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Pope County, Illinois, First to Sign Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail

National Park News

On Wednesday September 22, at 1:00 on Hwy 146 and Homburg Rd, The National Park Service, Illinois Department of Transportation, The Trail of Tears Association, Pope County, and invited dignitaries from the Cherokee Nation along with elected local, state and federal officials, will celebrate a sign unveiling event that will begin to change the forgotten and obscure history of the Trail of Tears. The event, which the public is invited to attend, along with participants here from the national Trail of Tears annual conference that will also be in attendance, will mark new signing efforts to identify the original historic roads of the Trail of Tears and allow the public to find and follow the actual route of the Trail of Tears.


Although many of the original roads of the Trail of Tears have disappeared, there are many places like the historic road in Pope County that have survived, allowing us to retrace and remember this sad event in our nation’s history. The approximately 8.5 miles of historic road in Pope County is a prototype of ongoing efforts across the entire length of the trail to sign the roads that are the surviving original historic route of the Trail of Tears, by the National Park Service and its partners who support the national historic trail.


“Marking this eight and a half mile stretch of original route of the Trail of Tears gives the American public an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Cherokee who travelled this stretch of road during their tragic removal in the 1830s, and helps all Americans to confront and understand a period of our history that many of us perhaps have tried to forget,” stated Aaron Mahr, Superintendent of the National Park Service National Trails Office that administers the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.


The National Park Service and partners including Pope County, Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Trail of Tears Association, a nonprofit organization that supports the national historic trail, have worked to install these signs that will at once bring visibility to the Trail of Tears and allow the public to visit this historic route. Similar efforts are ongoing across the length of the trail from Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina to its end in Oklahoma. For the most part these historic roads that were used for removal in 1838, and that still exist today, have kept their secret even for those who live near them.   For the Cherokee traveling this road in the brutal winter of 1838, this was one of the most difficult parts of their ordeal as they became stuck between the frozen Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the harshest of conditions. With the installation of these signs, the first 8.5 miles of this dark chapter of our history will start to become visible and recognizable as the Trail of Tears.


Invited guests include, Congressional Representative Brandon Phelps, Cherokee Nation Principle Chief Chad Smith, Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Troy Poteete, Cherokee Nation Councilman and President of the Trail of Tears Association Jack Baker, State Senator Gary Forby, Illinois Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary David Phelps, Pope County Commissioner Larry Richards, Golconda Mayor Bill Altman, and National Park Service National Trails Intermountain Region Superintendent Aaron Mahr.


Sign unveiling Ceremonies will begin on Wednesday September 22 at 1:00 approximately 3 miles west of Golconda on Illinois route 146 at Homberg Road. Following the sign unveiling will be a solemn retracement of the Trail of Tears along the historic road.


For further information on the September 22 activities, contact Sandy Boaz President of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association at 618 833-8216 or Joe Crabb at 618 949-3355.





For information about the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, contact the National Park Service at (505) 988-6888 or visit the Web site at


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