Principal Chief William P. Ross
(Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons - public domain photo)
This is the second in a series of blog posts offering brief information on every constitutionally-elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation since 1828.
Note** William P. Ross was elected twice by the Cherokee Council, not by the Cherokee people at large, but is nevertheless included in this list.
William Potter Ross was born 28 August 1820 near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. The nephew of Principal Chief John Ross, William Ross was well-educated and devoted to his uncle. He was enrolled in various mission schools of the day, educated at Princeton University and the College of New Jersey, and took on numerous roles of responsibility within the Cherokee Nation. Among these were his appointment to clerk of the Cherokee Senate and editor of the Cherokee Advocate. He wrote amendments to the Cherokee constitution and, while Chief, was respected as a speaker, writer, and statesman. When his uncle died in the summer of 1866, leaving the office of Principal Chief vacant, Ross was appointed to fill the position.
Ross served as a lieutenant colonel during the Civil War, on the side of the Confederacy. He did little to speak out against slavery following the Emancipation Proclamation and, after Lewis Downing’s administration, was appointed yet again in 1872. During this time in office, Ross was viewed by many traditional Cherokees as supporting and encouraging European influence to take over the nation. His second known wife was his first cousin, Mary Jane Ross.
William Ross died at Fort Gibson on 20 July 1891. He is buried in Citizens Cemetery, Fort Gibson, 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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