John Ross Biography-Chief John Ross Chapter DAR

Chief John Ross Chapter DAR



Reference: Chief John Ross Chapter Yearbook 2003-2004

Named in honor of his grandfather, John McDonald, John Ross was born October 3, 1790. He was the third child of Daniel and Mary (Mollie) McDonald Ross. John Ross was educated by John Barbour Davis in a private school established by Daniel Ross. After completing the course of study at the private school, John and his brother, Lewis, completed curriculums at the Presbyterian School in Maryville, TN, and then at school in Kingston, TN.

After completing his education, John Ross, with his partner, Timothy Meigs, son of Return Jonathan Meigs, opened a store on the Tennessee River at the site that would become Ross's Landing. In 1809, at the age of 19, John Ross was sent by Col. Return Jonathan Meigs, United States Agent to the Cherokees, on a mission to the Western Cherokees in Arkansas, thus beginning his almost constant service to his Cherokee people.

In the fall of 1812, John Ross, acting under the command of Col. Gideon Morgan, served as adjutant of the Cherokee Regiment in General Andrew Jackson's Army against the Creek Indians. In 1817, John Ross was elected senator to the National Council of the Cherokee Nation, and from October 1818 until 1826, he served as President of the Cherokee Senate. In 1827, John Ross was Assistant Chief and President of the Convention that adopted the Constitution for the Cherokee Nation. This constitution was the first ever put into effect by any North American Indians. In 1828, John Ross was elected the Principal Chief of the Eastern Cherokee Nation and served in that position until being elected Principal Chief of the United Cherokee Nation in 1839. From 1839 until his death, John Ross was Chief of the United States Cherokee Nation, not merely a commander of an Indian Tribe, but executive head of a civilized nation with which the United States concluded several treaties. John Ross was in Washington, D.C., on business for the Cherokee Nation at the time of his death on August 1, 1866.

John Ross was married twice, first to Quatie Brown, who died in February 1839 while on the "Trail of Tears," and secondly to Mary Bryan Stapler, who survived him.

Chief John Ross House, Rossville, GA
Chief John Ross House, Rossville, Georgia


Reference: "History of Hamilton County and Chattanooga, Tennessee, Vol. I," by Zella Armstrong (Lookout Publishing Co. 1931).

The John Ross house built in 1797 by his maternal grandfather, John McDonald, stands today in Rossville, Georgia. The two story log house has plank flooring and rock chimneys and when it was first built it stood beside the fresh waters of Popular Spring and was on a busy Indian trade path to Augusta, Georgia.

In a letter written by Joshua Ross, a nephew of John Ross, he gives the biography of John Ross:

"John Ross was born October 3, 1790. He died in Washington, D. C., August 1, 1866, while representing the Cherokee Nation.

"He was a grandson of John McDonald, an Indian trader who was a member of Clan MacDonald, Inverness, Scotland. His grandmother was Anna Shorey, of the Cherokee Bird Clan.

"The good influence of John McDonald saved many American lives during the Revolution, and after the war, from the hands of the Spanish and English and the Indian warriors in the valleys and mountains of Tennessee.

"It is said that he saved the life of Daniel Ross, of Sutherlandshire, Scotland, who crossed the ocean when he was a boy. His mother died on the water and was buried at sea. The orphan boy landed at Baltimore, Md. When he was a little older he joined Mayberry's Trading Expedition and set out for the Tennessee country.

"John McDonald made young Ross a clerk in the trading house which he had established, and in time gave him his daughter, Mollie McDonald, for a bride.

"Daniel Ross became a merchant and trader like his father-in-law and when his children were of school age he employed a teacher and conducted a private school for his children, the third of whom was afterwards famous chief, John Ross.

"At age of nineteen (1809) John Ross was intrusted with an important mission. He was sent by Col. Return Jonathan Meigs, United States Agent to the Cherokees, to the Western Cherokees, who were then located at the Dardenelle Rock on the Arkansas River.

"From that period to the close of his life, excepting two or three years, he was in the constant service of his people, furnishing an instance of confidence on their part and fidelity on his which has never been surpassed in the annals of history.

"In 1813 and 1814 he was adjutant of the Cherokee Regiment under General Andrew Jackson against the hostile Creeks. He was present at the battle of Te-ho-pe-ka, where the Cherokee Regiment under Colonel Gideon Morgan rendered distinguished aid.

"In 1817 he was elected to the National Council of the Cherokee Nation. His first duty was to prepare a reply to the United States Commissioners who were present for the purpose of negotiating with the Cherokees for their land east of the Mississippi River.

"On the 26th day of October, 1818, the name of John Ross appears as President of the Cherokee Senate attached to an ordinance which looked to the improvement of the Cherokee people, providing as it did for the introduction into the Nation of school teachers, blacksmiths, merchants, and others. John Ross continued to act as President of the Cherokee Senate from that time until 1826.

