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The Trail of Tears: the Northern Land Route

Most of the Cherokees leaving Georgia followed what is today called the Northern Land Route from Southeastern Tennessee across the mountains, through Nashville and Hopkinsville, Kentucky. They would cross the Ohio River near Galconda, Illinois, and continue across Southern Illinois to the ice-swollen Mississippi. After crossing the Mississippi, they would go northwest to Rolla before turning to the southwest to Springfield and enter northwest Arkansas. After crossing Benton and Washington Counties in Arkansas, they would disband in northwest Indian Territory.

The first group departed with Hair Conrad as the conductor on August 23, 1838, and arrived in Indian Territory January 17, 1839. The other ten detachments to follow the Northern Land Route departed at intervals with the last departure October 23. The size of the groups varied from the 729 of the Hair Conrad detachment to the 1766 of the Peter Hildebrand detachment.

The groups did not follow the exact footsteps of the preceding group; they did usually stay in a fairly narrow corridor except for the Hildebrand detachment in Central Missouri. Recent research indicates the possibility of much greater deviation than previously thought, especially after they reached Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas.

In all, some 11,949 departed on the Northern Land Route with 10,471 (including births) arriving in Indian Territory .


Northern Land Route of the Trail of Tears


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:
1. Northern [this page]
2. Water
3. Bell
4. Benge
For additional maps and information:
> > E-mail Bill Woodiel at:

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Copyright ©2002-2004, by Beverly Whitaker, MA