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John Ross

John Ross

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Guwisguwi (John Ross) was born in Turkeytown, Alabama, on 3rd October, 1790. His father, Daniel Ross, was a Scottish immigrant. His mother, was a quarter Cherokee. He was therefore only one-eighth Native American. However he always identified himself with the Cherokee tribe and after finishing his education at a school in Kingston, Tennessee, he went to live with the Arkansas Cherokees.

During the Creek War (1813-1814) Major Ridge raised an army of Cherokee volunteers and fought under Andrew Jackson. John Ross joined the volunteers and served as adjutant and took part in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.

In 1817 Ross was chosen as a member of the Cherokee Council. In this post he was an outspoken opponent of the plan to remove the Cherokees to west of the Mississippi River. In 1819 he became president of the national committee (1819-26). In this post he played an important role in persuading the Cherokees to attend school. Ross also supported the introduction of Talking Leaves, a graphic representation of the Cherokee language that had been developed by Sequoyah.

The Cherokees had substantial land in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. Ross argued that to protect its land the tribe needed a written constitution that proclaimed that the Cherokee nation had complete jurisdiction over its own territory. In 1827 Ross drafted a written constitution for the Cherokee tribe. This was based on the Constitution of the United States. He also encouraged Samuel Worcester and Elias Boudinot to begin publishing the Cherokee Phoenix.

In 1828 Ross was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Two years later Andrew Jackson encouraged Congress to pass the 1830 Indian Removal Act. He argued that the legislation would provide land for white invaders, improve security against foreign invaders and encourage the civilization of the Native Americans. In one speech he argued that the measure "will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the government and through the influences of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and christian community."

Andrew Jackson was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in 1832. He now pursued the policy of removing Native Americans from good farming land. He even refused to accept the decision of the Supreme Court to invalidate Georgia's plan to annex the territory of the Cherokee.

Samuel Worcester organized protests against this decision. Worcester was now arrested and sentenced to four years imprisonment for violating a Georgia law prohibiting a white from living among the Native Americans. John Ross took the case to the Supreme Court and it eventually ruled the law unconstitutional and Worcester was released.

Some members of the Cherokee tribe such as Elias Boudinot and Major Ridge supported the 1830 Indian Removal Act and in 1832 Boudinot argued that removal was the "course that will come nearest benefiting the nation". In 1835 Major Ridge, Elias Boudinot and 18 other members of Cherokee tribe signed the Treaty of New Echota. This agreement ceded all rights to their traditional lands to the United States. In return the tribe was granted land in the Indian Territory.

Although the majority of the Cherokees, including John Ross, opposed this agreement they were forced to make the journey by General Winfield Scott and his soldiers. In October 1838 about 15,000 Cherokees began what was later to be known as the Trail of Tears. Most of the Cherokees travelled the 800 mile journey on foot. As a result of serious mistakes made by the Federal agents who guided them to their new land, they suffered from hunger and the cold weather and an estimated 4,000 people died on the journey. This included John Ross's wife, Quatie.

John Ross remained leader of the Cherokee tribe in Oklahoma and during the American Civil War called for his people to remain neutral. However, some tribe members disagreed and fought with the Confederate Army.

Chief John Ross died on 1st August, 1866, while negotiating a new treaty in Washington.

John Ross - History

By President Andrew Jackson’s election in 1828, the only large concentrations of Indian tribes remaining on the east coast were located in the South. The Cherokee had adopted the settled way of life of the surrounding—and encroaching—white society. They were consequently known, along with the Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw, as one of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” “Civilization,” however, was not enough, and the Jackson administration forced most of these tribes west during the first half of the 1830s, clearing southern territory for the use of whites. Chief John Ross was the principal chief of the Cherokee in Georgia in this 1836 letter addressed to “the Senate and House of Representatives,” Ross protested as fraudulent the Treaty of New Echota that forced the Cherokee out of Georgia. In 1838, federal troops forcibly displaced the last of the Cherokee from their homes their trip to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) is known as the “Trail of Tears.”

[Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Nation, September 28, 1836]

It is well known that for a number of years past we have been harassed by a series of vexations, which it is deemed unnecessary to recite in detail, but the evidence of which our delegation will be prepared to furnish. With a view to bringing our troubles to a close, a delegation was appointed on the 23rd of October, 1835, by the General Council of the nation, clothed with full powers to enter into arrangements with the Government of the United States, for the final adjustment of all our existing difficulties. The delegation failing to effect an arrangement with the United States commissioner, then in the nation, proceeded, agreeably to their instructions in that case, to Washington City, for the purpose of negotiating a treaty with the authorities of the United States.

After the departure of the Delegation, a contract was made by the Rev. John F. Schermerhorn, and certain individual Cherokees, purporting to be a “treaty, concluded at New Echota, in the State of Georgia, on the 29th day of December, 1835, by General William Carroll and John F. Schermerhorn, commissioners on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and people of the Cherokee tribes of Indians.” A spurious Delegation, in violation of a special injunction of the general council of the nation, proceeded to Washington City with this pretended treaty, and by false and fraudulent representations supplanted in the favor of the Government the legal and accredited Delegation of the Cherokee people, and obtained for this instrument, after making important alterations in its provisions, the recognition of the United States Government. And now it is presented to us as a treaty, ratified by the Senate, and approved by the President [Andrew Jackson], and our acquiescence in its requirements demanded, under the sanction of the displeasure of the United States, and the threat of summary compulsion, in case of refusal. It comes to us, not through our legitimate authorities, the known and usual medium of communication between the Government of the United States and our nation, but through the agency of a complication of powers, civil and military.

By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our eyes violence may be committed on our persons even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized we are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be called our own. And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the venerated, the sacred appellation of treaty.

We are overwhelmed! Our hearts are sickened, our utterance is paralized, when we reflect on the condition in which we are placed, by the audacious practices of unprincipled men, who have managed their stratagems with so much dexterity as to impose on the Government of the United States, in the face of our earnest, solemn, and reiterated protestations.

The instrument in question is not the act of our Nation we are not parties to its covenants it has not received the sanction of our people. The makers of it sustain no office nor appointment in our Nation, under the designation of Chiefs, Head men, or any other title, by which they hold, or could acquire, authority to assume the reins of Government, and to make bargain and sale of our rights, our possessions, and our common country. And we are constrained solemnly to declare, that we cannot but contemplate the enforcement of the stipulations of this instrument on us, against our consent, as an act of injustice and oppression, which, we are well persuaded, can never knowingly be countenanced by the Government and people of the United States nor can we believe it to be the design of these honorable and highminded individuals, who stand at the head of the Govt., to bind a whole Nation, by the acts of a few unauthorized individuals. And, therefore, we, the parties to be affected by the result, appeal with confidence to the justice, the magnanimity, the compassion, of your honorable bodies, against the enforcement, on us, of the provisions of a compact, in the formation of which we have had no agency.

In truth, our cause is your own it is the cause of liberty and of justice it is based upon your own principles, which we have learned from yourselves for we have gloried to count your [George] Washington and your [Thomas] Jefferson our great teachers we have read their communications to us with veneration we have practised their precepts with success. And the result is manifest. The wildness of the forest has given place to comfortable dwellings and cultivated fields, stocked with the various domestic animals. Mental culture, industrious habits, and domestic enjoyments, have succeeded the rudeness of the savage state.

