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 14-16 Sandusky’s Point IL (Catlin)
157 Miles
Sept. 17-19, 1838; May 11, 2006

The Indians and their guards stayed three nights at Sandusky’s Point (near present day Catlin) for two reasons. First, the Indiana militia had to be discharged since they were beyond the state borders and thus no longer had any jurisdiction. Second was the “weak condition of many of the emigrants demanding rest.”

On the first day here several of the sick who were left at the “filthy stream” near the state line caught up with the column, including among them a new child who was born to the woman left behind in labor. However the birth of a new child was countered with the journal entry, “a young child died directly after coming into camp.” Plus one minus one.

On their second evening a child and a woman died though they had also another birth. On this day more than two weeks into their eight week journey Dr. Jerolaman the official physician of the party finally arrived. After inspecting the Indians he reported 67 sick, 47 of them with “intermittent fever” among other physical complaints. He considered eight “dangerously ill.”

On the third day at Sandusky’s Point the administrators completed their record-keeping and finished organizing their accounts. The doctors reported not much improvement among the sick, and there continued to be “six or eight cases as very dangerous.” In the evening a child of six or eight died which was no longer unusual. During the night an adult person dies too. The camp simply buried their dead in the evening or morning along the route—more than 40 of them in unmarked graves “marking” this “Trail of Death.”

AS FOR ME I left the Danville Post office in high spirits with a pack of mail in my hand. Letters and cards (and sometimes even packets of candy) came from all sorts of people—some I know and many I’ve never met. Former students like Josh Jackson and Beth Lahni, my wife who faithfully sends clippings and news from home, Larry Wilson my editor, plus a half dozen folk I’ve never met who learned about the walk in their local newspaper or online. I read and responded to them all before leaving town.

Today as I walked the road out of Danville a carload of giggling high school girls slowed down to simultaneously shout out the window garbled and giggling things I couldn’t make out as they drove by giggling and laughing their way as if they were out of school forever and not just the day. Then I saw far ahead their car turn into a driveway and back up, coming my way again. Assuming they might toss out a bottle or something at me I veered off the road into the grass. Sure enough, as the car slowed a bit their sniggering rolled out of the car as a window rolled down and out came a scarf at me. Or, what I thought was a scarf, which actually turned out to be a pair of panties floating down to the grass on the wind. I could hear the girl’s laughing and giggles as their faces filled to windows looking back at me. I walked past the underpants recognizing that what may seem like forward flirting to a young man was simply old-man-taunting to someone my age. As more evidence of my age, the first thought that crossed my mind when I recognized what they’d done was, “Boy I wonder how much those underpants cost?”

Today I walked into the wind all day, like swimming against a powerful current. In this case the “current” is about 40 mph and I walked leaning toward it as the rain increased all day. And it is cold today—in the 40’s with 40 mph wind and raining—the very worst conditions for walking. I’d far rather walk in snow than 40 degree rain. Having only a tee shirt and a windbreaker with me my body temperature gradually dropped until I could no longer tie my shoes Finally I found shelter in the leeward side of a farm implement shed and pitched my tiny tent and crawled in and went to sleep by suppertime hoping for a warmer and drier day in the morning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Keith,

With all sincerity I was just wondering what the point of your walk is? Excercise? Awareness? Mid-life crisis?

I have enjoyed reading your journal.

7:45 AM  

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