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Aaron Redbird Brock

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: [unknown]
Surname/tag: Brock, Native American
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This is the former profile of “Redbird Brock,” now maintained as a free-space page to preserve the former biography and sources. The original profile stated the he was born 8 December 1721 in Native American Tanisi Indian Territory Tennessee, died 2 October 1797, Clay County, Kentucky. Parents unknown, husband of Susannah Caroline Sizemore and Rhoda Sizemore, father of Red Bird Brock II, Mahala Susannah Brock Callahan, Jesse James Brock, Mary Brock Osborne, and James Calvin Brock.

Disputed History

Since its inception, this Profile has mushroomed to more than forty pages and has attracted much contentious scrutiny from various sources. The following paragraphs by Garrett-4589 are being retained to provide "tracks in the sand" regarding our thought processes ... as we attempt to summarize and give perspective on some of the issues being dealt with as this very complex Biography evolves.

...There is sufficient reliable documentation from many sources to confirm the existence of this Cherokee Chief Redbird, but there are several areas where known documentation is unavailable, inconclusive, contradictory, or even fictional. Most of these same issues were being hotly debated on the Internet at least as early as 2006....

Some of the issues:

  1. WikiTree contains several separate profiles which appear to be the same person as 1st Redbird and are subject to mergers. Managers are working through the related issues which arise due to conflicts in data or poor quality of data in the un-merged profiles. (This work is complete as of 7/21/2017)
  2. Another major issue is alignment/reconciliation of birth dates for parents/Redbird/children. Exact dates are not available... only ranges of birth dates. Lacking exact dates for several consecutive generations containing many children inevitably results in conflicts/conundrums often difficult, perhaps impossible to untangle and resolve. It seems unlikely that these issues will be easily resolved. No immediate action will be taken on any of this, to allow time for anyone having additional information or insight to come forward.
  3. Some question whether Redbird and Aaron Brock are the same person, suggesting that Aaron Brock is perhaps a "myth". Others contend that they are indeed the same person having both a Cherokee name, Redbird, and a white man name, Aaron Brock. This is the perspective dominant in the present state of this Profile ... A reading of history indicates that many Cherokee did indeed adopt dual names. Lacking smoking gun evidence, this issue likely may not be resolved to every manager's satisfaction.
  4. The biographical text below contained several duplications resulting from merges of several Profiles into this one place. Work is in progress to minimize duplicated information.
  5. Excellent work by Jeanie Roberts makes the claimed husband/wife relationship between this Redbird and Susan Priber appear virtually untenable... Jeanie's work is based on analysis of existing biographical information in related WikiTree Profiles, and is summarized in "Disputed Biography" portion of Susan Priber's WikiTree Profile. Any and all interested parties having any other reliable documentation on this relationship should speak up.

Based on recent new information, Redbird's Profile is being revised to remove spousal connection for Susan Priber, replaced by Findagrave information for Susan Caroline Sizemore. This Profile now incorporates this new information on provisional basis... The validity of the referenced Findagrave information is currently challenged. It is obvious that more research, study and documentation must be developed. Hopefully more documentation from claimed descendants will be forthcoming, and would be most helpful. Garrett-4589

There is unacceptable conflict in birth dates for Redbird and claimed father Great Eagle. Their birth dates as shown are only one year apart. From inspection, the (guess/estimated??) birth dates now shown in WikiTree profiles... for Great Eagle, for his father, and for his grandfather... are all so nebulous and uncertain that the accumulated errors doubtfully can account for the unacceptably short gap now shown between Great Eagle's and Redbird's birth dates. Alternatively, Redbird may not be the son of Great Eagle. Lacking any verifiable documentation, the parents/son relationship claimed in this Profile are being disconnected. 11/01/2017 Garrett-4589'


The "Items" below are extracts from the several merged profiles now contained in this Profile. The original merged profile Bio was more than forty pages long, so only these few items are being retained (Warts and all !!!) in order to minimize duplication but still communicate some of the essence of this remarkable man who lived at the time when Tribal Cherokee culture was merging with the engulfing white culture.

