Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: April 27, 1937
Name: Elizabeth Watts (Mrs.)
Post Office: Route #2, Box 168, Muskogee, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: 1859
Place of Birth: Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation
Father: Wilson MILLER
Mother: Mrs. Nancy TONY-MILLER
Information on mother: died in 1876, buried Goose-Neck Bend, east of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Field Worker: L. D. Wilson
LDS microfiche #6016960-Volume 95
Mrs. WATTS maiden name was Elizabeth MILLER.
She was born in 1859, in the Canadian
District of the Cherokee Nation and is a full-blood Cherokee Indian. Her first marriage was to a
Mr. WHITEWATER, now deceased, and in 1894, she was married to Mr. WATTS.
Each marriage was consummated under the Cherokee laws.
Her mother was Mrs. Nancy TONY-MILLER and
she was born on the east bank of the
Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee, in 1837. Her grandparents were enroute from
Georgia on the "Trail of Tears". They camped at the river several weeks waiting for the river to
recede. Disease broke out among them and many died, but Nancy was born and she, at least
replaced one of those who died.
Mrs. MILLER died in 1876, and is buried
in the Goose-Neck Bend neighborhood, east of
Her father, Wilson MILLER, was born in
the Cherokee Nation. Was an orphan. He was reared by
uncle Joe ROBERTSON, who was the father of Miss Alice ROBERTSON, late congress-woman
from Oklahoma. His home was with the ROBERTSON'S at the Old Tallahassee Mission, in the
Creek Nation, at the present town of Tallahassee, Oklahoma. He knew little of his parents and,
likewise, Mrs. WATTS knew nothing of her grandparents on her father's side. He is buried three
miles south of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Grand-parents on Mrs. WATTS' mother's side
were named Richard and Nellie TONY and they
came to the Indian Territory in 1837, due to removal of all Cherokees west of the Mississippi
The Cherokees owned a large acreage in
Georgia. After JEFFERSON was elected President by
the United States, he had agents to come to the different Tribes to induce them to come west.
Their inducement was much more land than
they had there. They had lived there in Georgia
for years and years. They had good land, that was left, for already the white people had
encroached and taken much of their land. Naturally, most of them did not want to leave and
go out into the wilderness and start life anew. To do so, was like spending a nickel these days
for a grab bag, or like the saying, "Buying a cat in a sack". They did not willingly want to do
this. Time passed. The War of 1812 came, and removal was delayed. A new President,
MADISON, was elected and he traded land in Arkansas, north of Fort Smith, for their land and
agreed to move them and give them supplies, guns, clothing, ammunition, and utensils. A few
of them agreed and came. The most of them still refused. This greatly separated the
Cherokees. Those that came to Arkansas had trouble there. The Government then moved
them to what we call the Strip Country.
Those left in Georgia began building larger
homes, put in larger crops, planted orchards, and
advanced by leaps and bounds. It was during this period the Cherokees adopted the
SEQUOYAH alphabet in Georgia. SEQUOYAH also came West to the ones in the Strip country
and taught it there.
The white people used all means to get
the Indians out of Georgia. Claimed they were
barbarians, and they, the Cherokees, made new laws, just like the ones we had here in the
Nation. John ROSS was elected Chief of all the Tribes of Cherokees. ROSS did all he could to get
to stay there, but the Georgia white man passed laws and more laws, and law or no law, they
destroyed the Indian=s fences, and crops, and killed their cattle, burned their homes and
made life a torment to them.
The Cherokees began to think of joining
the West Cherokees. They simply could endure no
longer. Like everything, it took a leader, and Major RIDGE, his son, John RIDGE, and two
nephews Elias BOUDINOT and Stan WATIE became leaders. Of course, John ROSS was the
Chief and they all got to squabbling. ROSS did not want to move his people, but by some hook
or crook, BOUDINOT and RIDGE signed a treaty to move, and claimed it was the will of the
majority, but it was not, and the Government waited a little while and sent Gen. SCOTT and
two or three thousand soldiers. The soldiers gathered them up, all up, and put them in camps.
