- Adventure 9-Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
- Destination 1-Meramec Spring Park and Iron Works
The Trail of Tears
One of the saddest and most shameful moments in American history was the forced removal, by the United States government, of the Indian tribes who populated parts of the eastern regions of our nation from the Ohio River into Georgia.
The Cherokee Indians, along with the other Civilized Tribes, the Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek, had for many years sought to heed the invitation of the Americans to live in a civilized manner, just as the American citizens themselves lived. The Cherokee people instituted their own court system, built schools to educate their children, took up farming as an occupation, established their own newspaper, and created their own written language. They were, while also holding true to their own traditions and beliefs, living the typical American life.
But as time went on, the ownership of Native American land was threatened by the insatiable desire of white American citizens to move further and further west, and claim more and more land for homesteads. This desire for land was made even worse for the Cherokee living in Georgia when gold was discovered in the area, and miners paid little heed to those who owned the land, lived on the land, or were sustained by the land. These settlers and miners were attempting to live their own personal American dream, and the Native Americans were in the way!
As more and more land was taken from the various tribes, the Cherokee people went to the United States Supreme Court for help. In spite of the fact that the Court ruled in their favor, the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, sided with the state government and initiated a forceful removal of the native peoples far to the west, to Indian Territory, in what we now call the state of Oklahoma.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail-in Missouri
Today, the journey the Cherokee were forced to take is called the Trail of Tears. In 1987, the United States government established the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail to help us remember this important time in our history, to learn from it, and to keep us mindful of the fact that it must never be repeated. Part of that trail runs through our home state of Missouri, and that is our next stop in our effort to visit all the national parks in our state. We begin near St. James, Missouri, close to Meramec Spring Park, and not too far from our home.
The Snelson-Brinker House
The Snelson-Brinker house is the oldest house in Missouri’s Crawford County. Built in 1834, by Thomas Snelson and his son Levi, it served as a trading post, as well as being the first courthouse in the county.
In the years 1838 and 1839, several detachments of the Cherokee people stopped at the house and camped on the property as they moved toward the Indian Territory. The Cherokee family of Richard Taylor, with a total of four members, died while on the grounds, and were buried in the Snelson family cemetery.
Today, you can visit the property, now adjacent of the Woodson K. Woods Conservation Area, on Missouri Highway 8. It looks much as it did when the Cherokee saw it, and my husband I wish that it was a bit better taken care of. It is, however, a haunting place, one that when understanding its history, will not soon leave you.
Meramec Spring Park
Meramec Spring Park is a little further west along Highway 8. Meramec Spring Park is not a new destination for our family…we simply love the place! I wrote about our family’s history with the spring and park in a blog on May 23, 2014. But it is also a place located along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
In 1825, Thomas James and Samuel Massey moved to the Meramec Spring area in central Missouri to open an iron works facility. Iron was used in making the essential tools used on the farms, and in the homes of early America. By producing it in the midsection of the growing nation, it could be sold at a much lower price, avoiding shipping costs. The large red rock pit the men found near the spring (a source of water), and the large wooded expanses (a source of fuel for the fires in the furnace they would build), assured the two men that this site was the perfect place for their iron works.
The red rock of the iron pit at Meramec Spring Park.
In addition to the red rock in the foreground, you can see the deep forested expanse typical of this part of Missouri. The wood from the forest was essential in the production of iron at the iron works.
So, from 1827 through 1876, the Meramec Iron Works was in operation at what is now a beautiful park, renowned trout fishing destination, and treasured artifact site of things from long ago-it is a part of our Missouri heritage. When you visit Meramec Spring Park you will see the preserved relics of the iron works, as well as having the opportunity to visit the museum. Exhibits in the museum explain how the work was done, who the people were who lived in and around the iron pit, and information about the natural flora and fauna of central Missouri.
In the most open area of the park you will find many remains from the days of the iron works operation…
These sign posts indicate where individual activities important to the production of iron were located. A map, obtained at the Museum will explain the function of each.
This furnace is where the ore that was taken from the pit was melted down.
The bloomery was where the “pig” iron, taken from the casting beds from the furnace, was remelted to prepare it to be pounded into ingots.
When you drive the historic trail at the park, you will find not only the open ore pit, but also evidence of the lives of the people who operated the iron works. It is a beautiful, quiet, and memorable drive.
Meramec Spring Park is included in places to see along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail because the Cherokee people, taking the northern route of the trail, stopped here to rest and camp on their journey from the eastern United States to Indian Territory during the years 1838 and 1839. When you visit the museum, you will be able to see a very excellent film, produced by the National Park Service, on the Trail of Tears…how it happened, what it meant, and how we should learn from it to become a better nation going forward.
You can learn more about visiting the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail at its National Park website by clicking on the link. You can find help planning your visit to Meramec Spring Park by clicking its link. As you Find Your Park in this National Park Service anniversary year, I welcome you to visit our sites in Missouri, and I encourage you to visit other sites along the trail…to take some time to learn more about our national history by learning more about the Trail of Tears.
Cherokee Blueberry Honey Cake
The Cherokee would have made this loaf cake with huckleberries they gathered in the southeastern United States, before their removal to Indian Country. Huckleberries and blueberries are members of the same family, and since we do not have huckleberries here in south-central Missouri, I used blueberries from my freezer, picked last summer just south of my home. Though I did add the extra tablespoon of flour to my batter, the blueberries still sunk to the bottom. But that was okay with me…this bread is very most and absolutely delicious. It is the perfect morning snack while reading, planning a new adventure, or just because I am hungry!
Cherokee Blueberry-Honey Cake *
- 1/2 c. butter, softened
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. honey
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 c. milk
- 1 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. unbleached flour
- 2 tsps. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 cup blueberries or huckleberries, fresh or frozen
Cream together the butter, sugar and honey. Beat in the eggs and the milk. Sift the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt, and add it to the mixture, combining it completely.
Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour with the berries, and gently fold them into the batter. This is to help them stay suspended in the batter…as noted, it did not work in my cake. Perhaps you will have better luck!
Pour the batter into a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!
*This recipe is adapted from a favorite cookbook of mine that I purchased at the Native American Museum in Washington, D.C. It is entitled “Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking” by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs, and was published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.