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 35-37 Quincy Mile 384
Oct. 8-10, 1838 May 27-28, 2006

This was an entire city moving to Kansas—young people, babies, pregnant women, middle aged men with bad knees, the elderly. It would be like going down the street to select in order 900 people from your neighborhood announcing they are about to walk to Kansas. And they had white militia guarding them, plus wagon-drivers on contract with the government. All this mixed group of people had more to do than travel. There were moccasins to make, clothes to wash, wagon spokes to repair and salaries to the contract workers to be paid. The party did this on the west shore of the Mississippi facing Qunicy.

When the Indians passed through Quincy they attended the St. Boniface church-a brand new congregation of German Catholics. Quincy was at the time perhaps 300 people, with 250 of them being German Catholics. Their little frame church had just been built that year and this is the only constructed church the Catholic Indians worshipped in since they had left behind in Twin Lakes the beloved log chapel they had built with their own hands when they heard that they’d get a priest.

Accounts were organized and the officers, laborers and wagoners were paid. Two soldiers and a wagoner decided they’d had enough and requested discharge to go home—and they were left go. There were talks to hold—with several of the chiefs meeting with Polke asking that they not travel any more on the “Sabbath” so they could hold “devotional exercises.” Our intermittent Doctor Jerolaman returned to the party here in Quincy, having joined the party late then gotten sick Septermber 24, left the party in Springfield the 29th and now returned to work October 9th—having just missed about 25% of the trip in this instance alone—it will be interesting to see if he is “docked” for this when he is paid at the end of the trip (the payment records still exist).

These days were given to organizing, paying, sorting, packing and repacking the wagons along with shoeing the horses and repairing the wagons for the second half of the trip. All this required them to ferry back and forth into town for supplies since they were camping on the opposite shore from town. The official journal spins the frequent shuttles this way: “This might have been avoided by remaining on the Quincy shore, but the dissolute habits of the Indians and their great proneness to intoxication, forbid such a step...” This seems to be a change of tone in the journal from previous entries where the writer seems to brag about “nothing of the sort” of drunkenness being allowed. And it is particularly hard on the Indians, many of which were Catholics committed to total abstinence. What had changed?

By evening of October 10th they were ready to push on for their second leg of the journey.

AS FOR ME I too took several days off in Quincy with Sharon. We both had a delightful supper with Steve & Janet Tieken. Steve is an Archeologist and plans to walk with me Monday through Quincy. Also got to interview the priest at St. Boniface church and attend a service there. The rest of the weekend was spent on sleeping and giving myself to purposeful laziness in order to charge my batteries physically for the walk across Missouri which Shirley Willard (the foremost historian on the Trail of Death) warns me will be like walking through a ninety degree steam room.

I leave Monday morning to walk with Steve Tieken. On Tuesday Ryan Robertson, a recent IWU graduate headed into teaching will join me for the day. After that I’m on my own in the steam room.

I'VE BEEN THINKING TODAY about alcohol and the Indians...(dictated for final book)

Monroe City
Kansas City
Payola KS
Potawatomi Creek
Cherry Creek mission


Blogger Kathy Drury said...

Neat that you went back to the same church-- cool! And you know--the hike back then was entering MO in Oct. not June. The weather probably wasn't that bad -- guess we'll have to wait and read to find out if they wrote about that. stay well.

6:33 AM  
Blogger David Drury said...

I have a thought about irony and persecution.

From what I'm learning from you about the Potawotomie... they and their chief had acted in such a way that they should have been the envy of their neighbors and the model "nation" among the Native Americans. But the reward they got for not getting drunk, converting to Christianity, and adopting "white man" farming techniques was THIS!

So the irony is that they were following a pretty darn positive model for Native American assimilation into what the USA was becomming.

And so they were persecuted for doing good.