We have learned your religion also. We have read your Sacred books. Hundreds of our people have embraced their doctrines, practised the virtues they teach, cherished the hopes they awaken, and rejoiced in the consolations which they afford. To the spirit of your institutions, and your religion, which has been imbibed by our community, is mainly to be ascribed that patient endurance which has characterized the conduct of our people, under the laceration of their keenest woes. For assuredly, we are not ignorant of our condition we are not insensible to our sufferings. We feel them! we groan under their pressure! And anticipation crowds our breasts with sorrows yet to come. We are, indeed, an afflicted people! Our spirits are subdued! Despair has well nigh seized upon our energies! But we speak to the representatives of a Christian country the friends of justice the patrons of the oppressed. And our hopes revive, and our prospects brighten, as we indulge the thought. On your sentence, our fate is suspended prosperity or desolation depends on your word. To you, therefore, we look! Before your august assembly we present ourselves, in the attitude of deprecation, and of entreaty. On your kindness, on your humanity, on your compassion, on your benevolence, we rest our hopes. To you we address our reiterated prayers. Spare our people! Spare the wreck of our prosperity! Let not our deserted homes become the monuments of our desolation! But we forbear! We suppress the agonies which wring our hearts, when we look at our wives, our children, and our venerable sires! We restrain the forebodings of anguish and distress, of misery and devastation and death, which must be the attendants on the execution of this ruinous compact.

In conclusion, we commend to your confidence and favor, our well-beloved and trust-worthy brethren and fellow-citizens, John Ross, Principal Chief, Richard Taylor, Samuel Gunter, John Benge, George Sanders, Walter S. Adair, Stephen Foreman, and Kalsateehee of Aquohee, who are clothed with full powers to adjust all our existing difficulties by treaty arrangements with the United States, by which our destruction may be averted, impediments to the advancement of our people removed, and our existence perpetuated as a living monument, to testify to posterity the honor, the magnanimity, the generosity of the United States. And your memorialists, as in duty bound, will ever pray. Signed by Ross, George Lowrey, Edward Gunter, Lewis Ross, thirty-one members of the National Committee and National Council, and 2,174 others.

Source: John Ross, The Papers of Chief John Ross, vol 1, 1807� , Norman OK Gary E. Moulton, ed. University of Oklahoma Press, 1985, p. 458�.

John Ross - History

Principal chief of the Cherokee Indians for nearly forty years, John Ross served during one of the most tumultuous periods of the tribe's history. He is best remembered as the leader of the Cherokees during the time of great factional debates in the 1830s over the issue of relocating to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). As leader of the antiremoval faction he spent a great deal of time in Washington, D.C., attempting to convince government officials to uphold treaties that guaranteed the tribe their lands. Despite finding friends in the East, Ross and his supporters were thwarted in their efforts. Neither Supreme Court decisions nor their own valiant efforts were able to stop the irresistible power of Pres. Andrew Jackson, neighboring state governments, and land-hungry Americans on their borders. Additionally, Ross faced dissent at home from the proremoval Ridge faction, who signed a fraudulent removal treaty with the federal government and sealed the nation's fate. After bitter and sometimes bloody factional quarrels, Ross led the tribe in their forced removal from the homelands in the American Southeast to new Cherokee lands in present northeastern Oklahoma, with a capital at Tahlequah. Perhaps as many as one-fourth of the tribe's twenty thousand members died in the crossing that has come to be called the Trail of Tears.

After a period of relative peace and national tranquility, Ross again came to national attention during the American Civil War of the 1860s when he led the tribe through the tense disputes over Cherokee allegiance to the Union. Reluctantly, he accepted alliance with the Confederacy but abandoned the Cherokee Nation when the Federals invaded Indian Territory. He spent a good part of the remainder of the war in Washington, D.C., pleading the Cherokees' cause. At war's end he was able to come home for a short time but returned to the capital city to argue the Cherokee case once more. He died there in 1866. Chief Ross's remains were returned to Tahlequah and entombed in a family plot.

Ross was married twice, first to a Cherokee woman, Quatie, about whom little is known, and with whom he had five children who grew to adulthood, and after her death to a Delaware Quaker woman, Mary Brian Stapler they had two children. Although never deeply religious, he joined the Methodist Church but continued to own slaves until the Civil War. As a merchant and plantation owner he was financially successful but never wealthy and suffered repeated losses due to federal government policies and the upheavals of the time. He left a legacy of success despite failures. The Cherokees were removed but reunited in Indian Territory to become a vital force in the 1840s and 1850s. And in spite of the divisions of the 1860s, the Cherokees regained sovereignty during Ross's final days.


William L. Anderson, ed., Cherokee Removal: Before and After (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991).

William G. McLoughlin, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985).

Gary E. Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978).

Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Papers of Chief John Ross, 2 vols. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985).

Thurman Wilkins, Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Gary E. Moulton, &ldquoRoss, John,&rdquo The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=RO031.

© Oklahoma Historical Society.

John Ross, Cherokee Chief

John Ross, on his mother’s side, was of Scotch descent. His grandfather, John McDonald, was born at Inverness, Scotland, about 1747. Visiting London when a youth of nineteen years, he met a countryman who was coming to America, and catching the spirit of adventure, he joined him, landing in Charleston, S. C., in 1766. While here, he heard of a mercantile house in Augusta, Georgia, which attracted him thither, and he entered it as clerk. His success in business inspired confidence in his employers, who sent him to Fort Loudon, on the frontier of the State, built by the British Government in 1756, to open and superintend trade among the Cherokees. These lived in little towns or villages, a few miles apart for mutual protection, and to preserve the hunting-grounds around them. He soon “set up for himself” in business, and married Ann Shorey, a half-blood Cherokee. It was customary with the tribe to colonize a company pushing out into the wilderness often many miles, and opening a new centre of traffic. McDonald went with one of the migratory colonies, in 1770, to Chickamauga. Here, the same year, was born “Mollie McDonald.” A few years later the family removed to Lookout Valley, near the spot consecrated to Liberty and the Union by the heroic valor of General Hooker’s command, in the autumn of 1863. While residing in this romantic region, among the natives, Daniel Ross, originally from Sutherlandshire, Scotland, and left an orphan in Baltimore soon after peace was declared with Great Britain, had accompanied a Mr. Mayberry to Hawkins County, Tennessee, and came down the river in a flat-boat built by himself for trading purposes.

There is an obstruction in the Tennessee River below Lookout Mountain, compelling the boats to land above, at a point known as ” Brown’s Ferry.” The Indian town was called Siteco. The arrival of the strange craft at Siteco, on the way to the Chickasaw country, navigated by Ross, and having on board, besides valuable merchandise, “Mountain Leader,” a chief, spread excitement at once through the Cherokee settlement, and the people rallied to inquire into the designs of the unexpected traders.

A consultation was held, in which “Bloody Fellow,” the Cherokee Chief, advised the massacre of the whole party and the confiscation of the goods. McDonald, who lived fifteen miles distant, was sent for, he having a commanding influence over the natives. He came, and urged them not to harm the strangers saying, among other arguments, that Ross was, like himself, a Scotchman, and he should regard an insult to him as a personal injury. McDonald’s address calmed the wrath of the Cherokees, and they changed their tone to that of persuasion, offering inducements to remain there and establish a trading-post. The proposition was accepted.

