The Fictional Characters of Eoneguski and Their Real-life Counterparts
In the novel, Eoneguski (Big Bear), peace chief and counselor, is the son of Eonah (Bear), the chief of Eonee (Nikwasi/ Franklin). He has no wife or children. He becomes an avenger of blood when John Welch kills his clansman Leech.
In real life, Yonaguska (Drowning Bear) was the son of Yona Equa or Yanegwa (Big Bear) and Jency, and the brother of Ah-Leach (Leech). He succeeded his father as chief. Big Bear was a claimant for losses at Neequasee (Nikwasi), including one cabin with floor, one without, four improved acres, 12 fruit trees. Yonaguska had two wives, Gowhistiski and Lizzie/Leester and many children, including a daughter Kata'lsta-patter. Like the fictional character, he was a peace counselor, reformer and chief. He was also an avenger of blood following the murder of his brother Ah-Leach by John Welch in what may have been a drunken brawl.
[Registered in Macon County Register of Deeds, Book A-23: Romulus M. Saunders & Humphrey Posey, Commissioners, settlement with Cherokee claimants: to Yonaguska, Willnota, Long Tom, Tarrapin, Catateehee & wife Nancy, Junaluska & wife Wallee, Masasutta (Wesagutta?) & wife Cheranar, children & heirs of Jency, dec'd, $350.]
The fictional Little Deer is the daughter of Ooconoota, the granddaughter of Attakullakulla and niece of Yenacona. Gideon Aymor and Eoneguski are rivals for her love.
The character of Little Deer was probably a blend of two prominent local women, Sally Littledeer and Naha/Rebecca Morris
Sally Littledeer was the widow of a a Cherokee reservee who was granted a reservation on Burning Town Creek under the 1817/1819 treaty. Little Deer died by 1829. His widow, sometimes called Saldeer, was well known to the early white settlers and apparently very respected by them. She remarried by 1829 to Wallossee. They received $200 under settlements with reservees; document registered in Macon County, 1829.
Rebecca, or Naha/Naka, wife of Gideon F. Morris, was the daughter of Catateehee and Nancy and the niece of Yonaguska. Gideon and Rebecca held a reservation in present east Franklin across the Little Tennessee River from the old town of Nikwasi (Eonee in the book). Morris was guardian of the three children of Little Deer. Two of the children, Ava Ola and Susannah, received $800 for their share of their father's reservation in 1837.
Capt. Robert Love had a child, Robert Love, with one of Rebecca's sisters.
In the novel, the mysterious Yenacona is the daughter of Attakullakulla by Maria, one of his wives. She had married a Frenchman, Israel de Lisle, and by him was the mother of Oocomo (John Welch). She is the aunt of Little Deer.
Strange may have based this character on Nancy Ward, the daughter of Tame Dove, Attakullakulla's sister. Nancy married Brian Ward, a trader. She became a powerful figure in Cherokee-American relations, and was known as The Beloved Woman.
The description of Yenacona and her dwelling in Tesumtoe (Tessentee) are detailed and distinctive, suggesting they were drawn from life.
The fictional Panther was the leader of Sugartown village, the father of Wattuna and Cheasquah. A real-life Panther had a reservation in present Swain County, on the Little Tennessee.
At the time of the Meig census (1808), Sugartown was the largest of the Cherokeee towns in present Macon County, with a population of 399.
In Eoneguski, Soquilla is the healer of Sugartown. The rejected admirer of Yenacona, he revenged himself years earlier by throwing the infant Ooconu in the fire at Etchoe, from which he was rescued by the white man who raised him as John Welch.
There probably was such a person in real life, but his identity has been lost. The village of Etchoe was burned in 1761, during the Colonial Wars.
Wissa/ the Cat
The character Wissa (Cat) is the mute black servant of the Saga of Sugartown. He is also a spy for Eonah, chief of Eonee.
The real-life Yonaguska owned a slave named Cudjo, who may have been the inspiration for this character.
Cheasquah/ the Bird
In the novel, Cheasquah is the original victim whose death begins the chain of blood vengeance. He is the son of Panther/ Santuchee.
Strange may have used the name of a real Cheasquah, who lived to be 100 years old.
In Eoneguski, Leech murders Cheasquah and is consequently the victim himself of blood vengeance at the hands of John Welch. Leech is the son of Eonah and brother of Eoneguski.
