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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What happened after the Trail of Death ended?

Dr. George Jeroloman.
The oft-absent doctor for the emigrating party was only 27 years old when he accompanied the party. He had graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY and rowed himself from Ft. Wayne to Logansport but his rowboat capsized and he lost all his medicines causing him to rely on natural medicines for sicknesses and of course there was always “bleeding” a patient, so popular at the time. He was sick for much of the journey staying in nearby towns. The Indians tried to get him expelled from the party but Polke suggested they were free to not use his services but he would be retained for the officers. On returning from the trek he increasingly practiced farming more than medicine and after a successful and lucrative career in farming he built a large house at the corner of Walnut and 10th street in Logansport which is the present day home of the Cass County Historical society. He lived until March 4, 1883 dying at the age of 72 and was generously praised by his home town newspaper. He was not remembered much for his role on the Trail of Death.

General Tipton
Indian-hater Tipton left the party just after Danville, Illinois and returned to Logansport with 85 or so of the Indiana Militia since his authority expired at the Indiana State line. He continued to send and receive letters from those on the journey as if he were still in charge in some way, though he was not officially so. Maybe his position as the former Indian agent and (perhaps more so) as a US Senator gave him this sort of clout with Polke and even Father Petit who also wrote to him regarding promised money for the new mission and education for the Indians. But he did not influence things long. On returning the Logansport his young wife died within five months. Then on March 3 his term in the U.S. Senate ended and just a month afterward, on April 5, 1839 Tipton himself died in his home at Logansport, just seven months after he commanded the round-up of the Potawatomi at Twin Lakes. Some say the Indians pronounced a curse on him, but weather or not, the man of oft cursed today by both white and red men and women for his role in this ugly affair.

Judge William Polke
Judge Polke did not leave Kansas for home until December 3 so perhaps he kept his promise to stay around to ensure that the new Indian agent understood the oral promised given to the Potawatomi. However he had relatives in the area so he likely visited them too while in Kansas. With rushed travel it would have been possible for this 63 year old man to have made it home for Christmas, but he would have to average 30 miles per day with no days off, which was possible for a man on a horse but unlikely for a 63 year old man on a horse. Whatever, a few years after returning he was appointed Registrar of the land office in Ft. Wayne and moved there to die in 1843, five years after leading the Potawatomi to Kansas. He was 68.

Chief Menominee
Menominee “the Potawatomi preacher” had refused to sign the treaties selling his land and was thus confined with several other refusing chiefs to a jail wagon until Father Petit arrives in Danville, Illinois and got him released (just as General Tipton left, probably no coincidence). Having not signed away his land the government leaders simply refused to consider him a “Chief” but only as one of the “head men” even though he was a signatory on four major treaties before the dastardly 1836 treaty he had refused to sign. He probably was about 48 years old when he was forcibly removed to Kansas without receiving any payments for his land. Did he survive the journey? He did. He was among the Potawatomi who relocated from the Governments drop-off point to Sugar Creek and he lived another three years. He dies at the St. Mary’s Mission on Sugar Creek April 15, 1841. He was about 50 year old.

Father Petit
Petit, the priest to the Potawatomi had been commanded by his Bishop to stay long enough to hand over his congregation to a Jesuit priest assigned to them in Kansas. He did this but waited for his next orders from his Bishop back in Vincennes, Indiana. Soon he took sick with the fever again (as he had been all along on the journey). This time he was cared for in the home of Joseph Bourassa for the next 19 days, probably not right in the camp but somewhere nearby. When he did recover nineteen days later instead of traveling home he returned again to the camp still awaiting a letter from his bishop—always in submission to church authority. Just a few days before Christmas, 1838 he received his letter commanding his return and he bought several items to prepare for the long journey—still weakened by the fever and thumb-sized sores all over his body. Accompanied by his faithful Potawatomi assistant Abram Burnett (of whom I shall write far more in the final book).

Petit arrived in St. Louis January 15, intending to take a steamboat home once the Wabash river thawed. He arrived exhausted and once came down with the “fever.” Until now he had only described the agony of the Potawatomi in the trek but now on January 18th he wrote to his Bishop describing his own anguish. “”After a horseback ride of 160 miles I found it impossible to continue: my weakness growing worse every day… The good Lord permitted me to make this journey with an open sore on the seat, another on the thigh, and a third on the leg—the remainder of the numerous sores which covered my whole body during my illness at the Osage River.” He closed his hopeful letter to his superior with “I close, thinking that I shall be restored in a fortnight, and that, when the Wabash opens, I shall have the long-denied happiness of receiving your benediction.” This letter was dated January 18, 1839. Petit did not make the trip in a fortnight. He weakened and on February 10 he died in the hand of the Jesuits who were caring for him. He was 28 years old.

*Father Petit was buried then in St. Louis but in 1856 his body was brought back to St. Mary’s Lake, now the site of the University of Notre Dame where it lies today.

The Potawatomi

As mentioned elsewhere in this story the Potawatomi did not stay at the drop-off site near Osawatomie Kansas but relocated 20 miles south to the new St. Mary’s Mission where they came under the spiritual direction of Father Hoecken and Mother rose Philippine Duchesne a Catholic sister who was at the time in her 70’s but could not master the language so she gave herself to tangible acts and prayer. But the Sugar Creek location was not to last. As always “the US Government got a new idea.” IN 1848 the government decided all the Potawatomi West of the Mississippi should be gathered in one place so the generation that a decade before had endured the removal from Indiana now were removed another 150 miles to St. Mary’s on the Kansas river where a Catholic school for them was opened. They remained here another 20 years until the Civil war when threatened by the duel threat of the Confederate forces and the plains Indians many were scattered to the winds. Today many Potawatomi can be found in Kansas and Okalahoma though they are found in Indiana, Canada and throughout the USA. Many are spiritually devout and many have clung diligently to the Roman Catholic spirituality.

COMING NEXT.... the influence the journey ahd on me spiritually and theologically... coming as soon as this emereges for me... I can see some of it already... it will take a few weeks for all of it to jell.

AFTERGLOW... ending my trek: (the third leg)

The final leg of my conclusion to this trek involved people. Having walked for two months with the ghosts of the Potawatomi Indians I wanted to complete the trip with real people—living descendants of those original Indians who walked the Trail of Death in 1838.

The first I met in Kansas City. Daniel Bourassa was probably in his 40’s when he walked the Trail of Death with nine members of his family including a son in his 20’s. Though his family experienced the hardships of the trek all of them survived according to family oral history. My first contact with a descendant was with Peggy Kinder great-great-great granddaughter of Daniel Bourassa along with her mother and her two sons—three generations of survivor-descendants. She had found my blog on the walk and had written several times to me at mail drops inviting me to visit her family. Peggy and her family are Baptists which is the protestant strain in the Potawatomi story (Menominee the "Potawatomi Preacher" was examined and approved by Baptist Missionary McKee in Ft. Wayne and the mission to the Potawatomi in Niles Michigan was also Baptist.) Though the Baptists sent no missionary on the Trail of Death as the Catholics did, they are still in the heritage picture.

I got to see a copy of a hand-written Potawatomi dictionary from the Smithsonian written by Joseph Napoleon Bourassa, the son of Daniel and Peggy’s great grandfather. Even more impressive was the hand-written book he wrote packed with medical treatments and healing recipes of that day, a matching book to the one in the Smithsonian. Peggy’s mother Elizabeth told me family stories of the journey passed down in the family. Peggy and her family now attend a Baptist church. They had just returned from an Indian gathering that week. We ended the day with a taco dinner with Peggy’s husband and whole family before I headed west to find the second family of descendants.

This happy laughing family dinner brought a sense of completion to the journey for me. I was not alive in 1838 and my own family was still in England at the time. Yet I felt a sense of ownership in what our government did to these Indians and needed a reconciliation of sorts. Peggy’s and her mother were so open, generous and loving that I left near dark with a sense of reunion with the past. There is little I could think of to make up for the wrong of President Andrew Jackson, General Tipton and others, but somehow fellowshipping eating together gave some sense of healing to me. At dark I headed west where I would meet the other family the next day.

For my final connection I had to drive 150 miles west into Kansas—to find the descendants of Equakesec (Teresa Slaven) who was about a year old when she traveled the Trail of Death with her older sister of about nine years of age. The family does not know for sure if they traveled with their parents or if their parents had dies in a plague and these two little girls were cared for by others. We do know that these two little girls survived the 660 mile trek west where so many children died. Indeed the nickname for little surviving Teresa was “Living” since so many other children from that journey park the path from Indiana to Kansas.

Why I had to drive so far into Kansas to find her descendants is yet another story of abuse and injustice to the Indians—one I am not primarily concerned with in this tale. The Potawatomi did not stay at St. Mary’s Mission south of Osawatomie long—just a decade when the government got new ideas and moved them again—this time to a new St. Mary’s Mission in what is not St. Marys, Kansas where still another Catholic mission and school was established by the devoted priests and nuns. Here in St. Mary’s I found the descendants of little survivor Teresa.

