Analysis of the 1869 Cherokee West Census

After spending the past several weeks working with the 1869 Cherokee West Census, I finished integrating the 4307 family names into the Native Heritage Names project.  After finishing this work, I felt there was also a story to be told from the group of names as a whole, aside from the individual families. 

Article 9 of the Treaty of August 8, 1846, between the United States government and the Cherokee Nation called for “a fair and just settlement of all moneys due the Cherokees under the Treaty of 1835.” The Drennen Roll was compiled in 1851 to determine eligibility to receive settlement payments for persons claiming membership in the Cherokee Nation at the time of its forced removal from the Cherokee Nation East.

The Drennan Roll was in turn used by the United States government in the early 1900s to determine the eligibility of the Guion Miller Roll Applications, which, like the Drennen Roll, concerned settlement payments to the Cherokee. Frequently, there were name changes between the Drennen Roll and the Guion Miller Applications which were taken from 1906-1910.

On the 1851 Drennan Roll, many of these families did not yet have European names.  European names, including surnames, were often acquired during the Civil War era, so this is the first document that shows Cherokee families with predominantly European names.  The 1869 census serves as a bridge document between the Drennan Roll and the Guion Miller Rolls.  

The 1869 Cherokee West Census was divided into districts.

FL-Flint Dist.
SE-Sequah Dist.
GS-Going Snake
TA-Tahlequah Dist.
SA-Saline Dist.
DE-Delaware Dist.
CA-Cannadian Dist.
II-Illinois Dist.
CO-Cooweescoowee Dist.

Unfortunately, there was not a lot of consistency between the districts in terms of the categories and how they were utilized.

The goal of this census was to determine who was eligible to be a tribal member.  The slaves had recently been freed and they, if they applied within the time limits agreed to (6 months), were eligible to become full tribal members.

So there were really only 5 pressing questions:

  • For whites, who was eligible to be Cherokee citizens?
  • For whites, who was not eligible to be a Cherokee citizen?
  • For blacks, who was eligible to be Cherokee citizens?
  • For blacks, who was not eligible to be Cherokee citizens?
  • For Indians, who was eligible to be a citizen?

Part of the problem in understanding the answers is to understand how each district’s census taker asked the questions. 

I’ve divided the answers into columns by district and put  the associated question or commentary for that category into the appropriate box.  The answers’ categories are the table headings below.  The question in that district to obtain that answer is listed in that district’s row.

District White Cherokee Citizen White Cherokee Non-Citizen Black Cherokee Citizen Black Cherokee Non-Citizen Other
FL   White citizens of US ?? Colored citizens   Not entitled[1] (doesn’t say black or white, could be both), disputed Indians
GS Whites who are citizens Whites not entitled Colored persons entitled Colored persons not entitled Cherokees not citizenized – NC
Ill White citizen   Colored persons Colored not entitled Creeks not citizens
CA White citizens Whites not entitled Colored entitled Colored not entitled  
CO Whites entitled White citizens of the US[2] Colored entitled    
DE Whites entitled Whites not entitled Colored entitled Colored not entitled Delaware Indians of the Cherokee nation, Mexican Indians
SA Adopted Citizens White Citizens of US[3]      
SE Whites with Cherokee families White intruders Colored persons Colored intruders Disputed Indians
TA White citizens by adoption White intruders Colored citizens Colored intruders Colored persons debarred by limitation[4]

The numbers are quite interesting.  Of the 4307 families on the census, we find that 270 of them had an entirely native name, meaning no Europeanization evident at all, or about 6%.  An example would be words that are hyphenated such as Chu-wa-stu-ta.  Some individuals had both a first and last name of this style, but more had only one name.  Six percent is higher than I would have expected to see given the Cherokee’s long history of contact with and assimilation of Europeans into their tribe before the Trail of Tears movement to Indian Territory in the mid 1830s.  However, judging by the 1851 Drennan Roll, it appears that most of these people had only adopted Europeanized names sometimes in the previous 18 years.

Of the rest of the names, another 250 had only one name, but that name showed evidence of Europeanization.  Examples would be Blackbird, Buzzard, Charles, Clark, Annie, etc. 

This leaves a balance of 3787 names on the list which have both a first and last name of some description with evidence of European influence.  In some cases, the names are entirely Europeanized, such as John Smith.  In other cases, there is some evidence of Europeanization.  I view at this as a 3 step process, based on the names on the list.

Step one is the beginning of Europeanization.  This may begin by a Native name being literally translated to English, such as Fox, Rotten-Man, Dirt-Pot, Six-Killer, Big Leg, Walkingstick etc.  This may be accompanied by a Native name also, such as Ca-ho-ka McDaniel. 

The second step to Europeanization is when the name looks like it may become permanent.  For example, the name John Walkingstick.  John has become the first name and Walkingstick has become the second name.  In some cases, this is questionable, because a name seems to be split between first and last, such as Money Blanket or Red Bird.  Other questionable calls are situations where the name could be either Native or European, such as with Fox.  In some cases, I suspect that the name is not completely transitioned, but it could be.  So this is the second stage of transition. 

