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Treaty Concluded October 2, 1798

 Native American Nations | Cherokee Nation of Indians                    


Treaty Concluded October 2, 17981

Held near Tellico, in the Cherokee Council House between George Walton and Lieut. Col. Thomas Butler, commissioners on behalf of the United States, and the chiefs and warriors of the Cherokee Nation.

Material Provisions

Owing to misunderstandings and consequent delay in running the boundary line prescribed by the treaties of 1791 and 1794, and the ignorant encroachment of settlers on the Indian lands within the limits of such boundaries before their survey, it became desirable that the Indians should cede more laud. The following treaty was therefore concluded:

  • 1. Peace and friendship are renewed and declared perpetual.
  • 2. Previous treaties acknowledged to be of binding force.
  • 3. Boundaries of the Cherokees to remain the same where not altered
    by this treaty.
  • 4. The Cherokees cede to the United States all lands within the following points and lines, viz: From a point on the Tennessee River, below Tellico Block House, called the Wild Cat Rock, in a direct line to the Militia Spring near the Maryville road leading from Tellico. From the said spring to the Chill-howie Mountain by a line so to be run as will leave all the farms on Nine Mile Creek to the northward and eastward of it, and to be continued along Chill-howie Mountain until it strikes Hawkins's line. Thence along said line to the Great Iron Mountain, and from the top of which a line to be continued in a southeastwardly course to where the most southwardly branch of Little River crosses the divisional line to Tuggaloe River. From the place of beginning, the Wild Cat Rock, down the northeast margin of the Tennessee River (not iucluding islands) to a point one mile above the junction of that river with the Clinch, and from thence by a line to be drawn in a right angle until it intersects Hawkins's line leading from Clinch. Thence down the said line to the river Clinch; thence up the said river to its junction with Emmery's River; thence up Emmery's River to the foot of Cumberland Mountain. From thence a line to be drawn northeastwardly along the fl.ot of the mountain until it intersects with Campbell's line.
  • 5. Two commissioners to be appointed (one by the United States and one by the Cherokees) to superintend the running and marking of the line, immediately upon signing of the treaty, and three maps to be made after survey for use of the War Department, the State of Tennessee, and the Cherokee Nation respectively.
  • 6. Upon signing the treaty the Cherokees to receive $5,000 cash and an annuity of $1,000, and the United States to guarantee them the remainder of their country forever.
  • 7. The United States to have free use of the Kentucky road running between Cumberland Mountain and river, in consideration of which the Cherokees are permitted to hunt on ceded lands.
  • 8. Notice to be given the Cherokees of the'time for delivering annual stipends.
  • 9. Horses stolen by either whites or Indians to be paid for at $60 each (if by a white man, in cash; if by an Indian, to be deducted from annuity). All depredations prior to the beginning of these negotiations to be forgotten.
  • 10. The Cherokees agree that the United States agent shall have sufficient ground for his temporary use while residing among them. This treaty to be binding and carried into effect by both sides when ratified by the Senate and President of the United States.

Historical Data.
Disputes Respecting Territory

In the year 1797 the legislature of the State of Tennessee addressed a memorial and remonstrance to Congress upon the subject of the Indian title to lands within that State. The burden of this complaint was the assertion that the Indian title was at best nothing greater' than a tenancy at will; that the lands they occupied within the limits of the State had been granted by the State of North Carolina, before the ad-mission of Tennessee to the Union, to her officers and soldiers of the Continental line, and for other purposes; that the treaties entered into with the Cherokees by the United States, guaranteeing them the exclusive possession of these lands, 'ere subversive of State as well as individual vested rights, and praying that provision be made by law for the extinguishment of the Indian claim.3

This was communicated to Congress by the President. Mr. Pinckney, from the committee of the House of Representatives to which the matter was referred, submitted a report,4 accompanied by a resolution making an appropriation for the relief of such citizens of the State of Tennessee as had a right to lands within that State, by virtue of the cession out of the State of North Carolina, provided they had made actual settlement thereon and had been deprived of the possession thereof by the operation of the act of May 19, 1796, for regulating intercourse with the Indian tribes. The sum to be appropriated; it' was declared, should be subject to the order of the President of the United States, to be expended under his direction, either in extinguishing the Indian claim to the lands in question, by holding a treaty for that purpose, or to be disposed of in such other manner as he should deem best calculated to afford the persons described a temporary relief.

