Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Thanks to Cherokee descendant Rita Coolidge for signing my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, for our James family cousin, Mark C. New. In addition to being a James cousin, Mark is also a 6th great-grandson of Cherokee Chief Doublehead and his daughter Princess Cornblossom. Rita signed the book to Mark “with love.”
On this chilly, drizzly morning of October 19, 2013, I was pleased to be among the two hundred or more. We warmly welcomed Rita Coolidge to Stanford, Kentucky. Here she dedicated an historical highway marker to the memory of her Cherokee ancestry. The Cherokee were among the earliest people to occupy this part of Kentucky together with the Shawnee.
Coolidge recounted stories told to her by her Kentucky grandparents. In school, she recounted being taught how America was founded by Columbus. At home, she was taught a longer history of her own descent from Native-American people. They were present in America before Columbus. The two histories she learned couldn’t be more different. Her parents at home in Tennessee told her much more other kids never learned in school.
Rita sang us a Cherokee song she learned. Her ancestors chanted the song as they walked the Trail of Tears to their exile in distant Oklahoma.
Her friendship with today’s Cherokee Chief of the West in Oklahoma recently informed her, “If Andrew Jackson knew how pretty Oklahoma was, we never would have got it.”
After the dedication, Rita Coolidge took some time to meet and talk with many of her admirers and many Kentuckians with whom she shares Cherokee heritage. She also signed a copy of my book for our James cousin Mark C. New, who also has Cherokee ancestry. Mark’s 6th great-grandfather is Cherokee Chief Doublehead
And guess whose camera batteries died right when it was time to have his picture taken with the beloved singer? I’ll never make that mistake again.
Mark C. New was unable to attend with me. He is a funeral director in Burkesville, Kentucky, and had two burial services on the day of the dedication.
Among the family, Mark is best known for the annual family reunion he holds at his family’s homestead in Science Hill, Kentucky, every year on Memorial Day. The hayride to the nearby cemetery is a big hit with the youngsters who get to meet the ancestors in the cemetery about whom all the grown-ups were heard talking.
JAMES & CHEROKEE PEDIGREE OF MARK C. NEW
Chief Chuqualataque, “Doublehead” & Taltsuska, Cherokee
.. George Jacob Troxell & Cornblossom, Cherokee
… James William Vaughn & Elizabeth Troxell
…. Merritt Bergin Matthews & Elizabeth Vaughn
….. Dupree Denney & Matilda Matthews
…… John Perry New & Cecelia Jane Denney
……. Dellas E. New & Sarah Ethel Nevils
…….. Ernest Edwin New & Janice C. James
……… MARK C. NEW
……. Janice C. James & Ernest Edwin New
…… Fred O. James & Hazel Adams
….. John Perry James & Lydia Crow
…. Judge John Thomas James & Patience Jenkins
… Rev. Joseph Martin James & Permellia Estepp
.. John M. James & Clarissa Nalle