American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center
Family Stories from the Trail of Tears (taken from the Indian-Pioneer History Collection, Grant Foreman, editor) [a machine-readable transcription]
I was born in Georgia on May 19, 1840. My mother was a Cherokee woman and my father was a white man. I was only four years old when my parents came to the Indian Territory and I am now ninety-three years old.
My parents did not come to the Territory on the "Trail of Tears" but my grandparents on my mother's side did. I have heard them say that the United States Government drove them out of Georgia. The Cherokees had protested to the bitter end. Finally the Cherokees knew that they had to go some place because the white men would kill their cattle and hogs and would even burn their houses in Georgia. The Cherokees came a group at a time until all got to the Territory. They brought only a few things with them traveling by wagon train. Old men and women, sick men and women would ride but most of them walked and the men in charge drove them like cattle and many died enroute and many other Cherokees died in Tennessee waiting to cross the Mississippi River. Dysentery broke out in their camp by the river and many died, and many died on the journey but my grandparents got through all right.
Some Cherokees were already in the country around Evansville, Arkansas, before my grandparents came. They called them Western Cherokees. It was in 1838 when my grandparents came and I heard them say it was in the winter time and all suffered with cold and hunger.
My mother and father remained in Georgia about six years after Mother's folk's came on the "Trail of Tears" and Mother worried continually about her parents. Then when I was four years old, I with my parents and other kin, came west to join my grandparents. I don't know why the Government let Mother stay longer than the rest of the Cherokees in Georgia unless it was because she married a white man. We came by wagons to Memphis, Tennessee. At Memphis we took a steamboat and finally landed at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, in June, 1844. I don't know how long it took us to come from Memphis nor do I remember the names of the towns we came through but I have heard my folks say that we had to change boats two or three times because the rivers became shallow and we had to change to smaller boats.
After our arrival at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, we met our kinspeople in the Flint District and settled in the Territory a short way from Evansville, Arkansas. It was in the Flint District and around Fort Gibson that I grew to be a young lady.
I am a full blood Cherokee Indian born in Going-Lake District, Indian Territory, Cherokee Nation, March 10, 1854, and raised there. My father, Dun-Ev-Nall Alexander was born in Georgia and was driven West during the immigration. All the Indians were gathered up or rounded up by Federal soldiers and put in pens and guarded until ready for the move; they were gathered up by the "Clans" and left their gardens and crops, and some of the old homes of the Cherokee are still standing in Georgia.
The last group that was rounded up revolted; the leader gave the signal to revolt and all turned on the guards and took their guns away and murdered the guards and they made for hide aways in the mountains. That is why the Indians are back in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. They never were found or hunted much.
In 1838, my grandfather, Washington Lee, came to the Territory and stopped at Westville. He was driven from his home in Georgia over the Trail of Tears with all the other Cherokee Indians and while on the trail somewhere he lost his father and mother and sister, and never saw them any more. He did not know whether they died or got lost.
The Cherokees had to walk; all the old people who were too weak to walk could ride in the Government wagons that hauled the food and the blankets which they allowed to have. The food was most always cornbread or roasted green corn. Some times the men who had charge of the Indians would kill a buffalo and would let the Indians cut some of it and roast it.
The food on the Trail of Tears was very bad and very scarce and the Indians would go for two of three days without water, which they would get just when they came to a creek or river as there were no wells to get water from. There were no roads to travel over, as the country was just a wilderness. The men and women would go ahead of the wagons and cut the timber out of the way with axes.
This trail started in Georgia and went across Kentucky, Tennessee and through Missouri into the Territory and ended at Westville, where old Fort Payne was. Old Fort Wayne was built to shelter the Indians until some houses could be built.
Aunt Chin Deanawash was my grandmother's sister and she came from Georgia on the Trail of Tears. Her husband died shortly after they got out of Georgia and left her to battle her way through with three small children, one who could not walk. Aunt Chin tied the little one on her back with an old shawl, she took one child in her arms and led the other by the hand; the two larger children died before they had gone so very far and the little one died and Aunt Chin took a broken case knife and dug a grave and buried the little body by the side of the Trail of Tears.
An interview with Solomon Carnes of Bentley, Oklahoma, a full blood Choctaw Indian, as to the disposition of the shipment or removal of Mississippi Choctaws at Atoka, Indian Territory. Age 57 years of age.
Solomon Carnes, a native full blood Choctaw Indian, who lives near Bentley, Oklahoma, born December 27, 1880, states: In 1898 Congress, under the Treaty made with the Choctaw and the Chickasaws, passed an act allowing all Mississippi Choctaw Indians that remained in all other states to move into the Choctaw-Chickasaw country and reside for one year. Under this agreement they were allowed to allot and have equal rights as to the allotment of lands as to the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation.
In 1903 there were about 450 Choctaws under the supervision of the United States Indian Agency established at Muskogee. The Mississippi Choctaws were loaded into box cars in the state of Mississippi and shipped to and unloaded at Atoka, under the supervision of W. H. Angel as Supervisor, Leon Harkins as Field Superintendent and Peter Maytubby as Choctaw Indian Police. These Mississippi Choctaws were unloaded and established in camps three miles southwest of Atoka, near what is known as the Mary Ann Brown spring.
This camp was established in August, 1903, for the purpose of locating these Mississippi Indians on their homestead allotment in and around what is now Atoka County. The expense for food at this camp and other expenses were defrayed by the United States Indian Department located at Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Leon Harkins, as Field Supervisor, would take heads of these families and drive out over the country and show them different lands that were unallotted, for the purpose of helping them make decisions from among the different locations as to their homestead allotment.
The camp was kept intact for four months as those different heads of families made decisions of where they want to allot. They were supplied with a tent, crosscut saw, ax, wedges, hoes, and other tools, also thirty days of groceries, and they moved out on their homestead allotments near some spring or live stream of water, where they could undertake to clear or fence and build houses on these lands for the purpose of establishing permanent homes there.
Jennie McCoy Chambers was born April 24, 1854, in the Koo-wee-skoo-wee (her spelling) district of the Cherokee Nation, near the town of now Claremore. The house, a log cabin, still stands. It is at the north end of Claremore Lake on Dog Creek, has two large rooms and a small room downstairs and a room upstairs. Has clapboard doors.
Mrs. McCoy is about half Cherokee (which she calls Cher o 'kee, just as she says Tahl ee 'quah), her mother, Mary Hicks, coming over the Trail of Tears from Alabama when a child. Her father, Joseph McCoy, was a rancher and the family lived on the place near Claremore until the Civil War when they went over near Saline, and "refugeed" in the Cherokee Nation until the close of the War. Evidently they did not remain at Saline because she said that she and her sister many times walked from Tahlequah to Fort Smith and back for supplies from the Government, and many times they almost starved. Her people sympathized with the Union.
Mrs. Chambers' grandfather and grandmother Hicks, together with her own mother, came in the emigrant train over the Trail. On the way they picked up to children who were lost. One, a boy whose people had all died of smallpox, came to them when they were encamped along a creek. He was known as S. S. Stevens and never knew but what he was an Indian. The other child was a little girl who knew no name but Polly. When she grew older she married and was known as Aunt Polly Myers.
When my grandfather, Emeithle Harjo, was twenty-five or thirty years old, he was removed to the Indian Territory, from Alabama. The boat that he was to cross the Mississippi in was a dilapidated affair and sank in the Mississippi River. He swam pretty near all night saving the women and children. They were all brought here and turned loose like something wild. He had to walk from here to the Fort Gibson to get the axe and gun that the Government promised and gave to him. He built his home across the highway from here. There are some house there but they are not the ones he built, they burned, and rotted down.
