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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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.


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