Saturday, June 24, 2017

Who were Sequoyah's Mother's People?

I have really just started this project. It is a long way from being finished. I'll be adding to it, little by little, day by day. It will be changing some in the future as well.
As with Sequoyah's father, some of the stories about his mother are contradictory. As with Sequoyah's father, the story all over the internet goes against what the Cherokee people and others have said. All over the internet, when people discuss her, she is called "Wurteh Watts".

First, have a look at the Syllabary created by her son. All eighty-some-odd symbols create a syllable of the Cherokee language. All of them end with a vowel sound. The problem with her name being "Wur-teh" Watts becomes obvious. The syllable "Wur" is not in the Cherokee language. Some people call her "Wu-the" online. On the Cherokee Nation website she is called "Wu-te-he". "Tee-hee" is a common Cherokee surname, and it means "killer". I suspect the Cherokee themselves realized her name as recorded in earlier documents knew "Wur" made no sense as a syllable, and they revised it.

Second, nowhere is "John Watts Sr." listed as her father. Yet on the internet, you hear and see that all over the place. Somewhere someone wrote that John Watts Jr. became enrage when his Uncle "Old Tassel" was murdered. Someone else wrote that two of Wu-tee's uncles were Doublehead and Old Tassel. I have an Uncle Joe. His wife's nephews and nieces also had him as an Uncle, yet I am not related to them. My cousin Otho (called Sonny) also has the same Uncle, yet we do not descend from the same parents. Just because the two of them had the same uncle doesn't mean they are brother and sister. That leaves a chance for her to be related to John Watts Sr., but that's all. She might be related to John Watts Sr.'s wife, as well. One reference says Wu-teh's father's was part Shawnee and we know John Watt's Sr. was 100% Caucasian. Many people called her a full-blood. All the Cherokee who left records of her called her a full blood. John Watt's Jr, who was half-Cherokee spoke both English and Cherokee. In that case, why wouldn't his sister speak both English and Cherokee? She spoke no English.


After writing all that information about Sequoyah’s father, a friend asked me about his mother, saying to me; “I am interested in Sequoia's mother's line, and his wives' lines...” I am pretty certain my family connects to Sequoyah on his father’s side, in some manner. I think we are connected on his mother’s side too, but I am not as certain of it. I thought I’d be more certain of it before researching that side much further. There are a lot of contradictory stories about the identity of Sequoyah’s father – but there are contradictions on Sequoyah’s mother’s side of the family, too. I really didn’t want to get deeper into his father’s side because it was so complicated and confusing. All the people who have looked into it in the past have contradictory stories. But someone called me out in public, as though they thought I was making claims I had never made. I had to respond. I wasn’t being called a liar this time – someone just wanted to know more about Sequoyah’s mother. Her side is also going to be interesting to look into, as well.

There are many resources. I’ll look into some aspect of her life, find what’s been written, and report it. I always want to be objective, so most of the conclusions I reach will probably be multiple choice probabilities. Well, here goes.

I have chosen to call her Wu-tee or Wu-te-hee. When I spell it “Wu-teh” my computer thinks it is helping me by changing it to “Wu-the” and I have to go back and change it back EVERY TIME! After 20 or 30 times my computer thinking it knew better than me and making me re-write it I can get a little edgy. A brainstorm – just change the spelling to what is written of the website of the Cherokee Nation, Wu-te-he. The computer doesn’t try to change Wu-tee, either. Problem solved.
Much has been written about his mother. On the Cherokee Nation’s official website they say “Her name was Wu-te-he, and she belonged to the Red Paint Clan”. (6)

I have read many things, but not everything, about Sequoyah’s family. I have YET to read  ANYTHING about how we know his mother’s name was Wu-te-he. But I can know where to look this and many other things up, pertaining to her, thanks to “The Mysteries of Sequoyah” by Dub West. In one paragraph on page four he cites the sources for many of the things that are said of Wu-te-he. Dub says;

“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-tee-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” (1)
So it is Jack Kilpatrick who tells us that her family goes back to Moy-toy, and to Oconostota. (11)
It is Alice Marriot who says her name was Wu-tee of the Paint Clan (12), and that her brothers were Tah-lo-te-skee and Tah-ya-tee-hee.
It was John B. Davis who said she had a brother who was a chief in Echota (13), as did McKenney and Hall. (14)
I am in luck, as the Source for John B. Davis’ is the Chronicles of Oklahoma, and that can be found online. The other sources might be harder to run down.
Ethan Allen Hitchcock quotes a Mr. Payne who lived near Sequoyah as saying that Sequoyah’s grandfather on his mother’s side was Shawnee. (15) There were two Mr. Payne’s mentioned. This one was part Cherokee and the other was a White man.

