A DRAWING of a $20 bill with Sam Houston in place of Andrew Jackson, published in the Oct. 6 Dallas Morning News, caught my attention. The fictional bill illustrated a column by Teacher Voices volunteer writer, EdWisneski.
An 8th-grade student had asked him why Jackson’s image was on the bill “when he did such horrible things to the Cherokees.”
As the history teacher had told his class, the “Trail of Tears” was the name given to the forcible removal of 16,000 Cherokee Indians from the southeastern U. S. to the Indian Territory in 1838, long before it became Oklahoma.
Wisneski quoted Andrew Jackson as writing of the Cherokees: “Established in the midst of a superior race, they must disappear.”
SINCE I have lived in four different Gilmer houses within a few blocks of what we know as the Cherokee Trace, I was inspired to renew my memory of how the Trace got its name.
In short, it was the route that Texas Cherokees, then living south of here in what is now Rusk County, were driven into Indian Territory as a little known part of the Trail of Tears.
Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that In 1807 an early band of Cherokees, most likely migrating south from the Arkansas area of the Louisiana Territory, founded a village along the Red River. That same year, an inter-tribal delegation, including Cherokees, petitioned the Spanish officials at Nacogdoches for permission to settle there, which was granted.
Cherokee immigration into Texas increased between 1812 and 1819. The Republic of Texas, following Sam Houston’s recommendations, established a reservation for Cherokees, but the Treaty of 1836 was never formally ratified. (Houston had lived with the Cherokees for six years, adopted their citizenship and married a Cherokee woman.)
THE CHIEF known as The Bowl led many Cherokee families into Texas in 1820.
They settled near present-day Dallas but were forced by local tribes to move south into what is now Rusk County. By 1822, an estimated 800 Cherokees lived in Texas.
When Mexico took Texas over from Spain, Cherokees petitioned the Mexican authorities for formal land grants but were denied.
In 1830, an estimated 800 Cherokees lived in three to seven settlements in Texas. When the Texas Revolution came, Cherokees tried to remain neutral.
While Sam Houston, himself adopted into the tribe, sought an alliance with Cherokees while he served as president of the Texas republic, his successor, Mirabeau Lamar forcibly removed the Cherokees from their Texas lands in the Cherokee War of 1839.
ALMOST 600 Cherokees, mostly women and children, led by Chief Bowl, fought the Texans, were defeated and the Bowl was killed in the battle. Most of the remaining Texas Cherokees were driven north into Indian Territory. As president of Texas Houston negotiated peace treaties with the remaining Texas Cherokees in 1843 and 1845.
In 1836, when the Mexican general Santa Anna split his forces in April, Houston had ordered the attack at San Jacinto that gained Texas its independence.
Sam Houston has always been my favorite Texas hero, deserving of the humongous 67-foot tall stone statue that stands outside of Huntsville. And his last residence, the Steamboat House in Huntsville, has been turned into a museum that is well worth a visit from anyone interested in Texas history.
It’s not likely that anyone in the future will pack as much into 70 years as old Sam: governor of two states; president twice of a republic, Texas, and commander of its armies, and U. S. senator for 13 years.
And so much more.