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Monday, March 7, 2016

Sam Houston: A Legacy of Lost Loves

Maybe there was a good reason why Sam looked so sad...
Sam Houston was a son of fortune on the battlefield. But he may have been the most unlucky of men in relationships. He fought bravely and was wounded for life for his beloved mentor General Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indians, only to become a political pariah in Washington. He was married to a beautiful young woman named Eliza Allen in Tennessee whom he unexplainably divorced soon after. He had been elected Governor of Tennessee only to resign in awkward controversy and with threats on his life... by his in-laws! And his trail of tears did not end there.

Houston fled to the Indian Territory, where he took up with the Cherokees. The Cherokees were part of a loose network of Native Americans, known to us as the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes.” There in modern day Arkansas he drank his troubles away and hid for awhile from civilization. As a young man he had lived with the Indians and learned their ways, and had been adopted into the tribe. He adapted quickly to life in the wilderness. About an eighth Cherokee, tall and statuesque Tiana (Talihina) Rodgers Gentry was the half-sister of two Cherokee chiefs, and niece to Cherokee Principal Chief John Jolly and related to the famous founder of Cherokee alphabet, Sequoyah. She became Tiana Houston in 1830. It is thought by many that Tiana was Houston's romantic interest before the Cherokee removal from Tennessee. Near Fort Gibson She ran his trading post known as Wigwam Neosho, and oversaw his interests while he drank hard- and occasionally fought in Washington D.C. for her people. 

 Sam Houston loved the arabesque attire worn by the Cherokees, and drove his detractors crazy with his Indian garb while in Washington D.C.....

Houston's earliest biographers chose to skim over this period in General Sam's life. In fact they often somehow forgot to mention Tiana, his legendary "Cherokee" wife. What could have been so bad about Houston finding love in his darkest hour? In fact those writers probably discovered and tried to avoid a scandalous harem left in the Arkansas Territory, of Native American wives that Texans even today will squirm at.

It was during these years in obscurity when Sam Houston may have woven his most intricate if not tangled web of influence. Houston was a very tall, commanding figure, and known as a powerful warrior from his days of fighting under Jackson against their sometime adversaries, the Creeks. Many historians still contend that Houston may have been assembling an Indian army as a U.S. Agent, intending to invade and secure Texas from Mexico using Native American mercenaries. Either way, Sam Houston became the great white hope for the civilized tribes. Houston refused to speak English, dressed and survived like an Indian. And he still had powerful medicine, especially able to fight in Washington for Native American causes and win the undying devotion of the Cherokees, and perhaps other tribes in their alliance.

Bye and bye, and certainly on schedule according to conspiracy theorists, Sam Houston left his idyllic life with the Indians, and followed his star into Texas, where his associations with the Indians would pay off later. He last saw Tiana, (actually Talahina) or Diana Houston at Fort Towson, when he left his adopted Cherokee homeland on a mysterious mission; The liberation of Texas. At the time he supposedly planned for his Cherokee spouse to join him, but she never did... and there may have been good reasons.

Incredibly, he would never mention Tiana or even bother to obtain a legal divorce from her. They had been married and separated according to Indian law. As far as what has been written about them for over a century, there was no issue out of this relationship. Whatever it meant to General Sam, it was in the past. Records show that she later remarried, so it may not be true that she waited faithfully and died of a a broken heart, as the legend goes...
But certain clues have emerged over the decades that shed light on Sam Houston's lost Indian loves. It is very possible, maybe even probable that he had other Native American “wives” during that time, from other tribes, as was Native American custom. This is nothing that the Houston family ever publicly acknowledged, but some Native Americans did, and did so discreetly, as they found the reality of it less useful than their white kinsmen. Here are the intriguing facts, and stubborn conclusions about Sam Houston's “lost” loves...

Texans take so much about the amazing Sam Houston for granted. He was the Governor of two states in the United States, a president of Texas, a hero of the War of 1812 and the commanding general in Texas Revolution. At the pinnacle of his illustrious career, he was impeached as the Texas Governor because he refused to join the madness of secession, the Confederacy and war against his beloved mother country. He died rejected and hated by many Texans. His legacy of lost loves is almost impossible to comprehend. That may be why so few have asked some obvious questions...

Like: Who was Talahina Rodgers? Who were the Alabama and Coushatta Indians, and why were they somehow overlooked when Texans routed and expunged all other Native Americans under President Lamar? All Indians but the Alabamas and the Coushattas, their kinsmen, relative newcomers to Texas themselves, were completely removed from Texas. But the Alabamas and Coushattas were eventually given a reservation and promises that were sort of kept. What kind of deal had they made? Who made it? Why and how was it enforced to this very day? Why did all of the Indian tribes trust Sam Houston so much, and why could he secure peace with them when nobody else could?