They hunted them and ran them down until they got all of them. Even before they were loaded
in wagons, many of them got sick and died. They were all grief stricken they lost all on earth
they had. White men even robbed their dead=s graves to get their jewelry and other little
They saw to stay was impossible and Cherokees
told Gen. SCOTT they would go without
further trouble and the long journey started. They did not all come at once. First one batch
and then another. The sick, old, and babies rode on the grub and household wagons. The rest
rode a horse, if they had one. Most of them walked. Many of them died along the way. They
buried them where they died, in unmarked graves. It was a bitter dose and lingered in the
mind of Mrs. WATTS= Grandparents and parents until death took them. The road they traveled,
history calls the "Trail of Tears". This trail was more than tears. It was death, sorrow, hunger,
exposure, and humiliation to a civilized people as were the Cherokees. Today, our greatest
Politicians, Lawyers, Doctors, and many of worthy mention are Cherokees. Holding high
places, in spite of all the humiliation brought on their forefathers.
Yes, they reached their Western Friends and started all over again.
Lands promised, money promised, never materialized
only with a paltry sum, too small to
recall, for what they parted with and the treatment received.
Cherokees before the Civil War
Elias BOUDINOT and John RIDGE came also to Indian Territory and they joined up with the old Settlers. John ROSS was still Chief of the Eastern Cherokees. So, again there were two factions. The ROSS faction out-numbered the other, and they voted and adopted laws, that they last had in Georgia. BOUDINOT and RIDGE, all believed, made lots of money in signing the treaty for the forced removal, and they were accordingly hated, and both were killed on the same day. No one knew who killed them. If they did get the money, they did not get to enjoy it.
Years passed, and the bad feeling between the two factions seemed to get worse over the question of Slavery. ROSS opposed it. Stan WATIE, relative of BOUDINOT, was for it. Missionaries come along on the "Trail of Tears" and opposed it. Some of the Indian Agents were for it.
The Indians did not want to fight. They
had enough trouble, but they had to take one side or
another and that caused much trouble at times.
Not many full-bloods owned slaves and they
had a secret society called "Kee-Too-Wah". They
wore two common pins crossed on their coats for their emblem. Most all full-bloods belonged
and wanted nothing to do with the white man=s ways, but wanted to stay with tribal laws and
customs. Most of them were the ROSS faction and opposed Slavery.
Those who endorsed slavery had a society
and it was made up of half-breeds and they owned
most the slaves.
About this time the war broke out. A man
named Albert PIKE came from Arkansas and wanted
the Cherokees to join the Southern Army. Lots of them joined, but Chief ROSS never would do
it, and tried to keep all of them from it. But the half-breeds and some of the full-bloods did it
anyway, and finally, PIKE got the Cherokees to sign as a whole, promising them many things,
but all of them didn=t join the South though a hasty treaty was made.
Life and Customs of the Cherokees before the Civil War
The removal into a new country necessitated
the construction of homes and the growing of
crops. Crude log cabins were built with large stick or stone fireplaces, with no windows and
with dirt floors, which were improved upon in time. Timbered spots were cleared and the
ground tilled with a big-eyed hoe, and they became more progressive and abreast of the
times from oxen, mules, and plows.
Their clothing could be at first only hides
and furs; then came the Spinning wheel and looms,
and Mrs. WATTS stated that many days she would card, spin, and weave cloth, even after the
Cloth and thread were dyed different colors
with walnut hulls, indigo, sumac, cooperas and
Salt was made on what was known as Hog
Shooters Place, now known as Brewers Bend. The
water from Salt Springs was boiled down in large kettles to salt, for the neighborhood.
Sugar was taken from Maple trees. Split the tree for a few inches and insert a split cane and
let the sap flow out, down the cane and drip into a mulberry or sassafras trough. Then boil sap
Corn raised in a clear spot was crushed
with a mortar and pestle. From corn so crushed, they
made bread. Their sifter was a riddle made from split cane strippings.
Lye was made with water and ashes. This
lye liquid was used with corn to make hominy or
Soap was made with this lye liquid by adding
old grease scraps from wild hogs and game.
