Etowah Historical Society to unveil Trail of Tears memorial

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According to Etowah Historical Society President Danny Crownover, there will be a special free opening of Alabama’s first Trail of Tears Memorial on Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at 2829 West Meighan Blvd. (U.S. 431) in Gadsden. 

The memorial will be opened 176 years to the week that the Cherokees of Northeast Alabama were forced to leave for Oklahoma. An Indian exhibit will be on display and the National Park Service has provided a 22-minute Trail of Tears video.

The memorial is the first for Alabama and is one of the largest in the Southeast.

Also, real Cherokee Indian crafts will be available for sale in the society’s coffee and souvenir shop

For the memorial, the society received state funding for the 30 panels. Parts of the exhibit were donated from the City of Gadsden, material dealers, Gadsden Area Tourism and many individuals.

The Alabama Trail of Tears Memorial was constructed like a trail itself where one walks along an imaginary trail to learn about the Cherokees hardships. The 30 metal wayside explanatory panels were designed by Danny Crownover and members of the Etowah Historical Society.

The memorial is located inside a courtyard next to the Etowah Historical Society. Drawings depict the Southeast Native Americans way of life and how they lived.

Crownover, who serves on the board of the Alabama Trail of Tears Association, noted that one of the reasons he created the memorial through the Etowah Historical Society was because of his Cherokee heritage through the Chickamauga Indians on his father’s side. Crownover is descended from one of Major Vann’s daughter on his mother’s side.

Local Civil War heroine Emma Sansom was half-Cherokee. Her mother was Lemila Vann, a full-blooded Cherokee and niece of Major Vann.

Crownover’s Cherokee family never went on the Trail of Tears but chose to become U.S. citizens and hide in the Sweeten Cove/Battle Creek area of Tennessee. It was by fate that some of them probably saw the Cherokees being forced to go west on the Bell route.

Crownover credits the late anthropologist Gail King and her husband Marty for getting him interested and involved in this endeavor.

Crownover believes that the National Park Service as part of its National Historic Trail System eventually will certify the memorial. Certification has already been extended to small Trail of Tears sites in Alabama located in Fort Payne, Waterloo and Tuscumbia.

The Trail of Tears Memorial not only involves the Cherokee but also includes the Muscogees (Creek) Tribe. The memorial also speaks for the Chickasaws, Seminoles and the Choctaws, who had similar Trail of Tears.

At least four Creek Trail of Tears, including the one that Cherokee, came through Etowah County on their way out west, making for a total of five Trail Of Tears sites in the county.

For more information on the Trail of Tears, visit nationaltota.org. 

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