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Mapping The Trail of Tears in Southern Illinois Exhibit

Background

Trail of Tears Historical Background

As part of The Indian Removal Act of 1830, eleven Cherokee detachments left their homelands during the fall of 1838 and set out toward Indian Territory, walking and riding along a land route, that is now referred to as the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears. Part of this route included a nearly 100 km (60 miles) trek across Southern Illinois, also known as the Golconda - Cape Girardeau route.

Elijah Hicks' was the first detachment to depart and reach Indian Territory, on January 4, 1839. The last detachment to arrive was Peter Hildebrand’s on March 25, 1839.

Historians report that all groups were on the trail more than the anticipated 80 days and that actual travel times ranged from 93 to 139 days.

Timeline

13 Detachments of Cherokee Traveled West From Their Homeland, Departing Between August & December, 1838

  • Conductor

    # in Party

    Route Taken


  • Elijah Hicks

    858

    Northern


  • Hair Conrad

    729

    Northern


  • John Benge

    1,200

    Southern


  • Jesse Bushyhead

    950

    Northern


  • Situwakee

    1,250

    Northern


  • Old Field

    983

    Northern


  • Moses Daniel

    1,035

    Northern


  • Chooalooka

    1,150

    Northern


  • James Brown

    850

    Northern


  • George Hicks

    1,118

    Northern


  • Richard Taylor

    1,029

    Northern


  • Peter Hildebrand

    1,766

    Northern


  • John Drew

    231

    Water



1835

Treaty of New Echota signed. Entire Cherokee population given two years to migrate voluntarily, at the end of which they will be forcibly removed.

1838
Removal of the Cherokee Nation Begins

16,000 Cherokee still remain on the eastern lands

February - over 15,000 Cherokees led by Chief John Ross, sign a petition to Congress in protest of the New Echota Treaty.

May - Major General Winfield Scott orders round up of Cherokee. Southeast suffers worst drought in recorded history.

June - General Scott's first attempt in removing the Cherokee resulted in many deaths. Traveling during one of the hottest and driest summers of the century, three detachments of Cherokees, totaling about 2,300, traveled by river to Indian Territory. Heavy losses suffered. Further removal halted on account of drought and "sickly season."

July - Cherokee leaders petition General Scott to send no further summer detachments but to await cooler weather. Scott allows the Cherokee council to conduct the removal of more than 11,000 Cherokees still in the east. John Ross to supervise. The parties would have about a thousand people in each and would travel by land. Most began their trip in Tennessee. Thirteen detachments directed by John Ross depart Tennessee between August & December, 1838.

1839

January 4 - Elijah Hick's detachment is first to arrive in Indian Territory, after 126 days of travel.

March 24 - The detachments conducted by Richard Taylor and Peter Hildebrand are the last to arrive in Indian Territory, traveling 185 and 154 days respectively.


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