The early weapon was the bow and arrow. The bow was usually made out of Bois-de-arc or
black locust, the arrows out of Swamp Dogwood, and the bowstring out of squirrel skin. Later
muzzle loading guns and cap and ball pistols. But many would rather have the bow and arrow.
Seasoning was made from Hickory-nut kernels. Used it in bread and served as cream for
coffee. Cherokee name was "Canuchi".
All cooking was done in fireplaces, with
pots, griddles, dutch-ovens and pans. With the corn,
pumpkins, all kinds of wild berries, fruits, honey and game, together with gardens and wild
fowls, the Indians, before the war, were living good. They had secured horses, cattle and hogs
and accumulated regardless of all the squabbles among themselves, white man, and the Wild
Indians, as well as the Negro slaves.
After much controversy the war got under
way. My father joined the Northern Army and was
stationed at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, under General and Captain Robert BLUNT. He held
the rank of Sergeant. I cannot locate his discharge papers and I have forgotten the name of
the Company, as well as the numbers.
Albert PIKE came back and built Ft. Davis
across the Arkansas River about four miles West of
Fort Gibson, for the South. COOPER, Stan WATIE, and General STEELE were in charge.
General PIKE also had a fight in Arkansas and they called it Pea Ridge. His Indian troops fought
Indian style with bow and arrow, and the North whipped them there.
The North burned Fort Davis and ran them out of there.
They had little skirmishes here and there
and did all kinds of meanness. I remember mother
and we children went over close to Fort Gibson during the War, and one day four Southern
soldiers came and took the food we had.
Took out the feather bed and cut it open,
let the feathers fly in the wind and used the tick for a
saddle blanket. As they went through the yard they took all our green onions. They simply
stripped us of everything. Mother took her best dress and sat on it to hide it. They made her
get up and they tore the dress into strings.
The reason we moved to Fort Gibson was
because father was at the Fort and we could draw
on our rations like the soldiers.
The big battle was on Elk Creek, they called
it the Battle of Honey Springs. That was near the
present town of Rentiesville, Oklahoma.
They whipped the South at Honey Springs
in July 1863. It was a hard battle. Many men were
lost on both sides. They brought lots of prisoner=s back to Fort Gibson with them. Some of the
prisoners were Negroes, some Whites, and some Indians. Prisoners consisted of men,
women, and children of all three of these races.
Most of the Southern men=s
wives and families took refuge in Texas, and the Red River
District, while the men fought. Our family never did leave the Territory and hardly got out of
our District. Just from where I live here, over to Fort Gibson, (a distance of 18 miles.)
There were no more battles in the Territory
during the War. There were lots of raiding parties.
They would go over the country, burning all houses, cabins, barns, and cribs, carrying all the
beds and chairs away, and killing or driving away the cattle.
The Cherokee Nation was almost wiped out.
First, the North would raise havoc and then the
South. The War was over in 1865, but it was 1866 before the Indians were let out of the Army.
Reconstruction Days in the Cherokee Nation
After the war the Cherokees were told that
treaties previously made by the United States
were void. All other tribes, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, were told the
same. Representatives were sent to Fort Smith to make new treaties. The result of that
meeting with the Government was that the Cherokees were to give up the Strip Country and
other little parts in the north to wild Indians in Kansas and the Government would pay them
for it. That=s why I got a little payment. They called it "Strip Payment". Slaves were to be freed
and granted tribal rights. This caused a confusion... They agreed to give land for railroads.
While this treaty was being made, the people
began building homes again, for the Cherokee
Country was in complete desolation, caused by armed bands on both sides during the war.
Homes and barns burned and the old fireplaces stood as monuments to mark the once happy
homes of the Cherokees.
Cattle and hogs had been eaten or driven
off, and went wild in the wilderness and cane
brakes. Orchards had died out and the clearings where crops once grew, were growing up in
weeds and sprouts. Even the population was much decreased on account of the war, disease,
hunger and cold.
The Indians never knew anything but suffering,
and with the tenacity of a bull dog, they never
gave up. Once their cabins built again, they started building rail fences, barns and cribs.
Farming was started again with about as much difficulty as when they arrived here on the
"Trail of Tears". Their life and customs were the same as explained before the War.
