Days Gone By - stories from the past

The trees along the Trail of Tears -why are they twisted into strange shapes? [films and pictures]

The Trail of Tears was the name given to the forced relocation of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. A sad reminder of the Trail of Tears remains today in many uniquely shaped trees along the paths the Native Americans took.

President Andrew Jackson had long been an advocate of what he called Indian Removal. As an Army general, he spent years leading campaigns against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida. When he became president, he continued this crusade.

Indian Removal Act

In 1830, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government the power to exchange Native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi for land to the west, in the “Indian colonization zone” that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The removal included many members of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Chocta nations, among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory in eastern sections of Oklahoma. Indian removal took place even in the Northern states. In Illinois and Wisconsin, for example, the bloody Black Hawk War in 1832 opened to white settlement millions of acres of land that had belonged to the Sauk, Fox and other native nations.

Below are some Trail of Tears trees in

Izard County, Arkansas by

Exploring Izard County

trail tree1

trail treex2

trail of tears3

Trail Tree in South Carolina

trail of tears4

Choctaw were the first to be moved

The Choctaw were the first to be removed in 1831, and they became the model for all other removals. By 1840, tens of thousands of Native Americans had been driven off of their land and forced to move to Indian territory. The federal government promised that their new land would remain unmolested forever, but as the line of white settlement pushed westward, “Indian country” shrank and shrank. In 1907, Oklahoma became a state and Indian territory was gone for good.

Trail Tree in Alabama

trail of tears5

Forced to walk, ride in wagons or travel by flatboat more than a thousand miles

Typically, the Army built military posts approximately 10 to 20 miles apart. Each fort had access to major roads and each provided shelter for troops and supplies during the removal. Then Federal troops organized the Native Americans into groups of about 1,000 people. A conductor and his assistant led each group west to Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The Native Americans were forced to walk, ride in wagons, or on flatboat more than a thousand miles for many months to reach their new home. “The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees died.”1

Is this why the trees are uniquely shaped?

A sad reminder of the Trail of Tears remains today in many uniquely shaped trees along the trails that the Native Americans took. The trees are believed to be part of an ancient grid of trail markers used by the Native Americans to point to hunting grounds, meeting places, water supplies and other areas important to their survival. Messages on the trees are written in code. Some historians also believe that the Native Americans believed they would be able to return to their homelands by reading the messages and retrieving cached valuables.

Native Americans used trees to mark trails for centuries. The tree below can be found in the Bankhead Forest of Alabama in Northwest Lawrence County. “Legend has it that over 200 years ago, warriors of the local Creek and Chickasaw tribes fought a bloody battle in the area now covered by the forest. Some say the tree was bent and molded to its current shape in order to point out the burial places of each tribe’s fallen braves.” 2

cherokee tree



2Trail Journals


Tapestry of Love: Three Books In One

Inspired by actual people and historical events of colonial America, “The Kingdom of Accawmacke” is revealed and secrets about America’s history are discovered in this well-researched series. The story begins in 17th century England during the reign of Charles I and continues a family’s journey to the eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland.


I found this book while researching Alabama ancestors. Curious, I decided to give it a try. While some authors make history dry and dull, Donna R Causey has made it personal. You feel like these are people you know, or maybe even your own ancestors. At the very least you know this is how your ancestors lived. But even if you are not a history buff, you will enjoy the stories of love that are found in each generation and the overall LOVE of the first couple in this family to come to the Colonies and how they shared their love and taught their children to share it as well. Highly recommended. Sisree

The exhilarating action & subplots keep the reader in constant anticipation. It is almost impossible to put the book down until completion, Dr. Don P. Brandon, Retired Professor, Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana

This is the first book I have read that puts a personal touch to some seemingly real people in factual events. Ladyhawk

Love books with strong women…this has one. Love early American history about ordinary people…even though they were not ‘ordinary’…it took courage to populate our country. This book is well researched and well written. Julia Smith

A picture of love and history rolled into one. A step back in time that pulls you in and makes you a part of the family and their world. Ken Flessas

Each book’s writing gets stronger, characters become real, the struggles and sorrows that laid the foundation for this country. Addictedtobooks

Not only is the story entertaining, it opens the eastern shore of the early Virginia Colony to the reader as a picture book….I know this story will touch many peoples’ hearts. B. Thomas

Check all books by Alabama Author Donna R. Causey


About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Barbara P. King

    Makes me sad to even read about this, know I had family members in that group too.

    1. I had Cherokee family in the Trail of Tears march.

  2. I grew up here. Daughter of JW Allday, now passed. I honestly never had an interest in Alabama History. I’m more of an Ancient Gold and mummies gal. You are definitely opening my eyes to what great rich history Alabama has. This was a pleasant surprise to read this morning.I had never heard about the trees. Thank you …. you’ve got my attention. 🙂

    Mo Foster
    243 Dogwood Ln
    Grove Hill, Al 36451

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. It makes the long hours I spend researching and writing articles worthwhile. There is a lot more to Alabama than most people realize. Donna

      1. Loved reading your history of Burnt Corn & the pics you posted of my G-g-grandfather Dr. John Watkins’ house! 🙂 Thank you, Donna, as I had never seen those 2 exact pics! I do want to point out, however, that the picture of the church titled as the Bethany Baptist Church is actually the Burnt Corn Methodist. 😉 The Bethany Baptist, built in 1819, is the one located across the road (the Old Federal Road) from the Methodist Church, built n 1920’s…Thanks again! 🙂

        1. Thank you for the correction. The information came from the Library of Congress and sometimes they provide incorrect info.

