Old Frontiers, The Story of the Cherokee Indians from Earliest Times to the Date of their Removal to the West, 1838. By John P. Brown. (Kingsport, Tennesse: Southern Publishers, 1938. 570 pages $3.75.)
To the people of Oklahoma this should be an especially welcome book, detailing as it does the earlier history of the Cherokees, so important a portion of the state's population.
Fifty years ago, the late James Mooney visited the "mountaineers of the South" in their North Carolina fastnesses, and secured from them the material for his memorable Myths of the Cherokees. About the same time, Charles C. Royce prepared his painstaking study of Cherokee treaties and other relationships. These two Bureau of Ethnology Reports have long been out of print and hard to find on the shelves of second hand book stores. Authentic material on the early history of the Cherokees has been scarce, and Mr. Brown's book, coming as it does during the hundredth anniversary of Cherokee removal, meets a real need.
From these sources and numerous others dating from De Soto's chroniclers up to modern biographers of Andrew Jackson, and including much material never before in print, he has fashioned an informing, exciting, and readable history of the Cherokees from their mythical beginning to their first white contacts and on to the "Trail of Tears." The author has drawn from Theodore Roosevelt's Winning of the West, Ramsey, Haywood, and such modern historians as S. C. Williams, A. V. Goodpasture, and Grant Foreman. The records of Virginia, North and South Carolina, the Draper Manuscripts, and American State Papers, have been searched. From the mass of detail, Brown has traced the alarums and excursions of the old southwestern frontier with praiseworthy clarity. This is probably due to his familiarity with the land of the Cherokees, a familiarity which has enabled him to compile for his book useful maps of the country, showing
Indian towns, white settlements, forts, and other historic points of interest. The book contains excellent photographs of such sites, and photographs of portraits of Attakullakulla, Judd's Friend, John Ross, William Blount, John Sevier, and others. The appendices include Cherokee land cessions, and about one thousand Cherokee words and proper names.
Old Frontiers is more than the story of the Cherokees. As its name implies, it presents also the frontiersmens' side of the struggle for Kentuck's "Dark and Bloody Ground" and the equally crimson lands to the south. Mr. Brown is a Chattanoogan. He probably would not live there had not the pioneers, with ever-increasing numbers, overcome the stubborn followers of Dragging Canoe and John Watts, whose habitat was the famous Five Lower Towns, a score of miles down the Tennessee River from where Chattanooga now stands.
Gone are those fiery warriors, Benge, Bloody Fellow, and Little Owl. Doublehead, who was merciless in battle but yet could shed tears for a friend, has found his reward. Oconostota, who "never ran from an enemy but walked fast once," sleeps in the soil of Echota. The peace-loving soul of Little Carpenter has found the peace he craved, in the happy hunting grounds.
In the pages of Old Frontiers, these men live again. The slash of the scalping knife in the lonely settlements makes the reader wonder at the urge that drove white men with families from the safety of the Atlantic Seaboard to such dangers in the wilderness. We of today traverse in safety and comfort, in a few hours, the same Wilderness Road that took the lives of so many of our forebears, and required days, and even weeks of toil; and danger so great that the rate of postage on one letter from Knoxville to Nashville was fifty dollars, "dearly earned in many cases."
The major part of Old Frontiers deals with the period from the opening of the French and Indian War in 1755 to the victories of Mad Anthony Wayne in the north, and of the Nashville settlers against the Five Lower Towns in the south, in 1794. The part played by the Cherokees in making this continent
English rather than French is clearly shown. We see the Indians, pawns in the ambitions of European Nations, turn from one "elder brother" to another; aligned first with the English against the French; then against the English and later with the English against the Americans; and carrying on their warfare against the American frontier with Spanish powder and ball.
The last eighty pages of the book deal with a period longer in time than the foregoing, but perhaps this is just as well. For the tale is of an ever stronger white juggernaut bearing down on an ever weaker Cherokee Nation. The end is removal. Only occasionally, as in the chapter on Sequoyah, is there brightness in these final pages, unless it be in the unmatched patriotism of humble Cherokee Tsali, a story that brings tears to the eyes.
