Cherokee Indian chief buried in Vandalia

Chief Bull Moose made his last stand in Vandalia on April 7, 1952.

The 70-year-old man, along with his wife and daughters, had been staying at Bill Mareks DX Motor Court, located on U.S. Route 51, just south of the former Coca-Cola Distribution Center, when he suffered a heart attack.

The brick building that housed the Coca-Cola Distribution Center became home to the now-defunct Waggoner Trucking Co., and is adjacent to the Chuckwagon Restaurant.

In 1952, Eighth Street (U.S. Route 51) was not interrupted by Interstate 70, and continued north, a stretch of road that is still there today.

The Vandalia Leader reported that the chief was a Cherokee Indian from Muskogee, Okla., and was known as George Stanley Stanko. With his wife, Rose, and daughters, Stella Reed, Margaret Jones, Juanita Jones and Mary Palmer, he had been in Vandalia about 10 days.

The paper reported, Shortly after his demise, the word of the passing of the Cherokee chief and leader spread as if by magic. Relatives and friends began to arrive including wealthy Iowa farmers, others traveling in swanky limousines, some in trucks to join in the traditional tribal rites.

Don Funk former manager of the Coca-Cola plant, provided the ‘magic.’ Don told me in a recent conversation that the mans family came to the plant asking to use the telephone. He remembered that they always called collect and were very cordial.

It wasnt until the family out West began to call the plant wanting a message delivered or some chief or other person brought to the telephone that he had to limit the telephone access.

Between the motor court and the distribution center was the main driveway for the plant. Trucks would enter on the south side of the plant and exit to the north.

As more visitors and curious locals came out, this major artery became blocked. Don told me that during the entire time of the nine-day tribal ceremony, this was the main problem he experienced.

Three days of ceremonial rites began after Mark Miller Sr. had prepared the body for burial. The casket was placed in a tent at the motor court, and the vigil began, accompanied by chants.

Don told me that he was invited, as were his employees, to come over to the camp and eat with the Indians. A table of food was kept inside the tent near the casket, and anyone could eat at any time.

In accordance with Cherokee custom, the boots and hat of the deceased were placed on top of the casket. A fire was built just outside the tent where the casket was placed, and kept burning for three days and nights.

From The Vandalia Leader: Another custom was that the mourning period consists of nine days during which time none of the men shall shave or work and during which time they shall not change their wearing apparel. These, as well as other customs, are in accordance with their ritual and belief.

Don said that, as he remembered it, there was a pig tied up outside the tent. He recalled something about when the pig rooted in the ground, it was OK to bury the dead.

The Vandalia Leader also reported, Whether this portion of the rites were carried out at the Marek Court has not been verified at this writing. However, it was said that another of the Cherokee rites is placing a pig on the premises, and if the pig roots within three days, it is safe to bury the chief.

The newspaper went on to say that they had been informed that Chief Bull Moose had been a buyer for U.S. Steel Corp. during World War I, and did some buying as a sideline.

At the end of the vigil and rituals, the Rev. Francis Gribbin of Mother of Dolors Catholic Church in Vandalia officiated at the funeral, with burial in the Catholic Cemetery.

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