considered her qualified to give “expert testimony” on Cherokee History and Cherokee Citizenship Rights.
Her dedication to the creation of accurate records for valid tribal citizenship was her passion. Until her death, she maintained the leadership of several online group sites such as on and
Much of her considerable research archives will be donated to the Pryor Library in hopes that everyone will be able to research their ancestors locally.
Family will greet friends Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., at Key Funeral Home in Pryor.
            If she was qualified to give “expert testimony” on Cherokee History before the United States Supreme Court, then don’t you think she probably knew where and when Doublehead was killed? Don’t you think her statement that “there is no evidence that he [meaning Doublehead] had a daughter named Cornblossom” bears more strength than Dr Tankersley, whom I suspect doesn’t carry the same credentials, with respect to being considered as an “expert witness” before the United States Supreme Court, on the topic of “Cherokee History”? So I guess it boils down to who do you believe, Jerri or him? Although I didn’t know her, we did correspond a few times via email. My money goes on her.
            Again she is sorely missed, and I don’t see anyone coming along who can replace her.
            Christian Priber
            In both Troxell’s account, Christian Priber is mentioned as a man of some importance. Indeed, he has Doublehead marrying Priber’s daughter. Other historians and researchers, usually amateur researchers, say the same, he influenced Cherokee culture. Do you want to know what the Cherokee say about him? Robert Conley, Cherokee author of many, many books, both historical fact and historical fiction, was commissioned to write a history of the Cherokee Nation by the Cherokee Nation. The result was The Cherokee Nation, A History” published in 2005. Here is what he said about Priber, page 37:
            Once again, the English chroniclers and their followers who have blindly followed them have given us a tale full of contradictions. Priber was German, but was a French agent. He was a Jesuit priest, but railed against religion. He was a dangerous French agent who urged the Cherokee to trade with both the French and English . . . Among a matrilineal society, he spoke of wives as property without being killed, thrown out of town, or even laughed at. Among a people with a strong clan system, he advocated that children be raised as ‘public property’ . . . The man himself has been painted as a bundle of contradictions, and the idea he is supposed to have proposed to the Cherokees and supposed to have influenced them would never have been listened to by Cherokees. The entire tale is ludicrous.
             Conley goes on to say the Chiefs DID LIKE Priber, there is NO WAY he could have influenced the Cherokee in the manner usually inscribed to him. He states the English hated him, suspected him of being a French agent, and the charges against him might just have fabricated by the English as a means of silencing him. He died in prison, which was very convenient for the English. But he concluded the idea he is supposed to have proposed to the Cherokees and supposed to have influenced them would never have been listened to by Cherokees. The entire tale is ludicrous.
            Unfortunately Conley doesn’t answer the question of just who Doublehead’s earliest wife was. We know he married in the Vanns and also the Chickasaw Colbert’s. Did he have other wives? There is no documented evidence he married a daughter of Priber named Creat, or that such a daughter even existed – that is just a story. Since Jerri Chasteen says there is no evidence Cornblossom ever existed, I think it is safe to say that there is no evidence that her mother, Creat Priber, ever existed, either. Troxell, the inventor of this story, gives no proofs or explanation for it. Troxell did say some of the characters were fictitious. Maybe Cornblossom was one of them.

            More About Robert Conley
            From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
           Robert J. Conley (born 1940) is a Cherokee author and enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, a federally recognized tribe of American Indians.[1] In 2007, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.[2]
            Above site list's many of his books

             Perry v. Collins and Troxel
Samuel D. Perry and I emailed back and forth several years back. He wrote an excellent book, “South Fort Country”. He freely talks about mixed-blood families moving into the area and says (page 106); After 1805, no Cherokee had any legal claim to South Fork Country [Vance’s note: meaning Wayne, McCleary, and neighboring counties in Southern Kentucky] . . . though they did not own the land, Cherokees continued to be a visible part of the regional scene. Many individual Cherokees had allied themselves with White families through marriage . . . The mixed blood offspring of these marriages blended easily into the frontier scene and experienced few difficulties as a result of their racial heritage.
