The Legend of Cucklemaker, an Indian Chief

In the Bertie County, NC Heritage (1722-2010) book, I found a nice summary of a story that floats around the internet in pieces.  I can’t vouch for accuracy, but I surely thought you might enjoy the story.  It was submitted by Christine Cale Johnson from Windsor, NC, as follows:

This version of “The Legend of Cucklemakeer, an Indian Chief” was handed down through the following family line:  Charney Cale b 1779, Duncan L. Cale b 1817, Franklin Pierce Cale b 1854, Albert Duncan Cale b 1891 and Christine Cale Johnson b 1918.

Legend has it that Cucklemaker, an Indian Chief of the Tuscarora Tribe, married a French Huguenot widow, Elizabeth Marie Calais Duneleaux, about 1775.  Elizabeth Already had two children by Henry Duneleaux.  Cucklemaker anglecized his name to John Cale in honor of Elizabeth’s father, Jean Calais.

The legend has been passed down through the generations in the Cale family that John, being an Indian, was not accustomed to the ways of the white man.  He refused to pay taxes on his property. The sheriff confiscated John’s horses for payment of uncollected taxes.  John did not think the land should be taxed.  He believed the land belonged to “Mother Earth” and not any one man. Thinking he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he ‘stole back’ his horses.  It appeared that this happened more than once.

Sometime later, on our about 1792, John Cale was killed by ambush.  He was shot in the back while sitting on a log eating his lunch.  The murder was said to have occurred near where Ross Baptist Church is today.  John of John Cale’s descendants were told that he was killed by the sheriff because he kept stealing his horses back, but not all versions of the story agree with this.  Others say he was killed by the “white people” of Bertie County for trying to remain neutral during clashes between the local Indians and the “whites.”  The killer was never apprehended.

John lived near Cucklemaker Swamp, and it is believed that he was buried in an Indian burial ground beside the stream.

John Cale had two children, Charney and Tilury.  Little is known about Tilury, but Charney became well known in Bertie County.  He has many descendants who have been told the same story about the “Legend of John Cole, Cucklemaker, an Indian Chief.”

Charney married Elizabeth Harmon, and they had 13 children: Windfield, Duncan L., Gilbert Russell, Martha, Amilia, Mary E., Elizabeth, Robert M., James, Charney H., Sarah (Sallie), Penelope and Graham.  Charney had two illegitimate children, Freeman J. and Jesse.

For reasons unknown, Charney changed his name to Charney C. Dundelow.”  It has been said that by using the name Dundelow he gained respectability and disassociated himself from the Indian name “Cale.”  He served in the army prior to and during the War of 1812 using the name Charney C. Dundelow.  After using the name Dundelow for 40 years, he changed his name back to Charney Cale.  The name Cale was carried on by his descendants.

<End of story.>

Not being able to just leave well enough alone, I had to see what I could find in the records about John Cale or Cucklemaker.

Cucklemaker married about 1775.  His son was born about 1779.  This implies that Cucklemaker was born at least by 1755, and likely significantly earlier, if he was a chief.  A 20 year old chief would not have had time to prove himself worthy of the chief role, so let’s assume he was at least age 30 when he married.

In any case, the Tuscarora were signing deeds in Bertie County beginning in 1775 and ending with a petition in 1780.  Of the final count of Tuscarora in Bertie Co., we have the names of 52 on various deeds.  There is no Cucklemaker.  All of these people have anglicized names.  Of these, the chiefs and head men are identified as such.  John Cale is not among them.  There are two instances of a John Cain, and there are other Cain men as well, so this is likely not John Cale if he took the surname to honor his wife after his 1775 marriage to her. 

The land owned by the Tuscarora was exempt from taxes.  The Tuscarora sold the land in the 1770s in order to leave and migrate to New York.  Those deeds and related legislative petitions are the only reason we have records of their names.  The tribe did in fact leave, leaving only a few “old families” behind.  They returned a final time to take those families with them in the very early 1800s.  They declared that any who did not migrate were no longer in the tribe.  There were only 3 individuals left that we know of, one Esther Gibson, one girl whose name is not mentioned, and one young boy who eventually betrayed the trust of the Tuscarora.  Clearly none of these are Cucklemaker.

