Tooan Tuh or Spring Frog, Cherokee Chief

Tooan Tuh or Spring Frog
Tooan Tuh or Spring Frog, Cherokee Chief

This individual is a Cherokee of highly respectable character. He was born near the mouth of Chuckamogga Creek, in the vicinity of Lookout Mountain, about the year 1754, within the limits of the State of Tennessee. The place of his birth is no longer known as a wilderness tenanted by savage men, but is now a civilized country, inhabited by another race. The villages of his people, and the sepulchers of his fathers, have disappeared, the forests have been leveled, and the plough has effaced the scattered vestiges of their dwellings and places of assemblage.

In early youth, and throughout his life, until old age had impaired the elasticity and vigor of his muscles, Spring Frog was remarkable for his activity in the chase, his skill in trapping and killing game, and his success in the athletic sports of his people. With little of the ferocity of the Indian, yet excelling in all the arts of sylvan life, brave, but not addicted to war, he was a fine specimen of the savage man. He loved to roam the forest in pursuit of game; could sit patiently for hours by the sequestered stream, devising stratagems to entrap its tenants, or wander for whole days among the haunts of the deer, with no companions but his gun and dog. His mind, trained to these pursuits, was acute, and richly stored with observation on all subjects connected with his occupation. He watched the seasons, noted the changes of the weather, marked the hues of the water, and the appearances of the vegetation. Wherever he went, his keen eye rested, with a quiet but observant glance, on all the indications of the surrounding objects which might serve to forward the present purpose, or furnish information for future operations. He knew the habits of animals and their signals; the voices of birds were familiar to his ear; and he could sit for hours in the lone wilderness, an interested listener to sounds, in which one unused to the forest could detect nothing but the rustling of leaves, the rush of the winds, or the creaking of boughs. His practiced eye detected the footmarks of animals upon the ground, and his quick ear distinguished, even in the night, the difference between the tramp of the deer and the stealthy tread of the wolf.

This is the poetry of savage life. If there be any real enjoyment apart from civilization, it is in this close communion with nature. The exposure, the perils, the extremes of hunger and satiety, which fill up the whole life of those who depend on the precarious supplies of the chase for subsistence, throw a forbidding gloom around this mode of existence; but there are rich and noble enjoyments combined with the toils of the hunter, in the freedom from all restraint, and in the opportunities it affords for contemplating the beauties and the mysteries of nature. Few, especially among savages, have the heart and the intellect to appreciate such luxuries. The general tendency of the savage life is monotonous and debasing. But there are some gifted minds some of Izaak Walton’s “fishermen and honest men” to be found in every region, whether civilized or savage, over whom such pursuits exercise an elevating and soothing influence. To this class belonged the subject of this notice; uniting with the keen and hardy character of the sportsman, the humane and meditative cast of the philosopher. He was an artless and harmless, but a shrewd and thoughtful man.

Spring Frog was passionately fond of all the manly sports of his people, but was particularly remarkable for his love of ball playing, in which he greatly excelled. This game requires the greatest muscular strength, swiftness of foot, and clearness of vision. The ball, similar in materials and construction to that used by our own schoolboys, is played with two sticks, one in each hand. These sticks are bent at the end, with strings drawn across the bow, so as to form an implement resembling a battle door. The ground on which the game is to be played is a plain, marked off by measuring a space of about three hundred feet in length, and placing two poles erect at each extremity, and one in the center. The ball-players are divided, as nearly as possible, into two parties of equal skill, each of which has its leader, and its side of the play ground. The ball is thrown into the air, at the center pole, and each party exerts it self to drive it through the poles on its own side. The party first carrying .the ball twelve times through its poles, wins the game. To effect this, it is considered fair to employ strength, activity, and stratagem in every form, provided that the ball is always propelled by the use of the stick. The parties may strike, trip, or grapple each other, knock away each other’s sticks, or take any advantage which strength or cunning may give them.

