John (Jr.) "Young Tassel" Watts, Principal Chief

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John (Jr.) "Young Tassel" Watts, Principal Chief's Geni Profile

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John (Jr.) "Young Tassel" Watts (Kettiegeska or Kunokeski), Principal Chief

Birthplace: Tuskegee on the Little Tennessee River, TN or VA
Death: Died in Fort Wayne, Alabama
Immediate Family:

Son of Trader John Watts and Kaiyantahee Watts
Husband of Mahallie "Mahallie Uskwali Gu Hanging Maw" Long and Kay-I-Oh Wurtagua
Father of Thomas 'Tom' Watts; Eli Watson; John "Joseph" Watts and Nancy Watts
Brother of Garrett Zachariah Watts
Half brother of Barsheba Gulledge; Whiteman Killer Watts; Garrett Zachariah Watts; First Name Last Name; Wurteh Watts and 3 others

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About John (Jr.) "Young Tassel" Watts, Principal Chief

John Watts, or Kunokeski, also known as Young Tassel, was one of the leaders of the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee during the Chickamauga wars, particularly after the murder of his uncle, Old Tassel, by marauding frontiersmen firing upon delegates at a peace conference in 1788. A mixed-blood son of a Scots-Irish trader named John Watts who resided in the Overhill Towns on the Little Tennessee River, who may have other wives (both white and Cherokee). Trader Watts was the official government interpreter until his death in 1770. The younger John Watts was only occasionally involved with the warriors of Dragging Canoe until that time, after which he moved first to Running Water and later to Willstown and eventually became Dragging Canoe's hand-picked successor. His mother was a sister of Old Tassel, Doublehead, and Pumpkin Boy. Under the Cherokee clan system, a maternal uncle-nephew link was more important than a father-son lineage (since clan identity was that of one's mother). It is very likely that a sister of young John Watts was Wurte Watts, the mother of the famous Sequoyah, who was a great-nephew of both Old Tassel and Doublehead. A brother of John Watts was known as Whiteman Killer Watts.



Compiled on March 28, 2002 by:

Ginny Mangum

Contact at

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. See his list of children (as gathered from the Internet) on the Descendant list.

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John (Jr.) "Young Tassel" Watts, Principal Chief's Timeline

Tuskegee on the Little Tennessee River, TN or VA
June 25, 1765
Age 15
Burke, North Carolina
Age 19
Age 22
VA or AL
Age 28
North Carolina, United States
Age 45
Age 58
Fort Wayne, Alabama
December 10, 1840
Age 58