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MUSKOGEE YARGEE
Interview by her daughter Susie Ross Martin

Contributed by Sylvia Bailey-Munoz 1998 , 1999 ©

From Sylvia: It is an interview done by my great-aunt Susie Lowrey Ross Martin about her mother Muskogee Yargee Ross.  It was done by Ms. Ella M. Robinson on August 23rd, 1937.  Ms. Ella entitled it Pioneer Creek Indian Woman, Mrs. Muskogee Yargee Ross, by Susie Ross Martin.   Some how Ms. Ella is quite often listed as a child of Joshua and Muskogee, I don't know how this came about, but I've been running into it lately.  Ms. Ella and her sister Ms. Alice (as they were always referred to when I was little) apparently were women of the '90s born actually about 100 years too soon.  I have a copy of the originally typed, it is really faded now.  


The Interview:  

My mother, Mrs. Muskogee Yargee Ross, was born near the Canadian River, fifteen miles southwest of old North Fork Town in the Creek Nation, about 1844, (exact date unknown).  

She was the daughter of Captain Checartah Yargee and Milly McQueen.  Her grandfather was Peter McQueen, who was the son of James McQueen, a Scotsman, who lived among the Muscogees for ninety years and died at the age of one hundred and twenty-eight.  

Peter McQueen married Betsy, daughter of Colonel Ben Durant and Sophia McGillivray.  They had three daughters, Milly, Nancy, and TallasseeMilly was my grandmother.  Yargee, son of Big Warrior, married all the McQueen sisters.  

Mother was the grand niece of the noted Alexander McGillivray of the Muskogee, Creek, Seminole and Chicamaunga Cherokees.  He was known as the "Great Alexander", and was said by authorities to be the most brilliant man ever born on Alabama soil.  His mother was Sehoy Marchand of Hickory Town, who belonged to the Wind Clan.  

The McGillivray name was introduced into the Muscogee Country by a Scots lad, Lachlan McGillivray, about 1736. The McGillivray family belonged exclusively to the Muscogee of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Country of Alabama and was in no way connected with the Creeks in Georgia.  

Lachlan McGillivray opened a trading business and became quite wealthy. They had three daughters, Sophia married Ben Durant; Jeanette married LeClerce Milfort, a noted Frenchman; Sehoy married Colonel Tait of the British Army.  One son, Alexander, who became noted, married Vicey Cornells, daughter of Joseph Cornell of South Carolina, a French Huguenot.  

Captain Checartah Yargee and wife lied in the Muscogee Nation in Alabama until the Indians were forcibly removed from their homes in 1838.  My grandfather, Checartah Yargee, was a man of wealth and when he came west to their new home, brought his stock and slaves to the new country and settled on the Canadian River near old North Town.  They, too, belonged to the Wind Clan and Hickory Ground Town as did all their people in the old Nation.  One of their little boys died on the route westward.  They buried him by a big river of which they did not know the name (Mississippi).  As they were bringing their horses they rode a greater part of the way on horse back.  

My grandfather Yargee was one of the largest slave owners among the Muscogee.  As his rule was never to sell or part with a slave he became the largest in his tribe.  

It is said that his negro quarters had the appearance of a small town.  He erected a church house for their exclusive use and always gave them Saturdays and Sundays to spend as they chose, but expected all to attend church.  He was a devout Baptist.  

His family consisted of himself, his wife, two daughters, Muskogee and Louise, and one son, John.  As he was a full blood and his wife a half-breed, little or no English was spoken in the home.  My mother said the only English words she heard her father speak were "damn nigger" when his personal servant failed to do as he was told.  They lived in a large commodious house built entirely of logs as were all the negro cabins.  Each girl was given a personal maid as soon as they passed young childhood and ceased to require the service of a nurse.  

Rose Ceaser, a big black woman who lived west of Muskogee for many years, was my mother's maid and came often to see mother in her after years.  

Mother attended the little neighborhood school and learned to read and write in English.  She spokke English quite well but never forgot her native language.  

During the Civil War a large number of the Muscogee or Creek, as the tribe became know in their western home, moved to Fort Gibson in the Cherokee Nation for protection from the ravages of war.  It was there my mother met and married my father, Mr. Joshua Ross, a member of a prominent Cherokee family.  

As was the custom of the Indians for the parents to select a husband or wife for their children, he was their choice as a husband for her.  As it was equally agreeable to both of them,  they were married in 1864 and lived happily together until her death in 1913.  

My father was employed in the Suttler's store in Fort Gibson and they lived there until 1867 when they moved to Grand Saline and on a farm.  Their first child, Joseph, was born and died in Fort Gibson.  My sister, Rosalee, and my self were born at Grand Saline.  

