Last Trail of Tears survivor remembered
Allene (Spears) Allison reads a passage written by her great-grandmother, the late Rebecca Ketcher Neugin, during a ceremony June 8 in Lost City. The ceremony celebrated Neugin as the last Trail of Tears survivors. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A special marker was added to the gravestone of Rebecca Ketcher Neugin, the last known Trail of Tears survivor, on June 8 in Lost City. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Allene (Spears) Allison, left, and Beatrice Rabbitt, descendants of the late Rebecca Ketcher Neugin, visit Neugin’s gravesite during a June 8 event in Lost City. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
National Trail of Tears Association President Jack Baker speaks June 8 during an event honoring the late Rebecca Ketcher Neugin, the last known Trail of Tears survivor. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The late Rebecca Ketcher Neugin was honored June 8 in Lost City as the last Trail of Tears survivor. COURTESY
LOST CITY – Rebecca Ketcher Neugin, the last known Trail of Tears survivor, was celebrated 85 years after her death by family, dignitaries and Lost City residents on June 8.
Added to Neugin’s gravestone was a special plaque from the Oklahoma chapter of the Trail of Tears Association that reads, “In honor of one who endured the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838-39.”
“I can’t imagine what it would have been like,” Neugin’s great-granddaughter Allene (Spears) Allison, of Lost City, said. “It’s good that they recognized my great-grandma. The turnout is good. I’m glad they all came so they can learn where they came from.”
Neugin descendent Teresia Knott, of Peggs, said relatives from near and far descended upon “our little cemetery here” in Lost City for the dedication, which attracted more than 150 people.
“We hear about the Trail of Tears, but we wanted to bring it home that it actually happened to your family,” National Trail of Tears Association President and former Tribal Councilor Jack Baker said. “It’s important that we remember those who came on the trail because it was their endurance and perseverance in reestablishing the Cherokee Nation in the west that allowed us the legacy of our Nation today.”
Principal Chief Bill John Baker praised those who “made the trail and did not give up.”
“They came together to reform our government and to continue us as a people forever,” he told the crowd.
Joe Bunch, United Keetoowah Band chief, also addressed attendees.
“One of the things that we must not forget is one of the many tragedies in American history that has happened,” he said. “Native Americans across the United States share the same similarities. The Trail of Tears were numerous, the massacres and so on. Without activities going on like this today … they’ll be forgotten.”
Neugin died in 1933 at age 106, according to her gravestone. Historians say she was born in the Hickory Log District of the CN East, most likely in what is now Bartow County, Georgia.
