Looking back at a little bit of local history...
Bear with me, folks, as I attempt to wrap up one more loose end left over from the dearly departed year 2019...and share a little bit of a history lesson, too.
Last fall, in November, to be more specific, I motored to Carbondale to hear a presentation about a tragic chapter in the history of our nation which played out partly in Union County.
The presentation, which was at the Carbondale Public Library, was about the Trail of Tears. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Trail of Tears, it involved the forced removal in the 1830s of thousands of Native Americans from their homes in the southeastern United States.
The presentation was given by Union County resident Sandra Boaz at a meeting of the Daniel H. Brush Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
I hope Sandra doesn’t mind that I’m using her name...and sharing some of the important story she presented to an audience of about 80 people.
Those who were on hand were reminded that the Native Americans who were forced from their homes were people who had adapted to a new culture...they valued education...most were Christian...and they had modified their government so that it was patterned after the one which they thought would protect them.
The forced exile of members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw and Creek tribes would bring thousands of Native Americans to Union County during the bitter winter of 1838-1839.
An historical marker along Illinois Route 146 between Jonesboro and Ware recalls that “during the frigid winter of January 1839, thousands of Cherokee enroute from Georgia to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, camped near here along Dutch Creek. Unable to cross the Mississippi due to floating ice, nearly 2000 of the 13,000 who began the ‘Trail of Tears’ died during the journey.”
As was suggested at the talk in Carbondale, the Trail of Tears was “not a pretty story of a time in U.S. history, but we can’t go back and change what happened.” Furthermore, a chief justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court offered that the Cherokee are “not looking back, and neither should we; just move forward for the good of all.”
If you happen be driving along Route 146, and if you have not stopped to see the historical marker, make sure you do. As the DAR chapter suggested in an item which was sent to this newspaper, the story of the Trail of Tears and “the perspective of the Native Americans is a story that needs to be told more often.”
The historical marker makes note of five other noteworthy events in Union County’s history:
*The creation of Union County on Jan. 2, 1818, when Illinois was still a territory. The county’s commissioners established Jonesboro as the county seat on land donated by John and Juliet Grammer.
*In the 1850s, the Illinois Central Railroad planned to run tracks through this area. Jonesboro was asked to have a survey made at a cost of $50. When the town failed to meet the requirement, Winstead Davie submitted a survey routing the railroad through his property east of Jonesboro. A town was platted in 1854 along the tracks and Davie named it “Anna” in honor of his wife, Anna Willard Davie.
*On September 15, 1858, the third Lincoln-Douglas debate was held north of the Jonesboro Square. Lincoln was a guest of D.L. Phillips at 511 S. Main in Anna. The debate was attended by less than 1500 people – the smallest crowd of the series.
*During the Civil War, Anna served as one of the rendezvous points in Illinois for troops. Eight Union County regiments were assembled here. General Grant spent one week in Anna mustering in troops. In 1869 the Southern Hospital for the Insane – now the Choate Mental Health Center – was built in Anna.
The historical marker, by the way, was sponsored by the PAST organization of Union County and the Illinois State Historical Society. PAST, along with the Union County Historical Society, continue to work hard to ensure that we remember history as it happened right here at home. The work they do is a good thing.
As has been noted often in this space, your writer thinks it is extremely important that we remember, and appreciate, history: the history of the world around us, the history of our nation and the history which has unfolded right here in our little corner of the world.
Some folks say that nothing ever happens in Union County. The historical marker standing along Route 146 suggests otherwise.