Frequently Asked Questions
Did Chief John Ross live in Hunter’s Home?
Yes, but only off and on for about two months. When Chief Ross returned to the Cherokee Nation after the Civil War (September 10 to November 11, 1865), he stayed at Hunter’s Home, the name given to the Murrell plantation. Ross’s own home, Rose Cottage, a half-mile to the east, had been burned by Stand Watie’s Confederate troops on October 28, 1863. (Gary Moulton, Papers of Chief John Ross, Vol. 2, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1985, pps. 547, 647-658). At the request of the Murrells, the chief’s sister Elizabeth and her family had been living in Hunter’s Home since the summer of 1862 when the Murrells left to return to Virginia, where he was to support the Confederacy.
Did George Murrell serve in the Confederate military?
There are no records indicating that Murrell served in the military at any time. However, he did have close ties to the Confederate military. He was given the title “Major” Murrell, probably as a civilian honor, as early as 1834. Given Murrell’s age (53) at the start of the Civil War, and the fact that he had been a merchant for more than thirty years, it is more likely that he worked with the military in procuring supplies for the Confederacy. The Murrells left their Park Hill plantation home in 1862 when guerilla fighting began. The Ross family were known to be Union sympathizers, so as a Confederate sympathizer, Murrell apparently felt it necessary to return to his native Virginia. He is also reputed to have outfitted a regiment of Confederate soldiers while back in Virginia. Murrell would not have joined the Confederate troops in Indian Territory because of their connection to Stand Watie, an archenemy of Chief John Ross. While it is possible that Murrell may have served in the militia early in his life, there are no records to this effect. Murrell’s obituary in the 1890s claimed he never served in the military.
Why was John Ross elected as chief of the Cherokees? He’s only one-eighth Cherokee.
The concept of blood quantum is actually a European designation and meant little to the traditional Cherokees. The concept of clan was much more important. The Cherokees trace their lineage through their mothers, not their fathers. Every Cherokee child is born into the clan of their mother. John Ross was a member of the Bird Clan, and the clan relationship was more important than the fact that he had a white father. Also, the terms “mixed-blood” and “fullblood” did not hold the same meaning to the Cherokees as they do today. Today these terms are used to designate racial makeup. Originally, the words were used to differentiate a traditional Cherokee (one who spoke the native language and practiced old customs) from the acculturated Cherokee (one who had adapted to many of the white customs and spoke English). John Ross was always considered a traditional Cherokee, and he closely identified with the Cherokee-speaking majority. However, he was also well educated in white society. Hence, he identified with both groups and was a popular, though controversial, figure.
How did the Murrells decorate for Christmas?
In the mid-1800s, Christmas decorations were not as elaborate as they are today. Modern Christmas decorations did not arise until the late Victorian period. However, the Murrells and their contemporaries would have celebrated the holiday with large feasts and modest decorations. Hunter’s Home has a strong connection to the Moravian community. Minerva and Amanda Murrell’s sister, Araminta, and two Ross cousins, Jane Ross and Eliza Jane Ross, attended Moravian schools in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The girls lived with Moravian families there, and it is likely that many Christmas customs there were transplanted back to the homes in the Cherokee Nation. The Moravians are often credited with beginning many of our modern Christmas customs, including the use of the Christmas tree. Some other customs practiced in the Cherokee Nation include caroling, Yule logs, kissing under the mistletoe, attending parties, dancing, and calling on friends and family. The Cherokees celebrated the season with large Christmas dinners, dancing, taffy-pulls, and the seasonal delight of eggnog. They also participated in the custom of gift-giving, and both the family and slaves received presents. The home would often be decorated with local greenery and berries.
How many acres did George Murrell own?
We cannot pinpoint how many acres Mr. Murrell had because he did not own his land. In Indian Territory, land was held communally by the tribe, a common American Indian policy dating back to antiquity. The Cherokee Nation owned the land. Individuals only owned their improvements on the land, such as houses, outbuildings, and businesses. Cherokee citizens were allowed to use as much land as they needed, as long as no one else was already using that land. There is no record of how much land Murrell actually used. The entire site today includes about forty-five acres.
I have Cherokee ancestry. How can I get a tribal citizenship card?
The Cherokee Heritage Center’s website has detailed information on requirements to obtain a citizenship card. Certain documents are required. Visit www.cherokeeheritage.org for more information.
I heard the home is haunted. Do you allow paranormal investigations of the Hunter’s Home?
There are many ghost stories about the Hunter’s Home. In fact, our Friends Group published an oral history book about ghost stories, which is available in our gift shop. Unfortunately, staffing and security concerns prevent us from allowing any persons or paranormal organizations to investigate the historic home. We risk compromise of the security and preservation of our historic collections if we allow people who are not trained to handle historic objects to enter into restricted areas. We receive numerous requests each year for paranormal investigations. This activity is outside our core mission as a historic site, and we do not have personnel available to accompany the investigators through the home outside regular business hours. However, we encourage you to visit the home during regular operating hours and visit with the staff. We are proud of our long history and welcome any questions you have about the property.