Saturday, July 7, 2018

Young Wolf, Son of Mouse

In April 1820, while on his way back to the Moravian mission school at Springplace after visiting his family, a Cherokee boy and the relative accompanying him were met by a white man in the woods. The man appeared angry and pulled a knife on them. Terrified, the two Cherokees retreated into the woods and found a different route back to the school. The boy was only eleven years old. His name was Young Wolf and he was the son of Mouse from Rock Creek near Rabbit Trap in the Coosawattee district of the old Cherokee Nation in the east.

Young Wolf entered the mission school at Springplace on February 2, 1819 when he was ten years old. The missionaries wrote that despite his name, he had the appearance and behavior of a sheep rather than a wolf. Mouse and his wife visited at the end of the month and expressed gratitude for the love the missionaries showed their son. His parents obviously loved him very much because that was the first of several visits they made to the school over the following years. 

By the end of 1822, Young Wolf had left the school due to lack of clothing. Shortly after his departure, an anonymous donor from Boston contacted the Moravians with an offer of $25 per year (equal to approximately $566 today) for the support and education of an Indian boy with the conditions the boy would be named Gardiner Green and raised for service. The Moravians struggled with the issue of giving a child a new name. Because there were both ethical and financial implications, the decision to accept the donation was not one they took lightly. The donor inquired about his offer at least twice after he made it because the missionaries had not made the decision to accept it yet.

Gardiner Greene, Merchant: Probable anonymous benefactor from Boston

Young Wolf returned to school in December 1823 and was welcomed back with joy by the missionaries. Because his parents were "blood poor" and because he had to completely support himself, early in 1824 the donor's offer was accepted and the financial support was applied to Young Wolf. The missionaries justified their decision to the donor by describing Young Wolf as always being orderly and eager to learn as well as showing love for the Savior. To accommodate the donor's wishes, Young Wolf's name was changed to Gardiner Green.

The affection between Green and the missionaries was strong as shown in March 1824 when Green gave them a new water pail he had made completely by himself. In return, they gave him a calf whose mother had died of horn disease shortly after its birth. The Moravians also appeared to believe Green was dependable and could be trusted with important tasks. It was not uncommon for them to send him to deliver letters or messages on their behalf. In June, 1824, Green helped disseminate the cowpox  vaccine near his home with the hope it would stop the smallpox epidemic that was raging in the Cherokee Nation at that time.

In the spring and fall each year, the older boys at the Springplace Mission often returned home to help their families during the times of planting and harvesting. Green was no exception and in the spring of 1825,  he was home for nearly a month. During that time at home, three of his toes had nearly been chopped off.

While it is unknown how much of Green's education and upbringing at the mission school caused him to have internal conflict between his formal education and his traditional ways, as he got older, communications from the Moravians revealed there were some difficulties. From a letter dated July 8, 1825, "Gardiner Green is still here, but we do not know for how long, since he is already 16 years old and can soon be a help to his parents. He is a very orderly boy and also has learned to read and write very nicely, but we cannot get him to speak English." [Emphasis mine.]

As Cherokee boys grew older, it was expected that they would begin to participate in ball games with the men. This tradition likely caused additional conflict for Green. The missionaries did not approve of the Cherokee ballplay, viewing it as "an unholy thing." Traditional Cherokees viewed ballplay, the Little Brother of War, as necessary, a rite of passage so to speak, and a way for a boy to learn the art of war, thus becoming a man.

Signage at the New Echota Historic Site in Georgia.
Twice the Moravians made reference to Green's participation in ball games:
  • "Today we heard that our scholar Gardiner Green, who was taken home for a visit some weeks ago, was forced by his father to participate in a ballplay where he was hit with the ball stick by an Indian and trampled so that from noon until sundown he just lay there completely lifeless. But, he finally came to himself again and was taken home on a horse by his father." (August 1825)
  • "Our scholar Gardiner Green allowed himself to be talked into going to another ballplay, where he twisted his leg." (September 27, 1825)
Despite having a benefactor and changing his name to satisfy that benefactor, Green continued to struggle to meet his basic needs at school. In a letter dated January 18, 1826, it was noted that the students had not been receiving clothing from the friends of the scholars. Green owed for 3 frocks, 3 pairs of overalls, and 3 shirts. He eventually left school for the final time later that summer on August 14, 1826 when he was about 17 years old.

Green returned to Rock Creek after he left school and eventually married Aley, a full blood Cherokee. They welcomed a son, Ooahhusky, about 1831. The family was listed on the 1835 Henderson Roll as living near his father "Rat" (Mouse and Rat are the same in Cherokee) on "Rocky Creek" in an area that later become Murray County, Georgia. The household of "Gardner Green" included one male under 18 (Ooahhusky), one male over 18 (Gardiner), and one female over 16 (Aley.) All three were listed as full bloods. They had one farm with ten acres in cultivation. One person in the household was a reader of English. Two were readers of Cherokee.

In the spring of 1835, Green was dispossessed of four acres of land by a United States citizen. The compensation for "rent" on those four acres was included in his valuation of property recorded when the U.S. government was preparing to remove the Cherokees from their homeland.

Property Valuation - Young Wolf/Gardner Green
Unfortunately, when the Cherokees were removed to the west, Green did not make the trip with his family. According to testimony given by Ellis Harlin in 1838, Green died in the fall of 1837 leaving a wife and child, Aley and Ooahhusky, as "...his only heirs." [Emphasis mine.]

Register of Payments - Young Wolf/Gardiner Green/Heirs
Harlin testimony - Click to enlarge

At the time of his death, Young Wolf, aka Gardiner Green, was, at most, 28 years old. He left behind only two heirs to his estate that was valued at $383.50. Though his life ended in 1837, his death was far from the end of his story. Stay tuned for more posts on Young Wolf, his legacy, and what we can learn from it all.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

  • The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees, Vol. I & II, Edited/Introduction by Rowena McClinton
  • Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees, Vol. 5-7, Edited by C. Daniel Crews & Richard W. Starbuck
  • Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999
  • Private collection(s)
copyright 2018, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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