The early 19th century marked a change in the American landscape, most notably that the population was booming and more and more settlers wanted to expand West. To fulfill this desire of ‘manifest destiny,’ President Andrew Jackson signed a bill known as the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which required Cherokees and other indigenous nations who lived east of the Mississippi River to move to Oklahoma.
This further destroyed the United States’ relationship with Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee, as the act broke many promises about relocation that had been made to the Cherokee nation. Additionally, Indian Territory was established as an official Indian reservation in present day Oklahoma, which promised to be the last time that the indigenous nations would be forced to leave their homes in order to make way for white settlers.
While the act was passed in 1830, there were several years of delays in Congress, particularly thanks to Cherokee Chief John Ross’s lobbying efforts. Unfortunately, the attempts to revoke the act failed and, in 1838, the American government finally enforced the removal of the Cherokee. Some Cherokee in the area had already moved West, anticipating the violence and chaos that would ensue during a forced march. However, around 16,000 still remained in the area by the time of the removal, and these Cherokee members were rounded up and required to walk an 800 mile journey to Oklahoma.
There were a few different routes the Cherokee took to get to Oklahoma. Some sailed up rivers, while others branched across different land paths. One of these paths, known as the Northern Route, crossed Bollinger County and particularly through Marble Hill. Records written by US Army overseers indicate the group passed by Bollinger Mill.
The march started in the winter season; Congress showed no mercy for the people they saw as thorns in their sides. As a result of these cold conditions, around 4,000 Cherokee perished on the journey, which constituted approximately one-fifth of the total Cherokee population.
While Marble Hill does not have any particular memorials to commemorate the Cherokees who passed through, about 30 miles West, along the banks of the Mississippi, lies Trail of Tears State Park. Visitors can walk through the park and see the many memorials there that honor the Cherokee and the lives that were lost because of Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act. Remembering this challenging period in American history might not evoke a sense of patriotism, but acknowledging the injustice and honoring the victims is a good start in understanding the complexities of American history.