Cherokee Descendants Retrace Trail of Tears by Covered Wagon

Jul 21, 2014

Gene Glasscock and Noquah Elisi
Credit E. R. West

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WEST)  --  Walking in to the livestock barn at Middle Tennessee State University, Gene Glasscock and Noquah Elisi sat in worn lawn chairs with their dog Bell in front of their home for the next few months.

Elisi, 61, playfully swatted at Glassclock, 79, as they joked about their time on the road as newly wedded couple.

“Now I liked to be bossed around, and she does the bossing,” Glasscock laughed under his wide brimmed hat. “But really it’s an exercise in bringing two people together.”

The newly wedded couple laughed about their 1,000 mile trek across the country, but their intentions remain serious. The two will continue to make stops across Middle Tennessee while following the Trail of Tears. Both want see what the journey was like for their grandparents.

“They walked through some terrible and horrible times, and they had the strength and perseverance to survive and that’s why I am here today,” Elisi said.

The two adventurers didn’t want to drive the back roads by car to follow the trail. Instead both wanted an authentic experience. Glasscock originally had an even more ambitious trip in mind. He built the wagon intending to travel coast-to-coast.

“I built it to go to ocean and ocean and back again,” Glasscock said.

Glasscock added gray bucket seats, like those normally found in a car, for a bit of added comfort. An American flag drapes off the front end and the wagon cover is marked with black Sharpie signatures of people they’ve met along the way.

“We’ve found out that America isn’t all Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.,” Elisi said. “The American spirit is everywhere in this country. We’ve been blessed with people’s kindness and generosity on our journey.”

Elisi clipped together the black magnets on the curtain that closes the inside of the wagon, where the couple sleeps and stores their clothes.

She climbed off the wagon to the back of kitchen where she made coffee for the both of them that morning. Elisi said keeping everything neat and clean is one of the main responsibilities in living in a small space.  Storage is another component to living a minimalistic lifestyle, but she packed the wagon with their mules Kitty and Kate in mind.

“The journey is not just about us. We have to think about the girls, our horse power, our mule power,” Elisi said. “They are our first priority. You have to understand what your priorities are, and they will change.”

The blonde Belgium mules can only travel three to four miles per hour. The couple pulled out of Murfreesboro late last week. This weekend they left Smyrna to travel a little further down the trail. Their final destination is still nearly 600 miles away in Northeast Oklahoma.

“Tahlequah, that will be the end of the northern route of the Trail of Tears,” Glasscock said with a soft smile.

It’s where he and Elisi want to spend his 80th birthday in October.