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John Watts, Interpreter  & Trader       



John Watts :  Indian trader & Interpreter       


John Watts, like William Elder and Thomas Nightingale, may have come to South

Carolina via Virginia.  Watts was a minor figure in the Indian trade in the 1740’s,

and he was connected to both Elder(s) and Nightingale, as well as John Amory

(d.1746).  In the 1750’s, as the prior generation of Indian traders retired, he took on a larger role.  He was born c.1720, married a Cherokee, and resided in the Ninety Six settlement in the early 1750’s.  He was acquainted with John Vann

and probably John Welch.  In 1751 Vann and Watts fled with their families from

Ninety Six.       [SC Commons Journal  of  13 May 1751.]


When William Emory came down from the Cherokee Nation with his family c.1754 he located his family close to John Watts.  They seem to have been

connected by their Cherokee wives because the mixed blood Cherokees John

Jolly (an Emory descendant) and John Watts were said to have the same uncle.

The lack of direct marriage between Emory and Watts grandchildren is a slight

indication of close clan relationship.  A more “mythic” connection is that John

Watts went with the group of Lower Cherokee “to be heard by the king” in 1752

and in that group was the mother of John Emory (b.1744).  The main group got

to Williamsburg, Virginia, but family legend has it that John Emory’s mother was

taken to England and she died at sea or in England, in either case, never to

return.  (She may have just died in Virginia.)


Around 1753 John Watts Jr. was born at Ninety Six.  He would return with the Emory family to the Cherokee Nation and would become a Chickamauga warrior

under Will Emory, and later become the military leader of the Chickamauga.


John Watts Sr. married a white wife in Charleston in 1754: Jossie Stuart, but

continued to spend much of his time among the Cherokee.  He went with the

Cherokee to New York in 1755.   [SC Docs Ind. Affairs (3) : 336]


He had children by his white wife Stuart, including sons Thomas and John, who

settled in the Abbeville (Old 96) District (South Carolina) on Turkey Creek, on the trading path (Keowee Road).  (He had these lands by royal grant): 


62. Robertson, William  220 acres 96th Dist on south side of Turkey Creek of Saluda River. Surv. Feb 16, 1793 by Adam C. Jones, Jr. DS. Recorded Aug 1, 1793. Plat: Wm and Robt. Robertson, John Cullin, Henry Holtzclaw, John Watts, south fork Turkey Creek.

63. Robinson, William, 250 acres 96th Dist on branch of Turkey Creek. Surv Mary 5, 1785 by John Bowie, DS. Plat: James Dunn, John Shirley, William Canady, William Stuart, vacant.


64. Rutledge, John  213 acres Abbeville County, 96th Dist. on Turkey Creek. Surv. Jan 9, 1793 by Adam C. Jones, Jr. DS. Recorded Feb 27, 1793. Platt: Andrew Russell Rutledge, Thomas Shirley, Thomas Norwood, John Maxwell, Patrick Cunningham, Thomas Watts, Turkey Creek, vacant, bounded.

65. Shirley, Benjamin 200 acres on waters of Turkey Creek a branch of Saluda River. Surv July 24, 1784 by John Bowie, DS. Platt:  Keowee Road, fork of Turkey Creek, James Smith, William Robinson.    [from research of Glee Corey Hendrix on the Shirley family] 



(Apparently some white descendents of John Watts are coming forward and making it difficult to sort out who’s who among the Watts because there were both white and mixed Thomas Watts, Joseph Watts and John Watts and  the mixed blood Joseph resided in central Georgia as white.)   [Whites, p. 41]


John Watts also went with the Lower Cherokee to Virginia to fight the “French” Indians and is mentioned by George Washington in a letter.

[Papers of George Washington, 5:124; also SC Docs Ind. Affairs (3) : 336-7, 413]



John Watts served briefly as an interpreter at Fort Loudon but was branded “a

dangerous person” by the fort commander.  [SC Docs Ind. Affairs (3) : 335]
During the Cherokee war he led a militia company.  [ Murtie June Clark, Soldiers,     ]


He is also said to be at Fort Loudon (along with William Shorey) during the

siege, and was one of those taken care of by his Cherokee wife.