Daniel Ross soon after married “Mollie McDonald.” He was a gentleman of irreproachable and transparent honesty, and carried with him the entire confidence of all who knew him. He also migrated to different portions of the wild lands, during the next twenty years or more, and became the father of nine children. John was the third, and was born at Turkeytown, on the Coosa River, in Alabama, October 3d, 1790. Returning to Hillstown, Lewis was born there, who is associated with him in labors and trials at the present time. Subsequently Chickamauga, and still later Chattanooga, became his place of residence.

When about seven years of age, he accompanied his parents to Hillstown, forty miles distant, to attend the “Green-Corn Festival.” This was an annual agricultural Fair, when for several days the natives, gathering from all parts of the nation, gave themselves up to social and public entertainments. The tribe was divided into clans, and each member of them regarded an associate as a kinsman, and felt bound to extend hospitality to him and thus provision was always made for the gathering to the anniversary. On this occasion, John’s mother had dressed him in his first suit after the style of civilized life made of nankeen. No sooner was he at play with boys of his clan, than the loud shout of ridicule was aimed at the “white boy.” The next morning, while his grandmother was dressing him, he wept bitterly. Inquiring the cause, she learned it was the fear of a repetition of the previous day’s experience. The tears prevailed, and arrayed in calico frock and leggings, and moccasins, with a bound and shout of joy, he left his tent, in his own language, “at home again.” As the large family were old enough to attend school, John’s father bought land in Georgia, to remove there that he might educate them but gave up the plan and went to Maryville, in Tennessee, six hundred miles from his residence, and fifteen miles from Knoxville, and employed a Mr. George Barbee Davis to come and instruct his children. To have this privilege, however, he must obtain permission of the General Council of the nation. The application was opposed by some, on the ground of an unwilling ness to introduce any of the customs or habits of the whites. Others urged the necessity of having interpreters and persons among them acquainted with the improvements of their civilized neighbors. This reasoning prevailed, and Mr. Ross had the honor of giving to the Cherokee nation the first school, the beginning of a new era in the history of the American aborigines.

After a few years culture at home, John and Lewis were sent to Kingston, Tennessee, to enjoy the advantages of a popular school there. John boarded with a merchant named Clark, and also acted as clerk in his store. Kingston was on the great emigrant road from Virginia, Maryland, and other parts, to Nashville, and not far from South West Point, a military post. At Chattanooga,

John’s mother died and was buried, a great loss to him, to whom she was a counselor and a constant friend. His grandfather lavished his partial affection upon him, and at his death left him two colored servants he had owned for several years. After a clerkship of two years for a firm in Kingston, young Ross returned home, and was sent by his father in search of an aunt in Hagerstown, Md., nine hundred miles distant, of whom, till then, for a long time, all traces had been lost.

On horseback and without a companion, he commenced his long and solitary journey. He encamped at night wherever he could find a shelter, and reached safely the home of the recently discovered aunt. Furnishing her a horse, they recrossed Tennessee, and returned, after several weeks of pilgrimage, to the desolate home in Chattanooga. The grandfather soon after removed to Brainard, the early missionary station of the American Board among the Cherokees, situated on the southern border of Tennessee, only two miles from the Georgia line, upon the bank of Chickamauga Creek, and almost within, the limits of the bloody battle-field of Chickamauga, being only three miles distant from its nearest point, (The name is derived from the Chickasaw word Chucama, which means “good,” and with the termination of the Cherokee Kah, means Good place.) .

In anticipation of the war with Great Britain, in 1812, the Government determined to send presents to the Cherokees who had colonized west of the Mississippi, and Col. Meigs, the Indian Agent, employed Riley, the United States Interpreter, to take charge of them. The voyage was commenced, but hearing at Fort Massas, ten miles below the mouth of the Tennessee, that the earthquake shocks which had been felt had sunk the land at New Madrid, the party were alarmed and returned, leaving the goods there. Col. Meigs then deputed John Ross to go with additional gifts, and see them all delivered to the Cherokees. With John Spears a half-blood, Peter a Mexican Spaniard, and Kalsatchee an old Cherokee, he started on his perilous expedition, leaving his father’s landing on Christmas.

At Battle Creek, afterward Laurie’s Ferry, he met Isaac Brown-low, uncle of Parson Brownlow, a famous waterman. When he saw Ross in his small craft, bound on the long and dangerous voyage, his boat being a clapboarded ark, he swore that Colonel Meigs was stupid or reckless, to send him down the rivers in such a plight. He went with him eighty miles, and to within ten miles of Knoxville, exchanging a keel-boat for his crazy craft, and taking an order on the Government for the difference, declaring, even if he lost it, John should not venture farther as he came. At Fort Pickering, near Memphis, he learned that the Cherokees he was seeking had removed from St. Francis River to the Dardenell, on the Arkansas, which then contained no more than 900 whites, and he directed his course thither.

The narrative of the entire expedition, the sixty-six days on the rivers the pursuit by settlers along the banks, who supposed the party to be Indians on some wild adventure the wrecking of the boat the land travel of two hundred miles in eight days, often up to the knees in water, with only meat for food and the arrival home the next April, bringing tidings that the Creeks were having their war-dance on the eve of an outbreak these details alone would make a volume of romantic interest.

The Creek war commenced among the tribe on account of hostile views, but soon was turned upon the loyal whites and Cherokees. Of the latter, a regiment was formed to cooperate with the Tennessee troops, and Mr. Ross was made adjutant. General White commanded in East, and General Jackson in West Tennessee. The Cherokees concentrated at Turkeytown, between the two forts Armstrong and Strauthers. The Creeks were within twenty-five miles. A Creek prisoner had escaped, and informing his people of the Cherokee encampment, they could be restrained no longer, but dashed forward to meet the enemy. Upon reaching the place of encampment, they found only the relics of a deadly fight, in which General Coffee, under Jackson, had routed the

Creeks. The Cherokees returned to Turkey town the same night by 10 o’clock, having inarched fifty or sixty miles (many on foot) since the early morning.

The terrible battle at Horseshoe, February 27th, 1814, which left the bodies of nine hundred Creeks on the field, was followed by a treaty of peace, at Fort Jackson, with the friendly Creeks, securing a large territory to indemnify the United States. In making it, McIntosh, a shrewd, unprincipled chief, represented the Creeks, and Colonel Brown, half-brother of Catharine the first Cherokee convert at the Missionary Station, the Cherokees, to fix their boundary. McIntosh had his conference with General Jack son in his tent and the treaty was made, so far as Brown was concerned, pretty much as the former desired, in reality infringing upon the rights of the Cherokees the line of new territory crossing theirs at Turkeytown. Consequently a delegation, of which John Ross was a prominent member, was sent to Wash ington to wait on President Madison and adjust the difficulty. Mr. Crawford, Secretary of War, decided the question in favor of the Cherokees.

The next treaty which involved their righteous claims was made with the Chickasaws, whose boundary-lines were next to their own. General Jackson was against the Cherokee claim, and affirmed that he would grant the Chickasaws their entire claim. He offered the former an annuity of $6000 for ten years, although they had refused before, the offer of a permanent annuity of the same amount. This negotiation was conditional upon the confirmation of it at a meeting of the Cherokees to be held at Turkey-town. ‘The Indians came together, and refused to recognize the treaty but finally the old Chief Pathkiller signed it. At every step of dealing with the aborigines, we can discern the proud and selfish policy which declared that “the red man had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

In 1816, General Jackson was again commissioned to negotiate with the Cherokees, and John Ross was to represent his people. But before any result was reached, Ross, having gone into business with Timothy Meigs, son of Colonel Meigs, went with him on horseback to Washington and Baltimore, to purchase goods and have them conveyed to Rossville, on the Georgia line, at the foot of Missionary Ridge. In a few months Mr. Meigs died, and Lewis Ross became partner in his place.

