Last Cherokee survivor of Trail of Tears to be honored on June 8
Editor’s note: This story corrects a previous story that stated the Ketcher family was moved to Indian Territory during the forced removals by boat. The family walked to I.T.
A plaque like the one shown in this photo will be placed on the gravestone of the last survivor of the Trail of Tears, Rebecca Neugin, who lived in the Lost City Community. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
LOST CITY – The Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will honor the last Cherokee survivor of the Trail of Tears during a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. on June 8 in the Neugin Cemetery in the community of Lost City. This community is located in western Cherokee County near Hulbert.
A metal plaque will be placed on her gravestone that reads: “In honor of one who endured the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838-39. The Trail of Tears Association Oklahoma Chapter.” The plaque also includes the TOTA and Cherokee Nation seals.
The public is invited to attend the marking ceremony to help honor Neugin. The directions to the Neugin Cemetery are as follows: from Lost City go west on 710 road two miles; then turn right (north) on 400 Road for one mile; then turn left (west) on 700 road for 4/10 mile. The cemetery is on the south (left) and sits off the road. There should be plenty of parking inside the gate.
In May of 1838, the family of Tickaneeski and Sallie Ketcher, including their three-year-old daughter Rebecca were rounded up in Georgia by soldiers and marched to a camp in Tennessee where they stayed until they left with the Mose Daniel/George Still detachment in September.
Rebecca was married twice, first to John Smith and later to Bark Neugin. She lived in the Lost City community and had seven children survive to adulthood. She died at her home on July 15, 1932. Her approximate age was 97.
She provided testimony about what she witnessed during her family’s removal.
“When the soldiers came to our house my father wanted to fight, but my mother told him the soldiers would kill him if he did and we surrendered without a fight. They drove us out of our house to join other prisoners in a stockade.
After they took us away, my mother begged them to let her go back and get some bedding. So, they let her go back and she brought what bedding and a few cooking utensils she could carry and had to leave behind all of our other household possessions.
My father had a wagon pulled by two spans of oxen to haul us in. Eight of my brothers and sisters and two or three widow women and children rode with us. My brother Dick, who was a good deal older than I was, walked along with a long whip, which he popped over the backs of the oxen and drove them all the way. My father and mother walked all the way also.
The people got tired of eating salt pork on the journey that my father would walk through the wood as we traveled, hunting for turkeys and deer, which he brought into the camp to feed us.
Camp was usually made at some place where water was to be had. When we stopped and prepared to cook our food, other emigrants who had been driven from their homes without the opportunity to secure cooking utensils came to our camp to use our pots and kettles. There was much sickness among the emigrants and a great many little children died of whooping cough.”
During the June 8 ceremony, singer, songwriter and playwright, Becky Hobbs, will assist in the musical portion of the ceremony. The Lost City Community building will be opened prior to the ceremony for water and amenities. Mrs. Neugin will be the 157th person honored by the Oklahoma Chapter for enduring the forced removal.
President of the National Trail of Tears Association, Jack Baker, said TOTA chapters in nine states have “worked hard over the years” to identify and mark the trails and campsites used by Cherokee people as they traveled to Indian Territory in 1838 and 1839.
“In Oklahoma, they (Trail of Tears detachments) disbanded close to the border (with Arkansas). So, we decided in 1999 that the Oklahoma Chapter’s project would be to honor those people who came on the Trail of Tears and made it possible for all of us to be here,” Baker said during another marking ceremony last fall. “We wanted to mark the graves and bring the family members together. We have the markers so that when people come here to visit the cemetery, and you bring your children and grandchildren here, and they see the marker, you can tell them ‘this is your ancestor who came on the trail.’”