Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Samuel Riley III - Chief Riley

I have a cousin who loves to search old records and is putting together a family tree for the Riley branch of the family. Our mothers were Rileys before they married. She's gathered a lot of interesting data. 

Our great-grandfather’s great-uncle, Samuel Riley III

Samuel Riley [III], a white man, b. circa 1747 in Prince George County, Maryland, d. May 13, 1819 in Blue Springs, Roane County, TN.

Samuel is referred to in several reliable sources including the "History of the Cherokee Indians" by Emmet Starr and "Cherokee by Blood" compiled by Jerry Wright Jordan, and other records including marriage records pertaining to the Cherokees in Tennessee and Oklahoma. He married 2 daughters of Chief Doublehead in the Eastern Cherokee Nation, namely the Long Hair Clan. The first being Gu-Lu-Sti-Yu, and the second being Ni-Go-Di-Ge-Yu producing a total of 18 children. Samuel lived with his two wives near South West Point on the Tennessee River in Roane County, TN.

Samuel, who fought in the Revolutionary War, was long time agent and interpreter for the Indians was known as "The White Trader from Maryland". He was also a blacksmith, producing many implements for the Cherokee and operated a ferry on the Tennessee River. Roan County courthouse contains records that Samuel also ran a saltpeter mine and a powder mill, likely in vicinity of Nickajack. Most probably these were leased directly from the Cherokees beings he had a deal directly with Chief Doublehead to use part of the land designated as reservation land by the government. In fact, partly because of his making property deals with the white man, Doublehead was assassinated by irate Indians.

Still, Samuel delivered goods to the Cherokees who removed to the 
Arkansas River in 1813. There are 2 recorded letters from Crow Town and Fort Deposite asking for corn. Crow Town stated there were 19 families with 95 people. Fort Deposite letter stated their corn crops were poor and the Intruders had ruined their corn range and the people and the cattle and hogs were in bad shape. The 2nd letter does appear to have Samuel Riley's signature and he requested a meeting with General Jackson. Note the significance of the letter; this eventual meeting with General Jackson in the summer of 1817 was the basis of all future reservations in the east and emigrations to the west. And Samuel Riley was there, assumed as an interpreter. In part, the letter stated that he had a load of corn if the Indians would accept it.

Register of persons who wish reservations under Treaty of 8 Jul 1817, cites Samuel Riley residence as "south side of Tennessee opposite to South West Point", and his Reserve was taken in Cherokee lands. In  1818, Samuel Riley was granted life reservation in accordance with above Treaty.

Local lore is of Chief Riley, and that he went to England as a Cherokee Interpreter. Riley Creek and Riley Creek Recreational Area on south side of TN River. Riley Indian Chief buried in what is now commonly called the Smalley Cemetery. Although he was not of Cherokee blood, there are several precedence of white-men who were considered to be at least "minor Chiefs" (actually "leader" would be a better title) of several of the Tribes." More likely, it is possible that some of his heirs embellished his title somewhat after his death. Descendants tend to do that.

Many thanks to my cousin, Anna Muriel Dyson, who condensed a multitude of information for easier reading. She noted that many discrepancies were found and finding the true (or as true as can be assumed) answer was difficult. One source stated Samuel Riley married three of Chief Doublehead's daughters rather than two.

If you have a chance to try to read the above letter you'll note that some words are hard to decipher. Others we can understand but they're not spelled as we're used to seeing them. Regardless, they got the message across.

I hope someone in your family is recording and compiling your family's history.  Your descendants will appreciate knowing about their forefathers.

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment.



  1. In my family, my brother and I are the family historians. I compiled a book on my mom's family and on my mother-in-law. Now my brother and I are doing one on our dad. Getting the information in a printed form preserves it for the future generations.

  2. What an interesting letter! You can tell from his penmanship that your ancestor was educated. Spelling really was not standardized until Webster began producing American English dictionaries in the early 1800s, so your Mr. Riley probably learned to spell phonetically. By sounding out the words as he spelled them, you can gain insight into his dialect, which is also fascinating. Truly a "voice" from the past!

  3. So many times such info is copied into trees, leaving a trail of misinformation. I've been as careful as possible in searching for other info to back up other people's entries. This person was erroneously documented as a direct line grandfather. However, after researching, I found out he is actually a brother to a grandfather. Still, I love a great story, and this Uncle provided a very good one. Besides that, how many of us would discount a blood uncle as insignificant? Thanks for posting this on your blog, Cuz...

  4. Linda--that letter is priceless. What a good idea for a blog post--writing about your family history.
    One hint--put your name at the top of the text--by Linda.... You could also add your photo if you want--Cheryl always adds her to the top. Most of us don't, but it's a great way to say...this is from me. If you have banners, those work really well, too, at the beginning. We love banners and photos. Just so the reader will know who wrote the blog.

    Now I wish I had more information on older ancestors. We only have one short paragraph on our ancestor that got us into The Daughters of the Republic of Texas...and that includes a copy of his honorable discharge from the Texan Army that defeated Santa Anna: Reason for discharge: Piles.
    Ewww, well, that's what they wrote down!

  5. Seems like we talked about you being the family historian before, Caroline. I'm hoping my cousin will compile a book also.

  6. I'd forgotten about that, Lynn. Makes sense why they spelled like they did. Yes, it is a voice from the past. So much out there that we miss.

  7. You're welcome, Cuz. Thanks for all your research!

  8. I keep forgetting to put my name or banner at the top. Oh my goodness. Discharged because of piles. That'd be my luck!

  9. What a great accounting, Linda. We have a journal my great, great grandfather kept coming across country in 1849. It is such a treasure to hear in their own words the way their lives went. Enjoyed reading your post.

  10. That is awesome, Paisley. I'd love to read something like that. We do have some pictures of great-grandparents, but that's all we have. Well, I take that back, we do have a book someone compiled about the Smith branch of my family. I need to get that out and look over it.

  11. Wow, what a fascinating background you have. My mother's the historian in our family and one of these days, I'll share here a bit of my great grandfather's story. I figure I'll eventually become the historian which means finding room for volumnes of books. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Ciara, I bet when you get started you won't be able to get off Heritage.com. Not only does my cousin spend hours there and other sources, but a friend does also. She has taken me to grave yards here in Waco looking for ancestors and I know Anna likes to visit them also.

  13. Hi Linda, cool article. Samuel Riley Jr. is my 6th cousin 1 x removed. There has been a lot of confusion with him being referred to as Samuel Riley the III. His father was indeed Samuel Riley Sr. however his grandfather was Eliphaz Riley. Eliphaz is my 6th Great Grandfather. I have more information on his Ancestors and his decedents as well as the theft/loss of the land. Susan Riley


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