Mythbusting local Burr Ridge history: ‘Founding Families,’ Part 2

<p>Godfrey's most recent book, " class="article-img" />

Godfrey's most recent book, "The Indian Marble" is based on his genealogical research of Bat Bergeron. The marble pictures is actually a marble discovered at one of Bergeron's home sites of the period. | Flagg Creek Heritage Society

Each week, we will be taking a look back at the fascinating history of Burr Ridge and separating fact from fiction. This week, we bring you the second part of a three part series on how our “community identity” came to be.

It all began with the curiosity of a scientist’s mind—his Ph.D. is in the sciences after all. He wondered as he drove near the campus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign if his Potawatomi grandmother had been forced to march on what is known as “The Trail of Death” (as distinct from “The Trail of Tears”). The puzzle would lead George F. Godfrey on a journey across time, place, peoples and nations. The stories he heard from his mother, Helen May (Bergeron) Godfrey, inspired new questions about his Potawatomi heritage and past that would come to shape his future.  

“I suppose it was the inquisitiveness. The road I took started out in science and research, the academic,” he said in a recent interview. “I pulled together more and more information, from county court records, oral history and photographs. Family published and archival material: I could knit together a story.” 

Like many of us who begin as hobby genealogists, he was compelled. As he unraveled mysteries of his own genealogy, he discovered the stories of so many others woven into the larger narrative of settlers, frontier, forced removals and kinship. His research process was complex, but he remained undaunted. “You reach an end, but you find things that can break(through),” he explained. “You have to look at the oral history; even the written word isn’t necessarily accurate.” This was the case with many phonetic spellings he was able to decipher, in addition to even dialectic differences within the language.

But the deeper his research went into the life of his great great grandmother Watchekee, the personal became political. Family stories became not just his, but a significant part of a living history of the removals. Godfrey’s own work was seen more and more in national terms: eventually leading him to becoming the President of the Trial of Death Association, organizing and placing historical markers with communities along the trail, reframing the despair of the removal to one of empowerment and healing with the annual Trial of Courage Living History Festival in Fulton, IN. There are several place markers in Illinois at locations where children died and they’ve been dedicated with local Boy Scouts, 4-H and schools: Danville, Catlin, Sidney, Monticello, Decatur, Niantic, Springfield, New Berlin, Jacksonville, Exeter, Naples and Quincy.

Godfrey has written three books woven together by logical fictional narrative where the “fact” of archival record doesn’t exist. “Watchekee (Overseer): Walking in Two Cultures” and “Once a Grass Widow: Watchekee’s Destiny” are the stories of his great great grandmother, “the Pocahontas of the Midwest.” His most recent book, “The Indian Marble,” takes on the even more illusive subject of his ancestor Bat Bergeron. 

Join us for a discussion with Godfrey of these true-to-life ancestors, and hear how “accidental genealogy” became a journey of meaningful leadership in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He will speak about his great great grandmother Watchekee and the Bergeron family.  

Details:

Where: The Pleasantdale Park Recreation Center, March 29, 1-3 p.m.

Cost: Free (and family friendly).

Contact: http://www.flaggcreekheritagesociety.com/pages/events.html

The Society operates the Flagg Creek Historical Museum and the Robert Vial House located on the grounds of the Pleasant Dale Park District at 7425 S. Wolf Road, Burr Ridge IL.

This content was submitted by a member of the community. We’d like to hear from you, too! To share stories, photos, video or events for our calendar, please email Community News Manager Michael Cronin at michael.cronin@wrapports.com or use the online submission tool.

0 Comments

Do you have the scariest house on the block? Or the cutest kid in costume? Share your Halloween photos with us! Click here to submit them.


Modal