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By Al Lacy Joanna Lacy
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2006 ALJO PRODUCTIONS, INC.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was midmorning, October 3, 1790, in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and a hint of autumn nipped the air.
In the Cherokee village led by Chief Pathkiller, a seventeen-year-old boy named Sequoyah was slowly riding his black and white stallion along a path that ran past a string of weather-worn cabins. The path was deep in dust, and the cool wind whipped up little puffs.
The rugged mountains on both sides of the village cut into the brilliant blue sky above, which was dotted with many small white clouds.
Sequoyah felt pride well up within him as he looked around the neatly kept village. "I love my home," he said in a half whisper to himself. "I love the wind in my face and these rolling mountains. I hope I will always live right here in the Smokies. I can't even imagine living anywhere else."
Lost in his daydreams, Sequoyah was jarred to awareness when he heard a loud groan. He pulled rein and looked around at the array of cabins. A few yards ahead of him, he caught sight of a young expectant mother named Molly Ross, who was seated on a wooden chair near the front door of her cabin, doubled over in pain.
Sequoyah hurried the horse to the spot, slid off its back, and dashed to Molly, bending low so as to look into her pallid face. "Molly! Isit your time?"
She straightened up, and the long shower of her black hair fell glistening over her shoulders. She ejected a small gasp and tried to speak between the stabbing pains. "Y-yes, Sequoyah ... it ... it is time."
Another pain struck her. She grimaced and held her breath and waited for it to pass.
Sequoyah found himself holding his own breath as he waited for her to breathe again.
Molly released a tiny moan and said, "The baby is coming quickly. Will you go tell the three midwives, Catana, Binjie, and Eliana, that I need them now?"
A frown lined the young Indian's brow. "Molly, let me help you into the cabin, then I will ride for the midwives."
Molly gave him a tiny smile. "Good idea. I would not want to give birth right here."
She winced with another pain, and when it let up, Sequoyah took hold of her arm, gently helped her off the chair, and helped her inside the cabin. He eased her down on the edge of the bed and said, "I will hurry, Molly."
Molly doubled over with another pain as she heard Sequoyah's horse gallop away. When the pain eased up, she lay down on the bed; then she closed her eyes and clenched her teeth when another pain lanced her. She wished her husband was there, but Daniel was at his store in Whittier.
Only a few minutes had passed when she heard voices and opened her eyes. Catana, Binjie, and Eliana hurried through the door and went to work to prepare for the baby's delivery.
Outside, Sequoyah stood at the cabin's door, telling people who were passing by what was happening inside.
At one point, Sequoyah saw Chief Pathkiller strolling toward him, escorting his longtime friend Chief Elami from a Cherokee village in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. As the two chiefs drew up, Pathkiller smiled and said, "Sequoyah, you remember Chief Elami."
Sequoyah returned the smile. "Oh, yes, though it has been quite some time since I have seen you, Chief Elami. It is nice to see you again."
Elami nodded as the two of them shook hands Indian style. "It is nice to see you too, my boy."
"Chief Pathkiller, Molly Ross is giving birth to her baby," Sequoyah said. "Her three midwives are with her."
"Oh! It's too bad Daniel is not here with her." Pathkiller turned to Elami. "Molly is a half-breed Cherokee who is married to a Scotsman named Daniel Ross. Daniel owns the general store in the town of Whittier, which is some five miles south of the Smokies."
"I see," Elami said. "The white man is happy living here in your village?"
"Yes, quite happy. When he and Molly married five years ago, Daniel knew she loved her Cherokee people. He offered to make their home in the village, and she gladly accepted the offer."
Elami grinned. "Not many white men would do that."
A crowd had gathered outside the cabin as Sequoyah made everybody aware of what was happening inside. Almost an hour after the midwives had entered the cabin, everyone heard a loud moan from Molly, followed by a slapping sound and the welcome wail of a newborn child.
Seconds later, Eliana came out of the cabin, smiling, and said, "I have good news! Molly's baby is a healthy boy!"
Elation showed on all faces as some of the crowd cheered.
When the cheers faded, Chief Pathkiller asked Eliana, "Does the boy have a name yet?"
Eliana nodded. "The happy mother just told us that she and Daniel had agreed if the baby was a boy, they would name him John. And they also have given him a Cherokee name: Tsan-Usdi, but his parents will call him John."
