This article contains Cherokee syllabic characters. Sequoyah’s heroic status has led to several competing accounts of his life that are speculative, contradictory, or fabricated. Davis, 27th member of the alphabet were very few primary documents describing facts of Sequoyah’s life.
Some anecdotes were passed down orally, but these often conflict or are vague about times and places. Sequoyah was born in the Cherokee town of Tuskegee circa 1770. James Mooney, a prominent anthropologist and historian of the Cherokee people, quoted a cousin as saying that as a little boy, he spent his early years with his mother. His mother, Wut-teh, was known to be Cherokee. Mooney stated that she was the niece of a Cherokee chief.
Sources differ as to the identity of Sequoyah’s father. Davis cites Emmet Starr’s book, Early History of the Cherokees, as the source for saying that Sequoyah’s father was a peddler from Swabia named Guyst, Guist, or Gist. The New Georgia Encyclopedia presents another version of Sequoyah’s origins, from the 1971 book, Tell Them They Lie: The Sequoyah Myth, by Traveller Bird, who claims to be a Sequoyah descendant. Bird says that Sequoyah was a full-blood Cherokee who always opposed the submission and assimilation of his people into the white man’s culture. The encyclopedia noted that Bird presented no documentary evidence, but has gained some credibility in academic circles. In any case the father was absent before Sequoyah was born. Various explanations have been proposed, but the reason is unknown.
There were no siblings, and Sequoyah was raised by his mother alone. According to Davis, Sequoyah never went to school and never learned English. He and Wuteh spoke only Cherokee. Sequoyah became lame early in life, though why, when and where are not known.
Davis wrote that an early issue of the Cherokee Advocate said that “he was the victim of a hydrarthritic trouble of the knee joint, commonly called ‘white swelling’. Despite his lack of schooling, Sequoyah displayed a good deal of natural intelligence. As a child, he had devised and built milk troughs and skimmers for the dairy house that he had constructed. As he grew older and came in contact with more white men, he learned how to make jewelry. He became a noted silversmith, creating various items from the silver coins that trappers and traders carried. He never signed his pieces, so there are none that can be positively identified as his work.