At the beginning of the settlement of the territory now embraced in this county, it was occupied by roving bands of the Osage and Delaware tribes of Indians, though it was not then and had not been the permanent location of these tribes. While the tribes were at enmity with each other, they were at peace with the whites, and friendly to the early settlers.
Removal of Cherokee Indians
The Indians were not numerous here, and did not remain long after the settlement by the whites began. In 1837 the removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia to the Indian Territory began. There were several thousand of them, and before the removal took place they were divided into two parties, under the respective leadership of two chiefs, named John Ross and John Ridge. They were accordingly designated as the “Ross Party” and the “Ridge Party.” In treating for their removal, the Government recognized the Ridge Party, whereupon Ross and his party claimed that Ridge and his party had no authority to enter the treaty, and at first refused to be removed. But upon further negotiations Ross entered into a contract with Gen. Scott to remove his party, by which it cost the Government about $54 per head for their removal. In making the removal the Cherokees were divided into several detachments of about 1,000 each, and each detachment was properly officered with white men. A military escort and provisions were furnished by the Government.
They started on their journey in the fall of 1837, but, like Moses in the wilderness, they lingered by the way, and did not reach their “promised land” until the spring of 1838. They congregated at and started from Calhoun, on the Hiwassee River, in McMinn Co., Tennessee. The detachments started at different times, and one of them, belonging to the Ridge party, traveled westward, and crossed the Mississippi at Memphis. The others came by way of Nashville, Tennessee, crossed the Ohio River at Golconda, and the Mississippi at Green’s Ferry, thence westward, passing through Benton County to their destination, some of them passing directly through Bentonville.
Judge A. B. Greenwood, now of Bentonville, then a young man, was appointed commissary for one of the detachments, and came with it as far as Nashville, then resigned, and returned to Georgia for his family, and moved directly to Bentonville, where he has ever since resided. He was here to witness the passing of the Indians on their way to the Territory.
For a number of years following the Indians would come out of the Territory and establish camps in Benton County from which to hunt game. Being unmolested they became bold and a little treacherous, and did not at all times confine themselves to the capture of wild game, but began to appropriate the hogs which the settlers had turned out to feed upon the mast. Being discovered in their thefts they were finally ordered by the citizens to retire from the county, and not return again for the purpose of hunting. The order was obeyed, and no further trouble was had. On one occasion, in 1840, a band of Indians encamped on Flint Creek, about a mile above the present site of Springtown. After committing some thefts a body of armed citizens met to drive them out, peaceably or otherwise. W. W. Burgess, now of Springtown, was in this party, and on their way he killed a deer, near the site of Springtown, and threw it into the big spring there to keep it cool until their return. Arriving near the Indian camp the citizens notified them to leave instanter, which they did, and thus all further trouble on that occasion was avoided. Aside from killing a few hogs and committing some petty thefts the early settlers of Benton County were not molested by the Indians.
Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History
Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.