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Chief John Ross

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" (McDonald) Ross.

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 of 76.

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.

Learn more about the Cherokee here | Check out Trail of Tears | Stand Watie
John G. Burnett’s Story of the Removal of the Cherokees |
Chief Bushyhead

Message from the President of the United States
A communication addressed by the Secretary of War to the Cherokee Delegation. May 22, 1838 (pdf)


In continuing effort to recognize and assist Cherokee veterans, tribal leaders have formed the Cherokee Nation Veteran's Organization.

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 peacetime.

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 United States.

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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