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Priscilla on The Trail of Tears

Trail of Tears and Priscilla | Illinois Sites | Story Family Mystery | Trail of Tears Association | Priscilla's Origins? | Poems for Children | Links | TOT in Illinois

Poems/Activities for Children

Teachers and homeschooling parents will find this excellent timeline helpful for TOT study.

Flowers from Priscilla
In Silkwood Inn long long ago,
Priscilla lived with face aglow.
For she had once been a slave.
Mr. Silkwood bought her and freedom gave.
In her pocket were hollyhock seed,
To bring the beauty all folks need.
Pretty Priscilla worked for hours.
Pretty Priscilla planted flowers.
Watered them carefully with her pail,
Beside the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Trail.
Tired travelers stopping by
Would see tall blooms against the sky.
Priscilla worked hard each weekday,
And on the Sabbath would rest and pray.
People loved her for her good deeds.
She lives on through the hollyhock seeds.
                              By Sue Glasco
The poem was written for preschoolers
and their parents to act out together.  You
may want to try it with your child.
See what actions you can create to go
with the poem.  Can you become a tall
bloom  blowing in the breeze?

A Little Song to be Sung to the Tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
Blossom, blossom seeds of mine,
When I plant you, please do fine.
Waving brightly in the breeze,
You'll bring beauty sure to please
And memories of long ago--
Little Priscilla with her hoe.
Hollyhocks from afar,
You'll bring beauty where we are.
Possible Actions:  Planting seeds. 
Waving in the breeze.
Hoeing the hollyhocks.

Making Hollyhock Dolls
A wonderful summer activity for children is making hollyhock dolls.  Pick the hollyhock blossoms and buds in the cool of the morning or evening, and then sit outside with the children under a leafy tree on a blanket with a box of toothpicks and your picked blossoms. 
Caution: Children should be old enough that using toothpicks is safe.  A toddler might get one in the eye, so wait till the children are old enough to be careful.
Use a bud for the head, and another bud fastened with a toothpick for the bosom of the doll. With a toothpick, attach a skirt made of  one blossom on top of another to make a wide billowy floor-length  skirt. These two blossoms face downward.
Finally put a third blossom on the back of the doll's head to make a beautiful picture hat.
There you have it.  A lovely Southern belle all dressed for a stroll.
Colors can be mixed for variety's sake.  A two-toned skirt might be pretty with the picture hat in the same color as one of the skirt blossoms.  Play around and see how many beautiful young ladies you and the children can create.
Can the children make up a play for the dolls to act out? 
Or better yet, just let them play by themselves with no directions with their newly created people. 
Later you can serve them lemonade and cookies on the blanket or bring their dolls over to an outdoor picnic table for this snack time.

Background for Trail of Tears research by Sue:

Growing up in Union County, IL, on the path of the Cherokee's Trail of Tears, I was unaware of the Trail.  There were markers (now gone) east and west of my hometown of Jonesboro, but I do not remember stopping at them nor hearing about them. 

I heard about the Winstead Davie family because a granddaughter Miss Elnora Davie taught at the Jonesboro Grade School where my father was principal.   My sister was privileged to go to school to her and helped organize the sit-down strike in the school gym more to honor Miss Davie's retirement than to protest it. 

Miss Davie was very knowledgeble about wild flowers and had a wild flower garden at her home that created a desire in me to have the same. However, my young horticulture friend down the road from us here at the farm convinced me that wild flowers are better off left in the wild undisturbed.  And I must admit seeing wild flowers in the woods or along our country roads is more satisfying than seeing them cultivated.  Yet I still know that Miss Davie's love for those wild blooms inspired me as a child to appreciate their loveliness.

Another granddaughter Mrs. Serena Sims belonged to the Matrons Club to which my mother belonged, and Miss Davie attended the meetings also. (At one time there had also been a Bachelor Girls club in Jonesboro, but after most got married, the remaining members were made welcome at the Matrons Club.)  I remember the sisters  from meetings at our house, when my mother took her annual turn to entertain the club. 

My last memory of Mrs. Sims was catching a glimpse of her one day as I drove through town several years after we had moved away.  White headed and gently dignified as always, she was walking and carryng a bouquet of her garden flowers.  I assumed she was taking the flowers to an ill friend on the other side of town.   I have loved that farewell memory of her.  When I carry flowers to anyone, I sometimes think of her and hope I can still take flowers when I am that age.

