The old chief had been walking east for
days, crossing many rivers along the way, including the mighty Mississippi. At Berry’s Ferry, he crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky, following the
trail his village was forced to walk many years before. He wanted to retrieve
the village treasure his father, the village chief, had buried when the solders
came and quickly took them away.
On his second day of walking through western
Kentucky, he climbed a bluff above the Green River valley to gain the advantage of higher
ground. In the distance he noticed a fierce storm blowing in from the
southwest. He would have to find shelter soon. Looking around, he spotted a
farmhouse upon a distant hill ahead.
He approached the house cautiously, walking
across the long sloping yard and past the smokehouse just as dark clouds rolled
in and thunder clapped nearby. The farmer sat on the front porch, smoking his
pipe as if taking a break from the approaching storm.
“Come in and get out of the rain,” he called.
“You look like you need a rest.”
“Thank you, yes. I have been traveling from
Oklahoma. Everything is so much different now, the landmarks and roads. It’s
harder to find the old trail.”
“Why such a long journey?”
“I wanted to visit our old village one more time before I die. It has
been such a long time since the soldiers came and took us to Oklahoma.”
“Come in and have
supper with us. You are welcome to spend the night.”
“My name is
Whitefox,” he said, holding his hand out.
“My name is Luther,
and this is my wife, Nellie,” he said as he shook Whitefox’s hand. Luther was
known for being one of the kindest men in the county, always willing to help anyone,
whether friend or stranger.
After supper they
sat by the fireplace. Luther talked about farming, and Whitefox talked about
hunting trips in Kentucky
“There are many
trails for the wagons and horses through these rolling hills and deep valleys,”
“Every now and then we see loud horseless
carriages,” said Luther. “They get stuck in the mud, and we have to hitch up
the mules to pull them out, especially on the road from the river since it is
A hard blast of
wind hit the house, and the building groaned from the force.
“You have such
strong houses to withstand the storms.”
“We do get damage
sometimes. Last year we lost a barn. Some of the chickens never turned up again.”
“What kind of crops
do you grow?”
“Corn and hay in
the large fields, and potatoes in the small garden. A lot of the farmers grow
tobacco as a cash crop.”
Luther and Whitefox
talked late into the night. The relaxing sound of rain on the tin roof lulled
Nellie into a nap, her knitting falling to the floor.
They listened to
the storm for a few minutes, then Luther asked, “Will you be coming back this
“Yes, I want to
visit my father’s grave one more time before crossing the big rivers.”
“I can loan you a
horse and saddle if you would like. You can drop them off on your return trip
him for his generosity, and headed to bed not long after.
The next morning
they arose early and saddled up the young black mare. Luther cut some meat off
the ham hanging in the smokehouse and salted it down for the trip.
Whitefox was very
thankful to be riding instead of walking thanks to the generosity of his new
friend. Whitefox was in his late seventies, and the old mare had a smooth
Riding into Hopkinsville,
he asked several people if they knew where the Indian chiefs were buried.
“Why do you want to
see those old graves? They were just Indians,” one person remarked.
Finally an older
man remembered the Indians coming through town many years before. “Follow
Little River south to the fork and watch for Latham Cemetery. There were a
bunch of Indians buried there.”
followed the river, the journey brought back memories of all his family and
friends that died during the trip west in the midst of a hard winter. Chief
Whitepath and Chief Fly Smith both died on the trail while camped near
Hopkinsville, Kentucky and were buried under a pile of stones and poles.
When he finally
found the cemetery, it was overgrown with weeds. A familiar tree line along a
slight rise caught his eye. He followed it, searching for grave markers until
he found one marked Chief Fly Smith. Nearby he found his father’s grave, Chief
Whitepath. He spent the evening pulling weeds and cleaning up the site. It was
a clear night as he studied the stars, picking out one for his father at the
end of the little dipper. Now he would always look at that star and remember
He thought about
the village treasure they had buried together in northern Georgia. He prayed
that the chest would still be there. He wanted to return some of the items to
his tribe in Oklahoma.
He spent several
more days riding through Tennessee, journeying
around Nashville and then across the Cumberland plateau before heading down the valley into
north Georgia to the town of
He tried to avoid the cities and as many people as possible for fear they would
discover that he was an Indian and steal his
On the north side
of town near Turnip Town, he found his family’s old homesite, now covered with
vines and about to fall down. In the backyard he found the rock marking the
treasure site. Making sure that no one was around, he dug up the chest.
The large leather
bag of gold in the chest was still there, along with spearheads and a clay pipe
used around the council fires. At last he found it, a special book, the written
history of their tribe. This was the reason he return. The gold was left behind
for fear of being taken by the solders and the history was left for fear of being
lost or destroyed on the long wet cold journey they were being forced to take
in the middle of winter. He carefully wrapped up the special items and placed
them in his saddlebags. The chest still contained some larger items that he
could not carry, so he just reburied the chest, so that no one would know that
he had been there.
Fearful of being
discovered, he did not rest for the night but immediately rode off on his long journey
Three days later, back
he spent another night at his father’s gravesite. During the night he carved
out a hole in a large sand stone boulder nearby. He placed the largest gold
nugget from his pouch in the hole, refilled it with mud, and carved the words
in Cherokee, “Remember Chief Whitepath.”
Late the next day,
he rode up the hill to Luther’s home.
Luther waved from
the front porch. “How was your trip?”
“It went well. I
cleaned my father’s gravesite and found the old homesite in Georgia.”
“Did the black mare
take good care of you?”
“Yes, this is a
very good horse. If you would part with her, I would like to purchase her. I
can pay you in gold.”
“I think we can
make out without her. Whatever you think is a fair price will be fine.”
Whitefox paid him
with several gold nuggets and then pulled out a leather case.
“For your kindness
to an old Indian whom you did not even know, I would like to give you this
peace pipe that was used many times by our tribe to seal bargains and to settle
Luther accepted the
case and slowly opened the little latch. The pipe was nestled in green felt
padding perfectly molded to its contours. The pipe’s carving featured two deer leaping
over a log while looking back at the person smoking the pipe. The details of
the antlers and eyes of the deer were perfect, and the carving accurately
portrayed the rough bark of the log. The bowl of the pipe was dark inside from
hundreds of tobacco smokes. There was no stem since the pipe was designed to
slip over the user’s own smoke stem.
the open case with the pipe on the mantle alongside the large clock. “Thank
you,” he said. “I will remember your visit every time I check the time and see
this fine pipe here beside the clock.”
It was 1954 before the graves of Chief
Whitepath and Fly Smith were rediscovered and a statue of Chief Whitepath was cast
and placed in the Latham Cemetery by the US Government as well as a park established
to honor all those who died on The Trail Of Tears. About that same time Luther
gave the pipe to his grandson and told him about the Indian that gave it to
him. When his grandson was older, he left home, catching rides to the West Coast.
On one long ride that lasted for weeks and which ended near the shores of the Pacific Ocean, he rode with a wonderful and loving Indian couple, who
read their bible and prayed each night. He gave the peace pipe to the them as a
gift, thanking them for being so kind and for giving him transportation and
shelter on his journey. He also shared the story of how he obtain the pipe,
from another lonely traveler who was shown kindness.