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Sequoyah Research Center

Journal of Edward Deas — Cherokee Removal, June 1838

Journal Of Occurrences on the Route of Emigration of a Party of Cherokees from Ross’ Landing E. Tenn.e  to Fort Coffee Ark s Try kept by Lieut. Edw Deas USA Conductor of the Party.

6th June 1838

The present party of Cherokees consists mostly of Indians that were collected by the Troops and inhabited that portion of the Cherokee country embraced within the limits of the state of Georgia, and were assembled at Ross’ Landing E. Tenne preparatory to setting out upon the Journey.

The number of the Party is about six hundred, but is not yet accurately known, as it was thought inexpedient to attempt to make out the muster rolls before starting.  The Indians were brought into the boats under guard & being necessary somewhat crowded, any unnecessary delay while in that situation was by all means to be avoided on account of the health of the people. It was therefore though best to set out from the points of assembly without waiting to muster the Party, leaving it to be done by the conductor after starting, when more accurate books could probably be made than before setting out.

The route related by the Superintendent is by water, and the Party was turned over to me to-day at Ross’ Landing, after having been placed on board of the Boats provided for its transportation at Decatur Ala.a

These consist of a small S. Boat of about 100 Tons burthern, and 6 Flat-Boats, one with double cabins (one upon the other) of a large size. The others are middle sized Boats, but appointed by capacity to transport the Party without being too much crowded.

The Boats having been lashed side by side, 3 on each side of the Steam Boat, all were got under way about noon and proceeded at about 4 or 5 miles an hour, until we arrived near the Suck when it was necessary to separate them in passing throu’ the mountains. The Suck, Boiling-Pot, the Skillet, and the Frying-Pan are names given to the different rapids formed in the Tennessee Basin as it passes through the Cumberland Mountains.

The river here follows a very circuitous course, a distance of 80 miles by water being only equal to 8 by land.

The Suck is the first and most difficult and dangerous of the rapids. The river here becomes very narrow and swift with the Banks on either side are rocky and steep, it being the point at which the stream passes thru’ a gorge in the mountains. The S. boat with one Flat on each side passed thro’ with most of the people on board, but after getting thro’ the most rapid water, it was found impossible to keep her in the channel, & in consequence was thrown upon the north Bank with some violence but luckily none of the people were injured although one of the Flats was a good deal smashed.

The other 4 boats came thro’ two by two and the party was encamped before dark as it was too late in the day to reach the foot of the rapids in daylight.

The present party is accompanied by a guard of 23 men in order to prevent any desertions that might be attempted before leaving the limits of the Cherokee country.

7th June

The S. Boat and Flat Boats were got under weigh this morning and came thro’ the remainder of the rapids ?  The first started at 8 o’clock, and all were got thro’ by noon.

The boats having been lashed side by side they continued to proceed at the rate of from 4 to 5 miles an hour thro’ the reminder of the day.


Last night being clear and the moon nearly at full the boats continued to run until near daylight this morning when they were obliged to stop and separate owing to the Fog which suddenly spring up.

We passed Gunter’s Landing about 9 o’clock and then continued to run (stopping once for wood) until dark, when the Boats were landed for the night 6 miles above Decatur, and much of the people on shore have gone ashore to sleep and cook. The weather has been remarkably fine since starting and the people generally healthy though there are several cases of sickness amongst the children.

9th June

The Boats started this morning early and reached Decatur about 6 o’clock, but on arriving it was found that the Rail road cars were not in readiness although they had been notified that the party was approaching.

We have therefore been obliged to remain here to-day.

Two locomotives have arrived in readiness to transport the party to Tuscumbia tomorrow.

10th June

This morning early the Indians and their baggage were transferred from the Boats to the Rail Road cars. About 32 cars were necessary to transport the Party, and no more could be employed for want of power in the locomotive engines.

The Indians therefore being  necessarily crowded, I determined not to take the guard any further, as I heard the Steam Boat Smelter was waiting their arrival at the other end of the Rail Road, and in that case there would be no necessity for the guard, as the party would embark without any delay at Tuscumbia.  On the arrival of the 1st Train Cars at Tuscumbia landing about 3 o’clock PM. The Steamboat was in readiness and took nearly half the Party on board but immediately set-out for Waterloo at the foot of the Rapids without accounting for the 2nd train of cars with the remainder of the party. In consequence when the 2nd Train arrived between 4 & 5 o clock there being no boat to receive the remainder of the Party on board they were necessarily encamped near the S. Boat landing for the night, and tho’ the guard having been sent back for the reasons above stated, and having no doubt that the Steam boat Smelter would remain, drunkenness and disorder may be expected to-night. Nothing could be more unfortunate than the departure of the Boat at the moment the Party was on the point of reaching here.

11th June

As might be expected there was much drunkenness in camp last night and over one hundred of the Indians deserted. The remainder were conveyed from Tuscumbia Landing to Waterloo (30 miles) on one of the double deck keels and a small steam boat.

The party was there established on board the Smelter and the two keels such as are described in the contract for transportation & about 2 o’clock these boats were got under weight and have since continued to run from 10 to 12 miles an hour.

As there is room enough on board to accommodate the party with sleeping room and the ?  we shall continue to run thro’ the night.

Until we reached Waterloo the rations consisted of flour corn meal, & bacon. At Tuscumbia yesterday I had purchased 4 day supply of fresh beef, but owing to the heat of the weather and the of the party most of it became spoiled and unfit for use, before it could be issue when the party was assembled on the Smelter today

12th June

The Boats continued to run until this forenoon at 1 o’clock (when a stop was made for wood) and reached Paducah between 4 & 5 P.M. I have enrolled the Party as accurately & carefully as possible since leaving Tuscumbia and find the number to be 489.

