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Margaret J George vs. Cherokee Nation

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  • Wa-de Wa-ki-gu ‘Watt’ Christie, Union Chief (1817 - 1902)
    Wade (Watt) Christie Born Aug 1817 in Cherokee Nation (East) Died 11 Feb 1902 at age 84 in Flint District, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, United States Son of Da-la-si-ni (Lacy Christie) and ...
  • Nancy Miller (1788 - aft.1852)
    The most concrete details of Nancy's life come from the 1850 Census in Dekalb, Missouri, when she was living with her daughter Margaret Jane : Her name is Nancy Miller, age 62. She was born in 1788 in ...
  • John Ross (c.1821 - d.)
    1/2 Cherokee, according to US gov't?
  • Green Poland (c.1799 - d.)
    Green Poland's 1888 deposition spells out few facts on his life: "Green Poland, a citizen of Sebastian County Arkansas, whose age is 89 years, and whose Post Office address is Fort Smith, Sebastian Cou...
  • George W Vann (aft.1812 - d.)
    The Cherokee Nation Freedmen Census card for George W. Vann details many facts about his life, including his age, the names of his wife and children, his current location and place of birth, and more. ...

This project collects the facts from the fifteen-year-long crusade (Court docket #314) pursued by Margaret J. George, in which she claims that her ancestor Andrew Miller was a Cherokee Indian by blood, who lived in the State of Tennessee among the Cherokee Nation. George and her family lived for years in Indian Territory through the 1890s, and some facts do align for her claim about her father. Yet after several appeals she was ultimately denied her application. Was it just a ruse, a desperate grab for government money in tough times? Can modern data analysis techniques provide any insights?


The work of the Dawes Commission was ultimately a failure for many reasons, but overreliance upon the Cherokee Rolls is surely one of them. The conclusion of the Commission in this case is just one example: "Upon consideration of the testimony offered by the claimants, I am of the opinion that Andrew Miller, the ancestor through whom these claimants trace their claim to Cherokee blood, was a Cherokee by blood, and I so find." Huh?

An exhaustive review of the genealogical material available today yields no reliable evidence to support this conclusion, aside from the testimony of John Hardcastle. While Andrew Miller did indeed live in Tennessee — if not "among the Cherokee Indians east of the Mississippi," then at least beside them — his parents (James Miller, Jr and Nancy Miller) were clearly the descendants of white settlers, not Native Americans. Some erroneously suggest that Andrew's wife was a Cherokee, the daughter of Chief Red Feather Brown Maghpiway Lenape. Most accounts place the life of Chief Brown nearly half a century earlier.

Finally, since they have not shown that the ancestors through whom they claim Indian blood have ever been enrolled as citizens of the Cherokee Nation since the removal of said Nation West, the Commission found, George was denied her claim by the Commission. Paperwork alone bested her, as it did so many others, regardless of whether she was actually a Cherokee.

And to be clear, she was not.

Meanwhile, this case is dogged by a well recognized issue with "standing witnesses," who took money and invented testimony so frequently that forms were created to highlight how unreliable they were. George relied upon several notorious such people -- Watt/Walter Christie, John Ross (not the former chief!) and the freedman George W. Vann -- further complicating the case.

Supporting Facts

  1. 1806: Many historians and genealogists connect Andrew Miller with Nancy Brown, the daughter of Chief Red Feather Brown Maghpiway Lenape of the Cherokee Nation. While an interesting idea, there is no actual evidence supporting this.
  2. May 24, 1818: The names Andrew and John Miller are included in the 1817 Cherokee Reservation Roll. The Andrew Miller entry notes "by right of wife." Location: Choqua, TN. Number in family: 8 But this is a different Andrew Miller, as the evidence clearly shows.
  3. 1834: The name John Miller can be found in a Cherokee Muster Roll "for Indians who emigrated West of the Mississippi," along with a wife and a family of 3 boys and 3 girls, all under 25. James Miller is also listed -- a male under 25. But the facts simply don’t line up.
  4. 1851: An Andrew Miller is listed in the "Drennen Roll" index of Cherokee Nation from 1852. The challenge of researching such a common name: there were Andrew Millers everywhere.
  5. Oct. 19, 1887 - April 9, 1888: In testimony before the county clerk in Benton, Arkansas, John Hardcastle said that he saw Andy Miller wear "Indian" garb and speak Cherokee. A few months later, he gave a deposition to the Commission on Citizenship. Hardcastle's story is confirmed by fact (see bio for details) and is very descriptive, unlike that of standing witnesses, which were often quite formulaic. But he was a family friend! What wouldn’t he say to help out?


Initial application to Cherokee Commission on Citizenship

After the Civil War, a large number of intruders, both black and white, settled illegally in Cherokee territory. The Cherokee government was overwhelmed and needed to establish a strategy to maintain identification of its citizenry. After the establishment of the Cherokee Supreme Court in 1869, the eventual development of a citizenship court and commission was completed ten years later. -- Indian Country Today, Dec. 18, 2011.