After a long and interrupted passage having deer-skins and furs for traffic from Savannah to New York, and then to Baltimore, he returned to find that General Jackson had prepared the celebrated treaty of 1817. A council being called to explain the treaty, Ross determined to go as a looker-on.

The national affairs of the Cherokees had been administered by a council, consisting of delegates from the several towns, appointed by the chiefs, in connection with the latter. A National Committee of sixteen, to transact business under the general super vision of the chiefs, was also a part of the administrative power of the nation.

On the way to the council referred to, which was called at their capital by Governor McMinn, who had charge of the treaty of 1817, Judge Brown, of the Committee, meeting Ross at Van’s, Spring Place, Georgia, said to him, ” When we get to Oosteanalee, I intend to put you in hell I ” When Ross objected to such a fate, not guessing the import of the apparently profane expression, Judge Brown added, that he ” intended to run him for President of the National Committee,” giving his views of the comfort of office-holding, in the language employed.

The council met in the public square. Soon after, John Ross, then twenty-seven years of age, was called in, when Major Ridge, the speaker of the council, announced, to the modest young man’s surprise and confusion, that he was elected President of the National Committee.

When the treaty came up for discussion, Governor McMinn explained it as meaning, that those who emigrated west of the Mississippi were to have lands there and those who remained came under the laws of the State, giving up to the United States there as much soil as was occupied west. Charles H. Hicks, a chief, and Ross, went into the woods alone, and, seated on a log, conferred sadly together over a form of reply to the terms of treaty as expounded. Hicks was very popular with his people, and was one of the earliest converts under the missionary labors of the Moravians. Ross made replies in opposition to the governor’s construction.

Governor McMinn made another appointment for a meeting of the chiefs, and other men of influence, at the Cherokee Agency on Highnassee River. The time arrived the firing of a cannon opened the council daily for three long weeks, McMinn hoping to wear out the patience of the Cherokees and secure the ratification of the treaty, never as yet formally granted. The result was the appointment of a delegation to Washington, of which Hicks and Ross were members, always the last resort. Mr. Monroe was President, and John C. Calhoun Secretary of War. This was in February, 1819.

Meanwhile, Governor McMinn allowed the time designated for the census to elapse without taking it, leaving the exchange of lands with no rule of limitation, while he bought up improvements as far as possible, to induce the natives to emigrate and then rented them to white settlers to supplant the Cherokees, contrary to express stipulation that the avails of the sales were to be appropriated to the support of the poor and infirm.

In this crisis of affairs it was proposed at Washington to form a new treaty, the principal feature of which was the surrender of territory sufficient in extent and value to be an equivalent for all demands past and to come disposing thus finally of the treaty of 1817. The lands lay in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.

The Government also assumed the responsibility of removing all the “squatters” McMinn had introduced by his undignified and unjust management. Andrew Jackson, then Major-General in the regular army, was called upon to execute the condition of the new compact. He wrote in reply, that he had no troops to spare and said that the Cherokee Light-Horse companies should do the work. Colonel Meigs, the Indian Agent, feared the effect of employing Indians to remove the white intruders, but applied to the chiefs Hicks and Pathkiller, who consented to let them take the field. The command was given to Mr. Ross, because it was urged by Colonel Meigs that a preeminently prudent man was needed.

Colonel Meigs ordered the horsemen to simply warn the settlers to leave. Ross protested against a powerless attempt of the kind and they were reluctantly granted authority to remove those who refused to go, burning cabins and corn.

The first settlement to be purged of intruders was near the Agency, and these, at the approach of Ross with his troopers, fled. Finding a house closed, and believing the owner within prepared to resist, his men surrounded it, and the commander made an entrance down the chimney, but the object of pursuit was gone.

The Light-Horse troops, though the chieftain had been unused to military life, did their work well, necessarily marking their way with fire and ruin. At Crow Island they found a hundred armed men, who, upon being approached by messengers with peaceful propositions, yielded to the claims of Government and disbanded. In Brown’s Valley, Ross might have been seen at dead of night, Deputy Agent Williams keeping sentry at the tent-door, writing by torchlight his dispatches to General Jackson. The General sent Captain Call with a company of regulars to the Georgia frontier the latter passing round Lookout Mountain, a solitary range eighty or ninety miles long, while Ross went directly over it. Upon joining Call, Mr. Ross surrendered to him the military command, and returned to Rossville. In 1818 he was elected by Colonel Meigs to go in search of a captive Osage boy, about 190 miles distant, in Alabama. He mounted his horse and started managing his mission as detective so well, that in a few days he returned with the boy on behind, and placed him in the Brainard Mission, where he took the name of John Osage Ross.

About this time New Echota was selected for the seat of government, a town on the Oosteanalee, two miles from the spot where he was elected President of the National Committee. In 1812 the National Council was held there. “The Cherokee Phoenix,” a weekly paper, was started in 1821.

In 1823, Congress appropriated money to send commissioners to make a new treaty with the Cherokees, and secure lands for Georgia. The State had also two representatives in the delegation, to assert old claims and attain the object. They argued that the Almighty made the soil for agricultural purposes. The Cherokees replied, that, while they did not pretend to know the designs of Jehovah, they thought it quite clear that He never authorized the rich to take possession of territory at the expense of the poor. McIntosh, a shrewd Creek chief with a Cherokee wife, who had. betrayed his own people, now tried his art on his neighbors. He wrote to John Ross, offering $18,000 from the United States Com missioners for a specified amount of land, using as an argument the affair with the Creeks. Mr. Ross kept the secret till the council were assembled, then sent for McIntosh, who had pre pared an address for it and when he appeared, exposed the plot. The council reported him a traitor, and his “white-bench,” or seat of honor, was overthrown. McIntosh in alarm mounted his steed and rode eighty miles, killing two horses, it is said, in a single day. He was afterward slain by his own people, according to their law declaring that whoever should dispose of lands without the consent of the nation, should die. He was speaker of the Creek Council.

In 1827, Chiefs Hicks and Pathkiller died. John Ross was now President of the Committee, and Major Ridge speaker of council, the two principal officers of the Cherokee nation. The new constitution, similar to that of the Republic, was adopted in the follow ing manner: The council proposed ten candidates, three of which were to be elected from each district to meet in convention. Mr. Ross was one of them and the instrument, accepted then, with his warmest interest urging it, was the following year approved by the council. It became necessary to fill, till the constitution went into effect, the vacancies made by death, and John Ross and William Hicks were elected chiefs for a year

At the expiration of the term, Mr. Ross was elected Principal Chief of the nation, and George Lourey Second Chief, each to hold the office four years. The extraordinary honor has been bestowed unsought upon Mr. Ross, of reelection to the high position without an interval in the long period, to the present.

