The Trail of Tears: the Benge Route
Benge Route is named for the conductor of the detachment, John Benge. This was the only group to follow this route. This detachment of about 1200 Cherokee departed Ft Payne, Alabama, October 1, 1838, and disbanded in Indian Territory, January 11 1839.
Assistant Conductor: Lowery, George C.
Physician: Rowles, William P.
Interpreter: Lowery, A.P.
Commissary: Rogers. James H.
Assistant Commissary: Lovett, George W.
Manager: Boot, John F.
Assistant Managers: Campbell, Archibald; Lovett, Jesse; Money, Cryer
Wagon Master: Benge, Robert
Assistant Wagon Master: Campbell, George W.
Subcontractor (for Lewis Ross): Colborn, J.L., Col
Actual numbers are difficult to obtain. The number of Cherokee departing with the Benge Detachment varies according to various sources of information available and range between 1079 to 1200. The other information is fairly consistent with 1132 arriving in Indian Territory, 33 deaths and 3 births. Some of the other detachments have a category for "desertions"; however, there is no listing for deserters in the Benge records. When all is summed up, this detachment had one of the lowest attrition rates.
After departing Ft. Payne, Alabama, they would have continued to Gunter's Landing and made their first crossing of the Tennessee River. They would be traveling south and west of the route taken by the detachments using what is designated "The Northern Land Route." Their second crossing of the Tennessee River, using the Comprehensive Management and Use Plan-Map supplement of the National Park Service as a guide, was at Reynolds Ferry and through what is today the Nathan Bedford Forrest Memorial State Park. They then continued through Paris, Tennessee and Clinton, Kentucky. They then continued to what is today Columbus-Belmont State Park where they crossed the Mississippi River.
After crossing into Missouri they traveled in a northwesterly direction to just south of Cape Girardeau where they turned in a westerly direction until they intersected the "Old Spanish Road" sometimes called "The Old Southwest Trail." This route was marked by the Spanish from St. Louis to Texas in the early 1800s. They followed this road south to the Current River where they crossed into Arkansas at a place today called "Indian Ford."
In Arkansas they crossed the Fouche Dumas river at Columbia Crossing, the Eleven Point River at Blacks Ferry and the Spring River at Miller's Ford. The Arkansas Gazette tells of them camping at Smithville in Lawrence County, December 12 and being in Batesville (Poke Bayou) for Wagon repairs, December 15, 1838.
Here they intersected "The Jacksonport Road." President Jackson had secured funding in 1831-32 to extend this road from Jacksonport on the White River to Van Buren "to remove Indians to the west." They would follow this road to Fayetteville where they would turn due west into Indian Territory. The writings of W.B. Flippin, who as a teenager observed their passage, document their crossing of the White River just upstream from the present day town of Cotter.
When using a 10 mile corridor (the Long Distance Trails Office uses a 20 mile corridor), better than 60% of the route of the Benge Detachment across North Arkansas can be documented. This documentation of the Benge detachment in Arkansas is supported with property deeds, newspaper accounts, land surveys from the state land office, visible depressions of the old roads identified by the state land surveys, private journals of eyewitnesses, and oral history.
Records of much of the research on the Benge Route in Arkansas can be found in the Baxter County Museum in Gassville, Arkansas.
Information on this page was provided courtesy of Bill Woodiel, past Vice-President of the Arkansas Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association and a former member of the Board of Directors for the National Trail of Tears Association.
Review Bill Woodiel's comments explaining what brought about the Cherokee Removal.
Read his description of each of the four major routes:
4. Benge [this page]
For additional maps and information: http://rosecity.net/tears/trail/map.html
> > E-mail Bill Woodiel at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to "Early American Roads and Trails"