Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Who were the Texas Cherokees?

Originally, a group of Cherokees, led by The Bowl, who had left the United States and settled in the geographical area now known as the state of Texas were called the “Texas Cherokees.” After that group was driven out of the Republic of Texas, the term “Texas Cherokees” was used to describe the survivors (and later descendants of those survivors) of the “Texas/Cherokee War.” They were the Cherokees that fled the Republic of Texas after The Bowl was killed in July 1839. Some went to the Cherokee Nation. Others went as far as the Choctaw Nation and stopped. Another group, led by John Bowles, son of The Bowl, attempted to get to Mexico. On the way, they encountered a group of soldiers and John Bowles was killed. Some of the women and children in the group were captured. The survivors of that attack managed to reach safety in Mexico and remained there until Sequoyah found them and requested they return to the Cherokee Nation, within the bounds of the United States.

A timeline for the “Texas Cherokees” follows: 

  •  1840 or later – Some of the wives (he had 3) and children of The Bowl requested safe passage through the Republic of Texas to the Cherokee Nation and were given it, along with an escort and provisions.
  • 1840 – The Cherokee man named Dutch contacted General Arbuckle about approximately 180 Cherokees who had arrived in deplorable condition from the Republic of Texas. Dutch requested food and provisions for them. (1)
  •  28 Apr 1840 – General Arbuckle sent a letter to President Lamar of the Republic of Texas on behalf of the Cherokee Nation government requesting prisoners be sent to the Cherokee Nation. Arbuckle also wrote that some Cherokees from the Republic of Texas had recently arrived in the Nation.
  •  25 Jan 1842 – Oosooti, a Cherokee that had previously lived in “Texas” and a signer of the Houston-Bowls Treaty in 1836, wrote a letter witnessed by Jesse Bushyhead, explaining he represented seventeen families consisting of about one hundred souls that had to leave everything they owned behind as they were forced out of Texas. He requested provisions for a year, clothing, cooking and farm implements, promising to remain with their friends and allies in the Cherokee Nation and to never leave the United States again. 
  •  1842 – Sequoyah, his son, Teesee, and others went to Mexico in search of the Cherokees who had fled there. 
  •  1843 – Lightening Bug Bowles was living in the Cherokee Nation. He ran for tribal council in the Canadian District but was ineligible, possibly due to length of time in his district or his age.
  • 29 Sept 1843 – The Treaty of Bird’s Fort was “signed”. A Cherokee named Chicken Trotter left his mark on the treaty. There were about 30 Cherokees present and they were in desperate condition. They had recently returned from Mexico and had been robbed of all their possessions, including their clothing. The family of The Bowl refused to attend the council until the women and children were given proper clothing.
  • 15 May 1844 – There was a council meeting of Indians and agents in the Republic of Texas. Cherokee Chicken Trotter spoke on the third day. He said all the Cherokees in Texas were there and asked about the daughters of Chu-ti-koo who had been taken by a different tribe.
  • 6 Dec 1844 – Tahluntusky Council in the Cherokee Nation took place. Lightening Bug Bowles was listed in Canadian District on Old Settler list. 
  •  21 April 1845 – A letter was sent from Warren’s Trading House, signed by Cherokees Standing Man, Standing Rock, and Watch Justice, witnessed by Jesse Chisholm, informing the Cherokee Nation that Sequoyah was dead. Standing Rock was with Sequoyah and buried him in Mexico.
  • 19 Sept 1845 – Cherokee “Chief” Wagon Bowles spoke at the first day of a Tehuacana Council held at Torrey’s Trading House. 
  •  20 Sept 1845 – A Cherokee named Keese spoke at the second day of the Tehuacana Council held at Torrey’s Trading House.
  • 13 Oct 1845 – The Treaty Party Expedition rode into the Cherokee settlement in Texas. Dr Thompson, David Bell, and Brice Martin went to Torrey’s Trading House, about 8 miles away. William Holt and Jack Griffin went to see Bowles who lived 5 miles above the village. (2)
  • 22 Oct 1845 – The Treaty Party Expedition left the Cherokee village with Teesee Guess as their guide. (2)
  • 13 Feb 1846 – Teesee Guess visited the camp of Elijah Hicks who had accompanied Cherokee Agent Butler and Col M.G. Lewis into Texas to assist with a treaty for Texas Indians.
  • 18 Feb 1846 – Teesee Guess and Jesse Chisholm visited the camp of Elijah Hicks.
  • 21 Feb 1846 – Chicken Trotter delivered a lost white boy to the camp of Elijah Hicks. 
  •  23 Feb 1846 – Elijah Hicks assisted Chicken Trotter at the trading post.
  • 1847 – Lightening Bug Bowles was in the Cherokee Nation and serving on the tribal council representing the Canadian District.
  • 18 Nov 1847 – The Cherokees remaining in Texas moved closer to “Warren’s Trading House” after being attacked.
  • 1849 – Lightening Bug Bowles was in the Cherokee Nation and serving in the tribal senate representing the Canadian District.
  • 1851 – Several Bowles were listed on the Old Settler roll, including Lightening Bug, Standing Man, Standing in the Middle, and Oo-tar-ye. Took her Guess, the wife of Teesee Guess, daughter of The Bowl, was also on the Old Settler roll. All were in the Canadian District. Teesee Guess was on the Drennen roll in the Canadian District.
  • 18 Mar 1853 – The “Texas Cherokee” started their suit against Texas for their lost land and property.
    New York Times; New York, New York; 18 March 1853; p6.
  • 1853 – Wagon Bowles was in the Cherokee Nation and serving on the tribal council representing the Canadian District. Lightening Bug Bowles was the other council person serving from the Canadian District. Teesee Guess was serving in the tribal senate from the Canadian District.

After an exhaustive search, Chicken Trotter was not found in records after 1846.

After 1847, the “Texas Cherokees” known to be in Texas disappear from records there and start appearing in records of the Cherokee Nation.

From 1853 on, the “Texas Cherokees and associate tribes” was a sub-group of Cherokees living within the Cherokee Nation who organized to seek compensation for the land and property they lost when they were driven out of the Republic of Texas.

In 1870, representatives and descendants of the Cherokees who formerly lived in Texas and who were known as the “Texas Cherokees and their associate bands” hired and gave power of attorney to William Penn Adair and Clement Neely Vann to prosecute their claims against Texas or the United States. The power of attorney specifically said ALL of those known as the Texas Cherokees and associate bands lived in the Cherokee Nation. They were not in Texas. They were not in Mexico. They were in the Cherokee Nation.

There were former citizens of the Cherokee Nation living in Texas in 1870, but they were not affiliated with the group known as the “Texas Cherokees.” There may have been former citizens of the Choctaw Nation, Creek Nation, and Chickasaw Nation living in Texas in 1870, too. If so, they were not the “associate bands” of the “Texas Cherokees.” We know this because the power of attorney said all of those known as the “Texas Cherokees and associated bands” were living in the Cherokee Nation.

Today, the “Mount Tabor Indian Community” in Texas represents itself as the descendants and heirs of the “Texas Cherokees and associate bands,” but the evidence clearly shows this claim is not true. The descendants of the “Texas Cherokees and associate bands” relocated to the Cherokee Nation by 1853 and stayed there.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Thanks for reading,

Polly’s Granddaughter


Note: The term “Texas Cherokees” does NOT include the group of Treaty Party members that moved to the state of Texas. Coming soon: “The Treaty Party in Texas.”

(1)Advancing the Frontier, Grant Foreman, p166.  

(2)William Minor Quesenbury Diary, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

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