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Major Ridge’s Journey from Georgia to Honey Creek

(Honey Creek is near present-day Southwest City, MO)

by Paul Ridenour

 

In Thurman Wilkin’s book Cherokee Tragedy, starting on page 300 to 306:

1. Six-hundred left on the first trip (around January 1837) – mainly treaty party folks

2. They used carriages and wagons with slaves, saddle horses, and droves of oxen

3. The route lay through TN, KY, southern tip of IL, Missouri, northwest corner of Arkansas, to Cherokee West (present-day Oklahoma)

4. Major Ridge and family did not leave with the first group because he was in frail health

5. Major Ridge, his immediate family and the Watie's, with 466 others left on 3/3/1837 in eleven flatboats

6. The boats went 5 miles the first afternoon before stopping to camp for the night

7. On 3/6/1837, the boats reached Gunter’s Landing

8. The steamer Knoxville took them next – most of them were on the decks ($20 for passage), while Major Ridge paid $300 to have a
    cabin for him and his family. The Major’s journey was in comfort the rest of the trip.

9. At 9 AM on 3/7/1837, the Knoxville reached Decatur, Alabama, where the water was too shallow to permit navigation of Muscle Shoals

10. Most of the Cherokees were put in “open cars” on the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad

11. The trains took them to Tuscumbia where they waited for boats that would take them down the river

12. On 3/13, the steamboat Newark arrived with two sixty-ton keelboats - they boarded the boats but did not leave until 4 in the afternoon

13. After all night and all the next day, they reached Paducah, Kentucky, at 10 PM (the keelboats were much better than the flatboats)

14. On 3/16, they had some problems with the boat (a snag) and the wind (difficult to cook) – the Cherokees were getting a bit restless

15. On 3/18, the Newark arrived at Montgomery Point, Arkansas, where a pilot came on board to take the Newark up the muddy
      Arkansas River

17. The boats reached Little Rock on the evening of 3/21

18. The next day, a lighter steamboat named Revenue took the keelboats in tow

19. On 3/25, Major Ridge and his wife had a severe cough and saw a doctor (no more word of any illness after that)

20. On 3/27, the Ridges reached Fort Smith and the boats landed on the shore so the Ridge family and friends could go the rest of the
       journey by land

21. The boats and the rest of the Cherokees reached their final destination at Ft. Coffee the following day at noon

22. “The end of a journey unusual in the history of Indian removal; no one had died en route”

23. Major Ridge had already decided to settle in Honey Creek and his wife called it “an entire wilderness”

24. They took the Line Road up to Honey Creek (it doesn’t say how – I am assuming horses and carriages from Ft. Smith or Van Buren)

25 . The road was bad because it had trees laying across it, a number of unbridged streams, and the area was full of desperados

26. Their trip up Line Road was without mishap (Ridge would later be killed on that road)