Trail Of Death Journey

Journal notes walking the "Trail of Death" tracing the Potawatomi Indians forced removal from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. This blog is in process of being re-ordered and moved to

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Location: Marion, Indiana, United States

Professor Emeritus


Day 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.


Blogger Kathy Drury said...

love the story of the walker and the cans! Pretty pathetic that it took almost 500 miles to find another true walker!

7:25 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

LOL coach. I thought of Mr. Bryson throughout. Thanks!

9:11 PM  
Blogger Samuel Bills said...

Can collecting is its own economy out here - I agree that is a simple way to take care of people who will work at something but don't have traditional jobs. Love reading these stories as I finish up finals this week.

11:30 PM  
Blogger KTG said...

hey uncle keith that is unbeliveable that you are walking from Indiana to Missouri. We talked to aunt sharon about your trip so I hope you are having fun and remember God is always with you.
God Bless You

11:22 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

About a week ago you were signing away on cases of your new book that Sharon loaded in her trunk and brought to you. I chuckled to myself picturing you and Sharon celebrating an aniversary as you were signing away. Well, today I'm sitting in the Illinios Disctrict Conference and Henry Smith the new IWU president addressed the group. As a gift to every church he gave a signed copy of your new book!! His only mistake was that he said you were in Iowa.

I laughed when seeing that one come full circle.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Keith.Drury said...

Kathy, Josh, Samae: Yeah, now every time I pass a can I think of this guy!

HI KAYLA! Thanks for the note! School's out now--have a fun summer!

Mark: Yeah--you were the first conference to get them I think!

9:46 AM  

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