The areas surrounding Sandy Creek are visited for many purposes. Sandy Creek has been a recreational area for many years. Hunters, fisherman and history buffs frequent the area, even local school children and scout troops visit the Sandy Creek to explore nature.
Two local cemeteries are located along the Sandy Creek valley, Cherry Point and Cumberland Cemeteries. Cherry Point Cemetery has graves dating back to 1841. A veteran of the Revolutionary War was buried in the cemetery on that year. Cumberland Cemetery’s first burial was in 1829. Several of the earliest settlers of Marshall County are buried in the cemetery. Both cemeteries are local tourist attractions due to their history. Cumberland Cemetery has been featured in the “Legends and Lore of Illinois” collection that has drawn people to visit the cemetery from areas all around the state.
The Big Sandy Creek area is a historical area of Marshall County with the first pioneer, Thomas Brooke Arriving in 1824. Following Brooke were the Patrick Cunninghams, the Joseph Smiths, Horace Gaylord, Alva Humphrey, Able Estabook, William Hart, Samuel Hawkins and George Hollenback. This group staked their claim in fall of 1829.
In 1830 Joshua Evans came and staked his claim on the north side of Sandy. Joshua Evans lived the rest of his life on that land. The first white children born there were Jarvis and Lucy Evans. The area was eventually named Evans Township in memory of Joshua Evans who was well known in the area.
In 1831 Thomas and Elizabeth Darnell Judd, having heard from her father of the great opportunities at Sandy Creek, left their home in Wilkes County North Carolina for the journey to Illinois.
In the next few years many more settlers moved to the Sandy Creek area. Names you may recognize such as: Dixon, Hunt, Darnell, Griffith, Stewart, Ward, the four Jones brothers and Jeremiah Hartenbower.
This area around Big Sandy Creek is much like it was 190 years ago with clean streams, timber and cultivated fields. It was a time of neighbor looking out for neighbor. It appears now that may no longer be the case, instead now we see the proposed profiting at the expense of neighbors if this facility is built.
The following information was provided from the IDNR Division of Fisheries. They conducted 6 Fish Survey Studies of the Big Sandy between 1991-2006. The Survey Data Composite is as follows: 45 - Fish Types were Found, of which 40 Native Fish Species were Identified and 1 Non-Native Species. Most comparable streams in Illinois would have around 20 to 25 Species in them.
The stream was given an IBI Rating of 59 (A rating of 60 being excellent). According to one IDNR Fisheries Biologist, most streams in Illinois comparable to the size of the Big Sandy Creek would rate an IBI score of around 40 to 50. Having 40 native species is absolutely incredible!
The IBI is the "Index of Biotic Integrity." It is a widely accepted indexing procedure commonly used by academia, agencies, and groups to assess watershed condition. This index has been used throughout the United States and internationally, and has proven to be a reliable means of assessing water and habitat quality, and the effect of human disturbance on streams and watersheds.
5 of the 40 Native Fish found in the survey are considered positive "Indicator Species", and have been listed on the DNR's "Illinois Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan & Strategy" as "Species In Greatest Need Of Conservation" (GNC). Think of them as the proverbial "Canary in the Coal Mine," These temperamental fish only thrive and survive in exceptionally clean, clear environmental conditions, with proper gradient for flow and aeration, quality rock and sand stream bed composition, and overhead cover providing midday shading and cool water temperatures. All these features exist on Big Sandy Creek, and are conducive to the optimal quality environment and the fishes ultimate survival. Tilt this stream's delicate balance even a slight amount, and many of these Fish Species most likely would be sickened, and die as we've seen in many cases around the State, and the country. We fear some of these fish could vanish from areas on the Big Sandy altogether depending on the severity and duration of the contamination. One of the most prominent species on the list of "species in greatest need of conservation," and most important to our local recreation is the Smallmouth Bass.
Illinois Biologists who are familiar with Big Sandy Creek agree that this is one very special, and very unique Stream.