Eliana stepped up to the seventeen-year-old boy, whose copper-colored face was shining in the sunlight. "Sequoyah, Molly asked that you ride into Whittier and tell her husband that she has given birth to little John Ross."
Sequoyah turned and looked at his chief, questioningly.
"For this occasion, you may ride into Whittier," Pathkiller said. "If anyone stops you before you get to the general store, tell them why you have entered their town and take them directly to Daniel Ross. He will handle the situation when he hears the good news."
Sequoyah looked back at Eliana and smiled. "Tell Molly that I will go immediately." He dashed to his stallion, swung up on the broad bare back, took the reins in hand, and galloped away.
"Eliana, may I come inside and talk to Molly?" Chief Pathkiller said.
"Just as soon as we have her all cleaned up and the baby in a blanket in her arms, I will return and let you know so you can come in."
Chief Elami turned to Chief Pathkiller. "I must head back to my village."
The chiefs talked for a brief moment while the crowd dispersed, then bid each other farewell. Pathkiller watched Elami as he rode away, and just as he passed from sight, Eliana appeared at the cabin door and said, "You may come in now, Chief."
Chief Pathkiller entered the Ross cabin and followed Eliana as she led him toward the bed where Molly was holding her baby and gazing adoringly at his fair-skinned face and blond hair. She caressed his downy cheek with her fingertips and kissed his smooth brow, then looked up at her chief and smiled.
Catana and Binjie stood on the far side of the bed and looked up as their chief and Eliana drew near.
Chief Pathkiller stepped up to the bed, matched Molly's smile, and said softly, "He is a fine boy, Molly."
"Yes, he is," Molly said, once again caressing the sleeping baby's face. "I hope there will be little brothers and sisters for him, too."
"I understand from Eliana that his Cherokee name is Tsan-Usdi. That is a good name. I also think the name John Ross fits him well."
"Thank you, Chief Pathkiller."
There was a moment of silence as the chief fixed his attention on the baby. Then he said, "Molly, I have a feeling about little John Ross."
Molly's brow furrowed slightly as she looked up at the chief. "What kind of feeling?"
"I believe your son will one day be a leader among the Cherokee people ... an honorable and a gallant chief."
A smile spread over Molly's face. "Chief Pathkiller, this is amazing."
"The same thoughts you just expressed were going through my mind when you came into the cabin. I know that one day John Ross will make Daniel and me very proud."
The midwives were smiling now, whispering to each other. When Molly and the chief looked at them, they stepped up close to the bed. Catana said, "We want you to know, Molly, that we agree with you and Chief Pathkiller. When little John Ross grows up, he is going to make us all very proud!"
On Sunday, May 10, 1801, Chief Pathkiller granted permission to missionary Edgar Sloan to preach to a crowd of Cherokees who desired to hear what "white man's Bible" had to say. The village shaman did not attend the service, and neither did about half the people of the village.
In the crowd was ten-year-old John Ross, who always dressed in the buckskin clothing of his Cherokee people. He was sitting on the ground close to his parents, who had his seven-year-old brother, Lewis, between them. Sitting beside young John was his friend Sequoyah, the man he admired most after his father.
Sequoyah was now twenty-eight years old, and just the month before, the authorities of the Cherokee nation had made him a Cherokee chief.
Edgar Sloan read many Scriptures to the people from his English Bible, then translated them into Cherokee. In the Cherokee language, he told them of God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, coming to earth many years ago to pay the price for the sins of mankind in His death, burial, and resurrection.
The Indian people sat quietly as they listened to this white man. Some just shook their heads in disbelief, thinking of the teachings of their shaman, but others were fully absorbed in the news the missionary shared with them.
Sloan carefully went over the gospel message, explaining that we have all sinned against God and that the penalty for our sin is death. He then told his listeners that repentance is sorrow for sin and a change of mind that results in a change of direction. They must change their mind about their sin and their man-made religion and turn to Jesus to save them.
"I know that to most of you, this is all new. But if you will give the Lord the opportunity to speak to you in your hearts, His Holy Spirit will convince you that it is true. I have already been told by Chief Pathkiller that I can return and speak to you again. I want you to think about what you have heard, and I will be back in two days and help those of you who wish to receive the Lord Jesus Christ into your hearts as your Saviour. Of course, if any of you feel you are ready today, come to me after the service."
