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 33 Hobson’s Choice (Liberty, IL) Mile 366
Oct. 6, 1838 May 25, 2006

Dust was a constant trial for the Potawatomi. The drought had left the land powder dry and by the time almost a thousand people and more than 300 horses pass down a road there would have been several inches of dust on the road like talcum powder billowing up and choking the riders and walkers. In a letter to his bishop, Father Petit described catching up to his congregation thus: “Soon afterward I saw my poor Christians under a burning noonday sun, amidst clouds of dust, marching in a line, surrounded by soldiers who were hurrying their steps.” The billowing dust must have blurred the eyes of both Indians and the soldiers and brought in hacking coughs.

On this day they got wonderful relief—Rain! The journal puts it, “During the night we were visited by a fall rain which rendered the traveling to-day unusually pleasant. The dust has been completely allayed, and the air much cooled.” After seven hours of travel over the rolling prairies they pitched camp at a site they labeled “Hobson’s Choice” near present-day Liberty, IL. “Hobson’s choice” was a idiom of the day based on a Thomas Hobson who owned a livery in Cambridge England in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. When a customer wanted a horse he supposedly told them to take the horse nearest the door or none at all—“Hobson’s choice” the rough equivalent of our phrase today “take it or leave it.” The site was roundly condemned in the journal “from the barrenness of the spot in everything save grass, brush and weeds, we have appropriately names Hobson’s Choice.” By now the party was used to ending the day as this one ended: "A child died since we came into camp." Somewhere near Liberty this child lies burried.

AS FOR ME I walked this day blessed repeatedly by the Mountain family—brothers, uncles, wives, husbands took it on themselves to meet me every hour or two on the road with ice water, bananas, apples, oranges, beef jerky and nuts so that on this day I probably actually gained weight! Interesting turnaround: when the Potawatomi passed through Jacksonville just a few days ago the white blessed them with gifts. Now more than 150 years later these Potawatomi descendants bless a white man on the road with gifts.

I’VE BEEN THINKING TODAY (dictated for book)


Blogger Kathy Drury said...

i love how the jacksonville people came through then and now-- someone is leaving a good legacy around there...

6:08 PM  

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