In 1871 the MK&Railroad was built through the Indian Territory, my father moved to the little village on the praire that has been named Muskogee in honor of the tribe in whose territory it was located.  On coming here, father opened a general merchantile store on the east side of the railroad at the intersection of what is  now Cherokee Street and East Broadway.  It was known as the Red Front Store. As my mother was, by right of blood entitled to all the land she wanted, they selected a strip lying directly east ot the Katy Railroad to where the Frisco tracks are now; extending north as far Callahan and south to Okmulgee Ave.  They enclosed it with a rail fence.  The streets were mere roads leading to the country.  Mother said she spent the first night in a little shack built of odd pieces of lumber and dry good boxes that answered for a hotel.  Mr. & Mrs. James Mitchell operated it as a boarding house.  It ws located on the Katy Railroad just east of the tracks.  Later Mr. & Mrs. Mitchel moved across the tracks and ran a large hotel where the Katy Station now stands, known as the Mitchell House.  It was known throughout the southwest for its good food.  

My father built a little two room boxed house with a shed room for a kitchen, on what is now East Broadway in the six hundred block, and into that they moved with their two little girls.  

The prairie grass was so high that mother kept us cose at home for fear we might get lost.  I remember we could only see the tops of the movers wagons as they trekked across the prairie on their way to Texas.  

My grandparents died soon after the close of the Civil War and we children never knew them.  My uncle John Yargee married and had five daughters. They still lived on the Canadian River.  Two of his daughters, Rose and Jennie, attended school at Northfield, Mass., in 1880.  After moving to Muskogee, my older brother was born and mother's time was chiefly taken up with the care of her children.  As she was young and inexperienced, father thought a book on Child Rearing might be of benefit to her and he bought one.  The only thing I remember her saying she learned from it was "never to punish a child when you were angry," and she never did.  Often making us wait for hours before deciding what to do, greatly to our discomfort.  

After the death of her sister, Louise, she took her two children, a boy and a girl, and they lived with us until the girl was married and the boy died in youngmanhood.  

Mother knew all the Inidian remedies used in sickness.  Ginsand and Ball Willow were used in pneumonia or winter fever as they were called.  Life Everlasting was also used for colds.  Peach leaves pounded up were made into poultices; Slippery elm bark was used as poutices to reduce inflammation and the water from it was used as a drink for fevers.  Soot, taken from the chimney, would stop the flow of blood in case of accidents.  Mother knew a secret way to cure jaundice and successfully cured a case on myself.  She did not touch your or anything that you could detect but all of a sudden I was over it.  She said the secret could be known to only one in the family but promised to tell me, but never did.  She learned to cook when a little girl in her mother's home and knew all the ways to prepare Indian dishes.  She made blue berry dumplings and wild grape seasonsPuska was parched corn reduced to a powder that made a refreshing drink and the Indians all carried it when they went on journeys, as it was also served as a food.  Sofka was always on hand.  Bean and crackling bread was her favorite kind of bread.  As all Indians are, she was extremely fond of fish and we had it often.  She olften told us Indian customs; one, the burial custom of placing as many belongs as possible in the casket with the person, of dropping a spray of evergreen in the grave and always every member of the family dropped a clod of dirt on the casket.  Mother had the Indian fondness of pretty clothes and was always well dressed when going out.  As a housekeeper and mother of nine children, she was kept busy but always had time to attend church.  She was one of the three charter members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church South.  

My father being a Cherokee and connected with several prominent Cherokee families, mother became acquainted with them as regarded them as much her relation as her own people.  She possessed the characteristic trait of the Indians, that hospitality, and guests at our house were always welcomed no matter how numerous.  She was generous to a fault and no hungry man was turned from her door unfed, even if she had to cook an entire meal for him.  Mother had an unusual aptness for caring for the sick and was contstantly called upon in case of illness as trained nurses and hospitals were unheard on in that in this country.  

When we children were old enough to care for ourselves she devoted more time to her church duties, always attending missionary meetings and contributing generously.  

She had profound respect for my father and his fine intellect and education.  She regarded him as the head of the household as did all Indian families regard the husband and fathers, always giving her support to anything he became interested in.  

We lived at the same location in Muskogee from 1871 unti 1913 when my  mother died.  The children were all born there.  After her death, father lived with my sister, Rosalee, (Mrs. William Miles at 116 North "D" Street) in Muskogee until he died Feb. 15, 1922.  

Father and mother began housekeeping in a little two  room house with a shed kitchen and as the family grew, a room was added as needed until we had an eight room house with three long porches that made a delightful place to live.  A large grove of beautiful shade trees surrounded the house.  After the property was disposed of the house that had fallen into decay was moved off and nothing remains to us but a pleasant memory of our childhood home.  A three story apartment house, number 615 East Broadway.  

Mrs. Ross was a decendant of three of the most prominent families of the Muscogee Tribe in Alabama.  With intermarriage of the McGillivray, Yargee, and McQueen families, three of the most noted families of the tribe were linked together, without those records in war and peace the history of the Muscogee Tribe in Alabama would be sadly incomplete.