Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Story Story from the Trail of Tears

Robin Roberts, photographer and horse woman, had discovered the Story Cemetery in the Shawnee National Forrest some years ago while attending the Nine Day Trail Ride. More recently, she found a new marker where before only the Civil War marker of Ephriam Story had been among the 50 or more graves there--almost all with just a sandstone marker as so many old graveyards have. The new marker was for Ephriam’s wife Caroline (Williford) Story and along with her dates was this: “TSI-TSA-LA-GI (I am Cherokee.)”

Robin began a search to solve the mystery of what descendant of Ephriam and Caroline had added the marker for Caroline. (We assumed it was placed by a descendant.)

Evelyn Hogg, the wife of Vernon Hogg, who is the great grandson of Ephriam and Caroline, was kind enough to write a letter and send a great deal of Trail of Tears information to Robin including the family story that Caroline and her younger sister Mary Williford had indeed been left behind on the Trail of Tears. (Mary's name was Benton when she married, and she died in a nursing home in Indiana.)

Vernon had put up signs pointing to the Story Cemetery around 1999, and at that time there was only Ephriam’s marker. Some three or four years ago they discovered the new marker. Like Robin, they were pleased by it, but had no idea who had put it up.

Among the information Mrs. Hogg sent was the indenture of Caroline and Mary Williford, who at ages 7 and 9 in 1846 were indentured to different families until they were 18. Mrs. Hogg had this indenture record thanks to the work of Ed Annable.

Robin had shared by email beautiful photographs that she had taken of the cemetery and tombstones, and I was fascinated by this story of two little girls left behind on the Trail of Tears. She has continued searching for more descendants and has been corresponding with them.

Just as we had conjectured, Robin was able to confirm today that the two sisters’ parents had died as a result of the Trail of Tears and that a family in Pope County had taken them in. Was this family named Williford? Or was that the original Cherokee family name? Why were the girls indentured in 1846? Did the family who had taken them in die?

As information was passed back and forth among a group of us, new information kept popping up that added new questions to the old ones. So I have deliberately only told you a bit of the story. I hope someday Robin can answer all the mysteries for us and that we will have a complete story of the Williford family members who dropped off the Trail of Tears in 1839.

Maybe by then the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will have a location for an accessible archive for the public. The TOTA is in the process of collecting the heartbreaking stories of broken families left behind in Southern Illinois as Cherokee were forced to relocate in Oklahoma.

If you have any information on the Story family or any other Cherokee left in our region because of the Trail of Tears, please contact anyone in the Illinois Chapter of TOTA, so we can add your information to the archives.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Life's Unexpected Turns

Knowing I would be disoriented after a trip, I was careful to plan what I would need to do after I returned before tonight’s scheduled Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting.

Not only did I plan, but I carried out the plan. Emails were written, getting particular members together was planned, and phone calls were made. Because of my shame of running in just at closing time to get copies of agendas, etc., copied at the college’s Office of Student Affairs, I made a special trip to that office yesterday to avoid the last minute hassle. The personnel there are always extremely gracious to me when I come in hurriedly, but their kindness only increases my guilt for knowing I am being inconsiderate.

My brief case was packed for the meeting, and all the handouts copied yesterday were ready and waiting. I was excited about the program Deb Tucker had planned and was eager to see her again after her Washington, D.C., and Atlantic Ocean trip and her move to Mount Vernon. We had good publicity in local paper, and Deb had managed to get our SIWG newsletter to us despite her trip. As I talked on the phone today, I found others were also eagerly awaiting tonight’s program with Chris Beavers of Graf Ink Printing in Eldorado.

My first surprise came when Julie Durr, who was to give a report from the nominating committee tonight, phoned to say that her son had an email that John A. Logan College was closed for the day because of water problems. I double-checked the college website and tried phoning the college just to be certain that today’s closing included tonight. Although neither said anything about tonight, it was obvious if the college reopened tomorrow morning that tonight was OFF.

Before I sent an email to those people whose e-addresses I had, I decided I had better have a long-distance executive committee meeting for others’ input. First, I phoned our SIWG sponsor Harry Spiller. I figured he could give me the inside scoop. However, he was also surprised to hear about the closing; he was enroute to his son’s graduation from Navy boot camp at Great Lakes. I called Deb, so she could phone Chris Beavers, and I tried to phone Roger Poppen. (Those two were all that were left of our diminishing officers this year since adversities had forced two others to resign.)

After I had sent off emails to whomever I could, I received other emails about the closing, phoned some people who didn’t use emails, and received a phone call from someone apologizing that she could not come tonight. I also received a phone call from someone who was coming but didn’t know the college was closed. I am sure I will probably hear from someone who made the trip to John A. and found locked doors, and I feel terrible about that. Ah well.

