It looks like the stairway to Heaven, doesn't it? Well, looks can be deceiving. This is the stairway you walk up in Golconda, Illinois to view the Ohio River. In the winter of 1838-9, the Cherokees who were forcibly removed from their homeland were experiencing a living hell in this very area. From a journal entry, December 28-29, by Rev. Daniel S. Butrick, a missionary who traveled with the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears, "It is distressing to reflect on the situation of the nation. One detachment stopped at the Ohio River, two at the Mississippi, one four miles this side, one 16 miles this side, one 18 miles and one 3 miles behind us. In all these detachments, comprising about 8,000 souls, there is now a vast amount of sickness, and many deaths. Six have died in a short time in Maj. Brown's company, and in this detachment. Of Mr. Taylor's there are more or less affected with sickness in almost every tent; and yet all are houseless and homeless in a strange land, and in a cold region exposed to weather almost unknown in their native country."
As I stood at the top of those steps and looked out over the Ohio River, I thought about those Cherokees who were stranded on the other side, unable to cross due to the frozen river, and about all those who were stopped between this point and the Mississippi River. Approximately 8,000 people out there, stopped in dead of winter, in conditions they were unaccustomed to, trying to survive until the rivers were passable. They were sick and cold and watching their parents, children, brothers, sisters and friends die knowing they could do nothing about it. Not only were they enduring a physical hell, but a mental one. Can you imagine what it would be like to be forced from your homeland and forced to march across the country in the middle of a harsh winter and having to see sickness and death all around you possibly while you are sick yourself? To watch your child die and being able to do nothing for them?
From Butrick on December 31, 1838, "O what a year it has been! O what a sweeping wind has gone over, and carried its thousands into the grave; while thousands of others have been tortured and scarcely survive, and the whole nation comparatively thrown out of house & home during this most dreary winter.............From what crime was this whole nation doomed to perpetual death? This almost unheard of suffering? Simply because they would not agree to a principle which would be at once death to their national existence......"
When I look at the picture, I don't see beauty, but instead, something very, very ugly hidden behind a pretty facade. Sure, at first glance the picture is pretty, but if you look into the past, remember the pain of the Cherokee people, and consider the hell they suffered in this area, you understand there is absolutely nothing pretty about it.
Stairway to Heaven? I think not.
Those are my thoughts for today.
Thank you for reading.