New treaty. The House of Representatives, on considering the subject, passed a resolution directing the Secretary of War to lay before them such information as he possessed relative to the running of a line of experiment from Clinch River to Chilhowie Mountain by order of Governor Blount, to which the Secretary responded on the 5th of January, 1798.5

Following this, on the 8th of the same month, President Adams communicated a message to the Senate, setting forth that the situation of affairs between some of the citizens of the United States and the Cherokees had evinced the propriety of holding a treaty with that nation, to extinguish by purchase their right to certain parcels of laud and to adjust and settle other points relative to the safety and convenience of the citizens of the United States. With this view he nominated Fisher Ames, of Massachusetts, Bushrod Washington, of Virginia, and Alfred Moore, of North Carolina, to be commissioners, having authority to hold conferences and conclude a treaty with the Cherokees for the purposes indicated.6

The Senate concurred in the advisability of the proposed treaty, but Fisher Ames and Bushrod Washington having declined, George Walton and John Steele were associated with Mr. Moore, and detailed instructions were given for their guidance.7

By these instructions they were vested jointly and severally with full powers to negotiate and conclude a treaty with the Cherokees, limited only by the scope of the instructions themselves. The Cherokee agent had already been directed to notify the Indians and the commandant of United States troops in Tennessee to furnish an escort sufficient for the protection of the negotiations.

Further purchase of Cherokee lands proposed. The commissioners were directed as a primary consideration to secure, if possible, the consent of the Cherokees to the sale of such part of their lands as would give a more convenient form to the State of Tennessee and conduce to the protection of its citizens. Especially was it desirable to obtain their consent to the immediate return of such settlers as had intruded on their lands and in consequence had been removed by the United States troops, such consent to be predicated on the theory that the Cherokees were willing to treat for the sale to the United States of the lauds upon which these people had settled. They were directed to renew the unsuccessful effort made by Governor Blount in 1791 to secure the consent of the Cherokees that the boundary should begin at the mouth of Duck River and run up the middle of that stream to its source and thence by a line drawn to the mouth of Clinch River. The following alternative boundary propositions were directed to be submitted for the consideration of the Indians, in their numerical order, viz:

  • 1. A line (represented on an accompanying map by a red dotted line) from a point on the ridge dividing the waters of the Cumberland from the Tennessee River, in a southwest direction, until it should strike the mouth of Duck River; thence from the mouth to the main source of the river; thence by a line over the highest ridges of the Cumberland Mountains to the mouth of Clinch River; thence down the middle of the Tennessee River till it struck the divisional line under the treaties of 1791 and 1791,o thence along said line to its crossing of the Cunchee Creek running into Tuckasegee; thence to the Great Iron Mountains; thence a southeasterly course to where the most southerly branch of Little River crossed the divisional line to Tugaloo River.
  • 2. A line (represented on said map by a double red line) beginning at the point 40 miles above Nashville, as ascertained by the commissioners (and laid down on said map); thence due east till it struck the dotted line on Cumberland Mountains; along said mountains to the junction of Clinch and Tennessee Rivers; and down the Tennessee to the extent of the boundary described in the first proposition.
  • 3. A line (dotted blue) beginning at a point 56 miles from the point 40 miles above Nashville, on the northeast divisional line, being 1 miles south of the road called Walton's or Caney Fork road; thence on a course at the same distance from the said road to where it crosses Clinch River; thence resuming the remaining boundary as described in the first proposition.
  • 4. A line (being a double blue line on the map) beginning at a point one mile south of the junction of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers; thence westerly along the course of the road 1 miles south thereof until it entered into Cumberland Mountains; thence a northeasterly course along the ridges of said mountains on the west of Powell's Valley and River to the source of the river next above Clear Fork, and thence down the middle of the same to the northeast divisional line; the Tennessee River and the further line thence, as described in the first proposition, to be the remaining boundary.

In case the Indians should accept the first proposition and cede the tract therein described, or a greater quantity, the commissioners were to solemnly guarantee the Cherokees the remainder of their country and agree to their payment by the United States of either an annuity of $4,000, or to deliver them, on the signing of the treaty, goods to the amount of $5,000 and the further sum of $20,000 in four equal annual installments.

Refusing the first and accepting the second proposition, they were to receive the same guarantee, and an annuity of $3,000, or $5,000 at once in goods and $15,000 in three equal annual installments.
Refusing the first and second and accepting the third proposition, the same guarantee was offered and an annuity of $2,000, or $5,000 in goods on signing the treaty and $10,000 in two equal annual installments.

