"HISTORY, NOT HATE"
Stand Watie's "Iron Cross" Re-Dedication
Park Hill, OK
June 26, 2004
by Paul Ridenour email
[14 pictures, two articles below, and Ceremony below]
Flea-market find solves history mystery
By David Zizzo
TAHLEQUAH -- When a piece of rusty iron caught Floyd Lyerla's eye, he had no idea his discovery 12 years ago at a Tulsa flea market would solve a mystery that began decades earlier at a Delaware County cemetery.
Legend has it that Brig. Gen. Stand Watie was supernaturally immune to injury. No gun could kill him and no human was capable of dealing him a mortal wound. It's said around northeastern Oklahoma that the noted Civil War leader never received so much as a scratch.
Jackie Marteney, Mariee Wallace Museum curator with the Delaware County Historical Society, provides some history of Watie, his family and contemporaries, largely gleaned from the book "Heritage of the Hills."
After the Civil War, Watie retired from public
life. He already had lost two sons to illness, and his youngest son died
while a refugee in Texas.
Watie engaged for a time in the mercantile business in Webbers Falls. He later moved to his farm near Bernice, where he spent his remaining years.
Watie became ill while looking after some of his property on Honey Creek, just outside Grove. He died Sept. 9, 1871, and was buried with Masonic honors in the Polson Cemetery, formerly known as the Ridge Cemetery, about 15 miles east of Grove and Jay.
The Trail of Tears
Resting near Watie are several men who gathered in 1836 under an oak tree near the Oostanaula River in Georgia to sign the Treaty of New Echota. Watie, Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot and other Cherokee advocates signed the treaty, wanting to move to a new home. By 1839, the remainder of the Cherokees were forced to move west, resulting in the Trail of Tears.
The Ridges and Boudinot were assassinated June 22, 1839. John Ridge was buried about 150 yards from his house on Honey Creek, in a yard that later was known as Polson Cemetery. Major Ridge's remains were moved to Polson Cemetery in 1856.
What began as a small family cemetery with the burial of John Ridge eventually was set aside as a public cemetery in 1907. Watie's two daughters, M. Daniel (Ninny) and Jessie Watie, died in 1875; his wife, Sarah Bell Watie, in 1883. They were buried on Mockingbird Hill on Monkey Island.
In 1968, their remains, along with those of an infant son, Daniel, and other relatives, were moved from the abandoned family cemetery and placed with Watie at the Polson Cemetery.
In December 1971, the Oklahoma Historical Society erected another marker honoring Watie at the Polson Cemetery. Dedication ceremonies were held May 28, 1972.
By Staff Writer Sheila K. Stogsdill
"I happened to notice this very old-appearing, cast-iron object on a table," said Lyerla, a history and archeology buff from Pittsburg, Kan.
Saturday, that artifact -- a 25-pound "iron cross of honor" that once marked the grave of controversial Cherokee leader Stand Watie -- was returned to the Cherokee Nation in a ceremony in Tahlequah.
The cross presentation will highlight a ceremony at the Cherokee Heritage Center that will include a Civil War re-enactment camp and volleys from cannon of that era. A final resting place for the cross has not been decided.
It might end up as part of a veterans memorial at the Cherokee Tribal Complex, said Richard Fields, director of the Cherokee Heritage Center. A replica has been placed at the Watie gravesite near Grove.
The ceremony will mark the end of a long journey for the old cross.
Historians say that and many similar crosses provided by the Daughters of the Confederacy as memorials for prominent figures probably were stolen. The Watie cross, placed on his grave in Delaware County sometime before World War I, probably disappeared in the years after the war, historians say.
Unraveled by accident
Watie, who was born in Georgia, became a leader of the relocated Cherokee Nation in the Oklahoma Territory and commanded the Confederate forces of the tribe during the Civil War, becoming the last Confederate general to surrender.
Lee Matous, a Civil War history buff in Hot Springs, Ark., unwittingly began the unraveling of the cross mystery. About 18 months ago, Matous was at an auction when he heard that someone in Kansas had bought an authentic Civil War cannon from a museum.
