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

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Day 11 -- Williamsport -- 126 Miles
Sept. 14, 1838; May 9, 2006

As the party moved further west onto the prairies water became increasingly sparse. Their campsites were determined by water—sometimes at 18 miles distance and at other times just eight or ten miles. Streams for them were literally dried up. The party had been marching now for 11 days and they were weary. Walking with scant water they were likely dehydrated which makes for a bleary-eyed listless staggering. Today the journal writer wrote, “indeed not infrequently, persons thro weariness and fatigue take sick along the route. This occupies much of our time. We places them in the wagons which are every day becoming more crowded.” The party covered 18 miles today. During the evening two deaths occurred, with no mention if they were children or the aged, man or women. Just two deaths.

The journal describes the patches of prairies thus: “passing over a dry and seemingly unhealthy portion of the country.” What does an “unhealthy country” look like? Probably the unhealthy contributor to the party’s sickness was the water which carried invisible Typhoid.

AS FOR ME the “unhealthy portion of the country” was Attica, which was only a mile off my route and announced in the sky by golden arches its unhealthiness. After a big breakfast I talked to a reporter from Lafayette who promised to send out a photographer that afternoon—“keep walking on that route.” After saluting the Trail of Death marker at the part in Williamsport (on one of their two 2nd streets) I pressed on toward the state line. By dusk it was cloudy and threatening rain but in tiny Marshfield I purchased several candy bars for dinner and washed them down with a couple sodas bought at the only other merchant in Marshfield—a body shop specializing in restoring Corvettes from all over the Midwest. “Why locate such a business here in this tiny crossroads?” I asked. “Simple—the wife was raised here and wouldn’t move.” That seemed like a good enough reason.

As I enter increasingly open prairie lands the farmhouses are further apart. And there are fewer trees and thus fewer places to pitch my tiny tarp-tent. I finally found a tiny slick of trees bordering Possum Creek and prepared for what appeared to be a great rain shower overnight.


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