Item 1 The name of Aaron Brock as father of Jesse Brock and his sister Mahala Susanna Brock Callahan was mentioned in two printed family histories: Since they are quite redundant, only one will be quoted here: Strong Family, by Mrs. J. C. Hurst, Lexington, KY, 1958. She wrote, citing absolutely no authority for the claims:

"The Strong family of Breathitt and Owsley Cos., KY, was established by William, who was born about the year 1768 in VA and died about the year 1848. He was married about the year 1790 to Jennie Callahan (commonly called Jane), who was born about the year 1779 and died about the year 1815. She was a daughter of Edward and Mahalah Brock Callahan. Mahalah was a daughter of AARON BROCK and a sister of JESSE BROCK, who lived in Harlan County. The Brocks were part Indian."[1]

Item 2 Chief RedBird Totsuwha aka Aaron Brock. Died: 10 Feb 1797 in Taluegue, Clay, Kentucky.[2]

AARON BROCK (Sr.), "Chief Red Bird," is said to've been born 8 Dec 1721 in VA, though no source for the date can be found ~ the same birthday and month as his son JESSE BROCK. Jesse's Revolutionary Pension application gave his date and place of birth as 8 Dec 1751, Cumberland Co., VA. Perhaps someone confused the two. Cherokee did not keep track of birthdates, as Anglos do, but since Chief Red Bird (AARON) Sr. was part-white, he might have.

Chief Red Bird (Aaron Sr.) was murdered 10 Feb 1797 in Taluegue, KY.[3][4]

Nearly 200 years of oral tradition indicates Aaron Brock was the English name of Cherokee treaty-signer Chief Red Bird (Cherokee name Tsalagi' Ugvwiyuhi Totsu'hwa) for whom the Red Bird River was named. Part Cherokee, his parents' names cannot be proven, but circumstantial evidence suggests he was the "unknown son" of Chief Great Eagle and his wife Woman Ani'Wadi, since hereditary chiefs signed treaties, and they had a son whose name was not recorded.

Red Bird was a treaty signer. One can easily follow the genealogy of treaty signers, descending from Amatoy Moytoy, to Moytoy, to Willenawah (Great Eagle), to Sister of Doublehead (Red Paint Clan), to Red Bird; and Wurteh Watts to Sequoyah. Treaty writers went out of their way to track down the most influential Cherokee leaders and kin of those who had signed previous treaties.

Dr. Kenneth B. Tankersley was shown as a boy the burial place of Aaron Brock - Chief Red Bird by his great-grandmother Elizabeth Saylor Tankersley, who was shown by her grandmother Elizabeth Brock Saylor, the granddaughter of Jesse Brock's son James C., as a place to be cared for by their family, which has looked after his grave since the murder.[5]

Item 3 Red Bird spent a good deal of his time with his friend Will in the vicinity of two rock-shelters on the east and west banks of the Kentucky River, a stretch of the upper headwaters, known today as the Red Bird River in Spurlock. The opposing shelters are strategically located in a narrow constriction of the valley overlooking a shallow river crossing where game animals can be easily dispatched. Both shelters are well marked with traditional Cherokee symbols—engraved images of the Wild Potato, Bird, Wolf, and Deer clans. It was in this setting that Red Bird and Will were murdered, brutally and maliciously tomahawked to death by two men from Tennessee, Edward Miller, known as Ned, and John Livingston, known as Jack[6]

