John Ross was elected principal chief of the eastern Cherokee in 1828, Ross struggled valiantly to hold the ancestral lands of his people but was unable to withstand the constant pressure of the state of Georgia for removal. Highly regarded for his role in leading the fight against removal and leading his people to their exile in Oklahoma, controversy was his constant companion once the Georgia Cherokee arrived.
Ross, whose name in Cherokee is Kooweskoowe , was born near Lookout Mt., Tenn., of
Scottish and Cherokee parents. He was educated at Kingston, Tenn., and in the
War of 1812 served under Andrew Jackson against the Creeks
had a private tutor as a youth. Early
in his life he was postmaster in Rossville, Ga. and a clerk in a trading firm.
The town he founded as Rossville Landing grew much larger than it's namesake as
up with the constant raids of whites and Indians, Ross witnessed much of the
brutality on the early American frontier. The future Walker County was a hunting
ground for both white and Cherokee raiding parties, strategically located
midpoint between head of Coosa and Col. John Sevier's band of marauders from
John" served as a Lieutenant in the Creek War, fighting with many famous
Southerners including Sam Houston. When future president Andrew Jackson called
the Battle of Horseshoe Bend "one of the great victories of the American
frontier," losing 50 men while killing 500 Creek
men, women, and children, John Ross penned the words.
was invaluable to Morovians who established a mission on the Federal Highway
near present-day Brainerd, Tennessee. Serving as translator for the
missionaries, just as he had for Return J. Miegs, Indian agent for the Cherokee,
Ross acted as liaison between the missionaries, Miegs, and the tribal council.
He proposed selling land to the Morovians for the school, a radical idea in a
society that did not understand the concept.
was viewed as astute and likable, and frequently visited Washington. After the
death of James Vann, Ross joined Charles Hicks, with whom he worked, and Major
Ridge as a member of the Cherokee Triumvirate. During the trip to negotiate the
Treaty of 1819 in Washington, D. C. he became recognized for his efforts.
one of the richest men in North Georgia before 1838 had a number of ventures
including a 200 acre farm and owned a number of slaves. He would not speak
Cherokee in council because he felt his command of the language was weak.
the death of Charles Hicks, and others in the early 1820's, settlers believed
that the Cherokee time was short. Ross and others decided to make legal moves to
prevent the forced removal including organizing the Cherokee tribe as a nation,
with its own Constitution, patterned after the Constitution of the United States
of America. As president of the Constitutional Convention that convened in the
summer of 1827 he was the obvious choice for Principal Chief in the first
elections in 1828. He held this post until his death in 1866. Ridge, his close
friend and ally, would serve the last years in Georgia as "counselor,"
for lack of a better word to describe the roll.
the first 10 years of his rule he fought the white man not with weapons but with
words. As the encroachment of the settlers grew, he turned to the press to make
his case. When the Land Lottery of 1832 divided Cherokee land among the whites
he filed suit in the white man's courts and won, only to see the ruling go
unenforced. His old friend Major
Ridge and the Treaty Party signed away the Cherokee land in 1835. Ross got
16,000 signatures of Cherokees to show the party did not speak for a majority of
the tribe, but Andrew Jackson forced the treaty through Congress. He lost his
first wife, Quatie, on the "Trail Where They Cried,"
or as it is more commonly known, the Trail