Trail of Tears Richland Creek Overlook
The Bell and Benge Detachments Passed by Here.
Two Cherokee Detachments traveling on the Trail of Tears crossed Richland Creek in Pulaski just two weeks apart in the autumn of 1838. John Benge led one group of nearly 1100 Cherokee with 60 wagons and 600 horses through Pulaski, possibly on October 20-23 during their trek from Ft. Payne, Alabama to Indian Territory. Following what today is U.S. Highway 31 from Ardmore, north to Elkton, they followed either the Old Stage Road or the new Elkton-Pulaski Turnpike, which opened in the fall of 1838, onto what is now U.S. Highway 31 into Pulaski. Turning to the west, the detachment possibly crossed Richland Creek at Mill Street and continued west on Vales Mill Road. The Benge detachment turned north at Mt. Moriah Road. They then traveled alongside Dry Creek on Dry Creek Road. Continuing northward, they went through Campbellsville and up the valley of Brownlow Creek to Elk Ridge, where they entered Maury County. They then followed a northwestern trek through Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas. This detachment possibly disbanded on January 17, 1839 near the Woodhall Farm west of the Arkansas state line.
A few weeks later from October 31-November 5, 1838, a second detachment of 650-700 Cherokee with 56 wagons and 318 horses traveled through Giles County and Pulaski. Led by Conductor John Bell, the Bell Detachment began their journey west at the main Cherokee Agency on October 11th. They arrived in Pulaski via Jefferson Street (State Highway 15) on November 3rd. Here the detachment crossed Richland Creek at what is now Mill Street. Coming out of Pulaski, the Bell detachment followed a route for approximately 6 miles that the Benge detachment had taken just two weeks earlier. Heading west on Vales Mill Road, the detachment traveled west on the main roads, now U.S. Highway 64 to Lawrenceburg, crossing the Tennessee River at Savannah, and continuing west to Memphis, crossing the Mississippi River into Arkansas in late November. The detachment traveled west and northwest to Little Rock to the Vineyard Post Office (now Evansville), on the border of the Indian Territory where the Bell detachment was disbanded on January 7, 1839. The military escort disbanded the Bell detachment in Arkansas to avoid any encounters with the anti-treaty Cherokee detachments in the Indian Territory.