Myra Ellen King Martin died in 1969 at the age of 87. She lived her later years in Decatur, Georgia, near Atlanta where her grandchildren were raised. She told them about the King and Hulsey and Patterson families and their special Hall and Madison County heritage. Her father Isaac, half Cherokee, taught school on Latty Road near Lula, and his full Cherokee father, William W. King, married a settler’s daughter, Tempy Hulsey. His parents came from South Carolina and William’s father was a tribal chief, according to Myra.
It should have been easy to verify; there should have been at least one hint in the records that someone in the King family was Cherokee. The Kings were living in Hall County south of the Chattahoochee River while the Cherokee Nation still existed a few miles away. Many native families lived outside the Cherokee Nation and remained after the Trail of Tears as farmers and merchants. Their descendants have stories of Cherokee ancestors who didn’t participate in the Trail of Tears - and can’t prove it.
The question of Cherokee Kings was further complicated in 2009 when the grandchildren of Myra’s sister, Cora King Martin, recalled the family stories Cora told throughout her life. According to Cora, the Cherokee blood came from one of the wives - either Sophia or Tempie or Ann or someone else. So which sister was right? Which grandchildren have the best memories? Since Myra was my great grandmother and I’ve researched her stories, let’s start with her version of the Kings.
This King family is traced back to the widow Sophia King in the 1830 Hall County Federal census. At that time Cherokees were still not considered citizens, and like women, were not allowed to vote. But if they lived outside the Nation, they appeared in the Federal Census as taxed citizens. While ethnicity was supposed to be specific, the only indications found were usually white, black or mulatto.
Sophia and her children lived close to Jonathan Martin and Charles Hulsey, which placed the King family in the Glade District where her son William lived until 1903. Later census records show that Sophia and her husband were born in South Carolina, as Myra claimed. But the identity of Sophia’s husband, the one recalled as a Tribal Chief, is not proved, and nobody remembers if Myra ever told it. It is not clear if he lived in the area in 1820 or had not yet arrived.
Hall County was formed from northern Jackson County in 1818, due in part because the Cherokee gave up more land to the U.S. and opened new territory for settlers to populate. The oldest surviving census in the state of Georgia was taken in 1820, and it provided a snapshot of the earliest settlers when the area was still Indian Territory. Oburn Buffington, Ellis Treadaway, Bart Reynolds, Ezekial Dunagan, David Latty, Thomas Guthrey, Adonijah Hulsey, John Kendrick, Elias Miller, Wiley Herrington and John Herndon were all men whose families would populate the lives of future Kings and Martins.
The census identified no untaxed natives as it should have, and only two King families are recorded: John King in Ellis Buffington’s district and William King in Elias Miller’s.
No King families were recorded in Rabun, Franklin, or Banks counties in 1820, and only one family, another William King, in Habersham. In Jackson County, there were two aging John Kings and a somewhat younger Samuel King. It isn’t known if any of these families were connected to Sophia.
By 1830 the population of King families in Hall and the surrounding counties exploded. Julius King is unknown, but Robert King is probably the English settler who built King’s Chapel north of the Chattahoochee. The Habersham William King in 1820 now lived in Hall, while Hall’s 1820 William King disappeared. David Kerr King and Green King, new to Hall, are probably related to John King, who still lived in Hall in 1830. How many of these new Kings were raised by 1820 Kings is unknown.
John was probably the son of John King Sr. of Jackson County, and he and his family appear in the 1830 census a good distance from Sophia. The missing William King is a mystery. The age of his wife matches Sophia’s, and the age of his youngest son in 1820 matches that of Sophia’s oldest son at home in 1830. The rest of her children were born between 1822 and 1825 in Georgia. His older sons from 1820 are unidentified, but do not seem to be living in Hall in 1830. Jasper King and another Green King appear living adjacent to each other in the new Cherokee County, and both present circumstantial evidence that links them to Sophia.
Some of the Cherokee chose to migrate to Oklahoma early, knowing there was no future in Georgia for native culture. Those who chose to resettle in Oklahoma are listed on special census rolls. Others tried to remain with John Ross and maintain a separate Nation throughout the 1820s, but it ended badly.
The State ignored Cherokee law and Federal treaties, and arrested one native for a crime committed on Indian land. The State illegally executed him. They passed a law requiring all whites who worked with Cherokees to have a state permit, then they arrested 11 men, including the printer of the Cherokee newspaper. Nine men fled the state, and two were sentenced to four years of hard labor at Milledgeville state prison.
In 1830 Georgia created the Georgia Guard, a precursor to the Ku Klux Klan, to terrorize the Cherokee people. The Federal troops who protected the Cherokee from squatters and gold rush adventurers were powerless to stop the Guard from invading the territory. The Guard burned Cherokee homes, stole livestock, killed Cherokee men and raped Cherokee women and children.
The State stole the land and carved it up for settlers by 1832, and in 1838 the remaining Cherokee were pulled from their farms and shipped west as the State handed out the land to whomever won the various land lotteries. The episode was the ugliest in the history of the State of Georgia, but not all the Cherokee were shipped west. Many continued to live on land they owned and farmed. They were already part of the settler community. How hard it was for them is impossible to say.
Most Cherokee living in Indian Territory were farmers like everyone else, but they still believed the treaty land was owned by the tribe and the elders decided how it was to be used. It was a simple, communal society that threatened the lawless individuals who were searching for power and wealth. Georgia wanted the land, the revenue, the living space and the gold. The legislature pretended there were no treaties and already considered it part of the state, and removing the people was simply the last obstacle. The price of being considered a member of the Cherokee race was now too high.
The Cherokee Nation was eliminated in Georgia and replaced with a new Cherokee County. Then the land was divided into smaller counties with names like Lumpkin, Murray, Forsyth, and Cobb. The State of Georgia brutally took what it wanted from quiet, educated, peaceful people. To remove the threat of violence, the Cherokee leaders actually agreed to the forced migration to Oklahoma by boat in 1837, but so many people died of disease, the trip was called off. It was agreed that the people would be hauled overland to Oklahoma the following summer.
Of the 16,000 Cherokees who were held in hastily built stockades and loaded into 645 wagons, 4,000 died of disease, exposure, or fatigue as they marched west. They say some natives hid in caves and escaped the migration, but the fact is many Cherokees remained as farmers on land they owned through the state. Some even returned from Oklahoma and purchased their original plantations from the lottery winners. As long as the Georgia Guard left them alone, they were considered almost white and were part of the settler’s community.
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