His father was Red Squirrel Adair and his mother was Sallie Sunday Adair. They were born in the "old" country, Georgia, and came west before general transfer of the Indians. I have heard them tell of their journey. Red Squirrel Adair met his future wife, and also a full blood, on this trip. They were allowed to bring their herds so Grandpa Red Squirrel walked the entire distance and drove his father's sheep. That was about 1810 and he was 16 years of age at that time. They would camp together and in this way Red Squirrel and Sallie Sunday met. They had similar jobs. Sallie however, got to ride a pony but her job was to drive the sheep and cattle. At night time her herds would often get mixed and this, of course, resulted in confusion and arguments, many of these between Red Squirrel Adair, 16 years of age and Sallie Sunday, 11 years of age. However, this did not keep them from being friends. Their families settled in the Cherokee Nation, Red Squirrel's near Stilwell, Oklahoma, and the Sunday's further north and east of them.
Aggie Silk was my grandmother and she has told me of the many hardships of the trip to this country. Many had chills and fever from the exposure, change of country and they didn't have too much to eat. When they would get too sick to walk or ride, they were put in the wagons and taken along until they died. The Indian doctors couldn't find the herbs they were used to and didn't know the ones they did find, so they couldn't doctor them as they would have at home. Some rode in wagons, some rode horses and some had to walk. There was a large bunch when she came; she was sixteen years old. They were Cherokees and stopped close to Muldrow where they built log houses or cabins but they didn't like this country at first as everything was so strange. She married at twenty years of age.
The information that I have as to the migration of my parents, who came west from Georgia, came on their own free will, paid their own expenses and settled around the present town of Coal Hill, south and east of the present town of Fort Smith, Arkansas. This removal from Georgia to Arkansas was about the year of 1815. They remained there about thirteen years thus and moved to the Indian Territory in 1828, and settled in the Saline District at which place I was born. My aunt has told me that later these Western Cherokees like my parents were increased with the Eastern Cherokees who came by various methods and ways to the Indian Territory.
Melissa Bird, an old woman of the Eufaula tomi ( tulwa) has often talked of the life and incidents occurring in the Muskogee-Creek Indian removal from the old country of Alabama to the Indian Territory.
When the move was finally begun a group of the Muskogee-Creek Indians arrived at the Mississippi River. There was a log building on the banks of the river wherein some Indians were holding religious meetings. The inside of the log house was covered with red clay and the Indians of the vicinity wore kerchiefs around their heads, long shirts and leggings.
It was in the Mississippi River, known as the Wewogufkee Thakko (Big Muddy Water) in the Muskogee Creek language, that one of the ships with a load of the Muskogee-Creek Indians was wrecked. Although many perished, a few were saved or swam to shore. Many of the dead bodies were taken from the river and given burial on the west banks of the great river. Search was carried on for several days for other lost bodies yet a number were never found or recovered.
Mrs. Effie Oakes Fleming, forty-nine years old, one-sixteenth Choctaw Indian, daughter of Joel E. and Josephine Cronk Oakes, was born at the present home of her father, 3 1/2 miles northeast of Hugo, Oklahoma. I guess it was then Kiamichi County. She was raised there and got all of her schooling just a mile from home, at Nook Hill school. Started at the age of seven and finished U. S. History, Geography, Arithmetic, Spelling, Rhetoric, Algebra and elocution. The last year they had her study Texas history to keep her busy. Hers would probably equal the present day high school education. The schools weren't graded then. She finished school at fifteen years of age. Aunt Mary Oakes Hibbins died in 1928, and is buried at Oakes Cemetery. Three other children died young and are buried there of course.
After grandpa died, grandmother, made her home in the winter with the Tom Hibbins, at the home that she and grandfather settled. In summer she visited around, sometimes she would stay with us till late in the fall. I knew she was there a lot after I would start to school in the fall, and when I was studying history, she would tell us of the history of the Indian Territory, and of their coming to this "wilderness" over the "Trail of Tears". She was old and had nothing much to do but sit in the corner and live her life over and tell us about it. She said that everybody who was able to, had to walk, but if babies gave out of the parents could not carry them the drivers of the ox wagons would just take then and swing them against a tree and knock their brains out and leave them by the road side like a dog or a cat and not bury them. Her baby brother, Joel (who later became supreme court judge of the Choctaw Nation) was four years old and very fat. She was just eight years old, but she took her turn at carrying him because he could not walk much, and she said that she would get so tired she'd think she was going to die but she would hang on to him. She was so afraid they would kill him. She said she saw them kill babies who were too big to be carried and would give out walking. Nobody rode. Occasionally a woman was confined. She was permitted to ride for a few days.
My father, Frank Geboe, was Eel River Miami Indian, disbanded at Peru, Ind. He was Indian and French and spoke both languages. He died in 1871 and was 35 years old then and he is buried at Ottawa Cemetery in this county.
My mother, Pa-tes-noquah Geboe, was a full blood Ottawa. They lived near Ottawa, Franklin Co., Kansas, where they were married and my sister and myself were born. I was born November 24, 1861, and my sister, Emma, was born in 1865.
My parents came in the fall of 1866 and located 2 miles north, one mile east and three-fourths mile back south of Ottawa. The place is now Clay Stevens' place. They came in two wagons and brought with them, cattle and all the furniture, stoves and things that they could load in the two wagons. My mother's nephew, Joe Holmes, came with them and drove one of the wagons.
They were thirty days on the road. Whenever they wanted to, they would stop and let the stock graze and rest, they camped at night, wagons all drawn up close together. Built fires and sat round them after supper, the men talking.
When they reached the land bought for the Ottawas, they went around over it and each selected the place where he wanted to settle. We had a big spring and were not far from Spring River, though not in the woods. Our home was a double low house with clapboards for a roof. The men helped each other and went to the timber and cut and prepared the logs and when they had enough, then they were hauled to the place where the building was to be, and the men all came and had a log-rolling. Our house and stable were both built this was so by the cold days we had a home for the winter. We had a fireplace in one room for heat but cooked on a stove. We had coal-oil lights and sometimes used tallow candles. The Indians of our tribes in this county have had plenty of money and so have not had to live like some. They are all from the northeast, and lived like white folks even before they came to Kansas and there we had nice farms, nice homes, good furniture and lots of good stock.
There was a fort here then. Where was it? You know where Sunnyside School is, Yes. It was on the first hill north of there on right hand side of the road. It is about six miles south of Baxter Springs. What was it called? I don't know the name but the name of the hill was Hunt Hill. Now it is called the Abrams Hill, as they took the land. The old earth works may still be there. There were stationed at the fort then one company of Calvary and a company of Infantry. Col. Toe, I think was in command. Several buildings, two commissaries, soldiers quarters, etc.
Why was this fort established? It was to keep the white settlers out of Indian lands. There was a strip 2 1/2 miles wide from the Missouri Line on the east, west along the Kansas Line to the Neosho River. Sometimes referred to as the Neutral Strip-along the north end of the Quapaws. White settlers kept coming over the line and trying to settle here. When these soldiers looked after the Nez Perces while they were camped near the fort. They gave them rations and kept them together. They were northern Indians, I think, anyway they did not stay long. They were soon moved.
In 1873, I think the Modocs were brought to Baxter from Oregon on troop trains in charge of soldiers. I remember seeing them. They were hideous. They wore rings in their noses and ears, had flat heads. They bound boards to the children's heads over forehead, and shaved the hair high over the ears leaving the hair through the center of the head. This was placed and hung down the back. They wore feather headdress. They wore blankets, the men wore moccasins, leggins and breechclout. They were not friendly and gave the soldiers lots of trouble. They were settled on a tract 2 1/2 mile square in the northeast corner of the Shawnee Reservation just west of Seneca, Mo.