"In 1827 he was assistant chief and President of the Convention which adopted the Constitution for the Cherokee Nation. This was the first constitution for regular government ever carried into effect by any Indians of North America.

"From 1828 to the removal of the Nation he was the principal chief of the Eastern Cherokees, and from 1839 to the time of his death he was principal chief of the United Cherokee Nation.

"William P. Ross, his nephew, said of him: 'Blessed with a fine constitution and a vigorous mind, John Ross had the physical ability to follow the path of duty wherever it led. No danger appalled him. He never faltered in supporting what he believed to be right, but clung to it with a steadiness of purpose which could have sprung only from the clearest conviction of rectitude. He never sacrificed the interest of the Nation to expediency. He never lost sight of the welfare of his people. For them he labored daily during a long life and upon them he bestowed his last expresssed thoughts. A friend of law, he obeyed it; a friend of education, he faithfully encouraged schools throughout his country and spent liberally of his means in conferring it upon others; given to hospitality, none ever hungered around his door; a professor of the Christian religion, he practiced its concepts. His works are inseparable from the history of the Cherokee people for nearly half a century, while his example in the daily walks of life will linger in the future and whisper words of hope, temperance and charity to generations to come.'"
"(signed) Joshua Ross 'Ganitlohidu'"

When the Creek War broke out in 1812 John Ross became a leader of a thousand or more Cherokees who fought under Andrew Jackson and helped overcome the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.

After that war, John Ross began a mercantile business with Timothy Meigs, located on the Tennessee River, known as Ross's Landing. This was the beginning of the city of Chattanooga, TN. At age 26 he was elected to the Cherokee National Council. In 1827 he drew up a Constitution for the Cherokee Nation, patterned after the Constitution of the United States. In 1828 he was elected Principal Chief and held that office until his death in 1866. Although he had only one-eighth Cherokee blood, he served his people throughout his life, even accompanying them on the Trail of Tears to their new homes in the west.

John Ross's Ancestry:

(1) Ghi-Goo-u(ie) (full-blood Cherokee) married William Shorey (Scotchman)

Daughter of Ghi-Goo-u(ie) and William Shorey:
(2) Anna Shorey (half-blood Cherokee) married John McDonald (Scotchman)

Daughter of Anna Shorey and John McDonald:
(3) Mollie McDonald (quarter-blood Cherokee) married Daniel Ross (Scotchman)

Son of Mollie McDonald and Daniel Ross:
(4) Chief John Ross (eighth-blood Cherokee)
married (1) Quatie (Elizabeth) Brown (2) Mary Bryan Stapler

Generation 1 Notes: William Shorey married Ghi-Goo-u(ie) about 1740 near the area later to become Fort Loudon in Monroe Co., Tennessee. She was a Cherokee of the Eagle or Bird Clan.

Generation 2 Notes: John McDonald was 19 then he visited London and met a countryman who urged him to sail to America. John was first employed in Augusta, Ga., and later sent to Fort Loudon in Tennessee to trade with the Indians. In 1770, after he and Anna Shorey were married, they moved to Chickamauga Creek near the point it flows into the Tennessee River. He became Assistant British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. During the Revolution he was British Agent on the Chickamauga. The store was a British Commissary and the Chickamauga towns were headquarters for the British Armies and Agents south of the Ohio River. He was living here when his daughter, Mollie, was born.

Generation 3 Notes: Daniel Ross was born November 1, 1760, at Sutherlandshire, Scotland. He married Mollie McDonald in 1786. He died May 22, 1830, and was buried at the home of Chief John Ross at the head of the Coosa River, now Rome, Ga. Mollie McDonald was born November 1, 1770; she died October 5, 1808, in what is now St. Elmo (Chattanooga), Tennessee.

When Mollie McDonald was born her father's home was located near the mouth of the Chickamauga Creek (Chattanooga). Later they moved to Lookout Valley near the present community of St. Elmo, Tennessee. She was married when she was age 16. This marriage is the first recorded in Hamilton County, Tennessee. The record does not name the officiant; however, her father as an official of the British Government may have acted in that capacity.

Generation 4 Notes: John Ross was born October 3, 1790, in Turkeytown, GA (now Etowah County, Alabama). He died August 1, 1866, in Washington, D.C. He married Quatie (Elizabeth) Brown. Quatie (Elizabeth) Brown was born 1790; she died in 1838 on the Trail of Tears; she is buried in Arkansas. His second wife was Mary Bryant Stapler, who was born in Philadelphia.

John Ross Photo from Library of Congress, Image in Public Domain
John Ross House Photo by Frank Duff; Digital Graphic by Dorothy Duff; not to be used without permission.

Last Updated July 25, 2008

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