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Family Stories


Honoring My Ancestors : Kell Family
by Linda (Hollingsworth) Taylor

My paternal Great Great Grandmother Sarah Ann Kell was born on December 12, 1853 in Mecca, McMinn County Tennessee. This is about her Cherokee Heritage.

Alexander Kell, her Great Grandfather, was born in Rowan County N.C in 1785 to a Captain James Kell, a Revolunary Soldier and Ancestor to many people in Gilmer County Georgia. Alexander married Emily Duncan of Ani-Kawi ( Deer Clan) ( Ga-ho-ga) a daughter of Young Gordon Duncan and Dorcas Lightfoot.

Alexander Kell was a signor of the following roll: Reservation Roll 1817-1819 #190, July 18,1819,Tuskaleechee Old Town, in right of wife. He later sold it back for $1475.00 on June 25, 1823. Alexander signed those treaties believing the white man's lies. He loved his Cherokee wife and her peoples way of life and took it as his own.

Emily Duncan and Alexander Kell had the following children: Rebecca 1810, James 1811, Elizabeth 1812,Andrew 1813 (my ancestor), David 1815, Nannie and Annie 1816. The sons of Emily Duncan and Alexander Kell would later become very important in Cherokee history. My ancestor Andrew Kell and his brothers David and James were members of the Ross Party as was the majority of the Cherokee People. Emily Duncan, their mother was a Beloved Woman of the Deer Clan and she had a say in many council meetings in New Echota as well as Red Clay TN. They were all supporters of Chief John Ross and believed, like Ross, that they would win the war with the white man and be able to stay in their homeland of the most beautiful and plentiful hunting grounds, with its many waterfalls, bluebirds and serene Mountains of North Georgia. This very same land was fought for, years earlier, by another of my ancestors with very bloody results. He was Dragging Canoe, Chief of The Chickamaugas. He and Tecumseh saw in their visions what was to come to pass and tried to warn their people.

The other powerful force in Cherokee Government at that time was Major Ridge, an old Cherokee warrior and a member of the Deer Clan. In 1837 the Cherokee nation would change forever because of this man and his followers.

The Ridge or Pro-Treaty faction, whose main figures were, Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot and Stand Waitie, stood in opposition to principal Chief John Ross and the majority of the tribe regarding removal. The Ridge group didn't fight until the bitter end and didn't stand aside for those that did. The Ridge group became convinced by what that saw as political reality, that the choice was move or be annihilated. To the majority Ross element, this was treason, not common sense and only by a complete united Cherokee front could the federal and state opinions be reversed.

Indeed, under traditional Cherokee council etiquette, those who held a minority position were expected to retire from deliberations so that the outcome would appear to come from a united and unanimous Cherokee leadership. When they became removal supporters, Major Ridge, John Ridge and David Vann were impeached and removed from their council seats. By insisting on and as a minority, signing a removal treaty, the Ridge faction breached that old code.

My ancestor, Andrew Kell and his brothers believed along with the majority of the Cherokee nation that these men of the Ridge party had betrayed their own people. President Andrew Jackson, a man who used many Cherokee braves in his war at Horseshoe Bend against the Creek red sticks accepted this treaty offered by Ridge knowing it was not the voice of the majority and his greed is what us with Cherokee hearts and blood will remember. The Treaty of New Echota was sent to Congress and passed, therefore sealing the fate of the Cherokee nation forever.

When I go home to Georgia and walk the land, look over the mountain tops and especially when I go to Red Clay and sit in the sacred circle of the council grounds, I can feel the heart break of my ancestors as they despaired and debated in what was officially described as a tumultuous meeting. Congress sealed the fate of the Cherokee people forever in 1837. They gave them two years to remove to the land west of the Mississippi in Oklahoma. The followers of the Ridge faction left at that time knowing they had signed their own death warrants. The old Cherokee law of Blood revenge would again come to pass. A blood revenge must be carried out by a member of one's own clan.