The third stage is unquestionable Europeanization where either the name is indistinguishable from European names or you find entire families using the surname, such as several individuals with the surname of Walkingstick, Bearpaw or Beaver, for example, all with European first names.  We also see the beginning of the use of Sr. and Jr. designations as well.

For the various districts, we find the following breakdown:

District Total Native Name Only One Name Only* Stage One Transition Stage Two Transition Entirely Europeanized and %
CA 316 4 9 22 19 281/89%
CO 418 7 15 21 25 369/88%
DE 839 47 32 89 84 619/74%
Fl 341 24 15 43 70 204/60%
GS 476 12 13 50 62 352/74%
Ill 561 29 37 32 32 468/83%
SA 393 66 71 92 25 144/37%
SE 333 6 12 26 40 261/78%
TA 620 77 52 76 44 423/68%

 *Not including Native names only.  One name individuals are included in Stage One and Stage Two transitions as well.

[1] Not entitled doesn’t say if black, white or both.  If it means both, then White Citizens of US may mean white Cherokee citizens.

[2] The category of “White citizens of the US” is clearly in this context being used as opposed to white citizens entitled to Cherokee Citizenship.

[3] These are the only two categories for this district.  Presuming here that White Citizens of the US means the same as within the CO district, adopted citizens likely applies to whites.

[4] These colored people were eligible for citizenship, meaning former slaves, had they applied within the time limit.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Cherokee. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Analysis of the 1869 Cherokee West Census

  1. Scott McDonald says:

    How wonderful it is that you have found and are studying this great resource. I have been looking around and can’t find this particular census on-line. Can you help me with that? (link?) Among the Cherokee families I am searching is that of my direct ancestor Jack McDonald (or McDaniel) b.1846 who married into the tribe about 1868 or 1869.

  2. Steve Crawford says:

    I need help finding a degree of indian blood.I found my gr granparents on 1900 shawnee indian reservation cencus proof read by lahoma youngblood .
    How do seach into this deeper to find all there is about them ??
    Can anyone help me or direct me where to go any help would be so appreciated .Steve Crawford.

  3. got2bjb says:

    I have also noticed that a lot of Native Americans were basically forced into marrying the emigrants just to stay in there homeland & to try to keep there families together. It’s hard to fathom.

  4. m.walkingstick says:

    The European names in the 1869 census reflect that the Cherokee had been in contact with Europeans for over 100 years. Perhaps as many as five generations of family. The intermarriage with traders, soldiers, tories, merchants, and finally settlers of Cherokee land during more than a century of contact had a profound effect. I would suggest that the Christianization of the Cherokee did more to radically change the names by which the People were known by. An exemplary incidence is the naming of a Cherokee student of the Moravians who was re-named Boston Recorder, after a popular newspaper of the day.

  5. Vicki Whitworth says:

    I’ve been researching my Cherokee family for about 20 yrs now. My family surname is Fence. so one can imagine the difficulty with that. LOL . Seriously, though My Great Great Great Grandfather is on the1851 drennan roll with my Great Great Great Grandfather and Grandmother and their daughters. Is there another census older that I can research that they would be on. They came to Oklahoma (Indian Territory) on the Trail of Tears (The Great Great Great Grandparents did) I think they came from Georgia. I also don’t know when they changed their namesto European. On the dreenan roll group it list another couple with them named Elo-wee and Nancy Elowee. Im guessing they are all related if they are grouped together?? Thank you for any help. Vicki

    • m.walkingstick says:

      One Fence family was in Georgia prior to removal. I have an interest in the Fence family because of a passage in a text about North Georgia. The passage suggested that a young mixed-blood Cherokee girl who could speak broken English was named Kate Fence. It also suggested she was one of the daughters of “Old Man Love”. “old man Love” is probably Daniel Love, a Scot Tory who settled among the Cherokee and operated a tavern along the Federal Road. So, you might concentrate some of your research on the Fence family in that region of Cherokee Georgia and also the associated families that were related to Daniel Love.

      • Vicki Whitworth says:

        Thank you so much, this has been a journey let me tell you with the name Fence. I’ve gotten every fence in every cemetery and battlefield ever listed . I will search that area. What I do know is this much about the Fence family ancestors.
        I have George Fence and Lucinda Fence as parents born around 1800-1810
        They had two daughters
        Elizabeth Fence
        Matilda Fence
        Two Sons
        Walter Duncan Fence (this is my Great Great Grandfather) Father of Ella Margie Fence McLain and George Oscar Fence with a white woman named Lucy Sweat Webb, she died in childbirth with George, Duncan. As he was called married Hannah Unknown a white woman and had a daughter named Jennie Jane Fents née Fence. I know the stories as my Great. Grandmother Ella lived to be 96 years old until I was in the eleventh grad in high school.