A paralegal and a collection agency investigator, Matous eventually located Lyerla, who invited him to see the cannon. Matous contacted another member of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans group, Bob Freeman, who traveled to Lyerla's home last year.
Freeman said he was disappointed to find the cannon was an old "signal cannon" that was not Confederate. But Lyerla told him, "I have something else that might interest you."
He led Freeman to his basement shop, where the cross had been kept for more than a decade.
"It was on the floor leaning against his work table," Freeman recalled. He recognized it instantly.
"This is the cross that went on Stand Watie's grave," Freeman told Lyerla.
Knowing the cross had some historical significance
because of Watie's name on it, Lyerla had paid $500 at the flea market. He
figured it was an emblem that probably hung outside a meeting hall.
"He knew it was a rare cross, but he didn't know how rare," Freeman said.
Through the years, Lyerla said, he declined offers from collectors, hoping it would someday wind up with someone who could appreciate whatever its true meaning was.
Lyerla sold the cross for $800 -- his investment plus interest, he figures -- to the Arkansas group. That group is donating it to the Cherokee Nation.
It's like the theme of Saturday's ceremony, Matous said. "It's a matter of honor."
The Washbourne Family
Bill Baker with descendants of Stand's brother Elias Boudinot and descendants of Major Ridge's son John Ridge and daughter Sarah (Ridge) Paschal
1995 Civil War Stamp of Stand Watie
|Cherokee Nation Tribal Council member Bill John Baker speaks after accepting the iron cross taken years ago from Brigadier Gen. Stand Watie's grave. Listening to Baker's comments are representatives of the James M. Keller Camp from Hot Springs, Ark., the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Cherokee Heritage Center Director Richard Fields, seated, and, right, Wayne Coleman, commander of the Oklahoma Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Coleman represents the Cherokee Creek brigade.|
It's a matter of honor.
By Bob Gibbins, Press Staff Writer
That was the driving message Saturday during a
presentation that ended with the James M. Keller Camp returning the iron cross
taken from the grave of Brigadier Gen. Stand Watie to the Cherokee Nation.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker accepted the cross for display
in the tribal museum on the grounds of the Heritage Center.
"We are standing here as ghosts of the confederacy," said Lee Matous, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of the James M. Keller Camp in Hot Springs, Ark. "The Daughters of the Confederacy are our hearts and souls."
Matous said it was an honor to be able to return Watie's cross.
"It's an honor to be able to accept this cross on behalf of the Cherokee Nation," Baker said. "We appreciate the Keller camp locating the cross and returning it to the Cherokee Nation.
The presentation was part of a rededication of the original Southern Iron Cross of Honor that was placed on Watie's grave. The Sons of the Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy joined representatives of the Military Order of Stars and Bars in honoring the last confederate general to survive.
The Cherokee Heritage Center grounds resembled the grounds of a civil war battlefield with tents, soldiers and cannons covering the grounds.
Becki Redwine, who portrays Watie's widow, Sarah, watched the presentations through a black veil. Redwine nodded affirmatively as speakers talked of Watie's legacy.
"This is the thrill of my life," she said. "I've done this [played Watie's widow] for eight years. I've mainly been involved in re-enactments."
Troy Poteete, a former tribal council member and a tribal historian, bid the crowd greetings from the Little Dixie of the Cherokee Nation, Webbers Falls. He said Webbers Falls was Watie's last home and the town has a street named after the famed confederate general. He also said the Cherokee Braves flag flies as the town's official flag.
"Webbers Falls is the southern most part of
the Cherokee Nation geographically," he said. "It's also the southern most
culturally, economically and politically."
Jimmy Langley and his family occupied one of the tents on the Heritage Center grounds. They said surgeries were performed on tables, tarps on the grounds and other locations. Doctors then treated everything from measles, pregnancy and battle wounds.
"You had a better chance to survive in Indian Territory," Darla Langley said. "The Indians taught us how to treat wounds and gave some treatments [anecdotes]."