Item 4 Redbird was referenced in Louis-Philippe’s Diary of My Travels in America in the following excerpt, around 1799 after the death of Chief Red Bird: "We must be fair: the whites’ systematic spoilation of the Indians has not even slowed. All the Indians’ neighbors are greedy for their Tennessee territories. The last treaty has aroused serious discontent among the whites, who would like a war with the Indians so a new treaty can strip them of the coveted lands. Four months ago the whites assassinated two Indians (one a chief called Red Bird), hoping the provocation would lead to reprisals and trigger a war. The Indians demanded the surrender of the murderers. This was refused on the pretext that they should not be yielded over to Indian torture, and that according to the treaty they must be judged by American law. The whites promised to conduct an investigation and have the murders punished, but it would seem that nothing of the sort was done. I heard one of the assassins identified, so it would not be hard to find them. In the meantime, as nothing was done, the Cherokees assassinated four whites, and as nothing was said, all has been calm since."[7]

Item 5 Red Bird River, S.E. Kentucky, named for Chief Red Bird. The boundary between Clay and Leslie Cos. follows in part the Red Bird River. Turkey track is the traditional symbol for the Bird clan (Ani-Tsisqua). Turkey is also the symbol of the trickster.
The rock exhibits symbols for all Cherokee clans. Photos courtesy of Tim Brock, May 2005

Item 6 Aaron Brock's name as father of Jesse Brock and his sister Mahala Susanna Brock Callahan was mentioned in only one old printed family history (Strong Family, by Mrs. J. C. Hurst, Lexington, KY, 1958).
No evidence is cited for the name of his father to have been Reuben Brock (British soldier b. 1680), as found in a few genealogy databases on the Internet, nor that such a Reuben existed.
The mystery of where this Reuben theory came: Apparently it was a theory only of a researcher, then repeated as fact by others.
The Swiss/Germans Rudolph and John Michael Brack/Brock in Augusta Co., VA, had two grandsons named Reuben who served in the Revolution. It is likely one of them was mistaken for a candidate for the father of Aaron Brock, though they were born 150 years too late. See EARLIEST BROCKS IN VA.
Virginia colonists from England received land patents of 50 acres per man, plus 50 acres for persons they transported to Virginia. Bond servants received 50 acres when their 2-7 years of servitude were complete. All patents were preserved and are at the Library Virginia in Richmond, and none exists for Reuben Brock. Abstracts were published by Nell M. Nugent in several volumes, Cavaliers & Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents, beginning with Vol. I, 1623-1666, Richmond, VA, 1963. Patent images are available on-line on the LVA website.
All able-bodied males were required to serve militia duty. All extant county militia lists were published by Lloyd D. Bockstruck, Virginia's Colonial Soldiers, Baltimore, MD, 1988.

Aaron's son Jesse Brock was said in testimony by his grandson Elijah (son of Amon) to be "about 3/4 Indian." This suggests that Jesse was the grand- or great-grand-, or gr-great-grandson (?) of a European immigrant. A Brock DNA Project to determine the Y-chromosome of Aaron Brock is awaiting more test results, but so far three Brock direct-male-line descendants of Jesse Brocks's sons Amon, James, and Jesse, Jr., are haplogroup J-12f2.1+, of Mediterranean-Middle East- Ashkenazi Jewish (Jews who went to Northern Europe, primarily to England).
Another Brock man descending from George, believed by descendants to be Jesse's son, shows haplogroup R1B, the most common European admixture, and no similarity to the other two.
Brocks having DNA Prints, as opposed to Y-chromosome testing, all show a percentage of Native American.
There is no telling how far back the Jewish (or Melungeon) ancestor lived; it could have been hundreds or even thousands of years. Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, in her book MELUNGEON: THE LAST LOST TRIBE IN AMERICA (2005), wrote, "Not all Jews are Melungeon, but all Melungeons are Jews," and cites numerous landings in the Carolinas and Florida during the 1500s by Spanish and Portuguese Jewish sailors and settlers seeking a new home as refugees from the Inquisition which began in Spain 1492, the year Columbus discovered America. As other English colonists arrived, the earlier Jewish settlers sought isolation in Appalachia.
One European who married a Cherokee was Christian Gottlieb Priber, who immigrated abt 1735 from Zittau, Germany, went quickly to live with the Cherokee which he saw as an idyllic lifestyle. Leaving a wife and children in Germany who he meant to send for, he instead married a daughter of the great Cherokee Chief Moytoy at Tellico (now in SC). Her name is unknown, but their daughter Creat Priber married Chief Doublehead, who may have been Aaron Brock/Red Bird's brother, in the area now Stearns, KY. According to the interview of Felix Begley by Mrs. Annie Walker Burns, Christian Gottlieb Priber and his Moytoy wife had four daughters, names of the other three are not known. It was fairly common in that time and place for siblings to marry siblings.

