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Leaving Home: Cherokees and the Trail of Tears

  • This is part of page 213 taken from the Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1887, that describes the land and provisions to be given to Cherokees who signed the Treaty of 1817.

    Treaty of July 8, 1817 (Treaty of Turkeytown)

    The "Leaving Home: Cherokees and the Trail of Tears" digital exhibition concerns not only the Trail of Tears but also the numerous times the Cherokees left prior to the Trail.  It contains images from the library's manuscript collection as well as images from the wide collection of books, microfilm, and clippings the library maintains on the Cherokees.

    The excerpt pictured from the 1817 Treaty describes the western lands and provisions to be given to those Cherokee who agreed to move into present day Arkansas.  Some Cherokee saw no end to the encroachment upon their lands by unwanted settlers and left in the early 1800s, hoping to preserve their way of life in the lands to the west. 

  • This is a photograph of the cover page and first page of the 1818 letter from Cherokee convert Catharine Brown in Fort Deposit, Alabama, to Mr. and Mrs. William Chamberlain in Brainerd Mission, Tennessee.

    Brown, Catharine. Fort Deposit [Alabama] Letter

    Catharine Brown, first Cherokee convert of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, wrote this letter to Mr. and Mrs. William Chamberlain of Brainerd Mission about her move to Arkansas and reluctance to leave her Christian friends in Tennessee.   Catharine returned to Brainerd Mission in 1819 and served as teacher at the Creek Path mission school.  The letter is accession 117 in the manuscript collection of the Chattanooga Public Library.

  • This is a photograph of pages 86 and 87 from the Cherokee Hymn Book, with the music and Cherokee words to The Land of Beulah.

    The Land of Beulah (Cherokee hymn)

    Many of the Cherokees who left on the Trail of Tears had converted to Christianity.  Some had attended Brained Mission; others had gone to church at Spring Place or Candy Creek.  This would have been one of the hymns they knew.  The Chattanooga Public Library has the 1866 revised Cherokee Hymn Book as compiled by Samuel Worcester and Elias Boudinot.

  • This is a photograph of the broadside Orders no. 35, Head Quarters, Eastern Division, Cherokee Agency, Ten. May 17, 1838, which General Winfield Scott issued concerning removal of all Cherokee in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

    Orders no. 35 Head Quarters, Eastern Division Cherokee Agency, Ten. May 17, 1838

    General Winfield Scott led the removal troops and issued Orders no. 35 instructing his troops on removal procedures for all the remaining Cherokees in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.  The troops were to handle the situation with care but many removed the Cherokees forcibly and with injury.  This order can be found in the library's clipping files. 

  • This is a photograph of a letter from Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross, written December 20, 1830, to Georgia Attorney General George Crawford, to protest enforcment of Georgia law in the Cherokee Nation.

    Chief John Ross Correspondence 1830

    Cherokee Principal Chief, John Ross, wrote this letter to Georgia Attorney General George Crawford on December 20, 1830, to protest the enactment or enforcement of Georgia law in the Cherokee Nation. His efforts didn't succeed, and the Cherokees were forced to leave in the Trail of Tears in 1838-1839. This letter is accession 389 in the manuscript collection of the Chattanooga Public Library.

  • This is a black and white photograph of Cherokee Chief John Ross taken around 1838.

    Chief John Ross

    John  Ross, was born in Turkeytown, Alabama, in 1790 and was elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1828.  He served as Chief until his death in 1866.  He protested the removal of the Cherokees, hoping to secure the Nation's right to stay on their homeland through the legal system.  When that did not succeed, he organized the Cherokee departures in the Trail of Tears and led the last detachment out of Ross' Landing. He oversaw the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory through the union of Old Settlers and new arrivals, the reorganization of the government, and through the chaos of the Civil War.  This photograph was copied by Ed Fortsner from a daguerreotype owned by the Ross family.  It was taken around 1838. 

  • This is a photograph of the monument to Elizabeth Quatie Ross,erected by the Daughters of 1812, in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas

    Monument to Quatie Ross, wife of John Ross

    Elizabeth "Quatie" Ross accompanied her husband, Principal Chief of the Cherokees, John Ross, on the last detachment to Indian Territory and died of pneumonia at Little Rock, Arkansas. The Daughters of 1812 erected this monument to her in the Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.  

  • This is a 1861 photograph of Citico Mound on the Tennessee River near Chattanooga, Tennessee, with Civil War soldiers and a building on the top.

    Citico mound near Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Citico Mound has played a role in Chattanooga's history from its earliest settlements to the 20th century.  It served as an Indian burial site for many years. According to local historian Henry Wiltse, the soldiers also placed Cherokees near here before they left on the Trail of Tears.    

  • This is an image of the May 26, 1838, journal entry of the Reverend Daniel Butrick, one of the missionaries at Brainerd Mission, that describes treatment of the Cherokees.

    Reverend Daniel Butrick Journal entry, May 26, 1838

    Reverend Daniel Butrick, 1789-1851, served as missionary to the Cherokees from 1817 to 1851, first at Brainerd, later in Indian Territory. His writings have left a valuable first person account of the Cherokees and their history. His papers are part of Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, available on microfilm at the library.  His journal about the Trail of Tears is available as the book Cherokee Removal: the Journal of Rev. Daniel S. Butrick, May 19, 1838-April 1839.

  • This is one page from the Cherokee Ration books kept by Commissioner Albert Patten.  The ration books form part of the Patten Papers.

    Cherokee Ration Books, 1836-1838

    Government commissioners rationed corn, beef, bacon, and salt to those Cherokees in the stockades awaiting removal on the Trail of Tears. Commissioner Albert S. Lenoir, 1803-1861, oversaw ration distribution, and the records he created were left to his granddaughters, Mrs. Zeboim Cartter Patten and Mrs. Z. Cartter Patten.  The Patten family papers became part of the library's manuscript collection in 1939.