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

My Photo
Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


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!


Blogger Jim and Jaena said...

You might check the Paris Post Office again before you leave Monday...we sent something Wednesday that probably didn't make it in time (especially with the address confusion.) Glad to hear your spirits are higher than last weekend - even if your blisters are bigger as well.

6:58 PM  
Blogger tricia said...

Thank you for the updates!

7:03 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Ah, repentance. I have walked many roads twice, Keith. Wondeful insight; painful truth :-)

5:29 AM  
Blogger JohnLDrury said...

I hope my stuff to Paris gets to you too. With a weekend off it probably will.

Great to hear your latest. I was hoping you'd have cooler days; too bad you had to get wet to get cool. Treating you cookie break like a new start is classic Keith-Drury-hiking attitude. Love it.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Sorry about the lack of pictures here... I'm on a slow Sprint connection combined with Blogger's recent retardation (it is worth what I pay for it at least) and ten cartons of my new book to sign today..and oh yes, a 39th anniversary to celebrate somewhere in there...just ran out of time getting them all on here-but I have great pix of Ryan, Mark, Jess, and especially one of Joshephine that I've tried to load four times--gotta stop and return to signing books now...

12:14 PM  
Blogger Marcia said...

Happy Anniversary to you,
Happy Anniversary to you,
Happy Anniversary, Keith and Sharon,
Happy Anniversary toooooooo yoooooooou!

5:31 PM  
Blogger David Drury said...

On the "road of repentance" after getting lost - that's such a good description of what it is. It's not "erasing the road"... as if it neverthe hard miles back the other way. Which is a microcosm of your whole trip. Hope you put that in the book! (We can't just erase this part of our history, we must walk the miles back).

And praise the Lord that the Postmaster hooked you up well. Our neighbor is the Postmaster for Grand Rapids, and I agree that they are better people than they ever get credit for.

Happy Anniversary!

9:04 AM  
Blogger MixAway said...

Looks as if you're on the downside.
I made a mix w/photo for you if one of your students can DL and give to you.
Don't have the time to get to a PO to get to you on time ; (
If you hear it, let me know what you think.
Best Wish's

10:28 AM  
Blogger pk said...

So glad you were able to find a friendly local library. I know that many of us eagerly await these posts, especially when there are days between them. Thanks for keeping us posted . . . and inspired.

2:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home