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Officers of the Cherokee Nation

Ruins of Old Female Seminary, Burned in 1887

Ruins of Old Female Seminary, Burned in 1887

Officers of the Cherokee Nation, September 9, 1839 to June 30, 1908.

The anomaly of a fully constitutional government with all of the concomitant expenses of executive, legislative, judicial and educational departments; being in existence for fifty-nine years, self-sustaining, without direct personal taxes, would seem at first thought, Utopian and impossible. But this was the condition presented by the Cherokee Nation from September 6, 1839 to July 1, 1898. A contented and satisfied communal government in which personal land titles were nonexistent; livestock, had free range, universally attended free schools with free text books, were the center of each annuities of the tribe was to be paid; two-thirds to the Cherokees living east Education was a shibboleth, extreme poverty unknown and individual efforts were often crowned with affluence.

The permanent funds for the maintenance of the Cherokee Nation was derived from the sale of portions of their tribal lands and had its inception in a provision of an indemnatory article in the United States Cherokee treaty of October 24, 1804, which provided an annuity to the Cherokee Nation ,of three thousand dollars.

According to the sixth article of the treaty of February 27, 1819 the annuities oft he tribe was to be paid; two-thirds to the Cherokees living east of the Mississippi River and one third to those that had emigrated to Arkansas and were known as Western Cherokees, in accordance with their estimated proportional population.

Article ten of the treaty of December 29, 1835, set aside the following amounts from the five million dollars sale price of the Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River: two hundred thousand as a general fund, fifty thousand as an orphan fund and one hundred and fifty thousand as a school fund for the Cherokee Nation.

The permanent annuities that had accrued under the provisions of former treaties were commuted for an additional general fund of two hundred and fourteen thousand dollars. Under the provisions of article twelve it was primarily agreed that one hundred thousand dollars should be used to aid indigent’ parties who had previously emigrated west. This award was rescinded by a supplementary article that added this sum to the general fund.

The apportionment of the disbursement of interest on the national fund was divided under the treaty of July 19, 1866, as follows: General fund, fifty per cent; school fund thirty-five per cent and orphan fund, fifteen per cent.

The general fund was used to meet the expenses of the national government, excepting those of education.

The only official census enumerations available are:
1838 – – 22,500.
1880 – – 21,920.
1890 – – 28,000.

Officers of the Cherokee Nation
Page 262

1900 – – 32,576.
1910 – – 38,300.

State bonds purchased and held in trust by the United States for the Cherokees, under authority of the treaty of 1835, as shown by the Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the year 1839:

General Fund.

Kentucky 5% $ 94,000.00
Tennessee 5% 250,000.00
Alabama 5% 300,000.00
Maryland 6% 761.39
Michigan 6% 64,000.00
Maryland 5% $ 41,138.00
Missouri 5½% 10,000.00

The interest on their invested funds that were paid to the general fund only as reported by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in his reports for the following years were given as

1839 $36,085.65
1860 28,914.93
1870 53.445.01
1880 43,430.93
1890 30,958.31
1898 71,427.16

The exact dates of the regular elections of the Cherokee Nation were on the first Monday of August of the odd numbered years, and were as follows:

September 9, 1839 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 2 1841 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 7, 1843 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 4, 1845 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 2, 1847 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 6, 1849 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 4, 1851 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 1, 1853 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 6, 1855 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 3, 1857 Died August 1, 1866
August 1, 1859 Chief’s election John Ross, elected
August 5, 1861
August 5, 1867 Chief’s election Rev. Lewis Downing, elected
August 2, 1869
August 7, 1871 Chief’s election Rev. Lewis Downing, elected Died November 9, 1872
August 4, 1873
August 2, 1875 Rev. Charles Thompson
August 5, 1877
August 4, 1879 Dennis Wolf Bushyhead
August 1, 1881
August 6, 1883 Dennis Wolf Bushyhead
August 3, 1885
August 1, 1887 Joel Bryan Mayes
August 5, 1889
August 3, 1891 Joel Bryan Mayes Died Dec. 14, 1891
August 1, 1893
August 5, 1895 Samuel Houston Mayes
August 2, 1897
August 7, 1899 and council only Thomas Mitchell Buffington
August 5, 1901 council only
August 3, 1903 council only William Charles Rogers

The courts of the Cherokee Nation were abolished by the act of congress of June 28, 1898, entitled ”An Act for the Protection of the People of the Indian Territory and for other purposes,” effective July 1, 1898.

