NATIVEAMERICAN-CHIEFS-L ArchivesArchiver > NATIVEAMERICAN-CHIEFS > 2004-02 > 1077561256
From: ROBIN HUNT BUTLER DAVIET <>
Subject: [NATIVEAMERICAN-CHIEFS] Betty Pledge Ayers daughter of Chief Donahoo/Donnaha and mother of Chief Junalasky of "Trail of Tears" fame
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2004 13:34:16 -0500
Literally thousands of individuals are looking for the ancestors and
siblings of Elizabeth "Betty" Pledge and Francis "Frank" Pledge who were
also children of Betty Pledge Ayers, the mother of Chief Junalasky and
daughter of Chief Donnaho Donnahoo Donnaha Donnahaha Dannaha. (As you can
see, the correct spelling is in considerable question.)
Elizabeth "Betty" Pledge was born the 22 February 1739 in Goochland County,
Virginia, died 9 February 1816 in Surry County, North Carolina, married
Thomas Poindexter and had 12 children. Thomas and Elizabeth "Betty" moved
from Virginia to Surry County, North Carolina. Their home was located in
the bend of the Yadkin River one mile west of a town called Dannaha.
Francis "Frank" Pledge was born @1741 in Goochland County, Virginia, died
before January 1785 in Goochland County, Virginia and married Elizabeth
"Jane" Poindexter, September 1766 in Louisa County, Virginia. They had 6
The oral tradition handed down through the Poindexter/Pledge families (this
is a very common story - through descendants of all their children) is
Elizabeth "Betty" Pledge and Francis "Frank" Pledge were the children of
William "Bill" Pledge who was born @1705 and died before 15 November 1779
in Goochland County, Virginia and Elizabeth(?) "Betty", believed daughter
of Chief Donahoo(?) [see variant spellings above] and Mary Wentworth.
"Betty" was born @1715 in Virginia or North Carolina. She was married first
@1736 to "Bill" Pledge. "Betty"'s ancestry is the unsolved mystery. Family
accounts say she was the daughter of Chief Donahoo/Donaho/Donnaha etc. and
his wife, a white woman named Mary Wentworth. Following is one such
"Chief Donnaha was a chief of the Cherokee Nation. Tradition says his wife
was Mary Wentworth whose family came to Virginia in the 17th century and
settled in what is now Louisa County. Their daughter Elizabeth married
William Pledge and was the mother of two children Elizabeth Pledge, who
married Thomas Poindexter and Francis Pledge, who married Thomas
Poindexter's sister. At a latter date."
"The above genealogy was told to me when I was five or six years old by my
Uncle JOHN C. POINDEXTER, who was born August 8, 1778 and died October 4,
1868" P.H. Poindexter" This verison is copied from "A Walk Through the
Twentieth Century" by James Ralph "Joe" Scales published 1989.
Knowledge of Chief Donahoo and his ancestry gets even more confusing. This
is where the descendants of Elizabeth and Francis Pledge are hoping someone
out there is able to assist all of us who are stuck in this quagmire.
The largest single group that was denied acceptance as Cherokee descendants
through the Dawes Commission were those who claimed through Elizabeth
"Betty" Pledge and Francis "Frank" Pledge. Even the final report left
questions because the statement along with the rejection, made it seem
likely there was some validity to the information the family had provided.
It came from so many different sources with basically the same details.
Conjecture was even put forth that the family must have some Native
American blood, but questioned the tribe these descendants actually came
from. Another words, not if they were descended from Native American stock,
but which tribe their revered ancestor came from.
William "Bill" Pledge was a frontiersman/trapper. He would spend long
periods of time in the wilderness, trapping, and then go back to his
eastern colonial settlement to sell his wares. From what we know, it
appears he had a wilderness wife, "Betty", and a colonial wife, Ann. "Bill"
and Ann had three children, Martha, William, and Archer. "Bill" and "Betty"
had two children, Elizabeth "Betty" and Francis "Frank". At some point,
"Bill" took his and "Betty"'s children to live with his other family in a
colonial settlement area. Whether "Betty" came along or not is unknown.
We do know at some point in time, as the tale goes, "Betty" Donnahoo went
back to her tribe. Was her father still living? The story does not tell us.
It does say she had two other children, Junalasky/Junalaska and John Ayers.
