Trail of Tears State Park

Trail of Tears State Park
Visitor Center

Our final camping trip for 2021 found us at Trail of Tears, a Missouri State Park located near Cape Girardeau. In addition to being a state park, the area is also a National Historic Trail as it is the location where the Cherokee crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri and then camped while waiting for others to catch up before continuing on the “relocation” route to what is now Oklahoma.

Exhibit in the Visitor Center - two women cooking corn over a fire.

The road we drove to the campground is the actual historic trail; it is the same path taken by the Cherokee as they walked the hundreds of miles to their new home. Like us, the Cherokee camped in the land now designated as the state park. But unlike us, the Cherokee did not have a choice. And they certainly didn’t have a travel trailer with heat and a way to cook meals. They barely had utensils to cook what little food they had. Most of their possessions had to be left as they were rounded up for the great removal. The Cherokee would not return to the home they left. On our last day before we headed back to our home, we cut our ebike riding short because it was windy and cold. I couldn’t help but think of the Cherokee who had to suffer through the cold, not just coolness of fall, but the bitter, biting, harsh cold of winter.

Of course, I knew the story of the “Trail of Tears” before our visit, but I learned much during our time at the park. The following facts were new to me and left an impression:

The discovery of gold in Georgia, on the Cherokee land, was a contributing factor to the eventual creation and ratification of the Indian Removal Act. Once gold was discovered, the Cherokee were arrested for panning for gold on their own land.

The Cherokee asked for federal protection, and eventually appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee.

In Marshall’s 1832 ruling in favor of the Cherokee, he concluded that Georgia was in error in arrests of missionaires and Cherokees. Marshall further ruled that the state laws of Georgia, when applied to Indian matters, must give way to Federal laws.

Missouri Trail of Tears State Park Visitor Center

President Andrew Jackson ignored the Supreme Court’s decision:

When the Cherokee nation appealed for federal protection during the Georgia gold rush, Jackson sent troops to protect Cherokee interests. He later acceded to Georgia’s contention that the Cherokees were subject to Georgia law, and federal troops were replaced by Georgia Guard throughout Cherokee Nation.

Arrests of missionaires and Cherokee gold prospectors by the Georgia Guard led to Cherokee legal appeals to the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in favor of the Cherokees. It was rumored that when he heard Marshall’s decision, Jackson remarked “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

Missouri Trail of Tears State Park Visitor Center
Exhibit in Visitor Center - Indian with wagon full of supplies.

Many were against the Indian Removal Act, including the Inspector General of the Army.

General John Ellis Wool, Inspector General of the Army, was first assigned to lead the round up. But in 1837, he requested that he be relieved of the duty of enforcing the Treaty of New Echota: “The whole scene since I have been in this country has been a heartrending one…The white men…like vultures, are watching, ready to pounce upon their prey and strip them of everything they have…” He was replaced by General Winfield Scott in 1838 and the roundup began.

Missouri Trail of Tears State Park Visitor Center

I could not write about our visit to Trail of Tears State Park without first acknowledging the history and the suffering this park honors. The park’s mission to tell the “Trail of Tears” story and honor the memory of it has been carried out in my mind and in my heart. Another part of the Missouri state park’s mission is to give visitors the chance to explore and enjoy Missouri’s natural features. And oh, how we did. This park is beautiful, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. Our activities and the specifics will be the subject of my next, happier post.

Sign - Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

28 comments

  1. The first thing that caught my eye was your mention of Cape Girardeau. During my first semi trip with hubs, the tractor broke down there and we were stuck in a dingy truck stop for several hours until the mechanic arrived and the repair was completed. I swore I’d never ride in the semi again, but I did, of course – many times over the years. You gave a great history lesson in your post, Betty. I believe, a few years back, there was a movie about the Trail of Tears. We do well to remember those dark histories so that they’re never repeated. Canada is struggling right now with the horrors that took place in the residential schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right to say, “We do well to remember those dark histories, so that they’re never repeated.” That’s the best we can do as the events are in the past. We can also be kind and let our voices be heard when needed – as many did, but unfortunately, to no avail. We have another commonality. For about the last 8 years before Dan fully retired, he drove a cargo van. He worked for a company and made deliveries – some local and some long distance. If things worked out just right, I went with him on the long distance trips, and we made a little adventure of it. We had fun and have lots of good memories. He was always happy to have me along. Thanks for your comment, and I hope you have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So very sad, thank you for sharing the history. I have been told recently by an elderly woman, that if you by chance find something unusual on your land, like a new species of insect, the government can come an take your land. I could not believe it. But it’s happened. Perhaps we too, are paying for the sins of our past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome. We can only hope to do better now and in the future as we learn about the past. I would hope the government would offer compensation if land is taken. Most people work decades of their life for a home and/or some land. I do hope you enjoy your day today!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the history lesson about the Trail of Tears. I knew a little bit about the Trail of Tears but didn’t know about the Georgia gold rush part of it or the Supreme Court decision. Now I know! We camped in that campground but did not go to the museum. It may have been closed when we were there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome. The museum was only open Thursday through Sunday. We rushed in late Sunday afternoon to get the park map and some general info, and we went back on Thursday to see the museum. So, I bet you are right about it being closed. I’m glad to know you learned something from the post. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

