Monday, October 16, 2006

Elkhorn Tavern along the Trail of Tears

Echoes Of Yesteryear


Leslie McDonald

The suffering of Cherokees was beyond description. Buckner states that between Hopkinsville and the next stop a Cherokee woman was left behind in the woods to give birth to a baby while her detachment marched ahead. She was to be picked up within 48 hours by the next detachment which followed.

In a recent letter to the Cherokee Historical Society confirmed local tradition that in Caldwell County the stop along the Trail of Tears was at Elkhorn Tavern. .

The Cherokees camped on Skin frame Creek, probably near the old grist mill and dam, and I am sure some of the soldiers were quartered in the Elkhorn Tavern. Elkhorn was built between 1810 and 1815 by James Blue.

The charming old log building contains a huge stone chimney and big fire place and is the second remaining inn along the Trail of Tears in Kentucky. Mrs. Marquess says the Tavern’s name originated from the fact that in the early 1800’s an elk was killed on the creek by a man named Maxwell. The horns were hung upon the front of the building hence, Elkhorn Tavern. A few years ago, on of Maxwell’s descendents took the elk horns and placed them over his drug store in Paducah.

In 1951 the Cherokee Historical Society under the leadership of McKinley Ross, a great-great-grandson of John Ross retraced the Trail of Tears on its 113th anniversary.

Ross and members of the society made many pictures at Elkhorn Tavern and counted that site of prime historical importance. John Ross’ wife died after they left Hopkinsville and tradition has it that several Cherokees were buried in the meadow across the creek from Elkhorn Tavern.

One of the important histories of the Trail of Tears was written by Private John G. Burnett, who was one of the soldiers who served under Capt. Abraham McClellan of the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry. He was a friend of the Cherokees and talked their language. His story is part of the official history of the Cherokee Nation and reads, “On the morning of November 17, we encountered a terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th, 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold and exposure. Among this number was the beautiful Christian wife of Chief John Ross. This noble woman died a martyr to childhood, giving her only blanket for the protection of a sick child. She rode thinly clad through a blinding sleet and snow storm, developing pneumonia and died in the still hours of a bleak winter night with her head resting on Lieutenant Gregg’s saddle blanket.

“I made the journey to the west with the Cherokees and did all that a Private soldier could do to alleviate their suffering. When on guard duty at night I have many times walked my beat in my blouse in order that some sick child might have the warmth of my overcoat.”

The Trail of Tears leads from Elkhorn Tavern along the old Princeton-Fredonia Road to a point on Livingston Creek near the site of Centerville. There isn’t anything left of Centerville which was once the county seat of Livingston County except a lovely little cemetery and its cedars.

The deeply worn and for many years abandoned Centerville to Salem Road near Mexico, Ky., in Crittenden County, is the Trail of Tears.

Kentucky Trail of Tears Map

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Trail of Tears Park Nears Completion

The Trail of Tears Commemorative Park is in the final stages of construction of the first phase. The first phase will include a pavillion in the shape of a tear-drop made of red paving brick and blue sandstone.
The project is being funding with local private donations.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Trail Where They Cried


Known as the Trail Where They Cried, 13,149 men, women and children were taken on this forced removal, during the winter of 1838. Most detachments took what is known as the Northern Route. From Georgia, Tennessee and through the Hopkinsville, Ky. area, they headed into Caldwell County. Camping near the Big Spring for several weeks, they went on to Skin Frame Creek near the Elkhorn Tavern. Several people died and were buried there. The tavern was a good-sized log house, built around 1812 by James Blue. The Cherokees traveled onward to the Centerville area, near present day Fredonia, to camp at another spring. A historical marker stands on Highway 91 where the town was. From Centerville they traveled to Salem on a road near Mexico. They continued on the Old Golconda Road to cross the Ohio River by ferry.

Princeton Caldwell County Trail of Tears Commission

Princeton Caldwell County
Trail of Tears
Commission, Inc.

In 1838, the mothers of the Cherokee were crying so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. The elders prayed for a sign to give them strength. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where the mother’s tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem represent the seven Cherokee clans. The wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears.

