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Change the name of Negro Creek?

Sometimes it just takes someone new to an area to see things a little differently.

Last year Phillip Mol and his wife, Genevieve, moved to DePue. Mol, who has been an aerial surveyor since 1984, thought the picturesque Illinois Valley would be a good place to relocate his business.

As an aerial surveyor, Mol was familiar with maps, and he had seen the name of Negro Creek many times.

But after moving to Bureau County, he noticed not everyone referred to the creek as "Negro" creek.

Mol said he has heard the creek referred to as "Nigger" Creek by probably a dozen different people. Some said it with a laugh, Mol said, while others said it in a matter-of-fact tone, as though not realizing it was a racial slur.

"That sat with me," he said. "It just stuck in my head."

Mol said he's a church-going man, and he thought about it and prayed about it.

Then, about six months ago, Mol contacted the U.S. Geological Survey to find out what needed to be done change the name of a place or a thing like a creek.

"It's not unusual," he said. "They do this several times every year for various places."

Mol thought it might be a good idea to come up with a different name for the creek.

"If we came up with a better name for the creek, that would stop the old way of thinking with the kids, eventually," he said. "It's not a big sin, but it's definitely not us being our better selves."

So Mol formed a group with other like-minded people, and they called themselves "Let's Rename Negro Creek." He set up a Facebook page, and the group will hold its first public meeting at 3 p.m. today, Saturday, at the DePue UCC Church.

Mol said he's gotten a lot of positive response to changing the name.

"About 99 percent of the people I've talked to about this have been very enthusiastic," he said. "Of course, there's the occasional, 'It's always going to be Nigger Creek to me. Why would we want to change it?'"

Mol said the group will decide what the new name should be. In order to change the name, Mol said there must be historical significance to the new name, and there must be local support.

At one time Mol thought the creek should be renamed Adams Creek after an early African American who settled along the creek. But he has since learned of an Enoch Love, who settled in the area several years before Adams.

Another possibility would be finding out what the Indians named that creek before anyone else came to the area and add that to the list.

At today's meeting, Mol said the group will come up with a list of names, and then make a final decision at February's meeting.

After the new name is chosen, Mol said he will go to the DePue, Seatonville, Hollowayville and Ladd village boards and ask them all to pass a resolution saying they wholeheartedly support having the name changed. He is also going to ask the Bureau County Board to pass a similar resolution, and solicit letters of support from area legislators.

Mol said he goal is to get people talking about the issue. Even if the name change is approved, there are few signs with the name Negro Creek, so it's only through conversation that the name will be changed in people's minds.

And it does need to be changed, Mol said.

Through his Facebook page, Mol said he's heard from some of the African Americans who lived in DePue many years ago, and they told him how the racial slur-name hurt them.

"For me, that settles it," he said.

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