Tears of compassion were in Edgar Sloan's eyes as he said, "Let me tell you a story from the Bible and give you one more verse before I finish my message."
The Cherokees listened intently as Sloan told them the story of the woman at the well in Samaria, and how she believed in Jesus and her sins were forgiven. Then she went and told the people in her town about Him.
Sloan ran his gaze over the faces of the people and said, "Many of the Samaritans came to Jesus because of the woman's testimony and believed in Him. The Holy Spirit had convinced them that Jesus was the only one who could save them from dying in their sins and facing the wrath of God. After they became believers, they said to the woman, 'Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.'
"You are part of this world. The only one who can save you is Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world."
Edgar Sloan closed in prayer, asking the Lord to show them their need to know Jesus.
When the service was over, John Ross accompanied Chief Sequoyah, who went to the missionary and said in English, "Sir, I have heard things today from your Bible that I had never heard before. May I tell you something?"
Sloan smiled, glanced at the ten-year-old, fair-skinned boy in Cherokee attire, then looked back at Sequoyah. "Of course."
Sequoyah said that he planned to one day develop a system of writing for the Cherokee people because he believed that increased knowledge would help them maintain their independence from white man's government.
Sloan nodded. "I cannot blame you and your people for wanting to remain independent. It is only natural. I hope you'll be able to accomplish your desire to produce a system of writing for your nation."
Sequoyah looked at the Bible in Sloan's hand and said, "Another thing ... when I have developed the writing system, I want to translate the Bible into the Cherokee language so my people can read it for themselves."
"That would be wonderful. Where did you learn to speak English?"
"From another missionary who spent some time here in the Smoky Mountains when I was living in another village. He taught me well."
"I should say he did."
"He taught me much from the Bible, but you still brought out things today that I had never heard before. I will be listening for more when you come back."
Sloan smiled. "Good. And young man, I sincerely hope you'll accomplish your desire to translate the Bible into the Cherokee language."
As Chief Sequoyah and John Ross walked back toward John's parents, John said, "Sequoyah, when I grow up I want to do all I can for the Cherokee people, too."
Sequoyah set kind eyes on him. "John, I have no doubt that you will one day become a chief."
John looked at him incredulously. "But I'm only a quarter Cherokee, and I have white skin, straw-colored hair, and blue eyes. Are you saying that I could still be a Cherokee chief?"
"You are a good boy, John Ross, and you have shown everyone in our village that you are all Indian in your heart. Yes, I know you can become a Cherokee chief, and I am sure you will."
A smile lit up the boy's face. "Well, Sequoyah, nothing could make me prouder than to be a chief in the Cherokee nation."
John's parents heard their son's words to Sequoyah and smiled at each other. Then Molly said, "John, I have never told you what Chief Pathkiller said to me on the day you were born."
"What did he say?"
She then told John the words Chief Pathkiller had spoken at her bedside about his feeling that one day her baby boy would become a leader among the Cherokee people ... an honorable and gallant chief.
John's eyes were wide. "Chief Pathkiller really said that, Mother?"
"Yes, he did."
Daniel stepped up and placed a hand on John's shoulder. "Chief Pathkiller said those words to me also, son, when I came home with Sequoyah, who rode to Whittier to tell me you had been born. The exact same words."
John's chest swelled up and his eyes sparkled. "I sure hope he's right!"
Daniel patted his oldest son on the back. "I have no doubt that Chief Pathkiller is right. Though you are still very young, there are certain qualities about you that indicate you have what it takes to be a leader."
John ran his gaze between his mother and father. "If ... if I become a chief, will I have to go by my Cherokee name?"
Daniel looked to Sequoyah for an answer.
"As a Cherokee chief, I can tell you that if you want to be known as Chief John Ross, it will be all right," Sequoyah said.
John turned and smiled at his father. "I'm glad, because I want to honor you, Father, by keeping your last name."
Tears misted Molly's eyes, and Daniel gave John a big hug.
Excerpted from Cherokee Rose by Al Lacy Joanna Lacy Copyright © 2006 by ALJO PRODUCTIONS, INC.. Excerpted by permission.
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