If Cucklemaker did stay in Bertie County, he would in fact have had to move from the former Tuscarora lands and he and his wife would then have had to pay taxes like all non-Indian citizens.  Taxes were only exempt for Indians if they were living on a reservation.  Tax lists do exist for some years for Bertie County.  They have been transcribed for 1755-1764, 1765-1771 and 1772-1784.  While he would not be on the lists through about 1777, he clearly should have been on the lists after 1777 through 1784.   I don’t own a copy of the book of transcriptions, but checking the index of the book for Cale (or maybe Kale) of even Cucklemaker would be very enlightening.  Failing that, I’d check for his wife’s surname. Maybe one of our subscribers has access to these records.

Marriage records also exist for Bertie County from 1762 through 1868.  It’s very unlikely that a European woman would accept any type of marriage other than a legal one.  Illegitimacy had ramifications other than social in that time and place.  The mother could be and generally was prosecuted and whipped or fined, or both.  The children were considered bastards and took the mother’s last name.  They did not inherit from their father.  Given the social stigma and legal issues conferred by not marrying within the system, marriage records should be checked.  However, we have a fly in the ointment.  In 1715, North Carolina passed a law prohibiting intermarriage between whites and black and between whites and Indians.  Therefore, they could NOT have legally married within North Carolina.  So maybe, they slipped over the border into Virginia.  Nope, Virginia passed a similar law in 1691, and these laws were not repealed in either state until in 1967.

Ok, let’s try a different tactic.  Let’s look at the North Carolina records known at the Tax Census.  These records were taken between 1784 and 1789.  We do find a John Kail in Bertie County, but near to him we also find a Cader Kail, Dempsey Kail and Rebecca Kail who was a widow.  So this Kail family is clearly not that of John Cale who just adopted the surname in 1775 to honor his wife.  This Kail family has several members and has obviously been in Bertie for some time, or a group of them arrived together from elsewhere.  We know that Rebecca was not his widow as Cucklemaker’s wife’s name, according to this story, was Elizabeth. 

We know that when the 1790 census was taken, the Tuscarora were long gone and living in New York.  Cucklemaker, John Cale, would have been enumerated in the census, since he was not an Indian living on “Indian lands.”  There is no John Cale, Kail, or anything similar in Bertie County.  There are a number of Cale families in Perquimans County, but that’s not Bertie. 

One last possibility exists, checking to see if a DNA project exists that includes the DNA of the Cale family.  A Cale family project does not exist, so I checked the surname Cain.  Checking the Cain family project, it does not appear that in or near Bertie County, a Cain family has tested.  Furthermore, there are no Cain family members who have Native American haplogroups.

And as a last resort, checking Ysearch for the Cale or a Native Cane family is futile as well.

There are however, in the various deed books, a Cucklemaker swamp and creek  mentioned, so this legend is not new and existed as a place-name historically. 

The Indian Mound reputed to be the burial location of Cucklemaker is shown on Find-A-Grave. 

Charney Cale, son of Cucklemaker, is shown to be buried here as well, along with his mother and wife.  Charney was a member of the Ross Baptist Church, shown on the map above in 1822.

You can read a slightly different story with some additional details here:


About Roberta Estes

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

24 Responses to The Legend of Cucklemaker, an Indian Chief

  1. Pingback: The Legend di Festival Schouwburg X |

  2. 1967johnsonlovechild says:

    The chapter In Search of the Dunlows in my brother K. Paul Johnson book (Pell Mellers Race And Memory in a Carolina Pocosin) mentions Cucklemaker and Charney Cale. Therefore I found your article to be interesting.

