Kentucky has seven certified sites on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
Gray’s Inn (Stagecoach Inn), Guthrie, KY
Founded in 1809 by Major John Gray, a Revolutionary War veteran, Gray’s Inn was to serve as a tavern and inn at the crossroads, which served over 10 stage lines with major ones heading north to the Ohio River. By 1825 Major Gray established a system of stage lines of his own serving southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.
The present inn was completed in 1833 and was constructed of slave-made bricks. In 1837 Lieutenant B. B. Cannon led a detachment of the New Echota illegal treaty signers to Indian Territory, passing Gray’s Inn on October 31, 1837. Future detachments of emigrating Cherokees would follow Cannon’s route due to severe drought that made river travel impossible.
In 1838 the first two of the Ross detachments, headed up by Daniel Colston and Elijah Hicks respectively, reached Gray’s Inn in late October. The ailing Chief Whitepath drank from the well in the inn’s yard and rallied giving the well the title of “well of sweet water”. Over the next 6-7 weeks all 11 of the Northern (overland) Route detachments passed Gray’s Inn, with the last one, Peter Hildebrand’s group, passing on December 7, 1838.
Gray’s Inn is a private residence today, and the owner’s privacy should be respected.
Radford’s Farmhouse and Original Trail Segment, Dixie B-Line Hwy, Todd County, KY
This site was built in 1796 by Robert C. Coleman, an early attorney from Virginia, approximately one half mile from Coleman’s Bridge over the west fork of the Red River on the Nashville Road. Built of slave-made bricks, the house was originally two stories. During the Cherokee Removal of 1838-39, the Reverend Daniel S. Butrick wrote in his journal of camping on the Red River and preaching at the large dwelling house nearby. According to Butrick, this house (Radford Farmhouse) was located 12 miles from Hopkinsville. Coleman died in 1846 and is buried in a small cemetery not far from the house.
Radford Farmhouse faces an original section of the old stage coach road that became infamous as the “Trail of Tears.” This portion runs along a section of the west fork of the Red River.
Radford Farm is a privately-owned working farm. Visits should be arranged in advance, and the owner’s privacy should be respected. This is a Trail of Tears National Historic Trail certified site.
Whitepath and Fly Smith Gravesites, Trail of Tears Commemorative Park, Hopkinsville, KY
The Park was the first non-federally owned site to be certified on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Chief Whitepath was a member of the Elijah Hicks Detachment that left the first week of October 1838, with Whitepath serving as assistant conductor. By the time they reached Nashville, the Chief had become ill; upon reaching Gray’s Inn at Guthrie, Kentucky, water from the Inn’s well seemed to revive him. While camped along the south fork of the Little River outside of Hopkinsville, Whitepath died.
Fly Smith was traveling with the Old Field Detachment and became ill along the way and died after reaching Hopkinsville. Stephen Foreman, a minister serving as assistant conductor of the Old Field Detachment, and Jesse Bushyhead, a minister traveling with Whitepath, preached the funeral sermons over Chief Whitepath and Fly Smith, who are buried in the Latham Cemetery located on the Park property.
The 12½ acre park features a log cabin utilized as a heritage center, a courtyard of flags, and an information wall leading to the grave area. The emigrating Cherokees utilized the land north of the cemetery area to camp, giving them access to water from the river in several locations. That land today is currently a residential neighborhood.
Big Spring, Princeton, KY
This large, natural spring flows from a cave located in the heart of downtown Princeton. The town’s founder chose to build his home above the spring and to establish a sawmill near it. Ancient trails utilized by animals and early Indians, and later by stagecoaches and pioneers, met at the spring. They led to major rivers of the area, the Cumberland and the Ohio.
During the Cherokee removal of 1838-39, the Cherokees were originally scheduled to be removed by water on steamboats. Plans were changed in the summer of 1838 due to a severe drought that made river travel all but impossible. With thousands of people, plus a very large number of horses, wagons, and other livestock, water was of the utmost importance for survival. Eleven of the 13 Ross detachments came through Princeton on their way to the Ohio River and went by Big Spring.
Big Spring Park, a certified site, is owned by the City of Princeton and is accessible to visitors.
Mantle Rock, Livingston County, KY
Claimed by Cherokees as hunting grounds from earliest times, this area was utilized more by Chickasaws and Shawnees. No Cherokees lived here, but Mantle Rock did play a part in the infamous “Trail of Tears”. Severe winter weather caused icy conditions on the Ohio River by December 26, 1838. According to Reverend Daniel S. Butrick, a Presbyterian missionary traveling with the Taylor detachment, Peter Hildebrand’s contingent of 1766 had to camp on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River in the Mantle Rock area for about 20 days until all had crossed the river by January 14, 1839.
The large, limestone rock mantle provided a little protection for this group, which probably stretched from 3 to 5 miles in length. The crossing of Peter Hildebrand and his people marked the last of the overland detachments on the Trail of Tears. Of the 13 Ross detachments, 11 came this route.
Owned by the Nature Conservancy, this certified site seeks to protect not only the history of the Cherokee Removal with over 2.5 miles of the original trail that can be hiked, but seeks to protect the unique flora and fauna found in the woods here. Please be good stewards of this area by staying on established trails and by not littering.
Berry’s Ferry and Berry Homesite, Ohio River in Livingston County, KY
Located at the end of Highway 133 at the Ohio River, about 15 miles from Salem, the once popular ferry crossing to Golconda, Illinois, is no longer in use. It is now just a reminder of the Cherokee Removal known as the Trail of Tears. Founded in 1798 by James and Sarah Lusk, the ferry rights on the Kentucky side were purchased some years later by John Berry who owned a thousand acres of land along the Ohio River above and below the ferry site.
His large home was built of slave-made bricks and served travelers with accommodations when needed. In 1831, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky enacted a law that established a voting precinct “which shall be held at the house of John Berry, at the Ferry,” to serve the citizens of Livingston County. Berry died in December of 1839 and the ferry operations continued under various owners until 1942.
This certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail belongs to Livingston County and is open to the public.
Columbus-Belmont State Park, Benge Route, Columbus, KY
The John Benge detachment, with about 1100 Cherokee, took a route to Oklahoma by way of Tennessee through Hickman County, Kentucky and in to Missouri and Arkansas. Benge’s group arrived in Columbus, Kentucky, in mid-November 1838, and awaited transport across the Mississippi river by ferry to Belmont, Missouri. The Cherokee most likely spent several days camped around the ferry landing in the area of Columbus-Belmont State Park.
In January, 2011, The National Park Service and the Kentucky Department of Parks entered into an agreement which made Columbus-Belmont State Park a certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The National Park Service and the Kentucky Department of Parks will research ways to develop the Trail of Tears interpretation of the Benge Route. Columbus-Belmont State Park is a Civil War site that was built by the Confederate Army in 1861. The fortification was later occupied by the Federal Army until after the war ended. The State Park was established in 1934 and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The park has trails, a museum, campground and picnic shelters and spectacular views of the Mississippi river. The park is open year round.