Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Nancy Ward

Marker ID:  
Location: ocated in the Nancy Ward Gravesite State Park, Old Highway 411, Benton, TN
County: Polk
Coordinates: N 35° 9.867    W 084° 40.786
  35.16445    -84.67976666
Waymark: None


Nancy Ward

According to legend, Nancy Ward (Nanye’hi or Na-ni) was born in the 1730s at Chota in the Overhill Towns, at a time when Cherokee society was largely traditional despite the extensive fur trade. As the child of a Cherokee woman, Nancy was by birth a member of her mother’s matrilineal clan. She lived among her mother’s kin and worked beside them in garden plots and corn fields allotted by their clan. Some accounts say her father was a Cherokee; others say a British trader or a Delaware Indian. Attakullakulla, peace chief of Chota, is said to have been her mother’s brother.

Nancy became a prominent War Woman and Beloved Woman (Ghi-ga-u). She helped respected male elders (Beloved Men) carry out ceremonies and assisted war leaders with negotiations. Among British and Americans, Nancy gained a myth-like reputation as an emissary, orator, and protector of white settlers and captives. She was known by the surname of a British trader, Bryan(t) Ward, whom she married.

After repeated destruction of Chota in the 1770s-1780s, Nancy Ward, her children, and other kin moved south of the Hiwasee River, finally settling at Amoiah, near present-day Benton. During Nancy’s last decades, she operated an inn and stockpen at Womankiller Ford, not far from this gravesite. According to a great-grandson who attended her funeral, Nancy Ward died in 1822 and was buried by Cherokee custom.

On May 2, 1817, a Woman’s Council, led by the elderly Nancy Ward (or her representative), presented and signed an address to a Cherokee National Council meeting at nearby Amoiah. They demanded an end to the ceding of Cherokee lands, which by tradition belonged to Cherokee women and their children.

Sketch of a Cherokee woman drawn circa 1838-1839 by George Catlin

From Catlin, North American Indians, 1913

Tennessee Dept. of Transportation; Tennessee 200, Inc.; East Tennessee Foundation; the counties of McMinn, Monroe, and Polk.

A photo of this marker may be found on HMDB.org