      Like

  4. Thank you for sharing more of the history of the Trail of Tears, Betty. The Cherokee who made it to Oklahoma settled in the area known as the Cherokee Strip. Sad story.🙁 Thankfully, there are still Cherokee alive today. Some of the tribes in upstate New York, where my wife grew up, were wiped out entirely. Super sad story.😢

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are welcome, David. Of course, there’s lots more stories in the museum. And I’m sure you know, several other tribes were “relocated”, too. It is super sad. I have not heard of an area called the “Cherokee Strip.” Someone mentioned to me a town where a play is performed which tells the tale of the “Trail of Tears.” I can’t remember the details, but this is another good way to tell the story and for people to learn a bit of history.

      Liked by 2 people

    • You are welcome. I like to share just a bit, usually the parts which are new to me and leave an impression. We met some motorcycle riders who were riding the complete “Trail of Tears.” I like that idea, too. Enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. We actually were just driving through that park on our way home from Tennessee while camping near Cape Girardeau. But we weren’t able to stop at the museum because of having our dog with us. Truly sad part of American history. Have your read the book Killers of the Flower Moon? It’s another true account of more recent history with the Osage Indians in Oklahoma. And….condolences on camper winterization season. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. No, I haven’t read “Killers of the Flower Moon”, but it does sound like something I should read. I will look for it. Yes, the route home from our last camping trip of the year includes the stop at our dealer for the winterization. I appreciate your condolences. Five months and counting until our next trip. Enjoy your Day!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A very moving and sad post. And an important one. The injustice done in the past is so saddening but needs to be documented and remembered. Especially today when so many seem so intent on erasing the past and trying to force us to believe incidents like this never happened. We must remember and work to keep horrors like this from occurring again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you are right. We have a duty to educate future generations of these horrors and work so it doesn’t ever happen again. The park was so beautiful, and we enjoyed it so much. But I just couldn’t write about the good stuff without writing about the whole reason the park exists.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As I have said before, one of the best things about travel is the lessons in history we see along the way. The Trail of Tears had many routes and we’ve encountered historic markers in a number of places — Natchez Trace and NW Arkansas come to mind. History is filled with unpleasant realities. Looking at this with today’s perspective, it is unimaginable how an event like this could have ever occurred. But I try not to judge too harshly. It was a different time with a different mindset. Thank you for sharing your experience. It gives us one more place to try and get to.

    So this is your final trip for the year? Time to winteriize I suppose. You and Dan had a good year of travel and I enjoyed following along. Can’t wait to see what is next. Happy days and safe travels.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I love learning history this way, too. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten these lessons or if it just wasn’t taught to the level of detail I learn now. Perhaps a bit of both. We did meet some motorcycle guys who were riding the entire Trail of Tears. Seems like a good endeavor. I agree with your perspective on judging history. I do think many were good people who were products of the times they lived in – as we are, too. Most of us are trying to do the best we can. With regards to the Trail of Tears, I know there was opposition to the relocation of the Indians, but those sentiments did not prevail. Some incidents though, I do think we can judge harshly – times of blatant cruelty. These we have to work to never repeat.

      And you are right. We dropped off our trailer for winterization on our way home. They are also redoing all the seals on our roof. It was time for that, too. We have 5 months (but who’s counting) until our 2022 shake-down trip. We have several trips planned for next year. Reservations that can be made, are done. Other dates are noted. For the next 5 months, we’ll focus on home and family. I do plan to continue the blog. I’ve got some ideas….

      I am glad you follow along, and I enjoy your travels so much, too. Happy days and safe travels to you and Grammi, too!

      Liked by 2 people

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