Crowns Of Possum Fur
Two crowns of possum fur, applied to the correct heads, were instrumental in making the U.S.A. an English-speaking nation.
If not for those red-dyed possum fur crowns, the folks living where we are today most likely would be speaking French. Or possibly Spanish, since Spain had a series of forts through the southeast in those early days.
And, if not for the Cherokee Indians, who supplied those possum fur crowns and the meaning behind them, it is unlikely that the king’s English would be spoken in a Southern drawl here or any dialect of English spoken anywhere in the U.S.
An audacious Scotsman, Sir Alexander Cuming, described as a promoter, showman, combination fool and genius, was also indispensable to the process that made this an English-speaking nation.
Alberta and Carson Brewer tell the story in “Valley So Wild: A Folk History,” published in 1975 by the East Tennessee Historical Society in Knoxville, Tenn.
Here’s the story, as told by the Brewers:
In April of 1730, Cherokee chiefs and other leading men of the tribe walked from all over the Cherokee Nation to Nikwasi Mount, which still stands a few yards from the Little Tennessee River at Franklin, S.C.
At that time, the Cherokees numbered about 20,000 and claimed hunting rights over more than 40,000 square miles in portions of what are now Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
The Cherokee leaders gathered at Nikwasi to smoke a peace pipe and talk with Cuming, who had learned that the English, settled thinly along part of the Atlantic Coast, feared the French, who had forts and Indian allies in the Mississippi River Valley.
He knew that political leaders in the Carolinas had recently declared that without help from the Cherokees, the English colonies were vulnerable to attack from the French. The Carolina General Assembly had openly declared that the safety of South Carolina depended on the friendship of the Cherokees.
“Cuming concocted a wild scheme to win Cherokee aid,” the Brewers wrote.
After preliminary talks at Great Tellico (Tennessee), Keowee (South Carolina) and Nikwasi, Cuming set up the big meeting, also at Nikwasi.
Through an interpreter, Cuming told the Cherokee leaders that King George II loved them and was willing to protect them against the unscrupulous French and their Indian allies. He then asked the proud Cherokees to kneel and acknowledge King George as their ruler.
To the amazement of probably almost everyone, these wild, free Cherokees knelt. Cuming asked them to select one of their members as an “emperor” through whom the king could deal with his new subjects.
During the feasting that followed, Cuming learned the Cherokees used a cap of red-dyed possum fur in elevating a chief to “Beloved Headman,” the Brewers wrote.
Cuming then asked for a possum fur crown to present to King George.
He also asked for one or more Cherokee leaders to accompany him to England to the king’s court. None appeared eager to cross the great waters.
Then, a trader, Eleazar Wiggan, thought of a young chief who might be willing to go. Sure enough, Ukeanequa (White Owl) agreed to go and once he stepped forth, six other young men volunteered to join him.
After a few weeks of sailing, Cuming and the seven Cherokees dined with King George and presented him with the possum fur crown. They also met with England’s Board of Trade and Plantations in America.
The Cherokees were presented with royal gifts and, dressed in English clothing, had their likenesses engraved by an artist. An engraving from the artwork is in the British Museum today.
The Cherokees, impressed, returned and urged the tribe to maintain a steadfast friendship with the English.
This whole scenario helped bring dominion of North America to English-speaking people.
And they say history is dull.
Real history, folks, isn’t dull. What’s actually taught in schools and the way it is presented, though, can be very dull indeed.
Larry Stroud is the associate editor of the Batesville Daily Guard. He can be reached at email@example.com or at the Guard office at (870) 793-2383.
-Freda Cruse Phillips to Larry Stroud, Feb 18, 2011
Larry --- I have to find this -- I can't believe that someone has actually written this down - we have heard and told and retold this story in our family for nearly 300 years now!!!! OMG!!! I had no idea anyone had written it down. It is the line of Moytoys' Onoconostata that I am descended from - and Francis Fivekiller Ward - members of the delgation to king george II in 1730 andwhose portraits hang in the british royal musem in london "Trustees of Georgia" painting - I am so excited and you are so incredible.