I believe that these and other questions that spring from these questions can be answered by Houston's Indian alliances and possible clandestine marriages while in Indian Territory. There are some intriguing possibilities. Prominent Indians from at least two different tribes have passed on traditions that they were “blood brothers” of Sam Houston. Indians either gave or took his name out of admiration, such as Sam Houston Benge, Houston Shaw, Samuel Houston Smith and Samuel Houston Mayes. Houston may have been the most admired and loved white man to ever mingle among the Five Civilized Tribes.

Cherokee Chief Bowles gave one of his daughters to Houston. This marriage was actually witnessed and recorded by Samuel Maverick. A Wichita woman named Melissa Houston claimed to be Sam Houston's wife as well.

Some of the research that brought these “native sons” to light was done by Dr. Joseph B. Mahan. A vastly pedigreed academic, Dr. Mahan wrote a fascinating book called North American Sun Kings, which fleshed out the complex inter-tribal alliances between the Civilized Tribes, and the religious and cultural core of their kinships. In his book Dr. Mahan reveals the mysteries of the ancient Shawano belief system, as understood by the Yuchi tribe, which included priest-kings and royal families and some mysteries very akin to that of the Masonic Order.

Like the Levites of old, the Yuchi Kings had priests who knew their genealogies going back many, many generations. The Yuchi were the priest class of the civilized tribes, embodied by the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Chickasaw tribes. Yuchi shamans were the official keepers of the eternal sacred fire for all the woodland tribes.

When Sam Houston met with these people, he no doubt would have recognized their significance and the similarity of their beliefs to ancient Judaism. He was perceived by them as a noble among nobles, and as he fraternized with many chiefs in the region, he no doubt was honored in many ways that would have been lost on the average Nineteenth Century person. And he may have been inducted into a secret Indian society known as the “Great Medicine Society,” and sealed these relationships through extra marriages. Dr. Mahan interviewed at length one such Yuchi chief, Samuel W. Brown Jr, who had no doubt that he was a grandson of Sam Houston.

Samuel W. Brown Sr., Chief of the Yuchi, always claimed Sam Houston as his real father.

Chief Brown unveiled to Dr. Mahan an elaborate network of spiritual tradition and practice, carried for centuries through many related tribes, from the Great Lakes region to the Smoky Mountains and later to Texas and Oklahoma. Dr. Mahan wrote everything down that Chief Brown said, and then spent the rest of his life trying to understand it all. In the midst of all of the mystic language and complicated tribal relationships, stood the unapologetic fact that Chief Brown was descended from General Sam Houston.

His father, Sam Brown Sr., had been born in Van Buren, Arkansas, in 1833, the son of a Yuchi princess from Alabama, named Suttah. Also known as Polly, she was a direct descendant of the famous Emperor Brim; the daughter of the Yuchi Sun King Timpoochee Barnard. Suttah was also the sister of two prominent Yuchi subchiefs, Tisoso and Fushudgee, both “Birdtail Kings.” All of them were grandchildren of "Cusseta" (Koasati/Coushatta) Birdtail Kings. They were royalty, at the top of their social order.

A fierce Yuchi partisan and statesman, Tisoso was hung by whites in Girard, Alabama in 1836, after Sam Houston had gone to Texas. He and his brothers had petitioned the Secretary of War, attempting to stop “the fraud being practiced upon our people.” These were the purportedly short-lived Indian brother's-in-law of Sam Houston and the uncles of Sam Brown Sr., who was of noble Yuchi blood and served as Yuchi principal chief for almost 50 years. His mother, Princess Suttah was murdered in 1861 by some of Quantrell's Raiders in Oklahoma during the Civil War. Fushudgee was killed the next year fighting under Creek Chief Opethleyoholo at Pea Ridge.

The fact that Sam Houston was the Senior Brown's father was a mere fact, nothing to be proud of, in fact it was rarely mentioned. In Creek and Yuchi tradition, royalty was passed down through the females, as in ancient Hebrew custom. Other Creek customs were unusual if not quite liberal to our Western, Victorian standards. Creek girls were expected to be sexually active before marriage. These were matrilocal societies, where polygamy was common, and chiefs encouraged favored candidates to bed with their daughters. Mixed-blood was actually desired. To add to the genetic pool of confusion, the Creeks were also exogamous, forbidding the marriage of individuals within the clan. Sam Houston would have been almost incidental to Sam Brown Jr.'s story, since his power and authority came through his grandmother Suttah. Still, Brown Sr. had admitted to his son that “...My father Sam Houston made two crops- and I rode on the horse's back...”

 Samuel W. "Billy" Brown Jr.

Billy Brown looked more like Sam Houston than his father did.

