Tag Archives: Wickliffe Mounds

Native American Footprints | Mississippi River, Kentucky

NATIVE AMERICAN FOOTPRINTS | Ky Great River Road National Scenic Byway

1100 to 1350 Native American Mississippian Mound Culture | Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site
Discover Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, 94 Green Street, Wickliffe, KY 42087, 270-335-3681, http://parks.ky.gov/findparks/histparks/wm/

Prehistory refers to a period of time in which people were living here, but did not record the events in their lives in documents that have been preserved.  It is “history without the words.” Archaeologists help us learn about these prehistoric groups by studying the objects made and used (artifacts) and the remnants of their camp sites and villages (sites).

A Native American Mississippian culture lived in west Kentucky, building chiefs’ houses and temples on earthen mounds.  There are many Mississippian town sites in Kentucky, such as the one found in Wickliffe, Kentucky. A Native American village once occupied the site of Wickliffe Mounds about A.D. 1100 to 1350. Here, people of the Mississippian culture built earthen mounds and permanent houses around a central plaza overlooking the Mississippi River. There were two large platform mounds and eight smaller mounds scattered around a central plaza. The Native American community had a thriving social hierarchy ruled by a hereditary chief.  Today, this Native American Indian archaeological site features mounds surrounded by wildlife, museum exhibits, a walking trail, a welcome center gift shop and picnic areas.

Open to the public since 1932, the museum exhibits excavated feature displays of Mississippian pottery, stone tools, artifacts and artwork, showcasing their way of life and the archaeological history of the site. Visitors have a spectacular view of the bluff area on top of the Ceremonial Mound, the largest mound on the site. Special exhibits, hands-on displays, events, demonstrations and educational programs occur at various times throughout the year.  This registered archaeological site is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Kentucky Archaeological Landmark.


1540 Explorers Europeans and French Canadians

Some historians give the Chickasaws credit for the United States being an English-speaking country. Revered in ancient times as “Spartans of the Lower Mississippi Valley”, the first contact with Europeans was with Hernando de Soto in 1540.

In the Fall of 1673, Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary, and Louis Jolliet, a French Canadian explorer, passed a small piece of Kentucky by the mouth of the Ohio on their boat trip down the Mississippi River. Later, their boat would capsize, and many of their papers were destroyed. A historical marker is placed on US51 at Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site commemorating their passage to present day Wickliffe, Kentucky.


1781 Fort Jefferson Hill | Wickliffe, KY
Discover Fort Jefferson Hill Park, Welcome Center & Memorial Cross at the Confluence, Hwy 51 South, Wickliffe, KY, 42087

Travel the Kentucky Great River Road National Scenic Byway for a spectacular view atop Fort Jefferson Hill. Find Historical Markers noting that in 1781, the Chickasaws, led by a Scotchman, Colbert, were aroused by the use of their land without consent and besieged the fort for 5 days. William Clark drew a map of the area in 1795 and included it in an 1802 report that recommended a military post at the Confluence of the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers. A magnificent and stunning 95-foot tall, freestanding Memorial Cross is situated as a monument in honor of the memory of loved ones. Observe from this site, three states while seeing the “crossroads of America’s” most amazing views of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. “Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross at The Confluence” is a site used by many for weddings, memorial services, candle light ceremonies, and the Annual Easter Sunrise Service. Open year round.


1792 Kentucky becomes 15th U.S. state

Several factors contributed to the desire of the residents of Kentucky to separate from Virginia. First, traveling to the state capital was long and dangerous. Second, offensive use of local militia against Indian raids required authorization from the governor of Virginia. Lastly, Virginia refused to recognize the importance of trade along the Mississippi River to Kentucky’s economy. It forbade trade with the Spanish colony of New Orleans, which controlled the mouth of the Mississippi, but this was important to Kentucky communities.  On June 1, 1792, Kentucky was admitted into the Union as the fifteenth state.


1818 Chickasaw | Historic Homelands, Great Removal

The Jackson Purchase, also known as the Purchase Area or simply the Purchase, is a region in the Commonwealth of Kentucky bounded by the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and Tennessee River to the east. Although officially part of Kentucky at its statehood in 1792, the land did not come under definitive U.S. control until 1818, when Andrew Jackson purchased it from the Chickasaw Indians.

Historically, this region has been considered the most “Southern” of Kentucky. Living in sophisticated town sites, the Chickasaws possessed a highly developed ruling system complete with laws and religion. They conducted a successful trade business with other tribes and with the French and English, and lived largely an agrarian lifestyle, but were quick to go to battle if necessary. They allied with the English during the French and Indian War. Some historians give the Chickasaws credit for the United States being an English-speaking country. The Chickasaw people moved to Indian Territory during the “Great Removal”. Many Chickasaw now live in Oklahoma. The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma is the 13th largest federally recognized tribe in the United States.

