Alonzo Lee came to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute from the Cherokee Agency in Cherokee, North Carolina. Although he did not complete his senior year he was able to find good employment as a carpenter after leaving the school. In 1910, Alonzo worked as a carpenter in Irving, New York, and owned a nice seven-room house. His wife, Elenore Seneca, was a Seneca Indian who also attended Hampton Institute. Alonzo later deserted his first wife and family. Apparently, he eloped with his sister-in-law, Bernedena Seneca, a Hampton alumna.
Writing by ALONZO LEE Indian Day 1899
In 1835, the U. S. sent Gen. Scott to convey the Cherokee Nation west of the Mississippi River. Two thousand of these Indians refused to leave their home. They were forced to start, but escaped from the soldiers one night and fled to the mountains where they stayed until they were permitted to remain. They had left their tribe and were no more a part of that great nation. Thus they became the Eastern Band of Cherokees who were admitted as citizens of North Carolina in 1838.
These people are often spoken of as being the disloyal part of the Cherokee Nation because they would not share the fate of their brothers, but who can dishonor them for love of home. Men of every race and of every age since the birth of Adam have been ready to fight, or even die, to defend their homes. It is human nature to love the place where you are born and brought up.
The land these Indians own was bought by them from the citizens of North Carolina. The reservation contains 80,000 acres laying in the beautiful valley of the Oconalufey River. The soil is fertile and is cultivated to the summit of the hills.
The chief occupation of these Indians is agriculture including stock raising and gardening. Some of them make good baskets while others manufacture fine pottery. They raise and sell to the surrounding towns corn, wheat, rye, oats, potatoes and most all kinds of vegetables.
They are peaceable law abiding citizens and are anxious to improve their condition in every good and prosperous way. They work for their white brothers and are considered honest men in all their transactions. I once heard a tax collector say that if the white men would pay their taxes as promptly as the Indians he wouldn't have any trouble to get tax money. When they know it is their duty to do a thing they go ahead and do it. I came to this school in 1894 and did not get an opportunity to go back until last Christmas. Four years, I am glad to say, have brought several changes for the best. They (the Indians) are making progress in spite of the many difficulties they come in contact with.
Better houses are being built. Those little log cabins are not so comfortable as a framed house with glass windows in it. The farms are better cared for, cultivated to larger and finer crops, barns are made to shelter grain as well as live stock.
Church is better attended and those who claim to be Christians seem anxious to hear the word of God. I noticed, too, that Christmas was kept by Christian people as a holy day.
If it wasn't for one thing, the brightest days would be dawning on the hill tops of North Carolina. But that one curse, whiskey, will stop progress in any race. The Indians are noted for their aptitude for strong drink and down there it is a great temptation. A government still on one side and a half dozen moonshiners on the other make it as easy to get a drink of whiskey as a glass of ice water here. If this liquor business isn't stopped it will prove disastrous to the red man of North Carolina. Those Indians are getting their education from Uncle Sam and they are also getting their whiskey from him. Yes, he is holding them up by the right hand and at the same time allowing his devil to pull them down.
They have a few men with purposes as true as steel, but, oh, they need an army of such men and ...(women?) who will stand for justice and for God.
Writing by ALONZO LEE Indian Day 1900
Necessity is the Master of us all and therefore one thing needful among the Indians is better farming. The Indians have land and now they want to know how to cultivate it to get larger crops.
The farms the Indians own in North Carolina as a general thing are rough and hilly, but they manage to make an honest living. But if they knew the best method of farming they would get more from the small land with less work.
Four boys came here from that part of the country in 1895 and they stayed here about three years. The progress they made in academics is not worthy of note, but the ideas they obtained from the Industrial Department have enabled them to start right. They have built homes and are setting an example for their people in the first and most essential of human pursuits.
I am not arguing that every Indian should be a farmer. Other vocations are useful and necessary and many may pursue them with advantage to themselves and others.