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The 2013 Ozark Trail
he Trail of Tears is the name
given to the forced reloca-
tion of Native American nations
from the southeastern United
States following the Indian Re-
moval Act of 1830.
The removal included many
members of the Cherokee, Mus-
cogee (Creek), Seminole, Chicka-
saw, and Choctaw nations, among
others, to eastern Oklahoma.
Of these groups, none suffered
more than the Cherokee,who
passed through Missouri and
across today's Ozark Trail. In all,
thousands are estimated to have
died from exposure, violence,
disease and starvation. Hence
the description of the route in
Cherokee:“Nu na da ul tsun yi,”,
or “The place where they cried.”
The Cherokees were originally
located mainly in Georgia and
some of their ancestral lands
were discovered to hold large
deposits of gold in 1829. A small
group signed a controversial trea-
ty with the state. Other members,
led by Principle Chief John Ross,
fought a protracted legal battle
over removal including an appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court which
declined to hear their case. When
they finally conceded defeat, the
Cherokees departed on the Trail
of Tears by several routes in
1838-1839 (See Figure 1).
Benge’s Route, named for leader
John Benge, began at Ft. Payne
AL. It crossed the Mississippi
River and entered Missouri near
Columbus, Kentucky. From there,
the route goes northwesterly. It
crossed the Wappapello Section at
a point just south of present-day
Greenville (at the location of what
is now Historic Old Greenville).
It then went southwesterly and in-
tersected the Victory Section just
east of Ellsinore before continu-
ing on a southwesterly track into
Arkansas. A map of the route in
this area is shown in Figure 2.
Hildebrand’s Route originated in
Tennessee and was led by Peter
Hildebrand. It crosses the Mis-
sissippi River, entering Missouri
north of Cape Girardeau. From
there, the route goes northwest-
erly into Washington County
and crosses the Courtois Sec-
tion near Berryman. It then
goes southwesterly and through
Springfield before continuing
southwest to Arkansas and Okla-
homa (Figure 3).
Somebody must explain the
streams of blood that flowed in
the Indian country in the sum-
mer of 1838. Somebody must
explain the silent graves that
mark the trail of the Cherokees
to their exile.
Private John G. Burnett, 2nd Brigade
Cherokee Indian Removal
Chief John Ross: “...our property
may be plundered before our eyes;
violence may be committed on our
persons; even our lives may be taken
away, and there is none to regard
our complaints...We are deprived of
membership in the human family!”