The following letter was handwritten to my sister Carol,
by Uncle Billy Rex Hilton:
If I don't write this letter
now, I'll never write it, so here goes.
This letter will deal with our
Cherokee blood and a little Hilton history.
The Cherokee Band trying to
organize in Berryville, Ark. The Hawk and Eagle Feathers for religious purposes don't jibe with Cherokee history as
I know it. Hawk and Eagle feathers along with the horse (after the Spanish reintroduced it after 1530 A.D.) is totally
peculiar to Western or Plains Indians.
A lot of "Hippies" settled with small craft shops throughout
the Ozarks after the Vietnam War. Then along came the Federal law for equal opportunity for women and minorities.
Now a lot of people want to be an indian, in fact, you see a lot of old hippies now wearing indian jewelery and clothing.
I usually qualify these people with a few questions based on Cherokee history as I know it. I know it from research
and little rememberances that I have from my childhood encounters with grandma "Polly Ann."
So be careful with mail order tribal dues and enrollments.
When you talk to these "wanna be" indians I find that they cite a lot of erroneous information. For example, most
people think the "Trail of Tears" was one big route west from eastern Tenn.; in fact, there were twelve routes west.
The government called it the "Cherokee Removal." It started in 1838 and each group had about 1000 indians, They
moved west by river barge, on foot, and wagons. The army rounded the Cherokees up mostly from western North Carolina,
eastern Tenn., northwest Georgia and northern Alabama. They were held for a time in stockades at a place called Rattlesnake
Springs in eastern Tenn. The army escorted each group west and they retained civilian countractors to furnish the means
for movement, whether it be by barge or wagon train. This contracted
care was supposed to cover medical care and food along with all other needs, it did not. These contractors failed to
furnish campfire wood and fire on more than one occasion. Women died in child birth. Many died from illness caused
by poor sanitation, weather and general neglect. Over 4000 died in route, abuse and cruelty to a captive people was
rampant. Twenty-five years later (after 1838) many Cherokees remembered this cruelty and joined the Confederacy during
the Civil War.
In late 1838, the last group of Cherokees had left via
river barge at a point on the Arksansas River somewhere between present day Conway, Ark. and Morrilton, Ark. Each family
was now assigned to a wagon and headed west in trails on the north side of the Arkansas River.
John Ross, the 1/8 Cherokee and the Principal Chief along
with his family was in this last group. His wife, Quatie (Full Blood) gave her only blanket to a sick little girl.
Quatie then contracted pneumonia and died. AShe lies buried not fare from Conway, Ark. The winter weather of 1838
was furious. Another indian family was in this group. We know them as Matthew & Hannah, husband and wife,
with three daughters; their names Keziah, Elizabeth and Jane (8 years old). Jane grew -up to become the greatgrandmother
of all the descendents of Polly Ann Bilyeu Hilton.
Matthew and Hanna along with their three daughters slipped
away at night during one of these bad snow storms and headed their wagon north.
They settled in what is now the Berryville, Ark. area.
(Still the winter of 1838). In 1840, no doubt with their minds at ease with no army pursuit, they moved another twenty-five
miles north and homesteaded forty acres in Taney County, Mo. The Lewallen Cemetery is easily found not too far the country
entertainment strip of Missouri Highway 76.
In 1850, Matthew left the family there in Taney County,
Mo. He joined a wagon train and headed for the California "Gold Rush." Somewhere beyond northwestern Kansas the
train was attacked by indians and Matthew was killed. He lies buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on the great plains.
Meanwhile, William Hilton (1803-1885), with his wife Rhoda
Lawson Hilton and their twelve year old son Samuel Wilson Hilton (1828-1873) had moved from Scott County. (Hiltons) Virginia
and homesteaded in Walnut Shde, Taney Co., Mo. Ohoda Lawson Hilton was the daughter of William Lawson, exiled from Scotland
at the age of 15. He was what we call today, a "Bravehart" Exile to the Colonies or be hanged said the King. About
1767 he was set ashore in Virginia. He moved to what is now the Scott Co., Va. area and settled. With the start
of the Revolutionary War, he raised a company of Volunteers and reported to George Washington.
"Where did you get this information Uncle Bill" you probably
think. Here is the easy part. It is all on his toobstone which is located in the Lawson Confederated Memorial
Cemetery about eight miles out of Gate City, Scott Co., Va. His tombstone is massive and erected by the Daughters of
the American Revolution. This took me away from the Cherokee line, but now I shall return.
Hannah Lewallen left the Taney Co., Mo. area furing the
Civil War and settled in the Cass Co., Mo. area. This was considered to be safe from the Baldknobbers and outlaws of
the Civil War Taney Co., Mo. area. About 1860-61 she died and was secretly brought east to the Meadows Cemetery (northeast
of Walnut Shade) on Bull Creek and within a few feet of the Christian Co. line. She is buried in an unmarked grave to
the left as you enter the gate.
Sometime probably near 1845-50 Jane Lewallen (my great
your great-great grandmother) married Wiett Bilyeu. (The bilyeu's moved west from Overton Co., Tenn about 1840.)
Wiett Bilyeu and Jane Lewallen Bilyeu had three children.
Two girls and a boy. Tullie - Hannah Elizabeth - and John. Our grandmother Hanna Elizabeth changed her name from
Hanna Elizabeth to Polly Ann for reasons known only to her. Polly Ann married a man by the name of Green and they had
one daughter by the name of Mary. This marraige was ended for reasons undertermined by me.
Polly Ann Bilyeu Hilton (1861-1958) married William Hilton
(1855-1911). They had 10 children: Benjamin, Newton, Mitte, Mary Jane, James Ross (my father, your grandpa), Kate,
Cora, Cara, Ellis, Joseph.
We have CHerokee blood from at least two ancestors:
Jane Lewallen Bilyeu and Nancy Bird (Byrd) Hilton, wife of Samuel Hilton 1766-1830 (Scott Co., Va.).
Carol, I hope you enjoy this information and I will
close by saying:
Love from Martha and Me to you and your family.
P.S. #1 In 1907 with Oklahoma Statehood.
all Cherokees not registered in Talliaquaw, Okla., were invited to come in and register. Grandma Polly started but changed
P.S. #2 If you can find the Lewallen name
on the Removal Rolls, the Cherokee Nation in Talliguaw, Okla. will take us with open arms. they are well acquainted
with my book, "Cherokees of the Ozarks".
Some important dates and notes:
1782 The Spanish Governor of lands west
of the Mississippi granted permission for Cherokees to move into Western Lands.
1808 Cherokee Settlement along the St.
Francis River in eastern Ark.
1819 The Settlement anchored along the
Arkansas River near Dandoville, Ark has dissolved. (Many moved west into Texas.)
1835 The Governemtn conducts the first
Cherokee Census. The Lewallen (Lewellen) family is not on thei census. Over 5000 Cherokees are known to
have missed this census.
1838 Forced Removal Begins
1862 Taney Co., Mo. Courthouse burned (Cival
Wiett and Jane Lewallen Bilyeu are buried in a small cemetery about 3 miles
southeast of "Removal" - this is the official governemtn name. National Archives or Historial Army Records.