Volume 8, Number 9 - Fall 1984

Stone County and "The Trail of Tears"
by Leonard Williams

The Cherokee Indians lived in eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama. Some lived in the western end of North Carolina and South Carolina. As the white settlers increased in numbers and the land was needed the white settlers began encouraging the Indians to move west. The situation was talked in the U. S. Congress. Many of the Indians didn’t want to move. Some realized they would have to move sooner or later. During the years soon after 1800 many of the Cherokees began moving west on their own. They crossed the Mississippi River and came into the area of southwest Missouri. These Indians liked the area of the White River and the James River so many of them stopped to live along the river and streams in what is now Stone County. When our forefathers began settling in this area, these Cherokee Indians were still here. As the white settlers began to increase the Indians moved farther west. The Indians liked to hunt and fish along the rivers and streams here so for several years hunting parties of Cherokee braves would come back to this area. One year a party of braves came back on a hunting trip and excited the white settlers. The white men took up arms against the peaceful Indians so they returned to their homes in Kansas and Oklahoma and didn’t come back to bother the settlers in Stone County anymore.

In 1825 the U. S. Congress passed a law which forced the Indians east of the Mississippi River to move west to Indian Territory which is now Oklahoma. The Federal Law guaranteed the Indians free land in the Oklahoma Territory. Transportation was free, (some for the walking). Each Indian family would be given a kettle, five pounds of tobacco, a gun with some powder and lead, a blanket, a years’ supply of food and $50 in cash.

In 1829 the Cherokees in the East totaled about 15,000 people. They owned 22,000 cattle, 1,300 slaves, 2,000 spinning wheels, 700 looms, 31 grist mills, 10 saw mills and 8 cotton gins. They were operating 18 schools. This lets us know these people were not a wild, savage type of people.

Andrew Jackson became president in March, 1828. President Jackson and the state of Georgia began plans to make the Indians leave. In 1830 Congress passed the Removal Bill which authorized the President to move the Indians by force if necessary. Land occupied by the Indians in Georgia was given to white settlers by a lottery or drawing. Each lucky person got 160 acres of land. During the next 5 to 6 years the Indians tried to use the courts to keep their homes, personal property, etc., but had no luck. Finally Andrew Jackson used the Army to force the Indians to move. Indians were gathered in groups and put into compounds or forts and held until they could start to the West. On March 3, 1837 the first group of 466 Indians left Ross’ Landing by flatboats on the Tennessee River near Chattanooga, Tennessee. They traveled by water to Decatur, Illinois. From Decatur to Tuscumbia, Illinois they traveled by train. Here they boarded a steam boat and went down the Mississippi River to the Arkansas River to Ft. Smith, Arkansas. They arrived here on March 28, 1837. The distance was about 800 miles, covered in 25 days. Pretty good time for steam boats.

Now our story brings Stone County back into the picture. The next group of Indians numbering 365 were conducted overland by B. B. Cannon. On October 14, 1837, they left Tennessee for the Oklahoma Territory. They reached the Mississippi River on November 12, 1837 and began crossing by ferry to the Missouri side. It took 2 days to get everyone across the river. This was probably Greer’s Ferry which was close to Cape Girardeau, Mo. The group headed for Jackson, Missouri and reached there on November 14, 1837. The wagons traveled from 13 to 16 miles per day. The group reached Farmington, Mo., on November 20. Here the Indians began to get sick. The group had a doctor with them, Dr. S. C. Townsend. He made the wagons stop so he could try to get the sickness slowed down. From November 28 to December 8, 5 of the group died and were buried along the trail. The group reached Waynesville on December 9. On December 16, 1837 the group reached Springfield, Missouri.

The group left Springfield on December 17 and it was snowing. The group lost 2 more by death. For


sometime now the group had been following the trail that would be the Wire Road. In spite of snow and 2 deaths that first day out of Springfield the group made 10 miles down the Wire Road. One more died on the 18th and the party waited a day so the doctor could send back to Springfield for some more medicine.

On December 19, 1837, the wagons began to move again. On this day the group entered what is now Christian County and came through where Clever is now located.

They entered Stone County close to Brown’s Spring, came on southwest and crossed where the Fred McCord farm is located. They crossed highway 13 north of Crane where Clarence Ellis now lives. The trail entered Crane Creek Valley where Leonard Williams lives. The group continued southwest up the valley called Little Crane Valley by the home of Lynn Wiley and on to Osa. From Osa they went by Wise Spring, crossed highway 39 near Madry, went into Flat Creek Valley and up the valley to Cassville. From Cassville they went south into Arkansas and turned west to Oklahoma Territory. This party reached Oklahoma on December 27, 1837. Four more children had died in the last 10 days. The trip from Tennessee had used 77 days. Eleven children and four adults had died and been buried by the side of the trail.

This first group through Missouri were Indians who had volunteered to come. Many Indians stayed home and tried to hang on to their belongings. On May 23, 1838, General Winfield Scott ordered that any remaining Indians be moved west by force. The soldiers went over the area, hunted out the Indians, burned their homes and herded the Indians into stockades. By June 16 General Scott had gathered 15,000 Indians in-to his stockades and camps.

The great migration now began. Three parties containing 2,779 people went by boat down to the Mississippi River and up the Arkansas River to Little Rock. Two groups came by land across the Mississippi River and across northern Arkansas. Best estimates are that 13 more parties came overland into Missouri at Cape Giradeau or at Greer’s Ferry. These 13 parties followed the same route as the B. B. Cannon party. They crossed Missouri to Farmington, Waynesville, and southwest to Springfield and down the Wire Road to Arkansas and west into Oklahoma Territory. The man in charge of each group counted his party at the start in Tennessee and again in Oklahoma. Best count is that the 14 parties which crossed through northern Stone County lost 1,714 by death. Around 11,000 Indians made up the 14 parties which crossed through our community in the winter of 1837 and 1838.

Missouri has remembered this happening in a small way. On the Mississippi River above Cape Giradeau, Missouri has "Trail of Tears State Park." In Dent County, close to Salem, is "Indian Trail State Forest."

As citizens of this area it seems only suitable that we stop and think occasionally that these happenings should be a part of our local history. We can remember that there were many Indians buried in shallow graves along this trail in Stone County. Sickness hit hardest among the young children and the feeble old people. The loss of life was partially made up by the birth of new people as the caravan moved along. Some of the people rode in wagons, some rode horses and many walked barefoot in the snow and carried heavy packs on their backs. Though not much has been said about this in the past, and we are not proud but humble, we still have to say very definitely the "Trail of Tears" crossed the north end of Stone County and must be a part of our history.

Reproduced by permission of Crane Chronicle, Crane, MO.


Date: December 9, 1984
Place: President’s Dining Room - The School of the Ozarks College Center - Student’s Cafeteria
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Program: Dr. Robert Flanders, SMSU Center for Ozark Studies
Buffet Dinner: $5.00 per person. Serving 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in meeting room.
*A minimum of thirty (30) diners must be served to avail our group of this service.


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