Since I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated by history. Especially early American history. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live “back then”. I’ve always been amazed with the hard times and struggles that people throughout history h
ave overcame and also I suppose it’s an escape for me into a search of simpler times
I’ll never forget when I was in sixth grade I got to go with a group of students to stay overnight at Ft. Massac in southern Illinois. We got to sleep in one of the bastions and were able to see Kentucky across the Ohio river. Looking back what a strategic location and picturesque as well. I’ll never forget the gentleman and ladies dressed in Colonial clothing and military uniforms or the smell of fire wood burning and the reenactments and the authentic Colonial foods (apple fritters) and hot chocolate in the morning. See their site here. http://dnr.state.il.us/Lands/landmgt/parks/R5/frmindex.htm
My wife and I used to take a monthly road trip to “wherever”. We would just get in the car and drive and stop and see anything and everything that was interesting. One of our favorite drives was down Illinois’ Great River Road where we found Fort De Chartres which is pictured above. Unlike Fort Massac (a wooden structure) this fort is an enormous stone structure. We made this trip several times and it’s reenactments and museum are really a must see in early American history.
Although at times I take it for granted I suppose and drive by it twice a day to and fro from work but another great part of American history is at Cahokia Mounds. Home of the largest ancient earthen structure in North America. Acres of amazing mounds. Mounds that are the only thing left of what was once a huge population of Mississippians or some times called Cahokian or Kahoka. I grew up in the town in which this legendary part of American history resides. Years ago it just had a small museum and now it has an elaborate interpretive center and it’s free to the public. I encourage visits and donations Here’s their site. It’s a good one. http://www.cahokiamounds.org/ .
A short distance away is St. Louis. St.Louis itself was once known as Mound City. St. Louis once had mounds on its riverfront. Settlers built homes and go figure, taverns on top of some of them. There are remnants of that age in a riverfront street named Mound street and also in its turn of the century advertising on it’s riverfront buildings.
Nearly ten years ago we moved out into “the sticks” built a home nestled in farmland. Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the great city of St. Louis (which I love as my own) but close enough that I can make the trek into work every day. I’ve heard a couple people in town mention a place called Cox Monument. I never gave it much of a thought until my neighbor mentioned it again and in asking him about it he told me there was a massacre there. I looked into it and found it was just a very short distance from where I live.
I went online and found out where it was. After Church this morning I took my kids down a long gravel country road to show them the history in their “backyard” I told them the story about the Cox massacre along the way.
In 1808 the Jesse Cox family settled in what this area and worked to clear and cultivate the land. They built a log cabin and were in the process of building a mill to grind their corn meal. In 1811 while away from their cabin. Some say working on their mill and others say they were at nearby Hill’s Fort to gather supplies. http://www.fortsofillinois.org/ While away a party of Pottawatomie Indians found 16 year old Rebecca Cox and her 20yr old brother Elijah Cox left alone.
They murdered Elijah, cut his heart out and placed it on his head. They put Rebecca on a horse and started heading North. Rebecca left strips of her apron along their path so she could be traced. Rangers from Hill’s Fort and surrounding areas tracked down the Indians near Litchfield, Il. Rebecca it is said in seeing the trailing Rangers jumped off the horse but not before receiving a blow from her captor’s tomahawk to her hip.
The Rangers caught up to them and rescued Rebecca and then killed the band Pottawatomie. Rebecca would recover and later marry her boyfriend William Gregg and then move to Arkansas where he was also killed by Indians. The tension was building at this time in the country and it was a time in history leading up to the War Of 1812. Many of these native tribes were encouraged and often paid to kill or rob American settlers. Which may have been the case in the Cox murder.
The kids and I pulled up to this tiny area deep in America’s heartland. I was disappointed to see the surrounding property junked up with old cars and farm equipment and well…junk. I was grateful at the same time however that the property owner allowed this easement in his property for people to see this forgotten place and place of American history. The grave of Elijah Cox was on the property of where the family cabin once stood and owned. I was also disappointed in that the local cemetery who is in charge of care of this monument has allowed it to be covered in leaves and debris. I’m going to offer to clean it up myself for free.
This is the original head stone for Elijah Cox, I wasn’t able to get close enough so that it’s legible here.
There is however a recent plaque placed last year in honor and in memorial of this young man’s death and local history. It doesn’t take much effort to see that we are surrounded by great history and can easily witness the struggles and triumphs of the American spirit anywhere. Stories like the Cox Family story. Stories like this are strewn across the country if you look around. Many say today that we are in need of a change in our culture. I’m convinced history is where to find it. The notion of getting back to our founding is talked about now more than ever. History is all around us. Take your kids.Take your grand kids there or just revisit it yourself. It’s everywhere. You don’t have to look very far or dig very deep because our history is really right in our back yards, no matter where you live.