Rev. Lewis Downing was Principal Chief from August 1, 1866 to October 18, 1866. William Potter Ross was elected Principal Chief by council in October 19, 1866, vice John Ross deceased and was elected November 11, 1872 vice Reverend Lewis Downing, deceased. Assistant Chief Henry Chambers having predeceased Chief Joel B. Mayes by four days the succession descended to Thomas Mitchell Buffington, President of the Senate, who held the office until Colonel Johnson Harris was elected and qualified on December 23, 1893 and Buffington was elected as Delegate to Washington.

William Charles Rogers, the last Chief of the Cherokees was elected in 1903 and under the provisions of the United States-Cherokee agreement made at Muskogee on July 1, 1902 this was the last election in the Cherokee Nation-but he was retained as Principal Chief of the Cherokees until his death on November 8, 1917, in order that he, as the properly authorized representative of the Nation, might sign the deeds transferring the title of the community lands of the Cherokee Nation to the individual allottees of the same.

Oochalata, who spoke very little English, was the son of a full blond Cherokee father and his mother was a white woman who spoke the Cherokee language only. Oochalata owned and operated a good sized mercantile establishment at his home on Spavinaw Creek. On being elected senator from Delaware District in 1867 he thought that he should have an English name and said that as Dr. Jeter Lynch Thompson had been senator for a long time and because he was taking his place he would adopt the name Thompson and taking the sound of Chala out of his Cherokee name, Oo-cha-la-ta, he called himself Chala or Charles Thompson. For some time before Charles Thompson had been elected Chief, he had been a deacon of the Baptist church and had been acting as the local preacher in the commodious frame church house that he had and maintained. The Baptist church had refused to ordain him, giving as their reason, the fact that he was a lawyer. Shortly after he was elected Chief he was ordained as a Baptist minister.

Chiefs John Ross and his nephew William Potter Ross belonged to the Ross party. Chief Dennis Wolf Bushyhead belonged to the National party which was formed in 1879 and became the successor to the Ross party and all of the other chiefs belonged to the Downing party.

Joseph Vann, who afterwards became a resident of Saline District, was elected Assistant Chief on September 9, 1839. On June 26, 1840, Anderson Vann, an “Old Settler” was chosen to succeed his brother Joseph, who resigned as a result of the political compromise of that date. George Lowery who had been sponsor for Sequoyah was elected Assistant Chief in 1843 and 1847. Richard Taylor was elected in 1851. John or “Jack” Spears was elected in 1855. He was a full blood Cherokee; he had been left an orphan at an early age and took his name from a family that adopted him. A splendid interpreter, he was a popular and able man. Joseph Vann of Saline District was again elected in 1859. Being a confederate sympathizer he was succeeded in the federal Cherokee government by Thomas Pegg in 1862. Pegg was a captain in Drew’s confederate regiment, but on joining the federals in 1862 he was elected Major of the Second Indian Home Guards U. S. A. Captain James Vann, a cripple, magnanimous, brave and humane was elected in 1867. Robert Buffington Daniel was elected in 1871 and died on January 16, 1872. Captain James Vann was again elected, by the council on November 23, 1872 vice Daniels. David Rowe was elected in 1875. Colonel William Penn Adair, six foot and two inches in height, magnetic, logical and frankly agreeable, the ablest and most brilliant of all Cherokees, was elected in 1879 and did in Washington, D. C, on October 2 1, 1880. Rabbit Bunch was elected by council on November 5, 1880 and reelected in 1883. Samuel Smith was elected in 1887. Bunch and Smith were prosperous full bloods, spoke the Cherokee language only and were distinguished orators. Henry Chambers, a quarter blood or less, noted for his integrity and genial philosophic nature was elected in 1891 and died during an epidemic of influenza on December 10, 1891. Stephen Teehee, a splendid type of the full blood Cherokee was elected by council on December 23, 1891. Reverend George Washington Swimmer, a full blood Cherokee and well to do merchant and farmer was elected in 1895 and 1899. David McNair Faulkner, a half blood Cherokee known best by his seasoned wisdom and earnest integrity. A master Mason in every sense of the term, was elected August 3, 1903. He was retained in the office until June 30, 1914. He died August, 2, 1914.