They came from a different climate and they died like sheep. It did not agree with them here and then they were not satisfied. I remember Steamboat Frank. He was a fine looking young man about a half-breed I should think. He wore citizen's clothes and nice ones, acted as interpreter and talked English well. He died here and is buried in the Modoc Cemetery. So is Scar-Face Charlie.
I was born in Niles, Michigan in 1849 and while I was still a boy we moved to Illinois and later to Iowa. I was living in Iowa when I heard that the government needed men to help move the Indians out of Kansas, so I sent in my application, and was accepted. I went to Lincoln County and went to work in 1869 when I was twenty-one years old.
I went to the new Sac and Fox Agency in the Indian Territory in March of 1870. The Sac and Foxes had been moved to their new reservation in the fall of 1869. Through a mistake, they had located too far east and were really in the Creek country. The Creeks protested and asked for a new survey, in the spring of 1870.
One time while we were eating, an Indian by the name of Chuck-a-ho (Shack-a-ho) came along. I had learned enough Sauk to talk a little with the Indian, and Miller told me to invite him to eat with us. While we were eating Miller asked Chuck-a-ho why he didn't wear pants? I did the interpreting. Chuck-a-ho asked Miller if he would give him some pants, and Miller said that he would. So Miller told me to go down to John Whistler's store and buy a pair of pants for Chuck-a-ho. The next time we saw him, he was wearing the pants, but he had cut the seat and the crotch out and was wearing then like leggins. When asked why he had done that, he said that they choked his seat.
That first year the Government provided the Sac and Foxes with rations which were issued every other day. They were given Salt Pork, Flour, Lard, green coffee, and tobacco. I remember being a dinner guest at an Indian camp one time, and as a special delicacy they melted a cup of Lard and gave it to me to drink.
When I first went to the Agency we hauled supplies from Kansas City. We had a great big wagon with six mules to the wagon. I remember one time we went after potatoes. The weather was cold. We took some hay with us but that didn't last so after that we cut down cottonwood trees and let the mules eat the tiny branches. However, we did have grain for them. We loaded up six wagons with potatoes and started toward home. When we were near Ottawa, Kansas, the weather turned extremely cold and all of the potatoes froze. We hauled them along and they began to rot. When we got to Honey Falls we dumped them the whole load.
There was a great deal of sickness among the Sac and Foxes that first year. I believe there was about seven hundred died between the first payment and the second payment. Dr. Cook was the first doctor for the Sac and Foxes and was succeeded by Dr. Williams.
One of my duties at the agency was to drive the Ambulance. It was not the same as an ambulance these days. But was somewhat like an old stage coach or a hack. the drivers' seat was raised above the others. The seats for passengers were a long ways of the coach and faced each other. We usually hitched four mules to it.
Grandmother, Sally Starr-Mayfield, on my mother's side was born in Tennessee, at a date unknown to me. She died in the early part of 1860 and was buried at Belleview, Texas, alongside her husband. Grandmother, when about twelve years of age, went to the river to see the party, under Chief Bowls, who was Chief of a band of Cherokee Indians, leaving in canoes seeking a new land in which to live.
Chief Bowls and his party left in canoes and drifted down the Tennessee River, until they came to the Mississippi River. When they reached the mouth of Red River they ascended Red River to the mouth of the Sabine River, thence up the Sabine, to the headwaters of the Neches and here he established a village.
He remained there until the Mexican War. At the beginning of the Mexican War, with the solicitation of Sam Houston, and agreement was made, whereby Chief Bowls would protect their rear from attack from wild Indians. The reason that they solicited Chief Bowls was because he lived among the Indians, and knew their traits, character, and tactics. For his services as such, he was promised a concession of land, which embraced about three counties, the names of the counties were Rusk, Smith, and Cherokee County, Texas. The result of the Mexican War was that the United States whipped them. "Chief Bowls never did receive for his reward, the three counties promised."
The line was run and started at the head-waters of the Neches River and went with the wind of the Naches to some point on the Angelina River, thence, down the Angelina to a certain point, thence due north to the Sabine, embracing about three counties. Houston went to Bowls camp or village. He told Bowls that he would give him that land and would make him a title as soon as it could be done.
After the war, Houston became the first Governor of Texas. Later he was elected United States Senator, which was after the annexation of the state of Texas. While he was in the Senate, Governor Lamar became Governor. He was the first Governor after the annexation.
Bowls was in his little village in the Neches and the people began to encroach on him. He thought that he had a promised reservation. Bowls went to Lamar and told him that the people were encroaching on his reservation. Lamar did not give him any encouragement. The third time Lamar just answered him: "The boundary of Texas is marked by the sword." Bowls understood it and he left. He went back to his reservation and began a removal. He crossed the Neches and camped off his reservation. He was pursued by the Texas Rangers, and Bowls was killed and the larger part of his tribe slaughtered. Some of them, however, got away. The Rangers pursued them, and they were captured. They took them, as prisoners, to Fort Towson, in the Indian Territory and turned them over to the Government. They were then moved to Fort Smith and turned over to the Cherokee Nation.
My father was an old settler. He settled within about four miles of the present town of Evansville, Arkansas, in about 1825 and remained there until a treaty was signed back east by John Ridge and Elias Boudinot for the removal of the entire Cherokee tribe from Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and other states, and he then moved to the Indian Territory and settled in the Going Snake District.
My mother came through at the instigation of the treaty made as above mentioned and known to all as the "Trail of Tears". They traveled in caravans and wagons and were pushed along by the United States troops. Many of the Cherokees did not care to leave their lands, that were so productive and also to leave behind the burial grounds, where their loved ones were buried, to come to this Western country. It was forced upon them and consequently a great deal of dissatisfaction reigned among them, causing a faction known as the Treaty Party and the Anti-Treaty Party.
My mother has told me that they came to the Mississippi River, that is was up and that it was necessary for them to remain there six or seven weeks, before they could cross the river, as they had no means, other than canoes and flat boats to put them across. This put them on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in Arkansas, and they continued to travel, often wading streams with little food and practically no medical attention and hundreds of them died enroute, caused by exposure and unsanitary conditions. Even while they were waiting for the river to recede, while in Tennessee, hundreds of them died on the banks of the river from dysentery. As they died along the route they were buried in unmarked graves. My mother was one of the fortunates that made it through and it is useless to say that she endured many hardships, was grief stricken and sorrowful. She weathered the storm, while others, even after arriving, soon died of sorrow and grief.
In this removal my grandfather had thirty teams and was employed by the government to assist in removing them, so I guess my folks really fared well to what some of the rest of them did, because, they brought with them enough stuff to start building cabins, clearing the ground and making ready for crops.
My father and mother married in the Cherokee Nation and remained there until what they called the "Star War", between parties of Treaty and Anti-Treaty. My parents, along with Judge Adair, George Starr, Judge Wiley, Franklin D. Thompson, two or three of my uncles and my grandmother, Sally Mayfield, all went to Texas, before the Civil War, and lived as one big family and located near the present town of Tyler, and Kilgore, Texas, and it was at this place that I was born.
Father's name was Red Bird Harris born near Atlanta, Ga. Date unknown. Died in 1903. Buried at family cemetery at his home. Mother's name was Ellen Rogers Harris, born in Georgia, date unknown. Was a distant relative of the late Will Rogers, the humorist. Died in 1910. Buried near the town of Coweta, Oklahoma.
