Monday, May 29, 2017

The Identity of Sequoyah's Father is STILL a Mystery, Part 1

I am taking on one more writing project – the paternity of Sequoyah. I didn’t want to write this because it gets so involved, so complicated. But my position on this topic has been misrepresented and I need to set the record straight. As a child I’d heard stories of us being related to Sequoyah. I’m sixty-four years old, now. Although I have only been seriously looking into this for the last 20 years, I’ve been contemplating it for half of a century, as had my father for over a half a century before me.

In some respects it is my fault. I thought I'd made this clear, but apparently I hadn't. I usually cover just the tip of the iceberg. There is far more that I have never mentioned than there is that I have covered in writing. My mistake. I should have written this specifically, long ago. I thought I had. Apparently I hadn't. Now I'd like to thank "others" for "spurring" me on to write this up. I don't like how those spurs feel when someone pokes my ribs and belly with 'em -- but they get me goin', raising a fuss until I toss that back, rib, and belly stabber off  'o me.

The first part of this report will be the case for Nathaniel Gist, my own ancestor, as being Sequoyah's father. It isn't proof, it is evidence. I have ALWAYS only provided evidence, but some are accusing me claiming that I have claimed that I descent from Sequoyah -- I HAVE NEVER SAID THAT! Future "parts" of this study will include other candidates for Sequoyah's father and the many contradictory statements both pro and con, on this topic.

Anyhow,  misleading accusations resulted in me deciding I needed to make my own position on the paternity of Sequoyah as clear as I could. This is why I am writing this entire project about the paternity of Sequoyah. This is a huge project and will probably take months, maybe a year or more – so I’d better get started.
Dad's Family Story
Dad's photo (1915-1992) from his drivers license. I use this photo because it was a legal Id. Here in Oklahoma, we used to have our social security number on our drivers license. I have crossed that out. Dad passed in '92 and mama in 2002. Most of the important things were gone before I looked at the items in their old home. But I noticed a small gray case was still in their old bedroom. It had some of dad's old belongings that mama had kept. It was his old WW2 photographs from Hawaii, other items, some of his old keepsakes from when he'd been in what he called "the C. C.'s", but was actually the C. C. C's -- Civilian Conservation Corps. But she'd also saved two of his old drivers license. Since these can be used as a legal Id., I share them when trying to prove our American Indian heritage. No one can say I took photos of a random stranger and claimed him as "dad". His name is on my birth certificate. My y-chromosonal DNA (passed down from father to son) matches that of a large bunch of Hawkins', the surname of which can be traced back to Kent in southern England, and my Hawkins ancestors were DEFINITELY of Saxon origin. DNA evidence makes that clear.

Dad used to talk about his Indian heritage. When strangers would ask dad if he was Indian, and I remember this happening, he'd always look embarrassed and say, "Oh I have a little Indian blood, not much." He'd always downplay it. I also remember one of dad's stories. He was a natural born story teller. I also remember my nephew going up to him and saying, "Grand dad, tell me a story" and Dad'd be off talking about his childhood, growing up in southwestern Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, the C. C.'s or World War Two. The very things that he'd shy away from discussing among strangers, he'd relish talking about to family.

 I remember Dad telling me the following story when I was a boy. He said when he was a child, he only got to go to school until the 8th grade. He was raised during the Dust Bowl Era in Southwestern Oklahoma, and he had to go to work to help the family pay their bills. There was no time for school. But while he was going to school, one of his classes was “Oklahoma History”. His grandparents, Jeffrey and Josephine (Brown) Richey, lived on the neighboring farm. Some days Dad said he stopped off at their home before continuing to his own home after the school day was over. 
Well Dad said one day when he stopped at his grand-parents place, his grandma looked through his “Oklahoma History” book. He said she stopped at the picture of an Indian in the book and said to him; "Do you know you are related to him?” Now I recall often hearing that story when I was young. And Dad clearly thought he was related to Sequoyah as in 1976 he purchased a bi-centennial edition of Dub West’s book, “The Mysteries of Sequoyah”, signed by the author. It says behind the opening hard bound cover; “Bicentennial Edition, 387 of  1,000 copies” beside his signature. Under that it says “Muscogee Publishing Company", Box 1331, Muscogee, Oklahoma, 74401".

