TAHLEQUAH -- For much of his life Chief
John Ross served and led the Cherokee people. Nearly 133 years after his death he was
remembered by the Oklahoma Trail of Tears Association on June 26.
The association remembered and honored Ross
and 10 other survivors of the forced removal of approximately 15,000 Cherokees to Indian
Territory in 1838-39. Bronze plaques were placed on their graves located in Ross Cemetery
south of Tahlequah at Park Hill. The 2 x 4 inch plaques read: "In honor of one who
endured the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838-39."
John Ross was chief of the Cherokee from
1828-1866, during some of the most turbulent times of their history. He led the tribe
through the removal, rebuilding in Indian Territory, and the American Civil War. He was
the son of a Scotsman, Daniel Ross, and a quarter-blood Cherokee, Mary "Mollie"
In his younger years he fought in the Creek
War of 1813-14 and attained the rank of adjutant under Andrew Jackson, who would later, as
president of the United States, sign the act that led to the Cherokee removal. Ross was
elected chief in 1828 and would spend the rest of his life as chief. He vigorously fought
the U.S. government's attempts to remove the Cherokee from their homelands. His first
wife, Quatie, died during the removal near Little Rock.
Chief Ross died in Washington City
(Washington D.C.) on Aug. 1, 1866, just after finalizing a treaty with the federal
government that preserved a Cherokee government that had sided with the Confederacy during
the Civil War. John Ross's children Jane Ross Nave (1821-1894), and George Washington Ross
(1830-1870) also were remembered. Jane Ross Nave was married to Return Jonathan Meigs in
1838. After his death she married Andrew Ross Nave who was killed during the Civil War in
1863 and buried in Ross Cemetery. She moved to Bethlehem, Penn., for the remainder of the
Civil War. She managed to raise her seven children plus two orphaned children of her
brother James and wife Sallie both of whom died in 1864.
George Washington Ross served the Cherokee
Nation as secretary in 1865 and was clerk of the Tahlequah District Circuit Court in 1866.
He served in Co. I of the "Third Indian Home Guards" during the Civil War.
Andrew Ross Nave, the second husband of Jane
Ross, was born in 1822. He was killed fighting in the Civil War at Park Hill on Oct. 28,
1863. Before the war, he was a merchant in Tahlequah in the 1850s and early 1860s, and
sometime partner of Chief John Ross.
Nannie Otterlifter Ross was the wife of
George Washington Ross. She was born Dec. 23, 1833, and was the daugther of Alexander and
Elsie (Sleepingrabbit) Otterlifter, who came during the forced removal with her to Indian
Territory. She died April 4, 1890.
Minerva Nave Keys who was born in 1829, and
was the daughter of Henry Nave and Susanna (Ross) Nave. She was a niece of Chief John
Ross. She married Riley Keys, a prominent Cherokee leader. They made their home and raised
a family in what is now the Keys community south of Tahlequah. She died in 1905 at the age
Lewis Ross was the brother, business partner,
confidant, and closest friend of Chief John Ross. He married Fannie Holt of Virginia. He
served the Cherokee government in various capacities including supreme court justice, and
executive council (tribal council) member, and treasurer. He was a planter and merchant
before and after the removal at Park Hill, and was one of the wealthiest men in the
Cherokee Nation, owning numerous stores, mills, and ferries. He died on Feb. 5, 1870.
Also honored and remembered was John Golden
Ross, his wife Elizabeth "Eliza" Ross, and their children, Eliza Jane Ross and
Lewis Anderson Ross.
Although he carried the same name, John
Golden Ross was not related to Chief John Ross except by marriage. He was born in Scotland
Dec. 22, 1787, and married Chief Ross's older sister, Elizabeth, about 1819. He served at
the Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the Creek War of 1813-14. He lived in what is now
Blount County, Ala., prior to removal, and settled in Park Hill after the removal. He
served as an informal liaison for Chief Ross in his absence. He died on June 2, 1858.
Elizabeth Ross was born March 25, 1789, and
died Feb. 7, 1876. She and her husband John cared for the Chief John Ross home for many
years. She not only assisted in the care and raising of Chief Ross's children, she raised
her own six children and the four orphaned Mulkey children of her sister, Maria. One of
Elizabeth and John Golden Ross's children, William Potter Ross, served as chief of the
Cherokee Nation for a year after Chief Ross's death in 1866 and again from 1872-76.
Lewis Anderson Ross was born July 2, 1834, in
the Cherokee Nation East. He married Nellie Potts in 1868. He served three terms as
Senator from the Tahlequah District from 1867-71 and 1873-75. He also served as auditor
for the Cherokee Nation in 1869 and 1884. He died April 12, 1885.
In continuing effort to recognize and assist
Cherokee veterans, tribal leaders have formed the Cherokee Nation
An eleven member steering committee has been appointed by Cherokee
Nation Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller to determine the need for
veteran's services and what the tribe can do to assist individuals in
obtaining those services.
According to George Bearpaw, co-chairman of the veteran's committee and
executive director of tribal operations, the committee is currently
developing a database of veterans who have served during both war and
The committee held their first formal activity during a presentation to
the tribal council which included a Cherokee color guard and a special
presentation to Cherokee tribal member and WWII veteran Jack C.
Montgomery, a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
During the presentation, the council unanimously passed a resolution
recognising Montgomery for his heroism and his outstanding service to the
Montgomery, who served in the US. Army, 45th Infantry,
"Thunderbird" Division, Company I, said he was extremely honored
to have been recognized by the Cherokee Nation.
"It has been 51 years since President Roosevelt read that Medal of
Honor citation to me and during that 51 years I have been honored many
times, but none has compared to the recognition I am receiving
tonight," he said.
"The department of Defense has asked the Cherokee Nation to help
coordinate a national effort to recognize all American Indian veterans,
" Bearpaw said. "We are very happy that they have chosen us to
take the lead in this effort and plans are already underway to begin
networking with other organizations. We have always taken pride in the
fact that so many of our Cherokee tribal members have contributed to the
welfare of this country and we're pleased to be able to begin establishing
a network of services for those veterans." continuing effort to
recognize and assist Cherokee veterans, tribal leaders have formed the
Cherokee Nation Veteran's Organization.
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