Sequoyah (George Gist)

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Sequoyah (George Gist)'s Geni Profile

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About Sequoyah (George Gist)

Sequoyah, or Se-quo-ya as written today, was also known as George Guess or Gist, the first of three generations with the George name. While GIST is the original spelling of the name, later generations most often used GUESS as the spelling. He had at least 5 wives/partners, as polygamy was a common practice for Cherokees of that era. He was called "Pigfoot" due to lameness, possibly from a birth defect, or from a later injury. Although he was possibly lame, he was also a Cherokee warrior, fighting at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1813. He is best known for developing a syllabary for the Cherokee language, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible.

Sequoyah George Gist was the son of Werteh Watts and Nathaniel Gist, a commissioned officer in the Continental army. Estimates of his birth year range from 1760 to 1776. His place of birth is given as either Tuskeegee, Tennessee or Great Tellico, Tennessee. His mother, a member of the Red Paint Clan of Cherokee, was the daughter of Oousta White Owl Carpenter and John Watts. His father was the son of Christopher Gist..

Cherokee Syllabary

At some point before 1809, Sequoyah moved to Willstown, in present-day northeast Alabama. There he established his trade as a silversmith. As a silversmith, Sequoyah dealt regularly with whites who had settled in the area. The Cherokee were impressed by their writing, referring to their correspondence as "talking leaves."

Cherokee oral tradition suggests that Sequoyah first became fascinated with the ability of whites to communicate by making marks on paper while recuperating from a hunting accident in 1809. During this period of contemplation and study, he became convinced that these "talking leaves," as they were called by many Native Americans, were the key to the power of whites and must become a critical component in the future progress and success of the Cherokees.

About this time, Sequoyah began work to create a system of writing for the Cherokee language. At first he sought to create a character for each word in the language. He spent a year on this effort, leaving his fields unplanted, so that his friends and neighbors thought he had lost his mind. His wife is said to have burned his initial work, believing it to be witchcraft.

Sequoyah did not succeed until he gave up trying to represent entire words and developed a symbol for each syllable in the language. After approximately a month, he had a system of 86 characters, some of which were Roman letters which he obtained from a spelling book. Unable to find adults willing to learn the syllabary, he taught it to his daughter, Ayokeh (also spelled Ayoka).

He traveled to the Indian Reserves in the Arkansaw Territory where some Cherokee had settled. When he tried to convince the local leaders of the syllabary's usefulness, they doubted him, believing that the symbols were merely ad hoc reminders. Sequoyah asked each to say a word, which he wrote down, and then called his daughter in to read the words back. This demonstration convinced the leaders to let him teach the syllabary to a few more people. This took several months, during which it was rumored that he might be using the students for sorcery. After completing the lessons, Sequoyah wrote a dictated letter to each student, and read a dictated response. This test convinced the western Cherokee that he had created a practical writing system.

When Sequoyah returned east, he brought a sealed envelope containing a written speech from one of the Arkansas Cherokee leaders. By reading this speech, he convinced the eastern Cherokee also to learn the system, after which it spread rapidly. In 1825 the Cherokee Nation officially adopted the writing system.

While this brilliant linguistic achievement was rapidly recognized throughout the western world, Samuel Austin Worcester (1798-1859), a missionary to the Cherokees from the Congregational Church, was instrumental in making the new Cherokee syllabary suitable for printing. Serving from 1825 to 1826 in the Brainerd Mission in Tennessee, Worcester was convinced that the use of native languages was a significant way to propagate the gospel. At his urging, a hand printing press and Cherokee syllabary characters in type were prepared in 1827 by the Missionary Board and shipped from Boston to Cherokee leaders in New Echota, Georgia. On February 21, 1828, the inaugural issue of the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, was printed in parallel columns in Cherokee and English. Using Sequoyah's syllabary, the Cherokee Nation and missionaries published newspapers, almanacs, government documents, religious tracts, hymn books, and the Christian Bible in this new written language. By 1843, the year of Sequoyah's death, more than four million pages of books, articles, and newspapers had been published in Cherokee..

After the Nation accepted his syllabary in 1825, Sequoyah walked to the Cherokee lands in the Arkansas Territory. There he set up a blacksmith shop and a salt works. He continued to teach the syllabary to anyone who wished to learn. In 1828, Sequoyah journeyed to Washington, D.C. as part of a delegation to negotiate a treaty for land in the planned Indian Territory. During his trip, he met representatives of other Native American tribes. Inspired by these meetings, he decided to create a syllabary for universal use among Native American tribes.

