North Georgia Notable
Born 1771, Hiwassee, Cherokee Nation
Died June 22, 1839, White Rock Creek, AR.(disputed)
man finishes describing his vision to the highest Cherokee council by saying anyone who denies this dream will be struck dead by the Cherokee Mother. Ridge sits silent as a great chatter arises amongst the chiefs. The vision is decidedly anti-settler, possibly provoked by Tecumseh, who issues a call for war shortly before the meeting in May of 1811. Rising to speak after the room had quieted, Ridge's voice fills the hall. "What you have heard is not good. It will lead us to war with the United States, and we shall suffer. It is not a talk from the Great Spirit, and I stand here and call it false. Let the death come upon me. I test their words."
Before he finishes speaking men are upon him, fighting him, trying to stab him with knifes. Cherokees in support of Ridge fight back. As the battle rages, Ridge stands, clothes torn and bloody. The fighting pauses. Louder than before Ridge repeats "I stand here and call it false," adding this time, "I continue to live so these prophets are deceivers." Again fighting breaks out, but this time the elder chiefs stop it.
His words alter the course of the Cherokee Nation. Not for the first time, nor the last, Ridge takes a stand for something in which he believes. It was a trait that would mark him throughout his life as a visionary, and end in his death for the betrayal of his people.
Born Kah-nung-da-tla-geh in 1771, by most people's guess, Man Who Walks on Mountaintop is the son of Oganstota, Dutsi or Tar-chee. His mother, a mixed blood Cherokee, belongs to the Deer Clan. In 1785 the Cherokee leaders sign the Treaty of Hopewell, in which many of the tribe put great faith. By the time Ridge becomes a warrior in 1788, the agreement at Hopewell has been repeatedly broken by both sides and the Chickamauga (Ridge's tribe) are in revolt.
In his first war party, the future member of the Cherokee Triumvirate witnesses the atrocity of war. Cherokee and settlers battle across southeast Tennessee. Near present-day Maryville the Cherokee attack settlers in the field and turn on John Gillespie's station, killing all the men in the stockade. Ridge's leader, John Watts saves the lives of the 28 women and children. They then attack 2 more stations on the Holsten, and head for the Smoky Mountains. John Seiver ambushes the war party. Ridge escapes, wounded, but 145 Cherokee die.
Exposure to this kind of fighting continues for years. By the mid 1790's Ridge, as did many of his fellow Chickamaugan, begin to desire an end to the fighting. "I will hunt deer, not men," he tells his fianc%uFFFDe Susanna. His tribe decimated, two separate events that affect Ridge occur. He moves to Pine Log, in present-day Bartow County, Georgia, and under orders of President Washington, the United States begins to introduce technology to the Cherokee in the form of spinning wheels and cotton combs.
Now married, Ridge is surprised to find when he returns home that Susanna has woven cloth worth more money than all the pelts he captures in six months of hunting. Pleasantly surprised. And the men he begins to associate with in Pine Log are not warriors but farmers. His association with James Vann and Charles Hicks influences Ridge towards ending the fighting with settlers, and Ridge, in turn, influences the Cherokee Nation to ending the constant warring.
By 1795 a change had overcome the warrior. Representing Pine Log in council Ridge proposes a modest change in the ancient vengeance code. This change, which passes, prompts Ridge's rise. He is 25(or so) at the time. By 1800 the tribal council acknowledges the Cherokee Triumvirate of Ridge, Vann and Hicks. They often disagree with the elders and frequently win.
Ridge turns his attention to his family as Vann and Hicks lead the fights in council. Susanna gives birth to a girl, then a boy, John. A third, another boy, dies at birth. Later additions to his family would include Walter or "Watty" and Sarah, who they called Sally. His brother David Watie (or Oowatie) and sister-in-law, living nearby, give birth to Gallegina or "Buck" and Stand. It is during this time that the United States and the State of Georgia legally agree to the removal of "indians" from the state at a later date.
By 1805 Ridge's attention returns to the council, and he, Hicks and Vann are extremely unhappy at what they see. Tribal elders, most notably Doublehead, are getting rich at the expense of the tribe. The Cherokee Triumvirate lead a group in a complex series of events generally referred to as "The Revolt of the Young Chiefs."
Doublehead betrays the Cherokee on many occasions. After the cession of Wofford's tract in 1804, Doublehead begins to rapidly sell the real assets of the tribe under the direction of Indian Agent Return J. Miegs. By 1806 a significant portion of remaining land is sold, with most of the proceeds going to Doublehead and those who aligned with him. Vann and Ridge break with the council. Although almost entirely alone at first, they slowly build support across the nation. Within 2 years a large vocal group support the two rebellious chiefs.
