The Texas Cherokee were a branch off of the Cherokee Nation who had lived in our ancestral homeland in the Southeastern United States. In 1839, the Cherokee were forced on the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory. More than 4,000 perished before, during and after the journey as a result of this holocaust.
Led by Chief Bowles, also known as "The Bowl," or Diwali, the group consisted of about 220 individuals who were farmers, hunters, domestic manufacturers, and other occupations sufficient to form a community in the chosen land. A large number of them were Chickamauga Cherokees, who felt non-Indians had taken advantage of them.
An incident, involving money and whiskey, resulted in a massacre that did not involve women and children. One of the women who was a part of the group attacked later spoke with kindness of Chief Bowles and his group.
Afraid of the consequences when returning to the Cherokee government, Bowles and his group headed down the Tennessee River in boats. The Chief later learned that back home, there were many bad feelings towards his involvement in the massacre. He then decided to make his home in the French Territory of Missouri. For some time, this was his home and the home of many other Cherokee who had joined him. They lived in this area until approximately 1811, at which time a tremendous earthquake occurred. The group was frightened that the Great Spirit was perhaps warning them that they should not be living in this part of the country. They then moved into territory between the Arkansas and White Rivers in present-day Arkansas.
Other Cherokees began to emigrate to Arkansas and by 1813, approximately 1/3 of the Cherokee were living west of the Mississippi. Their particular settlement was near the mouth of Petit Jean Creek in what is now Conway County about ten miles northwest of present-day Perryville. They lived there until the United States surveyed the land and they discovered that they were not included in the land ceded to the Cherokee.
In 1819, Chief Bowles with sixty of his men and their families moved into Texas and settled in Caddo Indian Country. He later told an Indian Agent that they first lived on the Three Forks of the Trinity which is now Dallas, Texas. He said the prairie Indians forced them to settle near Spanish Fort (Nacogdoches), where they settled. Several other villages were later established. The naturalist, Thomas Nutall, said that both banks of the river were lined with the Cherokee's houses and fences and that the homes were decently furnished and the farms well fenced and stocked. The total territory claimed by the Texas Cherokee lay between the Trinity and Sabine Rivers north of the San Antonio Road. Today, this is an area that encompasses Smith and Cherokee counties, the western third of Rusk County, the southwestern fourth of Gregg County and the eastern fourth of Van Zandt County.
The Texas Cherokee formed an alliance with other refugee Indians, including Shawnee, Delaware, Kickapoo, Choctaw, Biloxi, Alabama and Coushatta tribes. The Bowl was considered the principal chief of them all in many respects because of his leadership.