I found not just one descendant but a whole family! I had received several letters at my mail drops from Virginia Pearl a nun in mid-Kansas who had invited me out. When I contacted her she immediately arranged a family reunion of sorts for me to meet her family. I spent the afternoon and evening with this laughing-living family and it was a powerful tonic. Here I ate a huge feast with more than a dozen devout Catholic Potawatomi who told all kinds of family stories as we sat around Marge’s large round table. Marge is the oldest of these 4th generation descendants of little Teresa. I sat near her three brothers, Jim, Bob and Jerry each of whom told me stories punctuated with lots of laughter. And of course there was Virginia Pearl, the nun of the sisters of St. Joseph who is the sort of nun that would inspire any little girl to consider the “religious vocation” a wonderful option for her life.

Virginia (just call me “Ginger”) Pearl never intended to be a nun and even tried to avoid it in college by plentiful dating. But she expected at least one in the family would enter a religious vocation. (She expected it to be Bob, but he joined the Army, though later on became a Eucharistic Minister). Then she hoped the order would reject her but she says, “once I crossed the threshold of the convent I never again had any doubts.” “Ginger” is a chaplain at a state hospital and lives on (and works on) an ecumenical organic farm with several from other orders and two Mennonite families. I don’t know how old she actually is—she might be 70 or she could be 75, but she acts about 30.

I spent the entire afternoon and evening with the laughing loving Pearl family. We ate together, looked at photos together, told stories together, and prayed together. They are a forgiving family and while condemning the injustice of the removals and treatment of their tribe they (like Peggy and others) seemed to have no bitterness. Ginger explained how her mother had told of the horrors of the past yet always with the admonition not to become bitter.

At first I felt like a stowaway at a family reunion but before many minutes passed I was included as if I was one of these big strapping brothers and energetic women of retirement age yet still active. We sat around the table until it was almost dark and I needed to head back to Kansas City to the airport so after a thousand pictures or so I was escorted out the door and bid farewell with plentiful hugs.

I drove to the airport in the gathering darkness full of grace… grace that was mediated by Peggy Kinder’s family and the Pearl family of Potawatomi Indians. Nothing any of us can do will take away the wrongness of the Indian removals and the repeated breaking of treaties by our government. But these two families brought healing and reconciliation to me personally. After walking in the steps of their forebears for two months I got to actually meet and love –and be loved by-- the descendants of some of the survivors.

What happened in 1838 was wrong—a national sin. And like all sin it can only be treated on a spiritual level—with confession, repentance, penance, restitution and full reconciliation.


AFTERGLOW... ending my trek (Seconde leg)

The second place I had to visit to end this trip properly was 20 miles south of Osawatomie. In an hour and two quick hitches I got back to the mall where I had parked my car. I drove back south to Osawatomie again then 20 miles beyond where I knew the “spiritual destination” of this journey turned out to be.

The Potawatomi did not stay at Osawatomie long. The promised houses did not exist—not the final time the promises of the government would be forgotten. The bitter cold prairie wind came soon after their arrival in November. By Christmas they were shivering and cold and felt abandoned by the government and perhaps even their God. As the bitter cold swept in they heard of the St. Mary’s mission just 20 miles south of them. Here was a band of about 150 Potawatomi that had moved there t3wo years earlier. On this smaller band's arrival they had sent for a priest to teach them religion. Father Christian Hoecken responded who had been working with the Kickapoo tribe with slim results. He founded the St. Mary’s Mission at Sugar Creek. By March most of the Pottawatomie had relocated to Sugar Creek joining the Indians who had been living there already.

Here they found a refuge--a fresh flowing spring, a small creek and plentiful rock formations in the creek’s ravine where poles, blankets and bark could be arranged to provide protection from the bitter prairie winds and snow. Besides Father Hocken and some other lay missionaries the Indians were most influenced by a devoted nun, Rose-Philippine Duchesne. The Indians called her “Woman-Who-Prays-Always.” Mother Duchesne was a Mother Teresa to the Indians.

Philippine Duschene was called to missions as a young person. She had grown up in a wealthy French lawyer’s family then heard a Jesuit missionary speak about evangelism. She immediately felt called to missions--to evangelize in America. She joined a religious order but her missionary call was delayed by the French revolution which outlawed organized religion of her type. Even when she could publically practice her calling she was delayed again. Finally at age 49, (1818) she was sent as a missionary to the recently acquired Louisiana Territory. She arrived in New Orleans and worked her way up the river.

When the opportunity came to join the new mission to the Potawatimi at Sugar Creek she had her lifelong calling fulfilled—working with the American Indians. Here at the St. Mary's Mission she ministered to the Potawatomi through prayer, teaching and service. Soon a small town grew up that including a chapel, blacksmith shop, a school and houses. The Potawatomi practiced their devoted Catholic spirituality though not without opposition. (Within a year two rascals from Logansport--the Ewing Brothers--went all the way to Kansas and set up a trading post so the Potawatomi did not get beyond the evil influences of white civilization for long--and liquor became available at a price so much so that the fathers at the mission had to operate a kind of bottle-smashing crusade reminicent of what would become the temperance crusades of later years). Since whole books have been written on the Sugar Creek Mission I will not tell the whole story here, having previously restricted myself to the 62 day journey alone in my writing. The story is powerful, the devotion of the missionaries inspiring, and the devoted response of the Potwatomi is moving. I had to go to this place to end this walk.

AS FOR ME I drove my rental car to the out-of-the-way site of Philippine Duschene Memorial Park, the spiritual terminus of the Trail of Death . Charismatic and Catholic Christians along with Native Americans agree on the notion of sacred place—there are places that offer “holy ground” where one is drawn closer to God and His work. I had heard of such power in this place from historian Shirley Willard and several Native Americans who had been writing me at my mail drops along the way. Sure enough, it was a powerful and intense experience for me and properly wrapped up the trek.

Here I walked among the rock formations where the Potawatomi huddled that first winter. I saw the location of the chapel and foundation of the cabin of Mother Duschene. I lay on my back stariung at the seven raised crosses on the hill with the inscribed names of all the Indians who died and were buried here.

But I knew where I would be moved most of all so I saved it for last. Near the spring is a stone monument where the entire diary of the 1838 journey is inscribed. I sat and read the daily summary of the journal that I had been living with two months straight. I recalled day by day the events of the Indians I had pondered so much. Logansport where more than 300 were sick. Danville-Jacksonville-Qunicy and a dozen other memories I had of the Indian’s journey. Where General Tipton turned back, where father Petit arrives, where they hunted for game and “filled the camp with venison.” Where it rained, where it snowed, where they were issued shoes, where they smoked a keg of tobacco, where they argued over the power of the various chiefs.

I sat for several hours as the sun sagged in the sky reading and re-reading this journal and pondering all the memories I had created of the 1838 journey which flooded back. And I recalled the pertner memories of my own journey: rainy days, mental and physical exaustion, blisters and the people--the Mountain family’s care for me, of Don, Liz Gander, the dinner and night at Josephine Gander's house, Steve & Janet Tieken, Phil Woodbury, Brooks Sayer, Jason Dennison, Mark & Jess Schmerse, Kerry Kind, and a score or more of others who faithfully sent letters and even snacks to my mail drops along the way—I recalled them all tied to this day by day journal on the stone monument. The memoried of the past two months flooded back--the Potawatomi memoried mixing with my own memories--1838 with 2006.

The sun sank slowly and quiet darkness crept in as I pondered both journeys: the Potawatomi's and mine. I realize I can never completely feel what they felt. I’m a modern white man. It can’t happen. Y et living with this story for two months as I took the actual steps every day experiencing my own blistering heat and chilling rain has helped me catch a bit of what they experienced better than sitting in an air conditioned office reading about it. And I know what happend was wrong, sin, evil. And sin should not be dismissed easily, even if it is the sins of our forefather's government.
As the final glow of the light leaked from the sky I reluctantly left the park. I headed and headed out to complete the third leg of my completion journey--meeting the survivors of the trek in person.

Day 62 Potawatomi Creek Mile 660
Nov 4, 1868

After two hours delay allowing for the Catholic Indians to have worship they ended their 62 day journey with the 8-9 mile walk from Bull Town to Osawatomie Kansas to “Pottawatomie creek” where they were to be deposited and “welcomed by many of their friends.” The journey was over. The Indians had been “relocated.” “Removed.” The journal-writer tried to put the best light on the Indians response saying, “The emigrants seemingly delighted with the appearance of things—the country—its advantages—the wide spreading prairie and the thrifty grove, the rocky eminence and the medowed valley—but particularly with the warm and hearty greeting of those who have tested (and but to become attached to,) the country assigned to them by the Government.”

The journal overestimated their positive response. A speech would be made by chief Pe-pish-kay (which is recorded in the official journal putting a different light on their response including the following: “We have been taken from our homes affording us plenty, and brought to a desert—a wilderness—and we are now to be scattered as the husbandman scatters his seed.” Pe-pisj-kay’s speech probably better represents the Indian reaction than the “spin” reported in the official journal.