        2. In an article I just read on this website, I saw that a Dr. John Watkins was mentioned. My Grandfather was John Pearl Watkins from Dale County. Until I saw this article I had not seen any mention of Watkins. My Grandmother, Johanna McCarty Watkins was also from Dale County. Her father owned a large amount of land and sold some of it to the Department of Defense for the building of Camp Rucker (now Fort Rucker) according to family reports.

  3. This was an especially interesting addition. Thanks for all the work you do. I am always combing every word you write looking for reference to my Blount ancestors. Keep up your wonderful, valuable work! Best regards from Idaho!

  4. I was doing a essay for an English class I am taking at my local college and I stumbled upon this while I was searching up some information about Native Americans. I’ve got to say this is so interesting! I was falling asleep at my computer before i got to this. Thank you so much for the interesting read! I had no idea this even existed. It’s truly amazing! Great job!

  5. Maggie Pinkston Peden

    Thank you for sharing our history!

  6. Danny McHale

    Interesting. I didn’t know anything about such.

  7. Judy Mashburn

    I love learning about Alabama history! Thank you!

  8. Linda Webb Cleveland

    terribly sad time in our history that showed our greed. Where our ancestors left another country due to persecution of their religion only to come here and persecute the Native americans right out of their lands.

    1. Eulala Pegram

      I hope we are eventually able to have him removed from the U.S. $20 bill.

    2. Nothing has changed, my dear.

      1. Harrriet Tubman will replace him.

  9. Ronald Cook

    a dark day in US history !

  10. Jessie Dykes

    Its was a long walk a lot died along the way very sad!

  11. Jerry Boyd
  12. Bob Creel

    Yes I am very familiar with this as I have Cherokee on my Mama’s side and Creek on my Daddy’s side of the family. Very, very sad.

  13. Colleen KateStar

    Mother Earth watches over us….she won’t let us be forgotten…..

  14. Gale Barnett

    This is will worth reading an watching the video at the end,besure and watch all of it. Never did know or here any thing about these tree.would like to have a book on this one.

  15. Dave Devol

    Cheryl Bateman, I put this on Aunt Donna’s page.

  16. Billy Shaw

    These are called marker trees.They mark trails and other important things like water or shelter.

  17. Bill Bass Sr.

    Jackson was no better than Hitler or any other genocidal monster.

    1. Rebel Harjo

      so very true..and so was Lincoln and Washington.

    2. Bill Bass Sr.

      Our historians are omitted the sins of many ‘heroes’.

    3. Gary McCarver

      I agree…but it was the mind set of the times. As great as our nation is, we have some things to be ashamed of.

    4. Bill Bass Sr.

      Joe, I don’t understand your post. I am retired military, and proud of it. I am not blind to the sins of my country, but it’s still the best on earth.

  18. Karen Markum

    Perhaps the trees were empaths to writhing with suffering as the Cherokee.

  19. Janet Parton

    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. By Dee Brown. Stirring history.

  20. Susan Newell

    Ironic? Jackson,Mo. has a sports team called.. the “Jackson Indians.”

  21. Rebecca Roseberry

    Great article. I had done some research about this but never had seen the trees.

  22. Violet McCormick Haynes

    It should have never happened.

  23. Debra Willmeth Smith

    It is terrible it should of never been done the trees are like that because they are telling there stories to people about what happen to them and you are not suppose to cross a Real Indians burial grounds or mess with it cause you will have bad luck all your life I only know this cause I’m A 100% percent Indian I’m half. Cherokee. And half Blackfoot

    1. Hey Debra this is Wesley wright. I am half Cherokee, my grandmother was full blooded Cherokee and my grandfather was 3/4 Cherokee. I also have an older relative on my grandmother’s side that lives on the reservation in I think Elmore county Alabama or atmore county Alabama on my grandmother’s side . Can you send me more information about Cherokees and how to get in touch with them on the reservation mentioned above please. My email is , [email protected]. Thanks Debra

  24. Silver Hawk

    the Celtic people of a 1000 years ago beleaved that a natural opening like this or even betor a hole in a rock that was natural like this if you looked through the opining at midnight on certain nights of the year you could see the ferry worold

  25. Allison Harris- Caribbean Rose

    Bent low because they carry the energy of grief, fear, death, and mourning. We are all connected. When one suffers, we all suffer.

  26. Iye Omani Atanse

    A da do li gi

    Ga lu lo hi gi ni du da.
    Nu da wa gi ni li si.
    E lo hi gi ne tse.
    Ga li e li ga.
    Si gi ni ge’ yu.
    O sa li he li ga.
    Ni ga dv, a qua tse li, go hu s di -a na da dv ni.

    1. Is your post in Creek ? Can you translate it to English ? My mothers ancestors lived in west Lauderdale county ,Alabama, near the Mississippi state line , they probably was Chickasaw , but may have been Cherokee , the border of these two great peoples splits Lauderdale county Alabama east /west

  27. Grace Peer

    They might have grown like that as they were constantly being sat upon by the PEOPLE!~

  28. Cathy Billie

    interesting explanations of the bent trees along the Trail of Tears

  29. Thomas J Theriaque

    if they only left the NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS, alone think how much better the land would be.

  30. David Cornsilk

    The problem with these trees is age. While their twisted stature makes them appear to be old, they are likely not old enough to have been alive at the time of any of the removals of members of the Five Civilized Tribes.

