Robert McGee and The Cherokee Disturbance

Someone was cleaning out their files and offered a pension application to anyone interested.  Since it related to the “Cherokee Disturbance” and since no one else stepped up, I asked for the application.  I didn’t know what was there, and you never know what you might receive.

It’s a one page form completed by Robert McGee, age 81 who lived in Buckner, Parker County, Texas in August 1892 when he applied for a pension.  On July 27, 1892, Congress provided pensions to surviving soldiers who served 30 days or more in the “Indian Wars.”

McGee pension app0001

Robert McGee served for 12 months in the military, enlisting in Hawkins County, Tn. in June of 1837 as a sergeant in the “Cherokee Disturbance.”  Other than personal information about Robert, that he was 5 feet 10 inches tall, of dark complexion, grey eyes and dark hair and by trade, a blacksmith, and that he was married to Ester Bery in Mountain Valley, Hawkins County in January 1829, there is nothing more here about the Cherokee Disturbance.  It does tell us that he moved to Boonville, KY, then Galleton, MO, then finally to Parker Co., TX.  It’s somehow ironic that in an odd sort of way that his migrations, and those of many other families, paralleled the path of the Indian removal.  Of course, the difference was that Robert chose that path, could leave, or not, when he chose, and was permitted to take his belongings or dispose of them as he saw fit and no one starved him.  The Indians did not have that opportunity.

If Robert was 81 in 1892, he was born in about 1811.  He married in 1829, so in 1837 when he served for a year, he was age 26 or so and probably had 3 or 4 children.  If he was a blacksmith, he was likely also a farmer, and going to serve in the military was not something he probably wanted to do.  However, all able-bodied men served in the local militia and military service at some level wasn’t optional.  Trouble was forseen, so provisions were made in advance for militia.

The Cherokee has been ordered removed to what is now Oklahoma by an act of Congress in 1830 by a one vote margin.  This horrific Indian Removal Act is the legacy of President Andrew Jackson.  The Treaty of New Echota, signed in 1836 by a few Cherokee, exchanging land in the east for land in the west, gave the Cherokee two years to remove themselves, although it was never voted on or ratified by tribal members.  Because of this, many Cherokee felt it was illegal and refused to go and by 1838, the military was forceably removing them, culminating in the tragic episode in American history known at the Trail of Tears.

The map below shows the Trails of Tears Historic Trail today.

Trail of tears path

This story, Cherokee Removal Scenes: 1838 takes place in Ellijay, Georgia, but it wasn’t much different anyplace else in the Cherokee Nation.

Robert McGee would have had to remove families, probably much like his own, from their homes into removal forts similar to concentration camps, and from there began the forced march to Oklahoma during the horrific winter months of 1838.  Robert McGee was discharged in 1837 in Rogersville, so while he might have participated in the roundup, he was not one of the soldiers who “accompanied” the Indians on the Trail of Tears itself.  If he served for 12 months, as his application says, he would have been discharged in June of 1838, still well ahead of the beginning of the Trail of Tears march.

Many soldiers felt for the human suffering of the Cherokee.  Others were vicious and cruel, abusing the Indians and stealing the goods from their forcibly abandoned homesteads.  One soldier said, “I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.”  Indeed, it would be extremely hard to see unarmed people, everything stripped from them, dying of disease and starvation, freezing to death on a journey they never elected to take.

As I look at Robert McGee’s pension application, I wonder about the experience he had.  Hawkins County was not close to the Indian villages in Tennessee, which were near the Alabama/Georgia border, so he may have been spared the worst of the activities.

I wondered if there was any way to tell how Robert McGee felt about the Indian removal, whether he was one of the compassionate soldiers or otherwise.  I found a tree on that had several source records appended, including information about his military service record, so I knew I had the correct Robert McGee.  I was scanning for maybe a story he had written or that had been passed down through his descendants, when I saw the name of his child, born in 1847, Andrew Jackson McGee.  I guess that probably says it all.

Note:  I am in the process of preparing a second article about this family.  In the mean time, I encourage everyone to read the comments for a very unexpected turn.