But back to the Trail of Tears.  What I consider odd is that neither my grade school history teacher nor my high school teacher ever made mention of the Trail of Tears in sufficiently impressive way (if at all) that I have any memory of it.  My father taught math and science to us 8th graders but he was interested in history.  Why did he not teach me about the Trail of Tears?  Were local people ashamed of this ignoble part of American history?  Or had they too been denied any sense as they grew up that this American Diaspora was of any importance?  Did the terrible losses of the Civil War after the Cherokees'  forced march make the 4000 or so Cherokee deaths during the winter of 1838 seem small in comparison.?  Was I a particularly unobservant child caught up in the drama of winning World War II, so that I paid no attention if anyone told me about the Cherokees?  I really don't know; I only know I grew up ignorant.

I remained ignorant until I went to work in family literacy for Rend Lake College in Spring 1992.   At first I worked giving parent-child workshops in Franklin County Head Start and Pre-K classrooms and made broad-scale single home visits of families enrolled.  In 1992-93, although we continued the workshops, we started Family Partnerships working more intensely with fewer families and meeting monthly at Mulkeytown, where the Christopher Elementary Schools then had an attendance center for Pre-K and kindergarten children.   In Mulkeytown, which sits on the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Trail,  I learned about the Silkwood Inn, where innkeeper Brazilla Silkwood had brought young Priscilla, a slave he had freed from the Trail of Tears in Jonesboro.   Determined that these families with preschoolers would not be as ignorant of the history of their area as I had been,  I chose for our theme in 1993-94:  "On the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Trail."   Families met local author Ruby Henderson who taught us well about Priscilla, one of the fortunate ones who not only escaped slavery but did not have to continue on that deathly trek to Oklahoma. 

I have been fascinated  by the story of the Trail of Tears and the legend of Priscilla ever since. I wanted to know as much truth beyond the legend as I could discover. Priscilla lived the remainder of her life at Silkwood Inn until the death of the Silkwoods, and then she lived in the home of her foster sister--another of the 16 or so orphans raised by the Silkwoods.  Ruby Henderson and her sister Chloe Davis, retired schoolteachers, researched the stories about Priscilla and the entire Mulkeytown area. Their  father was a fellow church member with the Silkwoods and Priscilla, and they had grown up knowing about the life of Priscilla.

They put together two books as  fundraisers for the Mulkeytown Area Historical Society, which rebuilt Silkwood Inn after a fire almost caused its destruction.  Although by this time Chloe Davis was in a nursing home, Ruby Henderson conducted our Family Partnerships group on a tour of Silkwood Inn and the Reid-Kirkpatrick Cemetery as well as the old Mulkey cemetery on the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Trail.  Our families heard stories, told stories, wrote stories, acted stories, and learned about Priscilla and the Trail of Tears along with many other subjects about the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Trail that year.  We ended with a trip to the Shawneetown-Kaskaskia Trail's end at Saint Louis, Missouri, where the pioneer drovers had herded their turkey flocks and other livestock after they left Silkwood Inn.  The men would sleep on the open-air porches at the Inn and the turkeys would roost in a grove of trees, and then they'd  continue across the Little Muddy River and finally across the mighty Mississippi River.

Trying to separate the "facts" from the various versions of the Priscilla legend has been impossible  because so little was written during Priscilla's lifetime.  We know she was provided for in the will of Brazilla Silkwood.  She is buried beside Brazilla and Mahala and a previous wife Mariah in the family plot at Reid-Kirkpatrick Cemetery up the road from Silkwood inn.  Originally there was only a fieldstone marker on her grave.  School children collected money in the 1960s and put a marker on her grave under the direction of their teachers Lela Penwarden Spegal and Eloise Davis.  There are  many many stories, articles, poems, and songs inspired by the life of  Priscilla, which often contain conflicting information. 

 I am trying to learn as much as I can about her life, which started probably on a Georgia or North Carolina plantation as a slave since she was said to be one-quarter black and three-quarters Indian.  Had her mother been Cherokee, then she could have been considered "full blooded" but instead she was a slave to one of the Cherokee.   They were driven from their homes and farms by the United States government in direct defiance to the Supreme Court.  With the others, Priscilla would have been penned up in one of the filthy open-air prison camps in Tennessee throughout the summer of 1838.  At summer's end, she was forced to march and endure almost unbearable hardships with the now weakened and malnourished Cherokee. I am working on her story so that even more families can learn about her good and gentle life. Edit Text