Cherokee Nation laurel and star

The horses and the cows were grazing in one of the fenced lots near the small log barn, and the plow sat near the gate. David was hoeing in the field, and the sun was beginning its final descent into western horizon. At the edge of the field Little Wolf had his own small hoe and wielded it with the sporadic determination of a two year old. His mother, Allie, his “Uji,” was within calling distance as she worked in the garden nearer the house, lifting and resetting small green sprouts.

The sound of a trotting horse turned their faces to the road that ran by their house and farm. The rider was coming from the Southwest along the river road, and soon they could see the calico shirt, buckskin pants, and dark skin of Ezra, a trusted slave belonging to Uncle Jack.  He turned his horse in David’s direction as soon as he saw him standing in the field.

“Your brother been arrested,” he said breathlessly to David as he slipped off the horse. “Happen this morning near New Echota, when Jack out to buy some salt pork for his store. Not know what happen to him when he not come back when he said.”[iii]

“Who arrested him?”  David interrupted.

“Georgia Guard. I find out when I go find Jack. Wife of old man Sawney see it happen and tell me. The soldiers come up the road with white man who claim old man’s place belong to him. Jack not happy and get mad. Tell white men to go back and leave old man alone. Soldiers arrest both and take ‘em away. Say they will sell ‘em for slaves.”

“Do you know where they took them?”

“No. I go back to New Echota and tell Mr. Boudinot what I find out. He gets his man Caleb and they go to look for him.”

“Thank you, Ezra. Come with me and we’ll get something for you to eat. I’ve got to think about this. The Georgia Guard no longer has to have a reason to do what they do.” David took the reins of the horse and led it back to the stable.

Allie and Little Wolf had come up behind them and heard their words. Allie escorted Ezra to their house and offered him the basin, water pitcher, and towels sitting on the porch for washing hands and faces, and they each in turn used them. After she had cleaned up Little Wolf, she went inside to prepare for their meal.  Spreading a fresh muslin tablecloth, she began putting brown stamped pottery bowls and metal spoons on the table, preparing for the stew that she had simmering in a black pot hanging above the coals in the fireplace. Taking the loaf of corn bread from a sideboard she cut it into thick slices on the table. She set a pitcher of goat’s milk and four cups in easy reach at the center of the table. Next to it she placed a large bowl of mixed berries and a wooden spoon. Finally, she took the bowls to the pot and filled them with a steaming mixture of meat, broth, and vegetables. By that time, David also had cleaned up and come in.

David said, “Please sit down, Mr. Ezra. We are grateful to you for bringing us word of our brother.”

Ezra hesitated a moment,  then sat down quickly on the bench and rubbed his hands together. The others sat down after him. David thanked the Creator Spirit for the food on their table and their guest, and asked help for his brother, and they began to eat.

“You stay here tonight, Ezra. You and your horse have travelled far enough for today,” David said, after a few quiet minutes. “I will go back to New Echota and see if there is any news from Elias. If not, I will stay at Jack’s store until I have been able to learn something. I just hope that Jack is able to keep his temper under control. He could make matters worse if he loses it again.”

“I go back tonight,” Ezra said. “My horse is strong. I don’t rest here. Your brother needs me to work at store when he gone. We take road slow. Full moon tonight helps us.”

“I wish you could both wait until morning,” Allie said. “But if there is anything to be done, I know you want to get right to it. Perhaps John Martin could advise us. If he is here I will find out in the morning and speak with him. If he is in New Echota you must speak to him.”

“Yes, I will also see if John Ridge is getting back from his trip to Washington with any news.[iv] If I know my brother Jack, he will try to bribe his way out when he finds a greedy officer. Sorry to say, that is probably the best way to handle it. We don’t need yet another case that stands on principles, because Georgia has none. The governor will just stand with his back to the wall and fight like a wildcat, and keep people in prison. We have to get Jack out if we can.”

[iii] The account of John Adair Bell’s arrest comes from The Cherokee Adairs prepared by the Adair Family Reunion Book Committee, published by the Cherokee Nation 2003, page 26.

[iv] The account of John Ridge’s delegation to Washington D.C. in mid-1831 and his meetings with President Jackson are recorded in Chapter 15 of John Ehle, Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (New York, Doubleday, 1988), pages 240ff.