We have reached, through the career of John Ross, the lawless development of covetousness and secession in the treatment of the Cherokees by Georgia. Andrew Jackson favored the doctrine of State rights, which settled the claim of legalized robbery in the face of the constitution of the Commonwealth. This was understood before his election to the Presidency by politicians who waited upon him. He further stated, it is reported authoritatively, that he affirmed the three great measures he desired should mark his administration now, legislating the Cherokees out of the State the death of the National Bank and the extinguishment of the public debt.

We are not criticizing politically, or condemning this or any other executive officer, but stating matters of accredited history.

We need not repeat the events that followed, briefly narrated in the preceding sketch of the Cherokee nation, till it rises from suffering and banishment to power again west of the Mississippi.

When the dark and wrathful tide of secession set westward, the disloyal officials at once took measures to conciliate or frighten the Indians into an alliance with them. In regard to the Cherokees, they partially succeeded, making an alliance principally with weal thy half-breeds. The Creek chief Opotohleyohola, whose memory of past wrongs was bitter, said he must “fight the Georgians ” and he did, with the aid of loyal Cherokees, by a successful and daring attack. John Ross was consulted by Governor Ruter, of Arkansas, but evaded the question of Cherokee action in the conflict and when Colonel Solomon marched into the Indian country, the Cherokees, who before the battle of Bird Creek formed a secret loyal league, held a meeting at night, took Rebel ammunition stored near, and fought the enemy the next day relieved from the terror of Rebel rule, they hailed the Federal army with joy, and flocked to the standard of the Union. Scarcely had this loyalty been declared, before Solomon marched with recruits and all 2,200 men again out of the territory, without any apparent reason, leaving the Cherokees and the country he was to defend in a more exposed condition than before.

Park Hill, the residence of Mr. Ross, was forty miles from the road Solomon took in his retreat, for this was practically the character of the movement. Colonel Cooper, the former United States Agent, having under his command Texan s, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks, was ready to sweep down on Park Hill, where around the Chief were between two and three hundred women and children. Colonel Cloud, of the Second Kansas Regiment, while the enemy were within twenty miles, marched forty miles with five hundred men, half of whom were Cherokees, reach ing Park Hill at night. He said to Mr. Ross, “I have come to escort you out of the country, if you will go.” The Chief inquired, “How soon must I leave?” The reply was, “tomorrow morning at six o’clock.”

With a couple of camp-wagons, containing a few household effects, family pictures cut from their frames, and other valuable articles at hand, Mr. Ross, with about fifty of the whole number there, hastened toward our lines, hundreds of miles away. August 4th, 1861, he reached his brother Lewis’ place, and found his furniture destroyed and the house injured. At midnight they resumed the flight of terror, crossing Grand River, where they would have been cut off, had the enemy known their condition. The next day a courier came from Park Hill, bringing the sad tidings that the mansion of the Chief had fallen into Cooper’s hands. The work of plunder and ruin soon laid it in ruins, and the country desolate. The Cherokees were robbed of horses and everything that could be used by the Rebels. They were scattered over the plains, shelter less, famishing, and skirmishing with the enemy. Mr. Ross and his company, after weeks of perilous travel and exposure, suffering from constant fear and the elements, reached Fort Leavenworth but, as he feelingly remarked, ” the graves of the Cherokees were scattered over the soil of Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas.”

Mr. Ross spends much of his time in Washington, watching for the favorable moment, if it shall ever come, to get the ear of the Government, and secure the attention to the wants and claims of his people, demanded alike by justice and humanity.

A public meeting was held in Concert Hall, Philadelphia, in March, 1864, which drew together an immense crowd, and was addressed by Mr. Ross ex-Governor Pollock Colonel Downing, a full-blood Cherokee, a Baptist minister, and a brave officer Captain McDaniel Dr. Brainard and others. The interest was deep and abiding, but the difficulty in the way of appeal for redress by the aborigines has ever been, the corruption, or, at best, indifference of Government officials. For, whatever the natural character of the Indian, his prompt and terrible revenge, it is an undeniable fact, as stated by Bishop Whipple in his late plea for the Sioux, referring to the massacres of 1862, that not an instance of uprising and slaughter has occurred without the provocation of broken treaties, fraudulent traffic, or wanton destruction of property. It is also true, that when kindly treated as a ward, instead of an outlaw fit only for common plunder, life and property have been safe in his keep ing. He has had no redress for injuries, no reliable protection from territorial or any other law.

Fortunately for Mr. Ross, he had a comfortable dwelling, purchased several years since, on Washington Square, Philadelphia, to which he retired in exile from his nation.

He has been twice married. His first wife, Elizabeth, was a Cherokee woman, who bore him one daughter and four sons. The former married Return John Meigs, who died in 1850 and her second husband was Andrew Ware, who was shot at his own house at Park Hill, while making a flying visit there from Fort Gibson, to which he had gone for refuge from Rebel cruelty. His boy escaped by hiding in the chimney, while the house was pillaged, and the terror-smitten wife told she would find her husband in the yard, pierced with bullets. Of the four sons, three are in the army and one a prisoner, besides three grandsons and several nephews of the Chief in the Federal ranks. Two nephews have been murdered by the enemy. Mrs. Ross died, as stated in another place, on the journey of emigration to the west, in 1839.

September 2d, 1844, Mr. Ross married Mary B. Stapler, of Philadelphia, a lady of the first respectability in her position, and possessed of all the qualities of a true Christian womanhood.1 A son and daughter of much promise cheer their home amid the severe trials of the civil war. It was a singular coincidence, that just eighteen years from the day of his marriage he returned in his flight from impending death to the Washington House, in which the ceremony was performed.

By none in the land was the President’s proclamation of freedom more fully and promptly indorsed than by Mr. Ross and the Cherokees indeed, they took the lead in emancipation. His sacrifice, so far as the commercial estimate is concerned, in slaves which had come to him from those left him by a grandfather, of whom he was a great favorite, was $50,000. Besides this, the product of three hundred acres of cultivated land, just gathered into barns, and all the rich furniture of his mansion, went into the enemy’s hands, to be carried away or destroyed, making the loss of pos sessions more than $100,000.

Chief John Ross, who, in the hope and expectation of seeing his people elevated to a place beside the English stock, cast in his lot with them in early youth, when worldly prospects beckoned him to another sphere of activity, has been identified with their progress for half a century, and is still a “living sacrifice” on the altar of devotion to his nation. His moral and religious character is unstained, his personal appearance venerable and attractive, and his name will be imperishable in the annals of our country.

Mr. Ross has labored untiringly, since his return to Philadelphia, to secure justice and relief for his suffering people.

As the last bitter cup of affliction pressed to his lips amid domestic bereavement which removed from his side his excellent companion, enemies have sought to deprive him of his office, and stain his fair fame with the charge of deception and disloyalty.

The Chief still holds his position of authority, and his good name will remain under no permanent eclipse while all true hearts will long for deliverance to his nation, and that he may live to see the day.

1 This estimable lady died with the serenity of Christian faith during the summer of 1865.

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied .

The History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs, Embellished with one Hundred Portraits, from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington, 1872

The Trail of Tears

The Indian-removal process continued. In 1836, the federal government drove the Creeks from their land for the last time: 3,500 of the 15,000 Creeks who set out for Oklahoma did not survive the trip.

