Elias Cornelius Boudinot

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Elias Cornelius Boudinot

Also Known As: "E.C. Boudinot"
Birthplace: New Echota, Calhoun County, Georgia, United States
Death: Died in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, United States
Cause of death: Died unexpectedly of dysentery.
Place of Burial: Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Elias Boudinot and Harriet Ruggles Boudinot (Gold)
Husband of Clara Corinth Boudinot (Minear)
Brother of Eleanor Susan Church; Mary Harriette Case; William Penn Boudinot; Sarah Parkhill Boudinot and Frank Brinsmade Boudinot

Occupation: Lawyer, politician
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Elias Cornelius Boudinot

From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture:


Elias Cornelius Boudinot (1835–1890)

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was a mixed-lineage Cherokee lawyer, newspaper editor, and lobbyist. He was active in civic life and Democratic Party politics in Arkansas during the Civil War era, serving in the Confederate Cherokee forces and the Confederate Congress during the conflict. In the following years, he maintained close connections with leading Democratic politicians in Arkansas while engaging in legal, economic, and political activities.

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on August 1, 1835, in New Echota, Georgia, to Elias Boudinot, who was Cherokee, and his white wife, Harriet Gold. He was one of six siblings. After the assassination of his father in 1839 in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the Gold family raised the Boudinot children in the East.

Boudinot returned to Indian Territory and began studying law in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1853. In 1859, Boudinot was elected to the city council and, with James Pettigrew, started the Arkansian in Fayetteville. A supporter of U.S. Senator Robert W. Johnson, Boudinot became chairman of the Arkansas State Democratic Central Committee, and when Congressman Thomas C. Hindman challenged the Johnson faction, Boudinot defended Johnson and became an editor for the True Democrat of Little Rock (Pulaski County).

In 1861, David Walker of Fayetteville was elected chairman of the Secession Convention, and Boudinot became secretary. When Arkansas entered the Confederacy, Boudinot helped Stand Watie, his uncle, enlist Confederate Cherokee troops and assisted Albert Pike in making a Confederate treaty with the Cherokee.

Rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Boudinot fought in the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas and the Battle of Locust Grove in Indian Territory. When Cherokee principal chief John Ross deserted the Confederacy and Watie became the principal chief of the Southern Cherokee, Boudinot became the Cherokee delegate to the Confederate Congress. He again served on the battlefield as a volunteer aide-de-camp for his old political foe, Major General Hindman, at the Battle of Prairie Grove.

Boudinot engaged in treaty negotiations for the Southern Cherokee after the war. Although he failed to achieve his aims, under a reunited tribal government, he became a member of the Cherokee delegation in Washington DC. He left the delegation in 1868, just before being named a delegate from Arkansas at the National Democratic Convention.

Boudinot was undertaking legal work and seeking business ventures when, in 1869, the tobacco factory belonging to Watie and himself was confiscated for failure to pay federal excise taxes. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against their appeal even though the Cherokee Treaty of 1868 supported their actions, and, in response, Boudinot began to call for Indians to be made citizens of the United States and protected by the Constitution.

Over the next two decades, Boudinot promoted his views on Indian policy, notably in testimony before congressional committees, while still practicing law, delivering lectures, and lobbying for railroads. He stayed controversially active in Cherokee politics. In fact, his letter to the Chicago Times in 1879 about unclaimed land in Indian Territory inspired the Boomer Movement—the influx of white settlers into Indian Territory.

Often lacking funds, however, Boudinot turned to his friends, including Congressman Thomas Montague Gunter from Arkansas, who hired Boudinot as his private secretary in 1874. Boudinot also received some paid committee clerkships. When Gunter left the Congress, Boudinot became the secretary to U.S. Senator James David Walker of Arkansas. In 1885, Boudinot sought to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He failed despite support from Arkansas politicians and others in the West.

In 1885, Boudinot married Clara Minear; they had no children. They moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County), where he practiced law. In addition, he maintained a ranch in the Cherokee Nation.

Boudinot died unexpectedly from dysentery on September 27, 1890. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fort Smith.

For additional information:

  • Adams, John D. Elias Cornelius Boudinot: In Memoriam. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1890.
  • Colbert, Thomas Burnell. “Prophet of Progress: The Life and Times of Elias Cornelius Boudinot.” PhD diss., Oklahoma State University, 1982.
  • ———. “Visionary or Rogue: The Life and Legacy of Elias Cornelius Boudinot.” Chronicles of Oklahoma 65 (Fall 1987): 268–281.
  • Parins, James W. Elias Cornelius Boudinot: A Life on the Cherokee Border. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

Thomas Burnell Colbert

  • Marshalltown Community College
  • Last Updated 8/7/2012


From The Galveston Daily News of Sept. 29, 1890

Summary of To-Day's News (seventh item/paragraph):

Colonel Elias Cornellus Boudinot, a talented Cherokee lawyer and statesman, died in Fort Smith, Ark., yesterday.


