Early Cherokee History

The first treaty that ever was made between the United States and the Cherokee Indians was concluded at Hopewell, on the Kiowee, November 22, 1785.

There came a division among the Cherokees, and a chief by the name of Dutcher became dissatisfied and decided to go towards the sunset about the year 1808. A number of French traders came up the Tennessee River from New Orleans. They had a large stock of goods and undertook to establish a trading post. They had a quantity of whisky among their stores, and the Indians all got drunk. It is said by the old Indians that Dutcher took advantage of this opportunity to complete his plans, and that he murdered those French-men and took their boats and goods. He loaded the women and children on the boats, with men enough to operate them, while the balance of the warriors, numbering, about 200 men, proceeded overland on ponies, keeping in touch with the boats as they went. They went to the mouth of the Tennessee, and then down to the mouth of the White river. Here the horses were ferried across on the boats, and the band proceeded to the mouth of the Arkansas, up which they went to the place where Dardanelles, Ark., now stands, arriving there about the fall of 1809. They remained there until the spring of 1810, when they got in need of salt. Discovering that the water of the Arkansas was salty, they decided to lead an expedition up the river to the fountain of salt which they conceived must exist somewhere up the river. Somewhere near the mouth of Grand River they came in contact with the Osages, and after some difficulty they took some of the Osages prisoners.

Dutcher then informed the prisoners that if they would take him to where they obtained their salt he would spare their lives. So they lead him up the river about 60 miles to the salt springs near what is now known as the Cherokee Orphan Asylum. The entire country and those Springs were claimed by the Osages at that time, and the Osages were accustomed to taking pay in ponies from the other tribes that were permitted to secure salt there. But Dutcher wasn’t built that way. He didn’t believe in giving up ponies for salt or anything else. He believed in getting all he could, and ‘in keeping all he could get. So there was trouble over the salt springs, but the Cherokees secured all the salt they wanted, and then went on back to their home.

But every year they had trouble with the Osages in securing their supply of salt. This state of affairs continued until the summer of 1817, when Dutcher decided to take possession of the Salt Springs himself. He picked his army in this way: He built seven fires in a row. When they had burned down to a bed of coals his warriors were ordered to run and turn summersaults through the air over and in those fires. Those that were burnt had to stay at home, and those who were unscathed were permitted to go to war. Out of his whole tribe he had about three hundred warriors, all being good, strong, active men. He proceeded to the Springs over the usual route, arriving there on about the fourth of July of that same year. 1817. He found the Osages already at the Springs, under the command of their chief, Claremore. The Cherokees had guns, and while they were outnumbered by the Osages, the latter were armed only with bows and arrows. After several days of hard fighting the Osages fell back to a range of timbered hills about twenty miles west, near the site of Pry or Creek. Here they made another stand, only to be again routed. Falling back once more, they went west to the Claremore mound, from which the prosperous little city of Claremore takes its name. This hill was high, with a little timber on top. . It was surrounded on the east by prairie for several miles.

Dutcher believed the Osages were on Dog Creek at a little Indian village named Black Dog, about a mile east of where Claremore is now. However, after investigation he was disappointed, as Black Dog camp had been abandoned. After the second day, however one of the best known scouts the Cherokees ever produced. Hominy Jack brought in word that the Osages were camped on a high mound about seven miles to the northward. Dutcher went thither by night, and his men crept up to the top of the hill. The Osages, believing-that they were out of all danger, had no pickets out at all. The Cherokees laid low until the break of day, when, with a single war whoop, they sprang upon the sleeping Osages. They first emptied their guns, and then completed the work of slaughter with their tomahawks and butcher knives.

“Run for your life,” was the cry of the terrified Osages. 80 down the hill they went, with the Cherokees right at their heels, cutting and slashing and screaming like demons. Tumbling over one another at the foot of the hill, the Osages began to realize their condition. They whirled on the Cherokees, and a hand to hand battle took place. The Osages, being so much bigger than the Cherokees, were about to turn the game on them. But Dutcher, discovering his mistake drew his men off and ordered them to load and fire their guns. The Osages soon got under cover in the timber along the bank of the Verdigri River, which was about a mile west of the hill.

The dead were strewn from the top to the foot of the hill, and as late as 1882 many bones and other relics of the old battle could be found. The chief was killed after whom the mound took its name.

Dutcher took some prisoners and lots of ponies. I once had the privilege of knowing an old lady who was taken prisoner there when she was a girl. She said that her father had her on his back and was running down the hill, when a Cherokee; striking at him with his knife, cut her instead, on the face and arm. Her father then put her down and ran to save his own life. He tried many times to get her back from the Cherokees by offering herds of ponies. She was raised and educated at a mission near Fort Gibson, and married a Cherokee man by the name of Petite, who was a prominent man. She never returned to her tribe until 1883, when she was recognized by the scar on her face. She died from old age in 1888, leaving two daughters, and one son, the son being named Wooster Petite, who lives at the present time at Pawhuska, and has served as district judge among the Osages for several years.

The fight at Claremore Mound was the last trouble the Cherokees and Osages ever had. After the fight Dutcher sent a delegation to the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in the east advising him to exchange the old nation for the new territory which he had just taken charge of. His suggestion was carried out in the treaty of April 12, 1834, and all the Cherokees began to collect in the new territory. John Ross remained chief for 40 years, and died in Washington City in 1864. His nephew, Hill Ross, was appointed to fill the unexpired term, but was defeated for the office of principal chief in the fall of the same year by Lewis Downing, and as W. T. Sherman had been appointed to the command of the whole United States army, he decided to make some changes in Indian affairs. As the original treaty with the Cherokees had been broken, it became necessary to make a new treaty in 1866. A delegation of Cherokees consisting of Houston Benge, Smith Christie and others met the United States authorities at Washington and an agreement was made that all freedmen and slaves that had been owned by the Cherokee people who were then living in the territory should return within six months from the date of the treaty and should have equal rights with the native Cherokees; and also at the same time the Cherokees contracted to sell all the land west of the 96th meridian line at 47½ cents per acre for the purpose of settling friendly Indians and freedmen on. They also sold Cherokee and Labette counties, in Kansas, and a strip four miles wide the length of the Cherokee Outlet. This was for years called the neutral strip, and extended along the Kansas state  line. The Cherokees also sold the northeast corner of the Indian Territory, beginning at the Missouri line, then running west to the Neosho river, then running down the Neosho to the mouth of Spring river, then down Grand river, which is formed by the Neosho and Spring, to the mouth of Cowskin river, then up Cowskin River to the Missouri line. This body of land was settled by the Senecas, Wyandottes, Ottawas, Miamis and Modocs, while on the Cherokee Outlet the government settled the Osages, Otoes, Pawnees and Poncas.

The Cherokees, however, claimed the remainder of the Cherokee Strip, as it was not all taken up by the government in settling friendly Indians. The government assented to the justice of this claim, and in November, 1892, the United States made a treaty for the remainder of the Cherokee Strip for $1.25 an acre, and agreed to put all intruders out of the Cherokee Nation. There were at that time several thousand white people living on the public domain in the Cherokee Nation, contrary to law, claiming to be Cherokees. The Cherokee Strip was opened for settlement on September 16, 1893.

Things wore along in this way in the Cherokee Nation until the final treaty was made and the rolls closed on the 31st day of October, 1902, and the land office was opened in Vinita January 1st., 1903.

Source: Puckett, J. L. and Ellen. History of Oklahoma and Indian Territory and Homeseeker’s guide. Vinita, Oklahoma, Chieftain Publishing Company, 1906.

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