Accepting the fourth proposition, to the exclusion of the other three, the same guarantee was to be given, together with an annuity of $1,000, or $5,000 in goods on signing the treaty and the same amount during the year 1799.

It was also represented by the Secretary of War that the arts and practices used to obtain Indian land in defiance of treaties and the laws, at the risk of involving the whole country in war, had become so daring, and received such countenance from persons of prominent influence, as to render it necessary that the means to countervail them should be augmented. To this end, as well as to more effectually secure to the United States the advantages of the land which should be obtained by the treaty, the commissioners were instructed to secure the insertion into the treaty of provisions of the following import:

  • 1. That the new line should be run and marked by two commissioners, one of whom should be appointed by the treaty commissioners and the other by the Indians. They should proceed immediately upon the signing of the treaty to the execution of that duty, upon the completion of which three maps thereof should be prepared, one for the use of the Secretary of War, one for the executive of the State of Tennessee, and one for the Cherokees.
  • 2. That the Cherokees should at all times permit the President of the United States to employ military force within their boundaries for the arrest and removal of all persons seeking to make unauthorized negotiations with or to incite their hostility toward the United States or any of its citizens, or toward any foreign nation or Indian nation or be within the limits and under the protection of the United States; also, of all persons who should settle on or who should attempt to re-side in the Indian country without the written permission of the President.
  • 3. That the treaty should not be construed either to affect the right or title of any ejected settler upon the Indian lands to the tract theretofore occupied by him or in any manner to enlarge his right or claim thereto; and that all Indian land purchased by the contemplated treaty, which had not been actually occupied as aforesaid, should remain subject to the operation of all the provisions of the proposed as well as any former treaty and of the laws of the United States relative to Indian country, until such time as said lands should be sold by and under the authority of the United States. This provision was intended to prevent any further intrusion on any part of the land ceded by the State of North Carolina to the United States; as also upon the land set apart to the Cherokee Indians by the State of North Carolina, by act of her legislature, passed May 17, 1783, described as follows, viz: "Beginning on the Tennessee, where the southern boundary of this State intersects the same, nearest to the Chicamauga towns; thence up the middle of the Tennessee and Holston to the middle of French Broad; thence up the middle of French Broad River (which lines are not to include any island or islands in the said river) to the mouth of Big Pigeon River; thence up the same to the head thereof; thence along the dividing ridge, between the waters of Pigeon River and Tuckasege River, to the southern boundary of this State."
  • 4. The United States should have the right to establish such military posts and garrisons within the Indian limits for their protection as should be deemed proper. In case it should be found impracticable to obtain Duck River or a line that should include within it the road leading from Southwest Point to Cumberland River for a boundary, the commissioners were to stipulate for certain parcels of land lying on such road at convenient distances from each other for the establishment of houses of entertainment for travelers. Also in case the cession obtained should not include both sides of the ferry on Clinch River, to secure a limitation upon the rates of toll that should be charged by the occupant.

The commissioners repaired to Knoxville, where they ascertained it to be the desire of the Indians that the treaty negotiations should be held at Oostenaula, the Cherokee capital.

To this the commissioners objected, but agreed to meet the Indians at Chota, which they concluded to change to Tuckasege, and, finally, before the date fixed for the meeting, June 25, again changed it to Tellico, where the conference was held.8

Tennessee commissioners attend the council. In the mean time9 Governor Sevier of Tennessee designated General Robertson, James Stuart, and Lachlan McIntosh as agents to represent the interests of that State at the treaty, and gave them minute instructions covering the following points,10 viz

  • 1. To obtain as wide an extinguishment of the Cherokee claim north of the Tennessee River as possible.
  • 2. An unimpeded communication of Holston and Clinch Rivers with the Tennessee and the surrender of the west bank of the Clinch opposite South-West Point.
  • 3. To secure from future molestation the settlements as far as they had progressed on the northern and western borders of the State and the connection of Hamilton and Nero districts, then separated by a space of un-extinguished hunting ground 80 miles wide.
  • 4. To examine into the nature and validity of the claim recently set up by the Cherokees to lands north of the Tennessee River; whether it rested upon original right or was derived from treaties; or was founded only upon temporary use or occupancy.

The council opened early in July. The "Bloody Fellow," a Cherokee chief, at the outset delivered a paper which he stated to contain their final resolutions, and which covered a peremptory refusal to sell any land or to permit the ejected settlers to return to their homes. After seeking in vain to shake this determination of the Cherokees, further negotiations were postponed until the ensuing fall, and the commissioners departed.

