I was privileged to spend the afternoon at the beautiful Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church building on Anna’s main street. After this congregation grew older and faded away, the building was deteriorating and was soon going to be lost. Then a group, which calls itself P.A.S.T., stepped in and begin revitalizing it.
I met Linda Hileman and Judy Smith and other volunteers who have worked hard to reclaim this small jewel of a building. Linda explained that Judy with her late husband retired in this region from Chicago. Judy immediately started working with P.A.S.T. to save the building. She was one of the first to start by sweeping out the debris collected there. Seeing the sparkling hardwood floor this afternoon and the pristine interior, it was hard to imagine there had ever been a speck of dirt in that building.
This weekend’s Colorfest included many activities, and one of the most exciting to me was that St. Anne’s hosted the first showing of the traveling museum exhibit. The portable panels were adapted from a more extensive exhibit on regional maps last fall.at the museum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Vickie Devenport of SIUC television is arranging to share this abridged exhibit of the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois. The exhibit will be traveling to many museums and venues in our area so that more of our citizens can see it.
Joe Crabb and I were both there from the Illinois Chapter of the National Trail of Tears Association to explain a little of the sad story of the Forced Removal of the approximately 11,000 Cherokee who entered our state at Golconda and left in at the banks of the Mississippi River at one of the ferries there, which would carry them across the ice-laden river to Missouri.
It was great to see friends Barbara Boyd Bauer and Darrel Dexter. I had just bought his recent book on the Lincoln-Douglas debate before he arrived and was able to get it autographed.
Also among those at the gathering were two special friends of mine—the Coffman boys—Myrle and Harlan.. Our family lived across the street from the Jonesboro Grade School. The Coffman boys, with their parents Francis and Zella, lived on the lane behind the school. Of the original “boys” there were John, Tom, Laverne, Donald, Myrle and Harlan. John, the oldest, was still dancing and enjoying life in Florida the last I heard., and in the short time we had to visit, I failed to get an update on him today. We have lost Tom, Laverne, and Donald. Myrle was home for his 60th class reunion at Anna-Jonesboro High School this weekend.
One of the panels on the Trail of Tears featured Myrle and Harlan’s ancestor George Hileman, one of the kinder area residents who let thousands of Cherokee camp on his property, cut trees for firewood, and even allowed them to bury their dead in the same field where he and his wife had buried two of their small children.
Later the Hilemans donated the land for Camp Ground Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was built there. Today there is a well-kept cemetery beside this active rural church. The cemetery is one of two certified sites of the TOTA, and Harvey Henson, of SIUC’s geology department and his students have located 17 unmarked graves through non-invasive methods. Their discovery supports the community’s oral tradition that this is where the Cheorkee buried their dead in the frozen ground
Camp Ground Church is located where Interstate 57 crosses Route 146, Illinois’s designated Trail of Tears highway. This is a solemn afternoon drive if you want to pay your respect to the victims of this terrible diaspora of the Cherokee from their beloved homeland stolen from them by greedy whites. Get out of your car and walk around the cemetery and down the lane to the north of the church house which goes beneath Interstate 57. You will be walking where the Cherokee walked. Except you won’t have to keep walking until you reach Oklahoma.
Causes Sue Glasco Supports