Freda Cruse Phillips Story
-Freda Cruse Phillips to Larry Stroud, Feb 23, 2011
In 1969 when I was 11, about to turn 12, my sister was a college student at ASU Jonesboro. She had my nephew Andy who was born in April. I went to babysit that summer while she took classes. I didn't know that when you called on a pay phone from Jonesboro to my friends house and billed it to my momma and daddy's house that it would cost an arm and a leg. I made a few of those calls. When the phone bill came in the cost was $51.00. My punishment was 51 days with my great grand father, John Richard Chitwood. He was born in either 1867 or 1877.... we're not sure - but we think 1877. So, in 1969 he was 92 years old or 102 years old. He died in 1974. He would walk 3 miles from his house to ours and be waiting on the front porch for Momma to cook breakfast. After we'd eat, it was my job to walk him home. Sometimes I'd spend the day, and sometimes I'd only walk part way, sometimes we'd go visit other people. But I got to work $1.00 off for each time I spent with grandpa --- but I had to write down what we did or talked about and give it to Momma and Daddy. Years later my momma gave me all the notes I had wrote and I put them on the computer.... I don't know what I did with the original notes. I wish I had them ... for the most part I think it is exactly like I wrote it.... SO
LARRY - here is the story from my great grand father John R Chitwood --- following the Indian Line ----
Son of William Chitwood and Sarah Fulks
Sarah Fulks daughter of Elias Fulks and Martha Houston Grigsby (cousin to John P Houston first clerk of Izard County and Sam Houston - First Pres of Texas)
Elias son of David Tahnahtee Fulks and Catherine Katy Walker
David son of John Fulks and Chickasaw woman
John Fulks son of Matthew Fulks (1713-1743) and Senado Woman
Catherine Katy Walker daughter of Elias Sr Walker and Barbara Davis
Elias Walker son of Chief John Walker and Elizabeth Kittegusta
Elizabeth Kittgusta daughter of Chief Fivekiller Francis Ward Kittegusta Moytoy and Tame Doe Moytoy aka Catherine Carpenter
Francis Ward was born in England and is the son of Edward Ward of England - his siblings are Bryant, Lucy, John Jack
Tame Doe is the daughter of Tom Carpenter and Nancy Broom Rainmaker Moytoy
Nancy Broom is the daughter of Amatoya Moytoy and Wuatsy of Tellico.
Amatoya was 90 when he died in 1730 while the delegation was gone to England. White Owl (II) Attakullakulla Carptenter 1708-1777 was made the new Emporer of the Cherokee upon their return from England. He was a brother to Tame Doe, Killaneca (The Buck Raven) and Betsey ---- this is alot of information but it helps make the story I wrote down of my great grandfather's make sense....
Grandpa found a dead possum in the ditch past Aunt Ethel’s house on the way home today. When we got to the house we skinned it – nailed the hide to a big cypress board – head, tail, arms and legs still on it. When grandpa was a little boy about 10 years old his grandma Sarah Chitwood who was born in 1840’s told him a story about how a hundred years before she was born her grandpa was made Chief Fivekiller of the Cherokee and was from England. King George crowned their family as the Royal family of the Cherokee. Grandma Catherine Carpenter whose Indian name was Tame Doe, her momma was Nancy Broom an Indian and her daddy was Tom Carpenter a white man, didn’t go with them, but sent her brothers White Owl and Killaneck. Their grand father Amatoy Moytoy, Nancy’s daddy, was to be crowned the Emperor of the Cherokee by King George. They invited him to come to England and be officially crowned but since he was ill and couldn’t go, White Owl, said he would gladly go. Grandpa Tom and Grandma Nancy stayed here with her daddy. He died while they were gone to England. Her grandpa, Chief Francis Ward Fivekiller, uncles White Owl and Killaneck, brothers of her grandmother Catherine - Tame Doe, and his adopted brothers Stalking Turkey (Oconostota), Clogitah, Tathtowel, and a few others went.
Now this fella Comings that was doing the negotiating with them was working for the King and had told them that they all had to kneel before the King in order for their grand father to be made Emperor of the Cherokee, so they all got down on their knees. Grandpa and I started making a talking stick and took down a fox tail he had dried to put on the end. He had told me that in order to be allowed to talk that you had to have the talking stick in your hand. If you had it in your hand you were allowed to hit the other people who interrupted in the head with it and until you gave it up you were the only one to talk.
As we stretched out the possum for drying grandpa said he’d make me a possum crown like our great grand father Amatoy had. He had sent a possum crown to King George by his grandson White Owl. His mother was Nancy Broom. He guessed she was a broom maker because they got their names from things in nature and things that they did. She was also a Rainmaker. She made the crown for her father and for the King out of the finest fat possums and dyed them red with elderberry mash. Red was a sign of power and having a crown made of possum was an important status. The possum could climb a tree and hang by his tail – he could see the world from many different perspectives – so wise leaders wore hats more like big fur bands or crowns of possum fur.
Grandmother Nancy Broom made the finest crown and sent it with her son White Owl to England to give to the King. The King had wanted to join their family to his because that’s what Kings did. They married their children to other royal children in order to make family so that they wouldn’t make war on each other. This fella Comings that had come with the Wards to America, asked them to come to England so the King could unite the two counties and the two families. Francis Ward an English man and friend of Comings was married to grandma Tame Doe. She was part White, her daddy was Tom Carpenter and her mother Nancy Broom. Francis was made Chief Fivekiller of the Cherokee and went with them back to England. There King George told that the Ward family would marry these sons and daughters of the Emperor of the Cherokee thus making them forever family. They would learn to read and write English which Aunt Lucy and her nephew Sequyah worked on that part creating a written language of the Cherokee for the King. Grandpa Amatoy died while they were gone and when they got back White Owl was made the new emperor. Grandpa says that I should have my possum crown by my birthday.