Item 7 A sign erected in Clay Co. in 1966 by Kentucky Dept. of Highways, No. 908, text at Kentucky Historical Society, members.tripod.com/~Sue_1/redbird.html
NOTE by Dr. Kenneth B. Tankersley: The prose about Red Bird was on the original State Marker. It was placed in front of Red Bird's cave, destroyed by SR 66, just south of Spurlock and north of Jack's Creek, in Clay County, and directly across the Red Bird River from his burial site. I have a photo taken the day it was dedicated by the governor. My cousin, Jess Wilson, the Clay County historian, filled in until he arrived. The marker has since been stolen and moved to another county. This site is still on the National Register of Historic Places.
Chief Red Bird - Was a legendary Cherokee Indian for whom this fork of the Kentucky River is named. He and another Indian, Jack, whose name was given the creek to the south, were friendly with early settlers and permitted them to hunt in the area. Allegedly they were killed in battle protecting their furs, and the bodies thrown into the river here. The ledges bear markings attributed to Red Bird."
1966, Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky Department of Highways #908.

Previous location of Red Bird Rock, the homeplace of Chief Red Bird. The rock broke from this location on 7 Dec 1994 and was taken to Mancester, KY, city park. The rock use to be at ground level until the land was excavated to bring the road through. Photo by Tim Brock. Current location of Red Bird Rock in Manchester (seat of Clay Co., KY), city park, and Tim Brock. In addition to the carvings left by Chief Red Bird are several religious markings attributed to early priest from the Red Bird Mission who found the rock and added his own markings in several ancient languages he knew. Site of Red Bird's murder, directly across the road from Red Bird Rock.

Item 8 Dr. John J. Dickey Diary, Fleming County, Ky. Recorded in the 1870's and beyond. Reprinted in Kentucky Explorer, Volume 11, No March, 1997, p. 107. By permission. Clay County. RED BIRD ~ The Indian chief for whom Red Bird Creek in Clay County was named was probably a Cherokee from Tennessee or North Carolina. Like others of his race, he was a great hunter and allured by the game in this remote region he finally took up his residence on the creek that bears his name at the mouth of Jack's Creek in this county. He came to his death by the avarice of the "pale face." There lived with him a crippled Indian named Willie. This man dressed the skins which Red Bird brought to their wigwam and looked after the culinary department of their house. Some hunters from North Carolina, greedy and unscrupulous, came to the wigwam and murdered Willie. They then secreted themselves and awaited the return of the brave chief who had long before buried his tomahawk and for years had been living in peace with the white man, and as he approached his crude castle the bullet of an assassin laid him in the dust. They threw his body into a hole of water nearby which is still called "Willie's Hole," and from which John Gilbert and others took him and buried him. One tradition is that he was sitting on the bank of a creek fishing when he was shot and that he fell into the creek.

Native people in the past traveled and made seasonal moves. Robert Benge, for example, ranged in war and peace from Canada to Florida. By the time of Red Bird, people lived in cabins, rode horses, and drove wagons. Sequoyah moved back and forth from Georgia to Kentucky, from Washington to Arkansas.

Cherokee people who served in the Revolution, as well as African Americans who served, were permitted to be land owners and were encouraged by the newly formed government to acculturate into American society as civilized people.