In 1818, leaders of the Chickasaw signed a treaty ceding all claims to land known today as the “Jackson Purchase” region of west Kentucky.  The land was ceded after prolonged negotiations in which the U.S. was represented by Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby, while the Chickasaws were represented by their chiefs, head men and warriors including Levi and George Colbert, Chinubby (also known as the Boy King), and Tishomingo.

On October 19, 1818, the two sides agreed to the transfer by signing a treaty (the Treaty of Tuscaloosa). The U.S. agreed to pay the Chickasaws $300,000, at the rate of $20,000 annually for 15 years, in return for the right to all Chickasaw land east of the Mississippi River and north of the Mississippi state line. The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate and confirmed by President James Monroe on January 7, 1819. The Chickasaw people moved to Indian Territory during the “Great Removal,” years prior to the walk of the “Trail of Tears.”  Other tribes forced to relocate were the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.  The Chickasaws were one of the last to move.


1838 – Cherokee | Trail of Tears | Columbus-Belmont State Park
Discover Columbus-Belmont State Park, 350 Park Road, Columbus, KY 42032, 270-677-2327, parks.ky.gov/findparks/recparks/cb

Discover Kentucky TOTA Chapter, Alice Murphree, 2380 Edwards Mill Rd Hopkinsville KY 42240, amurphree1139@bellsouth.net, www.nationaltota.org

Discover National Park Service, Trail of Tears, Benge Route, www.nps.gov/trte/

View wayshowing exhibits at Columbus-Belmont State Park at the NPS designated land & water route of Kentucky’s Trail of Trails Benge Route.  This is a story of racial injustice, intolerance, and suffering, but is also a story of survival.

The Trail of Tears Benge Route is named for John Benge who led a detachment of approximately 1,100 Cherokee with 60 wagons and 600 horses on a route to Oklahoma by way of Tennessee through Hickman County, Kentucky, and into Missouri and Arkansas. The group arrived in Columbus, Kentucky, in mid-November 1838, and awaited transport across the Mississippi river by ferry to Belmont, Missouri. The Cherokee most likely spent several days camped around the ferry landing in the area of Columbus-Belmont State Park. The Benge Detachment is the only detachment out of the 13 that went overland that came through Hickman County, Kentucky. The Benge detachment was 10 days in crossing the Mississippi River at Columbus “Iron Banks”.
In 1838, the United States government forcibly removed the Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia, and sent them to Indian Territory (today known as Oklahoma). The impact to the Cherokee was devastating. Hundreds of Cherokee died during their trip west, and thousands more perished from the consequences of relocation. This tragic chapter in American and Cherokee history became known as the Trail of Tears, and culminated the implementation of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which mandated the removal of most American Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River to lands in the West.

Of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) have headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The UKB are mostly descendants of “Old Settlers,” Cherokee who migrated to Arkansas and Oklahoma about 1817. They are related to the Cherokee who were forcibly relocated there in the 1830s under the Indian Removal Act. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is on the Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina, and are descendants of those who resisted or avoided relocation. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Cherokee Nation has more than 314,000 members, the largest of the 566 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.

The Great Removal, the Indian Removal Act, was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this forced march, which became known as the “Trail of Tears.”


1861 Civil War | Columbus, Kentucky

Kentucky was considered a border state during the American Civil War. The state was officially neutral until a new legislature took office on August 5, 1861 with strong Union sympathies.  On September 4, 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk broke Kentucky’s neutrality by invading Columbus, Kentucky.

On the Kentucky shores of the Mississippi River is a 160-acre site of the “Gibraltar of the West”, showcasing the history of the major American Civil War Battle of Belmont.  The Confederate Fort of Columbus was a significant strategic site for both North and South in gaining and keeping control of the Mississippi River. Take the interpretive trail through some of the most intricate hand built trench systems. Some trenches are more than 20 feet deep and kept the Union troops from attacking by land. View the massive chain and anchor the South stretched across the Mississippi to Belmont, Missouri, to block the passage of Union gunboats and supply vessels, and the “Lady Polk”, a giant experimental cannon named for Polk’s wife. At 10 feet long and 15,000 pounds, the imposing gun, with 128-pound conical projectiles, could fire up to three miles. Ulysses S. Grant was the Union General who forced the evacuation of the Confederates in 1862. This fortification was the site of the 1861 Battle of Belmont, a raid fought to test the strength of the Confederate stronghold.

Today facilities include 38 campsites with utility hookups, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, 4 picnic shelters, playground, hiking trails, activity center, meeting rooms, dance floor, stage, banquet facilities, kitchen, miniature golf course, historic sites, museum, snack bar, gift shop, and interpretive displays are all available.



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