Finding that the S. Boat and one keel are sufficient to transport the party the other was left at Paducah this afternoon, and the rate of travelling is thereby much increased. We left Paducah about sun set and shall continue to sun thro’ the night.

The weather since starting with the Party has been warm and as yet there had been no rain. The People have been generally healthy and then are but few cases of sickness at present and more of a dangerous character.

13th June

The Boats reached the mouth of the Ohio about midnight and have since continued to run stopping twice to wood in daylight. We passed Memphis this evening between 9 & 10 O’clock, but did not land. A small boat was and ashore to carry letters and procure provisions.

The weather continues warm but the night being clear and calm the boats will continue warm but the night being clear and calm the boats will continue to run. The people remain generally healthy.

14th June

The Boats continued to run last night and to day without interruption (except to wood in the forenoon) and reached Montgomery’s Point at the mouth of White River at one o’clock PM

A pilot for the Arkansas R was then taken on board without landing, and we then entered White River passed thru’ the cut-off into the Arkansas and continued to run until about sun set, having ascended the Arkansas about 70 miles. Most of the people have gone on shore and encamped for the night. The weather continues find tho’ warm and the Party remains generally healthy. A small quantity of F. Beef was procured last-night at Memphis and was issued to-day.

The Arkansas River is low at present-a circumstance very unusual at this particular season of the year.

15th June

The boats got-under way this morning at sun-rise and continued to run through the day stopping once to wood in the forenoon. We stopped for the night at a wood landing at dark, having run to-day about 70 miles and many of the people have gone on shore and encamped for the night.

The weather continues warm and there has been slight rain thro’ the day. The Arkansas continues very nearly at a stand.

16th June

It rained very hard last night for a short time. The boats got under weight this morning at day light and this afternoon about sun set landed 14 miles below Little Rock.

The distance traveled today is about the same as yesterday not far from 70 miles.

A very perceptible rise has taken place in the River to-day and from the appearance of the water it is problem caused by the melting of snows. The weather continues warm.

17th June

We started this morning after sun-rise and reached Lt. Rock about 8 A.M. The S. Boat was anchored in the Stream a short time to prevent access to whiskey.

The river continues to rise and as we have to lie by generally at night, I determined to leave the Keel Boat and give the people the main cabin of the S. Boat instead.

Thereby we shall travel much faster, and there is at the same time room enough for them, by this arrangement.

We left Little Rock about 10 A.M. and continued to run until near sun-set, when we stopped for the nigh a few miles below Lewisbugh, and most of the people are now encamped on the shore. The weather continues fine and the Party healthy. The River continues to rise yesterday and today and this evening it appears to be at a stand.

18th June

We set-out this morning at daylight and continued to run with little interruption until dark, then stopped on the north bank opposite McLeans Bottom 2 miles above Titsworths’ Place.

The people have gone above to sleep and prepare food. They still remain generally healthy.

The weather to-day was very warm. The river has fallen about a foot here, within the last 24 hours.

19th June

The People were got on board the boats and the boats started this morning between 2 & 3 o’clock, but had to stop again before daylight-on account of heavy rain. They were got under weigh again at light and continued to run until 10 A.M. when we were again obliged to land on account of a slight accident, to the wheel.

After 2 hours delay we again proceeded and reached  ? ? about 2 P.M. and stopped about an hour in the stream without landing the S. Boat.

We passed Fort Smith between 3 & 4 P.M. and reached Fort Coffee a little before sun-set.

The boats were landed opposite the Fort to procure food, and the people went on shore for the night as normal.

The weather continues extremely warm but the Party remains generally healthy.

Fort Coffee

20 June

After the Party landed last evening I found that they had taken all of their baggage out of the Boats and were desiousus of stopping in this neighborhood.

The ? much pleasure at reaching their country in “safety” and meeting some of their friends and acquaintances her, and finding that others of them are living not far off, they prefer remaining here to proceeding to Fort Gibson.

I should have preferred to deliver them at the latter place, as there is water enough for the Boat to go up, at present; but at the same time considered it proper to consult their wishes.

After counseling together and with their friends from the vicinity they decided in favor of proceeding no further.

I therefore to-day discharged and paid of he agents & physicians that accompanied the Party who returned on the S. Boat Smelter.

This morning early an express was dispatched by the Comandg Officer with a letter from myself to the officer at Fort Gibson appointed to receive the Cherokees, giving information that the Party is at this place, awaiting to be mustered and to receive their subsistence.

Fort Coffee

23rd June

Since arriving at this place I have issued a sufficient quantity of cotton to the Indians for tents to protect them from the weather. I have done so in consideration of their destitute Condition, as they were for the most part separated from their homes in Georgia, without having the means or time to prepare for camping and it was also the opinions of the Physicians of the Party that the health of these people would suffer if not provided with some protection from the weather.

Last evening an Agent of Capt. J.R. Stephenson the Disbg  Agent to receive the Cherokees arrive this place and to-day I had the Party mustered in his presence. The number was found to be 489, as shown by the muster-roll, no deaths having occurred upon the journey and no alteration having taken place since the Party was enrolled.

The foregoing remarks embraced all matters of interest affecting the Indians, that came under my observation from the day of setting out upon the Journey until the Party was to-day turned over to the Agent appointed to muster & receive it.

Edw Deas Lieut U.S.A. Conductor

Journal of Occurrences Of Lt. Edward Deas 1838, National Archives Record Group 574, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Special Case Files Of The Office of Indian Affairs 1807-1994, Roll 69, D235

Updated 1.8.2010