On the 27th of August, the Secretary of War addressed some additional instructions upon the subject to George Walton and Lieut. Col. Thomas Butler as .commissioners (John Steele having resigned and Alfred Moore having returned to his home in North Carolina), authorizing them to renew the negotiations. The original instructions were to form the basis of these negotiations, but if it should be found impracticable to induce the Indians to accede to either of the first three propositions, an abandonment of them was to take place, and resort was to be had to the fourth proposition, which might be altered in any manner as to boundaries calculated to secure the most advantageous results to the United States.11 The council was resumed at Tellico on the 20th of September, but it was found, during the progress thereof, that there was no possibility of effecting the primary objects of the State agents of Tennessee. General Robertson failed to attend. General White (who had been appointed in the place of Stuart) was there, but Mr. McIntosh resigned and Governor Sevier himself attended in person.

The treaty was finally concluded on the 2d of October, by which a cession was secured covering most of the territory contemplated by the fourth proposition, with something additional. It included most if not all the lands from which settlers had been ejected by the United States troops, and they were permitted to return to their homes.

The road privilege sought to be obtained between East and Middle Tennessee was also realized, except as to the establishment of houses ,of entertainment for travelers.12

President Adams transmitted the treaty to the Senate,13 and that body advised and consented to its ratification.

Boundary lines surveyed. In fulfillment of the provisions of the fifth article of the treaty concerning the survey of boundary lines, the President appointed Captain Butler as a commissioner to run that portion of the line described as extending from Great Iron Mountain in a south-easterly direction to the point where the most southerly branch of Little River crossed the divisional line to Tugaloo River, which trust he executed in the summer of 1799.14 Owing to the unfortunate destruction of official records by fire, in the year 1800, it is impossible to ascertain all the details concerning this survey, but it was executed on the theory that the "Little River" named in the treaty was one of the northernmost branches of Keowee River.

This survey seems not to have been accepted by the War Department, for on the 3d of June, 1803, instructions were issued by the Secretary of War to Return J. Meigs, as a commissioner, to superintend the execution of the survey of this same portion of the boundary. Mr. Thomas Freeman was appointed surveyor.15

From the letter of Commissioner Meigs, transmitting the plat and field notes of survey,16 it appears that much difference of opinion had existed as to what stream was meant by the "Little River" named in the treaty, there being three streams of that name in that vicinity. Two of these were branches of the French Broad and the other of Keowee River. If the line should be run to the lower one of these two branches of the French Broad, it would leave more than one hundred families of white settlers within the Indian territory. If it were run to the branch of Keowee River, it would leave ten or twelve Indian villages within the State of North Carolina.

It was therefore determined by Commissioner Meigs to accept the upper branch of French Broad as the true intent and meaning of the treaty, and the line was run accordingly, whereby not a single white settlement was cut off or intersected, and but five Indian families were left on the Carolina side of the line.17

Status of certain territory. In this connection it is pertinent to remark that the State of North Carolina claimed for her southern boundary the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude.

The line of this parallel was, however, at that time supposed to ran about 12 miles to the north of what was subsequently ascertained to be its true location.

Between this supposed line of 35 north latitude and the northern most boundary of Georgia, as settled upon by a convention between that State and South Carolina in 1787, there intervened a tract of country of about 12 miles in width, from north to south, and extending from east to west, from the top of the main ridge of mountains which divides the eastern from the western waters to the Mississippi River. This tract remained, as was supposed, within the chartered limits of South Carolina, and in the year 1787 was ceded by that State to the United States, subject to the Indian right of occupancy. When the Indian title to the country therein described was ceded to the United States by the treaty of 1798 with the Cherokees, the eastern portion of this 12-mile tract fell within the limits of such cession.

On its eastern extremity near the head-waters of the French Broad River, immediately at the foot of the main Blue Ridge Mountains, had been located, for a number of years prior to the treaty, a settlement of about fifty families of whites, who by its ratification became occupants of the public domain of the United States, but who were outside the territorial jurisdiction of any State. These settlers petitioned Congress to retrocede the tract of country upon which they resided to South Carolina, in order that they might be brought within the protection of the laws of that State.18 Aresolatioriwas reported in the House of Representatives, from the committee to whom the subject had been referred, favoring such a course,19 but Congress took no effective action on the subject, and when the State boundaries came to be finally adjusted in that region the tract in question was found to be within the limits of North Carolina.