Joseph Vann. George Lowery, Richard Taylor, John Spears were elected by the Ross party. Rabbit Bunch and Henry Chambers belonged to the National party. All of the other Assistant Chiefs were elected by the Downing party.

The constitution of the Cherokee Nation was formed and promulgated near the mouth of the Tahlequah Creek, under a brush harbor but within a few days thereafter the council moved to the present site of Tahliquah and thence forward until the civil war the capitol was at that town, but the location was not fixed specifically by act of council until October 19, 184 1 which was as follows: “An Act Establishing the Seat of Government.

Be it enacted by the National Council, That the seat of the Cherokee Government is hereby established at Tahlequah.

Tahlequah, October 19th, 1841.

Approved A. M. Vann, Acting Chief.'”

The site was at that time a wooded valley with numerous springs, and adjacent of Rev. Youngwolf’s farm which had up to the spring of 183-1 been the home of Blackcoat. Third Chief of the Old Settler Cherokees, it was settled by a band of Natchez before Blackcoat’s tenure.

The council passed an act prohibiting the destruction of timber within a quarter of a mile from Tahlequah, on October 4, 1839.

One hundred and sixty acres was platted into town lots and sold in 1844. Taleq, Tillico or Tahlequah had for years been a favorite town name with the Cherokees, although the origin of the name is unknown.

On November 10, 1847, council authorized the National Treasurer to contract for the erection of two hewed log buildings, each to be twenty feet square, a brick chimney, floored and ceiled overhead with plank, each crack to be stopped inside and out with mortar; shingle roof, one door and four windows, one story high and underpinned with stone. One for the use of the committee and the other for the council, to he completed by the first day of October 1848, at a cost not to exceed two hundred and fifty dollars each. Said buildings to be erected on the public square at or near the sites occupied by the cabins that had been used by the committee and council. These buildings were constructed by James Kell who was paid for them by act of council on October 5, 1848.” On October 14, 1848 an appropriation of four hundred dollars was made by council to have two buildings similar to the committee and council houses built for offices of the Chief and Treasurer. They were built in a row on the east side of the square and were used as capitol buildings until the civil war when they were burned on October 28, 1863 by Colonel Stand Watie.

Under authority of an act of council of December 9, 1867, the present county court house of Cherokee County, Oklahoma, which was the capitol building of the Cherokee Nation until its dissolution, was built.

According to the provisions of the constitution of 1839 a full complement of officers were elected by that body on or about September 1839.

On account of the vigorous protests of the “Old Settlers” and “Treaty Party,” on the unequal representation a new alignment of officers was agreed upon by a joint committee of the factions at Fort Gibson on October 26, 1840.

The only members of this council whose names are available are: Committeemen; Thomas Fox, William Rogers, James Carey, Thomas Lewis Rogers. Captain William Dutch, John Duncan, Bluford West, George Washington Adair, Joseph Lynch Martin, John Drew, Thomas Pegg, Reverend Truth Fields, John Spears, George Washington Gunter, James Spears, Hair Conrad, William Shorey Coody, President of the Senate and Reverend Stephen Foreman, Clerk of the Senate.

Councilors; Ezekeal Starr, William Holt, Lame Glass, Charles Thornton vice William Thornton, Wind, Samuel W. Bell, James Rogers, Lovely Rogers, Rev. Youngwolf, Speaker of Council and David Carter, Clerk of Council.

The committee was provided for by the twenty-two sections of the third article of the constitution of 1839. The first eight districts: Delaware Saline.

Going Snake. Tahlequah, Illinois, Canadian, Skin Bayou and Flint were created by act of council of November 4, 1840. The name of the Committee was changed to the Senate in 1867 but the latter will be used here as a matter of convenience. The Salaries were at first fixed by article three, section ten of the constitution at three dollars per day, subject to change by council.