  31. Donald Hull

    Andrew Jackson, bigot, murderer, POS!

  32. Edna Brittain

    I read somewhere that they bent the trees to mark the way for those coming after them.

  33. Rebecca Holloway Coppage

    Sad time in our history. We sometimes the Indians were here before the white man. I agree with Linda Webb Cleveland.

  34. Nettie Tucker Deemer

    Andrew Jackson was a lying liar & a wife stealing bigamist. It was genocide & nobody cared. Don’t take $20s to Cherokee, NC. It’s an insult to them.

  35. theres a lot of hurt in our family .our family on my dads side was strong in cherokee blood . 15000 were force . of there land 4000 cherokees died alone the trail may god bless them all allso native american on my mothers side and so thankfull

  36. Dave Cooke

    That is why today I will not carry a $20 on me due to the murderous Andrew Jackson-scumbag of all presidents.

  37. Lucy Jackson

    Bill your so right, Jackson was like Hitler, he hated all the ” first nations people”.

  38. George Woodall

    Not all Indians was removed for example ones that was married to whites was not removed that is the reason close to half of georgias have Indian blood.

  39. Greenwood Chuck

    Many dropped out along the way. My ancestors went into the mountains of Tenn. and were never found. It is also a little known fact that some of the Indians were actually rather wealthy but were also made to move. One indian actually sold a slave in Illinois who was adopted by her buyers and lived her life in their home as a family member and inherited an equal child share of the estate.

  40. I find many deformed and strangely shaped trees that are to young to be changed by the Indians.
    I’m not sure if this is true or not but it makes a good story.

    1. ALL threes do this. All it takes is a bud to form on the side of a tree and form a shoot.
      Think about it. It takes YEARS to form a tree to grow in this manner. Bonsai trees takes sometimes decades. Why would some indian on a trail moving to the west hang around for years in the same spot?

      Makes for a cool story, though. Sort of like Goldilocks and the three bears.

  41. Eddie Sims

    Very interesting read about the trees. Something I’ve never heard about. However, the mistreatment of Native Americans is not.

  42. Bill Bass Sr.

    We all learned about the Fort Mims ‘massacre’. A non-fiction book was written in the last 10 years or so that revealed that most of the people who were killed were ‘metis’, Indian and white mixed, and the minority were white. But, the metis had pulled out of traditional Muscogee society to become Anglicized farmers and tradesmen. Creeks travelling home from Pensacola (where the Spanish sold them powder, ammo and other trade goods) to north of (what is now) Montgomery were ambushed by militia from Fort Mims along the old Wolf Trail at Burnt Corn Creek. Fort Mims was a retaliation.

  43. Trystan Terrell

    Pamela B. Brown remember that tree like this at the brown house up behind the cabin? 🙁

  44. Gary Hart

    Nez Perce were killed off also. I am related to Cheif Joseph of the Nez Perce Nation. Pure tragity what Andrew Jackson did smh

  45. Tim Duane LongSoldier

    Don’t forget about wounded knee and all the massacre natives who were tryna make way to ft Robinson to turn themselves in to the 7th cavalry.. it was and still is a tragic event that took place even too this day in age.. sadly we are a nation who is still in turmoil with the united states government.. and many other progressers towards our native heritage, and native ways of life.. (Akicita Hunska) Medicine Root, Oglala Lakota..

  46. Brenda Holloway

    i read this a few weeks ago, amazing, sad, and tear jerking

  47. Brenda Holloway

    Jackson was just following orders. ORDERS he received from Washington.

    1. Jimmy Strickland

      Actually, if I’m not mistaken the native Americans sued the fed government and won. The Supreme Court sided with them and Jackson gave em the big screw you I’m gonna do it anyway and forced them out.

  48. Sandi Jones

    My grandmother was full Cherokee. Her family was on the Trail of Tears and they broke off and went to the cliffs of Arkansas. My other Grandmama was part Choctaw. I am proud of my heritage. Andrew Jackson has met his Maker and has had to answer for what he did. We will all have to do this one day so, be cautious that history is not repeated.

  49. Greg Wilkes

    Jackson was actually an enthusiastic advocate of Indian relocation.
    When David Crockett opposed this policy he was effectively run out of Congress by Jackson’s followers.

  50. Michael Reed

    seen this on the Smithsonian channel, the federal has been involved in interment camps for a long time and harsh treatment of people of color

  51. Debra Rees

    Such sadness. I am part indian and so is my daughter (cherokee). What these poor souls were forced to endure was needless.My heart breaks for them and their ancestors.

  52. […] In the 19th century, the site of Fort Payne was the location of Willstown, an important village of the Cherokees who relocated to Tahlequah, Oklahoma during the Cherokee Trail of Tears. […]

  53. Charles Coffey

    They were used like road markers, to mark any turns or important intersections along this trail and many others

  54. Thank you so much for an informative and interesting article. I find the following picture very interesting. If you rotate the picture about 70 degrees to the right it is an eye. Many of the other pictures can be interpreted as body parts. When trees are broken or chopped they can take unusual shapes. I have never seen these type of shapes in trees.

    These pictures are a sad reminder of what we did to a proud people to take their land.

  55. Sue Croft

    And it continues today as we speak.

  56. Walter Killian

    We have a disgusting murderer on our $20.00 bill. Andrew Jackson is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people in his lifetime and then stole their land to make room for white immigrants. How can this man be honored.

  57. Kenneth Williams

    They (the u.s) still does this.

