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Sequoyah Research Center

Journal of Edward Deas — Cherokee Removal, April-May 1838

Journal of Occurrences in the Route of Emmigration [sic] of a Party of Cherokee Indians, kept—by Lieut. Edward Deas, U.S. Army, Conductor of the Party, from Waterloo, Alabama to the New Country west of the Mississippi River

6th April 1838

Yesterday a Party of Cherokee Indians, in number Two hundred & fifty, together with some other emigrants of the same tribe  who are removing on their own resources, arrived near Waterloo, Ala. by water, under the charge of the Superintendent of the Cherokee Emigration. The S. Boat Smelter, provided under the contract for Transportation, had been waiting the arrival of the Party, and to day the Indians were established on board of this boat, and one large Keel with double cabins, made & furnished in the manner mentioned in the above named contract.

The Present Party, having been previously Enrolled, were to-day turned over to me as Conductor, and immediately afterwards (about 10 O’Clock A.M.) the boat was got under weigh and continued to run until after sunset, having come more than 100 miles and laid by on account of the darkening of the night. The weather is remarkably fine at present, and the Party healthy.

The Smelter appears to be a very good boat, over 150 Tuns Burthen, a fat vessel, and well adapted to the business of the removal of Indians. The Keel in tow is commodious and appears convenient for the Indians. Temporary cooking-hearths are constructed on the top of it, and there is also a cooking-stove in the after part of the Steam Boat.


The Boats got under weigh this morning at eight and continued to run without any occurences of importance until near sun-set, when we reached Paducah at the mouth of the Tennessee River, and anchored a short time near the Town, not willing to land on account of the Indians having access to the Whiskey shops. On attempting to set out again about dark, some water was washed into the Keel, (owing to waves in the Ohio) and the Indians in it were seized with a panic consequence of supposing

11th April

The Boat got under weigh this morning early and reached Lt. Rock about ½ past 11 A.M. I had her anchored in the stream to prevent access to Whiskey and went on shore for the purpose of consulting the Principal Disbursing Agent as to the probability of being able to proceed further up the river on the Smelter.

I found it would be useless to attempt to proceed further in a Boat of her size, and therefore made an arrangement for this with the S. Boat Little Rock which is, I found, on the point of setting out for the upper Parts with two Keels in tow.

The Captain agreed to take the present Party as far up as possible for $5 each for the whole distance and proportionately for a less, which I ascertained to be a reasonable term, and the best arrangement I could possibly make at present. The Party is to have the entire use of one Keel, the Top of the other, & all parts of the S. Boat except the cabins. After landing some provisions from the Smelter I proceeded with the Party on board of her, about 5 miles above the town and landed for the night. The Little Rock is to come up in the night, and take the Party from the Smelter in the morning.

I purchased to day under authority from the Superintendent of the Cherokee Emmigration [sic], Eighty Barrels of (cheap?) Pork, and Eighty barrels of Flour, and turned them over to the Principal Mil. Disb. Agent at Littlerock [sic], for the use of the Cherokee Emmigration [sic] in the ensuing summer & fall. I obtained this provisions by paying only it’s cost and carriage.

12th April

The Little Rock and Keels are heavily loaded the other nearly empty and fitted up for the Indians arrived last night at the point at which I stopped the Party, and early this morning the people and their Baggage were transferred on board of them, from the Smelter. We then immediately got under weigh and proceeded 5 or 6 miles, when the heavy Keel sprung a leak from running on a Bar or Snag, were upon the Captain found it necessary to run ashore to prevent her sinking. The whole day has been consumed in getting out the Freight from this Keel and stopping the leak. Intelligence has also reached us from above, from which it is probable that the Boats cannot take up the present Party & also the freight, without much delay. As this would endanger the health of the people (which I deem a paramount consideration) I have determined, if possible, to induce the Captain of the Little Rock to leave his heavy Keel and all his freight, and take up the Party on the S. Boat and other Keel, empty or nearly so. It is desirable to proceed with all possible dispatch, as besides other reasons the Small-Pox is in this section of country, a disease, apparently, of all others the most fatal to Indians.

13th April

This morning I made a contract with Captain Pennywit (a copy of which I shall forward to the Department and which therefore need not be here given) to proceed up the Arkansas with the Present Party, with the Little Rock and one Keel in tow, both empty. The Freight was landed as soon as possible and about 4 o’clock P.M. we got under weigh and have come about 10 miles and stopped for the night.

14th April

The Indians were got on board this morning at light and the boats have continued to run thro’the day, only stopping a short time to Wood, and by 3 o’clock P.M. had come 50 miles and reached White’s on Lewiston Bar 4 miles below that place. The Keel was then landed and every means made to get the S. Boat over the Bar, but without effect. The party is now encamped on shore for the night. Provisions have been issued since starting for 4 days at a time. Yesterday Pork and Flour were issued in pint quantity.

15 April

This morning after the people had had their breakfast, they walked about 5 miles up the south bank of the Arkansas for the purpose of lightening the Boat. A different channel was then tried by the Captain with success, and by noon we reached a second Bar about 2 miles above Lewiston. This it was found impossible to get over and at night the Keel Boat was sent ashore with the Indians Baggage & the Party is encamped on the south bank of the river, the S. Boat being on the Sand Bar. The Party remained healthy and the weather continues remarkably fine, as it has been since setting out upon the present journey.

