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The subject of this sketch was born March 18, 1826, in the State of Tennessee, the oldest son of Rev. Jesse Bushyhead, a well-known Baptist divine and who was associated for many years with Rev. Evan Jones in the translation of the Bible and other religious works. Rev. Jesse was several times delegate to Washington, and a commissioner on other important occasions. Dennis’ mother was a Miss Eliza Wilkinson, a Georgian and half-breed Cherokee. The young man first attended school in 1833 at the Candy Creek Mission School, Tennessee, under charge of Rev. Holland. In 1835 he went to the Mission School at Valley River, N.C., and remained there one year. In 1838 his father, Rev. Jesse Bushyhead, conducted a detachment of Cherokees, numbering 1,000 souls, from the old nation to Beattie’s Prairie, Delaware District, Indian Territory, and Dennis was among the party. In the following year, 1839, he attended mission school at Park Hill, Cherokee Nation, under charge of Rev. Samuel A. Worcester. Here he remained one year, after which, in 1841, he was sent to college in New Jersey. In March of the same year young Bushyhead joined Chief Ross’ delegation to Washington to attend the inauguration of General Harrison as President of the United States. Dennis remained in New Jersey three years, completing his education in August 1844, his father dying on July 17th of the same year.
In the fall of 1844 Mr. Bushyhead established a mercantile business close to where the Cherokee Orphanage is now located, which business he carried on until the spring of 1847. The following year he became Clerk of the National Committee, and in 1849 crossed the plains to California, being one of the first who ever undertook that perilous journey. During his absence he visited Sacramento, the Feather River, and various points of note, starting for San Francisco, Cal., in October, 1851, with the intention of there meeting some Cherokee friends and returning home by steamer. But they taking passage on a schooner, Dennis declined to accompany them, and, instead of returning home, went back to the mines of Callavaris County. In the meantime the ill-fated schooner was lost, while the subject of this sketch sailed for home via the Panama route, arriving safely at Fort Gibson on the last day of March, 1868, having spent eighteen years in the far West. Mr. Bushyhead opened business in Fort Gibson in 1871, and began to interest himself in politics about the same time. In November of that year he was elected treasurer of the nation, held the office four years, and was re-elected in 1875 for the following four years. In August 1879, Mr. Bushyhead was elected Principal Chief of the Cherokees, and was re-elected in 1883 for the four years following. In 1889 and 1890 ex-Chief Bushyhead was elected Delegate to Washington, and in November of the latter year was one of the three commissioners who treated with the government in the sale of the Western Reservation.
Governor Bushyhead married Mrs. Scrimcher, of Fort Gibson, in September 1879. By this marriage they had four children, Jesse C., now a physician at Claremore; Eliza, Catherine and Dennis Jr.
Governor Bushyhead again married in October 1883, his wife being Eloise P. Butler, daughter of James L. Butler, of South Carolina (brother to Senator Butler), and grand-niece to Commodore Perry. By this marriage Mr. Bushyhead has two children, James Butler, born October 6, 1884, and Francis Taylor, May 10, 1887. Mrs. Bushyhead was educated at the national schools and completed her studies in Philadelphia. She is a lady of great personal beauty and possessed of many accomplishments, added to which she is a loving wife and a tender and affectionate mother. Ex-Governor Bushyhead is a rather large, well-built man, with a fine face indicative of strength and motive power. He was at one time a most prominent man, but his party is out of power at the present time.