  58. Eddie Taylor

    Mary’s kinfolk rode the Trail of Tears. That’s how her mom came to be from Oklahoma. She still owned the black Kettle her great grandmother took on the Trail.

  59. Tommy Abercrombie

    Never heard about the trees before.

  60. Melinda McGibony Jarman

    What’s even worse is that our govt. is STILL screwing the Natives.

    1. Melinda McGibony Jarman

      Obviously, Joe has no idea what the Natives have gone through the past 300 years.

  61. Billy Shaw

    A man named Don Well has been working on a film about these marker trees.It is set to be relesed in Feb.I hope people will get to see it. He filmed all over the southeast.Followed many of the old trails.The part that I am in is here in Alabama on one of the Trail of Trears routes.

    1. Hey Billy this is Wesley wright. When u find out the name of the movie can you email the name of the movie to me , email is. [email protected] ……. Thanks Billy

  62. David Richmond

    Not a single one of the trees in these photos is nearly old enough for the period. Most look to be maybe 50-75 years old at best. Good story, but no evidence here unless somebody marked these trees in recent times to commemorate the trail.

    1. A 30″ diameter White-Oak is much more than 50-75 years old. Where did you learn to age trees?

      1. So where did you learn to do math? Not one of the trees shown here are even close to 30inches in diameter!

      2. There’s no way these trees are 180-years-old or more which is what they would have to be.

  63. Marion Beasley

    Andrew Jackson hated all Native Americans !!!! He hated them because most tribes sided with the British during the Revolution !!!!
    They sided with the British because they promised them their lands back !!!
    The British had no intention of that of course but Native Americans didnt know that !!!!!!!
    Andrew Jackson presided over the greatest genocides in our country !!!!!
    He will never be a hero in my book !!!!!!

  64. Suzette Reaves Youngblood

    This is a truly interesting read. We need to know more about those who were here before us.

  65. Leona K Fereinio

    because of our ancestors cried so much.

  66. Sandra Broadway

    I was told as a child my ggg grandmother head in the hill of Lawrence County Ala Her name was Mahal I can go lay

  67. Dean Howell Page

    This was very interesting. I would like to visit there sometime. My grandmother was a full bloodied Indian. I try to read all I can about that time period. That is why I got into genealogy. You have been a big help to me in that field. Thanks!

  68. Paul Cherry

    But as usual their black slaves that suffered the journey beside their masters get
    no mention. The only reward they received was continued

  69. Paul Cherry

    Bondage in ok. The five CIVILIZED tribes( chickasaw,Cherokee,seminoles,creek,chocktaw) all from the east own slaves. Freedman and book of dawes. The latter which contain the names of slaves owned by these tribes.

  70. Beth Foster

    What a horribly unbeliveably sad time To thimk people claiming to be christian could treat fellow himan beings in such an inhumane manner.

    1. Andy Wilson

      And we are told Isis is bad today….

    2. Tyler Sexton

      This story rings true for the settlement of the entire Western Hemisphere

  71. Pam Watts

    These look like Trail Trees. Not uncommon in the SouthEast. They are interesting directionals for many things.

  72. Terrell Miller

    I know many of us have ancestors that were on the wrong side of this shit.

  73. Dana Farmer Maxwell

    Sad, but trees are very interesting!

  74. Jim Darty

    Some tribes even today will not accept the $20.00 bill as currency because of Andrew Jackson’s image on the bill. family legend has it that we are decedents of Jackson. Wounded Knee is also a dark period in American history. Three days after the massacre soldiers posed with the dead to have their picture taken.

  75. Daryl Masters

    As others have pointed out, the trees referenced could not have been alive at the time the removals took place. In addition, I have seen many similar trees in Alabama which are far from the Trail. The event itself stands alone and does not need “supernatural” components added to it.

    1. Are you a dendrochronologist? The two large trunks on the grafted trees are each about 30 inches in diameter.

  76. Gayle Johnson

    I kind of think the Indians are getting revenge–or revenue! Flush w/cash & doing wonderful things for the tribe. I am Choctaw- our tribe was the first removed. Durant is in revival!

  77. Art Meadows

    Dennis Woodard looks like your tree and it marks a peace treaty …does it have three arms …three tribes marker Coosa, Cherokee, Etowah …. need a pic!

  78. […] the Poarch Band, who stayed behind in Alabama when the rest of the Muscogee were removed during the Trail of Tears, as being “questionable […]

  79. Ned D Boggan

    David Richmond I think trees that were intentionally manipulated never reflect their true age or in other words…don’t look big enough for the age they are.its like crippled person trying to grow straight andtall.those nativeAmericans knew and understood what they were doing .there is a translation of the written words on some of the trees.WHAT A LOSS

  80. Joseph Kelly

    This is why I hate the government, not the country, the screwed my people over bad.

  81. Betty Maze Patterson

    My Dad’s ancestors, Tiptons, helped fight my Mother’s Indian ancestors and move them from their land. So many thoughts about this!

  82. Sylvia Jackson House

    There are many rocks formed like a rose in OK said to be tears shed.

  83. Debbie Ann Brownewell-Rensch

    Unthinkable but true, im Cherokee

  84. Susan Howard

    Yes Bill Bass Sr. im with you, just like the monster Hitler

  85. Bubba Miller

    Christianity has always been about genocide

  86. Bubba Miller

    I’m a God fearing man but it was a lot of Christian people

  87. Bubba Miller

    God forgive them because they knew were not what they were doing

  88. Bobby Bagley

    Trail Tree? I think not. This is a act of nature, you can find these in any stand of forest young and old, just my opinion.

