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Sequoyah Research Center

Journal of Edward Deas — Creek Removal, 1837

On the Route of a Party of Emigrating Creek Indians kept by Lieutenant Edward Deas U.S. Army Disbursing Agent in the Creek Emigration, in charge of the Party.

16th May 1837

Today the Party of Creek Indians; the collection of which for Emigration I have been charged with, was turned over by me to an Agent of the “Alabama Emigrating Company” at a point four miles South of Gunters Landing N. Alabama.

The Party numbers 543 as shown by the muster rolls. After due consideration of all the circumstances I find that the Route by water to the new Indian country West of this Mississippi River at the present time, is preferable to that by land. I have therefore indicated this mode of transportation for the present party.

These Indians are a part of those Creeks, that fled from their own country in Alabama after the treaty with that tribe of 1832; hoping probably by taking refuge among the Cherokees to be placed upon the same footing, with the latter people in reference to the necessity of Emigrating to the West.

They have been apprehended at various points in the Cherokee Nation, scattered over an extensive tract of thinly settled or barren country. For this reason and owing to the inaccessible retreats in which they were found by the troops, and the difficulty in procuring subsistence and transportation in such places, and also the necessity of employing agents of intelligence to take charge of the Indians when apprehended, it has required a good deal of experience to prepare the present party for emigration. Nine flat-boats have been purchased by the Contractor to be used until steam conveyance can be procured below the Muscle Shoal Falls, in the Tennessee River. Four of these Flats are of the largest class about 80 feet long, the others 50 & 40 feet in length, This allowance is sufficient to ensure health and comfort to the people. I turned the party over this morning at the encampment of Tennessee volunteers about 4 miles south of Gunter’s Landing, where the Indians have been grounded for the last week. They were moved to the water’s edge by noon, and about sun-set the whole embarked on the Flat-boats & are at this time (10 o’clock PM) progressing slowly by the force of the current.

There are but very few cases of sickness at present and the weather is very favorable in this respect.

17th  May

The boats continued to float all last-night and until to-day at noon, when the reached Ditto’s Landing 30 miles from point of starting. They were then obliged to stop until 5 PM on account of wind, when they again set out and are still floating (10 o’clock PM).

18th May

About 4 o’clock this morning a heavy wind suddenly arose, by which the boats were compelled to land in the dark and we were so unfortunate as to lose Fifteen of the Indians who took this opportunity of making their escape. Owing to the continuation of the wind the boats could not re-embark until near sun-set, and are still floating (10 o’clock P.M.).

19th May

The Flat-Boats with the Party on board continued to float all last night, and to-day until 3 o’clock P.M, when they were landed on account of wind, a few miles above Decatur; which place is 60 miles from Gunter’s Landing. The Party re-embarked about sun-set, and is still now progressing slowly. (10 o’clock P.M.)

20th May

Early this morning the weather became stormy and the Boats were obliged to land before day light, and in consequence we have lost more of the Indians by desertion. The boats were separated when they were landed, and immediately after some of the smaller ones touched the shore, the people on board of them took advantage of the Darkness, and rain, to make their escape.

As soon as the other boats landed, every exertion was made to overtake and bring them back. By offering a reward of one dollar for each that should be returned, I recovered 15. The remainder 56 in number, could not be overtaken in time, and succeeded in making their escape to the mountains, 5 miles distant.

The weather has continued rainy thro’ the day. No progress has been made, but we shall probably start to night. We are at present at Brown’s Ferry, 12 miles below Decatur.

21st May

About Midnight the boats set-out & came thro’ the Elk River Shoals to Lambs Ferry, 16 miles. We there stopped long enough to procure Pilots & hands to pass the Muscle Shoals, which are some what difficult of navigation. The Boats entered the Rapids at 10 o’clock A.M. and reached the foot of the Shoals at 4 P.M. without any accident.

The length of the shoals is 15 miles and at some places the rim is 2 or three miles wide, and is filled with small islands. Many of the passes are very rapid, and experienced Pilots are necessary to carry a Boat thro’ necessity, though in case of accident, then is no other danger than the loads of the boat & cargo. The Party is at present landed on the north bank of the River, about 6 miles above Florence.

