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Water Route to Indian Territory

This was a remote stretch of the Mississippi River when steamboats of Cherokee passed by on their way west to Indian Territory on the water route of the Trail of Tears. River traffic in 1838 was limited to the daylight hours because of snags and shifts in the river. It is probable that one or more of the steamboats stopped at New Madrid because there were not many places to acquire supplies, including food for the travelers as well as wood and water for the steam engines.
Local pilots were often hired to take boats through nearby stretches of the river. Physicians who lived here may have tended to Cherokee sick from exhaustion and the close quarters onboard ship. At the time, the town of New Madrid had only 317 residents, 159 of whom were enslaved.
The unreliability of navigable rivers, safety concerns, and severe health threats meant that only a minority of Cherokee traveled by river rather than over land.
Steamboats pulling long flatboats and keelboats were common and part of a bustling scene on the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers in the 1830s.

The steamer Warren brought news...of the loss of the steam-boat Monmouth, and the death of at least one-half of her infamously crowded passengers. This fatal, and most appalling, accident arose from a collision between these two boats; but from the best intelligence we can procure, the blame rests upon the Monmouth. ...Six hundred [Creek] were jammed into this boat... and three hundred have perished."
Arkansas Gazette, November 28, 1837

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