Elias Boudinot was the college-educated Cherokee Indian, son of Oo-watie and brother of Stand Watie and a nephew of Major Ridge who attended the Moravian School established by James Vann at Spring Place. While attending the American Board college in Cornwall, Connecticut, he met and married Harriet Gold. This marriage would greatly influence him, since he discovered that a "virulent racism" existed in white society when the town forced the school to close because of the marriage.
In 1826 Elias Boudinot began raising funds for the nascent printing operations of the Cherokee Nation. The first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was published on February 21, 1828 and Boudinot was listed as editor at the age of 24. Changing political climates brought more settlers into the Cherokee Nation beginning in 1830, which began to sway Boudinot in favor of removal. When he resigned from the paper in 1832 over differences of opinion with Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross he was fully in favor of removal. During the signing of the Treaty of New Echota on December 29, 1935 Boudinot made an impassioned plea for removal, but most of his fellow Cherokee viewed him as a traitor. After his wife Harriet died in 1836 he moved west before The Trail of Tears. Boudinot was killed in the Cherokee Nation West in June, 1839, for signing the Treaty of New Echota.
The Oothcaloga Valley (Great Valley), stretches west from present-day Adairsville and Calhoun, forming the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau. Young "Buck," as Boudinot was known at the time, was born in the Cherokee town of the same name, probably in 1804. Buck's family moved to Oothcaloga from Hiawasee, an important trading center in present-day southeastern Tennessee.
As part of the United States attempt to "civilize" the Cherokee, Buck's father Oo-watie moved to Oothcaloga and began farming. There he married Susanne Reese, and together they had 9 children. Buck, whose Cherokee name was Gallegina, was Oo-watie's first child. His brother, Stand Watie, a Cherokee planter and Confederate General in The Civil War was Oo-watie's second child.
In 1811, Buck went to school taught by Reverend and Mrs. Gambold at the Moravian mission at Spring Place. Among the children he knew at Spring Place was his cousin, John Ridge. In 1817 Buck was invited by Elias Cornelius to apply to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for acceptance to the American Board School at Cornwall, Connecticut. On his way to apply with Cornelius and American Board Treasurer Jeremiah Evarts to Cornwall they visited Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and James Madison at Montpelier.
They also stopped by the home of Elias Boudinot, an advocate of American Indian equality and American Bible Society founder. He once served as President of the United States, a position appointed by the Congress under the Articles of Confederation before the U. S. Constitution formed the office we know today by the same name.
When Buck registered for college he chose the name Elias Boudinot, following a Cherokee tradition of taking a new name upon entering adulthood. He joined 22 other students, mostly from other American Indian tribes although some were Native People from China, Hawaii and Tahiti. Three white missionary trainees also attended the school run by Reverend Herman Daggett, who also taught many classes.
The goal of the college was to teach students to become doctors, teachers, interpreters and ministers as a means of "...promoting Christianity and civilization." Elias Boudinot excelled as a student, developing many of the beliefs that would later shape his career. John Ridge, his cousin who also attended the Moravian School at Spring Place, joined him at the American Board school in November, 1818.
According to Principle Daggett, John's arrival at school made young Elias Boudinot "...less serious" as a student. Daggett later wrote that "Elias...is also losing his hopeful impressions." During the winter of 1819-1820 John became very sick and was placed in the care Dr. Samuel Gold and nursed by Mrs. John Northrup. John was so sick that his father, Major Ridge journeyed to Cornwall to aid in his care.
Two introductions occurred because of John Ridge's illness. John met Sally Northrup, the daughter of his nurse, and Elias Boudinot met Harriet Gold (born June_10, 1805), niece of physician Samuel Gold. When Mrs. Northrop discovered the developing relationship between John and Sarah, she tried to intervene, but eventually gave her blessing to the relationship. Major Ridge and Sarah, John's mother, were not happy either, for they always hoped John would marry the daughter of a chief.
Elias Boudinot's relationship with Harriet Ruggles Gold had not blossomed in the way as the Ridge-Northrup relationship, however, by the time the Ridges were married on January 27, 1824, Gold and Boudinot were already building a much stronger relationship than was known. Elias watched the furor caused by the marriage with a keen eye, as the townspeople tried to close the mission school. Then, just as the American Board school recovered from the furor, news broke of the Boudinot-Gold relationship while Elias was in the Cherokee Nation.
Harriet feared for her life to the point that a neighbor hid her. The town's anger turned towards the school, which could not stand the backlash and was forced to close. After the furor died down, life returned to normal for Harriet and Elias returned to marry her on March 28, 1826. In the two years between John Ridge's marriage and his own, Elias Boudinot had been very busy.
By 1824 the Cherokee were moving toward nationalism, spurred on by the desire to retain their status as an independent nation. Sequoyah's work on the Talking Leaves gave the Cherokee an essential piece of its nationalistic puzzle - the ability to read. Now that written communication was possible, the leaders of the nationalistic movement began to push for a newspaper. During the 1825 fall Council, Boudinot was given the task of raising money for the newspaper and began to collaborate with Samuel Worcester.
Samuel Worcester was a gangling young Moravian missionary who came to the Cherokee to help translate and print Christian material in the Cherokee language. Worcester quickly earned the Cherokee name "The Messenger" because of his work. The bond between Boudinot and Worcester would remain strong for the rest of Boudinot's life.
