The Cherokee people once occupied much of what we call the mid-Atlantic region of our country. Siding with the British during the Revolution against the white settlers, the Cherokee were banished to the mountains of GA, TN and NC. Here they traded peacefully, learned to use metal implements, farmed, wore fabric clothing, even intermarried. By 1800 they had Christian churches, saw mills, schools and a written language. Then gold was discovered on Cherokee land. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. In 1835, 300 Cherokees met with government agents, and without tribal approval, signed a removal treaty. Chief John Ross and 16,000 Cherokees rejected it. President Andrew Jackson signed the treaty anyway; it passed the Senate by one vote. Only 500 Cherokee left peacefully. The others refused to resettle in OK.
In 1838 General Winfield Scott and his soldiers forcibly herded 15,000 Cherokees into stockades. Many died of malnutrition and disease. Some were removed on boats and barges and drowned when they capsized. The remaining 13,000 were divided into groups of 1,000 with a tribal leader. Separately they journeyed on foot from October 1, 1838, until March 24, 1839, covering 1,200 miles. They traveled 10-16 miles a day with inadequate clothing and shelter. More than 4,000 died of malnutrition, dysentery and pneumonia and were buried along the trail. A few escaped and returned to the North Carolina mountains where they joined others who had eluded capture. Their descendants are known as the band of Eastern Cherokee.
One of the ration stops provided by Chief Ross was here in Hopkinsville. There were several unidentified limestone markers left here near the Cherokee camp on Little River marking the final resting place of many who passed through here. Two of the four remaining are Chief Whitepath, and Fly Smith. It’s a very quiet and serene park. The Trail of Tears is a suitable name for this bit of history.