Number of the Cherokee tribe as early as 1828 left Georgia and came west as far as Arkansas. About 1836 my great-uncle, Henry Harris, was instrumental in perfecting as agreement with the officials in Washington for the moving of the Cherokees in Georgia to the Indian Territory. The move westward started about the same year and continued on through 1839 and probably as late as 1840. Some came on foot and their conveyances were ox-carts, wagon trains, caravans, etc. The government moved those who agreed with the treaty and those who did not want to leave their rich fertile soil was driven out by the soldiers and came along as history has already mentioned the "Trail of Tears". My mother Ellen Rogers was one of the ones on this trail. My father Red Bird came from Georgia to New Orleans, La., and thence from there by boat up the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers and unloaded at the present town of Webbers Falls, Okla. The Western Cherokees who settled first in Arkansas joined the Eastern Cherokees in Indian Territory about the time my father came which was in 1839. He and mother were married and settled on the place I now live long before the Civil War. They fought, lived and died on this place.
Father: Herbert Worcester Hicks, born at Pork Hill, Indian Territory, May 14, 1861 and was married to Rachel Cardwell at Fayetteville, Arkansas, December 23, 1886. Rachel Cardwell was the daughter of James and Sarah Cardwell and was born July 20, 1869, in Washington County, Arkansas. To this union the following children were born: Ethel Inez, Homer Wilton, Clifton A., Vern Clara, Ralph Conner, Herbert Morris
My father and mother came with the Cherokees from Georgia and Tennessee in 1838. My mother was a daughter of Reverend Samuel A. Worcester, one of the first missionaries to the Cherokees back in Georgia and my father was a descendent of Charles Hicks, a Cherokee chief in the old Cherokee Nation in Georgia.
It becomes my duty to give you notice to evacuate the lot of land No. 125, in the 14th District, of the third section, and to give the house now occupied by you to Col. William Handen, or whoever he may put forward to take possession of the same and that you may have ample time to prepare for the same, I will allow you until the 28th day of this month to do the same.
Many of the leaders, when unrest was felt in the homes, visited the different homes and gave encouragement to believe that Alabama was to be the permanent home of the Muskogee tribe. But many different rumors of a removal to the far west was often heard.
The command for a removal came unexpectedly upon most of us. There was the time that we noticed that several overloaded wagons were passing our home, yet we did not grasp the meaning. However, it was not long until we found out the reason. Wagons stopped at our home and the men in charge commanded us to gather what few belongings could be crowded into the wagons. We were to be taken away and leave our homes never to return. This was just the beginning of much weeping and heartaches.
We were taken to a crudely built stockade and joined others of our tribe. We were kept penned up until everything was ready before we started on the march. Even here, there was the awful silence that showed the heartaches and sorrow at being taken from the homes and even separation from loved ones.
Many fell by the wayside, too faint with hunger or too weak to keep up with the rest. The aged, feeble, and sick were left to perish by the wayside. A crude bed was quickly prepared for these sick and weary people. Only a bowl of water was left within reach, thus they were left to suffer and die alone.
The little children piteously cried day after day from weariness, hunger, and illness. Many of the men, women, and even the children were forced to walk. They were once happy children - left without mother and father - crying could not bring consolation to those children.
The sick and the births required attention, yet there was no time or no one was prepared. Death stalked at all hours, but there was no time for proper burying of ceremonies. My grandfather died on this trip. A hastily cut piece of cotton wood contained his body. The open ends were closed up and this was placed along a creek. This was not the only time this manner of burying was held nor the only way. Some of the dead were placed between two logs and quickly covered with shrubs, some were shoved under the thickets, and some were not even buried but left by the wayside.
There were several men carrying reeds with eagle feathers attached to the end. These men continually circled around the wagon trains or during the night around the camps. These men said the reeds with feathers had been treated by the medicine men. Their purpose was to encourage the Indians not to be heavy hearted nor to think of the homes that had been left.
Some of the older women sang songs that meant, "We are going to our homes and land; there is One who is above and ever watches over us; He will care for us." This song was to encourage the ever downhearted Muskogees.
Mrs. Rhoda James was born near Shady Point, Sugar Loaf County, in the Choctaw Nation, some time in the year 1869, and now resides within eight miles of where she was born. Her mother, Emily Tobley, came to the Indian Territory at the time of the Removal of the Indians from Mississippi and settled near Shady Point. She does not know whether or not her father accompanied her, as he died when Mrs. James was a small child. She attended school at Shady Point-then called Double Springs - where for a time John Payne was a teacher. Later the school was taught by Jacob Jackson. The terms of school usually run from September to March each year.
She cannot recall the year in which she was married but assumes it was at an early age. At the time of her marriage, both she and her husband were very poor. They erected a small cabin on the ground where she now lives. Her husband worked around in the community wherever work could be found. He found considerable work making fence rails, for which he received seventy-five cents per hundred. This was usually paid in trade, such as bacon, lard, flour, sugar and dry goods...........
She recalls hearing her mother relate her experiences both before and after the removal. Her mother said that there was considerable opposition among the Indians to being removed from their Mississippi homes to the Indian Territory. This opposition was so strong that quite a number refused to leave their homes, with the result that only a part of the Choctaw people were removed. The oppositionists warned those who consented to the removal that the land then offered them would again be taken from them just as it had been done in Mississippi. According to the mother of Mrs. James, the Choctaws were not accorded the best of treatment while in Mississippi. They were not permitted to hunt on any land owned by Whites, and if any game was killed on such land by the Indians, they would be subject to severe punishment. The Indians were restricted in many other ways and were far from being happy under such restrictions. After removing to the Indian Territory the Indians had not fully recovered from the effects of the trip from Mississippi, before the Civil War with its devastating effects overtook them. The families of such Choctaws as entered the war were left helpless.
My mother was about twelve years old when they were forced to leave Georgia and I have heard her say that before they left their homes there that the white people would come into their houses and look things over and when they found something that they liked, they would say, "This is mine, I am going to have it", etc. When they were gathering their things to start they were driven from their homes and collected together like so many cattle. Some would try to take along something which they loved, but were forced to leave it, if it was of any size. The trip was made in covered wagons and this made many of the women sick, but they were forced along just the same. When they reached streams and rivers, they did not want to cross and they were dragged on the boats.
My maternal grandmother was Felayah Polayah Homer, one-half blood Choctaw, daughter of John Homer of the Shacchi Homer Nation, the name, Sig-Red Crawfish. John Homer's wife was Chief Natastachi's daughter.
My paternal grandfather was Phillip Usray, one-half Cherokee. My paternal grandmother (name forgotten) was sister to Chief Bowl of East Texas, who held a Spanish grant to lands before Texas independence. He aided General Houston in the battle of San Jacinto.
All of the Indians in this District gathered at Memphis, Tennessee, in 1832 and were transported across the Mississippi in the steamboats, the Reindeer, the Cleopatra, the Talma and the Sir Walter Scott. In crossing over the Choctaws sang this song:
Fare thee well to Nunialchwayah (meaning to the land we love so dear). Nunialchwayah was in memory of the leaning Pole "Fabuasa", the legend of which may be found at the close of history of the Choctaws. When the Choctaws reached Arkansas, the Government had wagons and teams there ready for them. The Indians were loaded into the wagons and they started for the Government post, near Little Rock, Arkansas.
