The Trail of Tears and the Removal of the Cherokee is a thread that is tightly woven throughout much of the history of Georgia. Northwest Georgia was formed directly from the lands of the original Cherokee Nation.
The term, “Trail of Tears”, has come to have several meanings. Most specifically, the Trail could be defined as the actual routes that displaced Native Americans traveled in order to get to the new reservations in Oklahoma. This is the definition we will be addressing in this post.
The term has also been used to include the whole series of events that led up to and culminated with the forced displacement of the Native American tribes of the southeastern United States during the 1830’s. We will use the term “Removal” when addressing this broader view of this historical period.
The sad details, events, and politics leading up to and surrounding the Removal have been subjects of much writing and debate. Few people, then or now, believe that this chapter of our history was handled well. It was a most confusing, heartbreaking time and perhaps one of the darkest periods of American history.
We invite anyone unfamiliar with the Removal to spend some time reading about it and forming one’s own opinions about what happened and how it happened. Spend time viewing the events and elements of the Removal from each viewpoint, that of the Native American and that of the European American.
As much of our research and documentation centers in this area of the country, the subject of the Trail of Tears comes up often. There is an effort to designate the actual Trail and place historical markers along the way.
Where did the Trail start?
Technically it could be said to have started at the doorstep of each displaced person or family. It started in May of 1838, when small and large groups were forcibly gathered and led along existing roads and trails to centralized locations which were the Removal forts or encampments, set up to act as collection and departure points. Each fort or encampment had provision packets of blankets and food for those who were not otherwise prepared for the journey west to the “new” lands.
In Cherokee County, Georgia, the research for two of our books: The Hidden History of Lake Allatoona and The Curious Disappearance or Fort Buffington turned up some interesting information concerning the Trail. There were two Removal camps here: Fort Buffington, and the encampment or cantonment at Sixes. Removal camps were set up to be responsible for approximately a ten mile radius from each fort. There were relatively few roads and trails in the area at that time.
While we do not yet know the exact location of either camp, we can narrow their locations to within a mile or less and we do have maps and court records that indicate where the roads ran. With these sources at hand we can trace the routes that were available at that time.
By dautzenleining (connecting the dots) we can use the roads, fords, ferries, maps, and documentation to locate convergences and divergences of these elements and determine areas of high probability for routes and locations.
We know the locations of the ferries used to transport the Cherokee and soldiers across the main rivers here in Cherokee County. These ferries and the roads funneling to them could then be viewed as starting points in common for many along the Trail of the Tears.
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