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 30-31 Naples Mile 336
Oct. 3 & 4, 1838 May 24, 2006

In a quick three hour walk the Potawatomi walked the nine miles from Exeter to the Illinois river at Naples, IL. This was the first mighty river of their journey. Naples was a primary port city on this river so it offered both keel boats and flatboats to ferry the Indians and large wagons to the west shore. They spent the entire day crossing and re-crossing the river so that by 9 Pm they had landed the final baggage wagon and camped on the shore opposite Naples. A child died right after. On their arrival at the river a child had died.

William Polke, the federal conductor of the expedition decided to take the next day off. Crossing the river had been exhausting work and the party had been traveling every day now for a long time. Everyone needed a break so they took a zero mileage day to rest and catch up on the little duties that had been ignored too long. The Indians had been successfully hunting deer for more than a week so they now had plenty of deerskin to make new moccasins. Certainly they had previously made moccasins since it is unlikely that a single pair of moccasins could have lasted all 336 miles to the Illinois River. The Lewis and Clarke expedition had made them every few days on the roughest part of their journey. Perhaps they even made some to put in stock for later use. The blankets and clothing needed washed. The journal was optimistic” “the health of the Indians is now almost as good as before we commenced our march from Twin Lakes—a few days more will entirely recruit them.” The sick and weak—mostly children had mostly died off including one child the day before. Immediately following this optimistic report the journal closes with “A young child died this evening.” Apparently all the Indians were not in such good health. Soon there would be few children left.

AS FOR ME I left the delightful night’s rest at the Herrings and walked the quick four miles to Bluff, IL and picked up my mail. I had used Exeter as a mail drop, but discovered no post office in the tiny town. The “big” town in this region is Bluff (Population 749). When the Post Office opened at nine I was there to collect several letters form friends and readers of this blog—THANKS! In the little park across the street I answered every letter and mailed them before stopping off that the one-room library and chatting with the librarian about the region then she let me use the library’s dial-up to catch up on my blog.

I then walked into naples in another two hours. Seven cars stopped in this short trip asking if I wanted a ride—usually only one or two a day do this. The difference? Huge dark thunderclouds with slicing lighting were rolling in from the west. I wonder if people have a natural inclination to “race for cover” in the presence of a severe thunderstorm and thus are quicker to offer to help you find cover as well? I do know that almost nobody ever offers a ride during a rainstorm, yet they all want to help as it threatens. It's interesting--what is this about people? Anyeway, I declined of course but thanked each of them arriving in Naples just as the strome broke loose with a torrential downpour. I took cover in one of those little roadside wait-for-the-school-bus sheds for the next hour’s crenching.

While sitting cozily in the lean-to up drove two matching golf carts driven by two gigantic men with matching beards and mathcing bellies—"we're brothers and kind of the sheriffs around here " they told me. “You that guy walking the long Indian walk?” I said I was. “Jerry’s told us about you--he had surgery and is recovering--but Bud here could take you across the river.” I was unable to rouse Jerry from his afterglow sleep so I left a note for him tucked in his door. Finding a person in a town of 137 people is not hard. Bud was a twentysomething local guy living in a trailer next to his dad. "It's my house and I own this land" he said. helped Bud clean out his fishing boat on the trailer when Bud’s mother insisted showed up insiting, "You’re not going out on that water—there’s gold ball size hail coming.” Indeed another great dark thunderfront was moving in so we waiting for it to blow off a few dozen branched then as soon as it broke we launched and he dumped me on the western side of the river saying “just walk through those woods until you find the power line then follow that to a road.” He was right—I pushed through the woods and found the levee, then gravel road and finally a paved road—though all the names of the road were different from my maps (why do counties do this?).Here on this side of the river is where the Potawatomi camped. two days. I would move on toward McKee’s creek 12 miles further.


Blogger Gary said...

Here's another reason why you probably got so many offers for a ride on that road to Naples: ANYONE walking west on that stretch of road has only one place to go, and it won't be far from where the vehicle's driver is also going. It's a low-risk, low-cost offer to help. Not like offering a ride to a walker on any other road. If you do that, you don't know where the walker might be going and how far out of your way it may be to take him there. Or, you end up taking him just part way to his destination, and are left feeling guilty about it. So what does this say of human nature?

4:25 PM  

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