Historical Sites of Caldwell County
Trail of Tears

Otter Pond
Kenedy Creek
Indian Meadow
Big Spring
TOT Library Room
Glen Martin Library
Caldwell Creek
TOT Commemorative Park
Old Fredonia Road
Skinframe Creek
Old Mexico Road
Elkhorn Tavern

The Trail of Tears was the forced removal of Cherokee Indians from their homelands in northwestern Georgia. The name comes from the Cherokee phrase nunna-da-ul-tsun-yi, which means the trail where they cried.
In 1829, white settlers discovered gold on Cherokee land. The settlers wanted the land for themselves and asked for the removal of the Cherokee. Supporters of President Andrew Jackson, who had been a famed Indian fighter, helped pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in Congress. The act called for the removal of all Indians in the Southeastern Unites States to a territory west of the Mississippi River. This included the Cherokee tribes and the Creek, Chickasaw, Seminoles, and the Chactaw. Their new land, in what is now Oklahoma, became know as the Indian Territory.

The Cherokee divided over the removal. In 1835, some agree to move and signed a treaty with the government, but most of the Indians, led by Cherokee leader John Ross, wanted to stay.

Beginning in May of 1838, the U.S. Army forced the Cherokee into stockades to prepare for the removal. The Army sent off the first group to Indian Territory on June 6th, 1838 and the last party arrived on March 24th, 1839. Sixteen thousand traveled nearly 1,000 miles through snow and ice.
Some groups walked or rode horseback through Tennessee, Kentucky, the southern tip of Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and finally into Indian Territory. Of the 16,000 men, women, and children forced to be removed 4,000 died on the trail.Princeton is the site of Big Springs Park where the Cherokees are believed to have stopped. Princeton is planning a Trail of Tears Park on a donated lot across from the spring in order to showcase Princeton’s significance on the Trail of Tears. Elkhorn Tavern site in Crider is believed to be a campsite and burial site. The George Coon Public Library has provided space in the Genealogy Center for the Trail of Tears research.

TOT Park Sign - Caldwell County Students 2006

Cherokee Rose Princeton 2006

This is a picture of one of the cherokee rose blooms that I planted in My backyard in the fall of 2004. I planted four Cherokee Rose bushes; two in the front that I did not water and two on my rose garden that I did water. All of the bushes survived the winter and bloomed in March. They have very sharpe briars and long stems. It is planned to transplant these bushes to the Princeton Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in the Spring of 2007.

Trail of Tears Princeton

The Princeton-Caldwell Coutny Trail of Tears Commission was established to preserve and develop the historical assets related to the Trail of Tears in the area so that future generations will not forget the events of 1838 and the removal of the Native American tribes from the land east of the Mississippi River.

Kentucky’s Trail of Tears should be preserved and developed because of its importance to our nation, our state, and our local community. Preservation of the Trail of Tears is not only an important part of Caldwell County history; it can be an important part of Princeton’s future. The National Trails System Act of 1993 (P.L. 90-543) was enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress to establish a national trails system. Under the Act, the Trail of Tears is identified as one of our nations most important historic trails and a Trail of Tears Interpretive Center was established in Hopkinsville with federal funding. The Act encourages state and local governments to develop historic trails such as the Trail of Tears. The State of Kentucky should follow the nations lead and support Trail of Tears locally.

The Trail of Tears is nationally recognized and offers an excellent opportunity for drawing tourism from across the nation to this area. The trail passes through several Western Kentucky counties and its development can have a positive impact on tourism related businesses, particularly in Princeton.

Our Senator Dorsey Ridley passed a resolution in the Kentucky Senate supporting the preservation and promotion of the Trail of Tears. The trail should be preserved and developed such that hikers trail riders, and other outdoor enthusiast can enjoy the trail and its history. In addition such legislation could provide for Trail of Tears designation as a State Trail, highway access to trail entry points, tourism advertising support, marking highway signs, and mapping of the trail.

This nationally recognized trail is important to Caldwell County’s heritage and Princeton’s future. Organization of the trail should start at state level since it includes the communities from Guthrie, Kentucky to Cave In Rock, Illinois. We appreciate any assistance that you might provide to support further development of the Trail of Tears.