Sir Alexander Cuming
(1691 – 1775)

Did you know there is an Indian chief buried at St Mary the virgin?
Sir Alexander Cuming: ‘Chief of the Cherokees’ was born in Edinburgh in 1691, of Scottish nobility. When he was 12 he attained a Captain’s commission from Queen Anne and he led a company during the Jacobite uprising in 1715. He had also became a lawyer and declined the Governorship of Bermuda in 1722.

In 1729 he became a member of the Royal Society of London and had been granted the King’s leave of absence to travel. America was his choice to visit and in March 1730 he made the dangerous journey to the Cherokee mountains (now in South Carolina and Virginia) as a self-styled diplomat on behalf of his country although he had no authority from the King or the government.
But Sir Alexander was an independent man and his dream was to visit the people of the Cherokee people
He must have impressed them as by the 3d of April 1730, in a general meeting of chiefs, he was crowned commander and chief ruler of the Cherokees and was presented with the scalps of their enemies.
He then set off for Charlestown arriving on April 13, with seven Indian chiefs that he was taking to London and on 5th June they arrived at Dover.

A few days later Cuming presented the Indians to George II at Windsor.
Among them was Oukou-naka, who was later to be known as Attacullakulla (the Little Carpenter) one of the greatest Cherokee Chiefs who ever lived. 
On their way to London         Presented to King George II

Cuming saw little of the Indians during their stay where they went to the theatre, dined with bishops, were amazed at the crown jewels in the Tower of London and received an audience with the royal family.
The population of the Cherokees was estimated to be around 60,000 and an alliance with the French was close to being forged but Cumings stopped that and on June 22nd 1730 a treaty was signed between the English and the Cherokee Nation (even though no such ‘nation’ actually existed!)

Shortly after that Sir Alexander Cuming was thrown in jail for debt and was unable to accompany the Cherokee delegation on their return trip to America. The Indians loved Cuming, and were much impressed by his imprisonment. They regarded the white men as exceedingly foolish to place a man in jail for debt, thus making it impossible for him to pay!
Little is known of Sir Alexander’s later life although it is known he returned to the army.
He died aged 84 and was buried in East Barnet churchyard on 28th August, 1775 but there is no sign of his grave which has been either damaged or, through time, the inscription has eroded.

The name of Sir Alexander Cuming may not mean anything to the people of Barnet but to the Cherokee he was an important part of their history.

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