Family History

Cherokee Genealogy of Narcissa Chisholm

This narrative, signed by Robert L. Owen, Jr., is taken from the Robert L. Owen Collection, 1983.135, at the Oklahoma Historical Society Reserch Center.

Narcissa Chisholm, the mother of Robert L. Owen, former Senator of Oklahoma, was born October 3, 1831, at Webber’s Falls in a Large log house built by her father, Thomas Chisholm. She was a lineal descendant of Occonostota, who for very many years was principal chief of the Cherokees who occupied a great domain in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and East Tennessee. He was principal chief during the Revolutionary War.

His daughter, Quatsis, a full-blood Cherokee, married John Beamer, a missionary of the Church of England.

Peggy Beamer, the daughter of Quatsis, married Colonel Holmes, an officer of the British Army. The daughter of Peggy Beamer, Margaret Holmes, married John D. Chisholm, the son of John Chisholm, of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Thomas Chisholm was the son of John D. Chisholm. He spoke, Cherokee, French, and English. John D. Chisholm was of Scotch descent and was not of Indian blood. Never-the less, he spoke Cherokee and lived with the Cherokees, and went to Washington City in January 1809 with his son Thomas Chisholm, the father and son being acknowledged leaders of the Western Cherokees, who at that time were called lower town Cherokees, as they lived lower down on the Tennessee River than the upper town Cherokees.

John D. Chisholm and Thomas Chisholm, with a large band of Western Cherokees on the invitation of Thomas Jefferson, moved to the country known then as Arkansas territory and were given lands on the Arkansas and White Rivers and later, by the Treaty of 1828, had the title to the Cherokee land in what is now Oklahoma conveyed to them in fee simple, together with an outlet to the west to the head waters of the Arkansas.

Thomas Chisholm, after the birth of Narcissa Chisholm, moved from Webber’s Falls to Beatty’s Prairie, and his tomb was erected about 1834, as I remember it by hearsay. The grave is a mile west of Maysville on the south side of the Spavinaw Creek, from which Tulsa now receives its water supply, I am told. The Chisholm place had a grist mill run by the Chisholm spring at the edge of the prairie where the land falls somewhat precipitously toward the creek.

Thomas Chisholm married Melinda Horton, of white blood, a descendant of Samuel Horton, a merchant of Philadelphia.

Melinda Horton’s children were William Chisholm, Finney Chisholm, who lived in Illinois District near Fort Gibson, and Narcissa Chisholm.

Narcissa Chisholm, at the age of about 12, went to Evansville, Indiana, and stayed there a number of years and educated herself as a teacher. She taught vocal and instrumental music. When grown, she came to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and taught at Mrs. Sawyer’s School there. At Fayetteville she was a bridesmaid at the marriage of Wash Mayes, a well known citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Narcissa then went to Jonesboro, east Tennessee, where she taught music and was married to Robert L. Owen in 1853 at the house of the chief justice of Tennessee by David Sullins, a noted Methodist minister and missionary.

She had two children, William Otway Owen, born July 6, 1854, William Otway received the name Otway because Dr. William Owen, his father had married Otway Anna Carter, the daughter of Betty Lewis, or Betty Washington, the niece of George Washington.

Narcissa Owen became heir to many Washington relics such as cut glass and china descended through Betty Lewis to her daughter, Otway Anna Carter.

Some of these relics remained in the possession of former Senator Robert L. Owen.

After the death of Thomas Chisholm, his widow, Melinda Horton Chisholm, married William Wilson of Sequoyah District, the mother of William Wilson and Emily Wilson. Emily Wilson married Napoleon B. Breedlove, from New Orleans. Emily Wilson Breedlove was the mother of Lelia Breedlove, who married James Stapler, Tahlequah, Mrs. Florence Smith was another daughter and Emma Breedlove, unmarried, and Walter Breedlove, of Delaware District.

Robert L. Owen was the second son of Narcissa Chisholm, born February 3, 1856; graduated Washington and Lee University, master of arts, June, 1877; was valedictorian; received the gold medal as best debater of the Washington Debating Society, and the president’s scholarship as the most diligent student for the year ending June 1875.

In 1885 Robert L. Owen became United States Indian Agent for Union Agency under Grover Cleveland, resigning in January 1889. He was secretary of the Oklahoma Bar on the organization of the Shackelford Court 1889 (U.S. District Court).

He organized the First National Bank of Muskogee August 1, 1890; was president of it for 10 years and is still a director.

Robert L. Owen had one daughter, Dorothea Owen, born May 16, 1894. Her son, Robert L. Owen, Jr., was adopted by Robert L. Owen, Sr., by law in 1923 and given the name of Robert L. Owen, Jr. He is now a lieutenant in the United States Navy, having volunteered in June, 1941.

The above memorandum dictated by me from memory, I believe, is correct in every substantial particular and may be of interest to those who enjoy the annals of Oklahoma’s history.
- Robert L. Owen