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 29 Exeter, IL Mile 327
October 2, 1838; May 23, 2006

In the morning as the Potawatomi passed through Jacksonville the town band came out to lead them. They arranged with Judge Polke for the band to lead the Indians into the city square “where they remained for fifteen o twenty minutes." "Presents of tobacco and pipes in abundance were made by the citizens to the Indians.” How did this happen? Who suggest it? How hatched the idea of the presents? Who spread the idea around the night before and in the morning? Incidents like these seldom “just happen” –somebody thinks of the act of kindness then speaks up. When the Potawatomi marched through Springfield they got tobacco from the federal conductor as pay-for-good-behavior (and for dressing up) . In Jacksonville, however they got tobacco and pipes as gifts directly from the Jacksonville citizens. What a tribute to these folk. And here we are remembering their hospitality 158 years later.

Today they will make 16 miles to Exeter on a warm and dusty day with scarce water along the way.

AS FOR ME, I breakfasted with Wolf and Ann-Marie for several hours over coffee and a wonderful omelet seasoned with spices grown in their yard. Wolf is a retired professor of political science in this town of two colleges. Marie was a professor of German. Wolf has written a weekly column for the Jacksonville Journal-Courier for 23 years, more than twice as long as my 12 year run online--so I consider him an experienced master of the craft. Following this multi-hour stimulating breakfast conversation I headed to the Jacksonville library where the archivist helped me with accessing the county’s resources on the Trail of death then graciously permitted me to write and post these drafts of my diary online. I heading Exeter near lunchtime assuming I would not make it all the way. I simply drifted westerly and before long was in the town by accident, not due to purpose as much as my sloth in selecting a campsite for the night.

I have crossed the point in this trek where psychologically it is as if I am floating in a westward flowing river—my only job is to pick up each foot and let them float forward with the "current" toward the setting sun. This is how I found myself in Exeter just before dusk. However my autopilot indolence paid off. Here in this town of 75 people I stayed with Paul Herring who with his wife Kate restored an old three story hotel/school into a comfortable house that was built in 1860 on word that the railroad route would come through Exeter. It didn’t but went 3 miles to the north. The man finally sold his hotel and it became a school for 75 years, then fell into total disrepair. Paul and Kate bought the remains for $500 in 1973 and took the next few decades to restore it into a beautiful home. Paul is a math teacher in Jacksonville and Kate, once an attorney now works for the Girl Scouts in Quincy and is in process of credentialing for ministry among the United Methodists. I arrived while Paul still had some supper left in the large iron skillet so once again the kindness of a Jacksonville-related person brought to me a wonderful meal and I was asleep by 9PM having walked 16 miles after lunch today.

Wednesday: Get mail at Exeter by noon; walk through Bluffs (Potential Internet at library?) to Naples IL by dark (on the Illinois river) Contact Jerry Smith in Naples (thanks for this hook-up to Gary & Judy from decatur who drove their motorcycle over here a few days ago to see if I could get across the river at Naples like the Potawatomi did rather than taking the day-long detour up to rt. 104)
Thursday morning: Cross river in morning and walk to Perry IL –contact local Potawatomi, the “Nikki Mountain” family who has written me on the trail twice so far.
Friday: Leave Perry and walk to “Hobson’s choice” camp near liberty IL… walk until Sharon (my wfie) shows up to take the weekend off together in the Quncy area and around.
Monday: On the trail again, hoping to contact Ryan Robertson who is from Qunicy IL at the Mississipiand left a message on my cell phone without a call-back number.

All this of course is subject to the general "drift mentality" of "taking whatever miles the trail gives me" attitude."


Blogger Ken Schenck said...

Well, you'll be at Exeter a day early. Given my last minute approach to life, I'll have to catch you at the next post...

1:40 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

I know (I mean learned) that approach to walking!! Took me a I wish I was out there drifting along with you!!

Love reading about the trail and about your own journey.

2:47 PM  
Blogger irini said...

hey coach d...
it's always exciting to read about the new adventures your taking. your drifting makes me think a lot about process vs. arrival...we're so trained for a known path. can't wait to hear from you at the end of the summer...

3:23 PM  
Blogger Jim and Jaena said...

Ditto what Schenck said...sorry.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Kathy Drury said...

Love the reports dad...made it home safe and sound from CR...thanks for your letters to me and the kids!

5:33 AM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Thanks all--I am running a day ahead of schedule--- and as it unfolds may become 2 days... the "current" is stronger now....

JOSH: Yep.... it comes and it is beautiful. Same with that approach to life...

IRINI!!!! Hey gal--GREAT to hear from you! Love that pic you sent of your kid!

Jim, Jana, Kathy et. al... no big problem the POs "bounce" forward any mail I miss and it is waiting for me at the next PO..I got one piece of mail here at Exeter that bounced three times already and caught me here. BUT if you can select an ahead-stop is is more sure.. IN 2 hours I'll be at the half way point--the Illinios rover... here at a tiony libraryu now in Bluff IL.

9:54 AM  
Blogger David Drury said...

Way to reach the half-way point, Dad!!!

Remember that most hikiers of a long trail drop off right after the half-way point (you were the first to tell me this). It was true of the AT, the PCT and now it could be for the TOD for you... so keep plugging and remember not to rest on your considerable laurels (but rest those blistery feet as much as you can!)


(all this was typed from my comfortable armchair on a laptop so grain of salt implied)

9:15 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Hi Keith --
Wanted to let you know some of us "on the fringe" of contact are reading, praying for you and traveling vicariously with you. Hope the vicarious part doesn't add too much weight to that lean pack you carry.
I continue to appreciate and be inspired by your passion for life's adventures and grateful for your willingness to pass that passion on.

Scott Bills

9:21 AM  

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