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 3-6 Logansport, IN
May 3, 2006; Sept. 6-9, 1838

Once the Pottawatomie reached Logansport the party collapsed into sickness. It is strange how the third and fourth days of a journey can be the most difficult of a whole trek. People take a year off intent on hiking the entire Appalachian trail starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia. Yet three days later in Suches, Georgia as many as 10% of these “Thru-hikers” give up and go home. The euphoria of the start is quickly replaced by the drudgery of the trail. Three days is just long enough for blisters to develop and for all the fun to have run out.

The Pottawatomie weren’t just suffering from blisters. They were probably facing Typhoid. We don’t know for sure but “the fever” or general sickness they experienced that year may have been Thypoid which they had picked up from the stagnant water. Whatever, in Logansport a great many fell sick. The party stayed in town the entire weekend—camping Thursday night on the Eel river where it meets the Wabash and staying through until Monday morning—a weekend of sickness and death.

On Friday morning a child died, the second death of the journey. On Saturday a three year old child died and was buried. On Sunday physicians came into the camp to do a check-up and reported 300 cases of sickness. By Sunday a “kind of medical hospital” was erected and the doctors began their treatment. It wasn’t much in those days: tea, sugar and rest. Probably the rest without the tea and sugar would have done as much. On Sunday yet another child died during the day and still another after dark making five children dead in six days. The children were the first to go. The long walking and the disease took the weakest and most vulnerable first—the kids.

Yet amidst all the sickness on Sunday evening a great worship service was held with Bishop Brute presiding (Catholic Bishop from Vincennes) and almost a thousand Indians, a third of whom were sick gathered for mass. This is the famous scene sketched by frontier artist George Winter who was an eyewitness. The Pottawatomie were devout Catholic Christians. Even though Menominee had flirted for a while with the Baptists he and his tribe were Catholics at heart. The tribe was evangelized by Jesuit missionaries but had not had any Catholic presence for 60 years yet they continued morning and evening prayers after the fashion of the Catholics. They held these prayer and preaching services (without the Eucharist) for decades with no missionary present. No wonder when the “black robes” returned they were a loyal and devout following, and no wonder they had no trouble turning out for the Sunday evening service at Logansport!

AS FOR ME I did not stay any extra days in Logansport. My feet argued for several days off insisting that they had Typhoid or something worse. My back chimed in suggesting that another night in a real bed would be a great tonic as well. But my head cast the deciding vote. I leaped from day three to day 7 in one night.


Blogger brookssayer said...

I hope you felt like you could've stayed longer here, I can't remember if I explicitly made the offer or not but you would've been welcome to use our bed as long as you needed. It was great to have you here in Logansport.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Hey Brook! Yes you made that clear... serving as a temptor to my lazy side... but, like the onc-a-day folk who stop to offer me a ride, I must say, "Get behind me..." and move on down the trail. Thanks again for the GREAT treat there in Logansport--it was a wonderful pick-me-up for the sedon half of the week, as you can see from my entries.

2:58 PM  

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