The Cherokee people were divided: What was the best way to handle the government’s determination to get its hands on their territory? Some wanted to stay and fight. Others thought it was more pragmatic to agree to leave in exchange for money and other concessions. In 1835, a few self-appointed representatives of the Cherokee nation negotiated the Treaty of New Echota, which traded all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi for $5 million, relocation assistance and compensation for lost property. To the federal government, the treaty was a done deal, but many of the Cherokee felt betrayed after all, the negotiators did not represent the tribal government or anyone else. “The instrument in question is not the act of our nation,” wrote the nation’s principal chief, John Ross, in a letter to the U.S. Senate protesting the treaty. “We are not parties to its covenants it has not received the sanction of our people.” Nearly 16,000 Cherokees signed Ross’s petition, but Congress approved the treaty anyway.

By 1838, only about 2,000 Cherokees had left their Georgia homeland for Indian Territory. President Martin Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process. Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while whites looted their homes and belongings. Then, they marched the Indians more than 1,200 miles to Indian Territory. Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera and starvation were epidemic along the way, and historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokee died as a result of the journey.

Our History

In May 1976, John Ross started the company after recognizing a strong need for a full service landscape company in the Metroplex. At the time, most commercial building grounds were paved wastelands with maybe a few trees. That left primarily apartment developments as our target customers for the first few years. As demand for green space and pleasant working conditions took hold in the 80’s, so did demand for our services. This foresight was not just a fluke. John developed the first one-page specification format to show prospective clients what they would be receiving with their annual maintenance contracts. This same format spread throughout the Metroplex and across the country through his involvement with the American Landscape Contractors Association and is still used today.

As more upscale and complex projects were developed in the 80’s, the requirements for servicing these accounts called for greater knowledge and more professionally -rained personnel and overall service delivery systems. We hired and trained college-educated professionals to manage our growth and oversee every detail with our crews. A number of our Crew Leaders and Crew Members have nearly 30 years of employment and have been cross-trained in the many services we provide.

Our delivery system, from initial request through final service rendered, is unique, and (we feel) the best in the industry. Our Operations Manager maintains constant contact with Property and Facility Managers, and Engineers, and is directly responsible for organizing, purchasing required materials, oversight, scheduling, and managing the crews through completion. There is no in-between personnel to miscommunicate, delay, or forget our clients’ expectations.

During our growth, we have developed a conscious commitment to OSHA requirements and safety training. licensing, providing comprehensive insurance including Workers Compensation for all employees, and continued education to provide the best professional service for our clients. We invite you to click on other tabs to see the many services available, and it is our hope we will continue to be your Landscape Manager of choice.

John R. Ross, President
John’s active involvement in the landscape business started in the third grade. His assigned duty was hand-watering half of his parents’ retail garden center, each day after school. Totally involved through high school in the family business, he went on receive his BS degree in Landscape Architecture from L.S.U. in 1971.

Before moving to Dallas in 1975, he was head of the Landscape Architecture Department for Seabrook, Lithgow and Kujath Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee, a multidiscipline design firm of city planners, architects, civil engineers, and landscape architects. There he was involved in all aspects of design from concept plans to final punch lists of construction. He specifically handled site analysis, land planning, grading, irrigation and planting plans, and details such as retaining walls, lighting, walks and steps, playground equipment, signage, site furniture, parking lot layouts, tennis courts, pools and fountains, fencing and the like. After the plans and contract documents were developed, he managed the bidding process and followed up with the site inspections during the construction phases. Projects included office and retail projects, municipal facilities, single and multifamily projects, urban renewal developments, and planned community projects.

While working as a sales representative for Maintain Inc. in 1975, John recognized a strong need for a multidiscipline landscape services firm. In May of 1976, he started JRR Co. offering landscape design, construction, and maintenance. After a few years, other specialized services were added, which included licensed irrigation and licensed pest control application. As one might guess, John’s career has been completely intertwined with the business over the years. “Doing the job right the first time” has been the guiding force handed down from his parents. This has lead to heavy emphasis on the training and education of all employees, a Total Quality program, and genuine interest in helping his clients have beautiful, healthy places to live and work.

Community and trade group involvement have always been a high priority. Current or past memberships include A.L.C.A., A.S.L.A., T.A.L.C., I.F.M.A., and both Dallas and Fort Worth B.O.M.A.

While meeting the challenges of running a business with the peaks and valleys of the economy, personnel and technical changes, weather extremes and trying to grow ornamental trees and shrubs on the prairie, he still finds time for his five children and four grandchildren.


1 H.H. Keene, A Guidebook to Manuscripts in the Library of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art (Tulsa, OK: Gilcrease Institute, 1968),

2 Ghigooie was born about 1730 William Shorey was born about 1720 and died aboard the frigate L’Epreue on 4 June 1762, according to the ship’s log kept by Captain Peter Blake. A microfilm copy can be found in the Museum of the Cherokee

Indian Archives. Shorey’s death on the way to England left a three-member Cherokee diplomatic mission along with Ensign Henry Timberlake and Sergeant Thomas Sumter without a competent interpreter. Timberlake, who had spent three months in the Overhill country, attempted to fill the role. A British newspaper, after the Cherokee audience with King George III on 8 July 1762, noted that the interpreter was so confused that the King could ask but few questions.

3 The Shoreys’ oldest daughter Annie Shorey was born about 1746 and died on 28 1825. Annie married John McDonald (ca 1747–ca. 1824), who emigrated from Scotland to Charleston, SC, in 1766. In 1770 he was appointed assistant superintendent for Indian Affairs. Their daughter Mary Molly McDonald was born on 1 November 1770 and died in 1808.

4 See John P. Brown, Old Frontiers: The Story of the Cherokee Indians from the Earliest Times to the Date of Their Removal to the West, 1838 (Kingsport, TN: Southern Publishers, 1938), 163 In 1779 another frontier army laid waste to the Chickamauga Towns and confiscated all the supplies from McDonald’s commissary. Bickering among the troops over the division of the loot forced the army to stop at a place henceforth called Sale Creek to auction the looted property. The item that commanded the highest bid was McDonald’s prized white horse.

5 Gary Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief (Athens: University of Georgia Press,

1978), 5–6. 6 Samuel Cole Williams, “Christian Missions to the Overhill Cherokees,”

Chronicles of Oklahoma, volume 12 (March 1934), page 66.

7 Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folklore

(Oklahoma City: The Warden Company, 1921), 410.

10 John Ross Papers. Treaty of Fort Jackson, 9 August 1814. GM4826.2.

11 Pathkiller to Cherokee Delegation, 10 January 1816, 4026.18a William C.

Crawford to Return J. Meigs, 2 March 1816, 4026.22 John Lowry to James Madison,

19 February 1816, 4026.19a Conversation between John Lowry and James Madison, 22 February 1816, 4026.17, John Ross Papers,

12 John Ross Papers. Copy of Remarks of Andrew Jackson, no date. GM4026.1978.1.

13 The 1797 date seems to have emerged in the 1950s when fundraising efforts were underway to save the historic structure. See Gary E. Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief, 6.

14 John Ross to Return J. Meigs, 11 April 1817, Record Group 75, M 208, Roll 7, National Archives Gary Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, vol. 1 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 30.

15 John Ross to Calvin Jones, 8 December 1818, Miscellaneous Collections, Tennessee State Historical Society, Tennenesee State Library and Archives, Nashville, as published in Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, 31.

