Friday, May 10, 2013

HIDDEN CHEROKEES OF TENNESSEE: The Story of the Nunley, Hobbs, Stoner, Miller, Smartt, Northcutt, and possibly Wilson, Orr, Earnheart, Powe, and Wren Families.

HIDDEN CHEROKEES OF TENNESSEE – The Story of the Nunley, Hobbs, Stoner, Miller, Smartt, Northcutt, and possibly Wilson, Orr, Earnheart, Powe and/or Wren Families.

Male Adventurers in Early Virginia The earliest settlers of the Virginia Colony were predominantly male adventurers seeking wealth and land (the two being interchangeable).  The two most direct avenues to profits were trading with the Indians and development of land grants.  For those with wealth and influence, large land grants made the second course feasible.  For those without these assets, the Indian trade offered the greatest opportunity. 
Europeans aspiring to profits from trading quickly learned that marriage to Native American women was advantageous in negotiations. Given the paucity of white women in 17th century southern colonies, immigrants frequently married Native American women and formed allegiances with their wives’ families, clans, and tribes.  Intermarriage between European men and Native American women remained common through the 17th and 18th centuries.  While these early marriages were apparently considered valid and binding in both Indian and European cultures, in later years, European men were often polygamous.  They married and lived with Native American wives in tribal areas, while maintaining white wives in European settlements.  Other European men practiced serial marriage, marrying a Native American woman in their youth, and raising a family with her; and then “settling down” in their later years with a white wife, and raising a white family.  To further complicate this picture, some European men had more than one Native American wife.

Cultural Clash --  Patriarchal Europeans and Matriarchal Native Americans  -- From the beginning, the rigidly patriarchal Europeans had difficulty understanding the matriarchal culture of many Native American tribes, including the Cherokee.  Among the Cherokee, children belonged to their Mother and to their Mother’s Clan.  Property belonged to the Clan, and was controlled by the women.  Marriages between children of the same maternal clan were forbidden, and the leading women of each clan approved marriages.  Otherwise, Cherokee women were free to choose their lovers, to marry, and even to dissolve their marriages. 
Maternal Uncles (brothers of the Mother and members of her Clan) were charged with the education of their sisters’ sons.  Since fathers were not members of the same clan, a Father’s care and influence was supplemented or even replaced by that of the Mother’s brothers (members of the children’s Clan).   Orphaned Cherokee children were raised by their Clan, typically by their mothers’ sisters or aunts.
This pattern was in direct contrast to the European pattern in which children belonged to fathers, who selected husbands for their daughters.  Women were subject to their fathers before marriage and to their husbands after marriage.  Even as widows, they could not own or administer property in their own right, but were assigned male “guardians” to direct their affairs.  Similarly, orphans and the children of widows were assigned male guardians. 
Compared to European women, Native American women enjoyed great autonomy, freedom of choice, and financial security.  Most European men who married Cherokee women lived with the Cherokees or on farms established on Cherokee lands.  European men found that divorce was far easier among the Cherokee, and that polygamy was more widely accepted.  However, European husbands of Cherokee women were often subjected to rough jokes because of their wives’ independence and autonomy. 
 In the vast majority of cases, children of mixed European/Native American heritage were raised by their Mothers in Cherokee traditions.  There are documented stories of mixed Cherokee/European children, whose upbringing included exposure to European culture, including education and religion.  However, even in these cases, most individuals eventually returned to their Native American families and villages.
Patronymics:  One European cultural practice was preserved -- the custom of giving the Father’s last name to the children.  For a variety of reasons, Fathers’ names were given to children and passed down through the subsequent generations.
Prejudice: In the early 17th century, prejudices against mixed marriages and children of mixed heritage were relatively minimal; however, as conflict increased between Indians and whites, so did hatred and resentment.  By the 18th Century European prejudice against intermarriage and mixed race children was pronounced.  In contrast, the Cherokees were extremely tolerant of mixed heritage, and included many individuals of mixed European and mixed African heritage among their number.   It is only in recent times that Cherokees have begun to identify members of the tribe according to the purity of their Native American descent.