In loading my people got separated from each other for there were hundreds of wagons on this journey. When they reached the Ouachita (meaning 4th River) River, it was on a rampage and out of banks. The roads were almost impassable. It was raining and cold. Even for all the well and strong, the journey was almost beyond human endurance. Many were weak and broken-hearted, and as night came there were new graces dug beside the way. Many of the Indians contracted pneumonia fever and the cholera. They camped a mile from the Ouachita, waiting for the water to recede so they could cross. While they were camped here, Ezekiel Roebuck, father of my grandfather, William Roebuck, became ill but said nothing. When the river was low enough to cross, everyone got in the wagons and started on the journey but Ezekiel was so sick he became unconscious and fell over. Some one told the driver and he said, "I will have to stop and put him out as we can't afford to have any one with the Cholera along." So they stopped by the road side and put him out. My great grandmother said, "You can put the children and me out too," and the driver replied, "All right, but he will soon be dead and you and your three children will have to walk the balance of the way." Each child had a small blanket. My great-grandmother had a paisley shawl she had brought along a bucket of honey and some cold flour from their home. This flour is made by parching corn and grinding it in a coffee mill until pulverized. This food she carried along for her six months old baby. She begged the driver for food and a blanket for Great-grandfather, and he grudgingly gave the blanket and one days supply of food.
Great-grandfather was conscious at times. He had dubbed Great-grandmother "Little Blue Hen" and when he became conscious of their plight, he would say, "Dear Little Blue Hen, why didn't you take the children and go on, I can't last much longer, and my Soul will rest much easier if I knew you were safe. My body is just dust and will be all right any place." She replied, "As long as you live I'll be with you, Dear." Then the Little Blue Hen and two boys, aged ten and twelve, set about fixing a bed.
The story of a singing river was told by an old man by the name of Holly Thomas who use to live three or four miles southeast of Eufaula, but he has been dead for some years. His father and mother had come over to the new country from the eastern home during the removal and so the story had been told to Holly of the sorrows at the time of the removal and what the conditions were at that time. He was a small child during that time but he was told all stories about the times when he had become a young man. Those old folks never could cease from talking about and telling of the hardships they experienced along their trip often known as the Trail of Tears.
This story of the singing river was told to Holly by his father. It is not exactly known whether the incident connected with this story happened in the Mississippi River or the Tennessee River but it was the Creek Indians that it was told about. This was told as it actually happened but it was a very strange incident. As some of the Indians had been brought to the river to be put aboard the ships that were to carry them part of the way by a water route, some began to form ideas that they did not fully want to leave their old homes and further, some resolved never to set foot on the ships so that they couldn't be forced to suffer any more hardships.
They thought it would be best to end all relations with their superior officers so that they began to fight them. In the attempts to check the rebellion the officers had to use weapons and some of the Indians were killed as they tried to run off into the woods. Seeing the rebellious attitude of the Indians the white officers grabbed any Indian and pushed or forced them into the ships. The officers readily killed any Indian on board the ships that seemed to be in a rebellious attitude, but there were some Indians who did not take part in the uprising but they were the eye witnesses to those Indians who were killed on board the ships and thrown overboard into the waters of the river. Some of them that were left unharmed said, "Even we will die here but not by guns." With this, they took hold of one another's hands and stepped off into a large suck hole that was in the river and went to their deaths singing a song. It is told that many years later, the words of the song which had been sung by those Indians could be heard at certain times so that many people from foreign countries and people from different places in this country have made trips to this vicinity in attempts to record the tune and words of the song, but no one has ever been successful.
Major Ridge, a full blood Cherokee Indian, who married a white woman and his son, John Ridge, who also married a white woman, came to what is now Delaware County, Indian Territory, from Georgia in the year of 1835. John Ridge, the son, had a college education and both men were considered rich men.
They opened a trading post near the Arkansas State line. (This store may have been called Ridge's Store.) They employed one, William Childers, as a clerk in this trading post. Later they gave William Childers $8,000.00 to go to New Orleans to buy supplies for this store. He made the trip by way of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers, buying the supplies and returning to the trading post.
After the general removal of the Cherokees to Indian Territory in 1838, the two Ridges (Major and John) were assassinated by their own tribe, the reason being that because these two men signed the treaty disposing of the Cherokee country east of the Mississippi River for land in Indian Territory, the tribe thought they had been betrayed and sold out by their supposed friends. They were killed in different sections, but on the same day. Major Ridge was killed somewhere near the Arkansas State line, on the same day a relative of theirs was killed near Parkhill, which is about six miles south of Tahlequah.
John Ridge had a son, John Rollins Ridge, who later came back to that country to see after his father's and grandfather's land and business. On reaching their old homes, he found that there was a black stallion missing and he started out in search of this horse. After some time of searching he rode into the farm yard of a man by the name of Kell. He asked him if he had seen a black stallion and Kell told him he had and pointed to where the horse was standing. They had some words about the horse and the outcome was that Ridge killed Kell, after which he escaped into Missouri and later joined a party of Indians that was migrating to California. He later made a trip or two back to this country and to Washington D. C. but ended his days in California. While in California, he became a newspaper man and a writer, later being known as the "Poet of the Sierras of California".
I was born Jan. 20, 1872 in the Going Snake District of the Cherokee Nation, at Oaks, one of the two oldest towns in the Cherokee Nation. I am a full blood Cherokee; my mother, Elizabeth Miller came from Georgia in the Trail of Tears in 1832, when the Indians were driven out of Georgia at the point of bayonet and brought here like live-stock.
Upon coming here the Cherokees were permitted to take claims at the land they wanted, anywhere east of Grand River. The stipulations of the treaty were that this land was to be theirs as long as grass grew and the waters run. But later, the white mans greed for this beautiful and valuable country became so strong that, they went to work and legislated laws in Washington where by this country might be surveyed and divided up, allowing each Indian just so much land as a homestead and certain allotment of surplus other than their homesteads.
The government orders for the removal of the Seminole Indians in the old country to the new Indian Territory was under way. The Seminoles did not want to come to the country, west of the Mississippi River.
The rest of the members of our tribe was quickly mobilized while the four of us off on a hunting trip. Our wives and children taken by the white men along with the rest of the Seminoles. Because our families were in the hands of the government authorities so we thought it best to surrender. We were bound and made prisoners.
The four of us were constantly guarded. The guards would often ask us if we had the courage to be killed and if we were ready to die. The guards talked as if we were to be killed after we had crossed the river. Still, we never said anything.
As we were going along a trail to the river and just before we reached the river, one of the prisoner's saw a crow feather on the ground which he picked up. We hadn't gone much further when another one of the prisoner's saw a blue jay feather which he also picked up. After they had picked up the feathers they stuck them in their hats and then we gave our tribal war whoop. We then told our guards that we were ready and unafraid to die.
When we reached the river, we were put on the boat with the rest of the members of our people and tribe. The four of us that were held prisoners were placed in a separate small room from the rest of our people. One of the prisoners took sick while we were being held in this room.
The guards were in the same room with the prisoners, but they were asleep when the following incident took place. I said to the other, "Let's make an escape. I am going to make a dash for the door and break the door down and when I do that the rest of you follow me and do whatever I do on the boat."
We concealed ourselves in the lower part of the boat. Everything was in confusion on board the big boat and several smaller boats were lowered into the water while a search was made on the boat as well as in the water. We were never found.
After things had quieted down, we dared to swim the mighty river. We hung on to a log that happened to be floating in the water. Once we saw a large snake that had a head shaped like the head of a cow, but we safely reached shore.