The mileages are confusing. Again today the journal-writer uses the cryptic words “The distance of to-day’s travel is computed at twenty miles.” There is hardly any campsite on Bull Creek that would produce a 20 mile journey to Potawatomie Creek at Osawatomie Kansas. Probably this day produced eight or at the most nine miles. It’s odd. The mileages have been meticulously recorded for six weeks then in the final days they got sloppy either recording no miles at all or listing longer-then-possible miles according to their time traveled or the geography. In the cumulative miles above I have used the nine mile figure which is about as far as can be stretched.

The journal curtly reports, “Mr. Davis the (Indian) agent, we found absent.” We can imagine how Polke and the soldiers felt about this. They had traveled two months to deposit more than 800 Indians into the hands of the Indian agency here and the agent was not even present. Pe-pish-kay noted the same in his speech the next day. The Indians wanted to assess what sort of man they would now be at the mercy of. Polke they knew and trusted, but they knew nothing of this absent Mr. Davis. Indeed they plead with Polke to stay with them until Davis showed up. Polke could not, having to go back to Independence to report on the successful mission, but promised to leave his son with them until he returned. We do k=not know how this turned out. Did Polke actually leave his son? Did he return? There is no record and my answer to the question (or yours) is based on an assessment of Polke’s character. I tend to believe that he kept his word. However there is not enough evidence to say either way.

The journal continues for several days beyond this Sunday. On Monday it records Pe-pish-key’s speech and the Indians request that Polke stay with them, and his promise to leave his son behind. It also records the death of an old man. One of the most surprising reports in Monday’s journal is the arrival of a wagon belonging to Andrew Fuller, a Potawatomi from Michigan who had traveled all the way on his own bearing all his own expenses for the trip. Here is an example of tribal loyalty—if a tribe was being forced to move west, he and his family would go too—even at his own expense. The Indian’s anxiousness to arrive was replaced on Tuesday by the anxiousness of the soldiers to depart and get home. It was the first week of November and if their journey home took two months that would miss Christmas. However they were a small party and probably could actually make it by late November.

THAT’S THAT! The Indians were simply “dropped off” at Potawatomie Creek near present day Osawatomie Kansas with a new and still-absent Indian agent. Certainly Polke and his soldier’s thoughts turned to home the moment they headed East again. However they must have felt like a father who had just dropped off the sick family pet in the country. The Indians were in the way of progress. “Something had to be done.” Removing them all to the “Indian territories” was the nationally agreed-upon popular political solution for the “Indian problem.” There! That’s that” The “Indian problem” was solved. Indiana only had to clean out the remaining pockets of Indians and it could becomes, “the land of the free and home of the brave.” The Miami Indians and others would soon follow. Indiana would soon be “clean” of Indians and the white Europeans could have “their” land free and clear. Out of sight out of mind. No longer would they have to see the poverty of the once-proud race of Indians. No longer would they be bothered by drunken Indians in their towns. They were largely expunged from the state—though it would retrain the name of the state as Indiana –“Land of the Indians.

AS FOR ME I had decided several weeks ago on my three-point plan for ending this trek. Several folk had offered to come and meet me or arrange a “ceremony” at the ending. I asked them all to let me finish this trek privately. Living with this story for two months made my finish an intensely private and personal thing.

I rose at 4 AM soaked from the night fog resulting from yesterday's rain, but knowing I would not be using my sleeping bag tonight. I walked into nearby Paola then on the Osawatomie and found Potawatomie Creek where I sat on the bank trying to feel like the Indians must have felt. Relief that the hard journey was over. Grief for the many dead children buried along the way. A sense of injustice at the whole affair. Maybe a feeling of resignation—a sense that power and the lust for land had won over justice and goodness and their life from here on would be as wards of the state—children hidden in the back closets of the country. Who knows?

I buried in the creek bank the precious arrowhead given to me by Josephine Gander. The ceremony was not fancy--just a simple affair that I had determined was perfectly suited to reflect how this whole unseemly affair had ended itself--they simply dropped off the Indians then heading home to Indiana. Covering over the arrowhead and tamping it with my foot into the soft creekbank, I turned back to town and hitched the 30 miles north back to my rental car because I had two more things to do before this trip could end in my mind. To do this I needed a car. (see next entry)

Day 61 Bull Creek (Paola) –Mile 651
Nov. 3, 1838

Traveling six hours the party came to Bull Creek where a settlement of Wea Indians was located (near present day Paola, Kansas). The journal reports the Indians anxious to be finished with the journey and to meet with the Pottawatomi Indians already resettled there by previous removals. The mileage was not reported today but might best be calculated at 15 miles based on the locations of the two campsites and their travel of aqbout seven hours.

The journey would end tomorrow so the officers attempted to take a census of the Indians to satisfy the military’s record-keeping penchant. Tomorrow they would be reunited with other Indians and sorting out the exact number in the migration would be more difficult. They made little progress. The journal puts it this way: “During the evening an attempt was made to enroll the Indians, but not very successfully. They did not seem (or would not) to understand or appreciate the object.”

Tomorrow was Sunday and they had been promised no traveling on Sundays. The chiefs may have sensed Polke would try to travel on Sunday, or perhaps they caught wind of a discussion. Whichever, late on this Saturday evening several of the chiefs came to Polke requesting that the Sunday day-off promise be kept. Not only did they want to worship, they may have wanted to get cleaned up and prepared to meet their friends already at Potawatomi creek just eight or so miles ahead. Polke denied their request agreeing only to allow for a two-hour delay for their worship services.

AS FOR ME I returned from my week off with my wife anxious to finish the trail. Taking an redeye overnight flight and renting a car I drive to the trail where I left off and walked briskly south until past dark, down Rt. 169 an Interstate highway wannabe almost to Paola. Tuning to the car radio I heard of only a “slight” chance of rain so I left my tent in the car, chancing the final might on the trail would be clear.

The “slight chance” gave me about an inch of rain in a one-hour downpour. Luckily I was near an exit and slipped under the protection of a drive-through portico of a day care center for rich kids at the far edge of suburban Kansas City. Sleepy from the airplane night I fell asleep on the concrete entryway awaking an hour later to clear skies and bright sunshine. Refreshed, I walked another eight miles making the total for the day almost 20 miles. I was as anxious as the Indians to be finished. I slept on still-wet grass near a tree nursery under open skies without my tent, crossing my fingers that there would ne no more rain.


Day 60 N. Fk. Blue River--Mile 636
November 2, 1838

Even though the day was rainy-miserable they set out anyway today. Polke was anxious to get there. So were the Indians in general, so they moved in spite of the rainy conditions. Once they started moving the rain did not stop--it increased. In an hour they crossed out of the "states" and into Kansas--so called, "Indian Territory. "

As soon as the party crossed into Kansas "civilization" disappeared. Roads were gone. And it was raining. The rain would have it hard to follow the "trace" of the wagons ahead. They were traveling on the open roadless prairie now. At noon a large portion of the party on horseback lost the "trace" of the wagons in front of them and wandered about for four hours on the prairies trying to find the trace of the wagon's wheels. There were more than 300 horses so this must have been a soggy mess. Finally they found the trace again and caught up to the wagons. They camped at the North Fork of the Blue River--their third campsite on one or another forks of this river. The journal-writer then records "having traveled a distance (it was computed) of twenty-five miles." This is one of the rare instances where the Jesse Douglas, the scribe, uses the term "it was computed" to refer to miles. Perhaps this figure includes some of the wandering to find the trace and Douglas was not with that group? We do not know, but it is an unusual phrase this day and probably means something. This 25-mile figure probably ioncluded the getting lost wandering and may have been the miles of the last group into camp--the lost group. They left this morning at 8 AM and record coming into camp at 3PM--a total of seven hours travel. Their usual 2 1/2 MPH rate would get them 17-18 miles assuming the rain did not slow them down. If they equaled the best-time-even of 3MPH the seven hours could have gotten them 21 miles, thus 25 mile figure likely includes the wandering miles. The cumualative miles figure above uses the actual miles from the last camp which is 12.

AS FOR ME I walked down the state line road until my time ran out then turned west and walked into Overland Park, Kansas and slept beside a creek behind a Cineplex 16 movie theater. Zoning is so strict here that they must have set-asides for natural areas because I chased away several deer while setting up my tarp-tent. Having walked the miles of another "double day" I dropped off asleep by eight rising at five and went along searching for coffee--and I was quickly rewarded.

Walking into Olatha Kansas I found MidAmerica Nazarene University where the Librarian was delighted to let me post these reports and is even trying to arrange my travel to the airport. Checked out the story that ran last night on KMBC here:

I'M TAKING A WEEK OFF NOW. I had originally hoped I could finish this journey today before flying to Washington state to meet my wife, Sharon who is there waiting for me to have a vacation with her. But alas, I plodded too slowly across central Missouri so I still have 2-3 days remaining. Thus I shall take a short beak and be back again walking on Sat. June 24 and posting my final two days (and the "rest of the story section" after that. I've been thinking for the last two weeks about how I want to end this journey. I have an idea and I'm going to think about it more over the next week before doing the final leg. Stay tuned, I'm going to meet Sharon now...

