Tuesday, June 18, 2019

John D. Chisholm, Doublehead, Cherokees

John D. Chisholm

In my new book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief, you can read about several people who had close ties to Doublehead. A portion of the text about Captain John D. Chisholm and Doublehead's relationship is found below. You can read the complete story of these two infamous men in the soon to be published book about Doublehead.

John D. Chisholm and Doublehead were friends for several years and probably first met in 1791 at the signing of the Treaty of Holston. Both of their names are on the treaty as members of the signing party ratifying the terms of the agreement between the Cherokees and United States. As an agent for the Cherokees under the direction of Governor William Blount, John D. Chisholm and Doublehead established a friendship that lasted until Doublehead’s death in 1807. Chisholm acted as Doublehead’s attorney in his business affairs and wrote numerous letters for Doublehead. Chisholm eventually helped him establish Doublehead's Company and Reserve that leased land to many white settlers along the Muscle Shoals.

John D. Chisholm was born in Scotland between 1737 and 1742 and migrated from Drum, Scotland to America in 1777. He was a large man with a fair complexion and had very red hair which is characteristic of Celtic people. He was married at least three times to the following women: Elizabeth Sims; Martha Holmes; and Patsy Brown, a Cherokee woman. John and his wives had several children.

John moved to General James White’s Fort (Knoxville) with Governor William Blount in 1790. He built Chisholm Tavern on the same block as the William Blount Mansion and completed it about 1792. He became involved in the Blount Conspiracy that plotted to conquer Florida from the Spanish and make a new colony. He asked his brother-in-law Colonel Richard Brown, a prominent Cherokee leader, to accompany him to England to defend himself in the conspiracy. Brown refused to go, but Chisholm got cleared by English authorities and returned to America. In the Spring of 1792, he worked for Governor Blount as an Indian agent and messenger to the Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray.

The crossing of the Tennessee River at Doublehead’s Town was known as Brown’s Ferry from the Cherokee Indian family of John Brown. Captain John D. Chisholm, who served as a legal advisor to Doublehead, married Patsy Brown, one of John Brown’s Cherokee daughters. Patsy was the sister of Colonel Richard Brown who fought with General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend during the Creek Indian War. John D. Chisholm and Patsy got a divorce in 1799 as follows:

His wife and seemed to be much attached. This deponent believes they lived together as man and wife and that he, John Chisholm, said he never would live with his wife Patsy Chisholm again and further did not.
M. Miller
Sworn before Joseph Greer, Justice of Peace, Knox County, Territory, October 4, 1799. After Patsy Chisholm obtained her divorce, she married William Brent.

James Chisholm, the Cherokee mixed-blood son of Patsy and John D. Chisholm, had several scrapes with the legal authorities who tried to remove him from Indian Territory. John D. Chisholm’s son Ignatius married the daughter of Old Tassel, Doublehead’s brother. Ignatius’s son, Jesse Chisholm, became important in history working with western tribes and for his namesake the Chisholm Trail.

After Doublehead’s death, John D. Chisholm continued to act as an advisor to Doublehead’s nephew Tahlonteskee Benge in Arkansas. He went west with the Cherokees in 1809 under the authority of President Thomas Jefferson. The Chickasaws wanted the United States Government, not only to remove all the white settlers and intruders on Doublehead’s Reserve, but also remove John D. Chisholm from their country.

Read more about John D. Chisholm including the letter from the Chickasaws asking for his removal. In addition, John D. Chisholm was the legal adviser to Doublehead in most of his business deals and treaties that were designed to benefit both. You can read all about it in the new book. Sign up for your copy today.

In the comments:

I have researched John D. Chisholm for many years, drop me a line at jdmahar@gmail.com. A note on the wives, most research on John's wives have been poorly done and documented. He was married first to Patience/Martha/Patsy Massengill, she was a white woman who born him a large family and is the woman who divorced him in 1799 after the Blount Conspiracy and when he found himself in debt, she remarried William Brent and died in Feliciana Parish, Louisiana in 1819, where under Napoleonic law he estate had to be divided amongst her living blood relations. This document provides us with a detailed account of her children by Chisholm; this odcument has been consistently overlooked. The marriage of two her chilren in MS provide us with her maiden name of Massengill. This makes a lot of sense as the Massengill men in Eastern Tennessee were key leaders in teh community and John's marriage to her explains his mysterious rise in prominence in that region. I also think he is the man who fought with the Massengills in the Revolution, though he states in a deposition that he arrived at the end of the Revolution, but the timeline he provides in his deposition makes it nearly impossible for the events in his life at that time. Back to his wives. His marriage to Patience/Patsy was probably his only formal marriage to a white woman. I know why some think Elizabeth Sims was a wife, but this is a mis-identification with no real basis. John Chisholm had several Cherokee wives, some perhaps at the same time. I suspect they were women all of one clan, but the family histories of this time period are not reliable and one can only guess. Narcissa Owens' dauther of John's son Chief Thomas Chisholm names one as Martha Holmes; none of the details provided by Narcissa can be documented, but one assumes she would have some idea of who her grandmother was. The Blount conspiracy documents identify that Dick Brown's sister was John's wife. There are lineage connections between the Beamers and the Browns. One assumes this account is correct, but there is no evidence of children from this union. John had another Cherokee son, George Chisholm who turnes up in Citizenship cases and some historians thinks his mother was Neecooie Thompson, her father being Jack Thompson and her mother Wailia Beamer. Again a Beamer connection. There was also a Peggy Chisholm found in Arkansas court cases who was a Cherokee and associated with either John or his son Ignatius. In all we can account for document John's white children by the Massengill woman. We can attribute Chief Thomas Chisholm and his half brother George as his Cherokee children, but no doubt there may have been more, especially women who are hidden from us by the male centric records.