Cherokee Removal Memorial Park at Historic Blythe Ferry
The Cherokee Removal Memorial Park is a multipurpose facility dedicated to those who died and those who cried in what has become known as the “Trail of Tears”.
The “Trail of Tears” is said to have passed through the southern end of Meigs County in 1838. 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 overlooking Blythe Ferry where 9,000 Indians camped several weeks waiting to take the ferry from their native land on a journey of about 1,000 miles. The area 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.
PARK FACILITIES & ACTIVITES
BLYTHE 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In addition to accommodation of visitors, there are organized tours and Trail of Tears motorcycles and bicycles riders. Other activities include: Elementary School Trail of Tears educational program, Native American Concerts, Crane 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.
6800 Blythe Ferry Lane
Birchwood, Tennessee 37308
Phone: (423) 339-2769