I am seeking any information regarding my great-great-grandmother, Cherokee ancestor, Zeruiah Turtlelot. If you can provide any help at all, or refer me to someone else who can help, I would be most grateful.
*Born between 1820 and 1830. Probably 1827-1828.
*Believed to have been born in Indiana. Possibly in Knox County.
*Married Robert McDoal (McDowell?) Hunter before 1859.
*1860 United States Census transcribes her name as “Zemra” Hunter, age 32, married to Robert Hunter, age 37 (estimated birth year 1823); living in Harrison Township, Knox, Indiana. One daughter, Mary E Hunter, age 1 year, born in Indiana. (Mary Ellen is my great-grandmother; she married Louis Gremore in Vincennes, Indiana and lived at that location and later in New Madrid County, Missouri; Their daughter, Sophia Iona Gremore (my grandmother) married Harold Tope.)
*1870 United States Census transcribes her name as “Zerniah” Hunter, age 43, married to “Robem” Hunter, age 45; living in Moundville, Vernon, Missouri. Two daughters: Mary E Hunter, age 11, and Margret Hunter, age 9. One Son: Robert Hunter, age 2.
• An alternate transcription of the 1870 United States Census lists her as “Zerwah” Hunter, age 43, married to “Ruben” Hunter, age 45; Living in Missouri. Two daughters: Mary E Hunter, age 11, and Margret Hunter, age 7. One Son: Robert Hunter, age 2. All born in Indiana.
Based on family oral history, Zeruiah Turtlelot is believed to have been of Cherokee ancestry.
While no information about Zeruiah’s parents seems currently to be available, this posting on Ancestry.com may help to explain why some Cherokee were living in Indiana in the early 1800’s:
“During the Indian removals a small band of Cherokee fled North to Indiana and took white surnames to hide from the government which was desperately trying to find them.
Eventually they were overlooked and forgotten about but today the descendants of this band have their own organized tribal band of the Cherokee. They are known as the Lone Wolf Band centered in Indiana. They have no official recognized status because none of their ancestors met Dawes Rolls requirements i.e. they had to live in Oklahoma.”
I haven’t been able to verify the above posting with any citations and would welcome any input as to the veracity of the statement.
In writings excerpted from “The Lone Wolf Band of Cherokee Indians”, Indiana’s Cherokee people, and expanded upon by Chief Nvya Yona, UCN, this statement appears:
“It should also be recognized that these undocumented Cherokee, might also be the descendants of the Cherokee people who fought against the white man, the Cherokee people who refused to be placed in reservations. The Cherokee people who hid out in the hills from the white man and kept themselves “free.” These Cherokee felt that they had held to their belief of freedom and did not give in or sell out to the white mans government. These were the Cherokee who felt that they were the true Cherokee, the true warriors for our freedom. These people went through a lot to keep hidden from the white man and to be safe from removal. They had to change their names and / or take on the names of non-Indians. They kept no records so that they could not be traced. All family history was by word of mouth. Soon, not even verbal history was spoken under fear of imprisonment. So our ancestors had to hide their pride. It became so bad that soon no one spoke of their heritage and unfortunately, some younger family members were not told of their heritage just so they would be kept safe. Our ancestors gave up a lot, just to be free… Today, because of that, some of their descendants cannot find a history of their family. Cannot prove, by the white man’s government standards, that they are Cherokee. Our ancestors never thought that we’d have to prove to anyone who we were.”
My grandmother, Sophia Gremore Tope, thought that her grandparents hid their background history because they were embarrassed about something, but perhaps they were silent about their history out of fear of discovery? If so, they did an excellent job of covering their tracks! A big challenge for our family today to try and uncover any information about their parentage.
Thank you for your consideration. I simply wish to honor the memory of my ancestors and welcome your help.