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Sequoyah Research Center

Pea Ridge National Military Park, page 1

Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., Director
Amanda L. Paige, Research Assistant
Fuller Bumpers, Philip Jonsson Fellow

Note: The Site Reports of the ANPA are intended for use by the general public. Permission to reprint them in their entirety is required by the authors.

Presented to
The Arkansas Chapter of the National Trail of Tears Association
Pea Ridge National Military Park
January 19, 2002
as part of the
ANPA Indian Removal Through Arkansas Project

The Site: An Historical Overview to 1837

The Trail of Tears site within the Pea Ridge National Military Park consists of segments of what was known in later years as the State Road that led from Fayetteville to the southern border of the State of Missouri. This segment of the road was laid out in the summer of 1835. By that time, a road had been cut from Fayetteville north to the second spring beyond John Fitzgerald’s residence, which was on the eastern edge of present-day Bethel Heights.1 To extend this road, the Washington County court ordered the opening of a new road “from Fayetteville to the Missouri line in the direction of the Delaware town [i.e., south of Springfield, Missouri] commencing at or near the second spring north of John Fitzgerald. . . .”2 This spring was probably the second of two large springs at the place indicated in removal records and known today as Cross Hollows. By summer, 1835, the road had been marked by “chops and blazes” from the second spring to Yarbrough’s, Little Sugar Creek, Samuel Burks’s, William Reddick’s, Job R. Monds’, and, finally, the Missouri line, where it intersected the Missouri State Road. The court then ordered the roadway to be cut twenty feet wide.3

Travelers into the interior along most major thoroughfares of that era, the State Road included, found public houses, taverns, or stands located at strategic points along the way.4 These establishments were usually ten to twelve miles apart at points convenient to water and offered travelers meals, beds, whiskey, and pens for their livestock. In the absence of such conveniences, travelers often sought accommodations in private homes. Public use determined the development and continuation of public houses along stretches of new road, such as that from Fayetteville to Springfield. Cherokee removal from the fall of 1837 through the spring of 1839 helped to determine the location of popular stopping places on this segment of the road as a result of the establishment of supply stations for the removal parties.

Earlier overland removal of the Choctaws, Creeks, and Chickasaws had demonstrated the efficacy of establishing supply stations, depending on terrain, where rations for the people and forage for animals were amassed. These distances between supply points are often reflected in the daily marches of removal contingents. The first stop for Cherokee removal parties on the State Road south of the Missouri line was in Section 36 of Township 21 North, Range 29 West, presently within the bounds of the Military Park, then on William Reddick’s farm.5

Reddick (1784-1852) was a Tennesseean who had migrated to Arkansas by way of Indiana and Illinois, settling on Sugar Creek apparently in the early 1830s, as did his son-in-law Samuel Burks, a native of Illinois. Reddick built Elkhorn Tavern, the establishment which has dominated the Pea Ridge Site’s history, but did so after removal, for as late as 1842 his residence was described as a log cabin, though some early descriptions suggest that it was a two-story log structure.6

elkhorn tavern.jpg
Elkhorn Tavern — Once the Site of William Reddick’s Homestead
(click to enlarge)

From 1837 through the spring of 1839, Reddick and his neighbors watched thousands of Cherokees move south along the State Road on their way to Indian Territory under provisions of the Treaty of 1835. By the time the Cherokees crossed the southern boundary of Missouri and entered the segment of road now in the Military Park, they were only a few days’ travel from the end of their overland trek that had taken them from their eastern homeland through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. Although as many as twelve removal contingents may have traveled through the Pea Ridge National Military Park Site, the following report focuses on only three, whose presence at the site on particular dates has been established with some certainty: the B. B. Cannon contingent of 1837 and the Richard Taylor and Peter Hilderbrand contingents of 1838-1839.

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Updated 11.22.2010