How Jerry Jones first became interested in genealogy and history – Part VI


Through the years many people have asked The Vagabond about how the late Jerry Jones, a former Etowah County Tax Assessor, first became interested in genealogy and history. Jerry’s ancestor Edmond Jones had survived an Indian massacre in what is now Rainbow City, Ala., and Jerry was trying to find out what Indian was involved and why. We continue the story from the other week… 

John Gunter was a former Chickasaw trader on the Coosa Rider before moving to the Big Bend of the Tennessee River, which became Gunter Valley and where the town of Guntersville was established and named for him.

At the time of this report, Edmond Jones would have been about 20 years old. Jerry’s contention is that this is the Edmond Jones who was rescued by John Gunter at the site of Old Harmony Cemetery in 1784 and was still living with Gunter in 1797 on the Tennessee River.

While the Browns and Gunter had left the area of the Coosa River for the Tennessee River and es-tablished themselves as Cherokees since they had married Cherokee women, there were still many of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and upper Creek Indians and their mixed descendants living on both sides of the Coosa. One village was located on Big Wills Creek, near the mouth of said creek and the Coosa River.

Will I. Martin wrote, “There was quite a large Indian Village centering on the red hill overlooking the home of Thomas Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert married a Cunningham (Rutha), who was a loyal and helpful wife, aiding her husband in his leadership. She is buried on the Red Hill overlooking the Country Club from the West.”

Members of the Gilbert family related this story to Jerry, and said that it had been passed down through their family.

By her own wish, Rutha Cunningham Gilbert’s desire was to be buried on the high red hill, with the Old Chief (Chinnubby). The old colonial house was located on one of the southern greens of the Gadsden Country Club. A porch encircled the house.

In her late years, Mrs. Gilbert could sit on the porch and see the tall red hill in the distance. She told her family that when she died she would like to be buried with the Old Chief on the red hill. At her death the family honored her wish.

The only chief, in this area referred to as the Old Chief was Chinnebbee of the Natchez tribe, and a blood brother of the Creek. In the I816 Treaty with the Chickasaw, he was the first to sign this document and is listed as Chinnubby, King of the Chickasaws.

The location of these graves are now gone. When that area was subdivided for housing, a large home was built on the site.

Pierce and Frank Gilbert, who were cousins of Jerry’s grandfather, took him to the site in the late l940’s and showed him the grave of their grandmother.

Early maps of this area show an Indian village, but no name was given. At one time, Jerry was permitted to look at the papers inside of Thomas Gilbert’s truck. He was a Justice of the Peace for both St. Clair and later Etowah counties, and all of his papers were neatly arranged.

Jerry found many cases of property disputes and family problems and all of the correspondence of Harmony Baptist Church, of which he and his brother Lemuel Gilbert were the church clerks for more than 50 years.

One item was a church letter from Boiling Springs Baptist Church, Spartanburg, South Carolina, issued to John and Jerusha Davis Burnett in I835. Later that year they presented it to Harmony Church for membership.

Also included in the trunk of the vehicle was a bundle of papers labeled, “Indian Disputes.” Jerry never looked inside these papers. This truck was in the possession of Mrs. Edna Yeats Gilbert, and she told Jerry he could return and look further into these prized possessions. 

However, when Jerry called her about returning, she told him that her daughter from Georgia came and carried the truck home with her.

On further inquiry, Jerry has never been able to locate the truck nor any of the papers.

More on Chinnubby’s Natchez and Chickasaws

In the early 1700’s, Eng-land and France were seriously jockeying with Native Americans for land possession and leadership in the New World. France understood the importance of the rivers that emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, and in 1710 founded Mobile. Eight years later, the French established New Orleans. In 1716, France instructed Bienville (Jean Baptiste LeMoyne) “to bring the Natchez Indians on the Mississippi River into submission to the crown.”

France ultimately gained possession of the Natchez lands, and the Natchez Indians were totally displaced. The majority who survived the final conflict over their land were enslaved and shipped to the West Indies. Remnants who escaped managed to reach the unstable safety of friendly neighbors, such as the Chickasaw, who lived north of them.

The Choctaw, whose lands lay between the Natchez and the Chickasaw, allied themselves with the French whenever it was the convenient thing to do. 

In 1736, the Choctaw were willing participants with Bienville in an attack on the Chickasaw Nation.

The battle was a disastrous defeat for the French. 

The Chickasaw warriors were joined by a band of Natchez who had escaped the earlier massacre of their people, and this combination produced an insurmountable foe. 

Bienville retreated and reorganized for another expedition. It met the same fate as the first encounter.

The years following 1736 were filled with change and upheaval for the Indians, as settlers began pouring into their nation. The Allegheny Mountains were a natural barrier, and Britain issued a proclamation making settlement illegal west of the Appalachian Chain. Nevertheless, English, Irish, and Scottish emigrants ignored the proclamation and merged inland from the eastern coast, while Spanish and French affiliates pushed from the south and north.

The beleaguered Southeastem Indian tribes were caught in a vice of white flesh. English traders from Charles Town had begun supplying the Chickasaw with Euro/Indian necessities in the late 1600’s.

Though fierce warriors, the Chickasaw were not always victorious. Before the Natchez lost their homeland in 1723, the Choctaw invaded Chickasaw country. The spoils included 400 scalps and 100 prisoners.

The Chickasaw Nation was “near 900 miles” from Charles Town. Because of that great distance, Chickasaw warriors lived on the northern portion of the Coosa River between their nation and their trading center. They were there to escort English traders through the sometimes-hostile Creek and Cherokee lands.

Chickasaw-Natchez settlements gradually became a part of the area around the Coosa and below the Tennessee River. The Chickasaw Nation was located west-northwest from the Abekas. Early maps placed the Abekas on the east side of the Coosa River, near present-day Ohatchee in Calhoun County, Ala.

Chinnubby’s village was called Natchez Village and located around where Rainbow Drive intersects with Whorton Bend Road.

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