John Henry Covel was born July 18, 1848, close to the national capital. He is son of the late Caleb Covel of Massachusetts, who came to Park Hill with the missionaries at an early date. His mother was Eliza Turtle, whose relatives were prominent in the old State. Henry was sent by his mother to the Illinois district to learn Cherokee (soon after the death of his father), and during a term of eight years attended the neighborhood schools. When the war broke out he accompanied a party of Cherokees going south, and traveled as far as Red River, where he joined the refuges. At the termination of the war he went to Cane Hill College, Arkansas, but being left an orphan by the death of his mother in 1867, he was forced to shift for himself. Then followed a brief life on the cattle range, and a little experience in such hardships as ox driving and so forth. At length Henry was appointed schoolteacher in the Sequoyah district, and later on went to Coowescoowee district, where he taught three years. At the age of twenty-seven years he married Lizzie Mayes, daughter of Wash Mayes (present high sheriff) and niece to J. B. Mayes, principal chief. Lizzie’s mother is a sister to ex-Chief Bushyhead. By this union Mr. Covel has two children — Ella May and Jessie Crawford. Soon after his marriage, and quite unexpectedly, he was appointed first assistant teacher at the Cherokee Orphan Asylum, and there taught four years, after which he was elected clerk of the Saline district for two years. At the expiration of the term he was appointed principal teacher of the orphan asylum for four years, but resigned that position on the election of Joel B. Mayes to the chieftaincy of the Cherokee Nation in 1887. The chief then appointed him as executive secretary, which office he held until November 1891, when he was re-appointed on the chief’s re-election. Mr. Covel is the owner of two farms, one of 70 acres, in the Saline district, and one of 100 acres, close to the capital. He also owns a small herd of cattle on Grand River, and a pleasant residence in Tahlequah. Mr. Covel is a self-made man, and has no reason to be ashamed of the fact. Without a parent’s assistance since early boyhood, he has educated himself to become a good educator. He is affable in manner and pleasant in disposition, with a good stock of common sense as a basis to his book knowledge.
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