On October 26, 2013, I attended the Brown’s Ferry Federal Road Dedication at the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This wasn’t just any dedication but rather a dedication of what once was a public road crossing Moccasin Bend, a road which headed west towards Brown’s Ferry and the Tennessee River. When it was established early in the 19th century, it’s primary purpose was for the transportation of individuals and trade goods being moved from the east to the west and vice versa. For decades, it was used in this fashion. Unfortunately, this road that was designed to bring prosperity to the people in the surrounding land was destined to bring hardship and heartache to a people and a nation. In 1838, over 2,000 members of the Cherokee Nation, enslaved Africans, and others were ripped from their homes, many at the point of the bayonet, and were forced west along this very road, taking what little physical possessions they could muster to carry. One of my grandmothers, a Cherokee Indian, was one of them.
In 1820, it was surveyed as part of John Brown’s 640 acre reservation, a road that led to his home and his ferry beyond. It was a road that led to his prosperity and the prosperity of others in and around Ross’ Landing. Less than two decades later, this road became part of a trail, a trail flooded with the tears of those forced to leave everything behind and move to an unfamiliar land. This road corridor has a lot of history and ultimately became known as The Trail of Tears.
As ominous and dire a situation as the removal became for all those involved, this was not to be the end of a people. Even as removal took place 175 years ago, this road was not the end; it was not the final chapter. The dedication of this road is not about an ominous road but about who the people who traveled it were and who we are as a result of the suffering of those who travelled this road. This road is a connection to our ancestors, to those who suffered there, to those who suffered in the mountains and in countryside eluding the forced removal, to those who sat by and watched as it occurred around them. This site is significant to our national story – the story of who WE ARE as a people and as a country. That is why this place deserves to be preserved and protected in perpetuity.