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Samuel Austin Worcester
About North Georgia

Born: January_19, 1798 Peacham,Vermont ,
Died: April_20, 1859 Park Hill, Cherokee Nation,

Early Life

Samuel Worcester was the 7th generation of pastors in his family, dating back to when his family lived in England. When Samuel was born his father, the Rev. Leonard Worcester, was a minister in Peacham, Vermont. According to Charles Perry of the Peacham Historical Association, Leonard also worked as a printer in the town during the week.

Worcestor was tutored by Jeremiah Evarts, a proponent of Indian rights and treasurer of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at the time. He left Evart's schooling to attend the University of Vermont (under Samuel Austin, for whom he was named).

Graduating with honors in 1819 he attended Andover Theological Seminary (now Andover Newton Theological Seminary) on the site of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. While completing his training at Andover the minister met and befriended Buck Oowatie, a Cherokee Indian who had taken the name Elias Boudinot. Samuel and Elias became close friends.

Cherokee Missionary

During his studies, Worcester exhibited an unusual strength in foreign languages. When Worcester joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions he requested assignment to Brainerd, a mission near a Cherokee village that was in particular need according to Boudinot. Within days of his arrival on October_21, 1825 at Brainerd, Worcester was preaching and he had taken over duties as blacksmith, carpenter, translator and doctor. His Cherokee name was "The Messenger."

Worcester had another tie to Brainerd that is rarely mentioned. The missionary cemetery held the grave of his uncle and namesake, Dr. Samuel Worcester, a founder of the American Board and its first corresponding secretary, who had died at the mission in 1821.

Samuel WorcesterThe influence of Boudinot cannot be understated. The two become close friends in the Northeast. When Sequoyah developed the "Talking Leaves," Boudinot asked Worcester for help in establishing a Cherokee paper. Worcester, a visionary, saw not only a newspaper, but a tool of Cherokee literacy, a means to draw the loose Cherokee community together and a way of establishing and promoting a Cherokee Nation.

Using his missionary connection, Worcester secured funds to build a printing office, buy the printing press and ink, and cast the alphabet's characters(since the "talking leaves" were new, no type existed). He contracted for a house to be built at New Echota and moved there in November, 1827 (This date is from letters he wrote to the missions board. It frequently appears as 1828) The first edition of the Cherokee Phoenix rolled off the presses at New Echota on February_21, 1828. From this point on, Worcester had input in most Cherokee publications until his death.

Fighting Removal

The westward push of settlers had begun to dramatically affect the Cherokee. These valiant American Indians, with the help of Worcester, his former teacher Jeremiah Evarts and the American Board, formulated a plan to fight the encroachment in court, their last hope. No other civil authority would support the Cherokee right to live on the land they called home for hundreds of years. The board hired former U.S. Attorney General William Wirt to defend George Tassel, a Cherokee convicted of murder in Hall County. A sympathetic Chief Justice John Marshall rejected the suit on technical grounds, but privately instructed Wirt in presenting an acceptable case.

Shortly after the failure of the first trial Georgia Governor George Gilmer and the state legislature officially adopted a policy of forcible Indian removal and began plans for the Land Lottery of 1832. Worcester and 11 other men of the cloth met at New Echota and published a resolution in protest of a law the assembly had passed requiring all whites to get a license to work on Native American land. Worcester reasoned correctly that obeying the law would, in effect, be tantamount to surrendering the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation.

Worcestor v. Georgia

Gilmer ordered the militia to arrest Worcester and the others who signed the document. Worcestor was arrested on July 7, 1831 and forced to walk with the other missionaries to Lawrenceville, Georgia (Gwinnett County). Quickly brought to trial and convicted, Worcester stuck to his beliefs and was sentenced to prison on September 16, 1832. Only one other missionary had refused a settlement offer by the state.

William Wirt again argued the case and in late 1832 the Supreme Court ruled the Cherokee Nation was independent and under the Treaty Clause of the Constitution, all dealings with the Cherokee fell under federal jurisdiction. The ruling was ignored by Gilmer and President Andrew Jackson, who continued to hold the men prisoners.

Worcestor heads West

Wilson Lumpkin assumed the governorship early the next year and faced with the Nullification Crisis in neighboring South Carolina he opted to set Worcester and the others free if they agreed to minor concessions. Having won the Supreme Court decision, Worcester thought that he would be more effective outside prison and left. After his release Worcester realized that the battle had been lost because the settlers refused to abide by the decision of their own courts. He returned to Brainerd on March 15, 1834 and began travel west on April 8, 1835, arriving in Arkansas on May 29, 1835 and moving to Park Hill, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, on December 2, 1836 to prepare for the coming of the Cherokee. Within three years the Cherokee Nation was forced to follow the "Trail of Tears."

After moving to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) Worcester continued to preach to the Indians and worked tirelessly to help resolved the differences between the Georgia Cherokees and the "Old Settlers", some of whom had been there since the late 1820's. Through Worcestor's tireless efforts the Cherokee Phoenix was reestablished in September, 1844.

Personal Life

Samuel Worcester married Ann Orr while a student at Andover. They had seven children: Ann Eliza, Sarah, Jerusha, Hannah, Leonard, John Orr and Mary Eleanor. Ann served as an assistant missionary to her husband. After Ann's death in 1842 Samuel married Erminia Nash.

From John Worcestor

Most interesting to you perhaps is that when I was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1965, my aunt in a rather solemn family moment gave to me the original diary kept by Samuel during the years he was in prison there in Georgia (Milledgeville, I believe).

We vacationed in Cherokee NC and the Great Smokies Park one of the summers we lived out there, and quite by chance attended the panorama outdoor dramatic presentation that depicted the events preceding the deportation, and to the delight of our family, out on the stage walked the characters of Samuel and Ann Worcester.


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