The Archivist: Fairy lore has long Oklahoma history

Mary Phillips combs the archives of The Oklahoman's past to find gems she shares with modern readers.
BY MARY PHILLIPS mphillips@opubco.com Published: May 13, 2013
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Fairies can be found everywhere, even in Oklahoma, as this story that first appeared in The Oklahoman on Jan. 17, 1937, illustrates.

“There are red-skin fairies, just as certainly as there are dwarfs or pixies of lighter hue.

“Although the legends and gods of the Indians are well known, it remained for a worker on the writers' project near Tulsa to unearth Indian fairy lore.

“So far as is known, the Cherokee tribe is the only one which had fairy stories to tell around the camp fire, William Cunningham, director of the state writers' project, said Saturday. They probably learned the stories from Scots who mingled and married into the tribe generations ago. But the tales were told, and there is even a spot in Oklahoma where the ‘Little People' live.

“Three miles south of Salina, on the country road leading to Locust Grove, there is a small, unnamed creek at the foot of a high range of rocky bluffs. The Grand River flows a few hundred yards to the west, and in this tiny valley was a beautiful grove of locust trees, which gave the name to the Cherokee village of Locust Grove, located there until recent years.

“High on these surrounding bluffs, and atop those which extend down the river about a mile, is the only place in the new Cherokee nation where the fairies of Indian legend made camp in Oklahoma. In Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, there were many villages occupied by the ‘Little People,' always far back in the mountains, where they were seldom seen.

“When the Cherokees moved to what now is Oklahoma, some of the pixies followed them and there in the sylvan nook near Locust Grove they made camp, and there they have remained, impervious to advances of the white man's civilization.

“One must be with an old Cherokee to catch a glimpse, however fleeting, of the elusive fairies. But it is not uncommon for such a veteran redman to see signs of their presence.

“A pale face and an Indian were fishing recently in the Grand river when a boulder came rolling down the bluffs.

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