Cherokee Removal Memorial Park @ Historic Blythe Ferry, Birchwood, TN
Blythe Ferry is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Blythe Ferry* is located at the northwest corner of the 1835 Cherokee Nation at the confluence of the Hiawassee River with the Tennessee River. In the fall of 1838 nine of the thirteen detachments under Chief John Ross‘ supervision, totaling about 9,000 Cherokees, departed from their ancestral land at Blythe Ferry on a difficult thousand mile journey into an uncertain future. At that time the southeast was under the most severe drought in memory making river travel and ferry crossings difficult. They were under pressure to began their emigration after spend months in stockades under deplorable conditions and many were sick and destitute. Some were without shoes, blankets and other provisions. Between August 28 and September 24, nine detachments left from the vicinity of the Cherokee Agency at Charleston, TN about 30 miles from Blythe Ferry. Due to low water levels there were extended delays crossing the Tennessee River and Contractors were accused of deliberate delays to increase their profits. Even though up to six boats were in operation some had to wait up to six weeks to cross the river. Members of the detachment of Treaty supporters, not under Ross’ control, caused trouble by enticing
some to join them by p
romising more money and better land. Since several detachments were in the same area some left their detachment to join another detachment, but there was no significant reports of desertions. The delay did allow some of the sick and disabled to recuperate and join a later detachment. Only two deaths were reported at Blythe Ferry. Those that were unable to continue with their detachment traveled by water with the Ross family that departed from Charleston on November 7 in four barges that floated by Blythe Ferry.
* The ferry was established in 1809 by William Blythe which he sold in 1835. He went west with his Cherokee wife, Nannie Fields, before the forced removal. A ferry continued to operate at the site until 1994 when the Highway 60 Bridge was completed.
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