Traitor and Patriot
Sequoyah or George Gist, born about 1776, was the son of Colonel Nathaniel Gist and Wurteh Watts. Wurteh Watts' mother was also known as Wurteh, the daughter of Great Eagle and granddaughter of Moytoy. Wurteh married John Watts and was the sister to Red Bird, Old Tassel, Standing Turkey, Doublehead, Pumpkin Boy, Sequechee, Nancy, WarHatchy, and Ocuma (Melton).
George Gist's father was initially a trader to the Cherokees and later worked with the British agents Stewart and Cameron. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Nathaniel was living among the Cherokees on the Little Tennessee River in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. He was probably married to Wurteh Watts because he was considered by Old Tassel to be a part of his immediate family. Therefore, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and after the beginning of the Chickamauga War upon agreement known as the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in 1775, Nathaniel Gist would have been considered a traitor to the newly established United States of America, since America was at war with both the British and Cherokees.
Wurteh Watts’ fourth husband, Colonel Nathaniel Gist, was born October 15, 1733 in Baltimore, Maryland. Nathaniel Gist died at about 80 years old in Kentucky as reported by Samuel C. Williams (1937). “On his Kentucky (land) grant Colonel Gist established his home, "Canewood," which was to become noted for the beauty of its embellishment and for its hospitality. He died there about the close of the War of 1812.” Nathaniel was the son of Christopher Gist and Sarah Howard and was of Scots-Irish lineage.
Nathaniel Gist (son of Christopher Gist) first appeared among the Cherokees as a messenger of Governor Dinwiddie in 1775. Following the French and Indian War, he formed a trading partnership with Richard Pearis and lived in the Cherokee Country for several years. During that time, he took as his wife, Wurteh…and became the father of Sequoyah (Brown, 1938).
…by a Kentucky family it is claimed…Sequoyah’s father was Nathaniel Gist, son of the scout (Christopher Gist) who accompanied (George) Washington on his memorable excursion to the Ohio. As the story goes, Nathaniel Gist was captured by the Cherokee at Braddock’s defeat (1755) and remained a prisoner with them for six years, during which time he became the father of Sequoyah. On his return to civilization, he married a white woman in Virginia, by whom he had other children, and afterward remove to Kentucky, where Sequoyah, then a Baptist preacher, frequently visited them and was always recognized by the family as his son (Mooney, 1900).
Other historical documents indicate that Nathaniel Gist was actually an agent serving under British Commander Cameron who was supplying the Cherokees with arms and ammunition to fight the white settlers and American soldiers. The following was given by Samuel C. Williams (1937):
Too, as we shall later see, in the following year Gist wrote to the Cherokees reminding them that he had on this occasion, in 1776, warned them, before they went to war against the whites, against the step…When, after the three contemporaneous attacks on the upper country settlers at Island Flats, on the Watauga and in Carter's valley, and in the latter part of the same year Colonel William Christian began his retaliatory campaign against the Cherokees, his instructions from Governor Patrick Henry were to insist upon the Indians "giving up to justice all persons amongst them who had been concerned in bringing on the present war, particularly Stewart [Stuart], Cameron and (Nathaniel) Gist."
When Christian, on the march towards the Cherokee towns, reached the French Broad River, (Nathaniel) Gist came in from the Indian side under a flag of truce to the camp of the colonel. He reported that 1,000 of the Cherokees from the Carolina side of the mountains had joined the Overhills, who would not give battle until the troops crossed the Little Tennessee. Christian wrote to Governor Henry (October 15, 1776) "I judge the flag was only an excuse for him to get with me. I believe he is sorry for what he has done. I did intend to put him in irons, but the manner of his coming I believe will prevent me. The officers tell me that the camp is in great confusion about him; some think that there are many favorable circumstances attending him; many are for killing him—of the last the greatest part. I spoke but little to him and don't know whether he wants to go back or not."
Two of the soldiers under Colonel Christian left accounts of this incident. Benjamin Sharp stated that the border men "were so exasperated at him that almost every one that mentioned his name would threaten his life, yet Christian conveyed him through the settlements unmolested, and he went to the headquarters of Washington, where I presume the former friendship was renewed. He became a zealous Whig." John Redd stated that "when Gist first came in to Christian he was viewed in a very suspicious light; he was thought to be a spy. But the prejudice against him soon wore off and he became very popular."
Gist went to Virginia and promptly laid a memorial before the governor and the council of state. The order entered by the council, Dec. 17, 1776, as is follows:
"Captain Nathaniel Gist having presented a memorial to the Governor lamenting the suspicions which he fell under with several of his countrymen, as having acted an inimical part against America by aiding and abetting the Cherokees in their late hostile conduct and desiring his excellency and the council would make inquiry into the same, as a preparatory step either to his acquittal or consign punishment, the board accordingly considered the several depositions transmitted by Colonel Christian to the governor and which had been laid before the general assembly, and moreover examined Colonel William Russell, Major Evan Shelby and Isaac Thomas, upon oath; and, upon the whole matter are of opinion that Captain Gist is a friend of his country and was acting in that character most effectually when he was suspected of encouraging the Indian hostilities."
It no doubt gratified General (George) Washington to have the record of an old friend thus cleared; and on Jan. 11, 1777, Gist was appointed a colonel of a regiment in the continental line. The newly-made colonel was sent south by Washington to use his influence in bringing the Cherokees into the promised treaty at Fort Patrick Henry, Long Island. Arriving at the island on March 28, Gist sent by an Indian messenger a talk to the chiefs, a copy of which is to be found in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (Williams, 1937).
Therefore, Gist was living among the Cherokees at the time that George Gist was conceived and probably born in 1776. Most all historical documents agree that Nathaniel Gist was the father of Sequoyah and even some important Cherokee leaders of the time as seen in the following:
The Tassel (Kahn-yah-tah-hee), uncle of the Indian consort of Gist, replied:” Here is my friend and brother (pointing to Colonel Gist) whom I look upon as one of my own people. He is going to leave me and travel into a far country, but I hope he'll return. Here is one of my people, the Pigeon, that will accompany him, but I do not know of many more that will. He was once over the great water where he could not see which way he was going; but this journey will be all by land and he will think nothing of the fatigue."
At the end of the treaty negotiated at Fort Patrick Henry in 1777, above the signatures, appears this "memorandum before signing": "The Tassel yesterday objected against giving up the Great [Long] Island opposite to Fort Henry to any person or country whatever except Colonel Gist, for whom and themselves it was reserved by the Cherokees. The Raven did the same this day in behalf of the Indians and desired that Colonel Gist sit down upon it when he pleased, as it belongs to him, and them, to hold good talks on." Colonel Gist aided while on the treaty ground in celebrating the first July 4 anniversary ever held in Tennessee (Williams 1937).
Wurteh Watts and Colonel Nathaniel Gist had one son George Gist, also known as Sequoyah, who was three eighths Cherokee and five eighths Scots-Irish.
George Gist (Sequoyah) was born about 1776 just outside Fort Loudon in Tuskegee Village on the Little Tennessee River, in Monroe County, Tennessee. He married Sally Waters and they had the following children: 1) Teesey, 2) George II, 3) Polly, and 4) Richard. Sequoyah also married Utiyu (Uckteeyah) Langley and they had Eyagu, Oolootsa, and Guneki. Sequoyah died in Mexico in the summer of 1842 looking for lost Cherokees.
Read more about Doublehead's family in my soon to be released book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief. Be sure to become a member of my blog by clicking on "Join This Site".