In a bold plan in August, 1807, possibly approved by the tribal council, Ridge, Hicks, and Vann plot the murder Doublehead. Deeply involved, neither the federal government or the Cherokee clan of Doublehead take any action against Ridge. He turns back a settler near Vann's Tavern, and later, in the presence of Meigs, usurps his power on the council. The council quickly begins to nationalize and Ridge is put in charge of the first Cherokee police, the Lighthorse Patrol. At Ridge's insistence the ancient blood vengeance code is abolished.
Just as the Triumvirate reaches it's acme, Hicks quits (or is forced to quit) his job assisting Miegs and Vann is killed. Now Ridge, who desperately seeks to lead his nation, sees his power in council dwindling. It is now that the man who has the vision addressed the council and Ridge rises to call him a liar. This is a dramatic moment in Cherokee History. Once again reinstated for this bold move, the council appoints Ridge to journey to Tecumseh's council with the Creeks and others. After the meeting, Ridge takes Tecumseh aside and explains that if Tecumseh comes to the Cherokee council, Ridge will personally kill him.
With the onset of the Creek War(1813-1814), Ridge raises an army of Cherokee volunteers. Elected a leader of the unit, Andrew Jackson appoints him Major, a title Ridge uses for the rest of his life. It is said that Ridge's canoe is the first to cross the Tallapoosa River as the Cherokee attack from the rear during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend(1814). He leads the Cherokee during the Seminole War(1818) as well and his daughter dies during child-birth.
After the end of the Seminole War Ridge returns home to an elected position as Speaker of the council in the lower house. His wealth expands to rival, but not surpass, that of his late friend James Vann. The Ridge house is completely remodeled and records indicate the vast holdings as including:
- 1141 peach trees
- 418 apple trees
- 280 acres under cultivation
- a ferry
- a store
- 30 black slaves
- other slaves including Creek captives
~Ridge was known as being kind to his slaves. For years Susanna Wickett, his mixed-blood wife would tell him, "Remember, they are people, too."~
During the 1820's the Cherokee Nation is institutionalized, and John Ross wins election as tribal leader, a position that Ridge wanted for most of his adult life. He is happy his close friend and ally John Ross gets elected. After the election Ridge assumes a position that could best be described as "counselor" and for the next 7 years advises Principal Chief Ross on matters before council.
It is during this time that John, his son, decides to marry a white woman. The woman's parents move to prevent the marriage on religious grounds and Ridge confronts the Moravians with a direct question -- "Is there anything in your Bible to prevent such a marriage?" The Moravians assure him that there is not, but they are concerned that the powerful chief does not believe them. Shortly after the women's parents relent and John Ridge and she were married.
Now aging, Ridge sees his son John and Buck Oolwatie(Elias Boudinout) as the future of the tribe. Buck, as editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, eventually espouses removal to Oklahoma as a viable solution to the problem of white encroachment. Ridge is convinced over a period of several years, but John Ross and an overwhelming majority of the Cherokee are against removal.
In December, 1835, Ridge, his son John, Buck Oolwatie (Elias Boudinot), and Stand Watie sign the Treaty of New Echota, which results three years later in The Trail of Tears. Ross promptly gathers 16,000 signatures of Cherokees who oppose removal. Indian-hater Andrew Jackson forces the treaty through Congress by a single vote.
Ridge did not wait to move to Oklahoma. Between 1836 and 1838 he and hundreds of other Cherokee travel to their new home. Along the way he stops to meet his old friend Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage.
Three years later, in clear violation of constitutional law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the Cherokee are forced to leave for Oklahoma because of Ridge's conviction in his beliefs.
After Major Ridge signs The Treaty of New Echota he says, "I have just signed my death warrant," and indeed he had. Ridge, John and Buck lay dead less than six months afterr the arrival of the Cherokee in the Oklahoma Territory. In an orchestrated plot Ridge is shot while travelling to Arkansas. A few minutes later a group of Cherokee drag his son John from his home and stab 43 times in front of his wife and children. Elias Boudinot is murdered shortly after leaving Samuel Worcester's house.
As brilliant a statesman and politician that Ridge had been, he is forever doomed to a role of betrayer of Cherokee Nation. No other Cherokee has a greater affect on the tribe.
Did Ridge really betray his nation?
Major Ridge's house is now the Chieftain's Museum on Georgia's Historic High Country's Chieftain's Trail.
In August, 1997, the editors of Welcome to North Georgia named Ridge as the most influencial person in the makeup of today's North Georgia.
Jun. 22, 1839, USA
Born in Cherokee Nation; Deer clan. Husb. of Susanna Wickett. Cherokee repr.in Washington,D.C. As Speaker of the Cherokee Nation, he was considered by them and non-Indians alike as a powerful intellect and voice of reason, as well as a great speechmaker. Father of
John, Nancy, Sarah(m.Paschal)& "Watie". Assassinated by Cherokee Indians who were political rivals.