It was an interesting day to say the least. Somewhere in here, I also managed to cancel my credit card that was not in my wallet when I started to use it yesterday afternoon. Last night I emptied the wallet and looked in every cranny of wallet, purse, and car. I searched for it again first thing this morning. I hadn’t needed it on vacation since Gerald and I were together when we bought things. I have no idea where or when it disappeared. I feel sure it was not stolen, for fortunately, no one else had used it since I last did on October 5. Yet I still knew it needed to be cancelled since I had looked every possible place. Of course, I believe I always put it back in my wallet. But it wasn’t there, so that proves I am incorrect in my belief. We use the card to get a discount on our gas, so I am going to lose out for a while until the new card arrives. GRRR.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

College Station, Texas

We’ve just returned from our Texas trip. We ate waffles in the shape of the state of Texas for breakfast at our motel, and we heard lots of football talk wherever we went. The weather was wonderful all week, and the many fluffy white clouds in the huge sky were magnificent.

We got off to a slow start from Illinois as someone ran into the back door of our car in the Kroger parking lot as Gerald was headed to the car wash after having the car serviced for the trip. The same replaced door that a pickup had jumped a curb and crushed while I was inside the mall last year was now banged up again!

Thus, we started a little later than planned and a little less calmly. Somewhere down in Arkansas, we got a warning light that a tire was low. A state policeman at the park where we’d stopped to check it recommended a place ahead. A couple of hours later we were back on the road with the tire aired up--but the tire people could not find a leak. Recently we had a tire that had to be replaced despite the fact that two local tire services could not find the tiny leak near the valve that our son-in-law finally located. So we left not feeling too comfortable about the tire. However, we were blessed with nary another trouble with that tire, so evidently the crash on the door had somehow caused that back tire to lose air.

We arrived at College Station the next day in plenty of time to find our motel and the stadium. We were there to see our granddaughter Erin catch that afternoon in two softball games against Navarro Community College. Wearing our hats to keep off the sun, we discovered a roofed stadium, which not only kept off the sun but protected us during the hard rain that fell before the game. Our worry that the games might be rained out was needless as all the brief rain did was cool the air and create a delightful temperature with a lovely breeze. Vickie and Geri Ann, Erin’s mother and sister, had also arrived; and after the games, all of us feasted at the deep-fried chicken dinner that Erin’s friend Matt had prepared for us at the house where Erin and two other softball players live with a fourth college student, whose parents had bought the house for her.

That night we fell instantly asleep and woke early enough the next morning for a leisurely breakfast and then a visit to the George Bush Memorial Library on the Texas A&M campus. Unfortunately, it was being renovated, but we saw the movie, some displays, and the miniature White House replica that has traveled throughout the country. Nearby was a small lake with many flowers and a rose garden, where the butterflies flitted everywhere. We kept walking back into the woods where George and Barbara Bush will someday be buried by their daughter Robin.

Meeting everyone for lunch, we ate Chinese and then had time to go back to the motel to rest up and prepare for the next two games against Blinn Community College, which had a very good team with four good pitchers and a coach with a fine reputation. Again we won both games and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Erin and teammates play and met a few more parents. After a late dinner with our party and sad farewell hugs, we fell into bed and another deep sleep in order to prepare for the next segment of our Texas adventure.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rocks and Sticks

Our great grandson is visiting his grandparents. And we have been allowed to share him. Like all the children before (and I hope after) him, nothing competes in holding his long-term attention as much as rocks, sticks, and dirt--all picked up with stubby little fingers to play with, to throw, to sift, and to enjoy. I find great comfort in that.

Like many American children, he has some fantastic toys. They sing, they talk, they flash. Some toys are adorably cute, some beautiful, some softly cuddly, and some educationally inspired. He likes them and uses them and remembers them. I am sure he has learned a great deal from these presents from loved ones.

I admit to being delighted when his eye instantly caught sight of the little tractor on the bottom shelf of the coffee table in the family room. I had forgotten it was there. A long time ago, that tractor was one of two I bought for new grandsons over 14 years ago. However, after he rolled it around for a minute or two, he was ready for other excitement.

Yet playing with the little rocks and the dry dusty dirt at the softball field yesterday, he lingered much longer with nature’s toys. Hand and eye coordination were enhanced by this play just as millions of other youngsters have grown through this play. Vocabulary was increased as we talked about rocks, sticks, pick up, throw down, and dirty hands. He experienced the hardness of the rocks and the comparative softness of the dirt as he dug it out of the ground to play with.

It is fun to watch a 16-month-old explore the world and learn its secrets. All the delights that the earth offers from deer in his grandparents’ woods to ducks and geese on our lake to Chloe the dog are fascinating to him. When Chloe came up to him to be petted, those of us sitting a short distance a way saw his brain turn over. He realized that she was just the right size for him to straddle and ride. As he was contemplating this and making move to do so, fortunately he refrained and gave Chloe a loving hug instead.

Long ago when his mother was born, Katherine wrote on a family bulletin board at our house at that time: A new baby is God’s decision that the world should go on. When we took this one by to see his Great Aunt Katherine today, she was just as pleased with God’s decision as she had been about his mother.