I wonder if some of them were contemplating these verses as they walked their trail of death... (and wonder if you might do the same)

- sorry, this will be long, but I don't know if you'll have the time online to look all these up so I'll just paste them here -:

...If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20b-21)

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (1 Peter 4:12-16).

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace” (Acts 20:22-24).

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Philippians1:12-14)

9:43 AM  
Blogger David Drury said...

PS - I don't mean to infer by the previous comment that the other "nations" were not taking the right path... in many ways preserving their pre-white-man-intrusion culture was an honorable path. What I mean is that the Potowotomie were following a path that the white men of their time actually suggested as a preferable "middle way" solution to what they considered the "Indian problem."

So they compromised, and still got the shaft.

An ironic persecution.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you read about the Potawotomies and Miamis in this area, one wonders, just what "any" people coming into their world and telling them what they should do and how much better than the way they already live?
I figure to contemplate the Indians fate, is very similar to what's going on around the world today....
My humble opinion, as this is what I think about every day I read/watch the news.
I'm sure much will come of your walk, and still, best to you and hope it does help you grow along the way & afterwards! (anytime one takes on something, this is what should happen anyway ; ).......) BTW, last 3 petters of word verification were:(pcpgapow) POW.....amazing!

2:48 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Hi - I just got back from Quincy, IL, where WGEM-TV station came out and interviewed Keith today on the east bank of the Mississippi River: Also, Steve Teiken (archeologist) walked with him today for about 10 mi thru this town of about 40,000 (also where we went to church Sunday AM at St. Boniface). When Steve's wife Janet came to pick him up, she also drove Keith across the big river---since pedestrians cannot walk the bridges there. Former students Mark and Jess Schmerze surprised Keith and walked with him to Palmyra, MO...a 23 mile day for Keith!

6:52 PM  
Blogger nate richardson said...

keep it up, people are reading and im loving the adventures you are having. i am sure where you are at or even before where you were at quite a bit the potawotomie didnt want to go on either.

5:14 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Keith and David --

The unfortunate reality is that it didn't really matter how Native Americans behaved, all tribes were treated largely the same in the end. It was simply a social/cultural obstacle that white Americans of the time could not get past. They simply could not view the Indians as equals who deserved the same treatment as whites.

Keith, I am enjoying reading about your travels. Maybe I'll try to catch you when you pass nearby -- although I'm going to be out of town until June 10th which means I may miss you.

Tom Spencer
Associate Professor of History
Northwest Missouri State University

9:15 AM  
Blogger Kathy Drury said...

The TV report is online now-- make sure to click on the video camera icon!!! Super cool!

12:45 PM  
Blogger sassafras245 said...

Hope all is well, I haven't heard from you on this site. Shirley contacted me through e mail that you had reached Mo. and sent a wonderful piture of you with Josephine Gander, Don and Ryan Robertson. You look tired but in great spirits. (I bet with sore feet as well) ha ha Have a great inspirational and inspirtaling trip.

9:09 AM  
Blogger brookssayer said...

I've been keeping up, it's been fun reading. Here's where i found your tv interview, it's not on wgem's front page.

The beard looks well trimmed, very good. ;-)

2:50 PM  
Blogger Jeanine Long said...


Keith -- I going into withdrawal waiting for journal entries. You have us hooked! :-) Continuing to pray for God's protective hedged to surround you as you travel the highways.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Hey Keith, your latest book, There Is no I in Church, hit the warehouse today. Woo hoo!

This is a great book ... going to be the "shot heard round the (Evangelical) world."

5:58 AM  
Blogger pk said...

That TV spot was great!

4:41 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Coach, Thanks so much for having an open invitation to come and walk. Glad Jessica and I were able to catch you on a surprise. Those are never guaranteed to work.

Beginning Missouri was a fun section to catch you at, even if we had to time talking between semi gusts.
I could have used about 5 more days to catch up on things. But, the hours were well spent.

Getting to take part for even a small piece changes the way one reads.

12:03 PM  

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