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This is the ninth in a series of profiles offering brief information on every constitutionally-elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation since 1828.
Thomas Buffington succeeded Chief Joel Bryan Mayes, who died in office in December, 1891. Buffington was born 15 October 1855, in the Going Snake district of Indian Territory. His parents were Ezekiel and Louisa Buffington; he a Georgia native, and she a native of Tennessee. As a youth, Buffington attended Baptist mission schools with other Cherokees. He owned and cultivated land near Mustang Creek in Indian Territory and was so active in agriculture that he was elected President of the Farmer’s Alliance.
In 1878, he married another Cherokee, Susan Woodall, who died in 1891. He later married Emma Gray. He moved to Vinita and served as mayor. He also served as a circuit judge for four years and was a devout Presbyterian and Mason. When Chief Mayes died, Buffington, who was head of the Cherokee Senate and had right of succession, assumed the duties of Principal Chief. He served for a short time, then later resigned as mayor of Vinita and ran for Principal Chief and won. He served until 1903. He served a second time and then went back to being Vinita’s mayor until 1917.
Chief Buffington died in Vinita, Oklahoma (Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907) on 11 February 1938. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Vinita.
***Bryan D. Jackson’s new release, Chattahoochee Rain (ages 12 and up), is on sale now. It is a historical fiction account that paints a portrait of events during the months leading up to the Cherokee Treaty of New Echota and features some of Bryan’s direct ancestors.