Principal Chief Lewis Downing
(Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons - public domain photo)
This is the third in a series of blog posts offering brief information on every constitutionally-elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation since 1828.
It is said that Lewis Downing was born sometime in 1823, in eastern Tennessee. He attended the Valley Town Mission school in North Carolina. He seemed to demonstrate evidence of being a spiritual person from a young age. At age 15, Downing, along with his family of origin, traveled the Trail of Tears in the attachment conducted by The Rev. Jesse Bushyhead. He is listed on the Drennen Roll of 1852, the census of new arrivals to Indian Territory from the East.
Downing was ordained a Baptist minister in the new territory. The people of First Baptist Church in Adair County chose him as pastor following Rev. Bushyhead’s death. In 1845, he was elected as a Cherokee senator. He also served as a Cherokee tribal delegate to Washington, D.C. During the Civil War, Downing served as a chaplain to the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles regiment. On 1 August 1866, Downing was serving as Assistant Principal Chief when Chief John Ross died. He served by convention until October of that year. The council then appointed William P. Ross to fill the position until the next election. On 5 August 1867, Downing was elected Principal Chief and was re-elected in 1871.
Lewis Downing died of pneumonia on 9 November 1872. He is buried in the Ned Adair cemetery in Mayes County, Oklahoma.
***Bryan D. Jackson’s new release, Chattahoochee Rain (ages 12 and up), is available for purchase for the holidays. It is a historical fiction account that paints a portrait of events during the months leading up to the Treaty of New Echota and features some of Bryan’s direct ancestors.
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"YOH-nuh" (yonv) means "bear" in Cherokee. Thanks for visiting!