Places of Interest

Museum of Southeastern Indians

Indian Museum: A Dream Come True

By Billy Powell

Billy Powell, author of four books and religious columnist for “The Georgia Post,” enjoys researching and documenting local history.

Museum opened in 1998
From the tender age of ten, Mike Stokes knew his calling in life.  He always wanted to build a museum devoted to Indian artifacts. So when he opened his Southeastern Indian Museum in western Crawford County during May 1998, he had successfully completed a 52-year odyssey that began when he was growing up on a farm near Macon, Georgia. Mike’s family owned a 1500-acre farm called the Stokes Dairy Farm, which was located off Hartley Bridge Road in south Bibb County. He got his start collecting Indian arrowheads, pottery, and assorted agricultural tools during the 1940s and 50s at an ancient Indian village that just happened to be located in the middle of the Stokes Dairy Farm.

One of largest collections in Southeast
Mike’s life over the next half century would carry him through the southeastern states including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi looking for artifacts. He found some and traded for others. Now he has amassed one of the largest collections in the Southeast.  The collections displayed in the museum represent artifacts and relics used hundreds of years ago principally by three Indian tribes: Creek, Quapaw, and Caddo. When 70 Creek Elders from Oklahoma visited the Museum in 2003, they accorded the museum their highest level of approval. This museum, which is privately owned and not state funded, is a treasure trove for people interested in the history and culture of the American Indian.  Every year, from 15-20 archeologists come to view Mike’s vast Indian collection, some doing research and others writing books. Mike’s half century of collections are displayed in an L-shaped building that measures 70 feet long and 28 feet wide. It is located approximately nine miles west of downtown Roberta on Georgia Highway 80.  Turn onto Julia Jordan Road and proceed about one-half mile and you will see the museum sign on the left side of road. You must drive to the top of the hill to reach the museum. Tours can be scheduled by calling Mike at 478-836-2696. There is no admission fee.  Contributions are accepted, but not required.  

Museum dedicated to Bill and Louise Stokes
The museum is dedicated to Mike’s deceased parents, Bill and Louise Stokes. A large picture of them hangs prominently inside the museum. Another helpmate of special note was Mike’s devoted wife of 45 years, Nell Smith Stokes, a wonderful Christian lady who inspired, encouraged, and supported Mike in all his endeavors. Nell went to be with the Lord in 2008. Mike and Nell’s photo hangs alongside the photo of Mike’s parents. A third photo honors Charles Griffin of Maylene, Alabama, who played a key role in assisting Mike in acquiring artifacts as well as establishing and organizing the museum.

Largest collection of Indian pottery in Southeast
Neatly arranged in glass display cases are over 180 pieces of Indian pottery, some dating back to the Paleo Period (9,000 to 14,000 years ago) and other pieces to the Archaic Period (3,000 to 10,000 years ago).  The pottery includes such utensils as bowls, water bottles, teapots, vases, jars, pots, mortar and pestle sets for grinding corn, pipes, shards, ceremonial relics, and sculptured figurines.  Wayne Myers of Crawford County, an Indian expert in his own right, stated, “I have been to every Indian museum in the southeast, and this is the largest collection of ancient Indian pottery I have ever seen. To see more, you would have to go to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.”  

Thousands of Arrowheads and Tools
In addition to the pottery, thousands of arrowheads fashioned from stone are orderly arranged inside glass-enclosed frames that hang on the museum walls.  Other displayed items are tomahawks, axe heads, knife blades, swords, hammers, scrapers, drills, arrow shaft abraders, and other weapons and tools.  

Best Kept Secret in Georgia
In discussing the museum, Mike’s cousin, Cary Stokes, said, “This museum is the best kept secret in Georgia.”  I agree wholeheartedly with Cary. He’s dead on target with his assessment.  In addition to the extensive collection of pottery, arrowheads, and tools, some of the “must see” attractions are listed below:

Crawford County’s Indian heritage
Colonel Benjamin Hawkins (1754-1816) was the first white man to settle in Crawford County. Hawkins was born in North Carolina. He served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War as a member of General George Washington’s staff. He also was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a U.S. Senator.  In 1796, President George Washington appointed Hawkins as Indian Agent for all tribes south of the Ohio River. So around 1800, Hawkins and his family arrived in Crawford County.  Soon thereafter, Hawkins built on the Flint River a Creek Indian Reservation (five-square-mile compound), which is now part of Crawford County. Hawkins also built a fort which was named in his honor (Fort Benjamin Hawkins) on the Ocmulgee River at Macon, but resided there only a short time. Hawkins lived 16 years at the Creek Indian Reservation until his death on June 6, 1816.  He was buried on the grounds of the reservation. His grave rests on a bluff overlooking the Flint River, not far from the river bridge.  You will find his grave on Benjamin Hawkins Road, about 1/4 mile north of the Taylor County line off Ga. Highway 128.  In 1931, a marker was placed over the Hawkins’ gravesite and a monument erected in his honor in downtown Roberta. The Southeastern Indian Museum not only complements the Hawkins memorials, but provides spectators and historians alike with tangible and visual evidence of the culture and customs of the Creek Indians that once roamed the pristine land of Crawford County.

Farm Museum coming in 2012
Mike Stokes is currently working toward opening a Farm Museum in 2012.  A structure has already been built behind the Indian Museum to house a wide assortment of farm implements, equipment, and tools he plans to display there.

A Fabulous Place to Visit
As Cary Stokes said, “the best kept secret in Crawford County is the Southeastern Indian Museum.” It is a fabulous place to visit. Going inside Mike Stokes’ museum is like stepping back in history hundreds and even thousands of years to a time when the American Indians were the only inhabitants roaming this continent.  The museum is very neat inside, well maintained, and adequately lighted.  The exhibits are viewer friendly, tagged with descriptive information, and professionally arranged. Not only is Mike Stokes extremely knowledgeable of Indian archaeology and culture, he also is very personable, hospitable, and a fine man in every respect. I heartedly recommend the Southeastern Indian Museum to everyone.  Call Mike Stokes at 478-836-2696 to schedule a tour.

Stokes family and friends gather outside the Southeastern Indian Museum on Julia Jordan Road. Front row, L-R: Austin Stokes, Jerry Stokes, Wayne Myers, Mike Stokes, Larry Stokes. Back row, L-R: Cary Stokes, Larry Stokes Jr., Mike Stokes Jr., Earl Amerson, Jimmy Stokes.

Earl Amerson (L) and Wayne Myers (R) with carved Indian statues.

Mike Stokes displays scar face effigy and water pot.

L-R: Mike Stokes, Jimmy Stokes, Cary Stokes with 17th century Indian canoe.

Arrowhead wall display

Pottery displays, canoe in rear

750 pound grinding mortar

Pottery display case

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