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Tartan Ferret

Ooluntuskee aka John Jolly

Jolly is a name that goes back to at least 1492 and is said to have been quite common in and around Edinburgh. Although his birth date is unclear (possibly around 1770), it's known that John Jolly was born in Tennessee (Ta ni si) of a Scottish father and Cherokee mother. 

Not much is known about his early years but in later life he had a trading post on Hiwassee Island at the meeting point of the Hiwassee River and the Tennessee River and he was considered wealthy.

Ooluntuskee ~ John Jolly

At that time, a young Virginia-born white boy, showed up at Hiwassee Island. Apparently when younger, the boy's father had died and the family had moved to Tennessee where they started a farm and a store. However, the 15 year old lad rebelled against the work and his overbearing brothers and ran away to Hiwassee and the Cherokee. That boy was the famous Sam Houston of Texas fame. At Hiwassee he was adopted by John Jolly and given the Cherokee name of Go La Nu (Raven). The Cherokee lifestyle suited young Houston (shown on the right) and he adopted Cherokee dress and learned the language. In 1818 Houston became a federal agent with the help of John Jolly's influence and went on to become governor of Tennessee and later still, President of the Republic of Texas.
The population of Hiwassee Island ranged from 180 to 300 people with cattle, horses and hogs and John Jolly, who had more money than most, lived in a two storey framehouse close to his trading post. In 1805 and 1806 John signed treaties giving up much Cherokee land and in 1817 a treaty promised the Cherokee territory in the west equal to that given up in the east. However, the problem with that treaty was that it didn't actually guarantee the Cherokee rights to that new land in the west.

In that same year, John's brother-in-law Tolontuskee was one of several Cherokee chiefs who voluntarily moved west to what would become Arkansas and in 1818 John Jolly and his people joined Tolontuskee on the Arkansas river. In time John Jolly's homestead in Arkansas became a prosperous venture with a log house, many cleared fields, orchards and cattle raising facilities. A missionary named Cephas Washburn had built a school near Jolly and depended on his support for continued success. Jolly has been described as an easy going person who dressed in the manner of white settlers, understood English and may have also understood French. He was a very effective spokesman for his people and in 1819 with the death of his brother Tolontuskee he became the principal civic chief and Indian agents and government officials visited many times hoping to use his considerable influence.

In the role of civic chief he dealt with all civil affairs and in addition was leader of domestic affairs and represented the Arkansas Cherokee with the U.S. Government. In 1824 the Cherokee in Arkansas reorganized the tribal government to reflect the changing situation and Jolly was made president by general consensus. As leader he was always at the forefront when it came to treaty rights, taking on both the U.S. government and Arkansas territorial authorities. When the State governor asked about the sale of Cherokee lands he was told bluntly by Jolly that none was for sale and that the U.S. government still owed money to the Cherokee under the terms of the 1817 treaty.

For most of his time in Arkansas, Jolly used every diplomatic trick he could find to fend off white settlers and the U.S. government - both of whom wanted the Cherokee out of the State. In 1828 the Cherokee in Arkansas were finally forced to give up their land and farms and were resettled in Indian Territory - present day Oklahoma. John Jolly died in December 1838 near what is now Webbers Falls, Oklahoma.

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