Part 2: Sacred to Their Memory - The McNairs
Article Author: By Marian Presswood
McNair story continues
Part 2: Sacred to Their Memory - The McNairs
By Marian Presswood
To continue the McNair story, David McNair was born 1774, the son of James and Martha McNair. He married 30 December 1801 to Delilah Amelia Vann, the daughter of James Vann one of the most powerful and wealthy men of the tribe. According to Penelope Allen in a 1930s Chattanooga Times article from her column, Leaves From the Family Tree, the McNairs had six children:
1. Mary Vann McNair, born January 13, 1803, married first the Rev. Richard Neely a Methodist Minster who worked among the Cherokees, and 2nd William Rogers.
2. James Vann McNair, 1809-1875 married Elizabeth Childers 1819-1868 (a white woman) and had sons Lewis, and Dr. Felix Hurd McNair, of Locust Grove, OK who married Nannie Sarah Bushyhead. Elizabeth was the daughter of Lemuel Childress and Nancy Vann (daughter of John Oowanee Vann).
3. Nicholas Byers McNair married Mary Rogers, daughter of John and Sarah Cordery Rogers.
4. Elizabeth McNair married first Dr. Jesse Bean and second, John Weir.
5. Martha McNair married David Vann as his second wife. David served as the Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation for several years.
6. Clement Vann McNair, born 15 March 1814, died 8 February 1897 in Calaveras County, California. He married first, Susannah Martin and had children John and Martha; he married second, Mrs. Martha Ann Childers Smith and had Clement, Nicholas, Amelia, Ezra, Leoda and Mary Elizabeth. Clement was one of the Gold Rush Forty Niners who went to California, as did many Cherokees from the Territory, and never returned to the Cherokee Nation. Whether he was married to Susie Rgsby is not known but they were said to have had a daughter, Josephine, born 1853.
According to the inscription on the early tombstone David McNair died 15 August 1836, but another stone inside the rock wall is inscribed, “David McNair Capt. Morgan Jr.’s Reg., Cherokee Indian War of 1812 July 15 1837. Then to add to the confusion, there is a 29 July 1837 entry in the journal of an English geologist, G. W. Featherstonebaugh, which states that he met an old man named Mr. McNair and his “progeny of half-breeds” a few miles from his home, who confided that he had dropsy and was now on his way to consult a doctor who lived a hundred miles way.
Delilah had been in the ‘waiting pens’ at Charleston when she died. The family begged permission, which was granted, to take her back to her home near the Conasauga River for burial in the tomb next to David.
This excerpt from the Buttrick Diary gives just a glimpse of the intolerable conditions the Cherokees endured while waiting to be sent down the river.
Friday, June 1 1838: Our dear captive friends were driven on to the camps 2 1/2 miles from the mission where they wait to be sent down the river.
Sabbath, June 10 1838: . . . half the infants six months or a year and all the aged over sixty had been killed directly and one fourth of the remainder and the residue suffered to continue under unfavorable circumstances until they could move with safety. Driving them under such circumstances, and then forcing them into filthy boats to overflowing in this hot season, landing them at Little Rock, a most sickly place, to wait other means of conveyance 200 miles up the Arkansas River, is only the most expensive and painful way of putting the poor people to death.
The first company sent down the river, including those dear trembling doves who spent a night at our house, were, it appears, literally crammed into the boat. There was, we under understand, a flat bottom boat 100 feet long 20 feet wide and two stories high, fastened to an old steam boat. This was so filled that the timbers began to crack and give way, and the boat itself was on the point of sinking. Some of the poor inmates were of course taken out, while the boat was lashed to the steam boat, and some other small boats were brought to take in those who had been recalled. Twelve hundred, it said, were hurried off in this manner at one time.
Who would think of crowding men, women and children, sick and well, into a boat together, with little, if any more room or accommodations than would be allowed to swine taken to market.”
What a sad ending to a proud and prosperous pre-Polk County family, who almost certainly would have contributed much to the newly formed county - had the tide of historic events only been turned.
(Pictured is Clement Vann McNair, son of David and Delilah McNair.)
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