Day 59 Blue River --Mile 624
November 1, 1838

Many of these Indians were devout Christians. Not all of them of course, but many were devout Cetholics. Indeed, they were probably more devout than their escorts. We already know that they had a full multi-hour mas on Sundays and had requested no travel on Suindays for religious reasons. However the journal generally ignores these religious matters. However, in today's journal we catch a glimpse. It says the party "left camp a little after 9--one hour or so having been allowed for their religious exercises." What is this? It was a Thursady, what special services were these. Father Petit's letters indicate a virtual flood of services, sometimes all night as they sang hymns and prayed. He also tells of how he officiated at the funerals. And, every day they had morning prayers and evening prayers. this was a worshipping community of faith being removed to Kansas. they were Christians--orbably more devout Christians than their escorts. But we still are not told why they delayed their departure an hour today for services--were these some special services? Was the November 1 date some sort of early beginning of Advent? Was this a special saint's day? Or was this just a lengthening of their normal morning prayers? We do not yet know--but we do know that many of these Indians were devout Christians.

They traveled sixteen miles almost to the state line today. Food and forage for the animals was in abundance and they were happily anticipating crossing the state line into Kansas and what the maps would label, "Indian Territory." If they only knew.

AS FOR ME I rose long before sunrise intent on crossing into Kansas. Heading for Grandview I was delayed only by a Kansas City TV interview with Martin Augustine--a reporter who was not just making a story to "fill up the news hour" but was genuinely interested in this story. He even walked a good distance with me! His film crew kept leapfrogging and filmed me repeatedly as I walked toward the "State Line road" where one side of the street is Missouri and the other Kansas.

Day 58 Independence, MO --Mile 608
Oct. 31, 1838

Passing through Independence the column camped just two miles below the city. They made ten miles for the six hour's walking, slower than usual. (They almost always average 2 1/2 miles an hour, and occasionally 3 MPH). Perhaps walking through independence slowed them down. A hint of this comes at the end of the short entry for the day: "Many Indians came into camp during the afternoon mich intoxicated."

Once again they handed out shoes: "in the evening a small quantity of shoes were distributed among the emigrants." Perhaps they had purchased these in independence? I think that in 1838 there was not yet mass production of shoes where a "shoe store" would carry a large stock of shoes--am I right on this? If so, presumably these shoes were purchased from the town's cobbler? Or from people? Were they buying shoes off people's feet? Were they in the wagons from the beginning? Who knows. Once again, we do not know if the Indian's moccasins had worn out and they had become bare-footed, or they had been walking bare-foot all along--just that they distributed a small quantity of shoes.

AS FOR ME I camped about where the Indians had camped--two miles south of the old center-city Independence. My campsite was a motel--since I am now in completely built-up cityscape. On arriving at the motel Kerry called a local Wesleyan Church pastor who cheerfully offered to take him back to Lexington where he had parked his van. We hugged each other goodbye and I went to my room and to bed before sunset. Together we had walked more than 40 miles and I had gotten a good rest for my feet with Kerry's tent-toting. I'm closing in on the Kansas line now!

Day 57 Blue River -- Mile 598
Oct. 30, 1838

The Indians were marched five hours today the 14 from Prarie Creek to the Blue River (probably present-day "Little Blue" river, East of Independance, Mo. The atmosphere was jovial as the Indians visited and caught up with the 23 friends who had arrives last night. The party of 23 Indians had among them three wagons transporting all their earthly possessions (and any sick people) and only five horses. Today this group was officially attached to the main column under judge Polke.

AS FOR ME I am cruising with Kerry. One cgain we put in a "double day" covering two of the migration party's days in one day. We walked toward Independance setting a walk-five-miles then take a break.

Day 56 Prairie Creek --Mile 584
October 29, 1838

Today was a quick four hour/ten mile day for the Indians as they moved west along the Missouri River to camp at Prairie Creek (now Fire prairie Creek, East of near Buckner, MO). Presumably the day had started with a funeral. If the child that died through the night was under the care of Father Petit there would have been a Catholic funeral and he would have consecrated the ground where the child was burred.

The journal reports the food as "flour, corn-meal, beef and pork and game of every kind." They were eating better now. The Indians had gotten tired of flour and beef but now they had the added corn-meal along with pork and all kind of game. This may be a point to remind us all that the Indians probably hunted and gathered food every afternoon and evening. Seasoned backpackers might wonder why they walked only 4-5 hours on many days but the Indians may have spent much of the afternoon hunting, gathering firewood along with setting up their shelter so stopping by mid afternoon in late October was sensible.

At five o'clock Captain Hull came into camp with 23 Indians who had been left behind five weeks ago--the first week in Logansport (more than 300 Indians were ill there). This small party of Indians and their escorts had remined behind until they got well then traveled more than 500 miles trying to catch up with the main column. This may also remind us that the official death count (42) does not include the deaths of those who had escaped the party (more than 100) nor does it include any deaths of those who separated from the party and traveled on their own. The journal reported the condition of these 23 as "tolerably good health and spirits" but says nothing about any dying. My own hunch is there may have been a dozen or more other deaths among the escapees and those left behind or traveling separately, but I can't prove that.

AS FOR ME, my new companion, Kerry Kind helped the miles fly. Not only because of stimulating conversation by the because he insisted on carrying my tent making my own load lighter. He said he had two days to ruin his feet then he'd go home and I had to keep walking so he'd help that way. Since I still have a healing silver-dollar blister on one heal I accepted. What a great friend! We walked on along the river through the triple towns of Wellington, Waterloo, and Napoleon (I'm serious). We took a wonderful rest at the US Army Corps of engineers headquarters for Kansas City where I was interviewed for yet another newspaper story. We clipped along past prairie Creek and headed toward Buckner, hoping for a place to eat.

Today was only the second time I was kicked off the grass while taking a rest break. We spied a delightful shade tree near what appeared to be a pay-to-fish pond and both of us sprawed out under its shade only to be sighted by a woman 100 yeard away who said nothing but repeatedly gestured "move along" with her hands. We complied without arguing, putting on our wet socks as she stood with her hand on her hip gesturing each time we looked her way.

By dusk we arrived in Buckner Mo. just ten minutes before their Misty's restaurant closed. Kerry reminded me that if the owman had not shooed us away from her grass we would have arrived after the diner had closed. HA! Thanks Ms. shoo-away ladty! We both feasted on a meal I thought I'd never forget (though I already have by the time I am writing this down). When we had finished eating our meal (accompanied by the heavy scent of Pine-sol as they mopped the floor) it was almost totally dark. We slipped actross the street to the edge of town and pitched my tarop-tent behind an apartment building in a little playground. This sort of "stealth camping" seldom bothers people--coming after dark--leaving before sunrise. Kerry did not even bring a sleeping bag--he slept all night just wearing a thin jacket.

Day 54-55 Little Schuy Creek -- Mile 574
Oct. 27, 1838

As soon as the Indians ferried across the Missouri River they were hurried through Lexington and on their way causing the column to spread out along the shore of the Missouri as they headed to Little Schuy Creek for the night. The front part of the party reached reached camp by 4PM but the rest of the column must have straggled in hours later making the total miles for the day eight.

They camped two nights here since they had agreed to not walk on Sundays so the Indians could worship. However worship was not the only order of the day on this Sunday. In the morning chief Ash-Kum headed a delegation of Indian leaders to the headquarters protesting the "unrestricted power by I-o-weh whom they did not choose to acknowledge as a chief of the blood." This if not the first time a rivaling had emerged among the chiefs, not uncommon in the white man's dealings with the Indians, usually to the great disadvantage to the Indians.

The second issue they raised was their promised annunities. As part of the purchase and treaty settlement with the Indians the government promised various short or long term annual payments. Polke "hoped they would cease to speak of a subject which could not be of benefit to them" and apparently avoided addressing the matter. Did Polke know that the too-often practice of the government was to walk away from such deals eventually--sometimes right away? Is this why he avoided speaking on the subject? He was not an Indian agent and there is some evidence he thought this whole affair was questionable. If so was he wagging his head inside at what he was participating in? Did he know that the government almost always walked away from their promises? The trouble of course was that the Indians took the verbal promises to be binding while the government considered only written promises with any sort of seriousness--and even the written promises were often discarded "because the situation has now changed." I wonder what Polke knew this morning when the Indians, now approaching their new homes asked about their payments. As always Polke approached his diplomacy with tobacco--he offered some "in hopes that they would continue in peace and harmony." He did tell them he know of their anunities but did not act as an agent in the matter, presumably leaving that up the their new Indian agent in Kansas.