Richard Fields, director of the Cherokee Heritage Center, said he was pleased the center was chosen to host the event.
"The Sons of Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy have an important story to tell," he said. "Stand Watie is an important aspect of that story."
Speakers said Watie deserved a great deal of homage and recognized him as the only confederate general to achieve all of the instructions given to him in Richmond, Va.
Members of Watie's niece, Mabel Washbourne Anderson's family were also named honorary Arkansas Travelers. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckaby signed off on the certificates presented by the James M. Keller Camp.
“….It is an obligation we owe our children to perpetuate the truths of history….
Niece to Brig. General Stand Watie, Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter 1450
Mayes County Democrat
Pryor Creek, Oklahoma
Friday, March 21, 1913
“A MATTER OF HONOR”
Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi, Chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Individual Camps of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Cherokee Honor Guard
Presentation by Terry Bandy, Chaplain of the Arkansas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, Col. Robert G. Shavers Camp #1655, Jonesboro, Arkansas
“I Pledge Alligence, to the Flag, of the United States of America; and to the Republic, of which it Stands, One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty, and Justice for All.”
“We Salute, to the Confederate Flag, with Affection, Reverence, and Undying Devotion, to the Cause for Which it Stands.”
Oh, I wish I was in
the Land of cotton, ole times there not forgotten,
Look Away! Look Away! Look Away, Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land where I was born, early on a frosty mornin,
Look Away! Look Away! Look Away, Dixie Land.
Oh, I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixieland I’ll take my Stand, to Live and Die in Dixie…
Away! Away! Away Down South in Dixie!
Away! Away! Away Down South>>>>>>>>>In Dixie!!!!!
GREETINGS/INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS
Hosted by Lee Matous, Sons of Confederate Veterans James M. Keller Camp #648, Hot Springs Arkansas, and Richard Fields, Director of the Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Presented Guest Speakers:
Mr. Bill John Baker – District 1 Cherokee, of the Cherokee Nation Council
Mr. David W. Thornton, Sr. – District 3 Sequoyah, of the Cherokee Nation Council
Mr. Troy W. Poteete – Attorney Representative to Chief Chadwick “Corntassle” Smith of the Cherokee Nation
Ms. Mary Ellen Meridth – President of Cherokee National Historical Society, Ancestor to Capt. Clem Van Rogers, C.S.A. of “Waties 1st Mounted Cherokee Rifles Volunteers”
Ms. Susan Railsback – President of the Arkansas Daughters of the Confederacy
Ms. Ruth Faulkner – President of the Oklahoma Daughters of the Confederacy
Mr. W. Danny Honnoll – Commander of the Arkansas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans
Dr. James G. Caster – Oklahoma Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, Noted Historian of Brig. Gen. Stand Watie
Mr. John Perry – Commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, Sons of the Confederate Veterans
Mr. Ron G. Wilson – Commander-in-Chief National/International Sons of Confederate Veterans, Elm Springs, Tennessee
Mr. Jeff Massey – Commander General of the Military Order of the Stars and Bars (MOSB)/Fmr. Commander of the Brig. Gen. Stand Watie Camp #1303, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Acceptance by the Cherokee Nation by Representatives Ms. Mary Ellen Meridth and Mr. Richard Fields; Presentations by Representatives of the James M. Keller Camp #648, Hot Springs, Arkansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma Divisions Sons of Confederate Veterans, Arkansas and Oklahoma Presidents of the United Daughters of the Confederacy
PREPARATION OF CONFEDERATE SALUTE
Order given to the Army of the Confederacy to prepare for complete Confederate Salute. Host will announce Infantry, Calvary, and Artillery Regiments/Company/Battery and Representation by State during this short preparation.
CONFEDERATE SALUTE TO BRIG. GEN. STAND WATIE
Will last approximately 12-15 minutes.
Special Guest _______________ will perform Cherokee period Flute Music during the Salute
By ______________________, of the _________________ Church, Tahlequah, Oklahoma
RETIRING OF THE COLORS
By the Cherokee Honor Guards, Wichita Kansas
END OF CEREMONY