My father was David Israel, a full-blood Cherokee and my mother was Martha Jane Miller Israel, a quarter Cherokee. They were born in Georgia. My mother in 1836 and my father in 1837. They were brought to Indian Territory by their parents over the "Trail of Tears" when the Indians were driven from their eastern homes by the United States Troops. They were too young to know of the tragedies and sorrows of that terrible event. My aunt, who was 15 years old at the time, told me of the awful suffering along the journey. Almost everyone had to walk as the conveyance they had were inadequate for transporting what few possessions they had and their meager supply of food. Only the old people and little children were allowed to ride. They died by the hundreds and were buried by the roadside. As they were not allowed to remove any of their household goods, they arrived at their destination with nothing with which to start housekeeping.
The scene of this story as given by Mrs. Pennington starts far back in the dawn of Cherokee history. It deals with her forefathers before wrongs were done to these proud Cherokee back in Tennessee and Georgia; with their weary journey westward over the Trail of Tears. The Cherokees' first constitution according to the Cherokee laws; the Cherokees' first Principal Chief, John Ross; stirring events of the Civil War; the coming of the wild bands of painted Indians from other parts of the United States brought by the Government into the Indian Territory to occupy a part of the Cherokee lands that they were compelled by the Government to sell for this purpose.
After the Ridges made this treaty and those who favored it moved west. Chief Ross and his band of 12,000 still refused to move and they met abuse and troubles indescribable and finally the United States Soldiers were sent to move Chief Ross and his people.
After the soldiers appeared, they began to build stockades to house the Cherokees until they could get them moving. All over the Cherokee country they went, bringing in all of them, old and young, male and female and their babes, the sick, the lame and the halt. They hunted them down like hunting wild beasts and when they found them, they drove them under threats and blows like cattle to these stockades. These stockades were over crowded, disease broke out among them and many of them died with dysentery. Poor food and poor water, no doctors and no medicine.
In due time parties were started west, under the charge of soldiers. These parties were driven through like cattle. The sick and weak walked until they fell exhausted and then were loaded in wagons or left behind to die. When streams were to be crossed if not too deep all were compelled to wade. The water often times was to the chins of the men and women, and the little children were carried high over their heads. If the water was over their heads they would build rafts and cross on them.
Chief Ross and the Council begged the Government to let them take over the moving after a few parties had been moved by the soldiers and this was agreed upon. They began to establish camps and their health got better. It was only a short time until Chief Ross had worked out the details for the removal and he moved his people in groups through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and then into the Indian Territory. This journey was called the "Trail of Tears".
Unlike the moving by the army, arrangements were made whereby the old, sick and afflicted and the babies rode on the wagons hauling provisions and household goods. The others walked or rode horseback. These wagons hauling provisions were Government property.
Those who survived the hardships of the long trek, finally came to meet the Cherokees west. After they arrived here all that they possessed were a saw, an axe, a very little bedding and a big-eyed hoe and a small amount of corn, enough possibly to plant an acre of ground.
Having located in the Ozarks of the eastern part of the Indian Territory, many of them dug caves or dugouts in the hillsides in which to live until with their axe and saw, they built a little log cabin. They lived on wild fruits and berries. They made themselves bows and arrows to kill their game.
My grandfather on my father's side of the family was an Irish emigrant to this country in 1820 when he was only seventeen years of age and was living among the Cherokees in Tennessee where he was married to my grandmother, Eliza Heldebrand in 1829. To that union were born ten children, William, Nancy, Rachel, Marguret, Elias, John J. (my father), Washington, Polly, Lucy, and Mikel.
As grandmother was Cherokee, she and grandfather and the children that were born up to that time were driven out of that country with the removal of the Cherokees to this country in 1837 with the general exodus of the Indians over what has been referred to in history as the "trail of tears", the darkest blot on American history. According to the stories told to me by my grandmother when I was a small girl it would be impossible for anyone to graphically portray the horrors and suffering endured by the Cherokees on that journey. The hardships were many all along the trail, rough country, bad roads and all kinds of weather. A seeming endless march of weary, struggling mass of humanity, driven from a country they knew and loved as their home, deprived of most of their individual possessions, to the wilderness of a new country. A procession miles in length of wagons, two-wheel carts, vehicles of every description drawn by horses, mules and ox teams, long troops of pedestrians of all ages and conditions, mothers walking and carrying their babes on their back. Many walking and driving their small herds of cattle and other stock. After a few days out on the trail you could see them scattered along the roadside falling out of line of march from exhaustion and illness, and so the long journey from east of the Mississippi to the Indian Territory was made after several months of hardships and sorrow and the cost of many lives of the Cherokees. I have read of the "Trail of Tears " by different writers but none portray the horrors of it all in detail as grandmother related to us when we could persuade her to talk of it, as she would often tell us it was too horrible to talk about and it only brought back sad memories.
Soon after the arrival in the territory my grandfather taken up a claim in what was afterwards known as the Whiteoak Hills in the Illinois district of the Cherokee nation about seventeen miles east of where the town of Bragg now stands. He built a large two room log house with a railway between the rooms and a stone fireplace at each end of the house. At this place they reared their family of ten children and resided the remainder of their active lives. Their last few years were spent among the children who were all married and living at different places in the Territory. Grandfather died at the home of his son Washington Patrick near Braggs in 1887. Grandmother died at the home of another son at Vann, Oklahoma in 1903,
I have heard talk among and from the older Indians that when the Cheyennes were moved from their older homes in Wyoming that they had as great and much trouble, hardships, sickness and death in their travels to what is now Oklahoma.
Some of the Indians were loyal to the government and wanted to do what was ordered of them. They were willing to move and settle in the new country but some of the others didn't want to leave their homes. Some of them, while on the way to the new country, escaped and returned to their old homes. It was often the case that these fleeing Indians would be overtaken and shot down. This seemed to cause a lot of trouble for the white men who had to make a return trip to the old country and bring the Indians back to the new country.
While the escaped Cheyennes were causing all the trouble, battles and deaths, those that were obedient to orders had willingly taken the new country as their homes where they had selected their camping sites and located their favorite hunting grounds. They had already become used to the new lands. This was among the more peace loving Cheyennes.
It was while in their weakness and while seeking safety from the winter snow and cold that fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children were massacred in the Washita Valley in their country by General Custer and his troops who swooped down on them and wiped the camp out. This was caused by some of the disobedient Cheyennes and by their rebellious acts.
They came in rude wagons drawn by oxen, each family furnishing its own transportation or at least my grandfather did and he loaded his wagon with provisions for his family for the trip. This left little room as he had a wife and six children of whom my mother was next to the youngest. They were compelled to have a little bedding. They left Georgia in the summer and did not reach this state till the next summer.
These people were brought through Tennessee and Southern Missouri, under soldiers commanded by General Winfield Scott. General Scott left these people under command of his assistant about the middle of the trip that he might attend the National Whig Convention, which was at that the contesting the nominations of Henry Clay and William Henry Harrison for President of the United States.
Mother started with a little pig that she named "Toby". When they started he was no larger than a large rat and each day at noon and at night mother would let him run around and watched him and she kept him till he was a large hog and he disappeared one day at the noon hour and she was never able to find him.
In those days there were no roads and few trails and very few bridges. Progress of travelers was slow and often times they would have to wait many days for the streams to run down before they could cross. Each family did its own cooking on the road. People then had no matches and they started a fire by rubbing two flint rocks together and catching the spark on a piece of dry spunk held directly underneath the rocks. Sometimes, they would have to rake away the snow and clear a place to build the fire. Travelers carried dry wood in the wagons to build their fires. The wagons were so heavily loaded and had traveled so many days that when they came to a hill the persons in the wagons would have to get out and walk up the hill. They did not ride much of the time but walked a good deal, not only to rest themselves but to save their teams.