The journal reported the sad news of the day: "A child died in the night some time--the first for the last four weeks." Many of the children were already dead of course. Now after this child making 574 miles west he or she finally gave up and passed away. how sad.

AS FOR ME I got a great boost this morning. Kerry Kind, an old friend from Indianapolis showed up at my little brick motel this morning saying he was "going to walk with you a couple days." Kerry had gotten into his car at dark the night before and drove all night to catch me before leaving Lexington's only motel. We drove back down town where we asked the city police where we might park his van a few days and got invited into the early morning coffee-break briefing of the city's police force. Parking the van right outside the police department we headed west down the delightful and historic route 224 waling almost all the morning in 100% shade as we walked the border of the Missouri River chatting and theologizing together. The miles flow past as we talked and soon we were passing the party's Little Schuy camp ground before we even had a sit-down break.


Day 53 Lexington – Mile 566
October 26, 1838

In a short two hours the party made it to the ferry crossing of the Missouri River at Lexington. By ten AM they were crossing the wagons, as usual leaving the Indians on the opposite shore form a town. All that hampered them was “we found the ferry fully engaged in transporting females who were flying from their homes. Reports are rife throughout the country of bloodshed, house-burning, etc. The people seem completely crazed. Apparently the woman and children were fleeing the region allowing the men to stay behind and fight off the threat from the Mormons. But they did get all the wagons but a few across by dark leaving the next day to complete the ferriage of the Missouri River.

AS FOR ME I got in high gear today. It was cool with a strong breeze blowing so I walked into Hardin then Richmond and then all the way to Lexington anticipating the “weekend” of a full day off I’ve not had for a while.

As I crossed the Missouri I rebembered the 1999 trip I took by canoe down the entire Missouri river, including a stop at Lexington. This is the first time in all my trekking that I have ever crossed a precious trail--Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Colorodo Trail, Missouri River; White River-to Mississippi river... this is the first "intersection" of two treks... what I remember most from that trek was the abject loneliness I felt alone on that river for so long. That's oe of the things I like better about this walk--I meet people every day--friendly and interesting people.

I had to walk three miles past Lexington to find a motel and when I found them I registered two nights. When I went to the large Lexington Inn I found it abandoned and grass growing everywhere. Rats! I asked a lady back on the highway if there was any other motel in Lexongton to which she replied, "There's a little brick one across the river run by forigners--if they're there." Sure enough I found a brick 1950’s motel operated by folk from India. (They have operated it for 27 years--I wonder when they will be considered "Americans" by their neighbors?) . No pool, no phone, all-smoking rooms I was heppy that it was suitably clean and I determined to have a full day without walking--Monday.

Of course the library and post office was 3 miles away a six-mile round trip. However the owner of the motel offered his van and the motel handiman drove me into the library reducing my 6-mile trip to a mere 3 mile return trip--merely enough to keep my muscles warm. And I already walked the 3 miles south getting ot the motel last night!

Too bad the new bridge across the Missouri has bypassed the traffic around Lexington. It will hurt this downtown I'm afraid. Stoplights and narrow roads make for off-the-cuff stops which is what keeps towns like this afloat. I hope people come on purpose. Just watch how friendly the people are--even if you are a walker. And that's saying something since people naturally are suspicious of walkers.

I plan to return to the trail Tuesday morning after updating this blog today (Monday) getting my mail drop here and answering letters, taking several afternoon naps, and generally taking a day of rest. I hear that Kerry Kind may join me for a few days on Tuesday, hope you make it Kerry! I'm going back to the motel to take a nap!

Added late afternoon:
Well, no nap yet. At the post office I recieved more than 30 pieces of mail! Woah! Some of them had bounced four times as they skipped across post offies like a flat stone skips across a lake--now they caught me (I'm here in Lexington several days after my announced date too! THANKS TO ALL OF YOU! As I promised I have answered every one. I LOVE THIS TOWN! The librarian greeted me happily. the Mexican restaraunt was delicious. The postal clerk was gracious. The town has more than 25 BENCHES all around the sidewalks expecting people to rest and relax. As I answered my letters on one of these benches eight--count 'em EIGHT--people slowed down and greeted me with a friendly hello... and only one person, the ninth walked past without a friendly greeting. Lexington is a town that has not yet been Wal-Martized. You can still buy things in the down town--things like shoes or furniture or office supplies. It is only a town of 5000--yet has a sixplex theater. What a delightful clean and friendly town! I think I'll go out and enjoy it more!

Day 52 Snowdens – Mile 561
October 25, 1838

Today’s march was probably the longest mileage to date—perhaps 25 miles but we don’t know for sure since it was the first day in the journal that the mileage was not listed –just “an unusually long journey” and the campsite was “near Richmond.” . The marker is located in Lexington but the markers are placed at sites where permission can be gained and almost always refer to the camp as “near here.” It was probably south of Richmond.

From tomorrow’s journal we know they made it to the Missouri river in two hours (again for the second day in a row the journal does not list the miles. The party so far has been traveling at 2 ½ mph (or occasionally as fast as 3mph) which means they must have camped on a circle within six miles of the Missouri River crossing at Lexington—perhaps somewhere around present day Henretta where a permanent water source (Willow Creek) passes through. We know they camped near “Snowden’s farm” so research yet to be done may show exactly where this land is and how close to Richmond it was actually located.

Perhaps it was the furor over the Mormons that made them forget listing the mileage. Soon after camping a delegate from nearby Richmond came to Polke to request he join them with his soldiers to protect Richmond who was expecting an attack from the Mormons that night. Polke declined explaining he had a federal assignment he could not abandon—removing the Indians to Kansas.

AS FOR ME I walked from Carrolton in two days reversing my sometime double-days of the Indians by halving their long day. The journey took me across billiard-table flat bottomlands of the Missouri. I camped at an abandoned farmhouse. IN fact for more than 20 miles there was only one actual farm where I could ask for water—the rest have been abandoned, perhaps bought up by huge agribusiness enterprises who make their millions on federal subsidies purportedly protecting the family farm. For me it made for plentiful campsites under the remaining trees, but space sources of water. I walked by thousands of acres of Fritos, Karo Syrup, and Corn Flakes. Overnight a great storm moved in dumping four inches of rain on my tiny tarp-tent but I stayed dry though dampish.


Day 51 Carrollton Mo –Mile 536

Oct 24, 1838

The most shocking entry of all appears in today’s journal. To me, at least. They were walking a dozen miles into Carrollton and it was bitter cold on the prairie. Here is the casual entry in today’s journal: “This morning before leaving camp a quantity of shoes were distributed among the indigent and bare-footed Indians, the weather being too severe for marching without a covering to the feet.”

Can you believe this? Some of these Indians had come 536 miles in bare feet! This was not merely an upgrade from moccasins to hard shoes—the journal specifically cites the Indians "bare feet." Incredible! Some of the Indians had walked more than 500 miles in bare feet—probably the children for sure. No wonder so many kids gave up an died at the end of the day. Sure, the Indian feet were hardened, but still 500 bare-footed miles. Astonishing.

Where’d they get the shoes? Did they have them all the time and were hoping to not have to issue them thus saving on the government's budget? Or, did they buy them up along the way then save them up until it got cold? What about last week’s snow? Since they had failed to issue shoes then we must presume these bare-footed Indians walked all day in the snow with bare feet. Incredible!

Some have mistakenly theorized that all the Indians rode horses or rode in the wagons for the journey after General Tipton left (he claimed to have recommended this to Polke to shorten the trip). Today’s entry shows that at least some Indians were still walking 500+ miles into the journey—and they were doing so bare-footed!

Today’s journal also mentions the Mormons for the first time. Missouri in 1838 was the location of the infamous Mormon Wars between the Mormons and the settlers. The Mormons had established their settlement in Missouri (as they had before in Illinois before being kicked out) but the settlers wanted them out and hostilities arose including armed troops, cabin-burning and outright warfare on both sides. The journal reports it this way: “The country through which we passed to-day is very much excited. Nothing is heard—nothing is talked of but the Mormons and the difficulties between them and the citizens of Upper Missouri. Carrollton is nightly guarded by its citizens.”

The Indians were removed because they were in the way of “ordinary people” (white European settlers) who wanted their land. The Mormons were also white and European but they were in the way too. In their case it was religious differences, not racial veriety that brought their removal. Mormons had not been welcome in Illinois. They were not welcome in Missouri either. Having been expelled from both states they would go west until they found land nobody else wanted. Just like the Indians.

AS FOR ME I spent most of the day thinking about the Mormons and the Indians and their similarities and differences and the fate for both groups whose paths almost crossed in 1838 in Missouri. But mostly I thought about shoes. I am on my fourth pair of shoes and I cannot even imagine walking one day of this journey in bare feet—let alone 51 days in a row before getting shoes. Incredible!