Gist, father of Sequoyah, led an entire militia of Cherokee during the Revolution. He was brought up for treason and tried by Washington, who found him not guilty and thanked him for rallying the Cherokee for the American cause.
Aaron Brock migrated to Red Bird, Harlan Co., KY, when his son Jesse was granted land for his Revolutionary service. It is said that at first Aaron and his wife lived in a sycamore tree near what is now Red Bird, Kentucky, which is named for him. Sycamore trees were sacred to the Cherokee. It is where the Creator gave the Cherokee people fire. The stump of that sycamore tree is almost within eye sight of Ken Tankersley's family's home at Cranks, Harlan Co., Kentucky. Jesse Brock was the first settler at Wallins Creek in what was then Knox Co. and is now Harlan.
Aaron Brock, Chief Red Bird, was a friend of Dillon Asher, who maintained a tollgate on the border of Cherokee Treaty land, near present-day Pineville. Pineville was on the Cherokee Boundary Line by the Treaties of 1785, 1792, and 1798. Dillon Asher married Henrietta Bolling, a Powhatan descendant of Pocohantas and John Rolfe. Asher fought in favor of the Cherokee against Evan Shelby, brother of Isaac Shelby, first governor of Kentucky and a commissioner to relinquish Cherokee land claims along the Cumberland River. Red Bird warned Asher that Evan Shelby was going to have him killed, and he fled to present-day Harlan County, and named the new settlement after his Cherokee friend, Red Bird.

About 1798 Chief Red Bird (Redbird 2nd, son of first Redbird?? ) made a personal treaty with Dillon Asher (1777-1844), who kept the first tollgate on the Cumberland Pass, at Pineville, KY. Historical marker designating Asher's cabin was missing and has been replaced:

A historical marker reads, "LOG CABIN PRE-1800. On these grounds of the Red Bird River Community Hospital of the Evangelical United Brethren Church Center is log cabin built before 1800. Erected by Dillon Asher. Born 1774, died 1844. Buried near log house. Asher was keeper of first tollgate in Kentucky near Pineville. Established by legislature, 1795; fees paid for improvements on Wilderness Road."

Aaron "Chief Red Bird's daughter Mahala Brock who md. Edward Callahan had two daughters marry Cornetts ~ Zelphia to Roger Cornett b. 1786, and Charlotte Callahan to Robert Cornett b. 1780, son of Nathaniel Cornett. There were numerous other Brock-Cornett-Bolling marriages but I haven't linked them all back to an original ancestor.

Yahoo Falls, Cleary Co., KY, where Cherokee men, women, and children were massacred in 1810 while Red Bird (Redbird II, son of first Redbird) was helping escort them to safety at the Red Bird mission.


  1. Davi(d)son: The First Ten, the Second Ten, and Many Allied Families, by Charlotte Davison, Robbie Jean Davison; assisted by Mary Ruth Moffitt Stevens; published Braddyville, IA, by Violet Pence Apple, 1985; pp. 4-5.
  2. Kenneth B Tankersley [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~brockfamily/ChiefRedBird-byKBTankersley.html RED BIRD (Dotsuwa) and the Cherokee History of Clay County, Kentucky], originally published in Appalachian Quarterly, 2006. NOTE: As of April 2019, the above-linked web page contains no information about the birth of Red Bird, nor does it include claims that he was the same as Aaron Brock. -- Jillaine
  3. All known records of Chief Red Bird are listed on Jerry Taylor's website on this page: [1]
  4. Tankersley extracts original records about this death here: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~brockfamily/genealogy/ChiefRedBird-byKBTankersley-3.html
  5. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~brockfamily/ChiefRedBird.html
  6. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~brockfamily/ChiefRedBird-byKBTankersley.html
  7. http://ourtexasfamily.com/BrockWebSite/Brock_AaronSr_ChiefRedBird.html

See also:

Family Stories and Genealogies from Breathitt County and Eastern Kentucky. Elkhart, Indiana, 1995.

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