Article three, section nine of the constitution vests the following right: “Each branch of the National Council shall choose its own officers.” In accordance with an act of council of October 4, 1839 it was stipulated “The Clerks of the National Committee and Council shall each receive three dollars per day while in service.”

See Article three, section nine of the constitution for authorization of office and act of Council of October 4, 1839 for salary.

Delaware District was named from a town or settlement of Delaware Indians on the south side of Spavinaw Creek, near Eucha from about 1820 to 18 39.

Saline District was named for the salt spring at Grand Saline, one mile east of Salina.

Going Snake District was named for Goingsnake, a noted Cherokee orator and Speaker of Council in 1828.

Tahlequah District was named for the town of Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1839 to 1898.

Illinois District was named from Illinois River, which was named by the early French “courier du bois.”

Canadian District was named from Canadian River. This district al-ways nominated only one ticket for election.

Skin Bayou District was named from the stream of that name. The name was changed to Sequoyah in honor of the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary.

Flint District was named tor its predominant geological formation. Cooweescoowee was Chief John Ross’ Cherokee name.

Judges of District
Office authorized by the Constitution of 1839.
Salary one hundred dollars per annum. Act of Council October 4, 1839.

Solicitors of Districts

“Be it enacted by the National Council, That a Solicitor or Attorney be chosen by a joint vote of both houses of the National Council for each District whose term of service shall be one year; and such Solicitor or Attorney, before he enters on the duties of his office, shall be commissioned by the Principal Chief.

Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of such Solicitor or Attorney, to prosecute, in behalf of the Nation, all persons charged with criminal offenses. See Laws of the Cherokee Nation, 1852. Pages 52, 84, 107, 132, 170 and 219.

District Clerks

Article V. Section 68 Cherokee Code of 1875, page 55. “There shall be one clerk for each of the several districts of this Nation, who shall be a resident of the district for which he may be elected, and who shall be elected by the qualified electors thereof, and commissioned as provided by law.” The first election occurred in each District on January 21, 1874.

Circuit Judges

Article five, section five of the constitution, specifics ‘The Judges of the

Supreme and Circuit Courts shall be elected by the National Council.” By act of October 4, 1839 “The Circuit Judges shall be allowed each a salary of two hundred dollars per annum.” By act of November 28, 1850 stipulated the same salary.

National Medical Board. Appointed December 11, 1890.

Executive Councilors. The office of Executive Councilor was provided for by article four, sections eighteen and nineteen of the Constitution. Number reduced to three on October 9,1845. Per diem pay fixed on October 4, 1839 at three dollars and reduced to two dollars on November 28, l850.

Delegates to Washington.

Authorized by article six, section three of the Constitution.

The Cherokee Phoenix.

Owned and published by the Cherokee Nation at New Echota, Georgia.

Volume 1, Number 1 was issued on February 2 1, 1882. The last issue Volume 5, Number 52 was issued on May 31, 1834.

Editors of the Cherokee Phoenix.

February 21. 1828, Elias Boudinot resigned August 1, 1832 and Elijah Hicks was immediately appointed by Chief Ross.

Cherokee Advocate

Owned and published by the Cherokee Nation at Tahlequah.

First series; September 26, 1844 to September 28, 1853. Stopped for lack of funds. Second series; April 26, 18 70 to December 26, 1874. Entire of office destroyed by fire. Third series; March 4, 1876 to March 3, 1906. Discontinued by the United States government. A new office was built and entire new press, type and accessories were purchased at the beginning of each series. The full equipment for the third series was purchased for the Nation in St. Louis, Missouri by Assistant Chief David Rowe.

Editors of the Cherokee Advocate.

Elected every two years by National Council.

William Potter Ross 1844; James Shepherd Vann; David Carter; William Penn Boudinot 1870; John Lynch Adair 1873; William Penn Boudinot 1876; George Washington Johnson 1877; Elias Cornelius Boudinot 1879; Daniel Hicks Ross l88l and 1883; Elias Cornelius Boudinot 1885; William Penn Boudinot 1888; Robert Fleetcher Wyly 1889; Hugh Montgomery Adair 1891; George Oliver Butler 1893; Waddie Hudson 1895; Joseph R. Sequitchie 18 79; William Leoser 1899; George Oliver Butler 1901 and Wiley James Melton l9o3.