Sequoyah began to journey into areas of present-day Arizona and New Mexico, to meet with tribes there. He was in Oklahoma in 1829. The cabin where he lived has been preserved as a national monument. Sequoyah set off on a journey to Mexico, accompanied by his son Ti-Si or Teesey Gist, Standing Man Bowles, Martin Utana Tail Benge, Chief Bench Benge and other Cherokee, to locate Shawnee-Cherokee tribes living there. He died in August, 1843, near the village of San Fernando, believed to be near the border of Texas and Mexico.


Polygamy was a common practice among the Cherokee of this time. Sequoyah married several times and may have had liaisons with other women at the same time. having children with them all. In addition, his wives had relationships or marriages with other men, giving his own children many half-siblings. When determining the parenthood of Cherokee of this era, it is important to know both the father and the mother. To the best that I can sort out the relationships, I have listed Sequoyah's wives/partners and children below.

Sequoyah first married TSI-YO-SA about 1790. She was born about 1770. Their children were

  • TI-SI Gist, b. Abt. 1790; d. September 17, 1867.
  • George Gist, Jr. b. Abt. 1795.
  • Polly Gist, b. Abt. 1800.

He next married Lucy Campbell Abt. 1802, daughter of unk. Campbell and Elizabeth Watts. She was born about 1782, and died between 1818 - 1838. Their child was:

  • Richard Gist, b. Abt. 1802; d. Abt. 1837; m. Eliza Lee, Bef. 1837; b. 1809; d. Aft. 1837. He is listed In the 1836 Valuations of Cherokee Co, AL, #20. Eliza Lee was the sister of Edward Lee and the heir of Thomas Rising Fawn Lee. She appears in the Register of Payments for 1837.

Sequoyah married A-GA-DI-YA about 1820. She was the daughter of TSO-I-YU-KA. She was born about 1800, and died after 1851, when she appears on the Drennan roll: Skin Bayou, as a full-blood Cherokee. The children of Sequoyah and A-GA-DI-YA:

  • Rachel A-YU-QUI Guess, b. Abt. 1822; d. Bef. 1895. Also spelled Ayokeh or Ayoka, this is the daughter who was his first pupil in learning the syllabary.
  • Andrew Guess, b. Abt. 1824. He appears on the 1851 Old Settler roll: Skin Bayou, 8 (1896 page 145)

Sequoyah married Sallie Waters before 1832, daughter of unk. Waters and Daughter Wolf. She was born about 1790, and died Abt. 1862. Sallie appears in the following records:

  • 1842 Claims: Tahlequah, pg 147, estate of Woyeh-hutileh, as Sallie Guess "wife of George Guess"
  • 1851 Old Settler roll: Skin Bayou, 7 as Sarah Guess (1896 pg 145), Clan: Ani'-Tsi'skwa = Bird Clan (Sallie Waters)
  • RG15, BLW Files: May 08, 1860, BLW# # 92949 [widow of George Guess; witnesses: John Ross, John Drew & Archibald Campbell]
  • Starr's Notes: D573; Sallie of the Bird Clan

The children of Sequoyah and Sallie Waters:

  • Joseph Guess, b. 1832. Clan: Ani'-Tsi'skwa = Bird Clan (Sallie Waters)
  • Lucinda Guess. b. Abt. 1833; d. Bef. 1895; 1851 Old Settler roll: Skin Bayou, 7 (1896 page 145); Clan: Ani'-Tsi'skwa = Bird Clan (Sallie Waters)
  • Susie Guess, b. Abt. 1835; d. Bef. 1895. 1851 Old Settler roll: Skin Bayou, 7 (1896 page 145); Clan: Ani'-Tsi'skwa = Bird Clan (Sallie Waters)
  • Child Guess, b. Abt. 1837.; Clan: Ani'-Tsi'skwa = Bird Clan (Sallie Waters) and believed to be a child of Sequoyah.
  • Child Guess, b. 1838. Clan: Ani'-Tsi'skwa = Bird Clan (Sallie Waters) and believed to be a child of Sequoyah

Many researchers believe that there was an additional wife or partner at the same time as A-GA-DI-YA or between A-GA-DI-YA and Sallie Waters. She could have been the mother of these children.

  • U-LU-TSA Guess, b. Abt. 1826. Blood: 3/4 Cherokee
  • Patsy Guess, b. Abt. 1828, CNE; d. Abt. 1867.
  • Nerchatelaquah Nancy Guess (1827-1879), married Westley Dennis
  • Peter Guess (1828-1890), married Rachel Cunningham

Links to additional material:

This book gives a list of Sequoyah's extended family -- siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, children, etc.

