Two Chapters: Wigwam Neosho, Morning at the Wigwam Neosho, and an entry to Sequoyah’s Diary

1829 -Sequoyah Visits The Wigwam Neosho

It was the autumn of the year and the best time to travel. Sequoyah slipped down from his buckskin mule to the ground. Following the mule were a team of oxen pulling a heavy old cart with two solid wooden wheels. It was laden with bags of salt from Sequoyah’s salt works. Ahead lay the Wigwam Neosho, home to Sequoyah’s beautiful niece, Diana Rogers, and her husband, Sam Houston. Every Cherokee girl knew that Sam, a white boy, grew up as the adopted son of Chief Joll-ee, the leader of the large village on Hiwassee Island in the Tennessee River. Sam grew up building fish traps and swimming with the Cherokee children in that river, hunting those forests with the boys, trading kisses with the girls.
Every Cherokee also knew that Sam Houston had been a great U. S. congressman, sent from the wild hills of Tennessee over to the nasty, turbulent little American capital of Washington City. In that great Senate he had famously fought for the Cherokees’ rights. He even went to Senate sessions dressed in the Cherokee fashion, with turban, buckskin leggings, and deerskin moccasins. Sequoyah was fascinated by Samuel Houston, who got his name Go-la-nu, or the Raven, from the young Cherokee girls on that river isle, because his moods were sometimes dark as night. Sequoyah laughed to himself as he remembered how just weeks earlier, the officers at Cantonment Gibson had been mortified to witness the famed Houston, dressed as a common Cherokee, sharing a bowl of porridge with old Chief Joll-ee in the ancient way, using only one spoon.

The Wigwam Neosho sat on a broad finger of land between the Grand Neosho and the Verdigris rivers. It was a fourteen mile ride north of the American frontier army post at Cantonment Gibson. Surrounded by gigantic trees, the Wigwam was a two-storied log structure that had been built by Diana’s first husband. Houston carried on his activities there as Indian trader, political exile and raconteur.

Sequoyah smiled as he saw the first tendrils of smoke from the chimneys of the Wigwam Neosho. Apart from the main house were a series of lean-tos and sheds. A large slave was shoeing a mule while a young dragoon tied his horse nearby, awaiting the same procedure. Sequoyah left his mule and the team of oxen under a draping sycamore and walked across the yard, scattering chickens in his wake. As he approached the house, Houston burst forth onto the porch. He wore deerskin trousers and a ruffled shirt, topped off with a resplendent red and blue hunting coat. Today his auburn hair was covered with an elaborate blue turban, twined around his skull.
“What honor upon my house!” Houston rushed down the two steps to stand in front of Sequoyah. Beer splashed over the side of his pewter mug. “The American Cadmus graces the Wigwam Neosho!” Houston announced. Sequoyah smiled and took his friend’s outstretched hand.
“Come brother Cherokee,” Houston said and pulled Sequoyah toward the porch, his great muscular arm around Sequoyah’s shoulders. “We shall feast and discuss great intricacies! Our friend Pierre August Chouteau has sent the Wigwam Neosho a canoe full of fresh killed buffalo!”
Sequoyah visualized all that buffalo meat, cooked to perfection by the lovely Diana, and realized how hungry he was. Houston led his friend to the steps with his arm around his shoulder. “And you bring salt! Outstanding.” Houston said.
The pair stepped onto the porch where Sequoyah noticed several barrels of whiskey. He looked at Sam, eyebrows lifted. “Do not worry, kind friend. I do not sell spirits to our countrymen. I assure you those are for my personal consumption.” Houston eyes glazed for an instant, then he clapped his friend on the shoulder.
As they entered the house, Sam gestured to an elaborately dressed slave, sprawled out on a couch near the huge fireplace. On closer inspection, Sequoyah could see that this slave wore an outfit identical to Houston’s, including the turban. “Shadow of the Raven,” Houston said, raising his glass, newly filled, to the slave, “do find that young Lieutenant Davis – he’s out there getting his horse shod – and tell him to come in here and join our embarrassment of riches.”
Sequoyah turned to the sound of lilting voices in the kitchen. Several young Cherokee girls were laughing and talking, at work preparing the evening meal. “Uncle George!” each cried in turn when Sequoyah poked his head inside. The first to embrace him was his niece, Diana Rogers, Sam’s wife and the best cook for fifty miles. “Uncle George, it is so good to see you,” she said. By the time he had kissed and hugged his nieces and cousins, Houston called Sequoyah back to the oaken dinner table, near the blazing fireplace. The young dragoon he had seen outside stood next to Houston.
Sam turned to Lieutenant Davis. “Surely, sir, you have met our distinguished guest.”
“I’m afraid not, sir.”
Houston glanced at the men in turn. “Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, meet our most famous Cherokee – George Guess.”
“Mr. Guess, how do you do?” said Davis. “I’m mighty proud to make your acquaintance.”
As they dined Sequoyah held his tongue and listened to Houston enthrall the young dragoon. Rarely did Sequoyah speak in English around white men. It was far more entertaining to feign no knowledge of that foreign tongue and listen to them blather in secret.
Sequoyah thought that the food tasted as marvelous as the wine that the Shadow of the Raven kept pouring into his glass. Suddenly Sam came up behind Sequoyah and covered his eyes with both hands while Diana lowered the tray to the table before him.
“Wa-du-li-si!” Sequoyah said, holding a rich golden slice of honeycomb up to the candlelight. “Now here is the perfect end to a splendid supper.” He much preferred the natural honeycomb to any handmade food he had yet encountered, as his niece Diana, who took pains to please all her guests, knew well. She had discovered the honey tree some days earlier, after she knew to expect Sequoyah. She had waited until this very afternoon to collect it.