These games are intensely exciting. The number engaged is often great, comprising the principal men, the most distinguished warriors, and the most promising young men of the band; for this is the great theater on which the ambitious and aspiring exhibit those personal qualities that are held in the highest repute by the savage warrior. The whole population of the village pours out to witness the inspiring spectacle, and like the spectators of a horse race in Virginia, all take sides, and feel as if the honor of the country was staked upon the contest. The excitement is often increased by gambling to immense amounts immense for these poor savages, who have little to lose, and who freely stake all upon the game. The women and children share in the interest, watch the progress with intense anxiety, and announce the result by loud shouts. The contest is active, and even fierce. The parties exercise great command over their tempers, and usually conduct their sports with good humor and great hilarity; but the excitement is always high, and sometimes the deeper passions are awakened. The struggle then becomes fearful. A number of muscular men, inured to toil and danger, savage, irascible, and revengeful by nature and habit, are seen, with their limbs and bodies naked, and oiled, to enable them the more readily to elude the grasp of an adversary now rushing after the ball with uplifted sticks, now gathered round it, striking at it with rapid blows, darting upon each other, pulling, wrestling, and presenting a medley in which it seems hardly possible that heads and limbs must not be broken. Blows are received as if upon bodies of iron. Men are prostrated and trodden under foot. But none are killed; the wounded soon forget their bruises, and the beaten bear their discomfiture without murmur.

Though Spring Frog was an ardent and successful ball-player, and the most patient of anglers, he devoted much of his time to the more profitable, though less genteel employment, of raising cattle, trading in horses, and cultivating beans, corn, and pumpkins. His agriculture was not upon an extensive scale; but it was enough to furnish the means of a comfortable subsistence, and a generous hospitality; his friends were always welcome to his cheerful fireside, and the stranger, to use the figure of one of the noblest spirits of our land, ” never found the string of his latch drawn in.”

Gifted with a discriminating mind, he was a strong man in the council. Amiable, kind, placid in his disposition loving peace and pursuing it, he always advocated conciliatory measures, and was useful on many occasions in softening and restraining the fiercer passions of his warlike countrymen. But although his inclinations were pacific, he lacked neither energy nor courage, when the interest or honor of his nation required the exercise of those qualities. In 1818, the Osages murdered several Cherokees in cold blood. Upon the reception of the news of this injury, the Cherokees flew to arms, and instantly adopted measures to revenge the outrage. Spring Frog, although he was then in his sixty-fourth year, was among the first to take up the war-club in this quarrel; and uniting himself with a party of his tribe, marched in pursuit of the murderers. So rapid and secret was the movement, that the track of the offenders was found and pursued, and they, ignorant that any pursuit was on foot, were scarcely arrived at their village when the avengers of blood were at their heels. The village was surprised and burned; eighty of the Osages were killed and captured, all their provisions were destroyed, and the band, for the present, broken up. Thus Spring Frog and his party appeased, as they supposed, the manes of their slaughtered friends; and thus dearly did the Osages atone for an outrage committed in mere wantonness, by one of their marauding parties.

He served also under General Jackson in the campaign against the Creeks, and fought gallantly in the battle of Emuckfaw, and in that of the Horse Shoe. His coolness in battle, and his habits of discipline and obedience, on all occasions, were conspicuous.

He was among the earliest of the emigrants to the country assigned the Cherokees, west of Arkansas, and we hope that he lived to be satisfied of the advantages of that movement. The change has thus far proved eminently successful. Many of the Cherokees have large farms, under a good state of cultivation, and large droves of cattle and horses. Their dwellings and other improvements are comfortable and well constructed. They have mills, schools, mechanics, and many other of the evidences and arts of civilized life. An intelligent traveler, who lately visited their country, says “We passed many fine farms on our way, and as evening fell, came to the missionary station of Dwight, with which we found ourselves much pleased. This institution has for its object the advancement, scientifically and morally, of the Cherokees. It was founded some twenty years ago, and has continued faithful to the Indians through all that long period. It was first commenced in the year 1821, in what is now called Pope county, on the waters of Illinois bayou, where suitable buildings were erected, farms opened, and schools established, in which were gathered the children of the then wild Cherokees, to the yearly number of one hundred. The Cherokees were a portion who had removed from their old country at an early period, and were denominated Western Cherokees, but are now distinguished as the old settlers

Those missionaries have resided there for many years undisturbed, in the peaceful discharge of their duties, and on the kindest terms with the Cherokees. They have witnessed the commencement and whole progress of this interesting colony, and have been identified with its entire history. They have done great good to the Cherokees, and are entitled to their gratitude.

McKenny, Thomas & Hall, James & Todd, Hatherly & Todd, Joseph. History of the Indian tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington. Philadelphia: D. Rice & Co. 1872.

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