HISTORICAL DOCUMENT May 6, 1997
Alabama Waterfowl Association
TRAIL OF TEARS DESIGNATION
In the 1830s, most of the five civilized tribes of the southeast (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and the Seminole) were forced to move from the southeast to west of the Mississippi River. Most of the Indians wanted to stay in their homeland here in the south. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act. In 1838 the Cherokee, the last to leave, were forced from their cabins in North Alabama at bayonet point and moved to Oklahoma. Many thousand were moved via the Tennessee River, and over 3,000 were marched through Alabama by land. This dark chapter in American History was dubbed the Trail of Tears. There were 17,000 Cherokee Indians that started on the Trail of Tears; over 4,000 died; a forth of the Cherokee population.
Jerry D. Davis, CEO and founder of the Alabama Waterfowl Association, obtained the actual invoice that the wagon master used to bill the U.S. Government for moving 1,017 Cherokee Indians through Jackson County in June of 1838, on the Trail of Tears. Jerry researched this route and obtained the document form Trail of Tears historian Mr. Richard Sheridan, of Sheffield, AL. and from the National Archives. This document shows each encampment of this group of Indians as they moved to Waterloo, Alabama to embark on a steamboat to continue their journey to Oklahoma. On June 17, 1838, 1,017 captive Cherokee Indians, the last to be moved that summer, were marched overland, through North Alabama on a trail that follows closely to what is now U.S. 72 Highway, that runs parallel with the Tennessee River from Ross Landing to Waterloo, Alabama. In Waterloo, they arrived in pitiful condition and were moved by steamboat to west of the Mississippi River. Over 300 Indians escaped and hid in the woods near what is now Scottsboro. Episodes such as this are why so many Native Americans still reside in Alabama.
Darla Graves, executive director of the Alabama Indian Affairs Committee and Jerry Davis initiated meetings and served on a committee that helped write the legislation for the Trail of Tears Corridor of North Alabama. This legislation passed, with the support and cooperation from (then) Lt. Governor Don Siegelman, as Joint House Resolution 95-346 and was signed by (then) Governor Fob James, Jr. on July 13, 1995. Also, this Trail of Tears route was added to the National Park Services brochure of the Trail of Tears - National Historic Trails.
Richard Sheridan and Jerry Davis wrote the historical text and Alabama Waterfowl Association funded and installed the first historical marker for the Trail of Tears in Alabama, at Waterloo, Alabama on October 14, 1995. The second Trail of Tears historical marker was placed at Bridgeport, Alabama in Jackson County, on U.S. Highway 72, near the east state line on September 20, 1997. ALDOT donated a paved pull-off for the marker. Richard Sheridan and Jerry Davis wrote the text. This marker is partially funded by the Trail of Tears motorcyclists, Alabama Harley Davidson and the Jackson County Historical Association. All this was accomplished with the cooperation of Ms. Darla Graves, executive director of the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission. The Jackson County Trail of Tears Marker will be the first Trail of Tears Marker with the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission logo on it.
Jerry Davis (AWA CEO) received a personal letter of support and thanks from President Clinton for work on the designation of the Trail of Tears.
Other events that led to the designation
In October of 1994, Jerry Davis originated the first Trail of Tears Commemorative Ride. Mr. Terry Sweet and Rod Wheeler of Rocket City Harley’s Owners Group also helped originate this ride, from Ross’ Landing in Chattanooga, TN to Waterloo, AL. Over 210 miles. Bill Cason handled the escorts for the 30 miles of the Tennessee portion of the ride. The ride focused attention on the Trail of Tears Route and helped educate the public on this dark chapter in American History. This is now the largest organized motorcycle ride in the South. On September 20, 1997, the 4th annual Trail of Tears Commemorative motorcycle rides l took place from Ross Landing in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Waterloo, Alabama. Also, the Trail of Tears Corridor Committee of North Alabama has placed the second Alabama Trail of Tears Marker on the east state line on U.S. Highway 72. Alabama Waterfowl Association helped the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Historical Commission, Alabama Department of Transportation, Mr. Kenneth Campbell, Mitchell Adams and Richard C. Sheridan (who serves on the National Trail of Tears Advisory Council with the National Park Service) wrote the legislation and Darla Graves introduced the Trail of Tears Corridor to the Alabama Legislators. This corridor legislation passed both the House and Senate of Alabama and this Trail of Tears Corridor is now Joint House Resolution 95-346. Ms. Alison Stanfield with Florence/Lauderdale Tourism deserves much credit, also the Mayor and City Council of Waterloo, Alabama. This project could not have been accomplished without the help of all those that serve on the ALABAMA TRAIL OF TEARS CORRIDOR COMMITTEE.
In September 1998, a marker was placed at Ross Landing in Chattanooga, TN and Trail Blazing signs were placed on two-thirds of the 220-mile trail.
AWA History Archive Historian: Gary Benefield