In 1830 the US Congress, at the behest of President Andrew Jackson, passed the “Indian Removal Act.” With this act, the US intended to removal all Indian people to Indian Territory, land west of the Mississippi River. The majority of the Cherokee people opposed removal, but a small group of Cherokees known as the Treaty Party gathered in secret to sign the Treaty of New Echota, which ceded the Cherokee Nation lands in return for land in Indian Territory. The treaty was illegal according to Cherokee law, but was recognized by the US government. Most of the Cherokee remained in their homeland, not believing that the US government had the right or the power to forcibly remove them.
In May 1838, General Winfield Scott and a command of 7,000 men arrived in the Cherokee Nation to remove the Cherokees from their homes and force them west. This event later became known as the Trail of Tears, or the Trail Where They Cried. Thousands of Cherokee perished.
The Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsille, Kentucky is one of only a few documented campsites along the “Trail of Tears.” This site was along the “Northern Route” which took the Cherokee north through Nashville, Tennessee; Hopkinsville, Kentucky and into southern Illinois and Missouri before swinging south to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Groups traveling on this northern route numbered from several hundred to nearly 2,000 in one case. All told, nearly 12,000 Cherokee started the journey on this route, but fewer than 10,500 arrived in Indian Territory (including births along the way).
Many people died along the way, and this park serves as a burial site for two Cherokee Chiefs who died during the removal – Fly Smith and Whitepath. There are statues of these two men at the site, as well as a cabin which dates back to the Trail Of Tears era.
Photos Copyright Christy Sultzer
Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park Travel Details
The Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park is open year round, but the Heritage Center is closed during the winter. In the spring the Heritage Center is open Tuesday – Saturday 10a.m. – 2p.m. and after June 3rd it is open Tuesday – Saturday 10a.m. – 4p.m. Closed Holidays.
Directions: The Cherokee Trail of Tears Commemorative Park is located in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. For specific directions, click the “Directions” link in the location bubble of the map above and enter your starting location on the left.
GPS & Map: 36.85249674510717,-87.47014045715332