I walked into Carrollton by noon and found a fairly new motel about a mile north of town to spend the afternoon and night in. While shopping in the Country Mart grocery store the manager asked, “You walkin’ across America or something?” I told him what I was doing and he asked, "you like fish?” I assured him I liked anything edible and he disappeared to return with a huge Styrofoam container of cooked fish with no charge" written on the top--which I partnered up with a loaf of bread and several cans of corn for lunch and dinner. I simply sat out the rest of the day and evening in my motel room watching TV and eating fish sandwiches with my corn-from-the can. By bedtime I felt like I had actually had a day off, though in fact I had already walked a full Indian day from dawn to noon. I enjoyed my life of leisure so much I tried to add a second night (Saturday) to my "weekend off" but the hotel is filled up Saturday night with “old people coming back for a class reunion.” Thus I must move on .

I did get a call last night from Martin Augustine of KMBC Kansas City and he plans to connect with me for a story when I get closer this coming week.

Posted Saturday morning from the beautiful new Carrollton library which open seven days a week.

Day 50 Thomas’ Campsite --Mile 536
Oct. 23, 1838

The party got the remaining wagons over the Grand River by noon and headed off ten miles away from the Missouri bottomlands recording in the journal “the bottom lands of the Missouri being too flat and wet to encamp upon an hour longer than was essentially necessary. They marched three hours and camped at what they called |Thomas’ Encampment.” The only other entry of interest for this day was about food: “Subsistence beef, flour and corn.” So far on the trip they had repeatedly listed beef and flour daily but here the journal adds corn which had to date only been listed as forage for the horses. Was this a slip of the pen or did they add corn or corn meal to the Indian rations? The last week of October is too late for fresh corn. The horses were fed “corn and corn fodder” so certainly corn was plentiful in the area where their advance purchasers would round up supplied ahead of the main column.

AS FOR ME I walked this day at the end of the previous day when I felt so bothersome to the Brunswick people. I walked pondering how a town can collectively develop an attitude that a visitor can sense in six or seven contacts with people. I walked and thought about this for hours until darkness. And I outlined an interesting third section (which goes into the final book) on how local churches can become this way—busily engaged and not mean—just so busily engaged in what they do that an “outsider” feels in the way there. But that will have to wait for the final book manuscript.

Day 49 Grand River (Brunswick MO) –Mile 514

Oct. 22, 1838

After passing through Keatsville the party walked 15 miles to the Grand River just before it flowed into the Missouri River where a ferry ran. They were at the river by 2PM and began immediately ferrying the Indians across and had all Indians and many wagons across by dark. They were now in the broad flood plain of the Missouri-Grand Rivers. They camped immediately across the river intending to bring across the rest of the wagons in the morning.

AS FOR ME, I walked early in anticipation of visiting the James Pecan Farm about a dozen miles west of Keatsville but alas when I arrived they were closed. This part of Missouri is considered to be “Old Dixie.” Southerners settled here after the war of 1812 and made tobacco the number one crop along with great pecan orchards in this area. In October when the pecans are ripe it is a booming area with several on-the-road shops open. Today they were all closed as I headed into Brunswick where the Indians crossed the Grand River.

Brunswick was not closed, just busy. Everyone was busy about their work and I seemed to be an intrusion. I had entertained the thought of a hotel night, having heard there was one in Brunswick in the original house of the city’s founder (same person as Keytesville). When I approached the small hotel the presumed owner was on the front porch wildly tearing away at a 2-liter bottle with a Bowie knife turning it into shreds. :”A recycler” I thought to myself approving this behavior, thinking even more positively about stopping over. I stood and watched him work as he furiously tearing into tiny shreds the bottle. Then with a quick glance my way he stood up, turned around and flung his 12” Bowie knife with all his might at the side wall of the porch where it stuck deeply into the wood. I noted that it had struck right in the center of a human outline marked no the wall. I moved on.

Brunswick people were a busy people. Too busy for me at least. I’ve noted there are two ways of saying, “May I help you?” One is a sincere offer of help. The other says the same words with the subtext saying “Yes---what do you want—I’m busy here so hurry up and tell me so I can return to my work.” It is this second way I heard the question in Brunswick. Nobody was mean or harsh—just busy and I was an interruption. At first I attributed it to an isolated instance when encountering this sort of response at the Casey’s general store and the dime store and gas station But I met the same sort of response at the grocery store, and even in the library were two women were shelving books and made it clear I was unwelcome today: “We’re really not open this week.” I sighed and left and they returned busily to their work I walked to the edge of town where a newly renovated B&B was located but I walked right on past—no reason to stay longer in this busy town. Perhaps it was just me. Or maybe they only treat walker this way and usually they go out of their way to make customers feel welcomed. Or, maybe this only happens on Thursdays, but for me I just moved on.

I pitched my tent under a large water tower in the country beside the road. In most Midwestern towns a water tower indicates a town. In this part of Missouri it could be in the middle of the country since they are committed to provide rural water service to almost every farm. Tomorrow I shall get to Carrolton and there is a motel there-I'll sleep inside tomorrow night maybe.


Day 47-48 Keatsville -- Mile 498
Oct. 20-21, 1838

After the recent snow then rain,
the roads were muddy today for the Indians and their escorts. The air was very cold as they covered the eleven miles from the Middle branch of the Chariton River to the Grand Chariton river in four hours (the location of their campsite is about two miles east of present day Keytesville, MO). The journal reports the health of the Indians as "almost completely restored" suggesting that there were less than a dozen sick Indians in the camp (though there were one or two of the officers who had been "disposed" the last several days).

The subsitence was (as always) "beef and flour" which had been the daily fare for the Indians for the last 46 days. Jesse Douglas adds "of which the Indians are becoming tired." Apparently it was difficult to get "bacon or pork" though there is some evidence that the white escorts may have gotten some (they had refused eariler to accept standard "Indian rations" as was the custom insisting on upgraded rations). The group almost always camped by a water source. This one was plenty large. I checked the depth and it was chest deep today--imagining the difficulty of fording it in the "Missouri muck" that forms the bottom of the riverbed. Even more difficult would be getting the wagons across without them sinking into the soft sandy soil. 1838 was a drought year but during the previous few days the party had experienced lots of rain and snow so the flow of water may have been similar to this week's levels. Whatever, there were no ferrys on these "smaller" rivers and they ahd to ford them.

The party took all day Sunday off at the Grabnd Chariton too so the vevot Catholic Indians could worship as was their custom. We do not know if other Indians joined in on the edges or of any of the white escort attanded the mass faithfully led by father Petit, the french missionary who served these Indians.

The big treat on Sunday for everybody was "During the day a considerable quantity of apples and cider was purchased and given to the Indians." After seven weeks of mostly beef and flour (along with occasinal deer meat ) the fresh fruit and cider must have been a wonderful and healthy treat. Since they were traveling in September and October there woudl haev been some remaining berries along the route but a "considerable quantity" of apples would have been a real boost to morale.

AS FOR ME I walked early before the heat of the day arrived from Salisbury to Keytesville. I saw the corn in one field that was now chest high. I've been able to watch the corn grow as I walked--from Indiana's tiny sprouts on May 1 to this flourishing crop delighting in the very heat I am suffering in.

Today I met my first walker--he was headed east. It's interesting--in 498 miles of walking he was the first walker other than people walking along city dtreets. I crossed the road for a visit. I met Lee ("everybody calls me Gator") Jackson who was out on his daily walk of 15 miles or so collecting aluminum cans ("they're up to 70 cents a pounds now, you know.") He wanders the roads daily collecting cans to sell for recycling. "Here, want a cigarette?" he offered . "It's amazing what people throw out their windows," he remarked, citing a memorized inventory of things he'd found along the way from hats, to screw drivers, to jackets. "Last week I found a $20 bill rolled up like a cigarette beside the road!" he said reported smiling through his intermittant teeth. "I usually come back down the other side on the way home collecting thecans over there" he said jerking his head toward the side of the road I'd been walking on. "But, here, you want a sack to collect them youself--they're worth plenty?" I declined both the cigarette and the sack down and shook hands with Gator then headed west again impressed with his generosity. He was willing to share what he had, even share his clim on the westbound cans. The rest of the way into Keytesville I loked for cans and when I found them I kicked them up onto the shoulder of the road for him (I also gleefully wrapped a few dollar bills like cigarettes and dropped them here and there with a chuckle. But I was not generous enough to drop a $20 bill--now that I'm thinking back on it though, I wish I had). I favor a five or ten cent deposit on all cans and bottles. Not because it will reduce litter--it probably won't. But to enable people like "Gator" to get more than $4.00 for walking 15 miels picking them up along the road. People who get up off the couch and collect cans should be amply rewarded for it.

I am now sitting out the hottest part of the day in the Keytesville library (population 400). At the door I was greeted by librarian Ann Smith with, 'You must be from Indiana" (Shirley Willard, my Indiana guardian angel had called her this morning). I shall move west again after the heat dies down in late afternoon.


