The West Family Cherokee Connections

When I started this blog I was aware that one of my West ancestors, Rufus Morgan West Jr (my great grandfather’s nephew), had married a Cherokee woman, Ellen Fain, and that my grandfather’s brother, David West, had married Rufus’s widow. What I found on my November 2016 trip to Guntersville, Alabama is that my West family’s Cherokee connection is deeper and more complex that I knew.

My great grandfather’s brother, Rufus Morgan West, married Nancy Merrill (interchangeably spelled as Merrell) in Alabama in 1843.

Rufus West and Nancy Merrll Licensce from Archives Office in Guntersville, Marshall County, Alabama

Rufus West and Nancy Merrell Marry in Alabama

My time in Alabama was full of discoveries, many of which I will share in future posts. The major finding was how deep my family’s Cherokee connections are in my West lineage. When I started this quest into my family’s history, I had compartmentalized my family’s Cherokee heritage on my mother’s side in her mother’s Crittenden line, not her father’s West line. But, of course, as we all know, tracing family lines is much more complex than we think when we start.

One of the most intriguing explorations for me has been studying the history of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama in the 1800s and early 1900s and finding out how often my West and Crittenden families’ histories were a part of some of the key events of that time, in both pioneer and Cherokee history.

I would love to hear from any West, Ferguson, Pollston, Merrill (Merrell), Stephens or other families who were residing in Marshall County in the general Guntersville area in the 1800s.

For more information on Alabama’s Cherokee history:

History of Merrill Mountain:




Filed under Cherokee History in Alabama, Family connections

11 responses to “The West Family Cherokee Connections

  1. Rufus Morgan West and Nancy Merrill were my great great grandparents on my dad’s side. I am trying to find out more about them and their children.
    Also looking for pictures of the West family. I have a very blurry pic of what relatives say are my West great uncles.

    • Margaret, we have communicated before. I put together the West reunion in Guntersville 18 months ago. Let’s resume email communication. I would love to see your photo. Also I have some photos that other people brought to the reunion that I can share with you.

  2. Carol Smith

    My family is the Amos Robinson family, who had one of the six original reservations. The reservation was also referred to as the Robertson Reservation on maps and documents. I have a lot of information on this family. My ancestor was Eliza Robinson Ice, who married Andrew Ice and went by wagon train to Rusk Co. Texas. Sadly, Eliza died on the trail in Shreveport, Louisiana of cholera. There are papers showing that Andrew and Eliza sold a part of the Robinson reservation before leaving for Texas. Only a direct descendant of Amos Roinson could have sold land on the reservation. I have followed the genealogy of Eliza’s siblings, and would love to share with others. The reservation was near Guntersville Dam.

    • Carol, You are the first person that I have met associated with one of the other six reservations. The Merrill Reservation was on Merrill Mountain, NW of Guntersville. I have found and am in close contact with some of my distant cousins descended from Nancy Merrill. She married my great great grandfather’s brother, Rufus West. The descendants that I know mostly live in Oklahoma near and in Fort Gibson.

      • Carol Smith

        Hi, After my Andrew Ice and Eliza Robinson Ice left for Rusk Co. Texas, there were still many Robinsons on the land in Marshall County. I have followed the other families as well. There was a large Cherokee population in Rusk Co. TX at the time After Eliza’s death, Andrew and his many children appear in the 1850 census in Rusk Co. My ancestor is their daughter Elizabeth Ann Ice. I have photos of her, and of her sister Sarah P. After her marriage, Sarah had an opportunity to claim Cherokee heritage for her family, which would have been an immense help to all, but Sarah denied their heritage. I have a copy of a letter written about the journey of this family from Marshall County to Rusk County. The last of the reservation land was sold close to 1900 by a member of the Robinson family.

        • Carol, Can you send me your email address? For genealogy I use I want to send you a couple of documents that I have about the granting of the Merrill reservation and also the sale of the land. Where are you currently living?

          • Carol Smith

            Hi Kathy, I am so excited to find you. I do have proof that Amos Robinson was a Cherokee, but will never find his Cherokee name. I have a lot of clues that lead toward the fact that he was in Limestone County before he came to Madison and then Marshall County. I do have the proof that he was granted the reservation.
            We live in Erie, Colorado
            Thanks so much!

  3. jenpage12

    Hello, I am a descendant of Benjamin Merrill and his wife Nancy Thompson of Marshall County Alabama, through their daughter Eliza Merrill who married William Polson/ Polston. My 3rd great grandmother was their daughter Nancy Polson/Polston. She went to live with her grandmother Lucy Davis Polson/ Polston of the next County over in Jackson County Alabama after both her parents died. Marshall County Alabama was once a part of Jackson County Alabama. Most of Nancy’s siblings went to live out west with the rest of the Cherokees. My 2nd great grandmother who was Nancy Polson/ Polston’s daughter was born in Jackson County Alabama along with the rest of my mother’s family of that line was born in Jackson County Alabama and so was my mother . Eliza Merrill had a sister Elizabeth Merrill and she was the one who married David Ivey. Eliza Merrill was only married to William Polston/Polson. Elizabeth Merrill and David Ivey went on the Trail of Tears and eventually moved to Texas and died there. Lucy Davis Polston/ Polson was a granddaughter of Cherokee Principal Chief Blackfox. Nancy Thompson wife of Benjamin Merrill was the daughter of John Gadoga
    Thompson, Cherokee Interpreter for the Treaties. John Gadoga Thompson and Chief Blackfox were neighbors in Marshall County. John Thompson wrote many letters for Blackfox because Blackfox couldn’t read or write. Thank you, Jennifer Page

    • Jennifer,
      It is so exciting to meet you. I will pass this on to my West cousins who are descended from Rufus. They are always searching for more documented background on the Merrills.
      Where are you currently living? I will be in Marshall Count AL next September meeting with cousins from my West, Crittenden and Ferguson branches. The email address that I use for genealogy is Feel free to connect with me there. Do you have your tree or DNA on any sites? I am in on Ancestry, My Heritage, 23&Me and GEDMatch. Kathy

      • Jennifer, I am so sorry that it has been so long since you heard from me. My trip to AL in August 2022 ended up being cancelled. I really would love to get together and/or exchange information in any other way. Kathy

  4. jenpage12

    Oh, I forgot Benjamin Merrill died in Marshall County Alabama and probably did his wife Nancy. After Nancy Thompson Merrill died Benjamin Merrill inherited her Reservation of 640 acres. It was left to my 3rd great grandmother Nancy Polston/Polson and her siblings. Then Rufus West bought it from them. Thanks Jennifer Page

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