22nd May

The Boats started this morning at 4 o’clock floated 16 miles, and again landed the Party 6 miles below Tuscumbia. An arrangement was made at that place today, for a S-Boat at Waterloo, 30 miles below, at the foot of the Rapid water. Nothing of consequence has occurred, the Indians continue healthy, generally, and apparently well satisfied. No further desertions have taken place.

For the last week has been uncommonly cool for this country, at this season. Yesterday and today the weather has been very fine. I should have mentioned on the 20th at Decatur I engaged a Dr. Morrow to accompany the Party at $85 per month, & expenses in place of the physician who started from Gunter’s Landing at which place one could not be hired for less than $5 per day.

23rd May

Early this morning the Party again started, and reached Waterloo at 10 o’clock A.M. The Steam Boat Black Hawk was then got in readiness for the reception of the Indians. One large Keel and two of the large Flats were taken in tow, and at 4 o’clock P.M. the whole Party re-embarked, and we have since come 40 miles & landed for the night, at the foot of an Island in order to prevent desertions, should any of the Indians be so disposed The Black Hawk is of about the middle size of Steam Boats, & her guards have been covered, and every thing done to accommodate the Indians to the best advantage on board of her.

24th May

The Boats got under way this morning early, and reached Savannah Tenne an hour afterwards. One of he flats was left at that place, as it impeded very much our progress, and was not at all necessary, to the comfort of the people. The other Boats have been rendered as convenient for their as proper by constructing temporary sheds & cooking-hearths, in the Flat Boats, & on the Deck of the Keel. All appear well pleased with the rapid progress we are making, about 8 miles an hour. A child that has been sick for some time back, died today & was buried in the afternoon at a wood landing.
Nothing of importance has occurred thro’ the day.

25th May

The boats continued to run thro’ last-night, passed Paducah today at one o’clock, and stopped for the night about sun-set, near the mouth of the Ohio, on the Illinois Shore. Another child died to-day owing probably to the folly of its mother, in putting I in cold water. Since leaving Gunter’s Landing, the weather has been uncommonly cool, for the season. Since yesterday afternoon, their has been an almost constant drizzling rain. Up to the present time the rations have been issued without any failure. I had 17 bushels (all that could be had) of dried Peas issued at Tuscumbia in place of party of the meat-ration, which is too great for the present inactive situation of the people.

26th May

This morning about day-light the boats started, the weather fine and still cool. In the forenoon we reached New Madrid, where a short stop was made, to procure Corn. Since that time no interruption has occurred, & the boats will continue to run thro’ the night.

27th May

The Boats passed Memphis this morning early, but we have made no stops, as intimation had been given, that some of the Indians wanted to visit the Chickasaw country, & would attempt to leave the party for that purpose.

28th May

The boats continued to run thro’ last night, & reached Montgomery’s Point, this morning about day light.  We entered the mouth of White River at 8 o’clock having stopped a short time at the Point, and passed thro’ the cut-off into Arkansas R., about ½ past nine. We have since come about 50 miles, up the latter stream, and stopped for the night at 8 o’clock P.M.

The Arkansas is not a very good stage at present, for small boats, and is on the rise, which will probably continue for some time.

The Spring Fresh has just began. Had we arrived 2 or 3 days sooner we should have been delayed, as small boats are fast on the Bank above, until yesterday. The rise of this river at this season, is said to be owing to the melting of Snows in the Rocky Mountains, and consequently depends upon its time of occurrence, which of course varies with the season. As last winter was a severe one, & the warm weather having set in late this spring, it is reasonable to expect a heavy rise this summer.

Nothing of importance has taken place to-day, the weather continues fine tho’ warm. The boats stopped for the night at dark, having come about 50 miles.

29th May

An Indian man & a very old woman both of whom have been sick since starting, died to-day. As it is necessary at present to stop at night, an account of navigation, and as the people can therefore go on shore to sleep & cook, if they choose, we left the Flat Boat this morning, the steam boat & Keel being sufficient to transport the Party, under such circumstances.

The boats got under way early this morning, and stopped at sunset having come about 75 miles.

30th May

The people came on board & the boats started at 6 o’clock A.M. and passed Pine Bluffs in the forenoon. As we shall be able to reach Lt. Rock early to-morrow by running tonight, and the Indians willing to do so, I have consented to its being done. The River has risen so suddenly within the last few days, that the Pilots think there is no longer danger from snags, or other obstructions at night.

