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 27 Island grove Mile 294
September 30, 1838; May 22, 2006

The Potawatomi only went six miles this day, camping at the idyllic “Island Grove.” For whatever reason in this vast open spaces of prairie there were “islands” of great trees groves and shade periodically—such was “Island Grove” as was Sidorus Grove before. The next water was another 10-15 miles which would have made for a 20 mile day, a distance that may have killed off more Indians than were already dying, so the party stopped at only six miles.

The journal recorded a doctor-less report “health of the sick still improving” it also recorded “the death of a child occurred a few hours after encampment.” It is interesting how many of these children apparently survived the day then would expire once they got into camp. In many cases Father Petit would preside over their funeral at night or in the morning before the party would move westward. While there are large stone boulders and bronze plaques marking this route I’m following, the real markers are unmarked—the invisible graves of more than 40 people who died along the way, mostly children.

The Indians were still bringing in “large quantities of sufficient for their subsistence” so the government was saving money on issuing rations. It is ironic that the Indians now saving the government money in their own forced removal. No matter—they enjoyed both hunting and eating the wild better than the standard beef and flour rations given them by the government. Today a soldier was also dismissed for intoxication stating “nothing of the kin is permitted.” It was important that the soldiers not get drunk when the leaders of the migration wanted to keep as many Indians from intoxication as they could. They had already dismissed a driver of a wagon for drunkenness, now one of the soldiers is fired and would have o take the long walk back to Indiana alone.

AS FOR ME I drifted past Island Grove since getting water was not my problem, getting food was. My last food was yesterday in Springfield so I kept looking forward to a gas station on the “Old Jacksonville Road” as I traveled…all day long, the next 23 miles I looked but got none--not even a soda machine. Each house I knocked at was empty--the farmer was out on the field and the spouse teaching school or working at a factory. I could not even buy a can of beans. I knew this is one risk of my “living off the land” approach to this walk—sometimes I have to go hungry, but that is part of the experience. Ane by late afternoonI was indeed hungry. I even found an unopened pack of gum along the road and chewed all five sticks for the sugar value. That didn’t last.

Finally, after more than 20 miles and a day and a half without food a pickup stopped. A man in his 30th with odd beads of perspiration all over his face said, “What you up to?” I told him and he asked, ‘How can I help?” I suggested if he had anything to eat it would be great and he promptly gave me three stick of red licorice and a Mountain Dew. I profusely thanked him and he responded with a pained look in his eyes, “Would you pray for me—I’m on my way to the Psychiatrist—they just can’t get my medicine right." I did pray for him aloud right then, and when I said “Amen” he reached out and grasped my hand saying, “Thanks—I needed that.” I’m not sure who got more out of this interchange.

I went to a grassy spot beside the road and laid out my three course dinner, savoring one stick of licorice at a time washing them down with Mountain dew and no Outback steak has ever tasted so good to me. Renewed with sugar-energy I walked the rest of the way into Jacksonville (my overnight stay in Jacksonville is on tomorrow's entry for it is more relevant to that theme).


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