He talks of his own family as well, living in the ara and hearing those stories about Doublehead, and says as a child he believed them. He came to a point where he changed his mind about those stories. He forwarded me a couple of his writings. One he said was the property of of a news outlet and I didn’t have permission to share it with others. But he said the of the other, that I could share it however I saw fit. The writing that he graciously allowed meto share is below --;

Located in McCreary County, Kentucky, Yahoo Falls is considered to be Kentucky's highest waterfall, although it is believed that a similar waterfall in the Red River Gorge exceeds Yahoo Falls in height by a few inches. It is a very scenic waterfall and is surrounded by magnificent vistas and natural arches. In the gorge into which Yahoo Falls plunges there exists a rarity in Kentucky, a sizeable tract of virgin timber, protected from harvest over the years by the inaccessibility of the gorge.
When the Cumberland National Forest was created in 1937, ownership of the Falls and surrounding second-growth timberland passed to the Federal government and management of it was entrusted to the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture. Always off the beaten track, so to speak, the Yahoo Falls area languished for more than twenty years as the Forest Service gave the land an opportunity to heal itself after decades of high-grade logging abuse, uncontrolled burning, and erosion.
In 1953, supervision of the Cumberland National Forest was assigned to Robert F. Collins, a professional forester, sportsman, and far-sighted manager of natural resources. Collins was also a history buff and admirer of the Kentucky explorer and pioneer, Daniel Boone. So much so, that in 1966, he was almost solely responsible for having the name of the Cumberland National Forest changed to that of Daniel Boone National Forest. In his seventeen-year tenure as Forest Supervisor, Collins made a name for himself as a progressive land manger and undertook many innovative projects that transformed the Forest from a virtual wasteland into a haven for lovers of outdoor recreation and a sustainable source of wood products.
Collins had a sincere interest in the history of the region that became the Daniel Boone National Forest and sought to establish sites on the Forest where that history could be used to attract visitors and educate the general public. As a Boone enthusiast, he was, naturally, attracted to the northern reaches of the Forest where Boone had spent most of his time while in Kentucky. However, the southern districts could not be ignored and Collins began to look around for something he could use as a basis for interpreting the history of that region. He found it in an obscure booklet entitled LEGION OF THE LOST MINE, published in 1958 by a Scott County, Tennessee resident, Thomas Harlan Troxel.
LEGION OF THE LOST MINE is a short collection of stories based upon the traditions of the Troxel family and centers around an intriguing person in the history of the Cherokee, Chief Doublehead. In the book, Troxel creates additional characters to supplement the Doublehead story. Big Jake, Princess Cornblossom, Hans Blackberne, and the romantic Brave Tuckahoe all romp through the pages of LEGION OF THE LOST MINE like characters in a Walt Disney drama. Although Thomas H. Troxel was careful to note in the foreword to his book that the names of some of the characters are fictitious, many well-meaning persons have used his work as a framework upon which to build a fraudulent history of the region drained by the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. Robert Collins used it to create the Yahoo Falls Recreation Area on the Stearns Ranger District.
Knowing that it would be cost-prohibitive to attempt to extract the mature timber from within the Yahoo Creek gorge, the decision was made to turn Yahoo Falls into a scenic attraction and lure visitors to the Stearns Ranger District. An all-weather road was built from the Alum Ford road to the top of the gorge and a picnic area was established with sources of potable water, fire pits, and toilets. Trails were constructed and a long flight of steel stairs led visitors down into the gorge past towering cliffs and nearly vertical slopes lush with mountain laurel, rhododendron, and not a few threatened and endangered species of plants.
For the history buffs, Collins ordered the construction of a cemetery at the entrance to the Yahoo Falls Recreation Area. This cemetery would contain only one grave, that of a Jacob Troxel, one of the major players in LEGION OF THE LOST MINE. With the help of a local congressman, a government-issued marker was acquired and installed at the head of the "grave". The marker would identify Jacob Troxel as a veteran of the Philadelphia County Militia in the Revolutionary War.
