Cherokee Trail of Tears found at Coke Ovens
By Carolyne Park
|DUNLAP, Tenn. -- Deep ruts on the side of Fredonia Mountain
still mark the
paths traveled by some 1,000 Cherokees en route to the Oklahoma Territory
162 years ago.
Members of the Sequatchie Valley Historical Association, which established
the Coke Ovens Park here, have recently learned their property includes a
portion of the Trail of Tears, said association vice president Carson Camp.
Over the years trees have grown up along the series of ruts and small ridges
of the route which follows the old Hill Road up Fredonia Mountain along the
"There's about half a mile of visible roadbed that's still intact," Mr. Camp
said. "It looks much as it would have then."
The edge of the road bed rises more than six feet in some places. "The
wagons would rut those roads so bad and then water would run down through
there," he said, describing how the furrows were formed.
Last week, Mr. Camp met with a representative of the National Park Service,
who visited the roadbed site and identified it as a part of the original
Indian path. "They were surprised we had this much road bed intact," he
said. It is unique because many of the paths have been cleared or paved over
through the years, and are hard to identify, he said.
Mr. Camp is working with other historians to pinpoint the exact path of the
trail. Beliefs are, from accounts of the November 1838 diary entries of Rev.
Daniel S. Butrick, who traveled with the group, that more than 1,000
Cherokee Indians took the Hill Road up the mountain after camping near the
coke ovens site, Mr. Camp said.
"There are very limited accounts on the Trail of Tears," he said. "They're
trying now to get a true account of what went on."
The Cherokee people were forced off their lands in the Southeast, and moved
west to reservations in Oklahoma. Thousands died along the way.
The development comes after Mr. Camp contacted the association about his
suspicions the route passed through the 77-acre Dunlap Coke Ovens Park.
The park was formed 16 years ago to preserve the ruins of 268 beehive coke
ovens there. The ovens, once used to transform coal into the hotter, longer
and steadier burning coke, were a part of the mining industry that
flourished in the region from 1899 to 1927.
Not only is the park rich in mining history, but also Civil War history, and
now American Indian history as well, Mr. Camp said.
The Indian route passes up the side of Fredonia Mountain in the park, on
through portions of some 518 acres Mr. Camp and his partner purchased six
years ago to prevent it from being harvested for timber, he said. Plans were
to sell off the land to help fund the park.
Mr. Camp said he now hopes the Trail of Tears certification will help with
grants for the park. "We want to preserve it, but it does put us in a little
bit of a bind," he said.
|E-mail Carolyne Park at