Most of the Cherokee people stayed, hoping that a miracle would happen but it never did and in June of 1838, Georgia Militia raided the Cherokee homes and towns and forced the people into 26 known stockades or forts. More existed but were never pinpointed. These stockades were in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama.

My ancestors where forced to Fort Gilmer in Elijay GA and Fort Cummings in Lafayette GA. Alexander Kell, a non Cherokee who loved his wife and children, turned his back on the white man and went with his family. From those forts they were herded like cattle on the "Trail Where We Cried" or "Trail of Tears" .

My ancestor Andrew Kell along with his wife Mary (Sally) Huss, a daughter to Reverend John Huss a full blood and convert to Christianity, and their son Weeks Mix Kell who was born in Gilmer County GA in 1833 were on that trail. How that young child survived is a miracle. On that trail many died, mostly children and elders. Some white settlers along the trail did not like what they were seeing and took some of the Cherokee into hiding in their homes and when questioned by soldiers replied they had an "Aunt" or family visiting.

One full blood survivor was quoted "A long time we travel on way to new land. People feel bad when we leave old nation. Women cry and make sad wails. Children cry and many men cry and look sad like when friends die but they say nothing and just put heads down and keep go toward west. Many days pass and people die very much. we bury close by trail."

Quatie Ross, wife of the Chief, gave her blanket to an ailing child although she herself had caught cold. The cold turned into Pneumonia. She lasted until Little Rock where she is buried. The survivors that made it to the new land would not let this tragedy go unpunished.

On Saturday June 22, 1839 the penalty was invoked. John Ridge's home was surrounded by about 25 men, three of them of whom forced open the door and slipped inside, Little John Rollins Ridge knew the men as Kell and would not forget. The family awoke to a shot going off at John Ridge's head but it failed to go off. Ridge was then seized and dragged outside where he was stabbed 25 times and stomped on by each one of his executioners as his wife and child watched. His father Major Ridge was murdered in Arkansas. Years later John Rollin Ridge invoked David Kell into a fight and murdered him, claiming self defense but he left the Cherokee nation and went in exile to California and never to return to Oklahoma.

Mary Huss Kell left Oklahoma with her young son Weeks Mix Kell and returned to Georgia to hide among her white Kell inlaws. It is believed that she and Andrew feared for their son's safety due to the violence in Oklahoma.

As a young adult Weeks left Georgia for the mountains of western North Carolina near what is now Cherokee, North Carolina and there he met and married a Lucinda, last name not known but she was 3/4 Cherokee. Weeks was listed in the 1848 Mullay rolls #1012 but died before 1883 as he is not listed in the Hester Rolls. His legs where frozen off at DuckTown in Polk County, TN but it is not known if this caused his death.

Weeks and Lucinda had the following children; Mary Jane 1856, Sarah Ann 1858, Andrew 1862, Susannah 1866, James Lafayette 1868 and Alexander Francis in 1870. All the children where born in Mecca, McMinn County, TN.

Sarah Ann Kell married A.J. Wilkerson a full blood who practiced the Medicine and is believed to have been a member of the Paint Clan. He was born February 13, 1850 in Monroe County TN. near Tellico Plains. They had the following children: Iley Ann born 2/9/1891 who was my Great Grandmother, she was listed as Iley Ann Hollingsworth #4143 Guion Miller Roll, Andrew Jefferson born 9/23/1883, Gertrude 4/13/1888, Eslmey 12/9/1881, William 5/31/1876, Larry Elmer 8/28/1878, Silvania 1877, Laura 1875 and Lucinda 3/17/1874. All born in McMinn County TN.

As I continue to research my Cherokee ancestors, I feel them call to me, wanting me to know and honor them so therefore my search goes on.

Linda Taylor resides in Nashville, TN ,a native of Chickamauga GA, has been doing genealogy research for the past 5 years. She is a active member of the Native American Indian Association.

Submitted by Linda Taylor