16 Georgina G. DeWeese, W. Jeff Bishop, Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, Brian Parrish, and S. Michael Edwards, “Dendrchronoloigcal Dating of the The Chief John Ross House, Rossville, Georgia.” Southeastern Archaeology 31 (Winter 2012), 221–30.

17 Builders of log cabins agree that trees should be felled in early winter. Cool temperatures make for slower drying time, which reduces log cracking, and splitting. It’s also easier to haul logs over hard or frozen ground. Logs are seasoned by stacking off the ground with stickers or smaller logs in between the courses for maximum air flow around the logs and allowed to air-dry for one to two years before use.

18 The last letter from Ross with the Rossville address was to Hugh Montgomery February 23/27, 1827, Record Group 75, M 208, Roll 10 dated February 23 and Record Group 75, M 234, Roll 72, 373–374, February 27, National Archives On August 1, 1827, Ross wrote to James Barbour from his new home at the Head of Coosa, Record Group 75, M 234, Roll 72, 251-3, National Archives See also Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, 129–30.

19 John Ross Papers. Resolution of National Committee and Council, 31 October 1831, GM026.99 the Constitution and Laws of the Cherokee Nation (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1840), 6–15 22–25 33. See also Duane King, “Sequoyah or George Guess (Gist),” in Dictionary of Georgia Biography, ed. Kenneth Coleman and Stephen Gurr (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), 878–880.

20 John Ross Papers. Letter from J. H. Eaton to Colonel Ward, 2 August 1830, 4026.77 Letter from John E. Wool to Cherokee People, 19 September 1836. GM4026.345.

21 Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 206.

22 John Ross Papers. Note from Kooweeskoowee, no date. GM4026.3047.

23 Letter from W. W. [William Wirt] to Geo. R. Gilmer, Governor of Georgia. Concerning legal representation of Cherokees, 4 June 4 1830, 4026.71 William Wirt to John Ross, 4 June 1830, 4026.72, as cited in Mouton, The Papers of Cherokee Chief John Ross, 189-90.

24 John Ross to William Wirt June 8, 1832, Wirt Papers, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, as cited in Moulton, The Papers of Cherokee Chief John Ross, 244-6.

25 Samuel Rhea Gammon, Jr., The Presidential Campaign of 1832 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1922) .

26 James Atkins Schackford, David Crockett: The Man and Legend (reprint ed., Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981), 116–17 see also Donna Akers, “Native Nations in an Age of Western Expansion, 1820–80” in American Indians American Presidents: A History, ed. Clifford Trafzer (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2009), 76.

27 John Ross to David Crockett, 13 January 1831, Ross Papers, Newberry Library, cited in Gary Moulton, The Papers of Chief John Ross, 210-12.

28 John Ross Papers. John Ross to William H. Underwood, 22 June 1834. GM4026.152.

29 Duane H. King, The Cherokee Trail of Tears (Portland: Graphic Arts Books, 2005), 11–31.

30 In 1987, Congress designated the Cherokee Trail of Tears a National Historic Trail. At that time, the emigration routes were virtually unknown. In 1989, I was asked by the National Park Service to undertake a study of the trail routes and historic sites along the trail. I began my research with the John Ross Papers in the Gilcrease archives, which I considered to be one of the most important sources of primary material related to the forced removal of the Cherokees. Over the years, the collective research by many people has resulted in a corpus of data that has made it possible to ascertain, with a high degree of confidence, most of the routes used by seventeen Cherokee detachments during the period of Forced Removal.

31 The Papers of Winfield Scott,Record Group 75, National Archives.

32 Robert Hodsden, the physician for the Whiteley detachment, reported an even higher number. He stated that either seventy-three or seventy-four of the 875 members of the detachment died en route. His Journal “Medical Report of Dr. Robert Hodsden” is in the collection of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

33 John Ross Papers. General Winfield Scott to George Lowrey, 19 June 1838. GM4026.587.

34 John Ross Papers. General Winfield Schott to John Ross, Elijah Hicks, J. Brown, E. Gunter, Sitewakee, White Path, and Richard Taylor, 25 July 1838. GM4026.603.

35 John Ross Papers. John Rossto Matthew Stokes, 5 April 1839. GM4026.728a and b.

36 John Ross Papers. Resolution for Plain of Union, 13 June 1839. GM4026.751a and b.

37 John Ross Papers. John Ross to General Matthew Arbuckle, 22 June 1839. GM4026.757.

38 John Ross Papers. Park Hill to Colonel William Weer (U. S.) 8 June 1862. GM4026.1352.

39 John Ross Papers. John Ross, Lawrenceville, NJ, to President Abraham Lincoln, 16 September 1862. GM4026.1353a, b.

40 Gary E. Moulton, John Ross, Cherokee Chief (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1978), 175.

41 John Ross Papers. John Ross to sister-in-law Sarah Stapler, from the steamer Iron City, five miles below Van Buren, AR. 13 August 1865. GM4027.1521.1.

42 John Ross Annual Message to the Cherokee Nation, Park Hill, 28 October 1865, Ballenger Collection, Newberry Library. Chicago. In Moulton 1985. 653-57.

43 John Ross Papers. Daniel Ross, Washington, D.C., to William P. Ross, 3 April 1866. GM4026.1878.

44 John Ross Papers. John Ross, Washington, to President Andrew Johnson, 28 June 1866.

45 John Ross Papers. John Ross, Last Will and Testament, Washington, 11 July 1866. GM4026.1884.

Learn more

› Who: National Park Service Ranger Chris Young.

› What: A free program, “‘Our Hearts Are Sickened:’ John Ross Fights for his People.”

› When: Aug. 12 from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

› Where: Chief John Ross House, Lake Avenue and Spring Street in Rossville.

In 1828, he was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. The State of Georgia confiscated Ross's home at Coosa in 1830, and he moved to Red Clay, Tenn., the new center of government for the Cherokee Nation.

After gold was discovered in North Georgia, the state outlawed the Cherokee government. President Andrew Jackson authorized the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Chief John Ross and the majority opposed it, but a splinter group signed the treaty, which Congress ratified on May 23, 1836, setting the stage for the Cherokee Removal, known as the Trail of Tears.

On Nov. 14, 1838, 10 days after the last contingent of native Americans left for the West, the name of the Ross's Landing post office that had opened at Long's store the previous year was officially changed to Chattanooga.

After supervising the departure of 13 groups on the 2,200-mile overland march, Ross and his family departed on the water route. John Ross's wife, Quatie, died on the journey.

In Oklahoma, Ross was re-elected principal chief of the Cherokee and continued to serve in that capacity until his death at age 76 on Aug. 1, 1866, in Washington, D.C., where he was working on behalf of his people. He was buried at Ross Cemetery, Park Hill, Okla.

The house is the last remnant of this area's Cherokee past and has a fascinating history. When John Ross moved to Coosa, he turned it over to the Rev. Nicholas D. Scales, who was married to his niece. James Jones from Laurens County, Ga., won it in the land lottery after the Cherokee Removal and promptly sold it to Thomas G. McFarland, a surveyor, whose family occupied the structure and land for the next century.

During the Civil War, it was a hospital for both Confederate and Union forces. When the house was threatened by development in the late 1950s, citizens in the area formed the Chief John Ross House Association and saved the structure, which had fallen into disrepair, by moving it in 1963 to the other side of Poplar Springs, still on the original McFarland tract. The house became a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Legends of America

Born on October 3, 1790, at Turkeytown, Alabama, John Ross was the longest-serving Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, a businessman, and landowner who led his people through the Trail of Tears during the Indian Removal.