Their fine meal ended, Sequoyah sat back to smoke his pipe while Houston and Davis drank bourbon between puffs of huge cigars. Shadow of the Raven stood silently nearby, ever watchful for an empty glass. Sequoyah looked up as he heard Sam speaking his name.
“As I was saying earlier, Lieutenant Davis, Guess here is none other than the esteemed inventor of the syllabary of the immortal Cherokee Nation.” Davis nodded stiffly in his high dragoon collar. “Not in the salons of Boston nor of New York is there a mind of such refinement and exactitude.”
“Yes, suh.” Davis seemed to stifle quietly in his uniform.
Houston relaxed into seriousness. “And what have you heard of me? I’m sure the wagging tongues of Cantonment Gibson have had much to say.”
“Sir you are known of course….It is said by some,” Davis weighed his words, “that perhaps you have aspirations in Mexico.”
Houston roared with laughter. “What is Mexico, Lieutenant Davis? That strange nearby place…that land of scorpions and orchids. That border is a few days ride from where we sit now.”
“Yes sir, of course. The frontier of Mexico is well-established.”
“Did you ever think, Lieutenant, that a border so recently established may change suddenly?”
Houston reached for his newly filled glass and rose from the table, weaving a little on moccasin-clad feet. He moved to a bench placed against the wall and settled on a buffalo rug.
“Gentlemen,” said Houston, “I must recline in the classical fashion to digest such eateries. Forgive me such a faux pas.” Davis and Sequoyah replied that it was no indiscretion and the conversation continued. Davis shed his coat and found himself a large chair and Sequoyah sat on the floor as was his custom.
“Suh,” Davis spoke to Houston.
“Yes, Lieutenant?”
“There is a subject I must address. It is a rare occurrence here on the frontier that I encounter educated gentlemen. When in the company of such I must inquire whether a literary discussion is possible.”
“I am a patron of all the arts, Lieutenant.”
“Your own literary tastes, suh?” Davis turned to face Houston.
“Well, they are of course classical. The writings of Caesar and such – as well the Greek experience – Sophocles and Thucydides. The story of Marius has always held great meaning for me.”
“Marius?” Davis asked.
“Yes, of humble origins and tested in battle, yet the subject of scorn and hounded by detractors. An army from rabble he did raise and win an empire.”
“Interesting,” Davis said.
“In truth, Lieutenant,” said Houston, “Such would be my own chosen fate.”
“To win an empire?”
“Perhaps you think I am no Marius,” Houston said. “Then I say that the Cherokee Indians are no rabble. I could assemble an army of ten thousand Indians and reign as the Cherokee Emperor of Texas!”
Sequoyah laughed inwardly, thinking of how that would be – an army of ten thousand Indians – his old friend Sam ruling over Texas like some kind of king. He rose stiffly up from the floor and bid his companions goodnight.