  3. Pura Fe says:

    Cole…try Cole. Lot’s of Tuscarora’s had the name Cole…back in the day. Not all the Tuscarora’s left. Bertie County had only the Northern or upper faction of the people. The larger number of them was in the Lower lands…on both sides of the Nuese all the way out to the Ocean…
    They are still here by the thousands. They had to hide and sacrifice their Tribal Identities. Today there are some that call themselves Tuscarora…but most of them fall under the new Tribal names that are part of NC’s State Recognition funding. 50-60 thousand Indians in the Eastern part of NC. They can all claim strong Tuscarora blood lines…along with the other Tribal kin.

  4. Kim Fitzpatrick says:

    My father’s family is in NC, near Windsor. He told me a very similar version of this story many years ago and said we are related to Cucklemaker by family still in that area. I found this article to be very interesting since I have only heard the oral versions at family reunions.

  5. Amy says:

    There is a John Cale, b. c1690, Bertie NC, listed in a few Family Tree DNA yDNA projects. The line is supposedly Haplogroup A1a and matches a branch of the Bass family–also in Bertie NC. Widening the net, I’ve been trying to Google up some information on this John Cale and ended up here. Alas, 1690 is too early for “Cucklemaker,” his father, or his father-in-law. And yet–I wonder if there is a connection? K. Paul Johnson reported on his blog that a Carney Cale descendant tested Haplogroup A, so this may be the same family.

    The Bass family is puzzling–what everyone thought was one family seems to be a Haplogroup A1a group and two unrelated Haplogroup R1b1b2 groups. (Further complicating things, there appears to be a part-Nansemond branch and a part-Chowan branch, but no one agrees on who was whom and how they are related.)

    See A1a Cluster 3:

    Perhaps the Cale family is the key to figuring out the Bass family, or vice-versa.

  6. Daniel Bly says:

    The story of chief Cucklmaker has been proven to be a complete fantasy b Gerald W. Thomas, in his article ” A Critical Examination of a Family Legend: “John Cale Purported Indian” 2013 (it can be found online). His research in court records of Bertie County prove beyond any doubt that John Cale, son of William Cale, A Bertie County landowner, left an orphan at about age 8, passed around among various guardians, enlisted in the army at the time of American Revolution, served several years, spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. He came home and began an illicit affair with Ann, the wife of Hugh Dundalow, a soldier who was a way at war and perhaps dead. They were charged with adultery and he fled rather than face jail. He eluded capture for a while and eventually stole items from one of the men who helped indict him and had additional warrants out for his arrest. He was eventually captured, but with help from his sister and friends escaped, further angering the authorities. He was eventually captured and held in jail for about 2 years- in meantime Ann had a child born about 1782, she named Charney and while Cale was the father, the law considered the child to be Dundalow and so under that name he was bound out to a guardian, since his parents were considered unfit. After John Cale was released from jail he seems to have disappeared. Perhaps he was killed, considering the enemies he probably made. Since Charney appears in records early on as both Dundalow and Cale everyone obviously knew his father to be Cale. It appears the Indian story was made up and enhanced by Charney or his children to provide a much more romantic and glamour history of how he came to be who he was, than the real story which I am sure was a very painful one to him.

  7. jenstewart38 says:

    This is from a Find-A-Grave of an ancestor of mine who was one of his sons. This story seems very likely and fills in some possible holes…
    “Charney lived much of his early life as Charney “Dundelow”. It is beleived that he was born about the year of 1779. Charney was the son of a Tuscarora Indian known as Chief Cucua Mucuca (better known as Chief Cucklemaker), and his wife Elizabeth Maria Callis Doneleaux. When Charney was about thirteen years of age, his father, Chief Cucklemaker was ambushed and shot to death about the year of 1792, at the same site where the Ross Baptist Church building now stands. Since Charney was still a child at his father’s death, it is believed that he was eitehr apprenticed to, or adopted by a Cale family, probably John Cale.