Yellow Creek settlement.-After that portion of the boundary of the country ceded by the treaty of 1798 which extended along the foot of Cumberland Mountain until it intersected "Campbells Line" had been surveyed, complaint was made by certain settlers on Yellow Creek that by the action of the surveyors in not prolonging the line to its true point of termination, their homes had been left within the Indian country.

Thereupon the Secretary of War instructed Agent Meigs20 to go in person and examine the line as surveyed with a view to ascertaining the truth concerning the complaints.

It was ascertained that the " point" of Campbell's Line was not on Cumberland Mountain proper, but on the ridge immediately east thereof, known as Poor Valley Ridge. This ridge is nearly as lofty as the main range, and Colonel Campbell, in approaching it from the east, had mistaken it for that range and established his terminal point accordingly. The surveyors under the treaty of 1798, assuming the correctness of Colonel Campbell's survey, had made the line of their survey close thereon. By such action the Indian boundary in that locality was extended 332 poles further to the east than would have been the case had the true reading of the treaty been followed.

A number of families of settlers on Yellow Creek, together with a tract of about 2,500 acres of land, were thus unfortunately left within the Indian country. All efforts of Agent Meigs to secure a relinquishment of this strip of territory from the Indians were, however, ineffectual.21

1 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. I, p. 496.
2 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VII, p. 62.
3 This address and remonstrance will be found in fall in American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, page 625.
4 December 20, 1797.
5 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 629.
6 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 631.
7 These instructions were dated March 2, 1793. See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 639
8 Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, pp. 693, 695.
9 June 20, 1798.
10 Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, pp. 693,. 695.
11 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 640.
12 By act of September 27, 1794, the legislature of the territory southwest of the Ohio authorized the raising of a fund for cutting and clearing a wagon road from Southwest Point to Bledsoe's Lick on the Cumberland. The funds for this purpose were to be raised by a lottery managed by Cols. James White, James Winchester, Stockley Donelson, David Campbell, William Cooke, and Robert Hayes. The Indians not having granted the necessary right of way, its construction was necessarily postponed, but subsequently, by act of the legislature of Tennessee passed November 14, 1801, the Cumberland Road Company was incorporated and required to cut and clear a road from the Indian boundary on the east side of Cumberland Mountain to the fork of the roads leading to Fort Blount and Walton's Ferry.
13 January 15, 1799.
14 See letter of General Pickens to Representative Nott, of South Carolina, January 1, 1800. American State Papers, Public Lands, Vol. I, p. 103.
15 Letter of Secretary of War to Return J. Meigs, in Indian Office records.
16 Dated October 20,.1802..
17 Commissioner Meigs mentions that the accompanying plat and field notes of Mr. Freeman, the surveyor, will give more abundant details regarding this survey. After a careful search, however, no trace has been found among the Indian Office records and files of the plat and field notes in question. There is much aif6cnlty in ascertaining the exact point of departure of "Meigs Line" from Great Iron Mountains. In the report of the Tennessee and North Carolina boundary commissioners in 1821 it is stated to be 31 miles by the course of the mountain ridge in a general southwesterly course from the crossing of Cataluche Turnpike; 9 miles in a similar direction from Porter's Gap ; 21 miles in a northeasterly direction from the crossing of Equovetley Path, and 33 miles in a like course from the crossing of Tennessee River. All of these courses and distances follow the crest of the Great Iron Mountains. It is stated to the author, by General R. N. Hood, of Knoxville, Tenn., that there is a tradition that "Meigs Post" was found some years since about 1 miles southwest of Indian Gap. A map of the survey of Qualla Boundary, by M. S. Temple, in 1876, shows a portion of the continuation of "Meigs Line" as passing about 1 miles east of Quallatown. Surveyor Temple mentions it as running "S. 50 E. (formerly S. 52 E.")
18 See memorial of Matthew Patterson and others, dated "French Broad, 8th Tan-nary, 1800," printed in American State Papers, Public Lands, Vol. I, p. 104.
19 This resolution was reported by Mr. Harper, from the committee to whom it was referred, to the House of Representatives, April 7, 1800, and is printed in American State Papers, Public Lands, Vol. I, p. 103.
20 February 7, 1803. See Indian Office records.
21 See report of Agent Return J. Meigs to the Secretary of War, May 5, 1803, on file in the Office of Indian Affairs.

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Bureau of Ethnology, Volume 5, Cherokee Nation of Indians, 1883-84

Cherokee Nation of Indians


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