31st May

We reached Little Rock this morning at 7 o’clock, stopped there about an hour, and then continued to run until 7 P.M. having come about 50 miles.
When the Boats landed a very few of the people went on shore, and as they appeared sincerely desirous of continuing to run thro’ the night, we accordingly started again at 11 P.M. It rained last night but cleared up this morning before reaching Lt. Rock, and the weather is at present fine tho’ warm in the daytime.

A female child died this afternoon, but nothing else of importance has occurred thro’ the day.

The River is now said to be 12 or 14 feet above low water marks.

1st June 1837

We continued to run thro’ last night, and to-day; the weather very fine tho’ warm. An old woman who has been ill with the consumption more than a year died this afternoon. We are still running (10 o’clock P.M.) and are about 200 miles above Little Rock by water.

2nd June

We continued to travel through last-night & to-day and reached Fort Smith this evening at dark, and are still progressing at the rate of between 3 & 4 miles an hour (10 o’clock P.M). It should have been mentioned that every day a considerable stop has been made in day time, at wood landings, giving the Indians an opportunity of leaving the Boats, and Bathing, and also of taking exercise, the want of which to people of there habits is the greatest objection to transporting them by water. I do not think that the present Party has suffered on this account.

3rd June

We reached Fort Coffee this morning about 2 o’clock, stopped there a half an hour; and then continued to run until 11 A.M. when the boats were obliged  to stop 2 or 3 hours to procure wood, which was gathered and cut, by the hands and Indians, who were hired to do so, so little navigation takes place on this part of the River, that wood landings are very few in number. After laying in a sufficient supply, the Boat again started and will continue to run thro’ the night.

We passed the mouth of Canadian River about sun-set and are now between 50-60 miles above Fort Coffee and about 30 from Fort Gibson (10 o’clock P.M.)

Another death occurred this morning at Fort Coffee (an infant). For 5 or 6 days after we entered the Arkansas, we traveled at an average of some three or 4 miles per hour, but since then, the current has become so much more rapid, that we have been gradually running slower, and at present the speed of the Boats does not exceed 3 miles.

4th June 1837

We continued to travel through last night, and this forenoon at 7 o’clock passed the mouth of Grand River. The Indians had said to me, that they wished to be landed on the west bank of the Verdigris, near the Creek Agency. When we reached to mouth of Grand River, I sent an Indian Runner to inform the Disburs. Agent of the bank (West), that the Party was in the vicinity, in order that arrangements might be made for its immediate reception, at the point of debarkation. The boats reached the creek Agency at 8 o’clock, and the Indians were immediately mustered, with as much accuracy, as it was possible for the operation to be performed with. The Party was received immediately after it arrived, and the number after deducting desertions and death upon the boats, amounted to Four hundred and sixty three.

Fort Gibson Arkansas Territory

June 5th 1839

Today the muster roll of the Party of Indians that was yesterday delivered over by me, at the Creek Agency on the Verdigris River certified by the Disbursing Agent, of the Creeks (West.) I have no fault to find with the emigrating Company in regard to the removal of this party. I believe the Indians have received every allowance they were entitled to, and with one trifling exception, were treated in company with the requirements of the letter and spirit of the Emigrating Contract. This exception was the failure to have constructed some necessary fixtures which were essential to cleanliness on the boats and which I was promised should be put up, before starting. Their construction were delayed several days and never were finished as I wished them to be. Had not their necessity been superceded in a few days, by the frequent stopping of the Boats, I should have employed carpenters to make them & have charged the expense to the Contractors.

When the miserable are impoverished condition of many of there people, some months previous to starting is considered, and the imperious effects that such circumstances, was calculated to produce upon the health & constitutions of many of them; and when it is also remembered that they were in a party closely confined under guard, for several weeks previous to setting out; and when the unhealthy season of the year is also taken into account; I do not think that the amount of sickness & number of deaths upon the route has been by any means great.

The foregoing remarks embrace every occurrence of any importance that has taken place to my knowledge, from the time the party started from Gunter’s Landing, until its arrival and delivery, in the new country next of the Mississippi River

Edw Deas

1st Lt. U.S. Army & Disbursg agent with Creek Emigration

Source: Journal of Occurrences Of Lt. Edward Deas 1837, National Archives Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Letters Received, Creek Agency Emigration, Roll 238, D 97

Updated 12.17.2009