Saturday, June 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

From the Cherokee Nation’s Official Website

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

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

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

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

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

About Captain Dutch being Sequoyah's brother – we have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IPP Papers Written by Two of Sequoyah’s Descendants 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teesey Gist (died 1869 Dutchers  Creek)

Daughter Sallie Gist married William Fields

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

Teesey Gist

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

1.  Joseph Edward Downing (youngest 1883)

2.  Nannie - -  married L. McClure

3.  Lucile - - - married Van Jargill

4.  Teesey Downing

5.  George Downing

6.  Maude Downing

Lineage of Calvin H. Toney 

George Guess

Teesey Gist (Guess)

Sallie Fields

Susan Fields Toney

Calvin H. Toney, children of Calvin Toney are:

            Lucy Toney

            Ellis Toney

            Susie Toney 


Calvin Harrison Toney, Cherokee.
Texanna, Oklahoma.

August 11, 1937.

Indian-Pioneer History.

Jas. S. Buchanan, Field Worker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His four children by his first wife were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nannie Downing, born February 1st, 1878.

Loucile Downing, born July 28th, 1881

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

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

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


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

Cherokee Phoenix; Invention of the Cherokee Alphabet

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

Sequoyah - according to an acquaintance

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Last Minute Addendum

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

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

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