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Priscilla on The Trail of Tears

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Story Family Mystery

Can you help solve the mystery?

Below is a blog I wrote on October 24, 2007, after a day of receiving exciting emails about the Story Cemetery. 
The very next day Robin Roberts had an email from a Story descendant who had discovered who had placed the mystery stone for Caroline (Williford) Story.  A Story family cousin Sue Jennings Craig found the proof that Caroline was Cherokee, and she bought the stone.  She and her brother back-packed it into the Shawnee National Forest near Lusk to put it on her gravesite.   That answers one mystery.  
However, not trying to be secretive but rather hoping to have more information and documentation, I did not write about the intriguing email Robin received telling the cause of the deaths of Caroline and Mary's parents on the Trail of Tears. When that documentation comes through,  I will share that entire part of the story also.  However, I will tell you that the mother died in childbirth at Mantle Rock, KY, while waiting for the ferry across the cold Ohio River.
Then to our surpise, before October 24th ended, we had a third mystery to be solved: Who is baby William Williford?  
Joe Crabb wrote:  In a copy of some records from Pope County Court records, Book C, page 235 shows the following.  Tuesday, the 8th day of September, 1840, on application of Wm. James. William Williford, an infant child aged 2 yrs, b 15 Jany 1839, was bound to him the said James on this day until he arrive at the age of 21 yrs.
As Joe said, "This might do nothing but confuse the issue further."  Yes it does!!  This record of the baby boy raises an interesting question.  is it possible that  baby William Williford born on January 15, 1839, was the baby born to their Cherokee mother?  Is this a sibling that the two little girls was never told about?  What happened to William Williford when he grew up?  Was William James kind to this baby boy?  Did he treat him as a son or an indentured servant? As so often happens, when one mystery is solved, another one pops up.

October 24, 07, Blog: 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 Mt. Vernon, 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.