The elderly lady in this photo is Dad's grandma, Josephine (Brown) Richey, 1854-1932. Dad was born in 1915 and they grew up on neighboring farms, so  Dad knew her for the first 16 or 17 years of his life.

The car is what I believe to be a "Model T Ford". The elderly lady is Dad's grandma, the lady who told him he was related "to an Indian" who's portrait was in his Oklahoma History textbook. The photo is was probably taken in the late 1920s, as she died in 1932. The young man in the photo, I was told, is Dad's older brother, Uncle Andrew. I have seen a copy of this photo that had All of Uncle Andrew in it. He was partially cropped out by a cousin who said she didn't know who he was and they just wanted a photo of great grandma.
Now Dad passed away in October 1992. A few years before that, I finally got around to asking him about his story; the story he told about being related to the man in the portrait of an Indian in the Oklahoma History textbook. It was probably in the mid 1980s that I asked him. The only reply I ever got from Dad though, was, “I just don’t remember;” when I asked which Indian his grandma had shown him. I even found an old Oklahoma History textbook and showed him a picture taken from a famous painting, I believe it was King’s, and he still said “I just don’t remember.” But since his great grandma’s maiden name was Harriet Guess, I always assumed it was Sequoyah. And I recall cousins mention "Sequoyah" by name. I don't recall Dad saying that exactly, though. I just wish I'd asked him years earlier.
I think this is the picture that was in the old Oklahoma History book but it might have been another, This is supposed to be a copy of Charles Bird King's portrait of Sequoyah.

Aunt Lorena’s Family Story about Sequoyah
After Dad, Uncle Andrew and Aunt Lula passed away, I realized if I wanted to have any other stories about our Indian blood, I'd have to ask Aunt Lorena, the last of her generation. So I wrote her and asked her if she ever heard any family stories about us being related to Sequoyah. Below is what she replied. Now there was originally a fifth page in which she said she was “quite sure” her mother had said that Harriet (Lona Richey, Aunt Lorena's mother, was the daughter of Josephine Brown, and Josie's mother was Harriet Guess/Gist) was Sequoyah's “niece or great niece”. There were only 4 or 5 lines on that fifth page, but what it said was important.  I don’t know what became of page five. I have transcribed the majority of her letter, and I had part of page five transcribed on my computer before I lost it. Counting what I'd transcribed, I believe I am just missing one sentence, at most two.

Here is a picture of grandma.

That vine behind her is honey suckle. I was about ten years old when she passed away, but I still remember her taking a bloom from that vine, and showing me how to suck the "honey" out of the bloom. Grandma told her daughter, Aunt Lorena, about our relationship to Sequoyah. Aunt Lorena married a G. I. from Fort Sill during WW2. After the war they moved to his home in Indianapolis, Indiana, but every month or so, as long as they both lived, mama and her sister-in-law, Aunt Lorena would talk to one another on the telephone. Like Dad was always close to mama's brother, Uncle Haven, mama was always close to Aunt Lorena. Mama's family, the Plaster's, lived on the other side of the Richey's, Dad's grandparents. There was the Hawkins place where Dad was raised, followed by the Richey's and the Plaster place after that. So Mama and Dad's families were always close.  Here is the transcription of Aunt Lorena's letter to me:

Dear Vance and wife

I am sorry I have been so slow answering your letter. I have no idea what I could tell you that you don’t already know.

The reason I am so late answering is I had an accident at a dinner theater here in town during intermission. I have no idea how it happened unless I tripped on a man’s coat lying on the floor or someone may have pushed me. I fractured my shoulder and hip on the left side. Have spent almost two months in rehab hospitals. I walked the first time last week. I’m home now and will have rehab at home. I tire easily.

I remember more about what our mother told us than grandmother Richey. We had a wonderful grandmother and I suppose she talked more about Sequoyah to the boys than to us girls. Alpha was almost 6 years older than I. She was a Brown before she married grandfather Richey. Her mother was a Guess before she married great grandfather Brown. I think mama said she was a niece of George Guess, “Sequoyah”. He was known as a Cherokee intellect. I have some literature on him. He was never a Cherokee chief but was called upon to deal with the U. S. Government. He did live in Indian Territory as well as Arkansas. He had a home in Sallisaw, Ok. I don’t know if it still exists. He was born in 1778 in a small Cherokee village of Tuscegee in Tennessee. He is known for inventing the Cherokee alphabet. I remember a lot about him in our Oklahoma History.