He brought Attakullakulla, Willenawaw,  the Raven of Hiwassee, “Halfbreed Will”

(Will Emory) and a few others under a flag of truce to talk to military leaders of the Grant Expedition on 28 August 1761.  [ Journal of Capt. French, online]


He was a translator and witness of a 1763 treaty in Georgia and later was hired

by Christopher Guest (Gist), a Virginia trader.


He was known as Captain John Watts, as was his son (the Chickamauga leader)

and his grandson (on the 1817 tribal census and the 1835 removal census).


In a 1770 speech, Attakullakulla remarked that “when Mr. Watts was a Young Man, he traded cheap, but now Goods are much dearer.”  [19 Oct 1770]  





Three Generations of John Watts


John Watts  b.c.1720  d. 1771   (white)




John Watts  b.1753 d.c.1806?   (mixed) – Chickamauga warrior, leader

was at the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals 1775 as Young Tassel, Kunokeski

            signed the Treaty of Holston 2 July 1791  as “Kunoskeskie, or John Watts”

led an attack on Knoxville  17 Oct 1793

signed the Treaty of Tellico 25 Oct 1805  as “Katigiskee”?

signed the Treaty of Tellico 27 Oct 1805  as “Kutigeskee”?




John Watts  b.c.1785  d.c. 1854?   (mixed) – Trail of Tears emigrant

                        signed the Treaty of Tellico 25 Oct 1805  as “John Watts, Jr”




“Kitagusta / Kitagunsta” – a clue to the mother of John Watts?


Chief John Watts  b.1753  went by the name Kitagusta or, in a different dialect,

Kutigeeskee.    This definitely links him to the family of Old Kitagunsta, Kitagusta

who was also called Great Eagle, Willenawaw.    (See index for cross reference.)






 Notes on John Watts by Ginny Mangum  



Descendants of Trader/Interpreter John Watts


Compiled on March 28, 2002 by:

Ginny Mangum

Contact at

Research is still being conducted on John Watts who was born about 1720 in, some researchers say Scotland, some say Bowling Green, VA. We know that he died between October 20, 1770 and March 4, 1771. He worked October 13 - 20, 1770 for a meeting between principal Cherokee Chiefs and John Stuart about a boundary line with Virginia. (Gage Papers #5317 137:10). In a letter dated April 29, 1771 from Alexander Cameron to John Stuart about a March 4, 1771 meeting, it mentioned that John Watts was deceased!! (Gage Papers #5295 102).

John Watts was first hired by Christian Quest, grandfather of Sequoia, to work for the Virginia Land Company. He was known as a Virginia Trader; they worked out of Charleston, S.C. Researcher Robert D. Epps (see Watts Genforum Message Board, #2001,, says “In 1754 a John Watts married a Joppe Stuart in Charleston, S.C. John and Charles Stuart were British Indian agents into the Cherokee Nation. John Watts worked as an interpreter for them. Most likely there is a Town Family, as well as the Native American Family.” Could this be true???
John Watts entered the original Cherokee county about the middle of the 18th century (prior to 1750). As an interpreter, he accompanied Ammonscossitte, Young Emperor of the Cherokees, on a trip from Tellico in Tennessee to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1752. (See, “The CHEROKEE FRONTIER: CONFLICT AND SURVIVAL”, by David Corkran, page 437). He also served Captain Raymond Demere as interpreter during the building of British Fort Loudon in 1756-1757. During this time, he was accused of stirring up trouble between the Cherokees and the white settlers. In a letter from Littleton to Demere, Littleton says, “I’m well convinced that this talk proceeded from something that was told the Indians by John Elliot and John Watts. Watts speaks their language well. Elliott and Watts are a couple of dangerous people.” (Old Frontiers by J. P. Brown).
As stated in “Diplomacy and the Indian Gifts” by Wilbur Jacobs, John Watts was in New York December 2 - 17, 1755 with Thomas Pownall, Olivery Delancy, Goldbrow Banyar, Daniel Claus and Peter Wraxall to plan the downfall of Sir William Shirle.  . . .