One closes Old Frontiers with the thought that here is a book which deserves and should find a place on the shelves of every Oklahoma library; and should be read by thoughtful Americans, everywhere.
Geronimo's Story of His Life. By S. M. Barrett. (Oklahoma City: Harlow Publishing Corporation, 1938. 216 pp. $1.50.)
Geronimo's story was told to the author while the Apache leader was a prisoner of war at Fort Sill. The commanding officer refused to allow publication of the material but President T. R. Roosevelt overruled the order and the book was released in 1905. A new copyright has recently been secured.
An account of the mythological origin of the Apache tribe introduces Geronimo's people, and a chapter on the divisions of the tribe shows the relationship of the groups to each other, and forms a backdrop for the chapters on his boyhood.
Geronimo, a member of the Bedonkohe group, was born in Arizona in June, 1829. He was trained similarly to other Indian
boys in the chase, gathering of nuts and herbs, farming of small plots, and in the arts of war. At seventeen, he was admitted to the war council and soon took Alope for his bride. She was the first of eight wives for Geronimo. He had several children during his lifetime.
He became an outstanding figure in war with the Mexicans in which he fought to avenge the massacre of his first wife and children while they were with a group in Mexico. Although he could not be a chief because his father had married into the Bedonkohe division, Geronimo was chosen to lead a war party into Mexico. The Apaches won a hard battle but Geronimo was not satisfied and declared eternal war upon the Mexicans. He led various war parties into Sonora and Chihuahua to kill and to plunder. During his fighting, Geronimo led a charmed life for he was shot eight times and struck down by a Mexican saber, but he managed to escape permanent injury.
The author digresses from the story to try to explain the lawless age and region around the Apaches. Since this chapter is devoted to the period after 1880 it is doubtful that its purpose is achieved.
Geronimo dated the start of hostility with the United States army from a meeting at Fort Bowie, Arizona, in 1870 when Cochise and lesser chiefs were treacherously attacked during a peace conference. Many Apaches were slain but Cochise escaped and led a bitter war against the soldiers. Geronimo recalled a similar attack at Apache Tajo in 1863 when his chief, Magnus-Colorado, had been slain with many others after they accepted hospitality from United States soldiers.
In 1872, Geronimo made peace with General O. O. Howard which was kept many years. Finally, he was arrested for leaving the reservation on a peaceful visit. His proud spirit resented the close supervision and he led a group of about two hundred fifty Apaches into Mexico. After a year, he returned to the reservation with his Apaches and many head of cattle and horses taken from the Mexicans. When General George Crook took the livestock
from the Indians, Geronimo was so angered that he fled with about four hundred Apaches back into Mexico. There followed a period of pursuit by Mexican and United States soldiers until nearly all Apache women and children and been captured. Geronimo then surrendered to Crook but lost faith in him during the return trip and escaped with about thirty Indians. Crook was replaced by General Nelson Miles who kept soldiers constantly on the trail until Geronimo surrendered in 1886.
Geronimo claimed that Miles promised farms, live stock, clothing, other supplies, and freedom to the Apaches. Geronimo was bitter when the tribal chiefs were sent to Florida as prisoners. In 1894, they were transferred with their families to Fort Sill. Geronimo adds to his story tales of Apache religion and customs, and a visit to the World's Fair. His last wish was that the Apaches at Fort Sill would be allowed to return to Arizona to live in peace.
The book of four parts has twenty-three chapters and five illustrations. The author has some good explanatory footnotes. Some army dispatches might be better placed in an appendix.
As a whole, the book is interesting and a contribution to tile history of the Southwest. It augments the information supplied by Tom Horn's Autobiography and chapters of General Miles' Personal Recollections and Observations of General Nelson A. Miles. It gives to the reader the Indian side of a destructive struggle with the whites in Arizona and Mexico, and shows the bravery and strategy of a great Apache leader.
—J. V. Frederick.