Federal Warehouses

Situated near the Decatur Depot were warehouses that were used predominantly to store cotton and other bulk goods that arrived or left by either the railroad or steamboat. These structures were roughly 150 ft. by 100 ft, and built by the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad. Decatur lacked proper accommodations for the large parties of Cherokee that passed through and were forced to utilize the warehouses as temporary shelters to house two of the three parties. 

The Ridge Party arrived in Decatur in the afternoon of March 7th, but were unable to start moving the Ridge party to Tuscumbia by train until the following morning. In a diary entry for March 8th, Dr. Lillybridge reveals that after the first train departed with a portion of the Ridge Party, conditions worsened, and the remainder of the party was forced to return to the warehouses and remain in Decatur. 

"From 3 o’clock  til Sun Set the Indians continued setting upon the open Carrs, waiting the arrival of the Locomotive, the weather having become very cold , their condition was quite uncomfortable at length the order was given that the train would not start til morning. The Indians were immediately and anxiously engaged in selecting their bedding for the night."

-Dr. Lillybridge

Upon realizing that they would not be able to move to Tuscumbia until the following day, the members of the Ridge party returned to the Warehouses, and attempted to make themselves comfortable for the night, but no comfort was found. Lillybridge details the conditions that the party endured for the night: 

"no one had made it his business to aid and direct the Indians, where they could lie for the night. It appears that no order or direction had been given in this particular, except that they would lodge in the Ware house…the Indians were afraid to lie down for fear of being run over. No lights were furnished them, and they were grouping in the dark in a pitiful manner. The Physician [Lillybridge], at this time, took the responsibility upon himself, to request the R.R. Agent, to furnish lights, which was forthwith done. He also went round and directed where Indians could make their beds."

-Dr. Lillybridge

A lack of comfort was an understatement for the Ridge party’s stay in the Federal warehouses, and many within the party suffered because of the conditions they were subjected to. For instance, Dr. Lillybridge states, “A number of cases of colds, from the exposure of the last 48 hours, but the Carrs, being about to start at an early hour, the physician thought it more advisable to see that all had a good warm cup of Coffee than to resort to medicine & to see that those complaining were in a comfortable condition for transportation.”

His concern for their well-being was overshadowed by the necessity of their ability to be moved as quickly and efficiently as possible. The next day, Lillybridge left with the first train departing Decatur, but, while traveling, it was reported that some who were left behind were sick.


According to his journal, Lillybridge left the group on the train, and used a mail car to reurn to Decatur in order to care for the infirm. Dr. Lillybridge would stay overnight with the final part of the party left in Decatur, and depart on the morning of the 10th, and his journal entry for March 10th reports that they arrived in Tuscumbia that night to find all of the party well again.

Lieutenant Deas, who traveled through Decatur during the summer of 1838, kept no record of the experience with his party in the federal warehouses during their overnight stay, and Lieutenant Whiteley was not required to house his party overnight.