Mantle Rock

Historical Marker #1675 in Livingston County notes the natural geological formation where hundreds of Cherokees camped for two weeks waiting to cross the Ohio River on their forced removal to Indian Territory in 1839.

Cherokees traveling overland on what became known as the Trail of Tears crossed Tennessee from southeast to northwest. As they were escorted by U.S. military personnel, their journey continued into southwestern Kentucky. Traversing through Christian County and Caldwell County, the Cherokees finally arrived in Livingston County. There, they were forced to stop and camp for two weeks while the ice-charged Ohio River became safe enough to cross via ferryboat to Illinois.

Not yet halfway to their intended destination in Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), some of the Cherokees used Mantle Rock as a form of protection against the winter elements. Mantle Rock is a sandstone geological arch formation that is about forty feet high and about two hundred feet long. The rock likely served as a shelter and a landmark for earlier Native Americans hunting the Ohio River Valley long before the Cherokees passed through in 1839.

Traveling largely by foot, the winter of 1838-1839 proved especially difficult for the forced Cherokee migrants. Roads that froze and then thawed turned into ribbons of mud and made walking difficult and dangerous. The extremely cold weather caused ailing Cherokees to suffer and die. Many Cherokees who had been rounded up at their embarkation point in southeast Tennessee were not clothed or equipped for the long winter weather travel. It is estimated that about four thousand Cherokees died making the trip.

Finally across the Ohio River another wait occurred in southern Illinois while the Mississippi River cleared for safe passage. By March 1839, the surviving Cherokees made it to Indian Territory where they tried to establish homes and farms.

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