  • Oct. 1, 1884 - John Keith statement recorded, clerk's office, Sebastian County, Arkansas. A "John Keith" can be found in period newspapers, but this offers little insight into whether he was a standing witness. Regardless, his story offers little detail.
  • Aug 29, 1887 - initial petition filed
  • Oct. 19, 1887 - In testimony before the county clerk in Benton, Arkansas, John Hardcastle said that he saw Andy Miller wear "Indian" garb and speak Cherokee.
  • April 9, 1888 - Before the Commission on Citizenship, John Hardcastle gave a deposition. He should be believed, it is implied, because he was a relative of Isaac Miller's wife; his aunt was adamant that the Millers were Cherokee. Hardcastle's story is confirmed by fact. (see bio for details).
  • Sept. 28, 1888 - A statement is given by Green Poland, read aloud before the Commission. Poland (or possibly "Pallan") was likely one of the first so called "standing witnesses," offering only a smidge of data about the date the Millers moved west -- a date that seems accurate, it should be said.
  • May 14, 1889 - petition to Cherokee Commission on Citizenship is denied

Life in Indian Territory

Application and appeal to the Dawes Commision

In 1896 a Congressional law was passed that gave the Dawes Commission authority to oversee applications for tribal citizenship into the Five Civilized Tribes – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. Individuals applying for tribal citizenship included:Indians by blood, spouses of Indians, and Freedmen who were former members of the Five Civilized Tribes.


  • Jan. 7, 1891: A statement by Walter Christie is recorded, clerk's office, Flint District, Cherokee Nation. Christie was a notorious "standing witness," and his testimony must be discarded as likely fictional.
  • Jan. 7, 1891: A statement is recorded by John Ross, clerk's office, Flint District, Cherokee Nation. Ross was a notorious "standing witness," and his testimony must be discarded as likely fictional.
  • Aug. 6, 1892: G. W. Vann was a notorious "standing witness," and his testimony must be discarded as likely fictional. On this date, he recorded a statement in Crawford County, Arkansas. Vann
  • Oct. 29, 1891: A statement is recorded (yes, again) by Green Poland, Sebastian County, Arkansas. Again, Poland is most likely a "standing witness" and unreliable.


  • Sept. 8, 1896: Application to the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes
  • Oct. 23, 1896: Application Denied
  • Feb. 19, 1897: Robert George appealed to US court in Indian Territory, Northern District at Muscogee on behalf of Margaret, deceased.
  • Sept. 8, 1897: N.A. Gibson, special master to the court, concludes that Andrew Miller WAS Cherokee by blood, but because his name is not found in the Cherokee Census Rolls, the case is ultimately rejected and closed.

in June of 1898: Congress passes the Curtis Act, which weakened tribal government and forced the tribes to treat with the Dawes Commission. The 1896 enrollments were scrapped due to inaccurate data.


  1. Robert George, the husband of Margaret J George, deceased, and their children James T., Isaac C., John W., Julia M., Calvin M., Esther J., Ellen M., and Robert H. George and Sarah Cody and their numerous descendants.
  2. Sarah R. Turnham, daughter of Sarah A. Pauley, spouse of William Turnham
  3. Martha Jane Miller (daughter of Isaac Miller) & Moses Armstrong Lovelady tried a claim in the 1890s as well.
  4. Catherine E Boatright, the granddaughter of Isaac Newton Miller: Case Name: Rhoda A Foley vs Cherokee Nation. Case Number: 107



bulk files

  • Margaret George vs. Cherokee Nation 1: PDF
  • Margaret George vs. Cherokee Nation 2: PDF
  • Margaret George vs. Cherokee Nation 3: PDF

External References

The Henderson Rolls, 1835


  • 9/24: DONE Uploading individual documents and testimonials from case file.
  • 9/25: DONE Need to add / create profile for John Hardcastle -- data here
  • 9/26: 'DONE Need to add Green Poland -- is this him? Note race given as black, but that isn't mentioned in the deposition, a strange thing to overlook.
  • 9/27: Mary E. Wright, 1/8 Cherokee? -- daughter of Sarah Pauley?
  • 9/29: John Hardcastle profile created, and Census records corroborate some of the testimony. He did live in Cooper or Cole Missouri at the same time as the Millers and likely knew them. Still need to resolve "Aunt Betsy".
  • 9/30: working on GW Vann. Note: George Vann.
  • 10/1: GW Vann profile created, bio fleshed out. Apparently a freed slave of the Cherokee.a relatives may have been the second Cherokee Freedman councilman, perhaps explaining why his testimony was important here.
  • 10/5: Need to add Walter Christy and John Ross deposition, and dig up info on Christy, Ross, and "John Knitts" or whoever that is
  • 10/19: The Discovery of the Thoughts From Polly's Granddaughter blog sheds fresh light on this project. No wonder the Dawes Commission rejected the application! GW Vann, John Ross, and Watt Christie were wknown for lying on the witness stand. And Green Poland exactly fits the mold of such witnesses. Yet John Hardcastle's testimony is completely corroborated -- what now?