    1. Show me an example of grafted bent trees as in the top three photos. And show me TWO grafted bent trees within a few feet. Four trunks…two trees. If you can’t, please attempt to explain them as a natural occurrence.

  89. James Wilkerson

    have heard stories of way back where some were just left beside the road cherokee to die or be unburied back then during that march on way to oklahoma or whereever.

  90. […] there was a problem in the new territory of Oklahoma. In the 1820s and 30s, the United States had forcibly relocated the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaaw, Creek, and Native Americans to move to Oklahoma and after their arrival, the government claimed the land would be theirs “for […]

  91. I think the trees might grow in this manner if young saplings were tied together and left for a long time. We often see trees in our forests deformed because another tree fell across them while they were young. The old tree has rotted away and left the younger, bent tree behind. Near where I live (in Oregon) pioneers planted an oak, a maple and a walnut tree in the same hole and they have wound around each other to look like one tree. Perhaps the trees were in out-of-the-way places when they were first tied, and later found when the area was more settled. I’d love to see them.

    I wondered whether anyone has ever excavated under one of them to see whether there is a grave. Not that I think anyone SHOULD do that, but I thought perhaps someone had done so.

  92. […] the place where Chickasaw Indians were held captive before embarking on a forced journey along the Trail of Tears, the beautiful privately-owned park is also the home of unique glow worms that are only found in […]

  93. Hate to bust the bubble of a sweet and romantic sounding little tale but the idea that these “twisted trees” have anything to do with the trail of tears or anything native Americans did deliberately to mark anything, for that matter, is almost certainly a later day created legend (aka modern myth). Our NA predecessors (and in my case some of my ancestors) weren’t stupid. They had axes (flint ones even before my European ancestors showed up) and if they wanted to mark a trail or anything else they would simply blaze a tree.

    No, trees like this are naturally occurring (from storm damage) or are inadvertently created by man and probably by a white man (from logging damage). You can find examples anywhere hardwood trees grow and certainly not just on the trail of tears.

    1. And you know this…how? Again, look at the top three photos and explain them.

  94. This is an awesome site. I was wondering how do you know these are Trail Trees instead of just a bent tree? I might have one in my backyard.

  95. This is so interesting. I have done research on the Cherokees but never heard of this. Then my husband says oh there is a tree like that up in the park like that . so I went up there and it is not as pretty as these but I think that is one like that. Before the mayor passed away he told my husband that was made by the Indians, guess he was right.My husband has a Cherokee line, and I worked on that for several years.

  96. […] has a way of obliterating the past. The Trail of Tears was a tragic event in American history that we seldom talk about today and I believe it is because […]

  97. I really enjoyed reading about the trees, and their history. This will make my many Alabama nature walks much more interesting. It seems you have a lot of experience researching Alabama history. I was wondering if maybe you might be able to help me solve a mystery. I am looking for the location of the Borden-Wheeler Springs resort. I have a suspicion that it might be on the property that I am closing on, tomorrow. Interested in investigating with me?

  98. I taught Spanish and lived on the reservation in Cherokee,NC in 1995 .I was fortunate to live in the compound of Going Back , the elder who literally walked back from OK . Initially I had to overcome suspicions ,hostility, resistance to learning. from a white,Spanish, teacher I was determined to win them over . I never won all of them, but I had students that were interested,that excelled,and entertained me with there observations. They asked me why I would teach there.
    . I told them my Hogan family were with Boone and this is called absolution,atonement,
    .the destruction of the social fiber of family, tribe,nation. The Casinos have not rescued the tribes
    Alcohol and the degeneration of families continues , results in loss of , motivation and persistance.

  99. The Trail of Tears is commemorated across North Alabama every year; I believe in September with a massive, multi-thousand motorcycle ride to Waterloo, where the Indians were loaded onto flatboats for the continuation of the journey to Oklahoma.

    In Tuscumbia, at Spring Park, is a statue given several years ago by the Indian Nation to the town in remembrance of the kindness the citizens of Tuscumbia gave to the starving, sick Indians as they passed through. Very inspiring.

  100. I hate to bust the bubble about these trees,but looking at the girth of these trees—they so not look to be at least 150 years old. Also, some of the men were talking as if these trees have always been this size to mark the sites. These trees were disfigured when they were very young and small. So they would not be of size to be noticed or to stand out significantly in the forest.

    1. Can you back that up with science or is it just a hunch?

  101. Slaves that the native americans owned walked the Trail of Tears with their owners. Some lived and some died. A few of my family members talk of our blood lines in Oklahoma from those that marched and lived to pass on our story.

  102. I have used the bending of small saplings along my trail to allow me to find my way back the same way I came. It is easy to get turned around in the deep woods – so bending a sapling in the direction of your travel allows you to retrace your steps without the need of a compass. When you are hunting, you do not care where you are going – just that there is game ahead. So – a compass would be of little use in re-tracing your steps – as those steps could be quite meandering.

  103. Deborah Andrews Johnson

    Not sure about the shapes of trees. But it is good to be reminded of this horrible dark time in the history of our nation,

  104. Barbara Pounds

    Donna, thought you might enjoy if you haven’t already seen it.

    1. Donna Endres

      Thanks, Barbara. Yes, I saw this. I think I am subscribing to this via email. Love the articles!

  105. Pam Bennett

    Always heard they would tie down a young sapling with rawhide strings causing the tree to grow in a twisted or misshapen manner. A kind of road sign marking their way. Perhaps marking a pathway “home” for future generations.