Our mother looked a lot like some Indian trait, as well as her sister Aunt Bea, Uncle Hoten, Uncle Will, and Uncle Swan. I saw a picture of Uncle Hoten and Uncle Otho (he died in 1917 or 1918). A school picture of the old Holton school just about a mile and ½  from where we were raised South and East of Manitou. They definitely showed Indian blood, very nice looking, though. The Cherokee were the most civilized of the “Five Civilized Tribes.”

Grandpa and Grandma Richey came to Indian Territory before Oklahoma became a state. They lived in covered wagons when Mama and Aunt Bea were little girls. I used to love to hear her talk and tell when they were children. Aunt Etta drove a team of oxen while grandpa and I suppose Uncle Swan drove the others/horses. Sage grass was taller than mama and Aunt Bea. Grandmother made little red caps for them to wear when they went out to play. Both Andrew and Raymond were born before Oklahoma became a state. They and Cecil were born in a half dugout. Our Aunt Zora (Uncle Swan’s wife) was the mid-wife to the three boys. Grandmother Richey delivered Lula. They were having a snow storm and the doctor couldn’t get there until she was three days old. I think Doctor Comp delivered the rest of us kids. He lived in Manitou.

I know you didn’t ask for –

[Note: And I no longer have the last page. But I did save in one place on my computer some excerpts of her letter. The following was on page five.]

I know you didn’t ask for a lot of the things I have written. I’m proud of them and still love to think about their early lives, so different from today . . .

I’m quite sure it was Great-grandmother Brown who was a Guess and was a niece or great niece of George Guess.

With love and best wishes, 

Aunt Lorena

Aunt Lorena mentions her Uncles in a school photograph. Here is that school photo, It was called "South Deep Red School", an old one room rural school,  named after the nearest Creek that ran directly into Red River.
Aunt Lorena mentioned her two uncles, grandma's brothers, who were called "O-ther" and Hoten. His name though, was O-tho. I don't know why they added an "r" when his name was mentioned. Hoten was the name of the other great uncle, but they added an "l" that wasn't there in this photograph. I have "blown up" my two great uncles in this photo.

Here's great uncle Otho

And here's a blow up of great uncle Hoten taken from that school photo --

Aunt Lorena also mentioned her Aunt Bea, grandma's sister. There really aren't many pictures of us when they were young. Here's the only picture I have of great Aunt Bea.

Family Story of our relationship to Sequoyah As Told by the Descendants of Great Uncle Oscar Richey, Grandma’s Brother
I had written something about our relationship to Sequoyah as told by family stories and what little I'd gleaned from research. The following comment on that blog entry arrived 25 Mar 2014. 

As the great grandson of Oscar T. Richey, Grandson of Leora Richey Rusmisel. I remember coming across a Kiowa County history book that claimed of Oscar being the DIRECT descendant of Sequoyah. So I always assumed that was the case. 

I had spoken to, emailed or written most of my cousins for any family stories concerning our Indian blood. I was especially interested in any stories concerning Sequoyah. Of two or three dozen queries, only Aunt Lorena responded. I felt pretty low and rejected over that, as I had heard some comments off hand. So hearing the above comment really was a joy. FINALLY! I was also overjoyed to hear from a descendant of one of grandma's brothers. I don't know how to contact my relative who descended from grandma's brother and made the comment above, other than leaving a comment below his comment in the hopes that he will return to it.
I went to local libraries and found the six volume history of Kiowa County that he/she referred to. I am so happy and thankful when someone responds.
I transcribed the following from “Pioneering in Kiowa County, volume 4”, Kiowa County Historical Society, Hobart, Oklahoma 76561, and covers pages 316-318. It was published by Schoonmaker Publishers, 305. S. Main, Hobart, Oklahoma, 73651 and 307 E. Main, Sentinel, Oklahoma 73664. Copyright (c) July 1, 1979, Clyde Callahan. Family members of the first settlers in the county gave accounts of their family’s migration to Kiowa County, Oklahoma. Sentinel is a small town in Northern Kiowa County.