From the book, “John Stuart and the Southern Colonial Frontier”, by John Richard Alden, we find that in 1757, John Watts was a supervisor of parties of Cherokees and Catawabas coming into Virginia, along with Richard Smith and Thomas Rutherford, all of whom were given the titles of “Conductors and Guides”. The book also mentions that in 1761, John Watts escorted Tistoe of Keowee, and Slavecatcher of Tomotley back to Ouconnostotah. John at the time was Captain in the Provincial Rangers.
In 1763, John Watts acted as interpreter at the treaty of Augusta, as mentioned in “Tennesse during the Revolutionary War”, by Samuel Cole Williams.  . . .

There is a lot of speculation as to the actual wife of John Watts. Some say she is the daughter of Chief Atakullakulla and some say she is the daughter of Chief Great Eagle. J. P. Brown, in his book “Old Frontiers”, says that John Watts married the sister of Chiefs Old Tassel, Doublehead, and Pumpkin Boy. Their other sister was Wurteh (mother of Sequoah). I have seen her name as: Xaiyantshee, Onitositah, Kay-i-o, GHI-GO-NE-II, etc. Research will continue. . ..


FROM "WHO WAS WHO AMONG THE SOUTHERN INDIANS, A GENEALOGICAL NOTEBOOK", 1698-1907 by Don Martini: Watts, John - Cherokee Chief, was born in 1753, the son of Trader John Watts. Also known as Kettiegesta, he was for many years a leading chief of the warlike Chickamauga faction of Cherokees that waged war on the American Frontier. He fought against John Sevier at Boyd's Creek in 1780. Two years later, he served as a guide for Sevier, but he led the General's troops from the Chickamauga towns. In May, 1792, he was described as a "bold, sensible, and friendly half breed" and as a "stout, bold and enterprising man". Despite all the compliments by the Americans, he continued to wage war on the frontier. He was severely wounded in a raid on Buchanan's Station, near Nashville, on September 30, 1792. While recuperating, he met with Governor William Blount of the Southwest Territory at Henry's Station, near Long Island on the Holston, in April, 1793. After his daughter was killed by whites on June 16, 1793, he again went on the warpath. In September, 1793, he, Doublehead, and James Vann led 1000 warriors toward Knoxville, only to abort the raid. He is said to have joined Chief Bowl and others in the attack on whites at Muscle Shoals in June, 1794. In November, 1794, following Major James Ore's successful invasion of the Chickamauga towns, Watts and other Cherokees sued for peace. In December 1796, he visited President Washington in Philadelphia, and in October, 1800, he met with Moravian missionaries at Spring Place. He signed the treaty of 1805. Once described as the greatest ballplayer in the Cherokee Nation, he died either on the Mississippi River about 1805 or at Willstown (AL), with burial there. He was a brother to Unacata and to a Cherokee killed at Boyd's Creek, and was the father of John Watts, Big Rattlinggourd, and perhaps Hard Mush (Gatunuali).
From page 353 of Old Frontiers, by J. P. Brown: “Chief John Watts was described by Governor Blount as “unquestionably the leading man in his Nation.” He possessed a talent for making friends, red and white. William Martin, son of General Joseph Martin, said of him, “He was one of the finest looking men I ever saw, large of stature, bold and magnanimous, a great friend of my father’s.” Major G. W. Sevier states: “He was a noble looking Indian, always considered a generous and honorable enemy,” and other pioneers paid high tribute to his “engaging personality.”
It is said that Chief John was married at least two or three times. I have seen several names that could be his wives but must research this further.



Note:  some online sources claim that Chief John Watts (b.1753) was actually a son of Old Tassel and therefore a claimant to the “throne” of Moytoy.  This

fanciful nonsense plagues the descendants of Chickamaugans.   This is based

on the fact that Chief Watts was called Young Tassel in 1775.






Watts among the Cherokees        


The Watts name disappears in the east after the Trail of Tears.  The descendents who remained (in Georgia or Alabama) simply blended into the general population. John Watts (b.1785) was placed in Cherokee prison when

he went west and was stripped of his tribal membership.  (Pardoned and restored

after his death.)  A few Watts appear on the western rolls.