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Deconstructing John Ross’s Testimony
Posted by: Danny Watts (ID *****5488) Date: June 24, 2010 at 12:29:35
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I recently spent some time reviewing the testimony of John Ross for Jaley Asbell Johnson's Cherokee Citizenship Hearing in 1887 regarding William Asbell and his wife Nar-nee.

I have both copies of the originals sent to me by a cousin and the typed transcripts.

The Spring 1999 Asbell family newsletter commented on the testimony, but following my recent review of the testimony I believe the information in it could lead to some different conclusions than have previously been assumed.

Testimony

John Ross Oct. 5, 1887

“ I am a resident of Flint District, Cherokee Nation and am 61 years old. My fathers name was Ooh-Yah-Sistah and had two sisters… Nar-nee and Gar-En-Sah. Nar-Nee married a man named William Asper* or something like it. They did not live in North Carolina but went towards Kentucky. They had two children. They were both Boys, one named John and the other named Cooweescoosee. One was about 12 and the other about 10 years old. “

John Ross was 61 years old at the time of this testimony. He was born in 1826. It has been believed that William and Nar-Nee settled in Kentucky about 1805. His knowledge about the age of the boys at the time of the move to Kentucky sounds correct though he could only have gotten it second hand from his father or possibly from William or Nar-Nee (see below). If the ages of the boys were correct as to the time of the move it would have been around 1804 when they left for Kentucky.

"Examination: “William Asper, above referred to, lived a while in Hanging Dog. This was about 48 years ago."

John is Saying that William Asbell lived in Hanging Dog about 48 years before, which would be about 1839. John Ross would have been about 15 years old. The first and second sentence in the written transcript are jammed together as if he is talking about a single visit but if you read carefully he is talking about a nearly twenty year time difference and two different places.

He does not mention Nar-Nee and the boys as being in Hanging Dog in 1839, only William.

Did William and Nar-Nee separate? If they did and Elizabeth Ross remarried and there was any mention of her in the 1850 census we would not know who she was. On the other hand if she lived alone and was recognized as an Indian she likely would not have been mentioned in the census, unless she was living with one of her children’s families.

"I saw Nar-nee and the boys above mentioned in Kentucky a little before the war and only saw the same two boys mentioned above. I never seen them since."

It has been stated previously by some that he visited the family in North Carolina at the time the boys were 10 and 12. Since he was born in 1826 the “boys” would have been in their late 30’s at the time John Ross was born. He refers to them as “boys” but they would have been in their late 60’s, if they were the same two sons, at the time John Ross visited Kentucky before the war. John Asbell, however was living in in Arkansas between 1850 and 1860. Ross is in Missouri in the 1850 census and in the Arkansas 1860 census. So who were the boys that were with Nar-Nee?

What he really says in his statement is that he visited Nar-Nee and the boys in Kentucky: “I saw Nar-nee and the boys above mentioned in Kentucky a little before the war and only saw the same two boys mentioned above.”

Many have believed (including this writer) that Nar-Nee and William both left Kentucky before 1830 or that William died and that Nar-Nee possibly returned to North Carolina, then ended up with a Kee-kee Gunter, a nephew and died before 1850.

The war that John Ross and others in their statements for the hearing are referring to was the Civil War. This would place Nar-Nee in Kentucky, alive after 1830, but some time before the Civil War.

The question is what did John Ross mean by “a little before the war?”

John Ross must have visited Kentucky sometime prior to the start of the Civil War but when? If we interpret “ “a little before the war” as something within a two to three year period then we have Nar-Nee alive in Kentucky as of 1857 or 58 and in her late 80‘s.

"My father was older than Nar-Nee. The man that Nar-Nee married, William Asper, was a white man. ”

If the Ooh-Yah-Sistah mentioned by John Ross is the same as the person listed as 1049. Oo-yo-cees-tuh, 80, in the 1851 Chapman Roll in Buffalo town, NC then Nar-Nee was born after 1769. Since the Chapman and Siler rolls show young John Ross also living in Buffalo town in 1851 then it seems likely this is him.

I believe others should scrutinize John Ross’s statement to see if they concur that a fresh eye should be turned to the testimony of John Ross regarding William Asbell and Nar-Nee.

I welcome any and all thoughts and comments on this.


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