TC&D Original Railroad Depot

"Many of them could be seen examining, with their peculiar inquisitive silence and gravity, this great enigma to them, while others, apparently uninterested and thoughtless, amused themselves with an old fiddle or sat motionless, gazing at those around. But a lively spirit seemed to animate the balance, with the exception of a few small children, who, though unable to speak a work of our language, as a bystander facetiously observed, ‘cried in very good English."

After spending the night in the federal warehouses, the Native Americans being removed would be marched from Market Street to the Depot on Railroad Avenue where they would be loaded onto open train cars that carried them to Tuscumbia. The most detailed account is of the Ridge Party who claimed to be part of the “voluntary” removal, but many of the pro-treaty Cherokee in the party still wept upon leaving their homeland behind. 

A Local newspaper write-up corroborates the missionary and the atmosphere of the silent exchange between the Cherokee being removed and the citizens of Decatur that had come to see the spectacle

"It is mournful to see how reluctantly these people go away, even the stoutest hearts melt into tears when they turn their faces towards the setting sun – & I am sure that this land will be bedewed with a Nation’s tears – if not with their blood…. Major Ridge is…. said to be in a declining state, & it is doubted whether he will reach Arkansas."

It was in this sad disposition that half of the Ridge party left on the morning of March 8th, with the rest following on March 9th -10th. Two more parties of Cherokee were forcibly removed after refusing the terms of the Treaty of New Echota. The events of their journey through Decatur were not detailed by an eyewitness like the Ridge Party, but reveal the process by which the Trail of Tears occurred in Decatur. Of the two parties that were forced to stay overnight, both were kept in the federal warehouses next door to the depot, and then escorted onto open train cars for the trip to Tuscumbia the following day.


The removal of the Cherokee by way of Decatur was a clash of firsts and lasts. Many would never have seen a train before, but all would never return to their homeland. The behavior as noted by the newspaperman reveals that the captives aboard the train were terrified, desensitized, or anxious for whatever came at the end of the line