By Patti Jo King
Oklahoma’s first recorded history actually began when Spanish explorer Coronado carved his name on a rock near the Cimarron River. The inscription is on Castle Rock, 20 miles from Kenton, where the old Santa Fe Trail crossed the Cimarron.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail passes through the present-day states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Each year, thousands of visitors make their way along the trail.
A number of interesting shops and exhibits are accessible from the trail. The Cherokee Heritage Center, located three miles south of Tahlequah, is nestled in the Cherokee community of Park Hill. In the center complex sits the Cherokee Nation Museum, a natural-stone building that contains exhibits, a gift shop, archives and a library.
Near Tahlequah, the George M. Murrell Historic House is open to visitors. Murrell built his two-story antebellum, plantation-style home in 1845. Murrell was married to Minerva Ross, niece of Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross, and the daughter of Lewis Ross.
Along Oklahoma State Highway 80, visitors can tour historic Fort Gibson. The fort was active from 1824–1890. In its first years, it was the western-most U.S. military fort, and key to U.S. military strategy.
Almost everyone remembers Will Rogers with a smile, and no visit to Oklahoma is complete without a tour of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore.
Below: "The Cherokee National Museum is the permanent home of the Trail of Tears exhibit, a moving interactive display which explores the forced removal of the Cherokees from their indigenous homelands to 'Indian Territory' in present-day Oklahoma. The exhibit is staged in six galleries, each of which focuses on specific aspects of Cherokee history and culture."