Sunday, December 02, 2018

James J. Trott: Missionary to the Cherokees, 3

In the spring of 1837, having spent most of the previous fourteen years in Georgia, J. J. Trott moved back to Tennessee. It must have been a bittersweet time in his life. More than twenty years earlier, in 1815, his family had come to Tennessee from North Carolina, when Trott was still a teenager. It was there in the Volunteer State that he had placed his faith in Christ, joined the Methodist Church, and become one of their circuit-riding preachers.[1] Now, having spent so many years away, he was returning to his old home, to his family of origin and long-time friends.

Trott had first moved to Georgia in 1823. By then, his ability and dedication were obvious to Methodist leaders who made him a missionary to the Cherokees. In early 1828, he married a Cherokee woman in Georgia named Sallie Adair. Not long afterward, he was arrested, persecuted, and imprisoned as one of several missionaries to the Cherokees who refused to take an oath of loyalty to Georgia, an oath which effectively denied the land rights of all Indians within the state's supposed borders. It was also during these years that he happened upon the writings of Alexander Campbell, pursued a fresh study of the Bible, was immersed into Christ. A short time later, Sally died, but not before she was immersed by her husband. She left behind a young son and daughter.[2]

In spite of these hardships, Trott remained in Georgia during the early 1830s. He married another Cherokee woman, Rachel Pounds Adair (who was not a sister to the first wife) and pursued his goal of preaching what he called "the primitive gospel" among the Indians.[3] Although he had separated from the Methodist Church by this point, it seems that his early experience as a circuit rider had become a part of him. He was never content to preach in just one place. For example, an 1836 issue of the Millennial Harbinger places him in Louisiana preaching among the Cherokees there.[4]

In 1837, Trott could see that the Cherokees still in Georgia were destined to be removed by the federal government to the region west of Arkansas, Indian Territory. Rather than face that prospect, he chose to move his young family to Tennessee instead.

From 1837 to 1859, Trott resided in Tennessee. According to Tolbert Fanning, much of that time, Trott was a member of the church of Christ at Franklin College, Tennessee. He was also, according to Fanning, a regional missionary, surpassed by no one as a "self-sacrificing, independent, earnest, humble and faithful teacher" of the Christian faith.[5]


[1] Tolbert Fanning, "James J. Trott: Messenger of the Church of Christ at Franklin College, Tennessee, to the Cherokee Nation," Gospel Advocate 11 (March 25, 1869), 271-74; Joseph R. Bennett, II, "God's Gift to the Nation: The Biography of James Jenkins Trott, 1800-1868,"

[2] James J. Trott, "To the Editor of the Millennial Harbinger," Millennial Harbinger (February 6, 1832), 85; Bennett, "God's Gift to the Nation." Regarding Trott's marriage to Sallie Adair, Bennett cites the February 1828 edition of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first American Indian newspaper. Concerning Trott's marriage to Sallie Adair and, later, to Rachel Pounds Adair, see Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore, 404. Starr first published his work in 1921. It has since been reprinted many times.

[3] Bennett, "God's Gift to the Nation." Trott's reference to "the primitive gospel" is found in his letter "To the Editor of the Millennial Harbinger."

[4] J. J. Trott, "Query." [Response by Robert Richardson] Millennial Harbinger (May 1836), 233. According to Russell Thornton, a Cherokee-American anthropologist, in the early 1780s, "Cherokees who had fought on the British side in the Revolutionary War asked permission of the Spanish governor at New Orleans to relocate west of the Mississippi River to what was then Spanish territory." Their request was granted by Don Esteban Miro, governor of the Louisiana territory. See Thornton, The Cherokees: A Population History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 44.

[5] Fanning, "James J. Trott."

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