John was the son of Daniel Ross, a Scotsman who had gone to live among the Cherokee during the American Revolution. His mother was also ¾ Scottish and ¼ Cherokee.

John’s father, Daniel, established a store at Chattanooga Creek near the foot of Lookout Mountain, which operated until about 1816. Determined that his children would receive a quality education, Daniel built a small school and hired a teacher. It was here that John Ross received his early education before attending another school in Kingston, Tennessee and later the Maryville, Tennessee Academy.

Though only 1/8th Cherokee, Ross was of Indian heritage through and through. Early in his life, he witnessed much brutality on the American frontier as both Indians and settlers alike were constantly raiding the Cherokee villages.

At the early age of 19, Ross was sent by U.S. Indian Agent, Return J. Meigs, on an official mission to the Western Cherokee of Arkansas in 1809. Due to his quiet and reserved manner, the mission was a success as he inspired confidence among both the Indians and the white settlers. Proving his leadership and diplomacy at an early age, he was immediately sent on another trip.

During the War of 1812, he served as an adjutant in the Cherokee regiment. Though the Cherokee fought valiantly without receiving any pay, they were still not considered to be true Americans.

A year later he fought in the Creek War of 1813-14 along with General Andrew Jackson and 1000 other Cherokee. Attaining the rank of Lieutenant, he participated in the fighting at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the British allied Creek Indians. On March 28, 1814, 600 Creek warriors were killed and peace was restored.

In 1815, John Ross and Timothy Meigs opened a trading post on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga that soon became known as Ross’ Landing. In addition to providing supplies at the trading post, a ferry was used to transfer merchandise and people across the river. Soon, a group of Congregationalists, descendants of the Puritans, built a mission at Ross’ Landing called the Brainerd Mission. Ross, recognizing the value of a good education, did everything that he could to help the missionaries in their effort to provide schooling for the Cherokee youth.

Viewed as astute and likable, Ross relocated to Georgia as a chosen member of the Cherokee Nation Council in 1817. In this same year, the U.S. government asked the Cherokee to cede all lands north of the Hiwassee River and to move west, despite the treaty of March 30, 1802 which guaranteed the Cherokee perpetual rights to their land.

Two years later, in 1819, Ross was elected as president of the National Cherokee Committee, a position he held until 1826. During this time, Ross, along with Major John Ridge, the speaker of the Cherokee National Council, established a capitol near present-day Calhoun, Georgia in 1825.

He then became Assistant Chief of the Eastern Cherokee, participating in the drafting of the Cherokee Constitution in 1827. The constitution was modeled after the U.S. Constitution, including a Senate and a House of Representatives. John Ross was elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1828, a position he would hold until his death in 1866.

Also an astute businessman, Ross was involved with a number of business ventures, owned a 200-acre farm, and owned a number of slaves.

Over the next ten years, Ross fought the white settlers who were attempting to displace the Cherokee from their lands. Fighting not with weapons, but with words, he turned to the press and the courts to support the Cherokee cause.

When gold was discovered in White County, Georgia in 1828, the state began to push even harder for the removal of the Indians. The Georgia legislature soon outlawed the Cherokee government and confiscated tribal lands. When the Cherokee appealed for federal protection, they were rejected.

Though winning several court rulings, it would make no difference as Ross’ former comrade, President Andrew Jackson authorized the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

The Jackson Administration began to put pressure on the Cherokee and other tribes to sign treaties of removal but the Cherokee rejected any proposals. However, when Jackson was reelected in 1832, some of the Cherokee believed that removal was inevitable. A Treaty Party, led by Major John Ridge, and including Stand Watie, believed that it was in the best interest of the Cherokee Nation to get the best possible terms from the U.S. government. Cautiously, Ridge began unauthorized talks with the Jackson administration.

However, Chief John Ross and the majority of the Cherokee people remained adamantly opposed to removal. In 1832, Ross canceled the tribal elections and the Council impeached Ridge, and a member of the Ridge Party was murdered. The “Treaty Party” responded by forming their own council, which represented only a small minority of the Cherokee people. Both the Ross government and the Ridge Party sent independent delegations to Washington.

In the end, 500 of the Cherokee (out of thousands) supported a treaty to cede the Cherokee lands in exchange for $5,700,000 and new lands in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Though the actions were repudiated by more than nine-tenths of the tribe and was not signed by a single elected tribal official, Congress ratified the treaty on May 23, 1836.

Chief Ross and the Cherokee National Council maintained that the document was a fraud and presented a petition with more than 15,000 Cherokee signatures to congress in the spring of 1838. Other white settlers also were outraged by the questionable legality of the treaty. On April 23, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson appealed to Jackson’s successor, President Martin Van Buren, urging him not to inflict “so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation”. But it was not to be.

Soon, the Cherokee were forced to move to Indian Territory on what would become known as the Trail of Tears. Along the 2,200 mile journey, road conditions, illness, cold, and exhaustion took thousands of lives, including Chief John Ross’ wife Quatie. Though the federal government officially stated some 424 deaths, an American doctor traveling with one the party estimated that 2,000 people died in the camps and another 2,000 along the trail. Other estimates have been stated that conclude almost 8,000 of the Cherokee died during the Indian Removal.

Once the tribe was relocated to a site near present-day Tahlequah, Oklahoma, John Ross was re-elected Principal Chief. Major Ridge was killed the same day for violating the law forbidding the unauthorized sale of property. Soon, land was set aside for schools, a newspaper, and a new Cherokee capital.

During the Civil War, the Cherokee aligned themselves with the Confederacy, a declaration that repudiated any treaties that had been formerly signed with the Federal Government.

John Ross - History

Resistance to Removal

There were small pockets of opposition to the removal of Cherokees in Georgia and occasionally groups of people, such as the Quakers and abolitionists, championed Indian rights. In a petition to Congress in 1830, women from Steubenville, Ohio used their only political right - the right of petition - to protest the Cherokee removal and to argue in favor of Native American natural rights. Their petition was ignored.

In a farewell letter to the American people in 1832, George Harkins, a Choctaw leader, denounces the evils of the removal policy.

McKenney & Hall. "John Ross, a Cherokee chief / drawn, printed & coloured at the Lithographic & Print Colouring Establishment." Daniel Rice & James G. Clark, c 1843. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

John Ross, the principal Cherokee chief, was a leading opponent of Indian removal.

Born on October 3, 1790, Ross' Cherokee name was Tsan-Usdi, which means Little John. He became Chief of the United Cherokee Nation.

Ross made repeated trips to Washington as a representative of the Cherokee people, and he even successfully argued the tribe's case before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee people, but President Andrew Jackson refused to send troops to protect the American Indians on their homeland.

In 1836, Chief John Ross submitted a memorial and protest to Congress, declaring that the treaties that supposedly justified Cherokee removal had been obtained by fraud.

Article: The Life and Times of Principal Chief John Ross

The Cherokee Delegation to the Seminole in 1837 was a diplomatic mission to prevent the massacre of a kindred warrior people whom the United States government viewed as defiant terrorists. Furthermore, it was an attempt to create stronger ties with the U. S. government. During this period the Cherokee Nation was fighting against removal to Indian Territory.

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