Short Cut to Indian Territory 1832-1838
—Trail of Tears Through Arkansas —
In 1807, citizens of Crystal Hill built a road to connect Cadron and Arkansas Post. From Cadron the road was built almost due east and continued until they reached the Wattensaw. At the Wattensaw swamps they found an Indian path that led south to Arkansas Post. This road was the first road built in what would become Arkansas.
In 1826 James Erwin bought land located along the Cadron/Arkansas Post road. By 1828, the community of Oakland Grove was established in the vicinity of Erwin's land. By 1861, the community was known as Austin.
In 1831, Choctaw removal began across Arkansas Territory. By 1832, the Arkansas officials were looking for a better plan of removal. They decided to work on the Cadron/Arkansas Post road and bring Choctaws heading to Fort Smith across this cut off. Bringing the Choctaws this route would cut off 40 miles of the journey and keep these parties out of the Little Rock area.
James Erwin became a contractor for food rations, his land a rations stand and a camping place for parties traveling the road. During 1832 and 1833, about 2,100 Choctaws traveled this route including Chief Moshulatubbe.
By 1836, Muscogee (Creeks) removal started and Erwin hired out his wagons and teams, provided rations for the people and the animals, and provided blacksmith services. The Muscogee
parties using this route started arriving the summer of 1836. By the time the last group passed Erwin's Stand in the winter of 1837-1838, about 10,000 Muscogees had traveled this route. Many camped in the area.
Captain Francis Belton describing the conditions his party faced:
"September 11, 1836. Halt at Erwins. During the passage of the prairie it has with the exception of two days of scorching sun, rained almost all day and night. The situation of the Indians is deplorable. The sick exceed fifty and death occasionally carries off the weakest. The very elements are against us. The wagons are small miserable old vehicles with poor teams and harness but better cannot be done. The
banks of the water courses are quagmires, steep and rocky the road mere cutouts without draining or causeways."
Three Important Indian Leaders That Camped With Their Tribal Groups
Near Where You Are Standing
Moshulatubbe became Chief of the Northern District of the Choctaw Nation in 1809.
He gained his warrior status by exploits against the Osage. He served with Andrew
Jackson against the Muscogees in 1813-1814. He did not like the missionaries influence in Mississippi and decided to remove to the part of Indian Territory west of Fort Smith. He and his group were at Erwin's Stand, November 1832 on their way west.
Prisoner of War
Neomathia was a Muscogee leader that resisted removal. He and other "hostiles" were captured in the summer of 1836 in Alabama. The men and boys, including Neomathia who was about eighty, were handcuffed, chained and marched double-
file ninety miles to Montgomery. From there they were placed on Steamboats and transported to Rock Roe, Arkansas Territory At this point they started overland and reached Erwin's Stand August 12, 1836.
Opothle Yahola was a leader of the Upper Creek faction of the Muscogee Nation. His faction was termed the "friendly" Creeks as they had helped put down and capture the "hostiles." Opothle Yahola's government-led group reached Erwin's Stand on November 6, 1836. While camped at Erwin's stand, Opothle Yahola sent a letter to Governor James S. Conway requesting permission to camp in Arkansas until his party and the Muscogee factions already in Indian Territory could meet at council. Conway refused but offered troops to facilitate a meeting at Fort Gibson.