1829 – Morning at the Wigwam Neosho

After breakfast the next morning, Lieutenant Davis thanked the Houstons for their fine hospitality and mounted his horse. Sam and Sequoyah sat on benches on the east porch of the Wigwam Neosho, soaking up the mid-morning sun. The dark fabric of Sequoyah’s clothing drew the healing sun into his leg and onto his face. Autumn days like this, when the winds gave way to the sun, always took him back to his childhood. He would lie in the tall, dry grass in the field behind his home, the sky a blazing blue, the sun burning into his coat, warming him though the air was cold. He could smell the damp earth beneath the thickness of the grass. There he would read, in those choice hours of sunlight and warmth, the writings of his father’s people.
Sam Houston interrupted Sequoyah’s thoughts and said, “Old friend, it hurts to move my head, even after that fine breakfast. Too much whiskey.”
“Surely by now you have discovered some hangover cure.” Sequoyah smiled.
“You’re right,” Sam groaned. “Hand me that little pouch over there, the beaded one.”
Sequoyah reached into a shelf behind him and retrieved a folded pouch. He handed it to Sam who opened the pouch and removed a dark chunk of greenish stuff. He crumbled it into finer bits then emptied these from his fingers into Sequoyah’s ever-present clay pipe. Sequoyah immediately recognized the skunky aroma of the Mexican marijuana when Sam applied the match. After a few draws on the pipe, Sam declared his headache cured, and Sequoyah’s leg had never felt better.
Shadow of the Raven appeared, wearing the same green silk turban, fringed hunting coat, leggings and moccasins as Sam. He grinned widely when Sequoyah offered him the pipe. He smoked his fill of the magic herb, then leaned back to relax against the wall, looking into the sun.
Some slaves were working in the woods up the trail from the Wigwam Neosho and one of them called out, “Rider comin’ in!” From the porch the men watched as a dusty rider rode up at a clipping pace. The rider was mounted on a large red mule.
“I bet it’s Chisholm.” Houston re-filled the pipe and he and Sequoyah walked out into the yard.
Moments later, Sequoyah grasped the outstretched hand of his nephew, Jesse Chisholm. The men all greeted each other warmly. Houston watched as Chisholm tied his mule to a post and loosened the saddle. Chisholm’s father had been one of the full-blood Scots who had taken Cherokee wives in the old country. His family had come out to the frontier with the old settlers, and Jesse had grown up speaking a half a dozen languages and developing as a natural trader. Chisholm took mule trains out to the prairie and traded with the wild Indians there instead of having them come to him. He was known as a fair trader and even dangerous tribes like the Comanches welcomed Jesse Chisholm to their firesides. Chisholm asked the whereabouts of Diana.
“She’s around somewhere. Pretty soon she’ll be calling you in for lunch.” They all laughed and Chisholm went into the big house to surprise his relative. A few minutes later he joined Houston and Sequoyah again on the porch.
“So you’ve been out to the great prairie?” Houston offered the pipe to Chisholm.
“Comancheria,” Jesse answered.
“How long did you stay out, Jesse?” Sequoyah asked.
“Long enough to pick up some buffalo hides and horses.”
“Well, I’m glad to have you and Sequoyah here together,” Sam said. “I need Sequoyah’s advice, and I need help from you, Jesse.”
“I like talking,” Chisholm said, grinning. “But I like eating better.”
Houston laughed. “Then we shall speak of great things over lunch!”

While they ate, a serious and nearly sober Houston told Sequoyah and Chisholm of his plans to revolutionize Texas. He spread a purloined army map on the table and the men examined it as Houston sketched his plans. “A hundred years ago,” he explained, “the Spanish had missions on the Red River, but each year their frontier inches back. They cannot hold the entire of Texas against the Comanche and Kiowa in particular. The Spanish military forces are brutal but entirely reactive. The distances are immense.” Houston went on to say that many southern American whites were already settling in Texas and they chafed under even the nominal Spanish rule. He theorized that a multi-ethnic ad hoc army of civilized Indians, southern backwoodsmen and wild plains tribes could unite to smash the Spanish military presence in Texas and form a provisional government.
“Tell me, Jesse,” Houston asked Chisholm, “could the Comanche be induced to join such an effort?”
“Any man who says he can predict a Comanche is a fool or a liar,” Chisholm said and shrugged. “But I can tell you this – a Comanche don’t care about a white man one way or the other. But he hates a Mexican with all he’s got. God Almighty you should see the Mexican scalps Eschiti has hanging around his lodge.”
“But Eschiti respects you.”
“I reckon.”
“Do you think you could persuade him to enter a council with me and maybe some others concerning this matter?
“Sam I ain’t gonna lie to you. Eschiti and those other Comanche chiefs can be some bad Indians. They ain’t gonna do nothing for nobody unless there is something in it for them.”
“Of course. They have their statecraft, as I have mine.”
“What do you have to offer them?” Sequoyah asked.
“Nothing.” Houston shrugged. “Nothing but what they already have – freedom. Someday soon, Jesse, I’ll ask you to use your linguistic skills to rally up some support from several of the tribes in the west. Imagine us in Texas with them on our side…no one could stop us.”
“Now, Sequoyah, tell me your thoughts,” Sam said, “about Texas.”
Sequoyah took a deep puff from his pipe before he answered. “It won’t be many years before the Americans take this place. You see them everywhere. Yes, Texas. Perhaps their greed will not drive them that far.”
“Well, they’d never be able to take our land there,” Sam said. “All those tribes together… why even the US Army would run from us like scared rabbits. Think of it!”
Sequoyah did think of it, and he liked the idea – a real home for the Cherokees with Sam Houston to lead them. Together the three men mapped out a rudimentary plan for Texas. Supper that night was another fine feast, and Sequoyah thanked his hosts gratefully. His leg told him it was time to retire to his room and its candlelit desk.