  106. Kathy Vaughan Allison

    Found a good book with pictures from a local author near blue ridge ga. Called trail trees

  107. Martha Hopper Reeves

    Yes, I am part Cherokee, I so enjoy these stories. I wish that the civil war was understood that its history. Both good and bad on all sides.

  108. Teresa Westmoreland Adcock

    My Dad’s family was Georgia Cherokee. They spoke of The Trail of Tears as simply “The Journey”.

  109. Jeff Pollard

    Makes slavery pale in comparison. It was legal to lynch a native American on sight in Lauderdale County, thanks to Andrew Jackson & General Coffee.

  110. Roger Brothers

    This is nice romantic little myth made up by modern day people but a myth nonetheless. Trees formed in odd shapes are fairly common just about anywhere there are older deciduous broadleaf trees. They occur when a sapling is bent over by a large tree falling (either from storms or logging) the larger tree dies and rots away while the bent tree continues to grow.

    1. Roger, I’m sure the top three photos of the trees that are GRAFTED through each other occurred naturally. Perhaps you should look again. Can a deadfall or icestorm force two trees to plunge through two other trees only feet apart and bend at 90 degree angles? Those are my photos above. I’ve asked the author to include a link to the page they are featured on but have not been so honored. The author was kind enough to cite sources for info but not for photos. Here’s the link:

      1. The link above is to my blog…this is the link to the post. Sorry ’bout that:

  111. Roger Brothers

    The one in the pic above formed when the sapling on the left happened to be forced into the trunk of the tree on the right and they grafted together.

    1. Sure they did.
      And were bent into two 90 degree angles, one vertical and the other horizontal and runs perfectly parallel to the ground for 12 feet and this occurred only 10 feet from two more trees that just happened to also be grafted by nature and is perfectly aligned 90 degrees from the other. Yeah. That’s logical.

      1. BTW, there are knobs on the opposite sides of both large trunks exactly in line with the grafted bent trunks. Guess the sapling were forced completely through the trunks of the larger trees, eh?

  112. Johnny Whitley

    Loved Jerry Ellis’ book about when he walked the Trail of Tears.Couldn’t put it down,read it in about a day,read it more than once.

  113. Curtis Chappell

    U really doint want to know-u would not belive it if u were told

  114. Mark Raines

    The ones responsible for that bad time should have been hung a lot of native American people should not have died on that trail .

  115. Danny McHale

    I don’t know if it’s true, but I like the story.

  116. Myra Wallace Collins

    I’m part Cherokee Indian. I’ve heard these stories, not sure if they’re true or not but if you take a ride on the Natchez Trace there are sites to see and explore.

    1. Jeil Reed

      Myra Wallace Collins, your so correct. One of the most beautiful rides ever.

  117. Lane L Denard

    About thirty years ago my wife’s mother carried me a long way into the woods in West Corona,Al to show me the graves of a Cherokee couple that her uncle hid from authorities . They lived out their lives on the Frost property and buried in the backyard

  118. Shaun Adams

    You people need to realize that 99.9 percent of the Eastern US was logged in the late 1800s and early 1900s so any trees that were alive during the trail of tears would have been cut down! That article is complete rubbish.

    1. I challenge you on that number. Besides, do you think bent trees make good logs? Probably why in my experience, the bent trees I believe could have been manipulated are much larger than others in the area.

  119. Harold Banks

    Anyone who spends much time in the woods finds deformed trees frequently. On my little 74 acre forest plot there must be 100. Obviously that means the Indians were circling aimlessly in my little patch of woods waiting for Mark Zuckerberg to send them money.

    1. Explain the grafted trees in the top three photos, please.

  120. I have asked to be E-mailed so that I can follow this story.I live in Hot Spring Co. We are defiantly along The Trail of tears.I was a friend of the late great Alonzo Combs,also known as The Great Thunderbird. He took me with him on many scouting missions looking for mounds,and history,and taught me much. I have seen these trees you mention,and will be back to share some locations and photos of them with you later. Most humbly, curtis echols.

    1. You can get daily emails of all new stories on AP by signing up for the newsletter below.

    2. Please keep me informed of more info and pics please . Email is [email protected] …… Thanks , Wesley wright

  121. I’ve been hearing about the trees forever and it seems that many of us are part indian.

  122. My name is Wesley and I live in weogulfka in Coosa County Alabama. I read on here about the curved trees on the trail on tears . Now as I said above were I live is about 1/2 mile from a creak called the mil creak, and about 10-15 miles east from the Coosa river . Now behind my dad’s house my grandparents hand cow pasture with some woods but there is one curved tree just like the ones in the pictures above but it is about as old as I am . Was wanting to know if it may be a symbol of something like mentioned above ,like pointing to something important or what… Can someone let me know anything . My email is [email protected]. , Thanks

  123. My heart hurts, as I think of the horrors my ancestors endured, for no reason, other than they were Indian, Native America, First Nation’s People.
    The darkness of this time, will never go away. There are still today, many unjust conditions that must be attended to.
    It would be wonderful, ( if we’re possible) to go too these sights, I feel the trees, as sacred, witness to the unforgivable animalistic treatment of our dear ancestors.
    May my prayers reach their spirits, with honor.
    We will not forget.

  124. Bill Barter.

    Lots of folks question the age of these trees. Any forester can “core” these trees and determine the their age. Should put an end to the question.

