History of Indian Georgia – Educated Cherokees

By on June 1, 2016

History of Indian Georgia – Educated Cherokees

History Editor Leslie Barker Thomas Digs Deep Into The Rich and Exciting 
Cultural Past with This Ongoing Series About Our Native Ancestors

Galigina/Kilakeena or Buck Watie, was born in Pine Log Georgia in about 1800. Buck’s parents were David Uwati (Watie) a Cherokee, and Susanna Reese a mixed blood Cherokee. Buck Watie was also a nephew of Major Ridge– a prominent leader of the Cherokee Nation. 

Buck was educated at Spring Place by the Salem Moravians who established the Spring Place Mission in northwest Georgia, near Chatsworth. During these vibrant years some of its students were the offspring of Cherokee leaders, who believed that the best way for the Cherokees to preserve their independent homeland was to create an educated elite class who could lead the efforts of the Cherokee Nation and fight to resist the persistent encroachment on their lands and resources. The Moravians took Watie to be a worthy student and convinced his family to send him east to Cornwall, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) school for higher learning in Connecticut to continue his education. While there, he visited with many high political persons including former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He also met Elias Boudinot who at one time was a high official in the United States government, holding the office of president for a year prior to the election of George Washington. Boudinot had found Buck Watie likeable and pledged him financial support to complete his education. In appreciation for the scholarship, Buck took his benefactor, Elias Boudinot’s name as his own.

Buck, now Elias met Harriet Gold through the Foreign Mission School in 1818. Harriet Ruggles Gold 1805-1836 was the youngest of fourteen children of Colonel Benjamin and Eleanor Gold in Cornwall Connecticut. Colonel Gold was a representative to the General Assembly and was frequently involved with governmental affairs in addition to being a deacon in the local ministry of the Foreign Mission school. Therefore Indian students were frequent visitors to the Gold household. Elias and Harriet’s engagement came amid a scandalous protestation over another mixed relationship between Elias’ cousin John Ridge and Sarah Bird Northup in 1825. Together these two women created a national racist scandal for marrying “savage Indians.” Harriet’s brother even burned her in effigy and she was forced to hide in the house from an angry crowd at one point.

Harriet and Elias married in the Gold home in 1826 and returned to the Cherokee Nation of Georgia where they took up residence at New Echota. Harriet wrote her sister Flora that she never regretted her choice and loved her devoted husband for all the blessings they shared. Together they had six children.

New Echota had been set as the nation’s capital and Elias soon found favor with missionary Samuel Worcester. Together they brought about the newspaper known as the Cherokee Phoenix, whereby information was written in both the Cherokee and English languages and disseminated to the nation’s peoples as well as supporters who lived in the eastern states.

Boudinot believed strongly that the preservation of his people lay in the corporation and education of the group as a whole. He expressed this in a letter in the 1820’s “As long as we continue as a people in a body, with our internal regulations, we can continue to improve in civilization and respectability”. His honesty and integrity were to a fault as he tried to keep supporters up to date on the atrocities that his peoples were facing day in and day out. However his opinions supporting the Indian removal were at odds with those held by the majority of the Nation, including the General Council. He resigned as editor of the Phoenix in August 1832 but continued to take an active role in the removal crisis and even printed a pamphlet 
attacking anti-removal chief John Ross.

After Harriet’s death in 1836 Elias migrated with his children to Indian Territory. He became part of the Treaty Party and ultimately signed the New Echota Treaty (1835), which required the Cherokees to relinquish all remaining land east of the Mississippi River and led to their forced removal to a territory in present-day Oklahoma. Soon after moving west with his family in 1839, Boudinot and two other treaty signers (his uncle Major Ridge and cousin John Ridge) were attacked and stabbed to death in June of 1839 by members of the Ross National Party. The children went to live in Connecticut with their grandparents.

Boudinot was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Visit the Gilmer County Historical Society

Historic Tabor House & Civil War Museum

138 Spring Street, Ellijay, Georgia 30540

Open Thursday–Saturday 10am to 2pm


Special thanks to the New Georgia Encyclopedia

Leslie Barker Thomas is a resident of Ellijay and 
the President of the Gilmer County Historical 
Society, President, Georgia Chapter Trail of Tears 
Association and Communication Chair Cartecay UMC.

“When history is erased, people’s moral values are also erased.” –Ma Jian