Challenges to Genealogical research -- Tracing the descendants of European men and their Native American wives is complicated ( .  Most written records are of European origin, and frequently do not contain information on marriages between Europeans and Native Americans.  While the names of children born to these alliances are often listed, the names of Native American wives and mothers are frequently not recorded.  In fact, a European wife, whose marriage was recorded, is often erroneously listed as the Mother of all the children of her husband (including the children born to his Native American wife or wives).  Careful consideration of birth and marriage dates often reveals evidence of these confusions.
            Conflict between European settlers and the Cherokee increased as settlers encroached on Cherokee lands, especially after the French and Indian (Seven Years) War.  As the 19th Century progressed, penalties associated with being identified as Native American increased dramatically.  Many Cherokee (especially those of mixed heritage) went to great lengths to disguise and hide their Native American roots.  Native American heritage became a deep, dark “family secret” hidden from outsiders and even from younger family members.  Rediscovering Native American roots after several generations of hiding is especially challenging.  Groups of Cherokee who hid their heritage are sometimes referred to as “Hidden Cherokee.”
Nunley, Hobbs, Stoner, Miller, Smartt, Northcutt, and possibly Wilson, Orr, Earnheart, Powe and/or Wren Families. – For the reasons discussed above, the tracing of our Cherokee Families is challenging, and many questions remain unresolved.  However, I am sharing this information in the interest of encouraging others to read, critique, research, and help us correct errors and expand our understanding.  This research began with the Nunley and Hobbs families (maternal grandparents of my husband Charles Freeman) and progressed backwards in time to the Stoner, Miller, Smartt, and Northcutt families of Tennessee.   Moving further back in time and to costal settlements in Virginia and North Carolina, we encountered the Wilson, Orr, Earneart, Powe, and Wren Families.  Evidence of the Native American roots for these five families is less clear than for those researched in Tennessee.  However, by the time these families intermarried, it is almost certain they were mixed race families, raised in the Cherokee culture.  
The stories of these families begin in early 17th century Virginia and lead through modern-day North Carolina to the Tennessee counties of Grundy, Warren, and Coffee (formed in part from White County).   The early stories are remarkably similar – European men married Cherokee wives and fathered mixed race children who were raised in the Cherokee heritage of their Mothers.  These European/Native American children intermarried and participated in the unfolding history of the Cherokee people. 
THE WARS --  Native American tribes were drawn into European conflicts.  The Cherokees did not present a united front in their response to European conflicts.  Some Cherokee leaders espoused peace and resisted any participation in White men’s wars.  Others established ties with neighboring colonial settlers and sided with them against the French and then the British.  Still others opposed the loss of traditional Cherokee lands.  They allied themselves with the French and then with the British in opposition to the colonists.
            This last group of Cherokee sided with the French in the French and Indian Wars because they saw the English settlers as land hungry.  The Anglo-Cherokee War (, considered part of the Seven Years War, represents the beginning of the conflict between the Cherokee and the colonists.  The Chickamauga Wars (1777-1794 ) represent almost 20 years of raids, campaigns, ambushes and full-scale battles between the British settlers and the resistant Cherokees.  This period represents the longest continuous Native American resistance to European intrusion.  In the Chickamauga Wars, the resisting Cherokees were led by the famous war chief, Dragging Canoe (  As nearly as we can establish, our direct ancestors were all followers of Dragging Canoe and are included among the Chickamauga Cherokee (    Our Cherokee families[1] moved with Dragging Canoe and his followers across the mountains, and were subsequently called Chikamauga or the Over-Hill Indian Nation (;  With the death of Dragging Canoe and the destruction of Nickajack ( 1794,  ) Cherokee resistance was crushed. 
            HIDDEN CHEROKEES – Many of the surviving Chickamauga (Over-hill Cherokees) literally hid in the valleys (coves), mountains, and caves of Tennessee.  Our families hid in what are now the counties of Grundy, Warren, and Coffee (portions of which were carved from the original White County).  As the earliest settlers, these families gave their names to numerous geographical sites (i.e. Nunley Mountain, Nunley Cove, Nunley Cave, Hobbs Hill, Northcutt Cove, Smartt Mountain, etc.). 
After the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (,, the survival of these Cherokees required denial of their heritage.  As passed down by the Nunleys, the members of their family who “looked white” took land in their names, while their relatives who “looked Indian” hid in the caverns in the mountains.  When Cherokees were rounded up by U.S. soldiers and forced into concentration camps to await deportation, their “Hidden” Cherokee relatives and friends took in their children to protect the little ones from deportation.   In our research we were at first puzzled by intermarriages that appeared incestuous, until we understood that many of the couples in these marriages were not related by “blood” but by “adoption.”  Children saved from the Trail of Tears ( ) were “adopted” by Hidden Cherokee relatives and friends.  As adults they married members of their “adopted” families, creating the superficial appearance of incest.

NICKAJACK AND THE CIVIL WAR – The story of Nickajack ( ) illustrates the history of our family during the Civil War.  Many of the Hidden Cherokees resisted involvement in a conflict they considered a White Man’s War.  Others, like the inhabitants of the Nickajack area resisted the secession of Alabama and Tennessee and voted to remain part of the Union.  Some members of our Cherokee families fought for the Union, others for the Confederacy, and still others refused to take up arms in either cause. 
Enmity toward representatives of the U.S. Government appears to have been common among the Hidden Cherokee.  Unpopular laws, especially those related to taxes were regularly ignored.  Among some Tennessee families, their war with the Revenuers was just an extension of earlier resistance to the encroachments of European settlers.

            HIDDEN CHEROKEES AND THE CHEROKEE NATIONS – The “Hidden Cherokees” of Tennessee were never part of either the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma ( ) or of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation (, but they had close relatives in both groups.  There is evidence that our Hidden Cherokees families maintained lines of communication with their relatives in the Nations.  Most persuasively, when our Nunley and Hobbs families migrated out of Tennessee in the early 20th Century, they moved to Northeast Texas where Cherokee relatives from Oklahoma settled after the Civil War.  
Family names offer additional evidence of kinship.  The family names derived from our Tennessee research appear on lists for both the Eastern Cherokee Band and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.  The Hidden Cherokees of Tennessee (Chickamauga or Over-Hill Cherokee) resisted to the bitter end, and can rightfully claim that they never surrendered.  However, these same Hidden Cherokee survived by denying their heritage and in so doing lost much of their culture.  It is a paradox that those who resisted and refused to surrender eventually lost much of their traditional culture, while those who compromised and surrendered were able to preserve their heritage.  

[1] Not all members of these families were part of the resistance.  Some of their relatives remained in North Carolina.  Thus, some of these family names are still present in the Eastern Cherokee Nation.