Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


Day 1
(April 30 2006; Sept 4, 1838)

The first day of a long journey often yields longer miles than later days. You’d think the opposite would be true—that the early days of a trek would give lower miles so that when the walker “go it shape” they’d increase their miles. But the first day one’s spirit is high, drudgery has not yet set in, and there are no blisters and muscle cramps.

This was only half true for the Potawatomie Indians. True, they did walk 21 miles their first day out—longer than any other single day of their two month journey. But high spirits was not the reason. Water was.

The summer of 1838 brought a sever drought to the “Northwest USA” (as Indiana was considered then). The creeks were dry, streams offered only stagnant pools of water and the “emigrating party” was forced to plan their journey so they could camp as water sources. This meant some days they stopped sooner than they wanted to, and other days they went further—as on this day, Tuesday September 4, 1838 when they walked 21 miles.

The official journal put it thus: “The day was exceedingly sultry, and the roads choked with dust.” No wonder. 958 Indians with their 285 horses plus a hundred militia who were “escorting” these Indians West traveled the dusty “Michigan Road” south toward “Chipeway” (several miles North of present day Rochester Indiana) where they spent their first night. As was their custom the Indians traveled in single file making a line three miles long according to a newspaper account (Delhi, Indiana). Such a single filoe line would be raising up from the dry road a billowing cloud of dust which was almost unbearable for those in the back of the line. Hot and thirsty and dust in their ears, eyes, and mouths. The scarcity of water would plague them for weeks to come.

AS FOR ME, scarcity of water is not my problem—an abundance of it is. I started this walk in pouring rains and it continued all day long with only one break on the porch of a Child Evangelism Fellowship office where I ate 8 OZ of Josh’s leftover “Swedish fish” my only food for the day. Back on the road sloshing until I lay down for the night soaked and exhausted short of the Pottawatomie camp in Argos, Indiana where I found a partially finished new house—with the roof finished but no door yet. I rolled out my sleeping bag in the back corner “bedroom” chuckling that the people living here later would never know they entertained their first house guest long before moving in. It rained all night with cracking thunder awakening me frequently, but otherwise I slept well—all 13 hours of it.


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