“Her father was named Ti-kah-ni-yi-ski, known in English as ‘Big Ketcher,’” Neugin’s biography states. “Her mother, Sallie, was a white woman who may have been raised as a Cherokee under unknown circumstances. Rebecca was the eighth of 10 children born of her parents union.”
In May 1838, the family, including a young Rebecca, was rounded up by soldiers and marched to a Tennessee camp where they stayed until they left with the Mose Daniel/George Still detachment in September.
“When the soldiers came to our house my father wanted to fight, but my mother told him that the soldiers would kill him if he did and we surrendered without a fight,” Neugin said in a translated interview, circa 1930, with historian Grant Foreman. “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 so tired of eating salt pork on the journey that my father would walk through the woods as we traveled, hunting for turkeys and deer which he brought into 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.”Rebecca Ketcher Neugin’s interview, circa 1930, with historian Grant Foreman:
“ᎠᏂᏲᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏂᎷᏣ ᏦᎨᏅᏒᎢ ᎠᎩᏙᏓᏃ ᎤᏚᎵᏍᎨᎢ ᏧᎵᏍᏗᎢ, ᎡᏥᏃ ᎤᏃᎯᏎᎴᎢ ᎡᏙᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ’Ꮓ ᎠᏂᏲᏍᎩ ᏱᏰᏣᎷᎦ ᎥᏍᎩ ᏱᏂᏣᏛᏁᎳ ᏙᎦᏓᏲᏎᏭ ᏂᏙᎦᏟᏴᎲᎾᏭ. ᎪᎩᏄᎪᏫᏒᎢ ᎦᎵᏦᏕ ᏫᏙᏣᎵᎪᏁᎸᎢ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏗᎨᏥᏴᎩᏛᎢ ᏕᎨᏥᏍᏚᎲᎢ. ᏙᎦᏘᎿᏫᏛᎯᏃ ᎠᎩᏥᎢ ᏚᏍᏗᏰᏔᏁᎢ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᎪᏟᏙᏗᎢ ᏫᎤᎷᎯᏍᏗ ᏫᏚᏁᏍᏗ ᏗᏰᎦᏟ. ᎰᏩᏃ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᎪᏟᏔᏅᎢ ᏫᎤᎷᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᏚᏃᏢᏃ ᏗᏰᎦᏟ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏲᏟ ᎦᎬᏔᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᏓᏍᏓᏰᏙᏗ ᏰᎵᎢ ᏱᎦᎢ ᎦᏳᏫᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎯᏯᏍᏗ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏁᎢ ᏭᏩᎫᏛᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎦᎵᏦᏕᎢ ᎠᏅᏗ ᎣᎩᎿᎥᎢ. ᎡᏙᏓᏃ ᏔᎵ ᏩᎦ ᏧᎾᎧᏅᏍᏕᏂ ᏙᏆᎴᎷᎠᏂᏅᏏᏁᎩ ᏙᎦᏘᎿᏫᏛᎮᎢ. ᏧᏁᎳᎣᏣᎵᏅᏢᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎬᎩᎸ ᎠᎴ ᏔᎵ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᏦᎢ ᏧᏃᏑᎶᏨᎢ ᎠᏂᎨᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎪᎬᏣᏁᎲᎢ. ᎥᎩᏙᏃ ᏗᎩ ᎨᏴᎢ ᎤᏓᏂᎵᎨᎢ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᏏᏅ ᎠᏯ ᎨᎲ ᎡᎳᏗ ᎠᎢᏎ ᎧᏁᎮᎢ ᎦᏫᏍᏛᏂᏍᏗ ᏕᎦᏫᏍᏛᏂᎮᎢ ᏩᎦ ᏧᎾᎧᏅᏍᏕᏂ ᎠᎴ ᏚᎯᎸᏎᎢ ᏂᎦᏅᎯᏒᎢ. ᎡᏙᏓ ᎠᎴ ᎡᏥ ᏂᎦᏅᎯᏒᎢ ᎡᎳᏗᎭ ᎤᏂᎷᏤᎢ ᎠᎭᏂ. ᏴᏫ ᏚᏂᏯᏪᎬᎢ ᏏᏆ ᎭᏫᏯ Ꭰ’Ꮉ ᎤᎵᏥᏓ ᎠᏂᎩᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏁᎬᎢ ᎡᏙᏓᏃ ᎢᎾᎨ’Ꭲ ᎡᏙᎲᎢ, ᎦᏃᎭᎵᏙᎲᎢ ᎬᎾ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎭᏫ ᏚᏲᎲᎢ ᎠᏲᎯᎲᎢ ᎥᎿ ᎣᎩᎵᏦᏛᎢ ᎣᎨᎳᏍᏗᎲᎢ. ᎣᏥᎵᏦᏛᏍᎬᏃ ᎥᎿ ᎾᎥ ᎠᎹ Ꮲ ᎦᏲᎩᏁᏩᏛᏗ…. ᏲᎦᎴᎿᏫᏍᏔᎾ ᎣᎦᏛᏅᎢᏍᏙᏗ ᎣᎦᎵᏍᏓᏰᏗ, ᎠᏂᏐᎢ’Ꮓ ᏗᎨᏥᏴᎩᏛᎢ ᏙᏧᏁᏅᏒᎢ ᎨᏥᎧᎲᏓ ᎬᏩᎵᏨ ᏂᏓᏳᏂᏫᏗᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᏙᏗ ᎾᏂᏰᎿᎥ Ꮎ ᎠᏂᎷᎨᎢ ᎣᎩᎵᏦᏛ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏰᎵᎢ ᏗᎬᏮᏅᏙᏗ ᏦᎦᏤᎵᎢ ᏧᏩᏖᏌᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎳᏍᎩ. ᎤᏂᎪᏗᏃ ᏚᏂᏢᎬᎢ ᏄᎾᏛᏅᎢ ᏗᎨᏥᏴᎩᏛ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏣᏘ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏚᏂᏲᎱᏒᎢ ᎤᏎᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᏏᏩᏍᎩ ᎤᏁᎲᎢ.”