A Guide to the Jesse Chisholm Papers, 1859-1880, 1928
Indian trader, guide, and interpreter Jesse Chisholm (1805?–1868) was born in the Hiawassee region of Tennessee. His father, Ignatius Chisholm, was a merchant and slave trader of Scottish ancestry, who married a Cherokee woman with whom he produced three sons, of which Jesse was the eldest. After the, couple separated, Jesse’s mother took him to Arkansas in 1810. During the late 1820s, he moved to the Cherokee Nation and settled near Fort Gibson in what is now eastern Oklahoma. In 1836, he married Eliza Edwards, the daughter of a trader in Hughes County, Oklahoma, with whom he had several children, including William E. Chisholm. Chisholm traded goods west and south into Plains Indian country, learning a dozen or so languages and establishing small trading posts. He became a busy guide and interpreter in Kansas, Indiana Territory, and Texas, where he remained active for several decades. Eliza Chisholm died in 1846, and a year later Jesse married Sahkahkee McQueen.
In the 1840s, Republic of Texas President Sam Houston called on Chisholm to contact the prairie Indian tribes of West Texas. Subsequently, Chisholm served the Republic or several years, as guide and interpreter at the Tehuacana Creek councils and other meetings. Additionally, Chisholm assembled representatives from seven tribes at an 1850 council on the San Saba River. Through his tribal contacts, he also secured the release of hostages held by various Indian groups.
By 1858, Chisholm confined his activities to western Oklahoma and Kansas. In 1861, he conducted the Shawnees and other Indians in a migration to Wichita, where he stayed during the Civil War, working first as a trader for the Confederacy and later interpreting for Union officers. After loading a train of wagons at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1865, Chisholm and James R. Mead traveled to Council Grove, near the present site of Oklahoma City, where they established a trading post. Many of Chisholm’s Wichita friends followed, and their route became known as the Chisholm Trail, connecting Texas ranches with Kansas railroad markets.
William E. Chisholm (1837-1880) moved with his parents to Chisholm Spring, Oklahoma, in 1847. In 1860, he married Cherokee woman Hester Butler, and the couple joined Jesse on the journey to Wichita. There, Chisholm left his young wife in the care of her father and returned to Oklahoma, never to return to Kansas. After marrying Julia Ann McLish, in 1863, Chisholm moved near Asher, Oklahoma, where he lived as a member of the Chickasaw Nation until his death in an 1880 blizzard.
Pamphlet on Chisholm genealogy. June 1939. Accessed November 3, 2010.
Richardson, T. C. “Chisholm, Jesse.” Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed October 3, 2010.
Consisting of photostats of legal documents, The Jesse Chisholm Papers, 1859-1880, 1928, document Shawnee War claims of the heirs of Jesse and William E. Chisholm. The collection concerns the appraisal of the Chisholms’ estates, their marriages and descendents, and rulings on the distribution of the estates. Additionally, four documents relate to Jesse Chisholm’s work as Indian interpreter and guide.
This collection is open for research use.
Jesse Chisholm Papers, 1859-1880, 1928, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers