JESSE CHISHOLM Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Name: Jesse Chisholm                                                                         
Born: 1805                                                                                   
Died: 4 March 1868                                                                           
Jesse Chisholm (1805? - March 4, 1868) was an Indian trader, guide, and                     
interpreter, born in the Hiwassee region of Tennessee, probably in 1805 or 1806.             
He is chiefly famous for being the namesake to the Chisholm Trail, which                     
ranchers used to drive their cattle to eastern markets. Chisholm had built a                 
number of trading posts in what is now western Oklahoma before the American                 
Civil War. Ironically, he never drove cattle on the trail named for him.                     
His father, Ignatius Chisholm, was of Scottish ancestry and had worked as a                 
merchant and slave trader in the Knoxville area in the 1790s. Around 1800 he                 
married a Cherokee woman in the Hiwassee area, with whom he had three sons;                 
Jesse was the eldest. Sometime thereafter Ignatius Chisholm separated from Jesse's           
mother and moved to Arkansas Territory. Jesse Chisholm was evidently taken to               
Arkansas by his mother with Tahlonteskee's group in 1810. During the late 1820s             
he moved to the Cherokee Nation and settled near Fort Gibson in what is now                 
eastern Oklahoma. Chisholm became a trader and in 1836 married Eliza Edwards,               
daughter of James Edwards, who ran a trading post in what is now Hughes County,             
Oklahoma. Chisholm took trade goods west and south into Plains Indian country,               
was fluent in fourteen dialects, established small trading posts, and was soon               
in demand as a guide and interpreter. He was universally trusted for his                     
fairness and neutrality, critical assets as diverse and often hostile cultures               
interacted for the first time. Eventually he interpreted at treaty councils in               
Texas, Indian Territory, and Kansas.                                                         
He was active in Texas for nearly twenty years. While president of the Republic             
of Texas, Sam Houston, who probably met Chisholm at Fort Gibson between 1829 and             
1833 (and married Chisholm's aunt), called on him to contact the prairie Indian             
tribes of West Texas. Chisholm played a major role as guide and interpreter for             
several Indian groups at the Tehuacana Creek councils beginning in Spring 1843,             
when he coaxed several tribes to the first council on Tehuacana Creek near the               
Torrey Brothers trading post eight miles south of the site of present Waco. Over             
the next year and a half he continued to offer his services to Houston, and on               
October 7, 1844, Chisholm got Comanches and others to attend a meeting at                   
Tehuacana, where Houston spoke. In February 1846, while visiting the Torreys'               
post from a trip south of San Antonio, Chisholm was hired to bring Comanches to             
a council at Comanche Peak (Glen Rose today). The meeting was held on May 12.               
Finally, on December 10, 1850, Chisholm assembled representatives from seven                 
tribes at a council on the San Saba River. At some of these meetings and on                 
trading trips he was able to rescue captives held by Indians.                               
By 1858 Chisholm ended his trips into Texas and confined his activities to                   
western Oklahoma. He left the Cherokee Nation and settled in the Creek Nation,               
near the mouth of the Little River, in what is now Hughes County, where he made             
his home. At various times he had trading posts out on the edge of the Great                 
Plains, including one near the site of Lexington (in what is now Cleveland                   
County) and one at Council Grove (near what is now Oklahoma City). Much of his               
trading was done by taking wagons and going to the villages of the Comanche and             
other tribes of the Great Plains. At various times he rescued captive children               
and youths from the Comanches and Kiowas by them. Most of these were Mexicans.               
He adopted them and reared them with his own family, treating them just as he               
did his own children. He went to Kansas with the Creek exiles, in the latter                 
part of 1861, but soon drifted west to the site of what is now Wichita, Kansas,             
where the Wichita, Waco and other refugee tribes from Southwestern Oklahoma were             
During the Civil War he served the Confederacy as a trader with the Indians, but             
by 1864 he was an interpreter for Union officers. During the war Chisholm                   
resided at the site of Wichita, Kansas; Chisholm Creek in the present city is               
named for him. In 1865, Chisholm and James R. Mead loaded a train of wagons at               
Fort Leavenworth and established a trading post at Council Grove on the North               
Canadian River near the site of the Overholser Lake dam in present Oklahoma City.           
Many of his Wichita friends followed, and their route later became the Chisholm             
Trail, which connected Texas ranches with markets on the railroad in Kansas.                 
Chisholm attempted to arrange an Indian council at the Little Arkansas in 1865,             
but some tribes held out. In 1867, with the aid of Black Beaver, famous Delaware             
leader and guide, he induced the plains tribes to meet government                           
representatives in a council that resulted in the Medicine Lodge Treaty.                     
Chisholm died of food poisoning after eating rancid bear meat at Left Hand                   
Spring, near the site of present Geary, Oklahoma, on April 4, 1868. His grave is             
marked. As the only survivng site conected with his life, his grave is on                   
the National Register of Historic Places.