Friday, June 6, 2008

Cherokees and their California Connections

Sheriff Edward “Ned” Bushyhead

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department’s history is rich with men who were not only recognized as being excellent lawmen, but built often colorful reputations outside of law enforcement. From our first Sheriff, Agostin Harszthy, who moved north to start the California wine industry and who seemingly was eaten by an alligator, SDSO sheriffs were prominent figures throughout the history of the United States. San Diego County’s 12th sheriff, Edward “Ned” Wilkinson Bushyhead was no exception.

Perhaps no character in all Cherokee history was more revered and respected by his people than Rev. Jesse Bushyhead, who was born in the old Cherokee Nation of southeastern Tennessee in September 1804. Called Unaduti by his Indian friends, he had two children with his first wife and nine children with his second wife, Eliza Wilkinson who was half Cherokee. The Bushyhead home was in a small Cherokee settlement.

Born March 2, 1832, Edward Bushyhead was only seven when his family, along with all Cherokees, were forced from their homes into the wilderness. His father, Jesse Bushyhead, led over 1,000 Cherokees over the infamous Trail of Tears. Jesse and Eliza Bushyhead, and several of their children, went on to become prominent leaders of the Cherokee Nation.

In 1844, shortly before his father’s death, Edward Bushyhead learned the printer’s trade setting type on the Cherokee Messenger—the first periodical published in the present State of Oklahoma. He spent the next few years working in and learning more of the trade.

Hearing the call of the gold rush, Bushyhead went west, not only seeking gold, but bringing his knowledge of printing newspapers. In 1868, he moved to San Diego with his printing press, which he used to start the San Diego Union.

Unimpressed with San Diego at first and worried about being connected to a failure, Bushyhead left his name off the masthead of the paper, instead giving publisher credit to J.N. Briseno, a young boy who helped in the office. He still kept a tight rein on the direction of the paper, issuing a prospectus that stated no political tirades or personal abuse would be printed in the Union.

With his partners, Bushyhead continued to nurture the paper, slowly adding pages and enlarging the actual paper size. In March 1871, the Union made the move from a weekly to a daily, the first in San Diego and one of only three in Southern California. Bushyhead retired from the paper business in June 1873.

From 1875 to 1882, Bushyhead served as a deputy in the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. As Sheriff Joseph Coyne’s Chief Deputy, arrest reports indicate that Bushyhead and the sheriff actively pursued criminals, making a substantial number of the arrests throughout the county. When Joseph Coyne decided not to run again for the office of Sheriff, Bushyhead seemed a fine replacement for the position. Joseph Coyne moved on to City Marshal and later became San Diego’s first Chief of Police.

Starting in 1883, Bushyhead continued the department in the direction set by Coyne—law first, taxes and politics last. The San Bernardino Index wrote of Bushyhead when he was nominated for a second term as sheriff: “No better man could have been selected. Thoroughly honest, cool, brave and intrepid in times of danger; patient, wary and sagacious when on the trail of a criminal; courteous and gentle . . . generous almost to lavishness, he is a true type of a thorough American gentleman . . .”

Serving two terms as sheriff, Bushyhead went on to become Chief of Police in 1899, serving four years. The Redlands Citrograph wrote in 1899: “We feel personally gratified at the election of E. W. Bushyhead as chief of police of San Diego. Ned Bushyhead is one of nature’s noblemen. He is square as a die. As true as Toledo steel. As brave as Paladin. As generous as a child. He never knew the meaning of fear. . .”

Bushyhead died a few days after his 75th birthday, on March 4, 1907, in Alpine where he had lived for several months hoping to benefit his health. He was buried in the Bushyhead family plot in Tahlequah City Cemetery in the capital of the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK.

Beside the grave of Edward is that of his brother, Chief Dennis Wolfe Bushyhead, principal chief of the Cherokees from 1879 to 1887. Sisters Nancy Bushyhead McNair and Eliza Missouri Bushyhead Vann-Alberty and her husband, Bluford Alberty are also buried there. Eliza was born in Missouri along the Trail of Tears on January 3,1839.

The Edward Bushyhead house in Heritage Park is now part of the Heritage Park Inn. The house was moved to its current site in 1976. A visit to the inn offers a brief glimpse back to one of the Cherokee Nations’s prominent figures, as well as, a great figure in San Diego history. -- Kristie Macris, Deputy Sheriff’s Association