EDITOR’s NOTE: Years ago Dave Marrs, Vinita newspaper man, wrote the following article on the life of George W. Scraper, a judge of the Cherokee Nation, and with it a bit of the early life of the Cherokees. Judge Scraper was the father of Mrs. George W. Clark, who was the mother of Mrs. E. B. Frayser, pioneer Vinita resident. It is so well written and contains much of interest so we pass it on to our readers just as it was written by Mr. Marrs.
NOTE: According to family members, this story was written by Mrs. George (Lydia) Clark, daughter of Judge George Washington Scraper. I have seen the handwritten copy passed down in the family that Lydia wrote. I cannot say whether Mrs. Clark had the training and skill to write this on her own, but she certainly could have had the ability. I can say that newspaper man Dave Marrs could not have written it without help from the family. Perhaps Mr. Marrs sat at Mrs. Clark’s kitchen table a time or two as she related the story of her father’s life or showed him a written copy of the story. He may have then typed it up put for the Vinita paper. (Joe Scraper Jr.)
JUDGE GEORGE WASHINGTON SCRAPER
A generation ago the Cherokee people were a happy, contented, law-abiding and thrifty “nation”. Their council-fire had not gone out on the mountainside, and the greatest of American Indian tribes had many noble and talented men and women on the rolls of its citizenship. The Cherokee Nation had perhaps reached its zenith in the early 80’s, and those were great days. But the foundations of its greatness and glory were laid back in the old nation in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, from whence the tribe was driven by an edict of the United States, leaving behind them their old homes, the burial places of their dead, and the beloved hills — their hills – along the slopes of the blue ridge, and in the valleys of the Chattanooga River.
Among the leaders of the Cherokees in the old nation was the father of George W. Scraper, the subject of this sketch. The elder Scraper was a full-blood Cherokee, and known simply as “Old Man Scraper”, having no middle name, as was not uncommon among the Cherokees in the old days. He served in the Creek War in 1812, and afterwards drew a pension from the United States government and was an industrious citizen of noble bearing and splendid character.
George W. Scraper was born in the state of Georgia on the Chattanooga River near its confluence with the Coosa River, on the 31st of December, 1818, and in 1834 married a daughter of Martin McIntosh, a prominent halfbreed Cherokee, who was at one time interpreter for General Andrew Jackson. Mr. Scraper and his wife both received a limited education in a mission school at Willstown conducted by Rev. William H. Chamberlin. After his marriage Mr. Scraper lived on the Chattanooga River until the fall of 1838, when he came west with the emigrant Cherokees.
Those were eventful days to the Cherokee people, and troublous times throughout the old nation east of the Mississippi. Long weary months were consumed in preparation for the final start west, and the Cherokees were rudely hurried into stockades commanded by United States soldiers under General Winfield Scott. Mr. Scraper and his faithful wife were driven from their comfortable home builded by their own hands, taking nothing but the clothing they wore. This came about after the Cherokees had refused to obey the orders of the United States government to remove west voluntarily. Mr. Scraper was among the intelligent Indians that counseled his people to obey orders and move without being coerced, but such pleading was in vain.
Before the final start on the long, tiresome journey, Mr. Scraper got leave of absence to pay a visit to his old home, but found it in possession of a white family, and could not recover a single thing as a souvenir of his years of honest toil. Early in November, 1838, the detachment in which Mr. and Mrs. Scraper came, started from near Chattanooga, Tennessee. While in camp their first child died and was buried by the roadside, as were many hundred others, old and young. Fifty wagons were apportioned to each thousand souls, twenty to the wagon; the more able-bodied walked. This tragic procession moved down the west bank of the Tennessee River, crossing the Ohio into Illinois, and crossing the Mississippi near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Thence through the Ozarks into Washington County, Arkansas, and finally, in March, 1839, into the Cherokee Nation at the old Baptist Mission on Spring Creek. These wanderers had spent more than five months on the road, and weary and footsore and penniless, they faced a wild, unsettled country and began again to select homes and build their cabins among the hills of old Going Snake District along the eastern rim of their new domain. Back along the long trail, as they journeyed, another child was born to Mr. and Mrs. Scraper, a son, William M. Scraper. He lived until the Civil War, in which he served as first lieutenant, Company A, 3rd Indian Home Guards. He was relieved on account of ill health, and died in 1864. Mr. Scraper settled in Going Snake District, and became a prosperous farmer, and filled many places of trust and honor under the Cherokee government.
When the Civil War came on the little nation was again rent in twain. Some of the Cherokees wanted to join the North, some the South. The Cherokee country between North and South became a prey to the march and countermarch of contending armies. Mr. Scraper was selected captain to organize a company of one hundred men for the Confederacy and to report at Fort Gibson, which he did very soon with more than the number of men asked.
Mr. Scraper, with many others, late in the summer of 1863 banded themselves together and went north, joining the Federal army at Fort Scott. Mr. Scraper served till the end of the war, and was honorably discharged. After the war he went to work to rebuild his neglected home and cultivate his farm. He soon became prosperous and again filled many places of distinction under the Cherokee government. Mr. and Mrs. Scraper reared a family of eleven children of their own, besides twelve orphan children they took into their home and cared for. They were consistent members of the Baptist church, which with its missionaries and its schools, had followed the Cherokees like a pillar of cloud through all their wanderings. Mr. Scraper died October 6, 1899, and Mrs. Scraper died March 21, 1894.
GEORGE W SCRAPER SHERIFF BOND
GEORGE W SCRAPER CIVIL WAR CLAIM
“JUDGE SCRAPER’S DEATH” “A man of Sterling Intergrity Gone To His Reward” - “Judge George Scraper, Mrs. G. W. Clark’s father, died Thursday on Rowe’s Prairie, 20 miles east of Pryor Creek, at the home of another daughter, Mrs. Cul Rowe. Mr. Scraper was 85 years old. For a number of years he had been in frail health. Lately his condition has declined and he, better than his family, knew the end was at hand. The Cherokee Nation nor any other country ever had a man more highly regarded by those who knew him than George Scraper. While he had occupied several positions of trust and honor, he was not of the office-holding class, and more’s the pity. Deceased was a union soldier but his natural instincts were all for peace.”