In 1842, a group of 20 enslaved Africans from the Cherokee territories planned an insurrection which has been called “the most spectacular act of rebellion against slavery” among the Cherokee. Escaping from Webber Falls, their plan was to head south for Mexico where slavery had been prohibited since 1836. They would pick up at least another 15 slaves from the creek territory.
Some Cherokee and Creek Indians pursued the men killing 14 slaves while the others continued south. Along the way, they were approached by two slave catchers named James Edwards, a white man, and Billy Wilson a Delaware Indian who were transporting a family of runaway slaves back to the Choctaw territory. They would ultimately kill the two slave catchers and allow the family to continue escaping with them to Mexico.
On November 17, 1842, the Cherokee national council in Tahlequah passed a resolution authorizing Cherokee Militia Captain John Drew to put together 100 citizens to pursue, arrest, and deliver the African slaves to Fort Gibson. The resolution also relieved the Cherokee of any liability if the slaves resisted and they had to kill them.
On November 28th, the large mob finally caught up with the slaves who were too tired and hungry to resist. They were captured 7 miles north of the Red River and were forced to return to their homes in Choctaw, creek and Cherokee reservation.
Also, five of the slaves were killed for the murder of the two slave catchers. After the incident, the nation feared another insurrection so they created strict slave codes and kicked all of the free slaves out of the territory understanding how powerful a free mind could be amongst the enslaved. Even though they would eventually get caught it’s important to highlight the moments throughout history that we’ve had the balls to stand up to our oppressor….and this was definitely one of them!!