  125. David Sweet

    This tree and virtually all like it are too young to have been standing during that time period–yet this urban legend BS keeps perpetuating itself as untold numbers of halfwits accept this mythology as fact in spite of clear physical evidence it could not be truew

    1. Roger Brothers

      You are right! This is a myth made up by modern day white romantics. My Native American anscestors weren’t stupid. When they wanted mark at trail they simply blazed a tree.

      Trees like this form
      Naturally after storm and logging damage. I’ve even created a few myself by accident!

    2. David Sweet

      Roger Brothers I was an arborist for many years myself. It amazes me the fictions non-Indians create to justify their not having a clue in the first place. You should see some of the things they’ll make up about mere rocks while not knowing what Indian stonework even looks like

      Just take a look at this fb page’s contents (I love showing this page off to folks who actually know better–hell, I’m still shaking my head in disbelief)

  126. Richard Haynes

    I’ve found knots and bends in trees and that couldn’t have been 40-50 yrs old. Some looked very similar to the pictures above.

  127. Ashley Clark

    I’ve got trees like that on my property. Clear cut 30 years ago.

  128. Henry Buford

    I believe trail trees were once created for just that, but 99% are dead and gone. And not too sure a forced march ever allowed much time for horticulture on the move.

  129. Gail Howell Johns

    We have one of the trees in our yard. It has been Authinakaed.

  130. Vickie Richardson Casteel

    One of the trees is on Point Mallard Golf course in Decatur,Al.I don’t think anyone has noticed it.You can see it while walking to get on the trail by the river.

  131. David Hammock

    This is a myth, all natural occurrences These trees would have to be a minimum of 200+ years old

  132. Roger Holman

    Sorry do the math and look at the sizes of these trees. There is no longer any virgin stands of trees in the east. Paper companies plowed through most of the timberland when they bought land during the depression because they had money to buy acres of land for almost nothing. Sorry I have a hard time believing this assumption.

  133. Janet H. Hinton

    There are some on Mt. Cheaha.

  134. Lynn Tanner Campbell

    Indians use to tie trees down to mark trails for others to follow.

  135. John Sanders

    A good urban myth. Many such trees can be seen in Arkansas, mostly the result of ice storm falls. I have even made a couple accidentally, by running over them with a tractor.

  136. Eddie Wergin

    When I was a kid I was always looking for arrowheads and I knew a old man who boxes of them big spear heads clubs all the good I ask him how he found so many ..he told me he didn’t look for one at a time he looked for storage sites and that indians were on foot and they didn’t carry arm loads of arrows around they had places they stored them for when they were out ..he told me to look around sharp bends in creeks ..big out of the ordinary rocks..and Indian trail trees ..but I don’t know if the Indians made the trees grow like that or just made their trails to go by them and used them for reference points..but I do know nature will do it

  137. Paul Lovelace

    Am I to believe that the pictures shown are 180 year old trees?

  138. Lee Welch

    James Lawler have you seen this?

    1. Keven Williams

      Nothing to see except cool trees created by nature

  139. As a 69 year old with a Forestry degree who has spent much of his life in the woods I can say emphatically that the trail trees are a myth. I see such trees on every tract of land I explore, some old, some young. Any injury created by another falling tree, wind storms, ice storms, disease, wild animals, fire, insects, kids, livestock, etc. can create one. It doesn’t take an Indian to produce a deformed tree and they are everywhere.

  140. Erin Michele Weaver

    We have several of these strange shaped trees in the woods behind my parents house. I have always felt a connection with them. This now explains why. Maybe one of my ancestors was marking a way back home during the trail of tears.

  141. Yep, what a crock!

    We can’t say for an absolute certainty that no Indian at no time got it in his head to force a tree to grow this way (nobody can prove a negative) but it is up to the those that present this as fact to come up with some sort of hard evidence that it is true.

    I have never seen any. I have never even seen any historical reference to the practice that dates before 1900.

    William Bartrum, the famous American naturalist, lived among the Southeastern Indians for years in the 1700’s. He estensively chronicled the native flora and the customs of the Natives themselves at the same time. He was a keen observer of both trees and Indians (so keen in fact he even discovered, described and named two new tree species)

    Because of his knowledge of the tribes and their languages he was employed by the US government at one point to accompany a party of Creek, Cherokee and American surveyors that were engaged in marking a new treaty boundary between the Creek and Cherokee nations. He commented that in some cases the Indian surveyors were more accurate than the American even though they would not trust the vagaries of the white man’s magnetic compass!

    He wrote of the Indians marking trees by blazing them with an an ax and also marking points with piles of stone.

    In all his writing NOT ONCE does he mention the Indians bending trees to mark anything nor does he even mention observing such “marker trees”.

    Such trees undoubtedly existed then (they always have and anywhere in the world that has deciduous trees that sprout readily, and they continue to form themselves today without the slightest help from humans) Bartrum and his native friend’s simply understood how such trees formed and found them absolutly UNREMARKABLE.

  142. Darby Weaver

    Why did the settlers have tonapples to Congress to come back to Alabama if it was the Indians who removed?

    1. Darby Weaver

      Gotta love this spelling. – The settlers appealed to Congress to return to their crops. Gay or Gayle.

  143. Rickey Wallace

    I believe they marked the trail and a lot came back! However, I’m not so sure that trees you see like this today are the same trees. The trees would have to be at least 160 to 170 years old!

