Cherokee Removal Memorial Park is a multipurpose facility dedicated to those that died and those that cried in what has become known as the "Trail of Tears". Today we are champions of human rights and oppose the practice of ethnic cleansing. However, we have a chapter in our history involving the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the southeastern US to make land available for white settlement. The park is intended to interpret and educate the public about the forced removal of the Cherokees from their ancestral land as well as inform them about the unique wildlife in the area, and provide recreational opportunities. The Park is located at the mouth of the Hiwassee River where it joins the Tennessee River which has been a significant cross road for development of Indian culture for centuries. The project is a partnership between: Meigs County TN, Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, National Park Service and Friends of the Cherokee a non-profit organization. The National Park Service identified Blythe Ferry as a major site for interpretation on the National Trail of Tears and developed a comprehensive conceptual plan for the Park. The Park is a work in progress. The following describes the existing facilities and future plans to be developed as funds are available.
PARK FACILITIES & ACTIVITES
BYTHE FERRY - William Blyth was granted authorization to operate a ferry 1809 at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers. During the Cherokee Removal nine of the thirteen detachment under the supervision of Chief Ross exited their ancestral land at Blythe Ferry which was located in the northwest corner of the Cherokee Nation. Water levels were very low due to a severe drought forcing some of them to camp there for up to six weeks waiting to cross the Tennessee River into an uncertain future. William Blythe went west with his Cherokee wife. A ferry continued to operate at the site until 1994 when the highway 60 bridge was built. Currently the ferry ramp is used for boat launching and fishing. Future plans include a combination fishing pier and boat dock as well as picnic tables and a shoreline nature trail.
VISITOR CENTER & PAVED PARKING AREA - These are multipurpose facilities to accommodate park visitors as well as serving as a community center. The Visitor Center includes: office space, restrooms, an interpretive area, library, meeting room and a utility room. The primary purpose of the library is to assist visitors in tracing their Cherokee Ancestry it also serves a library for: Native American History, The Trail of Tears Documentation, Local Archeology, Local History and Area Wildlife. Future plans include a small gift shop area selling media related to Cherokee culture and the Trail of Tears, crafts, memorabilia, and snacks.
HISTORY WALL - The History Wall describes: early culture and history how: they evolved from hunter-gatherers to a literate and highly civilized culture with a government similar to ours, they were pressured to give up their land resulting in an illegitimate treaty which they never recognized, they were rounded up and placed in stockades under deplorable conditions in which many died, how disastrous attempts by the Army to move them failed, and how they agreed to self removal.
MEMORIAL WALL - The names of 2535 Head of Household from the 1835 Census(Henderson Roll) of the Cherokee Nation taken to identify those to be removed are to appear on the Memorial Wall as well as the number of household members. About 4,200 of the 16,542 Cherokees identified perished as a result of the Cherokee Removal in 1838. This is the closest thing to a headstone they will have. The Memorial is intended to humanize them. They were not wild savages, but were at least as civilized as most that replaced them. According to the 1835 Census they were: farmers, mechanics, weavers, spinners and business men. Many were literate in Cherokee and/or English. Detailed design of the Memorial Wall is underway and construction is expected to begin as soon as 20 percent of the projected cost is secured
REMOVAL ROUTES AMPITHEATER - The water and land routes taken by the emigrating Cherokees are depicted on the sunken floor of an outside amphitheater that can be used for presentations and other functions.
HIWASSEE WILDLIFE REFUGE - The Park and Hiwassee Island are located in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge on land leased from the Tennessee Valley Authority(TVA) by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency(TWRA). TWRA has provided a Wildlife Viewing Shelter in the Park on the knoll overlooking Hiwassee Island. They have successfully established a resident population of American Bald Eagles in the area. TWRA plaints grain crops on the island and nearby shore to support migrating waterfowl. In the late fall or early winter they sponsor Crain Days so the public can observe thousands of migrating Sandhill Hill Cranes and a few endangered Whooping Cranes. Over a hundred species of birds and other wildlife can be seen in the area.
HIWASSEE ISLAND(JOLLY’S ISLAND) - Early Hamilton, Mississippi, Dallas, Creek and Cherokee cultures have occupied the island for hundreds of years. The Desoto Expedition visited the island in 1540. TVA sponsored extensive archeological investigation of the island in the 1940’s before filling Chickamauga Reservoir which reduced the size of the island by one-half.
As a young man Sam Houston lived on the island and was adopted by Chief John Jolly who named him The Raven. He became a Remarkable American. He served as a: teacher, lawyer, Congressman, Governor of Tennessee, the General that won Texas independence, President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas and U.S. Senator. After he resigned as Tennessee Governor he went to Arkansas to live with Chief Jolly before going to Texas. Chief Jolly was a leader of the Old Settlers that emigrated to Arkansas after the Cherokees ceded land north of the Hiwassee River.
HIWASSEE GARRISON SITE - After the treated that ceded Cherokee land north of the Hiwassee River the Hiwassee Garrison was established across the Tennessee River from Hiwassee Island to protect Cherokee land from white intrusion. Return Jonathan Meigs first established his Cherokee Agency there which he later moved up the Hiwassee River to Agency Creek then to Charleston. He was the Cherokee Agent leading up to the Removal and Meigs County bears his name. He is buried in the Hiwassee Garrison cemetery.
CIVIL WAR - During the Civil War a company of Union troops were stationed at the mouth of the Hiwassee River to guard grain supplies stored on Hiwassee Island. A skirmish occurred in the area on November 13, 1863 during an artillery duel.
ACTIVITES - In addition to accommodation of visitors, organized tours and Trail of Tears motorcycles and bicycles riders. Other activities include: Elementary School Trail of Tears educational program, Native American Concerts, Crain Days, workshops and meetings of organizations related to Trail of Tears and Native American activities. The general public also uses walking trails, boating and fishing facilities. Local civic and recreational organizations utilize the meeting the facilities.
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