Day 46 Middle Chariton River – Mile 481
October 19, 1838

After two days cooped up in tents sleeping on soggy ground the Indians got up early today and were ready to move one quickly. By dawn the rain had stopped and the sky cleared though it was a cold day. The eleven mile walk to the Middle Chariton River was without incident. The journal again reports the Indians “to be anxious to reach their destination.” The journal says little more. They walked four hours to the river and camps. Lots of normal people's days are like this. You get up, do your thing then go to bed. On a long trek like this one many days will filled with this "normal" kind of day. The only item that jumps out is the report that the Indians seemed "anxious" to get to their destination

AS FOR ME I am "anxious" too. After five weeks of steady walking I am like the Indians—I just want it to be over. As a gentle rain fell last night I found an obscure corner of a recently cut hayfield and fell hard asleep awakened only by periodic freight trains rumbling past my campsite every hour or so. I really intended to go further than I did but my feet refused. It went something like this:

FEET: “I’m stopping here, I’ve walked enough today.
HEAD: “No you’re not—I’m in charge here—keep walking.”
FEET: “You can be in charge all you want—but I’m not walking any more today.”
HEAD: “I command you to keep going.”
FEET: “Command all you want—I’m turning in to that hayfield to camp.”
HEAD: “I am the head—I make these decisions.”
FEET: “Sorry head—I have to carry you all day, and I’m done carrying dead weight.”
HEAD: (To hands) Don’t you collaborate with him—don’t touch those shoelaces.”
HAND: I’m voting with head—you are overruled.”

The feet won. They are right about one thing. They do most of the work.. It is one of the errors outdoor stores perpetuate—that a comfortable backpack enables a person to carry more weight. This is only true in the store. Out on a walk the feet have to carry every ounce on the back no matter how comfortable the shoulder and waist straps are. Half the bones in my body are in my feet—and most of them hurt.

My hurts however do not compare to those of the Potawatomi Indians who took this trip in 1838. The worst I experience is really only an irritant, not a real hardship. But these irritants add up for a modern person used to an easy life. The blisters are my chief irritant—they keep forming on top of old blisters-now-calluses. But there are other irritants. There is almost no place to sit down that is not infested with chiggers and ticks. Picking them off before they swell up like grapes is a constant irritant, and scratching the chiggers on my legs is only kept at bay because I am too tired to bed over. The gnats are a regular irritant, especially when they insist on flying into the channels of my ear and then bounce off the walls with their frenzied bussing to death. Worse than these are the gnats who nose dive (literally) up my nostrils on a Kamikaze flight toward my nasal passages. They always die trying but they still try. What is it up there they want? Mosquitoes are a bother in the evening. \My heals ache like a toothache day and night—probably from the incessant pounding on hard surfaces. At night I frequently awake with a Charlie horse revolt of my muscles. And I tire of being constantly soggy wet—drenched in my own sweat all day, sleeping on a soggy sleeping bag, and rising the next day to walk again with yesterday’s leftover dampness still in everything. But I suppose the most nagging irritant is the constant tiredness that comes from a long trek like this. I just want to collapse in a heap on the grass somewhere and go to sleep for a week. A long trek has a way of wearing a person’s energy down gradually until a walking pace by the end of the day is more like a stagger.

But all these are mere irritants compared to the Potawatomi's pain. I have little country stores every day or two where I get refreshed on nice food. I can walk up to any farmhouse and get fresh water that is safe to drink. I can even stay at a motel every week if I want to. And I do not have little children and grandparents along to worry about. Anyone who has ever taking a child to the mall to walk around knows that a child’s ability to walk ten miles is rare. Certainly Indian children were no different. Lots of energy t the start but in a moment this energy runs out and they want to be carried. Did their mother or dad carry them? Did the Indians have the “right” to put their tired children in the sick wagons? Who knows? I just know that even with the relatively short miles the party is doing in this section of Missouri I am weary like they must have been. No wonder they were “anxious” to get to their new homes in Kansas.

I walked this morning into Salisbury, Missouri by noon, in time for the library to open giving me access to my online blog. I find myself increasingly following the Potawatomi pattern of leaving early in the morning to get as many miles out of the way before the sun rises high in the sky. And the heat is only one reason for this, the second being for westward walkers the afternoon sun beats directly into the face of the traveler. So I walk before sunrise until noon then find a shady place (such as this library) to hide out in until late afternoon when I return to the road for that most pleasant walking time of all--the two hours before sunset and the first half hour after. Thus I now have the next few hours here to read the local history section of this library in a town of 1700.

While typing my day's journal the librarian slipped up and said, "Several members of the D.A.R and Museum board have gathered down at the Museum and want you to come down and talk to them" then with a wink she added, "Small town, you know, everybody knows when someone new's in town." I agreed and spend the rest of the afternoon with these delightful woman all a decade or two (three?) older than me. They were full of energy and excitement for the Trail of Daeth, their geneology library and four full rooms of displays. After a long chat I got a personally escorted tour of their museum with the story behind each item. I even got to see a quilt that was made before the 1838 emigraition party, along with a variety of Indian artifacts that wer made several thousand years before it.

By late afternoon as the day cooled I headed out of town with rumbling thunder in the sky and severe thunderstorm warning on my tiny radio. Then I spied a tony roadside motel of the 1950's variety. "Why not" I said to myself and entered the motel office-hose of the owner. Looking around I asked, 'Could I see a room first?" She agreed and I instected room 17 which (compared to the groud) was OK and I checked in for the night. It was a spartan motel (a single thin bar of soap doesn't go very far for a walker who wants to bathe and wash all his clothing out.) But I rested fine and revelled in the 60 channels of Tv--apparently more important than soap in a roadside motel. Opening the covers I had the strange sensation I might be sleeping on the same sheets as my predessor, but I didn't know that--it just felt that way. Which all made my night's sleep a little restless. I kept feeling like I was being chewed on by little invisible insects, but it was probably all in my mind. At dawn I rose, walked back to Casey's country store for a couple cups of coffee, then headed west toward the Grand Chariton river and beyond to Keatsville, the destination of the Indians and myself for the day.


Day 44-45 Huntsville, MO – Mile 470
Oct 17, 1838

SNOW! The party left Burkhart’s camp with forbidding clouds in the skies and sure enough soon after departing, at 8AM snow started falling and continued all day. Jesse Douglas records it, “…the snow commenced falling very fast and continued during the greater part of the day. Traveling was difficult, the road being exceedingly slippery, and the snow falling so fast as to render very cold and unpleasant the whole journey.”

How much accumulation of snow he does not say—but a “very fast” snowfall all day long certainly would have produced a significant accumulation which would have made walking difficult and slippery. Imagine the cold feet and slush in the Indian’s moccasins. Yet Douglas reports “The Indians traveled without complaint” adding that they “seemed greatly to approve the exertion of government to place them at their new homes.” While we can easily accept this first statement the second may be a tad bit harder to swallow. Yet, considering the promises given perhaps it was true. They were to have houses in Kansas and the land was reported to be rife with game—a virtual paradise for these Indians. I suppose we must remember that the whole country was moving west at this time to the glories there—and perhaps the over-promising that was being done to whites in the east (and in Europe) was doubly done to the Indians. They still had hope—that the government’s promises are good and that this “emigration” farced-as-it-was, would be good for them ultimately. We have yet to see if this will turn out to be true.

They slipped and slid their way for more than seven hours to a camp near Huntsville, Missouri, a total of 13 miles for the day. After pitching camp in the snow during the night it turned to rain. Imagine pitching a floor-less tent for the night where the Indians would have to sleep on the snowy-soggy ground. Polke somehow bought from neighboring farmers straw for them to spread on the icy ground to make their night tolerable.

The next morning, (Day 45) dawned with continuing rain. Polke commanded a day off. As a result of months of drought the roads were already covered with a fine dust which the snow-then-rain turned to a mush that made traveling impossible. The Indians and their white escorts spent a cold rainy day huddled around fires and resting. The journal says “Nothing occurred during the day, save for the drunkenness of a few Indians who had procured liquor at Huntsville.” Once again, no matter how carefully the party watched the “free market” prevailed and buyer and seller made the deal. Nothing is said of arresting them as before. Perhaps in the snow and rain a drunken person merely fell on the straw and went to sleep.

AS FOR ME “nothing occurred during the day” for me too. Since I had overshot their day yesterday, today’s walk was fast--only actually being the last half of their day(see previous day's post). I took the short walk from Moberly to Huntsville in a slight breeze that was much relief from the day before where there was no breeze at all save a passing truck. By 1PM I was in the Huntsville library writing a post. The day is still 85 degrees warm, but the breeze makes it tolerable and I shall push on soon.

Posted from the Huntsville, Missouri library

Day 43 Burkhart's Camp (Moberly MO) Mile 457
Oct. 16, 1838

ICE! When the party woke this morning in Paris their water was frozen. Paris became a turning pint of sorts for the migration party. Up to Paris the challenge was sun, heat and dust. Afterward it would beocold bitter wind on the open praries, rain and mud. The Indians lived more by nature's calendar than printed ones. The first morning's frozen water indicated a change of seasons--a harbinger of the coming winter season. It may have made them want to hasten their pace to get the the promised new houses in Kansas. Beaking the ice on the water they drank plenty before leaving, ate a bit, took down their tents and packed the wagons and horses--all of which took several hours each day, a wearisome task.