  144. Harold Banks

    People who believe this don’t spend much time in the woods. I can find at least 50 bizarrely shaped trees in my 74 acre patch of woods. There are numerous ways trees can become deformed. Also, native Americans were forcibly removed along established roads and by riverboat, not though trackless woods.

    1. Michael Johnson

      Harold Banks obviously you didn’t read entire article it also states they used trees to mark areas they hunted or certain spots along rivers and creeks to find where they crossed or fished or put canoes in and back out. You are correct about tree sometimes being deformed in the woods just randomly. I don’t know all the locations to these pictures but they could be along the way they were forced to travel

    2. Richard Hancock

      If those trees are the real deal then they are sure some of the slowest growing trees in the country.

  145. Darby Weaver

    Only a small number of Choctaw removed if any in 1831-1832 – See American State Papers – Land – Volume 4.

    In 1851-1852 the Group led by William Fisher whose guardian ad litum or else equivalent from Mobile returned.

    He was accused of fraud for coming back with the Choctaw to Alabama.

    The Script was declared fraud before Congress.

  146. Darby Weaver

    The Spanish Land Grants and all Indian Grants were declared Fraud by Congress and were nullified in 1835 – See American State Papers – Land – Volume 4.

    So all Land patents were found to be fraud since the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 is Controlling.

    It controls the Treaty of Definitive Peace of 1783 as well as the Treaty of Paris of 1763.

    That is, the land of what was known as Georgia aka the Mississippi Territory aka Carolina aka everything else was declared fraud due to the fact that no land covered by the Treaty of Utrecht can ever be treatied or even lost in war without both England and Spain’s Kings consent and this was of course the basis for the entire European and American continents.

    It is still considered binding and is the basis for International Law today.

    The United States Congress agreed – see the reference above.

    However it was not a new concept in 1835…

    It was published as early as 1789 by David Ramsey, the President of the Congress of Carolina.

    This is deep.

  147. Darby Weaver

    Which roads were established in 1830?

    Oklahoma didn’t even become a State until 1907.

    Choctaw Nation v United States 119 US 1 (1886).

    The BIA and their interests started committing the frauds which resulted in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

    Recall the Choctaw were grossly defrauded by the Federal Government and in 1937 their Secretary/Asst Secretary admitted it was presidential policy to defraud the Choctaws of Alabama and other States.

    The Treaty of 1830 never provides for Removal until even any funding for Removal until such time as the Choctaw shall Remove.

    The Choctaw never removed as is commonly misunderstood.

    Not quite.

    Some perhaps.

    However in Senate Bill of 1913, Congressional Findings reporter that the Choctaw never removes because the US failed to provide funding for said Removal.


    Now you know.

  148. Roger Brothers

    We can’t say for an absolute certainty that no Indian at no time got it in his head to force a tree to grow this way (nobody can prove a negative) but it is up to the those that present this as fact to come up with some sort of hard evidence that it is true.

    I have never seen any. I have never even seen any historical reference to such a Native American custom or practice that dates before 1900.

    William Bartrum, the famous American naturalist, lived among the Southeastern Indians for years in the 1700’s. He extensively chronicled the native flora and the customs of the Natives themselves at the same time. He was a keen observer of both trees and Indians (so keen in fact he even discovered, described and named two new tree species)

    Because of his knowledge of the tribes and their languages he was employed by the US government at one point to accompany a party of Creek, Cherokee and American surveyors that were engaged in marking a new treaty boundary between the Creek and Cherokee nations. He commented that in some cases the Indian surveyors were more accurate than the American even though they would not trust the vagaries of the white man’s magnetic compass!

    He wrote of the Indians marking trees by blazing them with an an ax and also marking points with piles of stone.

    In all his writing NOT ONCE does he mention the Indians bending trees to mark anything nor does he even mention observing such “marker trees”.

    Such trees undoubtedly existed then (they always have and have anywhere in the world that has deciduous trees that sprout readily, and they continue to form themselves today without the slightest help from humans)

    Bartrum and his native friend’s simply understood how such trees formed and found them absolutly UNREMARKABLE.

  149. Roger Brothers

    Most of the trees that people claim as “Indian trail trees” certianly aren’t old enough to have been formed by Indians practicing some supposed ancient custom.

    If you know anything about trees and how they respond and adapt to injury and stress you know that trees form this way naturally from wind and logging damage (I’ve even created a few by accident myself) Trees like this can be commonly found anywhere in the world that has hardwoods that sprout readily including places like Great Britain and Europe where native Americans NEVER SET FOOT until the modern era.

    Did some Indian among the millions that existed at sometime in the last 10,000 years and somewhere in North America get it into his head that he needed to spend the time, labor and effort to force a tree to grow in this fashion??

    Maybe, who knows? But was it a widespread and common Native American custom that was practiced all over North America as devotees of the myth claim?

    Most probably NOT. If it had been you could find some reference in the documentation of native American customs. There where many European observers that lived among Native Americans and chronicled their customs in the 300 years after contact YET YOU WILL FIND NO REFERENCE ABOUT SUCH A CUSTOM IN ALL THEIR WRITINGS.

    As a matter of fact you will find no reference to such a custom at all before THE 20TH CENTURY!

    In all probability therefore the “Indian trail tree” is nothing but a sweet romantic little folk tale made up by white folks in the 20th century. Native Americans are just as human as white folks and therefore are just as susceptible to believing a probable myth and can be just as gullible too!

  150. Kerry Gilbert

    Joel Pounders Jeff Pounders

  151. These trees would all have to be at least 180 years old which I doubt. There’s no way.

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