Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Trail of Tears Through Southern Illinois

Since it is after midnight, I guess I will have to date this January 10. It has been a difficult week with health and family emergencies, but I am not going to dwell on those tonight.

Instead let me share some exciting plans made at the Trail of Tears Association board meeting on Wednesday night. While Gerald attended Geri Ann’s volleyball game at Johnston City, I traveled to Carbondale where we met in the geology conference room on the Southern Illinois University campus.

The first meeting of the Illinois Trail of Tears Association in 2007 will be a very special event. Illinoisans are encouraged to come and share their family stories about the Trail of Tears. At every TOTA meeting, there are people who have descended from Cherokee that for one reason or another dropped off the Trail in Southern Illinois. We need to collect and save these priceless family stories.

This sharing will take place at a very informal meeting at Camp Ground Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Union County starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. The public is encouraged to bring letters, documentation, diaries, handed-down oral history, etc. to share in the church sanctuary. Copy facilities will be available for sharing with TOTA. (No one will have to leave material behind.)

For anyone too shy to share publicly, there is the option of a private interview in a classroom. If it is impossible for someone to come and share that day, a later private sharing time can be arranged. Dwight Boaz will be recording by video for those who agree to be taped. It is hoped that this event produces an ongoing collection of oral history helping us to appreciate the historic legacy in our area associated with the Trail.

Harvey Henson of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s geology department will also be on the cemetery grounds demonstrating a non-invasive way to discover burial sites. The Camp Ground cemetery and church grounds have been certified by the National Park Service as a site where many Cherokee camped on the Trail. Oral tradition has allowed us to know of the burial there in unmarked graves of those who died in that area of the Trail.

There will be displays and information to browse. The Camp Ground Church is serving refreshments to those attending.

The Illinois Trail of Tears Association meets three times a year. The purpose is to discover and share information about the 1838 Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois and to encourage the development and preservation of the Trail. The public is always invited to the meetings.

The summer TOTA meeting will be in Chicago at the Newberry Library on Saturday, June 9, at 1 p.m. Program to be announced. [Correction on February 24: This date has now been changed to June 23 at the Towner's Lounge at Newberry Library.]

The final TOTA meeting of 2007 will be Saturday, October 6, at Golconda, where many of the Cherokee entered our state crossing over the Ohio River on a ferry from Kentucky. Place and program to be announced.

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