Indian Boundary historical marker

Indian Boundary (Q-32)

Near here the highway crosses Meigs-Freeman Line, surveyed in 1802, boundary between whites & Cherokees until 1819.

Location: US 19A/23 northeast of Sylva
County: Jackson
Original Date Cast: 1942

While the English surrendered thirteen colonies to America in September 1783, citizens of the natal United States would soon wage war against a foe who had occupied America long before the British—the Indian tribes. One of these tribes, the Cherokee, had resided in the southeastern United States for thousands of years before De Soto arrived in the 1530’s. Through the Cherokee War, the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War, the Cherokees had set themselves against the colonists, whose settlements encroached upon Indian lands. Although the Cherokee ceded land to the settlers as early as 1721, the end of the century saw the incorporation of the Meigs-Freeman boundary, which defined Indian-owned land in western North Carolina.

Although the Treaty of Holston, signed in 1791, secured a degree of protection to Cherokee land, by the end of the decade, settlers were gradually pushing westward. To accommodate both Indian and settler alike, Jonathan Meigs and Thomas Freeman led a survey team, including Cherokees, to delineate a terrestrial limit for white settlements, running southwest from the North Carolina - South Carolina border in Transylvania County to Mount Collins in Cherokee County. Completed in the fall of 1802, the Meigs-Freeman line temporarily protected Cherokee lands, until the Cherokee authority entered into another treaty in 1817, which included the possibility of the tribe’s relocation. Although the Cherokee hoped increased land abdications would stall further confiscations, in 1819 the tribe lost almost four million acres of land in yet another treaty, thereby making the Meigs-Freeman line obsolete. The tribe’s worst fears were realized in 1830, when the Andrew Jackson administration supported the Indian Removal Act, which made possible the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma on the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006), 209-210—sketch by William L. Anderson, Ruth Y. Wetmore, and John L. Bell
Lynn Hotaling, “Old Treaty Line Survives as USFS Boundary,” Sylva Herald, September 9, 2004, online at:
John R. Finger, The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819-1900 (1984)
John Ehle, Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation (1988)
Eastern Band of the Cherokee website:

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