Effingham Daily News
As a child John Warner would walk his family's fields north of St. Elmo with his father Ray and his brothers, collecting arrowheads and other Native American artifacts as they lay, exposed after the harvest and rain.
After his death in August, family members found a note, stating that Warner wished to donate his share of the collection - hundreds of pieces of local history - to Ballard Nature Center.
The Warner family donated the bulk of the collection to Ballard in October, and the family hopes to donate several other parts of the collection, including additional arrowheads and tomahawks, in the future.
"Those arrowheads are priceless," said John's son, Danny Warner.
Danny said his grandfather started the tradition of finding the pieces because enjoying the outdoors was important to him, he also enjoyed collecting pieces from a time long gone.
"He was just interested in having things in his hand from something like 12,000 years ago and knowing it was in someone else's hand all those years ago."
Ballard Nature Center Co-director Patty Gillespie said experts are identifying the pieces and learning more about the history behind them. She hopes to have them available to the public by summer.
"We hope to emphasize what we can learn from the points and then identify the culture of the people who lived there," she said. "And in order to do that, we've lined up the Illinois State Archaeological Survey."
Judy Warner Thies, John's daughter, said her father had not had a connection to the nature center before his death, but he had proudly displayed the arrowheads in his home.
"He would love to have people come in and see them," he said. "He had them all over his walls and would show them to you. He wouldn't lock them up or anything. Everything went to Ballard, so people can enjoy it."
Gillespie said the donation shows the community's involvement in the nature center.
"It is reaffirming what we've already known and that is that there are many people who are community-minded and civic-minded," she said. "We see that every day, and it's incredible."
Judy said she hopes her father's donation will inspire community members to go outside and see what they can find.
"There's so much more to do other than just go to town and go shopping," she said. "You can go out in the woods and run around and find things. That's what's real."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or firstname.lastname@example.org.