William Abraham Hicks (1769 – c. 1837, age 68) (Cherokee) was a leader and chosen interim Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in October 1827. He succeeded his older brother Charles Hicks, who died in office in January that year, two weeks after coming to the position. The Cherokee Council named John Ross as second chief, and Elijah Hicks as President of the National Committee. William Hicks served until October 1828, when the Council elected John Ross as principal chief.
Hicks was of mixed race and became a wealthy farmer in the Oothcaloga Valley of present-day Georgia; he supported European-American education for his and other Cherokee children, as well as the opening of a mission and school in the valley. He was baptized as a Christian about 1819, as was his brother and other allies among the Cherokee.
Early life and education
Charles and William's father was Nathan Hicks (1740–1829), a Scottish trader, son of Robert Hicks and Mary Courtney. Their mother was Nancy Conrad (1740–1770), a half blood, daughter of Swiss immigrant, Johann Conrad (1720–1754) and Jennie Oconastota (b. 1724), daughter of Oconastota Rainmaker (1702–1783) and Ahneewakee of the Red Paint Clan (b. 1704). As the Cherokee had a matrilineal system, the children belonged to their mother's clan, where they gained their social status, and boys were guided by males in their mother's family. Nathan Hicks and Nancy Conrad had: Sarah Gosaduisga (1758), Elizabeth (1759), Mary (1760), Nathan Jr (1764), Elizabeth (1766), Charles (1767) and William (1769).
William Hicks became active in the tribe, supporting his brother in many actions. He developed a farm in the valley of Oothcaloga Creek, as did Major Ridge and numerous other Cherokee, turning it into a recognized "garden spot". (It was near present-day Calhoun| in Gordon County, Georgia.)
During these years Hicks became allied with Major Ridge, who also had a farm at Oothcaloga. They shared some ambitions for their children and the Cherokee people. They both sent sons to study with the Moravian missionaries, the Gambolds. In addition, William Hicks became baptized as a Christian, as did his brother Charles and his wife, and Ridge's wife Susanna. Ridge later hired a private tutor for his son John Ridge and sent him to a private white school. About 1822 Ridge and Hicks urged Father Gambold to open a mission at Oothcaloga and to establish a missionary school, as they had more children to be educated. Charles R. Hicks, William's older brother, advanced to become Second Principal Chief of the Cherokee, serving for years in that position. Two weeks after the death of Pathkiller and succeeding him as Principal Chief, Charles also died, on 20 January 1827. The tribe was without a leader and under pressure for land cessions by Georgia and North Carolina. At the time, Major Ridge was Speaker of the Council; he assumed leadership of the lower house. John Ross continued as President of the National Committee, or upper house. Following increasing centralization of leadership for nearly a decade, in 1827 the Cherokee changed their government to a constitutional republic, which incorporated many aspects of Cherokee tradition.
Perhaps because the adoption of a new constitution had provoked an outcry from representatives of bordering states (Georgia appealed to President John Quincy Adams), the Council chose to put in place an interim government. At its meeting in October 1827 at New Echota, it named Hicks as principal chief, John Ross as second chief, and Elijah Hicks as President of the National Committee. William Hicks succeeded his older brother. William Hicks served until October 1828 during a time of tension; in December 1827 the Georgia government claimed Cherokee territory was under its jurisdiction.
While the Council was meeting, General Cocke asked it to meet him and two other federal treaty commissioners at Hiwassee, but the Council declined. It said those meetings were only about ceding land to the United States, and the Cherokee had no more land to give.
John Ross became Principal Chief in October 1828. Of European and Cherokee ancestry, he had been educated in American schools, was bilingual, and was among the mixed-race elite leaders of the tribe, who were more acculturated to European-American ways. Most of the tribe did not speak English.
George Lowery was elected Second Principal Chief, Lewis Ross as President of the National Committee, Going Snake as Speaker of the Council, John Martin as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. At that time, William Hicks and Major Ridge were chosen as counselors to the chiefs. Like Ross, the leadership of this National Committee was predominately men of mixed race, who were wealthy and bilingual in English. Members of the National Council, the town chiefs, tended to be full-blood and spoke only Cherokee. Among the issues they were considering was trying to regulate missionary expansion, which both Hicks and Ross discussed. The tribe had asked the missionaries to get their permission before bringing in more personnel but were ignored by the Tennessee Methodist Conference.
Disappointed that Ross was chosen as Principal Chief over him, Hicks was considered to have become eccentric. Ross took him with a delegation to Washington to discuss land issues, but afterward Hicks' actions were considered increasingly erratic.
Hicks died at age 68 at Oothcaloga Creek, Georgia before the Removal.
Marriage and family
William Hicks married (1) Lydia Qua-La-Yu-Ga Halfbreed, born about 1792 in Spring Place, Georgia, daughter of James Stands Big Halfbreed (1750-1834) and Hannah Qua-La-Yu-Ga Critterden (1756-1838, daughter of Critter Den and Jennie Dougherty). She was born about 1776 in CNE [GA], and died 1849. Their son Chief George Augustus Hicks, was a Conductor on the Trail of Tears that went through Ft. Smith Arkansas. Lydia also married Leonard Shaw, son Fred Shaw; Daniel McCoy, daughter Catherine McCoy; James Chisholm, children unknown; James Foster, children John Tyler, Wat and Tom Foster; George Chisholm, children Nelson, Lydia and Polly Chisholm.
He married (2) Sarah Bathia Foreman, called Sallie, 1804 in Tennessee, daughter of John Foreman and Susie Ti-Ta-S-Gi-S-Gi Rattling Gourd 1760-1830 (daughter of John Gourd and Teetarskeekee 1741-1828). She was born about 1788 in Cherokee territory in present-day Tennessee and died September 1, 1839 in Fairfield, Cherokee Nation (Indian Territory). Children: Elly, Judge Jay, William Jr, Ruth, Carrington, Margaret, Abijah, Ella, Sarah Rosalie and Sallie. Sallie died on the Trail of Tears Sept 1, 1839.
- Hicks, Charles R., Memoirs of Charles Renatus (United Bretherin (Moravian) Archives, Winston-Salem, NC).
- John Howard Payne Collection (Daniel Butrick Papers), Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois.
- McLoughlin, William G. Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
- Wilkins, Thurman. Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Decimation of a People, New York: Macmillan Company, 1970; reprint 1989.
Charles R. Hicks
| Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation–East