Trail of Tears

Cherokee Migration

One hundred fifty-two years ago, the United States government implemented the forced removal of 15,000 Cherokee Indians from southeastern United States. The trek, which came to be known as the Trail of Tears, began in June 1838, at Rattlesnake Spring, Tennessee and ended March 1839 at Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

The Cherokee migration followed more than one route. The first group nearly 3,000 Indians left in Spring by boat and followed the Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas rivers to what is now Oklahoma. Removal of the rest of the Indians was postponed until fall because of the heat, disease, lack of food and drought caused hardship and death. In October 1838, 13,000 Cherokees divided into 13 contingents departed along an overland route through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas to Indian Territory. Because of the severity of the winter and lack of proper food, clothing and medical care, more than 1,600 died. The total number of deaths is estimated at 4,000 – one fourth of the Cherokee Nation.

Historical Events Through Time

Points of historical interest can leave hardly an impression upon a carefree immature mind. Of little consequence to an eight or ten-year-old is the legend that the dusty road bed in which bare feet spews scorching hot slit between the toes was a century earlier the desolate route of doom to a great number of Cherokee Indians as they cut a map into the Missouri Landscape.

With interest renewed in compiling data on the infamous historical incident, some few residents are now endeavoring to recall the legends of what occurred nearly a century and a half ago, especially individuals who have knowledge of the heritage of a given region unique unto its own perimeter. Extensive memory searching is essential to recall yarns passed down verbally as diluted versions of the once vividly portrayed bedtime stories. Visits by neighbors after completion of daily chores provided many youngsters only entertainment until they dozed easily by the flickering fire or were too frightened to sleep depending upon the particular story, some of which may be retrieved from memories involving family or personal significance.

The Trial of Tears stories had their varying versions, as does any tale often repeated. In south-central Missouri rumors of massacres, scalping and numerous barbaric acts supposedly initiated the subsequent Cherokee trek to Government specified reservations.