Archibald Scraper

Arch Scraper was born about 1820-25 in Cherokee Nation East1 beside the Chattooga River near where it joined the Coosa River, in what is now Alabama, about a mile west of the Georgia border. His family was among those forced from their homes and driven from their lands during the Trail of Tears.2

Mr. Scraper went to Washington as a delegate representing the Cherokee Nation in 1865, 1867, 1868, & 1869.3 He was a Senator of the Cherokee Nation (GoingSnake District) in 1869-70, and was elected President of the Senate those same years.4 For the years 1867 & 1873 Archibald was a Council Member of the Cherokee Legislature representing GoingSnake District.5 In 1867 & 1868 he was Speaker pro tem of the National Council Cherokee Nation6 and he was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation in 1877.7

Mr. Scraper was a close friend of Zeke Proctor and was right in the thick of things during the so-called ‘Goingsnake Massacre.’ Scraper was Director of public schools and fearing trouble, he moved the trial from Goingsnake Courthouse to the Whitmire Schoolhouse8. He was the foreman of the jury9 when all heck broke loose and he took cover behind a desk as the bullets flew. As things quieted down, Arch began helping the wounded and trying to restore order. It was a tragic day in the Cherokee Nation with so much death (the tragedy still rates as the highest death toll during a single event for U. S. Marshals in U. S. history). Yet it could have been much worse as many others on both sides of the affair narrowly escaped being shot. Arch’s cousin Taylor Sixkiller, along with Aaron Goingwolf and Ben Knight, had walked back into the woods to relieve themselves when the posse arrived and the shooting commenced, this call of nature may have saved their lives.10 Arch’s son-in-law, Tom Walkingstick was a guard at the court session, and Arch’s future son-in-law, Lincoln England, was also a guard.11 Both survived as did many other friends and neighbors.

Archibald and friends put the injured Zeke Proctor on a horse and took him over the hill to the Scraper home for care and protection. Zeke had been shot in the knee during the attack.12 There Mr. Scraper and the jury reconvened13 and found Zeke innocent of the charges.

The U. S. Marshals and the Beck party regrouped the next day and charged the Scraper homestead with guns blazing in an attempt to kill or take custody of Mr. Proctor.14 Zeke had already been warned by lookouts and had slipped away. Arch delayed the posse as long as he could before surrendering to protect his family and the others who were crowded into the two story log house. He and Ellis Foreman, who had suffered a shoulder wound in the fight at the schoolhouse,15 were arrested and taken to Fort Smith where Arch was placed in irons and roughed up. Eventually both of these men were released, but not before they had incurred a great deal of pain and expense. The old Arch Scraper place had been riddled with bullets, which later on led to it’s being referred to as ‘reinforced with steel.’

30 years after the Zeke Proctor incident, Archibald and many of the prominent men of the Cherokee Nation were still gathering at the old house to play cards and reminisce about the ordeal at the Whitmire Schoolhouse, the Civil War, the Trail of Tears, and their lives in general.16 Unfortunately, the old historic home burnt to the ground about 3 years ago taking a portion of the Cherokee history with it.

Archibald Scraper had lived through tragic times of Cherokee history, including the forced removal where he lost a brother, a nephew, and countless others; the bloodbath that resulted from the Treaty of New Echota (he lost an uncle, Archilla Smith, at this time); the Civil War, which possibly caused more devastation in the Cherokee Nation than anywhere else in the country; the hoards of whites, blacks, and Indians from other tribes that swarmed into the nation after the war claiming a connection to the Cherokee tribe in attempts to acquire money and land; the railroads which further divided the nation and brought in more unwanted settlers; the influx of outlaws unto tribal lands thanks to the United States government effectively tying the hands of the Cherokee government so that they were unable to prosecute the white intruders and creating in effect an outlaw haven; the land rush where he was forced to watch as hundreds raced to grab land that had been promised to the Cherokee ‘as long as the grass grows and the water flows.’ Not to mention the occasional drought, famine, flood, epidemic of typhoid, influenza, etc.

Arch passed away in 1904, as the Dawes Commission was kindly dividing up the Cherokee lands and giving each Cherokee an average of 160 acres and taking the remainder for distribution to yet more white settlers. For men like Mr. Scraper who had controlled thousands of acres it was probably a blessing that he did not live to see the full effects of Mr. Dawes and his friends. Especially the fact that through deception, swindling, and murder, within a few years only a small part of the land that Dawes had allotted the Cherokee was still in their hands.

Mr. Archibald Scraper was laid to rest in the old Scraper Cemetery in Scraper Hollow near where his family had settled after arriving from the old ancestral lands east of the mighty Mississippi River in 1839. In 1999, the Trail of Tears Association in honor of his having survived that cruel event placed a bronze plaque on his tombstone. Many of his descendants still remember him and his deeds by placing flowers on his grave on Decoration Day and throughout the year.

Please remember to take out a little time to honor your ancestors during Decoration Day and at times during the year. At times it seems that our lives are filled with hardship, but can it really compare to what they lived through?

Joe Scraper Jr.