        Columbus Fence

        Columbus and Duncan are buried in Muldrow, Sequoyah county, Oklahoma. There are three to five unmarked or empty graves beside them. That is unknown. Columbus and Duncan died in their twenties. Matilda married Charles Samuels and she died before charles in about 1891.
        My “Granny” Ella as we called her along with brother George went to live with their grandparents, they got too old to care for them, then they went to live with aunt Matilda and when she became sick and died they went into the Cherokee Orphanage Asylum. Jennie ended up there as well when her mother Hannah died and her father was dead by then as well. I have one picture of my Great Great Grandpa Walter Duncan and to me it looks like one of those pictures they used to take after a person died. He died in 1882 or 1883 I. Don’t have my tree upright now. Anyway, I have more on them if you would like it. Thank you for sharing! It means so much to me.
        They meaning George and Lucinda were in Georgia and removed to Indian Territory in Oklahoma (I think the parents George and Lucinda are on the Old Settlers roll can’t prove it is the same Fence on the. Old Settlers Roll. )

  6. Jesse Haley-Fence says:

    My Great Great Gandfather was Walter Duncan Fence. I have been researching my roots lately and have many questions. Perhaps we can put our heads together and come up with some solutions.

    • Vicki Whitworth says:

      Jesse Haley- Fence that would be great!

    • Dee McNew says:

      I am researching FENCE lines as we are descendants.

    • Vicki Whitworth says:

      Jesse, have not heard from you in couple years. How is your research coming I have found new info. Vicki

      • Rachel Anderson says:

        Hi. I don’t know if anyone’s still checking here but just in case- Vicki, I would love some info on the Fence’s. I have a possible connection to a Standing Fence in Cherokee County, Ga. Been stuck for years trying to find a missing link. Thanks!

      • Cherokee Fence says:

        Rachel, sure I been researching the Fence family for years. My great grandma was
        Ella Fence her dad was Duncan Fence
        His father was George Fence. They came from Georgia as well on the trail in 1839

      • rachel anderson says:

        That would be so great, thank you! Can you email me directly or I can email you? You can reach me at .

      • rachel anderson says:

        That would be so great, thank you! Can you email me directly or I could email you? . Looking forward to hearing from you!

      • rachel anderson says:

        Hello. I am looking for some info on Fence family. I have a connection to a Standing Fence from Cherokee Territory, in the area that is now Cherokee County, Ga, late 1700’s. I have some info on Standing Fence. Would love to find out more!

  7. m.walkingstick says:

    Walter Duncan was a man of some note as I recall. I am sure your Walter Duncan Fence must’ve been named after him and perhaps a descendant?

  8. julia walkingstick dahl says:

    Hello M. Walkingstick… mother was Kathleen Walkingstick (born 1920) , daughter of Calvin Walkingstick and Julia Black Walkingstick from Baron, OK….just wondering if you are related to me???
    Julia (Walkingstick ) Dahl

  9. Cindy says:

    i am native american. Is there any Conner (sir name) on the list or Amanda Calvin from Kentucky?

  10. Velma Craven says:

    Any elijah thomas or margaret thomas or frances thomas on the list.?

    • Vicki Whitworth says:

      I’m not sure where Matilda is buried. Her son George Samuels is buried in Gans Cemetery in Fans Oklahoma

      • Shirley A. Hensley says:

        Yes, I can find where her son is buried, as well as her husband and 2 brothers, but I can’t find anything on Matilda. She is my Great Great Aunt. It sounds like, she was raising Walter Duncan Fence’s, 2 children, following his death. She had 6 children herself, so, when she died, her husband…Charles R. Samuels may have sent Walter’s children to the orpahage, as he may not have felt he could care for all of those children himself…he had a lot on his hands. I’m just reading between the lines here. I’m not finding marriage, death or burial records for Matilda Fence Samuels. However, she was on the Drennen 51 Rolls with her parents, George & Lucinda Fence and her sister Elizabeth. That’s all I can find of Matilda. I’m wondering if she was buried in an unmarked grave or buried at their homestead.

  11. I am searching for my Great Great Grandmother, Matilda Fence…she is the sister of Walter Duncan and Columbus Fence buried in Lee’s Chapel Cemetery, Muldrow, Ok. She married Charles R. Samuels, May 12, 1870 & died 1891. I would like to find her grave. It may be unmarked. I would like to see a picture of her if possible. Thank you.

  12. Shirley A. Hensley says:

    Vicki, can you shed some light on where Matilda Fence Samuels is buried? I am her Great Great Grandaughter…also, would there be any photos of her possibly with other family members? .I just started searching for her and discovered Walter Duncan & Columbus Fence…nothing on her. Any info you may have or remember would be much appreciated!

    • Vicki Whitworth says:

      I haven’t found where Charles is buried. One of their sons went to Coffeyville Ks.and is buried there. My Granny Ella Fence McLain and her siblings went to live with their grandpa and grandma Fence, they became to old to care for the.and Matilda tookthem then she became ill and they went to Orphanage.

      • Vicki Whitworth says:

        Shirley, I have a picture of my Great Great Grandfather Duncan. I also have pictures of his daughter my Great Grandma “Granny” Ella Fence McLain and her brother George Fence. My email is if you want to write there also.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.