    He married Elizabeth Harmon on October 24, 1804. When Charney was married he used the name Charney Cale. After he married Elizabeth he enlisted and served in the Army as Charney Dundelow. Soon after he was discharged from the Army, he reenlisted. Charney and Elizabeth had a family of eleven children. Charney married Judith Mizelle on December 20, 1848, after the death of his first wife.

    Charney Cale was a member of Ross Church.
    Charney served as a deacon for many years. He died on July 24, 1860. According to the family stories, he was buried with his first wife, his Indian father, and his French mother in the old Indian Graveyard at Cucklemaker Creek. ”

    • Daniel Bly says:

      Did you not read my post – just above yours? Gerald Thomas has proven that this whole story about his Indian background is a total fantasy. You should read his article.

  8. Tony Babb says:

    Excellent research, Mr. Bly!

  9. Tony Babb says:

    I just read Mr. Thomas’ article on the Cucklemaker legend. Excellent paper very thoroughly researched. a delight of chasing down truth.

  10. Jewel says:

    According to government records, my great, great, great, great, great grandfather was John Chief CuckleMaker Cale.

  11. I actually think that the Cale family may have had some distant Native ancestry. As Gerald Thomas notes, John Cale arrived in about 1711 to what is now Gates County as an indentured servant of Henry Goodman, living near the Goodman land near Sarem, which was the site of an Indian school in what is the northern part of the county. Cale, or his son, later acquired land in 1744 in Indian Neck, beside the Chowan Indian Reservation, which is in another part of Gates County. We don’t know who he married, or what his wife’s name was, or if he even married, but other men bearing this name later surface in Bertie County on Pell Mell Pocosin. Gerald Thomas’s 2013 study discredits much of the myth around the legend of Chief Cucklemaker, etc. However it also relies on myths about racial purity in the South to discount the idea of Cale having any Indian heritage. My own experience is that people in this region absolutely did make the jump between racial categories. We can see this with the Bunch, Bazemore, Collins, and other Bertie families that are listed as mulatto on some colonial tax records and recorded as white afterwards, creating the illusion of solely European descent. It is entirely believable to me that the original Cales living at Indian Neck, being indentured servants, took Chowan Indian women as mates. The stories may have been made up, but it still contained a bit of truth.

  12. Staci Hammock says:

    Could his last name be Casiah (Keziah,Kezziah)? Chief Black Rabbit Casiah had a brother who I think might have been Cucklemakeer?

    • Crystal Bishop says:

      Yes! As a matter of fact, my 5th ggrandfather was Cuchamucha John Cale Beadmaker Cashia or Kizziah! We are related to him thru our 4th ggrandmother Cheriah Sarah Kizziah(Cashia).

  13. Cynthia says:

    I find all of this very interesting and can perhaps throw a monkey wrench in the mix due to my (and my mother’s) ancestry dna and GED match results. I have been researching my great-grandmother’s line. Her last name was “Cale” and she is my grandfather’s (on mom’s side) mother. My mom has always been told that she had native American blood, through that side. When I ran my mom’s DNA, there is a small amount of Native American there, which would match the generations back that she was always told. More interestingly, though, is that when I submitted her raw data to GED match, she came back with an abundance of French heritage. I have been at a loss as to where this was coming from. Reading this about the marriage of the Chief to the French widow, Elizabeth Marie Calais Duneleaux,is now of great interest to me. Could Ann, the wife of Hugh Dundalow (with whom Mr. Bly states John Cale had an affair) be the child of Elizabeth Duneleaux? (names proven to be changed to similar versions). The Chief purportedly married Elizabeth after the death of her English husband. If Ann is their child (Elizabeth and English husband) and she had an affair with John Cale and they had a child, Charney, then the chief would have been Ann’s step-father. Perhaps this is where the legend of the relationship of Cale to the chief lies? Perhaps they are not related by blood at all, but rather through Ann, the mother of Charney and only in a step-parent/step-child scenario (Chief to Ann)?? Also interestingly, I saw the comment by Staci asking about a last name of Keziah, Kezziah?. I have found that the sister of one of my ancestor’s FIRST name was Keziah. I have noticed that it was a very common practice for the women to give their children their own maiden names as first names. While my theory here would not explain my mom’s native heritage on the Cale line, it would definitely lend some credence to French that was previously unknown to us. I have found another ancestor on her mother’s maternal that is native, so this would explain that. To add even more, there are definitive records in my mother’s lines with ancestors being listed as either “Mulatto” or “Melungeon” of which both are true and documented, so their is concrete evidence of Europeans, Natives and Africans, did “jump racial categories” as Justin mentioned above. I have found that there is always a grain of truth in most all legends but most get a little (or a lot) distorted over time. Thoughts?

