William Shorey, interpreter for the garrison at Fort Loudoun married a
Cherokee woman named Ghi-goo-ie, or "sweetheart". Their daughter Annie
Shorey was the grandmother of John Ross. John McDonald, a Scot, married
Annie then opened a store in Loudoun, and later a supply post in the
Chickamauga Creek near what in 1838 would become Chattanooga. John and
Annie had Mary, who married Daniel Ross. See Cherokee Family Ross.
John Ross was the son of Daniel Ross, a Scotsman from Sutherlandshire,
making John Ross 1/8 Cherokee. Daniel Ross joined with his
father-in-law, John McDonald, Deputy British Agent to the Chickamauga
Indians, to operate a trading post that supplied the Chickamaugas with
arms and ammunition for raiding the Americans at the beginning of the
American Revolutionary War. When peace was made between the Chickamaugas
and the Americans, Daniel Ross returned with John McDonald to Rossville,
Georgia and built Ross House in 1797.
Daniel Ross established his store on Chattanooga Creek
near the foot of Lookout Mountain and operated there until about 1816.
Wanting a good education for his nine children, Daniel built a small
school and employed John Barbour Davis as the teacher. After attending
Davis' school, John Ross went on to a school in Kingston, TN and later
to the academy at Maryville, TN.
While very young, John's Grandmother dressed little John Ross all in
white and sent him out to play. The Indian children taunted him by
calling him names, "Unaka, Unaka" meaning "White Boy". The next day when
she again tried to dress him in all white, he burst into tears. after
discovering what had happened, she put him back in his buckskins and he
went out happily. John Ross though only one-eighth Cherokee was purely
Cherokee in his response.
In 1809, at age 19, John Ross was sent on an official mission to the
Western Cherokees by Return J. Meigs, U.S. Indian Agent. John's quiet
and reserved manner inspired confidence among both whites and Indians.
The mission was such a success, John was immediately sent on another
trip. John Ross proved his leadership and diplomacy at an early age.
John Ross fought with General Andrew Jackson and 1000
other Cherokee against a large group of Creek Indians. At Horseshoe
Bend, 600 Creek warriors were killed and peace was restored on March 28,
1814. It was during this battle that John Ross swam the frigid waters of
the Tallapoosa River to help steal the Creek's "getaway" canoes which
were then used by the Cherokee in a rear attack on the Creek Indians.
The diversion was all Jackson needed to successfully overcome the Creek
In the war of 1812, John Ross served as adjutant. Although Cherokees
fought without payment for the war, they were never considered true
Americans. Would the Cherokees have fought with such pride and courage
if they had known the very government for which they fought would
eventually throw them off their homeland?
In 1815, John Ross and Timothy Meigs opened a trading post on the
Tennessee River in Chattanooga. A ferry was used to port people and
merchandise across the river about where the present day Market Street
crosses the river. This soon became known as Ross's Landing.
Congregationalists, descendants of the Puritans, founded in
Massachusetts an interdenominational missionary organization named the
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent missionaries
to the Cherokee. The mission was named the Brainerd Mission at Ross's
Landing. Unlike some of the other missions, the Brainerd Mission school
came with a genuine desire to educate as well as baptize the Cherokee.
Recognizing the value of a good education, and himself being well
educated, John Ross did everything he could to help the missionaries. It
was Ross's work to introduce schools and mechanical training which set
In 1817 the U.S. government asked the Cherokee to cede all lands north
of the Hiwassee River and to move West. All this was done despite the
treaty of March 30, 1802 guaranteeing the cherokee perpetual rights to
their land and recognizing their right to self-government. This same
year John Ross was elected to the Cherokee National Council for which he
would serve as president of the National Committee from 1819-1826. The
Republican Constitution written by John Ross, modeled after the U.S.
Constitution, was adopted by the Cherokee in 1827.
John Ross was elected Principal Chief of this first Indian republic in
1828, and took the oath of office at New Echota where he stated, "I do
solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of Principal
Chief of the Cherokee Nation and will, to the best of my ability,
preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation."
The Cherokee were becoming literate and more civilized as they adopted
the white man's ways. Some , like the Rosses, owned large tracts of land
and kept many Negro slaves to cultivate them.
The State of Georgia considered it a threat having a sovereign Cherokee
nation so close. They too had a treaty with the U.S. government saying
the U.S. would "peaceably" acquire the title to Indian land in exchange
for Western lands. Georgia enlisted the aide of Andrew Jackson, who, as
an emerging candidate for the presidency, promised to remove the
Cherokee if elected.