Sequoyah George Gist Guess (b. 1770, d. 1843)

Sequoyah George Gist Guess (son of Nathaniel Gist and Wurteh Paint Clan) was born 1770 in Fort Loudon, Tuskegee TN, and died 1843 in Mexico now Tyler, Texas. He married (1) Sarah Benge. He married (2) Utiyu Langley on 1805 in TN. He married (3) Sallie Waters on 1815 in TN.

Notes for Sequoyah George Gist Guess:

  • Father, Nathaniel Gist left family when he was very small, probably in 1776 or 1777
  • Soldiers set fire to Taskigi and he moved to Willstown, Alabama later to be known as Ft Payne
  • Around 1790, Sequoyah and his mother opened a trading post and sold knives beads fabric and other goods. After his mother died in 1800, he ran the store. He taught himself to make jewelry by melting down silver coins and shaping them into necklaces and earrings. He met Utiyu in 1805 and married and they started a family. He taught himself a new skill of blacksmithing.
  • 1809 he began work on the syllabary.
  • In 1812 he fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He fought for the United States. He went back to his blacksmith work and finally put all his time in the Cherokee alphabet. Many people thought he had gone crazy because he spend long hours alone with his work. His wife Utiyu did not understand his passion for creating the written language and they got a divorce. He later met and married Sally Waters.
  • 1821 He completed his syllabary
  • In the 1820's he and daughter, Ahyoyah traveled and taught the new syllabary.
  • In 1828 the cherokee nation signed a treaty with the United States. The government promised money and supplies if they would move to present-day Arkansas. The treaty also promised that they would never have to move again. But they did, in 1823 they were forced to move even further into Oklahoma and this was called the Trail of Tears.
  • In 1842 he was about 7o years old and decided to travel to Mexico to find other cherokees living there and he went there with his son and some other men. Within a year he had left Mexico and died near a small Mexican village.

More About Sequoyah George Gist Guess:

  • Date born 2: 1776, Tuskeegee, TN, USA.11
  • Died 2: 1843, Tyler, TX, USA.11

More About Sequoyah George Gist Guess and Utiyu Langley: Marriage: 1805, TN.

More About Sequoyah George Gist Guess and Sallie Waters: Marriage: 1815, TN.

Children of Sequoyah George Gist Guess and Sarah Benge are:

  • Rachel Guess, b. 1830, Cherokee Nation East, d. date unknown.

Children of Sequoyah George Gist Guess and Utiyu Langley are:

  • Polly Guess, b. 1790, Cherokee Nation East TN11, d. date unknown.
  • Richard Guess, b. 1792, Cherokee Nation East TN11, d. date unknown.
  • George Guess, b. 1788, Cherokee Nation East TN11, d. date unknown.
  • Teesey Guess, b. 1789, TX, d. 17 Sep 1867.
  • Ahyokah Guess, b. 1805, Cherokee Nation East TN, d. date unknown.

Children of Sequoyah George Gist Guess and Sallie Waters are:

  • E Ya Gu Guess, b. 1830, Tennessee11, d. date unknown.
  • Gu U Ne Ki Guess, b. 1834, Tennessee11, d. date unknown.
  • Ooo loo tsa Guess, b. 1832, Cherokee Nation East TN, d. date unknown.
  • Teesey Guess, b. 1789, TX, d. 17 Sep 1867.

George was the son of Wut-Teh, the daughter of a Cherokee Chief and Nathaniel Gist/Guess, a Virginia Fur Trader He was born in Tennessee but left as a youth and removed to Georgia. There he worked as a silversmith. Sequoyah did not sign his works since he did not know how to write. He began to study how to spell his name, and in 1809 he began working on a Cherokee writing system.

At Willstown, Alabama, he enlisted in the Cherokee Regiment, fighting in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, which effectively ended the war against the Creek Redsticks. During the war, he became convinced of the necessity of literacy for his people. He and other Cherokees were unable to write letters home, read military orders, or record events as they occurred. After the war, he developed a phonetic system, where each sound made in speech was represented by a symbol. He created the "Talking Leaves", 86 letters that make up the Cherokee syllabary. In 1821 the Cherokee Nation adopted Sequoyah's alphabet, and thousands of Cherokee became literate. In 1824 the National Council at New Echota struck a silver medal in his honor. Later, publication began on the first Native American newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix in the same town.

H.A. Scomp, member of Emory College faculty, declared that '...perhaps the most remarkable man who has ever lived on Georgia soil was neither a politician, nor a soldier, nor an ecclesiastic, nor a scholar, but merely a Cherokee Indian of mixed blood. And strange to say, this Indian acquired permanent fame, neither expecting or seeking it.'