So it must have been James Mooney who said Wu-te-he descended from Mr. Watts, as he said she was "part White".. (16)


Well, if Wu-te-he was a full-blood Cherokee, she wasn’t a “Watts” then, was she? The Cherokee themselves on their official website say; “Sequoyah's father was half Cherokee and his mother a full blood.” (6) Yet I have seen genealogies online who say Sequoyah was only 1/4th Cherokee. People who personally knew his said if he had any White blood, it wasn't much -- he looked full blood.

,There is another story about Sequoyah’s lineage found which was written in 1828 while Sequoyah was still living. It was published in the Cherokee Phoenix in both English and in Sequoyah’s own syllabary.  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? A small portion of that writing follows:

“Sequoyah - according to an acquaintance 

“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.” (5)

So his friend said he looked like a full-blood Indian, but his paternal grandpa was a White man. So many of those that knew him thought his mother was full-blood Indian.

Grant Foreman discovered a lost writing about Sequoyah and later published. It says a little about Sequoyah’s mother. 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. In this 1837 publication we have; “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.”  (9)

So we have another account where it calls Wu-te-he a full blood Indian. Please note that John Stuart was a soldier stationed at Fort Smith. Sequoyah’s home was less than 20 miles from Fort Smith and he was alive in 1837 when Stuart wrote this article.

Per West; "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." (1) So there were people who met Sequoyah who thought Wu-te-he was full-blood, and so was even Sequoyah’s father!

Dub West writes;“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.

If her name most likely was Wu-teh or Wu-te-he – And there were so many people who knew her who believe she was full blood Indian -- why do people STILL insist that her name as “Wurteh Watts”? It’s simple. White folks what Sequoyah to have as many Caucasian ancestors as possible. They preferred not to know that no Cherokee word ends in a consonant sound.

We know James Mooney said Wu-te-he was a mixed-blood Cherokee woman. I’m getting closer to the origin of the rumor that Wu-te-he was a “Watts”. This legend is also on wiki-pedia where I have found the following: : “John Watts (or Kunokeski ), also known as Young Tassel, was one of the leaders of the Chickamauga Cherokee (or "Lower Cherokee") during the Cherokee-American wars. Watts became particularly active in the fighting after the murder of his uncle, Old Tassel, by militant frontiersmen who attacked a band of delegates traveling to a peace conference in 1788. Watts was a "mixed-blood" son of a British trader (who was also named John Watts, and was the official British government Indian interpreter for the area — until his death in 1770). His mother was a sister of Old Tassel, Doublehead, and Pumpkin Boy. Watts' parents resided in the Overhill Towns along the Little Tennessee River. Wurte Watts, the mother of Sequoyah, may have been a sister of John Watts."

Under Sequoyah’s name on wiki-pedia it says it is likely Young Tassal (John Watts Jr) and Wu-te-he were cousins. We see both trains of thought on wiki-pedia. If Wu-te-he was a “Watts”, then John Watts was her brother. So many people say Sequoyah looked full blood, and so many said Wu-te-he was full-blood. So I suspect John Watts Jr. was her cousin rather than her brother. 

General Ethan Allen Hitchcock quotes a Mr. Payne (there were two Mr. Payne’s in the stories about Sequoyah – one was a visiting White man and the other a local Cherokee. Gen. Hitchcock is referring to the Cherokee Payne.) who lived near Sequoyah as saying that Sequoyah’s grandfather on his mother’s side was part Shawnee. If Wu-te-he’s father was part Shawnee, how could she have been fathered by John Watts Sr.? I think people should quit calling her “Wurteh Watts” and just call Sequoyah’s mother “Wu-tee” or “Wu-te-he”.

One of my pet peeves is that all over the internet you see her referred to as “Wur-teh Watts” when the “R” sound is not found at the end of Cherokee syllables, and there is no proof she was a descendant of John Watts, Sr.


We don’t know when Wu-te-he was born. The best we can do is estimate. If we knew when Sequoyah was born, just subtract 20-30 years from that date for an estimate. So just when was Sequoyah born? 

