The Eastern Cherokee Nation in 1890

The Cherokee Nation by a treaty made in 1817, ceded to the United States an area of land lying east of the Mississippi river. In exchange for this the United States ceded to that part of the nation then on the. Arkansas. River as much land on that river, acre for acre, as the United. States received from them east of the Mississippi River, and provided that all treaties then in force should continue in full force with all of the Cherokees. This established the two names, eastern and western Cherokees. The eastern band of Cherokees is the portion now living in North Carolina, Georgia, and East Tennessee, but chiefly in North Carolina on a tract of land known as, the Qualls boundary. They are thus designated to distinguish them from the Cherokees who emigrated between 1809 and 1817 and located on the public domain at the headwaters of Arkansas and White Rivers, and who are now known as the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. The latter became known as the Cherokee Nation, west. The general term, the Cherokee Nation, includes both. Some of the eastern Cherokees after 1866, on invitation, joined the western Cherokees and are now with them in Indian Territory.

As early as 1809 the aggregate of annuities due the Cherokees on account of the sale of lands to the United States was $100,000, and it was provided by articles of the treaty of 1817 that a census should be taken of those east and of those west and of those still intending to remove west, and also that a division of the annuities should be made ratably, according to numbers as ascertained by said census, between those who were east and those who were west. Thus the Cherokees, although geographically separated, were treated as a unit, and property owned by them was treated as common property.

In 1819 they were estimated at 15,000 in lumber. By a treaty made in 1819 the formal census was dispensed with and for the purpose of distribution it was assumed that one-third had removed west and that two-thirds were yet remaining east of the Mississippi river. At the same time the nation made a further cession to the, United States of land lying east of the Mississippi. Upon the basis of this estimate of numbers, in lieu of a, census, annuities were distributed until the year 1835.

By a treaty made in 1828 with the Western Cherokees, the United States guaranteed to them 7,000,000 acres, with a perpetual outlet west as far as the sovereignty and right of soil of the United States extended. This vast tract was in what has been known as Indian Territory, and the Cherokees at the same time surrendered the lands occupied by them on the Arkansas and White rivers, to which they had removed between the years 1809 and 1817. In 1819 there were estimated to be 6,000 of them in Arkansas. By the same treaty special inducements were offered to those east to remove west, including a rifle, blanket, kettle, 5 pounds of tobacco, and cost of emigration to each person, with a just compensation for the property each might abandon.

The treaty of 1833 simply redefined the boundaries of the land mentioned in the treaty of 1828. In 1835 the Cherokees still held a quantity of land east of the Mississippi larger than the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut combined. It had been agreed that the United States Senate should fix the price that should be paid for these lands in contemplation of the cession of the same to the United States. The Senate fixed the price at $5,000,000. The original draft of the treaty of 1835 authorized such Cherokees as so desired to remain east, and in such event set apart certain lands to them. By supplemental treaty in 1836 the United States initiated the policy of compelling .the Eastern Cherokees to remove west. The Cherokee treaty of 1836, whereby they were to remove west from Georgia produced factions among the Cherokees and much bloodshed. The 6 Cherokees who signed that treaty in Georgia on behalf of the Cherokees always claimed that they affixed their names under a positive assurance from Rev. Mr. Schermerhorn, the United States agent, that the treaty should not be held binding until the Ross delegation, then in Washington on behalf of the Cherokees, should consent. The Ross delegation were not consulted as to the treaty going into effect, and the forced expulsion of the Cherokees began In 1838 General Winfield Scott employed 2,000 troops for the purpose. It was a fearful policy. The Indians were hunted over their native lands as if they were wild beasts. As many as escaped capture clung to their homes, and by the treaty of 1846 it was agreed that they might remain, and the present Eastern Band of Cherokees is the remnant.

All of this mixed condition has been a fruitful source of litigation and legislation, and the. rights of the Eastern and Western Cherokees, and questions growing out of treaties and laws relating to them, are not yet settled. The Cherokees since 1776 have made about 40 treaties With the United States, and claim to have ceded more than 80,000,009 acres of land to the whites.