16 April

The forenoon was spent in trying to force the S. Boat over the Bar without effect, and the afternoon was consumed in getting her ashore on the north bank of the river.  The Party remains encamped on the south bank. The river is rising very little and the weather now looks stormy.

17th April.

Much rain fell last night and the people not having Tents, I found it necessary to hire a small house to protect them from the weather. This morning another trial was made to get over the Bar which was successful, and about 11 a.m. the S. Boat reached the point at which the Indians were encamped and after taking the Party on board continued to run until a short time after dark, and stopped for the night at the foot of Five Islands, having come between 30 & 40 miles. Rations of Prime Pork, Fresh Beef & Flour were issued to day for 4 days as usual

18th April

The Boats started this morning at day light and continued to run until the afternoon with little interruption, but on reaching Bolinger’s Bar opposite to Scotia it was found impossible to proceed, partly owing to a strong head wind. The Boats were therefore landed on the south bank of the river, having run to-day 30 or 40 miles.

19th April

The Boats were separated this morning in order to get over Bohlinger’s Bar which was done about 10 a.m. After this they were again lashed, and continued to run until dark, and stopped between the mouths of Horse-Head and Spadna Creeks after running between 20 & 30 miles

20th April

The Boats started at light and continued to run until about 11 a.m. with slight interruption from S. Boat When we reached Titsworth’s at McLean’s Bottom, having come 25 or 30 miles, I determined to land the Party at this place for the reason, that there would be but little probability of the Steam Boat getting the whole distance to the Cherokee Country, and as the end of the journey would therefore have to be performed by land, under any arrangement, it is better to stop at a point where wagons can be procured.

21st April

The Party is now encamped on the south bank of the Arkansas at Titsworth’s in McLean’s Bottom. This is a tract of country extending about 10 miles along the south bank of the river and from one to three miles wide and is fertile and well settled. I am now making preparations to proceed by land with as little delay as possible. Rations of Prime Pork and Flour were issued today for 4 days.

23rd Apri

On arriving at the present place of encampment, I employed a person acquainted with the surround country, to ride through the neighborhood for the purpose of Employing wagons. To day a sufficient number has come in as engaged and I have entered into the necessary contracts with their respective owners, and to-morrow the Party will set out.


This morning the different Families were assigned to their respective wagons. On weighing the Baggage yesterday it was found to amount to much more than the allowance mentioned in the Regulations, but as the Indians were allowed to bring it with them this far, it appeared just, and I consider it my duty, to transport to the end of the journey the Baggage that was their possession when the party was turned over to me as Conductor, at Waterloo.

16 large Wagons and one small one were found necessary and the loading up being finished about noon, the Party was started, and has come about 6 miles and stopped for the night at McLean’s Prairie.  The wagons are all hauled by oxen, except one of four mules.

25th April

It rained very hard last night, but cleared up before day. The Party was started this morning about 8 o’clock and has come to day 11 miles to the edge of Grand Prairie. Nothing of importance has taken place. We encamped about 3 o’clock P.M.

26th April

The Party set out this morning about 8 o’clock, crossed the Grand Prairie which is 10 miles wide, and come on 5 miles further and encamped about 4 o’clock P.M. Two small children (one a slave) that were sick before setting out on the journey, died this evening. Nothing else of importance occurred thro’ the nay.

27th April

The Party started this morning about the usual hour, and encamped this afternoon at 3 P.M. after traveling about 11 miles. The roads from McLean’s Bottom have been level & in good order but the country is not very well watered. The weather has been rather too warm for expedious [sic] traveling. We are now about 5 miles from Fort Smith.

28th April

The Party reached Fort Smith to day about 10 a.m. and the crossing of the river was immediately commenced and continued without interruption until dark, when more than half of the Wagons and nearly all of the people were got over and encamped on the Cherokee side of the River.

The ferry is not a very good. The Boat being too small.

1st May

…The only source of annoyance upon the journey has resulted from the people obtaining liquor, the use of which with Indians as far as I have observed invariably results in rioting, fighting or disorder of some kind. The infamous traffic of Whiskey with Indians is carried on to a greater extent at Fort Smith than at any place I have seen, and could any means be devised to check, or put a stop to it, much good must be the result to the neighboring Tribes, or emigrating Parties that may be obliged to pass in that vicinity.
As far as I have observed there is never any difficulty in managing Indians, when sober, provided they are properly treated; but when under the effects of liquor (in the use of which they have no moderation) they are unmanageable, and in many instances Evidence such feelings of hostility, as to endanger the lives of the Agents in charge of them while in the performance of their duty.
When we landed at McLean’s Bottom, I found the people unprovided with Tents, or any protection from the weather, and as the Physician was of the opinion that their health would suffer from exposure, I considered it my duty to purchase for their use, as much cotton domestic as was sufficient to shelter them from rain.

The foregoing remarks embrace all matters of interest that came under my observation respecting the Party, from the time I took charge of it, until its arrival at it’s place of destination in the new country.

Edwd. Deas

Lieut. U.S. Army,

Source: Journal of Occurrences of Lt. Edward Deas, April 1838, Special Case Files of The Office of Indian Affairs, 1807-1994, Roll 69, National Archives Microfilm Publications D217

Updated 3.25.2010