Old Chief Brown's contention that he was somehow spawned by General Sam Houston has its problems. It is doubtful that Houston made “two crops”... unless this was a euphemism for two conjugal visits, or even two children. Perhaps he might have once met Sam Houston later and “rode the horse's back,” the “horse” better translating into English as sire. Sam Brown was born in June of 1833, after Sam Houston abandoned his “Cherokee” wife Tiana and bought over 4000 acres on Karankawa Bay in Texas. In October, Nine months before, was exactly when Houston had settled his accounts and given the trading post and slaves to Tiana, and left forever. Intriguingly, Chief Brown would have to have been conceived during this last return to the Indian Territory and right before Sam Houston's legendary departure to Texas. So even though this relationship seems sketchy and improbable, it could have happened.

Houston filed his claim at San Felipe as a married man. If he had multiple wives in the Indian territory, he faced a real cultural dilemma. Which wife would he bring to Texas?

 Several Native American women insisted to their deaths that they were once wives of the famous Texan, and bore him children. This was nothing to brag about, as Texans were generally despised by Indians. Later the confusion led skeptics to allege that even youngest son Temple was one of the Indian offspring.

Houston did go back and forth in the early months of his adventure, offering opportunity for a tryst while reporting on his progress with the Comanches to American authorities. The Comanches were considered by the Americans as a possible natural military barrier to the Mexicans if they would cooperate, and Houston effectively placated them. If Houston had so many neglected and jealous lovers awaiting him back in the Indian Territory, no wonder dealing with Comanches seemed like a reasonable if not safer endeavor!

Sam Brown Sr. seemed to suggest that Sam Houston lived with his mother Suttah for at least two years, since “he made two crops.” He also suggests that he rode on the plow horse used on their farm, when just a toddler. It is not absurd to imagine this scenario, when we consider Houston's chronic alcoholism and escapism, and his popularity with the Cherokees. But a farmer he wasn't. Whatever strange fiefdom Houston had created, he could not sustain it.
 This portrait of Sam Houston reveals the similarity between Billy Brown and his alleged grandfather. Even Brown's daughter has Houston's eyes.

And there may have been a second, older son from this union, or a cousin or "half brother" out of an aunt of Brown's. No dates are known for a brother of Sam Brown's, but in the 1840's Brown's so-called “half brother” was kidnapped by the Osages, to be raised as one of their future chiefs! Houston had been instrumental in negotiating a successful and effective Treaty between the Osages and Creeks in 1831. This child may have been stolen when that treaty went sour. The stolen Yuchi boy was called Tsa pah ki ah, and became a major chief of the Osages. He was never rejoined to his Yuchi family. 

 Sam and Osage Chief Tsa Pah Ki Ah

The stealing of Indian children of royal blood was considered an intelligent thing to do! Is it possible that even a child of Sam Houston was considered powerful medicine? Or more likely, a great prospect for a huge ransom. There is no way to know what the Osages saw in the little Yuchi boy, but one look at him as a man and there is the instant impression of Sam Houston. Skeptics argued that Sam Brown Sr. did not look anything like Sam Houston, but then neither did Temple Houston, the last off-spring from Houston's most famous marriage... and yet Sam Brown Sr. could easily have been believed to have been Temple's brother.

The elder Brown took the name Brown from an Indian educator he admired. S. C. Brown took him under his wing and shared his love for education, which led to the founding of several Indian schools. If Sam Houston was his blood father, S. C. Brown was Brown's intellectual mentor. Still the acorn does not fall far from the tree. Sam Brown Sr was an original member of the Creek House of Kings, the Treasurer of the Creek Nation, a 32nd Degree Mason, and ultimately the last surviving Union Officer in Oklahoma. His integrity was unquestioned. Upon his death, Sam Brown Jr obtained a death certificate from the State Department of Health (Bureau of Vital Statistics) which verified that his father was indeed General Sam Houston.

According to Chief Sam Brown Jr., the Yuchis maintained close ties to many Indian brethren throughout the southeast United States, including those living in Polk County, Texas. These would be what we know as the Alabama-Coushatta Indians, once neighbors in Alabama over a century ago. Brown said that the “Cussettas” were the only tribe outside of the Yuchis who had ever been given all of the secrets of their elite religious order. The Cussettas (Koasati/Coushatta) were descendants of the Muscogee and Natchez tribes of the lower Mississippi Valley, and closely kin to the Creeks. They came to Texas around 1810. They brought the secrets and the alliances of the Birdtail Kings with them to the new land. Perhaps this ancient religious society was the nucleus of an blood covenant between General Sam Houston and his Indian kinsmen, which spanned from the Indian Territory to east Texas, and somehow protected these Native Americans from expulsion.

Whatever the reasons for it, kinsmen of Chief Sam Brown's seemed to enjoy the proverbial “king's X” in Texas. All other tribes were driven or burned out from east Texas before 1850. But even President Lamar, a veritable Indian exterminator, and the Texas Legislature passed laws and set aside large tracts of land for the Alabamas in Polk County, and they shared their good fortune with the Coushattas, and both live in peace in Texas to this very day.

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