This the story told by descendants of my great uncle Oscar, grandma’s brother, about their migration to Kiowa County, Oklahoma.

 Oscar (O. T.) Richey Family
Oscar (O. T.) Richey and Emma Price were married at Duncan in 1905 in Indian Territory and moved into a half dugout. They later moved to Frederick, where he farmed. Two children, Pearl and Ethel, were born there. After about two years they moved to Vernon, Texas, where they farmed one year.

In January 1912, they moved to Lone Wolf in a covered wagon. They had to Ford the Salt Fork of Red River near Elmer, Oklahoma. As they were crossing, a colt which was following, stopped in front of the horses and caused them to stop. The wagon quickly began to sink in quicksand. The horses couldn't move the wagon and Emma who was five months pregnant with Clinton rode one of the horses out of the river. Oscar carried Pearl and Ethel to safety. Oscar was in the icy water for several hours trying to salvage what he could from the wagon.
They lost most everything they had. A family which lived nearby helped. The man took Emma, Pearl and Ethel to met the train to Lone Wolf while Oscar stayed to buy a wagon. He drove the wagon to Lone Wolf a few days later.

O. T. called a neighbor Jacob Everhart to meet the train. As Emma, Pearl, and Ethel got off the train in Lone Wolf, the first person they met was Fred Everhart. He came to pick them up and take them to their new home north of Lone Wolf on the T. J. Tipton farm where they lived until 1927. There, three children were born; Clinton, Chester, and Leora.

In 1927, they moved eleven miles northwest of Lone wolf to the M. E. Gilmore place. They later bought the Lyde farm where they lived until they retired in 1958 and moved to Lone Wolf.
Pearl married Marion Stephens, Ethel married Wilbur Burnett. Clinton married Magie Abston, Chester married Inez Mitchell, Leona married Don Rusmisel. [note: I remember Dad telling me Wilbur was "somehow" related to the rich oilman, Burk Burnett, the man for whom the town of Burkburnett, Texas, was named after. That town is located just north of Wichita Falls, Texas and just South of Red River. Dad and Clinton Richey, the man in the hat, were first cousins.]

O. T. Richey was a direct descendant of Sequoyah of the Cherokee Indian tribe. Sequoyah was Oscar's great-great-grandfather.
Submitted by Naomi Stephens Meinert

So there are just a couple of lines at the end of this family history that mention Sequoyah. But this shows we as a family have had family stories of being related to Sequoyah that covers generation and many branches.

Correspondence with Carla Davenport
I have one more family story to tell in this section. I received a lot of help from Carla Davenport. She was wife to the grandson of my great Aunt Etta, grandma’s sister. Now Aunt Ettie (that is what we called her even though technically, she was a great aunt) was a sort of family historian, and had old records, all of which were lost when she passed on in the 1960s.

I asked Carla about our Indian blood, and she had been researching it longer than I. Here is something I received from her on that topic, and how she came to have that old tin-type, above. I asked her about how she obtained that tin-type. Here is her response:

This is very sad. When I went to visit Ettie in 1965, she showed me many pictures and then took out the Bible, but would not let me read it for myself or even hold it. I asked her why and she said because their spelling was not correct. Even though I told her I could still read it she refused to let me. She said she would read it to me. So she did, read the "parts" I asked about. Then when she died, my mother-in-law found the center section of the Bible ripped out and thrown in the trash. She was only able to salvage 1 page for me, that was all that was left to my knowledge. Apparently someone wanted the Bible and did not care about anything else. Then she found the oldest photos and tintypes we had gone through in another trash basket, and she brought those to me. Makes me sick to think of the callous disregard for her things.

It seems the entry for David B. Brown and Harriet Guess was exactly that and she insisted that her name was Guest. This was very confusing to me as the marriage record as recorded from the marriage index by B. Sistler was Harriet Guess. (Thank goodness, your sister Carol had a copy of the original from the Memphis courthouse. Now we know it was Guess.)