Often, teams would give out and could go no farther and then those who were with that wagon would be divided up among the other wagons and hurried along. One day mother saw a team of oxen fall dead, hitched to their wagon. The party she was with were in a severe snowstorm on the way which caused much suffering. Many died from exposure on the trip and mother said that she thought that a third of those who started died on the way, although all of her family lived to reach the new country. Those who came over the Trail of Tears would not stop for sickness and would stop only long enough to dig a rude grave when any one died and then the bereaved family was forced to move right along.
Mother said that their food lasted them till they reached the Indian Territory but towards the last of the trip that they had little to eat and had to plan to make it last. It was indeed a pitiful band that finally reached the new home promised them for they had been a year on the road, food had become scarce, their clothes which were homemade were wearing out, many had died on the trail, some had lost their teams and wagons and had been placed with other families and there were small children in the band who had lost their parents.
J. W. Stephens is of Negro and Creek Indian blood and was born near the present town of Eufaula, Oklahoma, on the Canadian River, about the year 1858. His father and mother, John and Theba Stephens, were born in the Creek Nation of old Indian Territory, but their parents, his grandparents, came from Georgia at the time of the removal of the Creeks, out of the states of Georgia and Alabama, about the year 1833.
The Creek Indians held large tracts of land located partly in Georgia, partly in Alabama and partly in Mississippi. They at one time had owned considerable land but by treaties with the United States, at and before their removal, they had left only what they considered enough for their own needs.
The whites continued to encroach on the Creeks and insisted they move west, but they stood with a firm determination not to give up their lands. The entire tribe held council and at that meeting it was decided that they would not give up a single acre of their land or leave the home of their fathers they loved so well.
After this council meeting, a fellow named Colonel William McIntosh called another meeting for he favored removal. Only a few attended this meeting. McIntosh signed a treaty with the United States, saying at the council meeting they had decided to trade their land in the east, acre for acre, for land in the Indian Territory. Another council was held by the majority protesting, saying it was made by the minority and not the majority and they would die first.
A few years later the Government made a treaty with the majority to remove them west, giving them land in the Indian Territory along and between the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers. They were to move them and furnish them with food during the first year, allowing them to clear land and establish themselves.
Some of the Creeks left on this occasion: many, however, still refused to move and my grandparents were among those who were driven out like cattle and came to the Indian country by wagon trains and on foot. They suffered many hardships, were footsore and weary, tattered and torn. Sickness was among them and many died along the route.
I am the son of Turnip and Martha Vann and I was born in the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation of the Indian Territory, June 20, 1870. The present location of my birthplace would be in Adair County near the present town of Stilwell. I am a full blood Cherokee Indian and am now the day jailer at the Muskogee County jail in Muskogee.
My father was born in North Carolina about 1825, and my mother's name was Martha Hood before her marriage and she was born in Georgia, September 14, 1835. My father is now dead and is buried some few miles south of Stilwell. My mother is also dead and is buried in McIntosh County, near Chocotah.
My father and grandfather moved to Georgia before the removal of the Cherokees to the Indian Territory from North Carolina and my mother's parents lived in Georgia. There has been much told to me by my parents and grandparents as to the way in which the Cherokees were treated and were driven from their homes in Georgia, all of which history has recorded; however I feel that I should say my parents were of two different clans or factions. My mother's parents were favorable to the Treaty or the Ridge Party and on account of a treaty made with the United States Government, my mother's people were moved west by the Government, by steamboat and wagons and settled in Western Arkansas, north of the present town of Fort Smith, in 1835. Mother was but a baby two years old at this time. These Cherokees were called emigrants or the Western Cherokees.
My father's people would not abide by the treaty and were known as members of the Anti-treaty or Ross Party who refused to leave their homes back in Georgia, because the land was fertile and had many improvements and furthermore because their loved ones were buried there. In all, the members of the Ross or Anti-treaty party were satisfied and content in Georgia and did not care to take up new homes in a country of which they knew nothing. All the story of their sufferings in Georgia and across the Trail of Tears has already been written. My father while only thirteen years old came on the Trail of Tears with his parents and while on this trail, he lost one of his brothers. Father's people settled in the Flint District where I was born. It was in 1838 that this removal occurred and it was only a few years until my mother's people who had settled in Arkansas were again compelled to move into the confines of the Indian Territory. They settled in the Flint District where Father and Mother grew up and were married.
I have heard my grandparents and parents say, that after the troublesome times of enforced migration and settlement in their new lands in Indian Territory, there followed at last a period of peace and prosperity among the Cherokees. The younger Indians such as Father and Mother became reconciled to the change but my grandfather never did.
My father told me that all the men and boys walked all the way from Georgia, and the women and children were allowed to ride in the ox wagons. It was a long hard journey and many took sick and died on the road. It took so long to make the trip, longer than the government had figured, that about all the money the Cherokees were given to live on after they arrived was used up on the way.
My father said each head of a family was given $100.00 in money to live on until they could get started up in their new homes, and that the soldiers in charge of the movement were given feed and food enough to carry them through. It ran out long before the journey's end was reached and the government officers had to borrow from the Indians to buy food and feed to continue the trip. By the time the Territory was reached about all the Indians money was used up, many of their families were reduced by death, and they were here without a thing to live on.
My father said the Government men in charge of the "Trail of Tears" promised to turn in their claims and pay back the money they borrowed from the Cherokees on the way over here, but they never did. I am told that the Cherokees now have in a claim against the government for this money with 5 per cent interest from 1838.
Mr. Waterkiller was born in the Cookson Hills of Eastern Oklahoma, near White Oak School, in Cherokee County, Oklahoma and now lives six miles east of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, near the present Perkins School in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, on highway #62.
Grandpa and Grandma leave North Carolina, in old country, come Georgia, that old country too, stay there year. . . . 1837, soldiers drive um West. . . . Grandpa and Grandma no want come. Soldiers say go or kill you. Stick bayonet in you. They get things one night, skillet, pot, dishes, clothes, bedclothes too. . . . got dish grandma bring. I eat beans out em, I boy. It was an old piece of pottery, highly polished. Bowl was fashioned with handles, handles broken off, but designs on it were beautiful. See bowl, is over hundred years old. Next day soldiers drive um out. Easy first day. Make soldiers feel good. Every day worse. Just drive um like cattle. Grandma say she walk, grandpa walk too or soldiers run bayonets through um. They walk, wade creeks to chin, lots mud some places. Cross rivers in canoes. Soldiers save canoes, sometimes hollow logs, made um boats, go cross river. Yuh, soldiers have wagons. Feed um two times some days, sometimes feed um one time. Soldiers eat all time, take care horses better than my grandma-grandpa. Yuh-they bring skillet some things grandma had. Yuh - lots die, lots sick, lots die, two week walk, they die, bury em where they die, any place. Yuh - clothes bad, tore em, dirty too, clothes all gone when get here. Throw lot way on road, no good.
They get here, lots timber, land no good in hills, all right in valley Yuh - Grandma hate white man. Give all land, good land, in old country meaning North Carolina and Georgia. . . . white man say "Trail Tears", she say: "Trail Death". . . . grandpa die next year, mother born. (meaning his grandmother died one year after the birth of his mother.)
Soldiers give em, ax, saw, big eye hoe, flint makin firs, corn, cotton, beans, mellon seed. Some soldiers give em nothin. (He had in his mind that some of the emigrants received nothing after their arrival, but was promised they would get theirs later). My folks lucky. Others never get nothin. .......
Mrs. Watt's maiden name was Elizabeth Miller. She was born in 1859, in the Canadian District of the Cherokee Nation and is a full-blood Cherokee Indian. Her first marriage was to a Mr. Whitewater, now deceased, and in 1894, she was married to Mr. Watts. Each marriage was consummated under the Cherokee Laws.