The party moved west in a cold wind for seven hours to Burkhart's camp--a few miles east of present day Moberly, MO. They would have followed the old "bee trace" a road at that time which connected the Mississippi and Missouri rivers across Missouri, generally following today's US 24. (Or perhaps maybe something closer to the old Wabash Rail Road--now Norfolk-Southern. Indeed, for the last three weeks I have been crisscrosing the NS railroad route. Of course that railroad did not exist in 1838 but it almost always follows the route and never "squares off" corners for farms so I've wondered if it picked up the old "bee trace" right-of-way in Missouri or it is present-day US 24--something I've got to research.) The road map from the period (showed to me by Nancy Stone, Monroe County historian) pretty well gave me an idea of the "roads" in 1838 so I now I have a pretty good grasp of the route where it follows or departs from 24. This section offered little water continued to the Indians and their escorts and thus required a longer than usual day. Jesse Douglass, the scribe for the official journal reports "Health still improving. Complaints of sickness are scarcely to be heard. It is a short entry.

Actually their probable "Burkhart's camp" was more likely near the present day town of "Old Milton" where they crossed the Elk fork of the Salt River. That woiuld make true the journal's locating the camp 18 miles west of Paris and 13 miles east of Huntsville. But, of course the markers usually say "camped near here" and the boy scouts and historical societies have a gargantuan task of getting permiussion to place these markers and are often limited to city parks, rest stops and public locations. There is actually a marker beside the men's rest room door in West Quincy--the only place that would give prmission in the area for the marker.

AS FOR ME Sharon left this morning after our day together. I headed west in a somber mood, knowing I would not see her again until the very end of the journey. This day was a turning point for me too. I noticed by the end of the day I qiuit counting UP and started counting DOWN. I have come 457 miles but have quit looking at that number so much as how many are LEFT (202 miles). At the same time I've noticed the people I meet have switched the opposite way. They are less interested that I am "walking all the way to Kansas" and more commonly exclaim, "You walked all the way here FROM Indiana?"

Today was a long day for me. The journal records their journey as 18 miles, and they took a direct westerly route as I did. I went to the marker on a puddle-creek and knew the miles were wrong--before realizing later that actually they probably camped at the Elk fork of the Salt River 3-4 miles before I stopped--thus I put miles in the bank for tommow. This night I was able to actually camp at the boulder-marker site-- unusual for me since the spots are often in a too-public place to sleep nearby. But I arrived well after sundown and one can about sleep anywhere after dark if you are on foot (assuming you also rise before sunrise, which I do).

I have greater relief from the sun this week, thanks to my umbrella. I had started off tis trip with a Go-Lite umbrella and dropped it in the middle of the journey. I added the umbrella back this weekend. It is such a relief. I look silly walking along the road with an umbrella--as if I am some sort of blueblood sissy walking with my parasol. However, in walking across the Mojave desert last summer I discovered the great secret of walking with "Portable shade." I can leave off my hat and let my bare head catch tiny breezes of refreshment on my sweat-dripping face. Even passing truck-wind was welcome today to bring a bit of coolness.

My progress this week will determine my ending date. Since I must fly to Washington state June 17-24 I have to either finish this trek by the 16th, or come back and complete the final leg the 25the and after. This week's progress will determine which will be my ending date. Of course it is not up to me but my feet. My feet are the executive branch of bodily government. I can walk 25-30 miles a day with my head, heart, back and other body parts. The feet are always the weakest link. My blisters are healing though 20 mile days on roadway surface does add new blisters on top of the old almost-healed ones giving me blister-layers. So I will let my feet be the governors of my progress and they shall decide my actual finish date--and they'll decide this week probably.

I updated this in Moberly where the Holiday Inn Express kindly let me use their business computer.


Day 42 Paris MO –Mile 439
Oct. 15, 1838

It took the party only four hours to cover the twelve miles from Clinton to Paris. A strong wind had come up “which rendered our passage across the prairie very disagreeable. Many of the Indians suffered a good deal.” The writer of the journal didn’t know it, but this wind may have been their first hint at what was to come—a major shift in the weather and trials of travel. The heat and dust would exchange places with cold and mud before long.

In the evening at Paris the chiefs assembled to get an answer to their demands that Doctor Jerolaman be terminated and “a large number of the Indians came up to Head Quarters and repeated their request of last night.” This time the speaker strengthened their demands, saying he “did not demand it for himself or for his associates alone, but for every man, woman and child in the camp—they all united in soliciting [Polke] discharge Dr. Jerolaman.”

In response Judge Polke “divided the baby” by giving his decision. He told the Indians they were free to refuse to be treated by Jerolaman but that he would be retained to treat the officers of the government thus wriggling out of a sticky situation. Then Polke pled with the Indians to not let this dispute mar the otherwise unity of the trip thus far or cause any dissention or bad feelings between “the officers and their red brethren.” Then to conclude the negotiation successfully he announced he had bought a keg of tobacco which he “wished them to smoke in token of continued friendship.” The Indians then retired but requested the opportunity to raise the Jerolaman issue again as they wanted to. The journal does not record the issue coming again—the judgment of Polke (along with a keg of tobacco) apparently resolved the issue for the time being.

AS FOR ME I continued on from my sub sandwich lunch at Clinton in the pouring rain across swollen creeks and along tiny gravel roads. Having lost the sun I navigated by sense and headed south to Paris, secretly hoping I’d make it before dark and there would be a motel there so I would not have to pitch my soaking wet tent again tonight. I noted that the wind had shifted directions and I took one turn, then another carefully keeping track of which way was south. After three or four hours of walking in soaking rain I finally came to a paved road but was a bit uncertain as to which way to turn—the first time I was not clear of the direction in my head. I knocked on a nearby farmhouse and a grizzled old man came to the door to tell me I needed to turn back around and head down the long road I had just arrived on. Certain he was wrong I argued a bit and pointed to my map and his eyes glinted as he said, “Sonny I don’t care what your map says, this is road CC and Pair is that way.” Sure enough I had walked several hours and wound up North of where I had started on my Southward journey—the wind had not shifted—I had shifted in direction! Returning down long roads you’ve already walked is the hardest walking one does—“repentance” of sorts.

The rain did clear off by supper time and I was making progress toward Paris after all. Passing one house two women were inspecting the garden and I asked, “Is there a motel in Paris?” They shouted back—two miles below town” then asked where I was walking. After hearing it they invited me around to the patio for coffee and cookies, an invitation I gladly accepted pretending that this day was just starting and this was my morning coffee!

After Lois’ coffee I set out with renewed energy and determination to make it to Paris and that motel. On my cell phone I heard from Nancy Stone, President of the Monroe county historical society who promised me she’d take me out to the motel as soon as I got to the blinker light in Paris. Sure enough she picked me up at the blinker light and after a meal of several hamburgers dropped me off at the motel where I turned the heat up to 95 degrees turning the motel room into a virtual drier and spread my gear about until it dried off again.

On Friday morning I stayed in Paris—where I was scheduled to be today. After breakfast with Nancy Stone again (where the restaurant picked up my ticket refusing to let me pay). People are so kind.

Then there’s the Post Office story. I had Paris Missouri as a mail drop but Nancy Stone told me last night that there’d be trouble. “You listed the zip code for Paris Illinois not Missouri” she told me. Oh Oh. I went to the post office in the wrong state and offered my license. “Oh it’s you!” the postmistress said and told me the story of how I actually got mail in this “wrong” state. The postmaster in Paris Illinois had called her to ask if she knew how Keith Drury was—she said no. Oh oh. Then the Illinois postmaster got some mail forwarded from Exeter/Bluff where I had passed through a week before. The postmaster called them and they said, “Oh yes—that guy—he’s on the Trail of Death headed west” and he knew then that I probably did actually mean Paris Missouri not Illinois so he forwarded a whole bundle of mail to the next state and it was waiting for me here! Who says you don’t get careful treatment by a quazi-government organization like the post office!

While sitting on the park bench reading my mail waiting for the noon opening of the library she actually showed up and took me in early. The rest of the afternoon
was spent updating these posts through her gracious permission to use a computer all afternoon. I was interrupted only for an interview by the local newspaper, and then some TV filming from a distant station (KTVO located at where they plan to run a piece on the Trail of Death this weekend) and finally by the arrival of my wife, Sharon from Indiana. I did not think she was coming this weekend until the last minute—and she announced she would! Tomorrow is our 39th anniversary and we plan to spend it in Paris (Missouri!). I shall return to the trail next week continuing my journey across Missouri. I am in far better spirits than I was when I entered the state. Lots of this is because there is an angel back in Rochester Indiana who seems to be making contact with people before I arrive! Thanks Shirley Willard—I know you are there!