In real life, Ah-leach or A-lee-chuh, the son of Yonegwa and brother of Yonaguska, was granted a reservation on the head of Iotla Creek, 1819. He was murdered by John Welch and U-Na-Kah by September 30, 1820, when Armstrong surveyed a reservation for "the heirs of Ah-leach." He left a widow Tauneh and other heirs who eventually received compensation for the reservation.
John Welch/ Ooconu
The character John Welch is the son of Israel de Lisle and Yenacona, though he doesn't know it. As an infant, he was rescued from a fire by a white man who took him home and raised him as his own. He kills Leech as part of the custom of blood vengeance. Leech's brother Eoneguski is bound to kill him in turn. Welch loves Atha, daughter of Robert Aymor.
Tradition says John Welch was half French and half Cherokee, as the novel also claims. He was a reservee under the 1817/ 1819 treaty, claiming a reservation on Iotla Creek, for which he was paid $1250 in 1829. He killed Ah-leach, who had a reservation at the head of Iotla Creek. The killing may have occurred during a drunken fight. Yonaguska did pursue him but was pursuaded to give up the blood vengeance by Betty Blyth, Welch's sweetheart (or, perhaps, already his wife). Betty was the daughter of Jonathan Blyth, a frontiersman.
In 1838, Welch gave his power of attorney to Jonathan Blyth and Jonathan Parker of Macon County to act on his behalf for the benefit of his wife Elizabeth and their children. He named children Edward, Mary, David, James, Jonathan, John Cobb, Nancy, Richard, Dennis, Martha Ann and Rebecca Catherine. He also named slaves Isaac, about 40, Nelly, 36, and her child Jane; Phillis, 26, and her children Bill, Clarie and Henderson; and Frank, about six. (In the 1851 Siler Census, two other children were named -- Lloyd M. and Stacy.)
The fictional Robert Aymor is a frontiersman who earlier was saved by Eoneguski. In gratitude, Aymor grants Eoneguski the free hospitality of his home. He doesn't realize that the Cherokee chief is pursuing John Welch, who is loved by Aymor's daughter Atha.
Robert Strange based this character on one or both of the Love brothers, Col. Robert Love (1760-) and/or Gen. Thomas Love (1766-1844). Thomas Love settled in Macon County after driving Gideon and Rebecca Morris off their reservation and claiming it for himself. His son Robert Love was head of the survey party of 1820.
The Loves were one of the most powerful and influential families of the frontier.
Dolly Hays Aymor
No character in Eoneguski is more cruelly treated by the author than Dolly Aymor, portrayed as the obese and slovenly wife of Robert. A sample: "His Dolly proved to be one of those weak persons, whom unscrupulous rudeness might have called a fool."
In real life, brothers Thomas and Robert Love married sisters Martha and Mary Ann Dillard, daughters of Col. Thomas Dillard.
The fictional friend of Yonaguska, Gideon is the sonof Robert and Dolly and brother of Atha Aymor. He becomes Yonaguska's rival for the love of Little Deer, whom he woos and wins.
Gideon is probably a combination of two real-life frontiersmen, Gideon Morris and Capt. Robert Love.
Gideon Morris married Rebecca/ Naha, Yonaguska's niece. He became a champion of the Cherokee reservees and helped them win compensation for the losses they suffered when their reservations were forfeited by the state. The reservation he and Rebecca owned in East Franklin, across the river from Nikwasi (Eonee of the novel), was claimed by Gen. Thomas Love, who burned their house, driving Rebecca and the children out. Morris later received $3000 for his and Rebecca's property losses.
In 1829, Morris sold Jesse R. Siler a slave named Salley, 22, for $350. In 1830, he was named guardian of the three children of Little Deer. He pledged Lot 10 in Franklin, with "large dwelling house, storehouse and kitchen," as security. In 1835, the Morrises lived on a 75-acre farm at the mouth of the Valley River. The family consisted of one full-blood, eight half-bloods, one white intermarriage, two slaves.
Capt. Robert Love, the chief of the 1820 Survey Party, was the son of Gen. Thomas Love. He had a child by one of Rebecca's sisters.
The fictional Atha is the daughter of Robert and Dolly Aymor and sister of Gideon. She loves John Welch and intercedes successfully on his behalf with Eoneguski, avenger of blood.
In real life, John Welch married Elizabeth "Betty" Bly or Blyth, daughter of Jonathan Blythe, who operated a mill in the cherokee country before 1820 (listed in District 10 of the Love Survey).