We know a gentleman named Ayers is the father of John and is also believed
to be the father of Junalasky/Junalaska. It is believed Junalasky/Junalaska
was adopted by a Cherokee named Drowning Bear. This and the fact Cherokees
were in the Surry, North Carolina area is possibly what led the family to
believe this must be the tribe "Betty" returned to.
In 1670, John Lederer reported visiting Saura villages along the Yadkin,
Catawba and Dan Rivers on his expedition into the wilderness of Western
North Carolina. While researching, we have come across a Chief Danapaha who
is said to be an early Saura/Sara/Sarrah/Cheraw Chief. It is said the Dan
River is named for him. Legend also says the town Dannaha, which Thomas and
Elizabeth moved next to along the Yadkin River, was named for an Indian
Chief. Was Elizabeth "Betty" returning her family to her early childhood
home when she and Thomas moved to North Carolina? Was she attempting to be
in close proximity of her mother or at least her mother's people?
We recently have learned quite a bit more about the
Saura/Sara/Sarrah/Cheraw Indian Tribe. For one thing, there seems to be a
lot of controversy on exactly how the tribe's name is spelled. This could
be because this tribe had no written language. It's history was an oral one
passed down from father to son and memorized by each succeeding generation.
It seems that with the devastations of disease brought by Europeans and the
assimilations of this tribe into other tribes and the colonial population,
their vast history is now left to piece together from fragments of
information written by earlier explorers, surveryors, colonists, and
hopefully at least some English speaking descendants, along with the
excavations of present day archaeologists.
Most, if not all of the Indians in the Piedmont area at the time of English
contact spoke varying forms of Siouan. The Piedmont Siouan tribes included
the Catawbas, Saras, Saponis, Tutelos, Occaneechis, Monacans, Mannahoacs,
Waterees, Enos, Keyauwees, Sugarees, Esaws, Shuterees, and Shakoris. Most
of these tribes possessed similar lifestyles and were related by language,
marriage, and trade. The Saura tribe occupied the territory drained by the
Dan and its tributaries which included land in both Virginia and North
Carolina. The southern tribes of the Sara, Eno, and Keyauwee later merged
with peoples in the Catawba valley to form the polyglot Catawba Nation. For
a time these tribes enjoyed the best of both worlds. They kept their ties
to Virginia while making new friends with South Carolina.
"When men from Charleston stopped at the Sara village in 1712 on their way
to fight the Tuscaroras then raiding North Carolina, 42 Sara warriors were
heading in the opposite direction to join the Yamasee and others in an
attack on South Carolina, and they carried on the fight with grim
determination long after most Indians had made peace. As if South
Carolina's enmity were not enough, the Sara also learned that they could
run from the Iroquois invaders, but they could not hide. In 1716 and again
in 1723, war parties from the Five Nations wreaked havoc along the Pee Dee
River. By the end of the 1730s, most of the inhabitants had abandoned their
new homes to take refuge among the Catawba. They soon discovered that the
Catawba Nation was more target than refuge, and during the 1740s Sara
leaders were again talking of moving someplace "where they might have fewer
Enemies." Colonists and Catawbas convinced them to stay, and they agreed,
perhaps in large part because past experience had taught them the futility
of escaping their implacable northern foes." (Merrell 1982a:223, 234, 250,
303, 309, 363, 390).
The above quote is included in this query because it talks about the period
of time "Betty"'s father, Chief Donahoo would have been the head of the
tribe, if this is the tribe of which they were members. "Betty" would have
lived through this period of turmoil and upheaval for her tribe.
"By 1740, when the first white settlers began venturing into the northern
piedmont, they met no resistance from the native tribes. In fact, they met
few natives. Over a period of less than 100 years after the first Virginia
traders bartered their wares, the villages of the Sara, Occaneechi, Eno,
Sissipahaw, Tutelo, Saponi, and Shakori lay vacant, surrounded by abandoned
fields that were soon to be tilled by the newcomers."
How do we begin to locate information about Chief Donahoo and the tribe to
which he actually belonged? Do any members of the Saura Nation still
survive? Does any of their culture exist within the Catawaba tribe? Is the
Catawaba tribe still recognized by other Indian Nations? Any help anyone
can give us would be gratefully appreciated.
Robin Butler Daviet, one of the descendants of Elizabeth "Betty" Pledge