The Cherokee Nation website says; “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.” With due respect, I must humbly say I disagree with the estimates (and there are several) which place Sequoyah’s birth between 1760 and 1765 for at least four reasons: 

i.] Military documents exist that state Sequoyah served in the military during the Creek Red Stick Wars of 1813-1814. If he was born in 1760, he would have been 53 years old at that time. Now the Creek Warriors they went up against would have been young men, probably about 20 years old in the prime of their lives, who, like the Cherokee, had trained to be warriors from a very young age. Young warriors would have been eager to prove their manhood. But they would know an easy mark when they saw it. All his life Sequoyah walked with a limp. Any smart young Creek Red Stick Warrior would have gone after an old man with a limp in a heartbeat – an easy coup. 

ii.] The second reason I question these years as a possible time of Sequoyah’s birth would have been is the last journey of his life. In 1843 Sequoyah, with a few friends, journeyed from his home near Sallisaw up to visit John Ross for a few days, then they took off for Mexico, south of the Rio Grande. He reached Mexico where he died and is buried. This trip has been written down and is well documented by one of his travelling companions, The Worm. If Sequoyah had been born in 1760 as some suggest, he would have been 83 years old! It is difficult for me to see an 83 year old man making such a long journey sometimes on riding on the back of a horse, and walking at times. There are several such accounts. I think I will choose to look and see if there are other accounts that contradict this one. Maybe they will seem more reasonable.

iii.] Foreman (8) tells us; “. . . Sequoyah’s widow Sally, to whom he married in 1815, and who, in 1855 at the age of 66 . . .” So Sequoyah’s wife Sally was born about 1789. This mean she was about 26 years old when they married. This too makes me think Sequoyah was born closer to 1778 than 1760. He would have been 55 years of age when he married a 26 year old girl. Sequoyah himself would have been closer to 37 years of age had he been born in 1778. This makes me also suspect that Sally might not have been his first wife. More on this later. One more contradiction, I recall reading an account that said he already had a wife and children by the year 1809 when he started on his syllabary. Was he married before Sally? Which stories do I believe, and which ones do I ignore?

iv.] Sequoyah 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 many other occasions that would have made Sequoyah a small boy well into the 1770s or even 1780s. 

The comment as the time of birth of Sequoyah about 1760-1765 seems way too early, and the best evidence that his birth was the early 1760s can easily be explained away.      


There was a Dust Bowl Era project to get old Timers to tell what life was like in the Indian territory before Oklahoma became a state. It is known as the Indian Pioneer Papers. Sequoyah’s great granddaughter and her son (2) both participated. They tell us almost nothing about his mother. They do say the following, however; “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.” 

He does say that Sequoyah’s father deserted his mother before he was even born. This agrees with the story Phillips wrote in “Harper’s Magazine” in 1870 and the story Foster used for his book, “Sequoyah, American Cadmus” in 1885. Foster admits getting his story from Phillips. Phillips was a Union officer during the Civil War in Indian Territory. He says he got his story from the Cherokee, and some of the descendants of Sequoyah. (3) (4). Both Phillips and Foster give Sequoyah’s birth as about 1770.

Jeremiah Evarts also interviewed Sequoyah while he was in Washington D. C, and he said; “Sequoyah is about 50 years old.” (1) This is the same trip another man has said he was about 65 years old. But if we place Sequoyah’s birth as 1778 as Evarts suggests, it is a better fit for other events of his life, for the four reasons mentioned above. 

In determining when he was born, we can come to some estimation as to the age of his mother. IF Sequoyah was born about 1778 as I suspect, and his mother’s child bearing age was between 15 and 35, then we can think her probable date of birth would have been 1743 and 1763. Let me just give an estimated date of birth of about 1750 to 1755. That would place her age between 23 and 28 at the time of Sequoyah’s birth. So she was probably born just before the French and Indian War. This is assuming Sequoyah was born in 1778. Now if Sequoyah was born closer to 1760 – that would place her birth closer to the 1730s.