In late 1825 Boudinot prepared to leave for his wedding to Harriet Gold. Traveling north with John Ridge, Boudinot addressed supporters in Charleston, South Carolina with a speech he would hone throughout his fundraising efforts. In Washington, D. C. and New York Boudinot continued his appeals, arriving at Cornwall in time for his March wedding. For their honeymoon, Mr. and Mrs. Boudinot traveled to Salem and Boston, where he continued his fundraising efforts. One final stop came in Philadelphia before the couple headed south through the Shenandoah Valley.
When Elias returned to Georgia, he and his wife chose to live with his brother, Stand Watie while they waited for their home to be built at New Echota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. While Boudinot taught school to earn money, he and Worcestor worked on the concept of Cherokee type. It was during this time that Boudinot realized from his own experience with whites that "civilization" did not mean societal acceptance, but some form of separate, equal (hopefully) nation or state.
A prospectus of the Cherokee Phoenix laid out the biweekly papers goals. The were printing the laws and public documents of the nation, accounts of the manners and customs of the Cherokee, interesting news of the day and promote literature, civilization and religion among the Cherokee. Boudinot gained about 40 subscribers in the first three months, but more importantly, traded his paper for others with reprinting rights. He hoped to spread the words of the Cherokee as well as garner content for his own paper.
Two white printers, Issac Thomas and John Wheeler arrived late 1827 to print the Phoenix and other material. The first book off the press at New Echota was a 50-song hymnal. Friction existed between Boudinot and Thomas, but John Wheeler was welcomed. Wheeler eventually married Boudinot's sister, Nancy Paschal Watie.
Boudinot returned to New Echota and his new home. It was only a short walk from his house to the presses of the Phoenix. Worcestor moved to the Cherokee capital as well. The first issue rolled off the press in February, 1828, five columns wide and circulation grew quickly. Boudinot wrote on a wide variety of subjects from the settlers' thirst for land and gold to more mundane topics such as the evils of alcohol, working tirelessly at both writing and organizing the paper.
In 1829 Editor Boudinot's pay increased from $300.00 to $400.00 annually and he got an assistant. Harriet ran the Boudinot house which included a school, hospital (of sorts), boarding house for relatives, and a Christian mission. Strangely, in the autumn of 1829 both Boudinot and John Ridge strongly supported the enactment of the death penalty for giving away Cherokee land. It was under the terms of this law that Boudinot and Ridge (and Ridge's father, Major Ridge) would lose their lives 10 years later.
The shaping of Elias Boudinot's belief that removal was the only answer for his nation can be witnessed in the editorial tone of the Cherokee Phoenix. By this time federal troops had left the Cherokee Nation (now disturbingly called Cherokee Georgia by whites). It was routine for Boudinot to be called to the front of the Phoenix office to defend his editorials to angry Georgia militia. But he stood firm in the face of great adversity and would not back down.
I am induced to believe there is danger, "immediate and appalling," and it becomes the people of this country to weigh the matter rightly, act wisely, not rashly, and choose a course that will come nearest benefiting the nation
In February, 1832, Elias Boudinot was in the Old South Church in Boston when the judgment on Worcestor v. Georgia came through, clearly in support of the Cherokee. When Boudinot told Lyman Beecher the news, he responded with a loud "Praise the Lord." However good this news was, President Andrew Jackson told John Ridge that he had no intention of enforcing the ruling of the Court.
As a result of these developments, John Ross felt it imperative that only anti-removal rhetoric appear in the Cherokee Phoenix. A meeting in Washington D. C. led to intense exchanges between Ross's team and pro-removal forces. Ross banned discussion of the meeting from the Cherokee Phoenix. Boudinot felt that as editor he should have the right to present a balanced view of the situation, but could not convince Ross. Boudinot resigned from his position as editor on August 1, 1832.
In October, 1832, Georgia began the Sixth Land Lottery, and although the Boudinot's house was involved, the lottery winner of his property could not claim it...Georgia Governor Wilson Lumpkin knew Boudinot pro-removal stance and blocked his property, along with the homes of John and Major Ridge, from occupation by settlers. The exemption, however, backfired on Lumpkin; Cherokee citizens viewed the favorable treatment to resent Boudinot and the Ridge family.
Full license to our oppressors, and every avenue of justice closed to us. Yes, this is the bitter cup prepared for us...
1835 was a critical time for the former editor. From the time of his resignation, his relationship with John Ross got worse, although Ross did allow Boudinot to join a delegation to Washington in 1835. The pro-treaty faction tried to negotiate a settlement agreeable to both Ross and the U. S. but none could be found.
Harriet Boudinot died in 1835, an emotional trauma for Elias. Then in December, 1835, an immense political drama played out on Buck's doorstep. Members of the rebellious Treaty Party signed the Treaty of New Echota in Boudinot's house. The following day some 200 Ridgites met to "ratify" the Treaty.
Life in the relocated Cherokee Nation was different for Boudinot. He re-married, this time to a missionary's daughter with the intriguing name of Delight Sargent. Working with his old friend Rev. Worcestor on translating the Bible into Cherokee, he was caught completely unsuspecting by a group of Cherokee men in June, 1839, stabbed and tomahawked to death near the new home he and his wife were building.
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