National Auditors.

Authorized by act of Council of November 19, 1851.

William P. Mackey 1851; Unknown 1853, 1855, 1857 and 1859; Charles R. Gourd 1867; Lewis Anderson Ross 1869; Richard Halfbreed 1871 and 1875; Stand Watie Gray 1875; Heman Lincoln Foreman 1877; Connell Rogers 1879; George Washington Benge 1881 and 1883; Lewis Anderson Ross 1884; Samuel D. Love 1888; Isaac Bertholf 1889; Stand Watie Mayfield 1891; Simon Ross Walkingstick 1893; John Calhoun Danenburg 1895; Albert Andrew Taylor 1897 and Thomas Martin Knight 1899.

Townsite Commissioners.

Committee to Dispose of the Cherokee Outlet.

1891. Joseph Absalom Scales, Elias Cornelius Boudinot, Rev. Joseph Smallwood, Roach Young, George Downing, Thomas Smith and William Triplett.

Committee to negotiate With the Commissioners to the Five Civilized Tribes.

Clement Vann Rogers, Percy Wyly, George Sanders, Wolf Coon, John Edward Gunter and Robert Bruce Ross.

Committee to Build the National Jail.

Riley Keys, John Lynch Adair and John Francis Lyon. The appropriation of six thousand dollars was authorized in November 1873 and the building was to be completed by November 1, 1874.

High Sheriffs of the Cherokee Nation.
This was the title of the jail wardens.

Attorneys for the Cherokee Nation Before the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, which was acting as a Citizenship Court.

William Wirt Hastings and Charles Percival Pierce.

Solicitor Generals for the Cherokee Nation.

Attorney Generals for the Cherokee Nation.

William Wirt Hastings, elected November 25, 1891, Robert Wesley Walker temporarily appointed December 20, 1892. Hastings resumed office;

Robert Fletcher Wyly 1897.

Revenue Collector on Alien Property.

Leroy Ladd Crutchfield 1889. He was reappointed as Collector in 1890 but his territory was only Cooweescoowee District to which the Cherokee Outlet was added in 1891.

The other collectors appointed in 1890 were:

Tittle was succeeded in 1891 by Thomas Albert Chandler.

Citizen Courts.

In the period of the war, from July 1862 to November 1867, both the federal and confederate Cherokees maintained a government. The federal government, as well as can be traced is as follows:

Principal Chief: John Ross, he died August 1, 1866 and was succeeded by Lewis Downing.

Assistant Chief: Thomas Pegg and Smith Christy.

Executive Council: Nathaniel Fish, Wareagle and Anderson Springston. Elected October 18, 1863. Daniel Hicks Ross, Moses Catcher and Redbird Sixkiller, elected October 5, 1865.

Treasurer: Lewis Ross.

Auditor: Allen Ross and Spencer S. Stephens.

Superintendent of Education: Albert Barnes and Henry Dobson Reese.

Chief Justice: Wiley Glover Thornton; Associate Justices, Riley Keys, Thomas Pegg, James Shelton and Nicholas Byers Sanders. Riley Keys elect-Chief Justice October 5, 1865.

Judge, Northern Circuit: David Rowe.

Judge, Southern Circuit: Joseph Duval.

Delegates to Washington, elected on Cowskin Prairie, February 20, 1863: Rev. Lewis Downing, James McDaniel and Rev. Evan Jones.

Delegates elected October 18, 1864: John Ross, Thomas Pegg, Smith Christy and George Washington Scraper.

Delegates elected November 3, 1865: Smith Christy, Whitecatcher. Daniel Hicks Ross, Samuel Houston Benge, James McDaniel, John Buttrick Jones and Thomas Pegg.


Delaware District:

Saline District: Lewis Downing, Charles Wickliffe and Toostoo.

Going Snake District: Archibald Scraper, Bud Gritts and Redbird Six-killer.

Tahlequah District: Whitecatcher.

Illinois District: Charles R. Gourd, William Potter Ross and Joshua Ross.

