Rev. Jesse Bushyhead

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Jesse Bushyhead (Stuart)

Birthdate: (39)
Birthplace: Old Cherokee Nation, Tennessee, United States
Death: Died in Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, United States
Place of Burial: Westville, Adair County, Oklahoma, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Bushyhead Stuart and Nancy Gourd Bushyhead
Husband of Eliza Bushyhead
Father of Dennis Wolfe Bushyhead, I, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation; Charlotte Mayes; Eliza Missouri Alberty (Bushyhead); Ned Bushyhead, Chief of Police, San Diego, California; Daniel Bushyhead and 2 others
Brother of Isaac Bushyhead; George Bushyhead; Nancy Hildebrand; Charles Bird Bushyhead; Jacob Bushyhead and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
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About Rev. Jesse Bushyhead

Perhaps no character in all Cherokee history was more revered and respected by his people than was Jesse Bushyhead, who was born in southeastern Tennessee in September 1804. The family home was situated some three miles north of the present town of Cleveland, Tennessee and it was from there that the young Baptist minister inaugurated and carried on his years of faithful service to the welfare of his people. In 1837, Rev. Jesse Bushyhead was dispatched with a commission, by Chief John Ross to contact the Seminoles in Florida in an effort to compose their differences with the United States Government and on November 10th of that year he met a delegation of the Seminoles at St. Augustine. He was a strong adherent of the Ross faction and while he vigorously opposed the en masse removal policy of the Cherokees, by the Government, he accepted the inevitable uncomplainingly and headed a party of approximately one thousand Cherokees in their trek to the West. With his group, he departed from the East on October 9, 1838, arriving at their destination, near where is now situated the town of Westville in Adair County, on February 23, 1839. He immediately established the Baptist Mission and resumed his labor for the spiritual welfare of his people. He became chief justice of the Cherokee Nation upon the death of John Martin in 1840 and held this position until his death, which occurred on July 17, 1844, at the old Baptist Mission north of Westville where he lies buried. Rev. Bushyhead was married twice, his second wife being Eliza Wilkinson of the "Wolf Clan" of the Cherokee Nation.

Rev. Jesse Bushyhead was a man of lofty attainments and unflinching courage. He used both the Cherokee and English with fluency and was engaged with Rev. Evan Jones, the Baptist missionary, in Bible translations. Untiring were his efforts for the spiritual welfare of his people, but in so doing he, by no means, overlooked their temporal necessities. He was rated the best interpreter among the Cherokees and was ever a cogent supporter and adviser of John Ross, the celebrated Chieftain of the Cherokees during the oppressive removal years in the East as well as during the initial years of rehabilitation in the West. He gathered a contingent of his people under his leadership and led them to the old Territory but with no thought of retribution in his patient soul. No people may long survive for any considerable time without faith and with faith gone, superstitution comes. Through the years of the heavy toll upon the Cherokees, Jesse Bushyhead held the faith and imbued the distressed hearts of his people with an abiding conviction of Divine mercy. The high confidence which he enjoyed among these folk enabled him to regiment their stricken hearts within the shadow of the cross. It was leadership of the character of Jesse Bushyhead that lifted the American Indian from savagery to civilization. He stands in the foremost ranks of capable, unselfish and worthwhile leadership among the Cherokees.

3 For extended sketch of Rev. Jesse Bushyhead and picture, see "Aunt Eliza of Tahlequah," by Caroline Thomas Foreman, Chronicles Vol. IX, pp. 43 et seq.; also "Oklahoma, a History," by Thoburn and Wright, Vol. I, p. 210.


The Reverend Jesse Bushyhead (1804–1844) was a Cherokee religious and political leader. He was born in southeastern Tennessee. As a young man, he was ordained a Baptist minister. A member of the John Ross faction of the Cherokees, he was dispatched by Ross in 1837 on a mission to the Seminoles. Although he opposed the policy of removal to the west, he accepted the inevitable and led a party of about 1,000 people on the Trail of Tears.

On his arrival in 1839 near present-day Westville, Oklahoma, he established the Baptist Mission, which marked the end of the Trail of Tears. He became chief justice of the Cherokee nation in 1840 and remained in that office until his death in 1844.

Rev. Jesse Bushyhead Grave

Jesse Bushyhead's grave at the Baptist Mission Cemetery is marked by a 15-foot-tall (4.6 m) marble monument. His grave is the only surviving property associated with his life, and as such is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Rev. Jesse Bushyhead's Timeline

September 1804
Old Cherokee Nation, Tennessee, United States
Age 17
March 18, 1826
Age 21
Old Cherokee Nation, Alabama, United States
April 10, 1828
Age 23
Old Cherokee Nation
March 16, 1830
Age 25
Old Cherokee Nation
March 2, 1832
Age 27
Cleveland, TN
January 3, 1839
Age 34
United States
July 14, 1843
Age 38
Cherokee Nation, IT
July 17, 1844
Age 39
Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, United States