Richard Ratliff, Sr.


A British Tory living in the Cherokee Nation in what is now Etowah County

For the next few weeks, The Vagabond will discuss some of the folks who settled in the area west and north of Attalla before the Cherokees were removed. This area was from around Highways 77 and 431 all the way up to Sand Valley Road and over to Reece City.

This area once occupied the site of an Indian village that was of considerable importance during the Creek War of 1813. Some says that Indian relics found in the vicinity are “Tsu-sanya-sah – Ruins-of-a-Great-City.” Nevertheless, this area has some of the most unknown events in American history.

Last week the Vagabond discussed Richard Ratliff, Sr., and his Cherokee Indian family that lived what is now the southwest corner of U.S. 431 and Hwy 77.

More historical documentations on Richard Ratliff were included in the autobiography of David Crockett:

“Crockett and his men crossed Raccoon Mountain and came to a settlement occupied by a family named Ratliff. This family was in a pivotal location. They were situated between two creeks that are known today as Ratliff’s or Line Creek and Clear Creek. They lived at the foot of Raccoon, or Sand Mountain, in Will’s Valley. Their home and accommodations were utilized by travelers for many years during and after the Creek War. 

Ratliff was a white trader and a farmer from Halifax District in North Carolina. He had previously lived at the settlement of Creek Path on the Tennessee Ri-ver. Benjamin Hawkins called him Richard Ratley. Ratliff’s wife was Indian, and Crockett said they were Creek, but [Andrew] Jackson later referred to the family as Cherokee. Their children included two sons, whom Crockett described as large, likely fellows. After the Creek War, the land where the Ratliffs lived was ceded to the United States.”

Andrew Jackson wrote to Hugh L. White regarding mistreatment of the Ratliff family:

“I have to request on the receipt of this you will cause old Ratcliff to be liberated, his property returned, and the offenders, arrested and punished… is it not cruel that the Whooping Boy, who fought bravely at Talishatchey and got wounded at the Battle of Talladega, should be plundered by the east Tennessee Troops, whilst confined with his wounds?”

White replies:

“When first at Fort Strother, Ratcliff was the subject of conversation. I then heard some person who I do not remember say [that] letters found at Catauley Town placed his character in a suspicious light. 

“Upon my return to Fort Armstrong, I repeated what I heard; and have no doubt, in Captain Morgan’s hearing….  the next morning, shortly after passing Ratcliff’s farm, I overtook three or four men from East Tennessee, who told me they had found out where Ratcliff and his Negroes were and that they were gong to take them. On my route I saw the old man and some of his negroes at John Ratcliff’s and the resident of his negroes some miles this side.Old Ratcliff told me that after he was taken, nothing belonging to the Indians was molested, by either the Capt. or his company.”

In a letter from Jackson to Captain Morgan: 

“He (Ratliff) belonged and was claimed as a member of a friendly tribe of Indians warring on our behalf with the hostile Creeks, consequently he is entitled to all the privileges and protection of any other member of that nation until convictive proof of his treason is produced.”

Ratliff’s continued to be a place to procure supplies, and in 1818 became one of the first U.S. Post Offices in present day Etowah County.

In 1828, William Potter at Creek Path reported to Jeremiah Evarts in Boston that he was employing Richard Ratcliffe at the Creek Path Mission. Richard Ratliff, Jr., was married to Charwahyooca, a daughter of Peggy Pathkiller and was included in 1833 as heirs in Peggy Pathkiller’s will.

Elbert L Watson summarized the situation of Turkeytown after the treaty of 1816. In 1835 there were 254 Cherokee represented with only 43 resident families. 

Fifty Indians were well acquainted with the Cherokee language but only 22 could read or speak English, and the majority was from families of white intermarriages. 

There were five slave-owners in James Lesley, Richard Ratliff Sr., Richard Ratliff, Jr., John Ratliff and George Campbell.

Richard Ratliff, Sr. died on Jan 20, 1829, in Turkeytown in Etowah County. He died in the area called Cross Town, believed to be today’s Murray Cross. His entire family went on to the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma where their descendants continue to live today.

Children of Richard Ratliff, Sr., and wife, a Native American Indian:

1. William Ratliff, born about 1778; wife: Nancy Carroll

2. Annie Ratliff, born about 1788; married John Coker, born about 1780.

3. Richard Ratliff, Jr., born about 1790; died 1852, Tahlequah District, Okla. He was the “Son in Law of Chief Pathkiller;” married Peggy Pathkiller, Jr.

4. Whooping Boy Ratliff, born about 1792; U-lo-na-s-di-s-gi; was an Indian warrior scout and soldier with Davy Crocket [in the] Creek Indian Wars; Whooping Boy was highly noted as being a fierce fighting warrior by Andrew Jackson.

5. Jenny Ratliff, born about 1800; died after 1837.

6. Peggy Ratliff, born about 1804; married Flute, born about 1800.

7. Elizabeth Ratliff, born about 1806.

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