Canadian District: Flute Foxskin.

Sequoyah District: Smith Christy, Cheechee and James Vann, President of Committee.

Flint District: Eli Smith.

Cooweescoowee District: James McDaniel and Robin Smith.

Clerk of Committee: John Buttrick Jones and Robert Bruce Ross.


Delaware District: Luther Rice”, James D. Wofford, Big Robin, Robert Guess, Ezekiel Blackfox and Ben Snail, Speaker of Council.

Saline District: Lacey Mouse, Chuwachukah and Springfrog, Speaker of Council.

Going Snake District: George Washington Scraper, Alexander Love, Eli Sanders, Redbird Sixkiller, Johnson Robbins, and Joe Chooie.

Tahlequah District: Tarcheche and Jack Downing.

Illinois District: Bark Scruggs, Moses Price and John Young, Speaker of Council.

Canadian District: James Hammer and Whitewater.

Sequoyah District:

Flint District: Chalateehee, Walter Christy and Talala.

Cooweescoowee District: Jumper Mills, John Glass, Josiah Stealer and Writer, Speaker of Council.

Clerk of Council: William Scraper and Henry Dobson Reese.

District Judges.

Delaware District: Luther Rice, Oochalata and Johnson Long Charles.

Saline District: George Beamer and Charles Wickliffe.

Going Snake District: Frog Sixkiller and Johnson Robbins.

Tahlequah District: Jackson R. Gourd.

Illinois District: Robin Crawford.

Canadian District: Franklin Gritts and William Doublehead.

Sequoyah District: Mink Downing and George Blair.

Flint District: Johnson Bolin, Chalateehee and Wesley Gritts.

Cooweescoowee District: Stop Sconatee and Daniel Ross Hicks.


Delaware District.

Saline District: Samuel Smith.

Going Snake District: Ezekial Proctor.

Tahlequah District: Eli Spears. Illinois District:

Canadian District: Coming.

Sequoyah District: Jesse Baldridge.

Flint District:

Cooweescoowee District: William Sunday and Dick Duck.


Delaware District: Allen Tanner and Robert Guess.

Saline District: Alexander Hawk and Isaac Dick.

Going Snake District: John T. Beamer and Aaron Killanigger.

Tahlequah District: Nelson Terrapin and George Pumpkin.

Illinois District: Daniel Backbone and Mussel.

Canadian District: Youngpuppy and Ned Baldridge.

Sequoyah District: Jackenny.

Flint District: Jesse Redbird and Wesley Gritts.

Cooweescoowee District: Jack Gobbler.

The first Confederate Cherokee “convention” was in session for eleven days during August I862 at Tahlequah; the second and final session was from May 22nd to June 1, 1863 near the mouth of Coody Creek in Canadian District. The officers were:

Principal Chief: Stand Watie.

Assistant Chief: Samuel McDaniel Taylor.

Members of Convention.

Delaware District: Charles Edwin Watie, L. E. Mush, E. G. Smith died and was succeeded by Lucien Burr Bell.

Saline District: James M. Bell, Joseph Lynch Martin and Dr. Walter Thompson Adair.

Going Snake District: Joseph McMinn Bean, I. Foster, George Harlan Starr, died and was succeeded by George Washington Mayes.

Tahlequah District: Smallwood, W. Benge and Johnson Foreman.

Illinois District: Richard Fields, John Brewer, John W. Brown and Alexander Foreman, President of Convention.

Canadian District: J. A. Scales, Walker Carey and O. H. P. Brewer.

Sequoyah District: Daniel Ross Nave, Moses C. Frye, John Walker Starr, died and was succeeded by Samuel Gunter.

Flint District: Walkingwolf and William Griffin.

Cooweescoowee District: Leroy Keys, Clement V. Rogers and John G. Scrimsher.

William Penn Boudinot, Secretary of Convention; Joel Bryan Mayes Assistant Secretary.

Jack Spears, Executive Councilor.

Elias Cornelius Boudinot, Delegate to the Confederate Congress.

Richard Carter, Judge of Cooweescoowee District.

Lucien Burr Bell, Sheriff’ of Deleware District.