Sometime between 1843 and 1845, George died during a trip to San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico, when he was seeking Cherokee who migrated there at the time of Indian Removal. His resting place is believed to be in Zaragoza near the Mexico-Texas border.

The following document gives the most circumstantial account of the death of Sequoyah:[6]

Warren's Trading House, Red River, April 21st, 1845.

"We, the undersigned Cherokees, direct from the Spanish Dominions, do hereby certify that George Guess of the Cherokee Nation, Arkansas, departed this life in the town of San-fernando in the :month of August, 1843, and his son Chusaleta is at this time on the Brasos River, Texas, about thirty miles above the falls, and he intends returning home this fall.:Given under our hands the day and date written."



WATCH X (his mark) JUSTICE

WITNESSES Daniel G. Watson Jesse Chisholm."

In 1938, an expedition of scholars set out to find Sequoyah's grave in Mexico. They were unable to conclusively determine the grave site. A possible burial site is also noted in Coahuila, Mexico, where pilgrimages are held in honor of his legacy.

In 2011, the Muskogee Phoenix published an article relating a discovery in 1903 of a gravesite in the Wichita Mountains that they believed was Sequoyah's. The site was in a cave and contained a human skeleton with one leg shorter than the other, a long-stemmed pipe, two silver medals, a flintlock rifle and an ax. However, the site was far north of the Mexican border.


David Lyle wrote on 3/31/2016:

Annie Belle Dick was one of the last descendants of Sequoyah (George "Gist" Guess) until her children. One of her Children to leave a direct living descendant is Sallie Ann Dick Groundhog.

Sallie was born December 7, 1912 in Briggs, Oklahoma to Annie Belle Dirteater and George Dick. Sallie Ann Dick Groundhog was laid to rest on May 17, 1980 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Sallie Ann Dick was later to be one of the last remaining descendants of Sequoyah (George "Gist" Guess) the creator of the Cherokee Syllabary survived now only by her granddaughter GI-Dee-Thlo-Ah-Ee "Ogan" Groundhog better known as Lisa Christine Christiansen.

Sequoyah's great granddaughter Mary Guess (Gist) is Sallie's great, great grandmother. Mary married Charley Dirteater. Their children are Willie (Gist) Guess; Belle Dirteater; Jim Wolfe; Henry Dirteater; Dick and Stan Dirteater. Maggie Sourjohn and Mrs. Sam Shadoin. Their daughter Belle, Cherokee Roll 18,498, field card 7886 on Cherokee Card 9093 shows she married George Dick on November 3, 1906. On that same day she became a citizen of the United States of America.

Sallie's Granddaughter (Daughter of her daughter predeceased is Mary Ann Groundhog Eslinger) Lisa Christine Christiansen. Her great grandparent's records are:

Application Census card Roll# Name

  • 16964 9093 9685 George Dick CRN 20850
  • 17188 7886 9686 Belle Dirteater 18498
  • 10389 9919 12741 Joseph L. Groundhog 26091
  • 14697 10244 12742 Nannie Gritts 29265 Belle Dirteater Dick Sally Dick Groundhog Mary Ann Groundhog Eslinger Mary Ann Groundhog was born Sosti Groundhog to Sallie Ann Dick and WWII Code talker George Washington Groundhog. Mary Ann Groundhog is the pioneer group of AIM (American Indian Movement). Lisa Christine Christiansen is the daughter of Mary Ann Groundhog. Mary Ann Groundhog is the great great granddaughter of Sequoyah (the creator of the Cherokee alphabet). Mary Ann Groundhog wrote GI-Dee-Thlo-Ah-Ee Of The Blue People Clan for her daughter Lisa Christine Christiansen's 1974 Christmas present. Lisa Christiansen's first language is Cherokee, Lisa is the only known living direct descendant of Sequoyah that is fluent in both Cherokee and English. and the first in her family to ever be born with a birth certificate. Christiansen's first job was at the age of 2 years old when she worked at the TSA-LA-GI Indian Village making mud pies for the tourists. She did this for two years, later returning to the village to work for the Cherokee Heritage Center (better known as the TSA-LA-GI Indian Village) at the age of 13 for another 2 years to help pay the bills. Lisa is an Oscar-winning strategist that has been in movies such as Can’t Buy Me Love with Patrick Dempsey.


David Lyle

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Sequoyah (George Gist)'s Timeline

Tuskeegee, Monroe, Tennessee
April 14, 1780
Age 22
Wilkes, NC, USA
Age 30
Cherokee, Washington County, Tennessee, United States
Age 31
Texas, United States
Age 34
Cherokee, Washington County, Tennessee, United States
Age 42
Cherokee, Washington County, Tennessee, United States