A Creek Runs Through It

By Melissa McCord

A Jonesboro, lllinois, family recently found out that hunting Cherokee artifacts is child’s play. After being cooped up all winter a little boy's mind turns to running, playing and if you are lucky searching a creek bed for interesting items that have washed up after a good rain, which is exactly what the grandson of Robert Thomas did on a warm February day. Robert owns a piece of land south of Jonesboro that has a creek that runs through it that his grandson, Clay, likes to play in. Usually Clay finds things that aren’t of interest to himself or his grandpa. But this time Clay made the find of the century or 180 years to be more exact.
Illinois is rich in history as being part of the Trail of Tears. But even some locals don’t know that Union County is one of the wealthiest counties of all. During the year 1838 the United States Government forced the Native Americans from their homeland in the East to march across the land to Oklahoma. Many stories are readily available to read about the mistreatment of the Cherokee Nation and other Native tribes but this story is about our place in the history of the Cherokee people. In the winter of 1883 it is said the Mississippi River was frozen 10 inches solid. It was impossible for the ferry that was run by Mr. Willard to cross the river. The Cherokee people had to wait until the river thawed in order to be ferried across. They set up camp south of Jonesboro until the weather warmed up enough to move forward, farther from their homes and closer to the unknown land of Oklahoma. But first they had to survive a winter in Southern Illinois. As most of the residents of Southern Illinois know it can get miserably cold here. We long for spring days just like Clay did when he got outside and played in the creek that runs across his Grandpa’s property.
Little Clay had a doctor’s appointment and then his mom let him go to his grandpa’s afterwards. It was then while Clay was playing in the creek that he found the ax head that was lost by a Cherokee brave during the same Trail of Tears encampment south of Jonesboro that was buried under almost two hundred years of mud. He and Grandpa cleaned it up and put a new handle in the ax head so that Clay will be able to display it in a case. I had never seen anything like it before but a quick search online shows that indeed it is an original metal ax head made by the Cherokee men for war or cutting down trees for building a lodge during a brutal winter in Southern Illinois.

Templates in Time