Amherst's Cherokees

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Amherst's Cherokees


Monacan Indians


In a letter to the Lynchburg News the Reverend Josiah R. Ellis gives an account of the origin of the Indians in Amherst County. The letter was published in The Southwestern Episcopalian on December 5, 1922.


Reverend Josiah R. Ellis


Monacan Indian Nation


December 5, 1922


Courtesy of the Southwestern Episcopalian


Amherst County
Bear Mountain

Document Item Type Metadata


Amherst’s Cherokees

Pedlar Mills, Va.,

                December 5, 1922


Editor of The News:

                Your correspondent in Sunday’s paper, “A Subscriber,” may be correct in saying that it is a mistake to say that the people ministered to by the “Amherst Indian Mission” are descendants of the Pamunkey tribe of Indians, but himself is mistaken when he says there is nothing in the tradition that they are descendents of the Cherokees “since there is nothing more heard of that theory now.” Perhaps he has not heard of the “theory” of late because it has not been questioned generally and so is not talked about among the people.

                In my youth it was talked about and so heard of as a well established tradition and one whom I recall—Captain Edgar Whitehead himself interested in and well versed in such matters—said more than once in my presence that the Amherst Indians were descendants of braves who were left over in Amherst, for some reason not mentioned, from those who had visited the Great Father in Washington from a southern tribe, perhaps the Cherokees.

                Two of these I’ve seen, Paul Redcross and another whose name I have forgotten, and had your correspondent seen either one of these he would not have denied them their birthright nor that of their descedants. When Paul Redcross rode into the Village of Amherst Court House, as the village was then called, he looked every inch an Indian and the villagers took the second look at him as he rode by. Straight as an arrow, long-haired, with high cheek bones and copper skin, the man, his manner, even the name proved his claim, and that of his confrere was no less self assertive. These two while they lived kept the tradition well before the people and the memory of them should allay any surprise that they and their descendants indignantly resent their being classed with the “Old Isshy” (Issue).

                Indeed the raison d’etre of the Mission grew out of this claim and distinction: they could not go to church and school with the white people, they would not go with the colored people; their number was too small for a separate school, so they were left high and dry without church or school privileges. The Mission was started to supply these needs.

                I took the census among these people in 1880 and was struck by the characteristics of the Indian about many of them and they were put down in records as Indians at that time.  These characteristics are still noticeable among them.  I saw recently a typical Indian girl in a private home some two or three years ago sent out from this mission and since that time my attention has been called to the fact that the same marks of distinction may be seen among the men.

                In later years, there has been miscegenation no doubt.  It would be most remarkable were there not, but that they were of pure Indian origin and remained so for years may not be doubted, whatever your correspondent may think of the theory of their genesis. 

Josiah R. Ellis


Reverend Josiah R. Ellis, “Amherst's Cherokees,” Virginia Indian Archive, accessed July 6, 2022,

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