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Civil War History

Chief John Ross and Family

Chief John Ross, who was probably always a Union supporter, signed a treaty of alliance with the Confederacy in September 1861, probably to keep the tribe from splitting. Ross spent the majority of the Civil War in exile in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after being arrested by the Union for signing the treaty. Accompanying Ross to Pennsylvania would have been his second wife, Mary Brian Stapler Ross, and their two children, John Jr. and Annie. Mary’s sister, Sarah Stapler, lived with them and would also have traveled with them. Her brother, John Stapler, a Tahlequah merchant, and his family probably left with them also. Chief Ross had five children from his first marriage. Two of his sons, Allen and George W., were members of John Drew’s Confederate Regiment. These men and possibly two other sons (James and Silas) and their families may have traveled up to Kansas at this time as well. Several sons and grandsons would serve in the Union’s Indian Home Guard. A daughter, Jane (Ross) Meigs Nave, would remain until 1863, when her husband, Andrew Nave, was killed at their home in Park Hill by members of Watie’s regiment.

George M. Murrell

George M. Murrell was a Virginian who was a Confederate supporter. He was a witness for the Confederacy at the Cherokee Treaty signing in 1861. As such, he would have also been arrested had he remained at home. It is believed that at this time he had removed those enslaved by him and perhaps some of his more valuable stock to Van Buren, Arkansas, to await a Confederate expedition. In late July he was trying desperately to find a way to get his family out. As a Virginian Confederate he would never support the North; as an intermarried Ross family member, he could never support the Cherokee Confederates led by Stand Watie. His only options were to remain in Arkansas or return to Virginia and help the Confederacy there. He eventually did the latter.

His wife Amanda (Ross) Murrell and infant son George Ross Murrell would accompany the Ross family north at some point. Murrell was able to get them through the lines and back into Virginia. Although they did come back to visit their old home after the war, they never made it their residence again. They subsequently owned and developed a plantation in Bayou Goula, Louisiana, and a farm in Lynchburg, Virginia.

William Potter and Mary Jane “Mollie” Ross Family

William Potter Ross was a nephew of Chief John Ross, as the Lt. Col. in Drew’s Regiment, he was also arrested. He and his family had moved to Fort Gibson from Park Hill in the late 1850s. His wife Mollie was his cousin and a sister to Amanda (Ross) Murrell. Will, Mollie, and their children, Emma and Cora, would accompany the Ross’s entourage North. Son Willie would remain at school in Pennsylvania. Mollie and the girls would refugee in Kansas. William Potter Ross would return to Fort Gibson in 1863 with the Union occupation and resume his work as a merchant/sutler. Later he would be appointed as the Cherokee Chief following John Ross’s death, and again in 1872, when Lewis Downing died.

Lewis and Ross Family

Accompanying John Ross was his brother, Lewis, a very wealthy merchant and planter and owner of a saline at Grand River or Grand Saline (now Salina, Oklahoma). Mrs. Ross had died in 1860; living nearby were his son, Dr. Robert Ross, his wife, Carrie (Todd) Ross, and their four small children, Lewis, Edward, Belle, and Alice. This family would leave during the night on July 27, and join the other Ross refugees in Kansas.

Besides Mrs. Amanda Murrell, Mrs. Mary Jane Ross, and Dr. Robert Ross, another daughter lived in Park Hill in Lewis Ross’s first home in the new Cherokee Nation. Mrs. Araminta “Min” Vann lived in Prairie Lea in Park Hill, just a short distance southeast of Chief Ross’s home. Min was married to James Springston Vann, another of Drew’s Regiment’s officers, who was probably arrested. The son of “Rich” Joe Vann, James, would serve the Union the rest of the war while his brother, Judge Joe Vann, would serve the Confederacy. Araminta and their daughter, Fannie, would eventually join the rest of the Ross family in the North.

Elizabeth “Eliza” Ross and Family

A sister to Chief John Ross, Eliza had married an unrelated Scottish merchant named John Golden Ross. They lived about two miles east of Murrell’s home near the Illinois River. John Golden Ross died in 1859, and when Mrs. Murrell left for the north with the Rosses, she persuaded her aunt and cousin to occupy her home in her absence. Eliza and her daughter, E. “Jane” Ross would live through several Watie raids on Hunter’s Home and remain at the home until the war’s end. Mrs. Ross’s three sons, William Potter, Daniel Hicks, and John Andrew, would return to Fort Gibson when the Union reoccupied the fort in 1863, and assist their mother and sister with supplies whenever possible.

The Missionary Families

After the death of Reverend Samuel Worcester in 1859, the mission was closed and the improvements sold to Abijah Hicks, a merchant and son-in-law to Worcester. In July of 1862, Hicks was mistakenly murdered by “Pin Indians” while traveling to Arkansas for supplies for his store. His widow, Hannah (Worcester) Hicks, was left at the old mission with five young children, her widowed step-mother, and two sisters-in-law.

Also in the community were retired Dwight missionaries, Jacob and Nancy Hitchcock, who were caring for their granddaughter. In August of 1862 the Confederates had already taken Hitchcock prisoner, probably as much for his medical skills as for his Union sympathies. Both Hannah and Dr. Hitchcock would keep diaries to recount the ordeal of family and friends.

Most of Hannah’s relatives would later leave with another Union expedition north, but Hannah and her children would remain until 1864, when the situation became so desperate she moved to Fort Gibson. She later married her brother-in-law, Dr. Daniel Dwight Hitchcock. He died of cholera in 1867.

(Source: Shirley Pettengill, Oklahoma Historical Society)