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Blythe Ferry
Blythe Ferry site
Location North of Birchwood on S.R. 60 at Tennessee River
Built 1809
Architect William Blythe
MPS Meigs County, Tennessee MRA
NRHP reference No. 83003055
Added to NRHP January 5, 1983

Blythe Ferry was a ferry across the Tennessee River in Meigs County, Tennessee. In 1838, the ferry served as a gathering point and crossing for the Cherokee Removal, commonly called the Trail of Tears, in which thousands of Cherokee were forced to move west to Oklahoma from their homeland in the southeastern United States.

While the ferry no longer exists, the ferry site is now part of the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, which was dedicated in 2005 and was still under development in 2007. The park comprises a section of the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Geographical setting

The Blythe Ferry site is situated along the eastern bank of the Chickamauga Lake impoundment of the Tennessee River, just south of the mouth of the Hiwassee River. The site is located near a point where Meigs County, Rhea County, and Hamilton County meet. Tennessee State Route 60, which formerly crossed the river at the ferry, connects the area to Cleveland to the east, Dayton to the west, and Decatur to the north. The unincorporated community of Birchwood is located just to the southeast.


Blythe Ferry was established by William Blythe and his Cherokee wife, Nancy Fields, around 1809. The ferry was an important river crossing on the "Great Road" between Chattanooga and Knoxville. Blythe sold the ferry in 1825, and the Blythe family would make the trek west with the Cherokee in the 1830s.

In 1836, the Treaty of New Echota was ratified, transferring all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River to the United States. The treaty called for a general relocation of the Cherokee Nation to the Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma). In 1838, President Martin Van Buren ordered General Winfield Scott to round up all Cherokees who had not voluntarily made the trek to Oklahoma and commence a forced removal. By the Fall of that year, some 9000 Cherokee and 300 Creek had been imprisoned in stockades in Bradley County, a few miles to the east. It took several weeks to move the entire contingent across the river, with the last detachment crossing on November 12, 1838.

Blythe Ferry operated until the mid-1990s, when a bridge was built spanning the river immediately downstream. The ferry site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

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