TAHLEQUAH -- In 1901, Joseph "Stick" Ross made his mark in Cherokee history by becoming a Cherokee Nation citizen as a Freedmen. With Dawes Roll No. 895, he applied himself and his family for citizenship and began his civic duty in Cherokee society and politics, according to research by genealogist Angela Y. Walton-Raji.
According to his Freedmen Roll card, he was born in the 1850s into slavery in Indian Territory to Hector and Sallie Ross. He and his parents were enslaved by Principal Chief John Ross, according to a previous Cherokee Phoenix article.
He was called "Stick" because he was a tall thin man, and supposedly given the nickname in his younger years, according to accounts from his descendant, James Ross.
Historian Beth Herrington said according to the 1900 Census, Stick's birth year is listed as 1854 and as 1855 on the 1910 Census.
After slavery was abolished in the CN with via the 1866 Treaty, Stick was freed from enslavement and was allotted land.
Herrington said according to accounts from James Ross, Stick was smart enough to request all of the allotment land together, which is now known as Stick Ross Mountain.
"When the allotments were made he was smart enough, he got all of his children's allotments out of top of what we call Stick Ross Mountain now," Herrington said. "His children all had allotments out there. That meant the family owned a good portion of the land out there. He had an eye for that sort of thing."
Herrington said he was also a member of the First Businessmen's Club in Tahlequah.
He later went became the Dist. 1 Tribal Councilor in 1893-94, according to the Cherokee Advocate newspaper. Other Freedmen who served on the Tribal Council were Joseph Brown, Ned Irons, Frank Vann, Samuel Stidham, Jerry Alberty and Creek Sam.
It wasn't until 1901 that he was officially listed on the Cherokee Freedmen Roll along with his wife, Nancy, and their children -- Malcolm, Julia, Amanda, Patsie (or Patsy) and Clem. Stick and Nancy were listed as being from the Saline District, present-day Dist. 6, while his children were listed in the Tahlequah District.
During the Dawes Rolls application process, he listed his name as "Stick" rather than Joseph, though on earlier rolls his name was inscribed as Joseph. He was 52 years old at the time, while his wife was "about 44."
Stick frequently supported petitions of people applying for admission or re-admission for CN citizenship during the early 1890s, said Daniel Littlefield, director of the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, in a previous Cherokee Phoenix article.
His contributions to the CN and Tahlequah area, though segregated at the time, were like that of other Freedmen. He worked at the Ross Mill while he was owned by John Ross after the Civil War, and was a mortar carrier when the Capitol building was being constructed in Tahlequah.
"They were segregated but they worked in many of the places in town," Herrington said. "They worked at the post office. They were contributing members of the community as much as you could be in a segregated community."
His memorial marker says he was a "Tahlequah pioneer and civic leader," which is found in Ross Cemetery, though his burial site in the cemetery is not known. It indicates he died in 1930.