About Roberta Estes

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

26 Responses to Robert McGee and The Cherokee Disturbance

  1. You would be surprised how many persons of mixed blood were named Andrew Jackson. Some of the Sizemores are. It is a complex subject. Andrew Jackson treated the Choctaws well.

    And he did adopt an Indian child.



    I know AJ was a responsible for much cruelty including the Choctaw removal. My people. But as one poster says says here; he was a hard man to fathom and many thought highly of him including Pushmataha .

    I really think some who admired him didn’t know or chose to ignore his cruelties.

  4. angie says:

    The McGee family has Cherokee blood. The Cherokee denied their request for enrollment even though they had mountains of proof and very strong personal testimony to support their claims. The Cherokee did acknowledge that the McGees were Cherokee, however. Some wanted to take the matter before the Supreme Court but it was never done. I believe this family connects to my gg grandmother and Robert is most probably the one on their family tree. I have studied this family for quite awhile but it appears my gggrandmother was placed with another family when she was around 8, possibly due to the death of both parents. I have been unable to go much beyond this point.

  5. Joy King says:


    Our SIZEMORE surname DNA project has a direct line descendant of this Robert McGEE.
    147248 Andy McGee b. TN f/o Robert McGee b.1849 KY d.1913

    He matches our largest hg Q SIZEMORE group which indicates a NPE.


  6. Bob Whittaker says:

    I was born in July 1937. My paternal grandmother [Usley Risner Whitaker] died of Cancer in Jan 1937 at Dunkirk, Ohio. My paternal grandfather [Bill Whitaker] came to live with us and did until he died in 1949. My grandfather was born in 1873 in Eastern Kentucky. His father Johnson Whitaker was born in 1845, served in the Union 14TH KY INFANTRY. Johnson Whitaker died of Civil War wounds and disease [from the Civil War] in 1878 when my grandfather was 5 years old. My grandfather was in part raised by his grandfather James O. Whitaker. James O. Whitaker was born in 1804 at Castlewood VA and migrated to Eastern Kentucky with his mother and 4 siblings in the 1830s.
    As a boy in the 1940s, my grandfather [Bill Whitaker b.1873 d.1949] told stories of his early life in the hills of Eastern KY. Some of these stories involved his grandfather James O. Whitaker serving in the Kentucky Militia to round up Indians for their removal to Oklahoma. The United States Army used the KY State Militia to find, remove and deliver Indians to a United States Army fort. From the stories I gathered several points:
    [1] The Militia men primarily served for the income they received.
    [2] There were not great numbers of Indians in Eastern KY.
    [3] There were cases of Indian parents leaving children with white neighbors.
    [4] There were cases where an Indian family was not removed because of friendships within the white community [not many].
    [5] I did not detect in my grandfather’s voice regret for his grandfather’s service/actions. But rather that the few Native Americans in their area were a pest with stealing and trouble. But…….is it always true of the dominate versus the minority population.
    Bob Whittaker

  7. Hi Roberta, you and I have emailed each other before.. This Robert McGee was my GG Grandfather. Yes, he was supposed to have been 1/4 Cherokee. My brother(Also Robert McGee) has proven this thru DNA. I always wondered myself, how it was he was part Indian, yet he was rounding up Indians. He and his family, with his Dad and Mother, William and Lucretia McGee. left TN and went to MO around 1840 or before, then moved back to TN for a short time and was in KY by 1845. The family story is that Robert’s wife, Easter Berry McGee was not Indian and didn’t want to stay in TN.

    Someone mentioned that the McGee’s are from the Sizemore family, which are also Indian. Thru DNA, that is a proven fact. We know that the NPE happened either with William McGee’s birth (1780) or before.

    My McGee’s tried to be enrolled on the Cherokee rolls, but never could they prove that they lived in Hawkins County, TN, nor have any relatives there. There much be 6 or 7 applications and nearly every one of them have a different story.

    They moved from KY about 1868 and finished out their final days in Parker County, TX. Their youngest son, my great G Grandpa, Jesse McGee and his family moved from Texas to the Chickasaw Indian Nation, it became OK later, before 1900.


    • I am so glad I posted this. This outpouring of information is absolutely amazing. Thank you all so much.