    • Cynthia says:

      or I supposed I should have guessed that Hugh is the child of Elizabeth (not Ann since Hugh was the Dundalow?) If that’s the case then my whole theory is out the window…LOL, unless Ann is French also?? Confusing for sure!

  14. Benjamin F Speller says:

    There were some Cale Surnames in Chowan County too. Some of these Cales were identified as mixed race. When I get time, I will also look at the Bastard Bond List for Bertie again. There were white females in various relationships. The fathers or some male relative is listed as bondsman for each child on the list. Very interesting. Hugh Cale was prominent in Pasquotank County. He was tri-racial too.

    • wfcale says:

      Hello Ben,
      I met you at Hope Plantation for a seminar some years ago and enjoyed you comments immensely. I have seen some posted information that a John Cale, Jr was a possible result of a union of Ann Dundelow and John Cale, the Revolutionary War soldier, who returned from the battle fields circa 1778. John Cale, Jr. is supposed to have gone to Perquimans. Don’t know the accuracy of that though.

      Bill Cale (William F. Cale, MD) Billy to close relatives.

  15. Crystal Bishop says:

    I got my DNA results back after taking it around Christmas. Our daughter bought me one for Christmas and will buy my husband one this Christmas. Not only did I find out there was Native American on my dad Crow’s side of the family but also the Free’s as well. My 4th ggrandmother of Cheriah Sarah Kizziah, granddaughter of Chief Nicholas Quinishia Kizziah(Cashia) who was a Tuscarora chief. We also found out about Cherokee Indian on my grandmother’s side of the family. Both families were originally from North Carolina with some coming to Georgia in order to farm. There were English, German, French, and Irish who came and mixed with the Native Americans during the early 1700s. One would never know about Native or African blood unless the family has been here at least 150*200 years.

    • crystal bishop says:

      Just to clarify, the Crows were supposingly Cherokee; my 4th ggrandmother Cheriah Kizziah married a Free. This is how the Tuscarora entered the family. Most of the Cherokee is on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.

  16. Crystal Bishop says:

    Yes! As a matter of fact, my 5th ggrandfather was Cuchamucha John Cale Beadmaker Cashia or Kizziah! We are related to him thru our 4th ggrandmother Cheriah Sarah Kizziah(Cashia).

  17. Nellie Redmond says:

    My grandmother was Mary Margaret Pierce Harrell. She was born in Bertie County. They lived in Indian Woods in Bertie County. Her father was Isaac T Pierce married to Louise Hobbs, He was the son of Isaact Pierce who was married to Elizabeth Harmon. His Mother was Mary E Cale the daughter of Charney Cale the daughter of Cuccu Muccua aka John Cale married to Elizabeth Marie Calais Dundelow. Her father was Jean Calais.

  18. Susan Zeringue says:

    According to Ancestry Thrulines, my mother’s 5 times great-grandparents are Reuben White and Abigail Dundalow (born 1770) of Bertie County, N.C. I found her name as Abigail Coke on Family Search, with her mother listed as Elizabeth Marie Calais. I found record of her marriage to Reuben White in 1794 (link below) in Bertie County, and her name is listed as Abigail Cale. Any information on the parentage of Abigail would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

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