Trail of Tears Park and His­toric Site

Fayet­teville park memo­ri­al­izes en­camp­ment

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - OUTDOORS - By Sarah Haney | NWA Demo­crat- Gazette

In 1838 and 1839, as part of An­drew Jack­son’s In­dian re­moval pol­icy, the Chero­kee na­tion was forced to give up its lands east of the Mis­sis­sippi River and to mi­grate to an area in present-day Ok­la­homa. This se­ries of re­lo­ca­tions is com­monly re­ferred to as the Trail of Tears.

The de­scrip­tion “Trail of Tears” is thought to have orig­i­nated with the Choctaw, the first of the ma­jor South­east tribes to be re­lo­cated, start­ing in 1830. But it is most pop­u­larly con­nected with the Oc­to­ber 1838 to March 1839 jour­ney or­ga­nized by the Chero­kee Na­tion. In that tribe’s lan­guage, the trek is known as nunahi-duna-dlo-hilu-i — “the trail where they cried.”

Thir­teen over­land de­tach­ments of about 1,000 Chero­kee each were as­sem­bled. Most of th­ese wagon trains are thought to have fol­lowed sim­i­lar routes across north­west Arkansas, en­ter­ing the state just east of Pea Ridge (Benton County) and then veer­ing west, near Fayet­teville (Wash­ing­ton County). In 1987, Congress rec­og­nized this so-called North­ern Route of the Chero­kee as the land route of the Trail of Tears Na­tional His­toric Trail. Signs des­ig­nat­ing the Auto Tour Route of the na­tional trail are posted along high­ways in Benton and Wash­ing­ton coun­ties.

On Jan. 13, 1839, a group of 1,100 Chero­kees led by John Benge passed through the fron­tier vil­lage of Fayet­teville. They were trav­el­ing on the Trail of Tears from the Chero­kee home­lands in Ge­or­gia, Alabama, and Ten­nessee to “In­dian Ter­ri­tory” (Ok­la­homa) as part of the forced re­moval of nearly 13,000 Chero­kees or­dered by Pres­i­dent An­drew Jack­son and the U.S. Congress. The Benge Party camped on the hill­side to the north and east of this marker, near a creek and pond, se­cured sup­plies and re­paired their wag­ons. They headed west on the Cane Hill Road the next day, ar­riv­ing in In­dian Ter­ri­tory on Jan. 17, 1839.

Benge’s Party had left from just south of present day Ft. Payne, Ala., around the end of Septem­ber 1838. They ar­rived at Woodall’s Farm near present day Westville, Okla., on Jan. 17 1839. They re­ported 33 deaths and 3 births among the party. Their route of travel had taken them through north­east­ern Arkansas near Batesville, through Nor­fork, Flip­pin, Yel­lville, Har­ri­son, Alpena, Huntsville and over present day High­ways 74 and 16 to Fayet­teville.

To­day, the Benge Party’s en­camp­ment in Fayet­teville is memo­ri­al­ized with a park. Lo­cated at 1100 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., the park is lo­cated just south of the Univer­sity of Arkansas’ soc­cer field. In the park, you’ll find a na­tive stone sculp­ture made up of three mono­liths and a memo­rial plaque dis­played in a grove of trees. There is no ad­mis­sion fee and the site is open to the pub­lic on a daily ba­sis.

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