    • Tiffany Briggs says:

      I am direct descent of Jesse McGee. He was 1/4 Chickasaw. My family is currently enrolled as citizens of the Chickasaa Nation. Jesse was my great great great grandfather.
      Jesse (ggggrandfather): 1/4
      Wade (gggrandfather): 1/8
      Mary (ggrandmother): 1/16
      Hurley (grandfather): 1/32
      Darla (mother): 1/64
      Me: 1/128

  8. constance ranaldson says:

    My family name is also McGee…however…they were in 1880 found on the census in Cherokee county Georgia…..canton…I have or many years tried to find the connection to the Cherokee Nation or family past John H. McGee…I would love any help that can be provided rom this forum or the Author….thank you

    • Eddy Wright says:

      I have a Jesse McGee and Mary Ann Gault McGee that was in Cherokee County in 1870 census. Do you have more information on your John H. McGee that you can share to see if we are a match?

      • John H. McGee was Robert McGee’s father…John had a wife by the name of Elizabeth Frost McGee…They had several children..A daughter Mary Jane McGee…etc

      • The Robert McGee in this article was my GG grandfather. His father was William and we believe his middle name was Holden. William’s wife was Lucretia. William and Lucretia were born in NC and their children were born in Hawkins County, TN during the years from 1808 to 1833. William died in MO 1843. In some of my paperwork a John McGee is mentioned. The family had gone to see him about 1844. I fell this might had been a brother to William. This would still had been in TN about 1844. Robert, wife, Easter Day McGee and children moved to Ky in 1845 and 4 younger brother followed. Robert’s youngest child, Jesse was born in KY in 1855. In 1867, Robert and familymoved to Parker County, TX. He died in 1892. Robert was 1/4 Indian. My brother’s dna showed he was Q Halogroup, which is Indian.

  9. Betty Baldwin Rudder says:

    This is very interesting. We have looked for years for information on Robert’s brother. His name was George or Andrew. He was called Andy.

  10. sabrina rowell says:

    my grandmother is 104yrs of age family leaved in ironaton alabama they were cherokee indain descendants she had a great aunt that had land in oklahoma that was cherokee indain

  11. Susan Martinez says:

    South Carolina Indian Traders 1750-1754
    Posted on April 9, 2014 by robertajestes
    The study of traders is important to the study of Native American tribes and ancestors. Most, if not all, traders established Native relationships, and by that, I mean marital or intimate relationships. What that means, exactly, depends on the culture and time times. It can mean anything from the Native cultural tradition of providing guests with a bedpartner for the night to traders who virtually forsook the white world and lived exclusively with the Native people when they weren’t back east trading their wares.

    What this means to us today is that it’s very likely to find Native people who would carry the DNA of traders. This of course has nothing to do with their “Nativeness,” because at that time in history, the Native people made no distinction between fully Native and half Native and half white. You were what your mother was, and that was Native. Therefore, it would not be surprising to find Native people, enrolled or not enrolled in Federally recognized tribes, that if they were to test their Y DNA, would carry the DNA of traders, even though today their surname might be something entirely unrelated.

  12. Sabrina Rowell says:

    My great great grandfather was henry magee and wife was mattie or maggie.from macon georgia than moved to some ware around munford AAlabama there children were teresa sadie mary fannie alice emma

  13. ellebane says:

    If I were part Cherokee (some in my ancestry were), and I was helpful while being forced along the Trail, I would probably try to claim the “pension”. Because it would be better than I would get otherwise…

  14. Melba L. Niemuth says:

    Follow up to the Robert McGee that is named in the main article. Robert claimed 160 acres in Kentucky that he was given for serving in the Indian Wars. Very late in life, he collected a very small pension and after his death, his wife, Easter Berry McGee (my mistake earlier on her maiden name) received $8.00 a month until her death.

    • Betty Rudder says:

      Melba….any idea where that land was located? We’ve discussed him, but not sure we did about his property. Maybe it was in Owsley?

  15. Gina says:

    I just found out that I am related to Robert, as he is my 3rd great grandfather. This is an amazing find. I knew we had Indian in our family but when I found this about robert i was confused. This information has helped a lot.

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.