From the Muskogee (Indian Territory) Phoenix, of Thursday, Oct. 2, 1890

Col. E. C. Boudinot dead

The Cherokee lawyer, E. C. Boudinot, died at his home in Fort Smith at 9 o'clock Saturday morning last, aged 55 years. Some two weeks prior to his death, Col. Boudinot went to St. Louis on business connected with his law firm. While in the city his law firm. While in the city, he was sick with dysentery and was confined for several days to his room at the hotel. He finally grew well enough to be taken home, but upon his arrival there he gradually became worse until death relieved him of his sufferings. He was, during his last sickness, surrounded by his wife and friends and everything possible was done for his welfare.

The following biographical sketch of the distinguished Cherokee is excerpted from the columns of the Fort Smith Times:


Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on the first day of August, 1835, near Rome, Georgia, the same year in which a treaty with the United States removed the Indians to their present location. The family of Col. Boudinot has numbered among its members many of the most distinguished chiefs and warriors of the Cherokee Nation. His father, Elias Boudinot, was educated at Cornwall, Connecticut, and married there a daughter of Benjamin Gold, well-known and respected throughout that state. He went to Cornwall, bearing the Indian name of Kille-kee-nah, but through a fancy for a prominent citizen of Cornwall, Elias Boudinot, the young Cherokee adopted the name as his own, and transmitted it, with the addition of Cornelius, to the subject of this sketch.

Soon after the treaty the Indians left Georgia and came west. Young Boudinot was an infant at the breast. In 1839 his father was assassinated by the Ross party, a rival faction of the Cherokees, when Stand Watie, the uncle of young Boudinot, sent him to Manchester, Vermont, where he acquired a good English education. He returned to the Territory in 1853, since which time he has been a prominent figure in Indian politics.

He joined the confederacy during the late war, was soon advanced to the command of a regiment of Cherokees and Arkansas, which himself and friends recruited for the confederate service. After a year of highly meritorious service he was delegated by the Cherokee Nation to represent them in the Confederate Congress. From the close of the war to his death, Col. Boudinot was an untiring, and inspiring worker for social, intellectual, and material advancement of the Cherokee Nation, and as their advocate at Washington, in the courts, before the Indian commissions, was distinguished for his liberal and progressive views and policy.

He was a man of strong, positive character, fine temperament, generous culture, warm heart, rich experience, liberal knowledge of books, men, and events, and withal had the chivalrous nature of the cavalier, and the easy graces of the born gentleman. Col. Boudinot had the fervor, magnetism, analytical sense, and linguistic grace and power of the strong, convincing, and successful advocate; was personally popular in the Southwest and at Washington, and was one of the most pertaining and companionable gentlemen in the country.

The feuds between the elder Boudinot and John Ross, each of whom had a large following, and which resulted in the death of the elder Boudinot were transmitted to the present generation, and for a great many years Col. Boudinot was forced to leave them for safety. Twenty years ago he boldly espoused the ideas of lands in severalty for the Indians. That was the act that forced him to flee. The past few years was a happy change and the best of his people saw and confessed the extent of the injustice they had done him.

During his many years at Washington he formed acquaintances and warm friendships with men of national repute. Senator Voorhees, General Pike, ex-Attorney General Garland, were warm friends of Col. Boudinot.

Col. Boudinot never married til late in life. While in Washington, he met Miss Clara Minbees, a leady of excellent family and varied accomplishments. They were married and lived happily together til death parted them by the removal of the husband. No children were born to them.

In the language of Col. Campbell LaFlore, "Col. Boudinot drifted through life on the bare edge of prosperity, always in sight of it but always just out of reach of it." Besides his library, which is not worth a great deal in money, he leaves little but a farm on the Arkansas River about seven miles above Fort Smith, worth probably $25,000.


From the Elkhart (Indiana) Weekly Truth of Thursday, Oct. 2, 1890

Colonel Boudinot: The famous Cherokee statesman passes away at his home in Fort Smith, Ark.

Fort Smith, Ark., Sept. 29 - Saturday morning Col. Elias Cornelius Boudinot, the lawyer, statesman, and orator, breathed his last after an illness of about 18 days. He was buried Sunday with Masonic ceremonies.

(Col. Boudinot was a quarter-blood Cherokee Indian. He was born in New Echola, Georgia. His Indian ancestors were distinguished among the Cherokees and were noted for their prowess in war, and their eloquence and sagacity in the councils of their country. In 1861 he was secretary of the convention which took Arkansas out of the Union. At the adjournment of this convention he went to the Cherokee nation and raised a regiment of Cherokees for the Confederate army. He was elected Major of this regiment and afterward became Lieutenant-Colonel. Colonel Boudinot became a member of the Confederate Congress, in which capacity he served until the war closed. Shortly after the war he became involved in a dispute with the Federal Government, which dispute was finally settled by an Act of Congress in 1871. In a speech in the Cherokee nation, he put forth the idea that the Indians should drop their tribal customs and become citizens of the United States. For this he was forced to flee the United States. For this, he was forced to flee from the Indian Territory to save his life, but latterly the Indians of the Territory had become reconciled to his doctrines and satisfied he was their best friend.)

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Elias Cornelius Boudinot's Timeline

August 1, 1835
New Echota, Calhoun County, Georgia, United States
April 16, 1885
Age 49
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
September 27, 1890
Age 55
Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, United States
Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, United States