When I told Ettie that J. L. (her son) had told me about her Indian heritage, she was furious, and said she did NOT HAVE ANY INDIAN. Of course, we all know that is not true from what she has told so many of the kids, even J.L. knew. Unfortunately, my baby had developed an earache on the trip and she was very disruptive until we found a doctor. When I came to different photos, she would tell me who they were, we did not get through the entire box because I had to cook dinner and after I had cleaned up I found she had put the box and Bible away and wanted to go



It was from Carla that we got a copy of the tin-type of Harriet, which I am now sharing.

My Comments About These Accounts

I know perfectly well that family stories might vary from one branch of the family to the next, and from one generation to the next. But a grain of truth will run throughout. From these three stories we have three independent stories saying that we are somehow related to Sequoyah. Aunt Lorena said her story had come from grandma, Lona Richey, Dad said he'd talked to his grandma, whose maiden name was Josephine Brown. The last story had come from the descendants of Great Uncle Oscar. He was grandma's brother. But one can extrapolate back in time, and assume that both Uncle Oscar and grandma had probably heard the story from their mother, the same source that had told Dad his story that he told me. So we can assume that all three stories came from great grandma Josephine (Brown) Richey. Josey would have heard it directly from her mother, Harriet (Guess/Gist) Brown. Dad knew his grandma Josephine, they lived next doo to her -- until he was about 16-17 years old when she died in 1932. So we are not too far removed from the original source.
What do we know about Josephine? Well, census records say great grandma Josephine Brown was born in 1852 in Lawrence County, Arkansas. Census and marriage records say her mother's maiden name was Harriet Guess.

One last comment about our family. My great Uncle, Oscar Richey, or O. T., grandma’s brother. He wrote a little something about our family in “Indian Pioneer Papers”. This was a Dust Bowl Era project to put people to work. Writers were employed to interview "old timers", people who could write about Oklahoma in the days it was called "Indian Territory". They interviewed great Uncle Oscar. These papers are found here online. Just do a search for the surname “Richey”. Then click onto the “Interview with Oscar T. Richey of Lone Wolf”. That will take you here. 

On August 23rd, 1937, a month from his 56th birthday, Uncle Oscar said to his interviewer; “My parents were natives of Arkansas and grew up near Fort Smith which was just across the line from the Indian Territory . . . After they were married in the year 1872, they moved into the Indian Territory and settled in either the present Sequoyah or Leflore County. I do not know on which side of the Arkansas River they lived . . .” So they would have lived within about 10 or 20 miles from Sequoyah's old cabin if they lived in Sequyah County; twice that if they were in Leflore County.

It was Josephine's mother Harriet, that was said to have been a "niece or great niece" of Sequoyah by Aunt Lorena.
Please note that NOWHERE do I state these things are PROOF that we descend from Sequoyah or one of his relatives -- I simply state family stories that might or might not be true. I personally believe them. Dad was the most honest person I ever met. After he retired he still did people's income taxes for a fee every year, from home. I personally recall people asking him to "fudge their income taxes" and they would have paid him extra. His reply was for them to leave and get someone else to do their taxes. He WOULD NOT compromise in the least. I can say based on these things, that I believe we are "RELATED TO" Sequoyah, and that's about it. What I have stated is evidence only, and not proof. I have always proclaimed this.

After discovering all these things, I thought our path to Sequoyah would be an easy, smooth course. It proved to be far more adventurous.


1 comment:

  1. 1 comment:
    Chris WhitmireAugust 24, 2017 at 9:25 PM
    You are not any kin or descendant of Sequoia you stupid white liar.
    Here is my reply --
    Again, I am afraid he will delete his post, so I have copied and pasted it here.
    Sir -- I don't say that I am a descendant. I am pretty sure that we are related. I DO have documented proof we descend from Nathaniel Gist, both in documentation and through DNA evidence of relatives who still retain the Gist/Guess surname. Even the Dorsey's book on the "Gist's of Maryland" mlace my ancestors as the descendants of Nathaniel Gist -- not the famous one, but his first cousin also named Nathaniel Gist. My ancestor by that name died on October 8th, 1780 -- the administrators of the Gist DNA testing site agree. I am afraid that it is YOU that is the liar, Christian.