Her mother was Mrs. Nancy Tony - Miller and she was born on the East bank of the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee, in 1837. Her grandparents were enroute from Georgia on the "Trail of Tears". They camped at the river several weeks waiting for the river to recede. Disease broke out among them and many died, but Nancy was born and she, at least replaced one of those who died.
Her father, Wilson Miller, was born in the Cherokee Nation. Was an orphan. He was reared by Uncle Joe Robertson, who was the father of Miss Alice Robertson, late Congress-woman from Oklahoma. His home was with the Robertson's at the old Tallahassee Mission, in the Creek Nation at the present town of Tallahassee, Oklahoma. He knew little of his parents, and likewise, Mrs. Watts knew nothing of her grand-parents on her father's side. He is buried three miles south of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
The Cherokees owned a large acreage in Georgia. After Jefferson was elected President by the United States, he had agents to come to the different Tribes to induce them to come west. Their inducement was much more land than they had there. They had lived there in Georgia for years and years. They had good land, that was left, for already the white people had encroached and taken much of their land. Naturally, most of them did not want to leave and go out into the wilderness and start life anew. To do so, was like spending a nickel these days for a grab bag, or like the saying, "Buying a cat in a sack". They did not willingly want to do this. Time passed. The War of 1812 came, and removal was delayed. A new President, Madison, was elected and he traded land in Arkansas, north of Fort Smith, for their land and agreed to move them and give them supplies, guns, clothing, ammunition, and utensils. A few of them agreed and came. The most of them still refused. This greatly separated the Cherokees. Those that came to Arkansas, had trouble there. The Government then moved them to what we call the Strip Country.
Those left in Georgia began building larger homes, put in larger crops, planted orchards, and advanced by leaps and bounds. It was during this period the Cherokees adopted the Sequoyah alphabet in Georgia. Sequoyah also came west to the ones in the Strip country and taught it there.
The white people used all means to get the Indians out of Georgia. Claimed they were barbarians, and they, the Cherokees, made new laws, just like the ones we had here in the Nation. John Ross was elected Chief of all the Tribes of Cherokees. Ross did all he could to get to stay there, but the Georgia white man passed laws and more laws, and law or no law, they destroyed the Indian's fences, and crops, and killed their cattle, burned their homes and made life a torment to them.
The Cherokees began to think of joining the West Cherokees. They simply could endure no longer. Like everything, it took a leader, and Major Ridge, his son, John Ridge, and two nephews, Elias Boudinot and Stan Natie became leaders. Of course, John Ross was the Chief and they all got to squabbling. Ross did not want to move his people, but by some hook or crook, Boudinot and Ridge signed a treaty to move, and claimed it was the will of the majority, but it was not, and the Government united a little while and sent Gen. Scott and two or three thousand soldiers. The soldiers gathered them up, all up, and put them in camps. They hunted them and run them down until they got all of them. Even before they were loaded in wagons, many of them got sick and died. They were all grief stricken. They lost all on earth they had. White men even robbed their dead's graves to get their jewelry and other little trinkets.
They saw to stay was impossible and the Cherokees told Gen. Scott they would go without further trouble and the long journey started. They did not all come at once. First one batch and then another. The sick, old, and babies rode on the grub and household wagons. The rest rode a horse, if they had one. Most of them walked. Many of them died along the way. They buried them where they died, in unmarked graves. It was a bitter dose and lingered in the mind of Mrs. Watts Grand-parents and parents until death took them. The road they traveled, History calls the "Trail of Tears". This trail was more than tears. It was death, sorrow, hunger, exposure, and humiliation to a civilized people as were the Cherokees. Today, our greatest politicians, lawyers, doctors, and many of worthy mention are Cherokees. Holding high places, in spite of all the humiliation brought on their forefathers.
My name is Eliza Whitmire. I live on a farm, near Estella. Where I settled shortly after the Civil War and where I have lived ever since. I was born in slavery in the state of Georgia, my parents having belonged to a Cherokee Indian of the name of George Sanders, who owned a large plantation in the old Cherokee Nation in Georgia. He also owned a large number of slaves but I was to young to remember how many he owned.
I do not know the exact date of my birth, although my mother told me I was about five years old when President Andrew Jackson ordered General Scott to proceed to the Cherokee country, in Georgia with two thousand troops and remove the Cherokees by force to the Indian Territory. This bunch of Indians were called the Eastern Emigrants. The Old Settler Cherokees had moved themselves in 1835 when the order was first given to the Cherokees to move out.
The weeks that followed General Scott's order to remove the Cherokees were filled horror and suffering for the unfortunate Cherokees and their slaves. The women and children were driven from their homes, sometimes with blows and close on the heels of the retreating Indians came greedy whites to pillage the Indians' homes, drive off their cattle, horses and hogs, and they even rifled the graves for any jewelry, or other ornaments that might have been buried with the dead.
The Cherokees, after being driven from their homes, were divided into detachments of nearly equal size and late in October 1838, the first detachment started, the others following one by one. The aged, sick and the young children rode in the wagons, which carried the provisions and bedding, while others went on foot. The trip was made in the dead of winter and many died from exposure from sleet and snow, and all who lived to make this trip, or had parents who made it, will long remember it as a bitter memory.
My name is Elizabeth Perdue Woodall, but I have always been called "Bettie". I was born near Westville, Indian Territory, December 6, 1851. My father's name was James Perdue, a half-breed Cherokee Indian. My other, Dollie Thornton Perdue, was a white woman. Both were born in Georgia. They were married in 1838, and came immediately with the eastern emigrants over the Trail of Tears to their new home west of the Mississippi, settling in Going Snake District, in the new Cherokee Nation.
Some histories say that on the Trail of Tears all the women and children were allowed to ride; but my mother told me that not a single woman rode unless she was sick and not able to walk. My mother walked every step of the way over here.
The Government furnished green coffee in the grain for the Indians along the route. Many of them had never seen coffee and did not know how to make it. Some of them put the coffee in a pot with meat and were trying to cook it like beans when my mother came along and some Indian woman said, "Ask her, She white woman." My mother said she just had to laugh the way they were trying to cook that coffee. She took some of the green coffee, roasted it in a pan over their fire, put the parched grains in a cloth and pounded it up, and made them a pot of coffee. They all liked it and said she was a smart white woman.
She also showed them how to cook their rice. It seems they all thought everything had to be cooked with meat, but in this way the young white woman became very popular and much loved by her newly made friends.
My mother told me about many of the hardships and privations she and the rest of the women suffered while on their way from Georgia. Some of them were almost unbelievable, yet I know they are true, for my mother would have had no motive in telling it if it had not been so.
On one occasion she told of an officer in charge of one of the wagons, who killed a little baby because it cried all the time. It was only four days old and the mother was forced to walk and carry it, and because it cried all of the time and the young mother could not quiet it, the officer took it away from her and dashed its little head against a tree and killed it.
Uncle Willie Benson used to tell me about how they came to this country. When they started out they were afoot and were driven like cattle. At first they had something to eat but that gave out and they were starving. If they had had guns or string they could have gotten game or fish but were not allowed to have them. They came to a slippery elm tree and ate the bark of that until they could get something else. When they would give out they would camp for two or three days to rest up a very little bit, then come on again. Lots took sick and died, so there were not so many when they got here. Big boats were used to haul them across the streams and lakes. When they got to Arkansas they were unable to walk farther so wagons were provided for the rest of the trip. I don't know just where they located first but they were Muskogee Indians under Opuithli Yahola.