Guess where the father of Cherokee Principal Chief Charles Hicks lived?

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

Wilkes County, Georgia

That’s the same location in which Bryant Ward, husband of “Cherokee Heroine” Nancy Ward lived his entire his adult life, after arriving from Ireland . . . although in the late 1700’s the new State of Georgia subdivided Wilkes into the dozen or so counties, which exist there today. Something is very rotten in Denmark, as Shakespeare wrote so long ago . . . in regard to the official “Cherokee History” that one reads in books, references and in the national media.

I am currently trying to “polish up” The History of the Cherokee People by Principal Chief Charles Renatus Hicks by including accurate biographies on Hicks, his father and John Howard Payne, the American ambassador, who saved the Hicks-Ross letters, just before the Trail of Tears. The various genealogies of Charles Hicks, posted on the internet, greatly conflict with each other and often, also with history. What has concerned me all along . . . from the first time that I read Charles Hicks’ manuscript, was that the only region, where he had an accurate, intimate understanding of the geography was the Northeast Georgia Piedmont . . . a region where the Cherokees never lived!

Map Above: This is a section of a map prepared by the British Army two years before the start of the American Revolution. Note that the Southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation were the Tallulah River and the Hiwassee River. Only present day Rabun County, GA and the eastern half of Towns County, GA were in Cherokee territory. This map is slightly off because only the first 14 miles of the Hiwassee River are in Georgia. Thereafter, the Hiwassee roughly parallels the state line about 10 miles to the north.

The basic facts about the Hicks family

Nathaniel Hicks, the father of Cherokee leader, Charles Hicks, was born on November 6, 1743 in Albemarle Parish, Sussex County, Virginia. He migrated to the Province of Georgia, shortly after the Treaty of 1763, in which the Creek Confederacy ceded the lands, north and west of Augusta that would become the original Wilkes County. Shortly after arrival in Georgia, he married a mixed-blood Indian girl IN GEORGIA named Jenny, whose father was a Swiss-German immigrant named Johann Conrad. Anything else that you read about her in various genealogy websites and Wikipedia is 20th century poppycock.

The chances were that Jenny’s Native heritage was Creek, Uchee or Chickasaw, since she was from Northeast Georgia. The descriptions of her being Cherokee Wolf Clan are 20th century poppycock and not derived from any contemporary records. Their firstborn son, Nathaniel, Jr. never left Georgia and established a plantation on the Ohoopee River near present day Wrightsville, GA.

A younger brother, Cherokee Principal Chief Charles Hicks, was born in 1767. Apparently, Nathaniel, Jr. looked more Caucasian than Charles and so elected to live his life as a white man. In contrast, as a teenager, Charles ran off and joined the Chickamauga Hostiles, and from then on identified himself as a Cherokee. It is obvious that Charles Hicks learned to speak Cherokee after learning English.

Nathaniel Hicks, Sr. died in 1829 (two years after his son, Charles) in Washington, GA (Wilkes County) where his marked grave is today. Several online references say that Washington was then within the Cherokee Nation or in Tennessee. That’s horse manure. Until 1773, the location of Washington was in the territory of the Creek Confederacy and about a hundred miles south of main Cherokee settlements.

History created by Alice in Wonderland

My favorite aspect of the delusional Cherokee genealogies and history posted on the web are the numerous families, who claim a famous Cherokee chief, who was born on the Little Tennessee River in the 1600’s in one of the Cherokee Overhill towns. The bogus ancestry of Charles Hicks is no exception. Both French and English maps show the Little Tennessee River being occupied by Koasati and Kusate (Upper Creek) villages until 1721.

Earlier this month the previous Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, Michell Hicks, was interviewed concerning the current economic crisis on the reservation. As an introduction, he stated that he was descended from Principal Chief Charles Hicks, whose parents were a white trader in Tennessee and Nancy Broom, the daughter of Chief Broom in Alabama.

Northeast Alabama was Chickasaw Territory until 1785. The mother of Charles Hicks could have not been born in Broomtown, Alabama. However, some web genealogies have Chief Broom being born in Georgia, but not a specific location.

Well, the bit about Nancy Broom . . . that’s from the delusional version of Cherokee History by Oklahoman Emmet Starr in 1922. Starr wrote that after Cherokee heroine Nancy Ward’s husband, Bryant Ward, left her, she married Nathaniel Hicks and became the mother of Charles Hicks.

All of Starr’s romantic intrigue took place in Tennessee, while actually Nancy was from the Nacoochee Valley of Georgia. She did not live in Tennessee until the mid-1790’s or later. Also, we have already told you that Bryant Ward and Nathaniel Hicks lived in Wilkes County, GA. Other fictional versions of Nancy’s life have her living with white men other than the name of Hicks. Maybe Nancy did have an affair with Hicks, but she was living with Bryant Ward, when Charles Hicks was born.

There are a dozen different versions of Charles Hicks genealogy on the internet. Many have Jenny Conrad going by the last name of either Jenny or Nancy Aniwahya, which means “Wolf Clan” in Cherokee. Some genealogies say that the last name, Conrad, was changed to Broom, so her real name was Broom.

There are absolutely no birth certificates, obituaries, published contemporary observations by credible eyewitnesses or treaties to confirm that many of the “Cherokee chiefs and princesses” mentioned in genealogies, ever even existed. One is left with the impression that the authors of these genealogies were primarily interested in proving descent from some “famous” Cherokee chief or princess. . . whether or not that person ever existed. If citing a source for their information at all, it is consistently either some other late 20th century genealogy or Emmet Starr . . . hardly a credible source.

It’s a jungle out there in Native American research land!


  1. Interesting article. Thanks! However, one important historical detail is incorrect. Bryant Ward, second husband of Nancy Ward, lived much of his adult life in Franklin County, Georgia. This fact can be proven by numerous records from the Franklin County records. Bryant and his sons Samuel and John Ward each received bounty land grants in Franklin County on the Tugaloo River for their service to the USA during the American Revolution. They settled upon these former lands of the Cherokee Nation during the early 1780s, immediately following the Treaty of Paris. John moved into the Cherokee Nation with his wife Catherine McDaniel and family while his father and brother lived and died (circa 1817) in Franklin County. –Patrick Pynes, Ph.D.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for writing. That part of Franklin County ultimately became Habersham (1818), Hart (1853) and Stephens (1905) Counties. Wards Creek is now in Stephens County. None of the Tugaloo River now flows in Franklin County.


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