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The subject of this sketch was born October 2, 1833, in Bates County, Georgia, near Cartersville, at that time in the Cherokee country. Joel was the second son of Samuel Mayes and Nancy Adair, the former of white blood from the State of Tennessee, but whose ancestors emigrated from England and Wales. His mother was the daughter of Watt Adair, a Cherokee who held many high offices in the old nation, while his great-grandfather Adair was an illustrious man during the reign of King George the Third of England. Joel moved to the Cherokee country with his people in 1837, and attended the public schools until 1851, when he entered the Male Seminary at Tahlequah and there remained for four years. In 1855 he began school teaching and continued it till 1857, when he commenced stock raising in the western portion of the nation, and followed it till the outbreak of the war. It was as a private that Joel Mayes entered the Confederate service, First Indian Brigade, but he was rapidly promoted to the offices of paymaster and quartermaster, which last named he occupied till the conclusion of the war. Returning to his home in 1865, he once more devoted his attention to stock-raising and farming, and has at present 300 acres in cultivation, 500 head of stock cattle, 75 head of horses, 500 head of sheep and about 150 hogs. In 1879 Mr. Mayes was appointed Clerk of the District Court, and held the office till 1883, when he was elected Judge of the Northern Circuit of the Nation, and held the office through re-election for five years. After this he became Clerk of the Commissioners’ Court for two years, and then Clerk of the National Council. While holding this appointment he was elected Supreme Judge, and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In 1887 he was nominated and elected Principal Chief on the Downing ticket, and was re-elected in 1891 by an immense majority.
In 1857 Mr. Mayes married Miss Martha J. Candy, by whom he had no children. In 1863 he married Miss Martha M. McNair, the issue of this marriage being two children, both of whom died in infancy. Mr. Mayes next married Miss Mary Vaun, daughter to David Vaun, once treasurer of the nation and a wealthy and prominent citizen. The subject of our sketch is a Royal Arch Mason, a member of the Methodist Church and a good Christian. He is a man of considerable force of character, which displays itself in a fine physique and a face and head that indicate intellectual strength. His executive ability has been tested and demonstrated since his advent in office, and the public criticism on the same was well illustrated by the immense majority he received in the recent executive contest. Chief Mayes is five feet eleven inches in height and weighs 280 pounds. He has a good-natured, kindly disposition, which endears him to all his acquaintances.