Indians doctored themselves with roots,
and herbs. Some of these are used even yet, such
as: bone-set, button-snake-root, butter-fly-root, sassafras, mullen and hoarhound (sic).
Before they raised tobacco, they dried mullen leaves and smoked them in their pipes.
The Female Seminary was first located at
Park Hill and later moved to Tahlequah. It is now
called the Northeastern Teachers College.
The Male Seminary was about 2 miles south
of Tahlequah, Indian Territory. It burned in 1910
and was not replaced.
The Cherokee Asylum was at the present location of the Sequoyah Training School.
The Bacone Mission was the present Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
The first school I attended was in Goose-Neck
Bend. It was a log house, with a large
fire-place, part of it was puncheon floor and part dirt, and split log seats. My teacher=s name
was Martha SCHRIMPSHER, a relative of Clu GULAGHER who lives in Muskogee.
My second and last school was in lower Goose-Neck Bend. It was a log house and was located
about 1/4 mile south and 1/4 mile east of the present Mt. Carmel School. It was near Mrs.
HEAD=s home and allotment. Teacher=s name was Ellen COBREY. She married a man named
BREWER, a relative of O. H. P. BREWER, present District Judge in Muskogee.
Ferries and Fords
The Nevins Ferry was controlled, owned
and operated by Mose and Julia NEVINS. It crossed
the Arkansas River at the mouth of Grand River.
The Government Ferry crossed the Grand
River, northwest of the Fort at Fort Gibson, Indian
The Smith Ferry was owned by Junior SMITH
and crossed the Arkansas River, down stream
about 10 miles from the Nevins Ferry. Rabbit Ford was across the Arkansas River about due east of the present village of Riverside which is east of Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Roads and Trails
My first husband, Mr. WHITEWATER=s
allotment was on the Texas Road about where the
eastern edge of Midland Addition of the City of Muskogee, Oklahoma is today. We lived there
and sold lots of eggs to emigrants going along the road.
I knew personally or knew of all the Chiefs from John ROSS to Tom BUFFINGTON. I remember well when ROSS died because my school teacher turned out school that day as tribute to his death. I personally knew Col. HARRIS, Sam MAYES, Joel MAYS, Joel MAYES, D. W. BUSHYHEAD and Louis DOWNING.
I knew the DALTON boys, Cherokee Bill, Bill NAILS, Mose MILLER, Bell STARR and Henry STARR.
Court for the Canadian District was held
at Webbers Falls, Indian Territory, and of course the
sentence was at the whipping post. I believe Joe VANN was the Judge, when a Negro, George
HENRY, was whipped for stealing a cow. He got 50 lashes. There were no jails in those days.
After the Dawes Commission I was enrolled
and my number is 60. I was allotted 40 acres right
here where I am living. That was in 1898.
I received Strip Payment amounting to better
than $200.00. Old Settlers Payment better than
$300.00 and occasional payment we called "Bread Payments $12.00 up to $18.00.
My strip payment was received at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory and Old Settlers at Webbers
Falls, Indian Territory.
When payments were being made great crowds
gathered, and all were made to stand in line
and wait their turn. Some of them really had a good time while their money lasted. Others put
their money to a good purpose. Roads were bad at times and it took quite a few days to travel
by wagon to get to the place of payments. It gave us all a chance to meet and camp with old
Mrs. WATTS talks and writes the Cherokee
language fluently and her English has no accent as
has most full-bloods. She is an admirable, elderly lady and is loved by all her friends and
She has a modern farm cottage, built on
to her one-room log cabin, with the proverbial large
fire-place and it is in this room she loves to sit and spend her spare minutes, for she is very
active among her flowers, chickens, and turkeys.
She loves her Bible, written in Cherokee,
and sits by her fire-side reading the same passages
that she has read for the last half century or more. This Bible was published by the American
Bible Society in 1860 and is a keep-sake dear to her heart.
Her mind is very active, her memory excellent
and it is a pleasure for one to talk to her, not
only of the past but of the present day topics for she had kept abreast of the times.
We should pay tribute to such a grand old lady.
Abstracted and submitted by Gay Wall <firstname.lastname@example.org> 03-1999