Today, management of the Yahoo Falls area is the responsibility of the National Park Service and hundreds of visitors come to stand under the immense overhang beneath the Falls and to navigate the trails that penetrate the pristine creek gorge. Presumably, some of these visitors also pause at the entrance and look at the lone gravestone enclosed by a rustic fence, not knowing that the stone stands over an empty grave, and that it honors a man who, in all probability, never existed. To his credit, in LEGION OF THE LOST MINE, Thomas H. Troxel never mentions Jacob Troxel, referring, instead, only
to a Big Jake, going so far, even, as to suggest that he might be "Jacob the conjuror, as spoken of in connection with Indians in Virginia colonial history." However, because of the intercession of Robert Collins and others, it has been assumed that Big Jake was, indeed, Jacob Troxel.
Shortly after his retirement, in 1970, Robert Collins was commissioned by the Forest Service to write a history of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Since its publication in 1975, A HISTORY OF THE DANIEL BOONE NATIONAL FOREST has become the definitive work (and the only work) on the subject, even though it has been the object of negative criticism within the agency, itself. In his book, Collins perpetuates the Big Jake-Princess Cornblossom-Chief Doublehead legend and enhances it, going so far as to lend credence to what is, perhaps, the most notorious of the myths, the alleged massacre of innocent Cherokee at Yahoo Falls by Indian-hating whites. This grievous indictment of the non-Indian citizens of Wayne County, Kentucky, particularly the Gregory family, is an unforgivable breach of professional ethics by Collins or any reputable historian. By making such charges without proof, Collins ensures that he can never be taken seriously as a historian and leaves all of his work open to question and debate. In his wisdom, even Thomas H. Troxel makes no mention of a massacre at Yahoo Falls in his published writings.
For many years, I was a believer in the Big Jake-Princess Cornblossom-Yahoo Falls Massacre legend. When I undertook the research which culminated in the publication of my own book, SOUTH FORK COUNTRY, I quickly learned that much of what I had believed in my younger days about the legend was based upon pure speculation, wishful thinking, and, as time went on, deliberate attempts to deceive. After much study, I concluded that, although there was, indeed, a Chief Doublehead (though bearing no resemblance to the Doublehead of the legend), both Big Jake (Troxel) and Princess Cornblossom were, both, simply, figments of Thomas H. Troxel's imagination and that the Yahoo Falls Massacre was simply an add-on to the legend designed to serve personal agendas.
The oft-repeated (even on the Internet) story of a mass murder at Yahoo Falls is based, not upon empirical data, but upon hearsay and revisionist history. It is an unconscionable smear of the descendants of Hiram Gregory, who is charged with leading the assault upon the Cherokees, and serves, not to unite the people of the Big South Fork region, but to divide them.
In the past, good, but misinformed persons have sought to create a heritage for the people living within the drainage basin of the Big South Fork whom they regarded as having none. They used their influence to put up historical markers and headstones, wrote about the region in national forest histories, and, patronizingly, tried to give what they thought was the region's due. They cannot be faulted for this because they did what they believed was right. But, we are at the dawn of a new era in historical research and the citizens of Wayne, Pulaski, and McCreary counties now know that their true heritage can be based upon real people and real events. We must not be afraid to subject our sacred cows of tradition to the historical method and evaluate the data objectively and responsibly. I have done that to the Chief Doublehead-Big Jake-Cornblossom-Yahoo Falls Massacre, and have found it to be what it always will be-a series of fanciful stories not based upon factual evidence.
Samuel D. Perry, Copyright: 2002
So although there were admittedly many mixed race families living in the area where some of our Gist’s lived, the stories you see online mentioning Cornblossom, Tuckahoe, and the Yahoo Falls Massacre – these people and events are fictitious.







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