Monday, April 5, 2010

Mystery Monday: They Believed They Were Cherokee


One of the stories that my father told me, when I was very young, was that his mother MINTTIE MAE (Bruton) HUBER was part Cherokee.  Of course, being the story-teller that he was, Dad added a lot of embellishment, so that in the end he had me believing that my grandmother's mother SILOAMA WHITECOTTON was the orphaned daughter of a Cherokee chief who was killed trying to cross the Mississippi River on a raft while bootlegging whiskey.

Okay. That wasn't true. But what was the real story? Was my grandma (who I never met) part Cherokee?

My grandmother Minttie Mae (Bruton) Huber on left, her daughter-in-law Hazel (Kerkindall) Huber on right, holding her granddaughter Pam (Minttie's great granddaughter), 1950s Marshalltown, Iowa

When I first started researching my father's family ten years ago, I was contacted by a Thompson cousin, Merrill Dean Gray,  from Hollister, MO.  He put me in contact with another Thompson cousin Norma Stewart Maples, who had compiled all the letters that her mother Alta Thompson Stewart and a cousin Lela Hall McCoy had written in the 1980s and put them into a book.  Alta & Lela wrote down the oral history of the Thompson family. Norma kept the story alive. Without their efforts, this family history would have been lost.

This is what Lela Hall McCoy wrote to Alta Thompson Stewart about SILOAMA WHITECOTTON, daughter of SARAH THOMPSON & JAMES MONROE WHITECOTTON  (comments in red are mine) :

"My great grandmother Melinda Thompson married a Whitecotton, a Cherokee, and they had three children: Maryline Thompson (b abt 1845 TN), Daniel Jackson Thompson (b about 1846 TN) and George W Thompson (b about 1847 TN).

"Before leaving Tennessee for Arkansas, and while Maryline was an infant, they separated, and he (James Monroe Whitecotton) later married great grandmother's sister SARAH THOMPSON and they had three children; 2 daughters: SILOAMA--BRUTON;  Frona (Sophrona)--Hopper; and son Joe (who must have died young--not in census after 1850).

"Later they separated and SARAH married a Mr. Griffin (Nathan Griffin).  She lived with James and Siller Mowery (Melvina Priscilla Thompson, Sarah's sister) in Christian Co MO later in her life (verified 1880 census). The Mowerys decided to move to Brushy Knob area in Douglas Co MO. When they did that your Uncle Bill (William J. Thompson, son of Avery Thompson) took her in with him and I think she died in his house (She died 1889 and is buried at Old Boston Cemetery in Christian Co MO next to Avery Thompson b 1820 d 1892; Melinda Thompson b 1828 d 1886; and Maryline Thompson Hall b 1845 d 1874.)

"SARAH's three children went by the name Whitecotton, whereas Malinda's didn't; Malinda's went by the name Thompson (They also went by surname Riddle, because Malinda married William Riddle TN, but her husband died before the 1860 census in Arkansas)

"In 1905 SILOAMA BRUTON visited her cousin George W and Sarah (Bledsoe) Thompson at their home in Oldfield MO. Siloama wasn't in very good health at the time she visited; she had a stroke or was crippled with arthritis; she would sit in a rocking chair and someone would pull the chair from room to room. Evidently she couldn't walk. She died not long after she went back to her home (this is true--she died in 1907). She is buried near Ozark, MO."

From this letter it is clear that the Thompson family believed that the Whitecotton man who lived with Malinda Thompson and then married her sister SARAH THOMPSON--i.e JAMES MONROE WHITECOTTON b Oct 1825 AL-- was a Cherokee.

But was he? Hard to say. The Whitecottons were not Cherokee; the family was originally English, and can be traced back to Stafford Co Virginia in the 1600s. This is not a particularly large family, and anyone with the surname can trace back to the Stafford Co VA family. There is only one Whitecotton family in the United States. African Americans with the surname likely descended from the slaves of the Stafford Co VA family.

My particular branch moved from Stafford Co VA to Hampshire/Hardy Co VA, which is now West Virginia, and from there to Knox Co KY and ultimately to Jackson Co Alabama and several places in Tennessee.

If my gg grandfather JAMES MONROE WHITECOTTON b Oct 1825 AL was part Cherokee, it was likely through his mother HAPPY unknown who married MOSES WHITECOTTON b 1804 Knox Co KY, son of ISAAC NEWTON WHITECOTTON & ELIZABETH STUMP.

However,  on the 1850  Decatur, Morgan Co AL census HAPPY WHITECOTTON, a widow raising several children,  is listed as white, born in Virginia. So far, she has been virtually untraceable in records beyond the 1840 Bledsoe Co TN and 1850 Morgan Co AL census.  Some researchers have postulated her maiden name was Lindley, as that was what she named her eldest son, but so far I have never been able to connect her with any Lindley family living in the south during that time period.

At any rate, it is apparent that my grandmother and her siblings also believed they were part Cherokee.  Sometime between 1902 and 1906, my grandmother MINTTIE MAE, her sister HATTIE and their brother JAMES J BRUTON all applied to the Guion Miller rolls for inclusion into the Cherokee tribe. They listed their parents as SILOAMA WHITECOTTON & BENJAMIN B BRUTON, their grandparents as SARAH THOMPSON & MONROE WHITECOTTON.

Their applications were denied, meaning there wasn't enough evidence to enroll them in the Cherokee tribe.

But still they believed they were Cherokee. And many descendants do, to this day.

And so the mystery continues.
My grandfather ALONZO COX HUBER, my father BILL HUBER, 
my grandmother MINTTIE MAE HUBER, WWII era, Marshalltown, Iowa

Have a great day!


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