By: Jack Swift
I try to feature the subject of history in many of my columns. As I read and write history, I often read about women who have changed the course of history. One woman in particular who stands out as a genuine heroine is Nancy Ward. She is buried a few miles from Benton, Tennessee. Her gravestone has a plaque that reads “the Pocahontas of Tennessee.”
With what I’ve learned about her, she was truly a brave person who risked her life trying to bring Native Americans and the settlers together. She opposed war viewing it as a no-win situation for her people. Among many of her exploits was fighting beside her husband Kingfisher, a noted war chief, during the Battle of Muskogee in the Cherokee-Creek war of 1755. During that battle, Kingfisher was killed and she took up his rifle and fought side by side with the warriors.
She was respected and looked up to because of her bravery. Accounts differ about who her father was but her mother was Tame Doe, an important person who was related to many of the important Cherokee figures of her time. She was known as “Beloved Woman” and as so had the right to sit with the tribal council. Her power in the tribal council enabled her vote on whether or not to engage in war, as well as to life or death for captives. And she could choose the method of torture. She saved the life of Lydia Bean after she was captured during the raid on Fort Watauga in July of 1776.
As white settlers began to take Cherokee land, several Cherokee women married Euro American men. Nancy’s second husband was Bryant Ward, a British trader. She believed coexistence and compromise, rather than violence, was best for her people. Nancy Ward was born in ca. 1738 in Chota, Monroe County, Tennessee. She died in 1822 near Benton, Tennessee. By 1819, the land she grew up on was sold. She then returned to Chota and spent her final years running an inn. She was considered a heroine by the Daughters of the American Revolution and in 1923, The Nancy Ward Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution built a monument to her near her grave near Benton, Tennessee. She was just one of the many women who have had a very important role in history.