Wu-te-he’s Children
Again, from the Cherokee Nation Website; “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."  (6)  
Were these two – Captain Dutch (also known as Captain William Dutch, Datsi, Tatsi, Tahchee)  and Tobacco Will, the Children of Wu-te-he? Some think her father's name was also Tah-chee.
About Captain Dutch being Sequoyah's brother – we have the following article in “Chronicles of Oklahoma”, found at the link below.
"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 Prairies 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.” (10)
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 think we can say with Tahchee had Sequoyah having different clans, they had different mothers. Wu-te-he wasn’t Tah-chee’s mother.
Foreman tells us; “. . . Sequoyah’s widow Sally, to whom he married in 1815, and who, in 1855 at the age of 66 . . . (8) 
Per the interview of Calvin Harrison Toney, Sequoyah’s great-great-grandson, we have; “Indian Pioneer Papers”, Sequoyah’s first wife was Sallie of the Bird clan and his second wife was U-ti-yu of the Savanah clan.” (2) Afterwards he adds; “Tessey Guess . . . was born in 1789.” If you read what was in other documents, this is about the year Sequoyah’s wife Sally was said to have been born. Perhaps Calvin was thinking of Teessy’s mother’s birth year, not his.
Knowing how many things written about the Sequoyah and his relatives contradict each other, anything said about them must be said in humility.
Per West; “Jack Kilpatrick says she [Wu-te-he] was of royal blood, of the family of Matoy and the legendary warrior king Oconostota.” . . . and . . . 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.
“His mother, Wut-teh, was known to be Cherokee. Mooney stated that she was the niece of a Cherokee chief. McKinney and Hall noted that she was a niece of chiefs who have been identified as the brothers Old Tassel and Doublehead. Since John Watts (also known as Young Tassel) was a nephew of the two chiefs, it is likely that Wut-teh and John Watts were cousins.”

From the Cherokee Nation website, we have; “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. Her name was Wu-te-he, and she belonged to the Red Paint Clan. She had two brothers, Tahlonteeska and Tahnoyanteehee”. (6)

Ta-loh-te-ske signed many treaties: the Treaties of 1791, 1794, 1798, 1804, 1805, and 1806. (7)
Per Foster, “Though her family were not numbered among the chiefs of the Cherokee tribes, they were prominent and influential, and she had brothers who spoke in the council.” (3)
I have taken this long journey hoping to discover the ancestors of Wuh-tee. What I have found is that it will be very difficult to know her genealogy, for certain. Personally, I don’t think she was a “Watts”. I think she was a full-blood as many stories about her say. But instead of a Watts, I am of the opinion that her father was full blood Indian, and part Shawnee, as some have also said. I might be wrong on both accounts. But there are just too many independent citations, too many Cherokee who say Sequoyah got his Caucasian blood from his father’s side of the family and that his mother was full blood Indian.  There are ACTUAL stories she goes back to Moy-toy. There are people online who have created actual genealogies that show her going back to him. I’d like to thank others who looked into this long before me. I know they tried their best.
But I know much genealogy from the time of Wu-te-he backwards in time is largely a guessing game. If I choose to believe one researcher who said she went back to “Oconostota and Matoy”. I suspect her mother was the sister of Doublehead and Old Tassel, and her father was some unknown full blood Chickamaugan warrior who was also part Shawnee, the names of neither have been preserved to history.

(1)   Mysteries of Sequoyah by C. W. “Dub” West., © 1975 by Dub West, Muscogee Publishing Company.
(2)   TONEY, CALVIN HARRISON INTERVIEW #7100; 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.
(3)   “Sequoyah, The American Cadmus”; by George Everett Foster, © 1885.
(4)   “Harpers Weekly Magazine”
(5)   CHEROKEE PHOENIX; Wednesday, August 13, 1828; Volume 1, No. 24, Page 2, Col. 1a-2a, INVENTION OF THE CHEROKEE ALPHABET 
(6)   Copyright ©1998-2002. Cherokee Nation. All rights reserved. This was taken from the Cherokee Nation Website.
(7)   Go to the link below and scroll down to “Cherokee” –
(8)   “Sequoyah”, by Grant Foreman; © 1938 University of Oklahoma Press
Chronicles of Oklahoma; Volume 11, No. 1; March, 1933; CAPTAIN JOHN STUART'S SKETCH OF THE INDIANS; By GRANT FOREMAN
(10)                        "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 Prairies of the Far West. March 25th, 1836".
(11)                       “Sequoyah of Earth and Intellect” by Jack Kilpatrick
(12)                       “Sequoyah, Leader of the Cherokees”, by Alice Mariott
(13)                       “Chronicles of Oklahoma”, vol. 8, pages 149-180; John B. Davis.
(14)                       “North American Indians”, McKenney and Hall
(15)                       “Traveler in Indian Coutry” by General Ethan Allen Hitchcock.
(16)                       “Myths of the Cherokees” by James Mooney

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.