Sequoyah stoked up the fire to warm the room, then reached into his bag, pulling out a leather satchel. It was filled with sheets of parchment. He looked at the top sheet, entitled simply The Cherokees. The pages beneath it contained the first chapters of Sequoyah’s personal history of the Cherokee people.
For years, Sequoyah had been writing down all the events and stories he could recall about the Cherokees, including those his mother had taught him. Those stories would never be found in the yellowed pages of the Cherokee Phoenix. Fame had made Sequoyah an active participant in the Cherokee government, mostly as an advisor, and often as a mediator. He had witnessed a good deal of recent history first hand, seeing things he should never have seen, hearing things he should never have heard. Soon it would be time for him to leave this place. He walked a thin line between the factions of the Cherokees. One day he might stumble too far onto either side. Maybe Texas is the place for me, he mused, and with that his thoughts turned to Sam, drinking and singing below, and how they had both been wounded in the Creek war. Sequoyah dipped his pen in ink and began to write.

Sequoyah’s Diary

Many of the Cherokees did not wish to go to war with the Creeks. It was a subject of much debate and heated discourse. A General Council meeting was held in which all sides could speak their minds. Deep into the night the discussion continued. In the light of the ancient fire the Ridge rose. Long and eloquent did he speak on the reasons the people should join with the whites to war against the Creeks.
Many who were skeptical were moved by his language and reasoning. When the Ridge sat back down Charly, the famous doctor and witch, rose and began haranguing the Council and those assembled. He spoke with great power – against the war, against the young people learning English, against reading and writing from pieces of paper, against cats in the house. “When our people live like whites they are no longer Real People.” Such were the words of Charly.
Charly held tremendous power among the people. Many were afraid to look at him as it was told he traveled with four magical hell-hounds, one who walked on each side of him. “Look upon me,” Charly urged the assembled, and as they did so they were drawn into his sphere of influence. Charly continued to speak, his emotive power holding the crowd to him. At great length he continued on, and the crowd then grew wild and frenzied.
“No war on the Creeks!” they cried, “We must go instead to war with the Americans!”
“Yes!” Charly urged them on. “The whites are soul-stealers. They must not live among us, or us among them!”
Throughout Charly’s speaking the Ridge had sat silent, his arms crossed. To this day I remember his brow furrowed. When Charly hushed for an instant the Ridge leapt like a cat onto the Council table. Charly looked up at him with disbelief.
“If you have such power,” the Ridge addressed him directly and from above, breaking two taboos at once, “then strike me dead!”
Charly hissed and his inflamed supporters rushed the Ridge and knocked him from the table. Two, then three then four and more men attacked him, and he fought them like a panther until he was overcome by the rushing and maddened people. Oo-Watie then joined the fray swinging a cane stick against the Ridge’s attackers.
The Council House became a chaotic churning brawl. All of this I witnessed with my own eyes. The Ridge fought his way up from the earthen floor and he and Oo-Watie cleared the attackers away from them. The Ridge climbed back on top of the table soaking in his own blood. He took the cane stick from Oo-Watie and banged on the table until all eyes were on him. He held his arms out and addressed the assembled. “See,” he said. “Witness it with your own eyes. Still I live!”
This story circulated from town to town amongst our people. We voted to go to war with the Creeks.


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2 Responses to “Two Chapters: Wigwam Neosho, Morning at the Wigwam Neosho, and an entry to Sequoyah’s Diary”

  1. Judith Anderson Says:

    What can I say? Titilating, vibrant, captivating, can’t stop reading. The story gets more and more entwined.
    Thanks for doing it!!!!

  2. Cynthia Wood Says:

    A beautiful story about my 5 great grandparents Sam and Tiana

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