The Cherokee Nation of Indian Territory came to the present location in 1839. The Cherokees in Arkansas, 6,000, and those removed in Georgia, estimated at 16,000, made a joint removal and thus formed the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. One reason for their removal was that frequent cessions of their lands had reduced their territory to less than 8,000 square miles in extent. There was also the hostility of the Georgians. They were removed in 1838 to their present reservation in the Indian Territory, excepting a number who remained in North Carolina and adjoining states. At the opening of the war of the rebellion in 1861 the Cherokees in Indian Territory had progressed to a high degree of prosperity, but they suffered great injury from both parties ravaging their country, and heavy loss by the emancipation of their slaves. Nearly all the Cherokees at first joined the Confederacy, but after the fight at Pea Ridge a majority of the nation abandoned the Southern cause and joined the Union forces; a part adhered to the Confederacy to the end. At the time of their removal west the Cherokees. were estimated at between 24,000 and 27,000. In 1867 they were reduced to 13,566, but since then they have increased. In 1871 they numbered about 18,000; in 1880, about 18,500.

Cherokees In South Carolina

Harry Hammond, in “South Carolina, Resources and Population, Institutions and industries”, published by the state board of agriculture in 1883 (page 365), gives the following outline and statement regarding the Cherokees as found by John Lawson in 1700:

Nation: Cherokee.

Tribes: Echotee, Nequasse, Tehohe, Chatusee, Noyowee, Chagee, Estatoe, Tassee, Cussatee, Tugoole, Keowee, Echay, Acouee, Toxaway, Seneka, Tewraw, Tukwashwaw, Chickerohe, Naguchie, Totero, Quacoratchie, Chota, Eno, Stickoey, Esaw, Sapona, Wisack.

The Cherokees were a mountain race, occupying extensive territory in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Kentucky. Less than one-tenth of this territory is in the present boundaries of South Carolina, comprising the counties of Oconee, Pickens, Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg, which would make the number of warriors, in this state by Adair’s computation to have been 230, or a total population not exceeding 1,000. They were expelled in 1777 for siding with the British, and are now the most advanced in civilization of the Indians.

The above names are local and the Cherokee Indians in the vicinity took the local name. This designating Indian tribes by names of localities in early days gave much color to the stories of a vast number of tribes and an enormous Indian population.


Indian Territory,

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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4 thoughts on “The Eastern Cherokee Nation in 1890”

  1. Mary Ellen Wade (AKA Willow Wisp) has been “claimed” by descendants as the wife of Enoch Abell of Birdseye Indiana. They state that she was a daughter of Cherokee’s who died while heading west on the Trail of Tears. Born October 13, 1834, she was adopted into the family of Thomas and elizabeth Wade of Kentucky and married Enoch “Big Enoch” Abell and resided her married life in Dubois County Indiana. She died January 6, 1924 and along with her husband and several children is buried in Mentor Cemetery. The timeline of her birth and the Trail of Tears event support their family story. Multiple descendant families of the Abell’s (who didn’t know of each other) have retained the family story, which also lends some credibility to their claim. The North Carolina Cherokee did travel through Southwestern Kentucky en-route to Indian Territory. But why leave an Indian baby/child with a white family?

    The actual Trail of Tears for the Cherokee’s started officially in 1835. Two rolls were taken and are often confused with each other. The one which would confirm Willow Wisp’s identity would be the 1835 Henderson Roll. AccessGenealogy provides an index to it, but that only lists the heads of household and not all of the family members. To further complicate matters, Willow Wisp is likely an English version of her Native name, and she may very well be listed under her Native name on the roll, if listed at all.

    Stories in white and black families of Native American heritage are often very difficult to prove. Indeed with the case of Mary Ellen Wade made by the Abell descendants it’s all very credible, but unproven. It may likely never be able to be proven – as a researcher you never want to here the word “adopted”. Records for Native Americans in the Southeast during the 18th and 19th Century were scant. Since being an Indian or descended from an Indian was not seen in a good light, descendants often claimed white heritage, but kept the truth alive within the family. In the 1850-1880 census for Mary of which I’ve seen she is always listed as white. But it’s likely the enumerator never asked the question as they were suppose to…

    Good luck with your research, you have one heck of a branch to try and climb up!

      1. Hi Karen. I’m a decendant of Mary Ellen through the branch of her daughter Elvira. Elvira was my great great Grandma. Which branch are you?

  2. looking for information on mary ellen wade i.e. willow wisp of the cherokee. supposedly her mother, mary wade, was married to a cherokee chief by the name of john. mary ellen was born in 1824. this is all the information i have.

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