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

1 comment:

  1. 1 comment:
    Chris Whitmire August 24, 2017 at 9:28 PM
    What a bunch of Horse Shit
    Here is my reply --
    I am afraid this guy might delete his comment, so before he does that, I want to preserve it in the next comment. Please know I quote the Cherokee Phoenix, and some of Sequoyah’s own descendants. Also quoted are several well known and well respected authors.